Take a look at the best luxury hotels in Disney World.
The Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a luxury showstopper within Walt Disney World Resort. The 443-room Spanish revival stunner outshines the local competition, with the most impressive rooms, amenities, and restaurants in Orlando. The sophisticated decor isn’t overtly Disney oriented -- though fans of Mickey will notice subtle details that allude to the famous locality. The hotel is equally adult- and kid-friendly. The Tranquilo Golf Club, luxe spa, and exquisite dining options attract couples and business travelers, while the free kids' and teens' clubs, lazy river and waterslides, and on-site Disney Planning Center are great for families. Everything about the Four Seasons is expensive (though there's no resort fee or hidden charges), and nightly rates are usually sky high. Travelers looking for more affordable luxury might prefer the nearby Waldorf Astoria Orlando.
The Grande Dame of Disney, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is a Victorian stunner that pays homage to the Atlantic coast’s golden era. With gorgeous architecture, meticulously kept grounds, and a multi-story lobby with turn-of-the-century grandeur, this luxury property is a destination all its own. The resort's two pools, on-site monorail and boat transportation, and firework-view rooms are great for families, but the hotel also appeals to adults with its Senses Spa and high-end on-site dining. The 867 guest rooms are elegantly decorated, but they don’t feel incredibly luxurious, especially when considering the hotel’s exorbitant nightly rates. For a comparable price, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a truly luxurious experience, though it’s farther from the Magic Kingdom.
The magic of Disney and the beauty of the Great American West come together at the Wilderness Lodge, a stunning four-pearl property near the Magic Kingdom. Its 727 rooms have tasteful cabin-inspired decor with lots of Native American-inspired design elements throughout. Two beautiful pools (one with a kids' splash zone), four restaurants, and boat-transportation to the Magic Kingdom are top-notch amenities that appeal to families, but adults and romantics may find the place a bit too kid-centric. The JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes might appeal more to couples, but it’s a 25-minute drive from most Disney attractions.
In a town known for kitschy family-oriented resorts, the Waldorf stands out as one of the only true luxury hotels in Orlando (with the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes as perhaps its only real competition). The building is new as of 2009, but great pains were taken to make the design posh and classic, if perhaps with a Florida twist. Everything is top notch: The staff is extremely gracious, there's a beautiful 18-hole golf course just steps from the front door (one of the hotel's main draws), and the breakfast buffet at Oscar's is not to be missed -- to name just a few impressive details. Although families abound and the hotel is just minutes from Epcot, you won't find any traces of Mickey or Minnie here, so those seeking more Disney-centric luxury should consider Walt Disney World's Swan and Dolphin hotels.
Made to look like Atlantic City in the 1940s, the more subdued Boardwalk Villas rests beside a glittering stretch of great restaurants, bars, and carnival games on Crescent Lake, within walking distance of Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In addition to its pools, waterslide, and great gym, all of its large suites have washer-dryers and (in most units) full kitchens.
Modeled after a traditional "kraal" (village), Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge brings a slice of Africa to Orlando. Surrounded by four massive savannas, this 972-room upscale hotel offers guests a hands-on safari experience. Balconies overlook zebra watering holes, safari guides are on-hand to explain the differences between gazelle species, and custom trucks give guests special access to giraffes, impalas, and wildebeest. Rooms are infused with authentic African decor and artwork, and the hotel’s top-notch amenities like a pool, multiple restaurants, and a fitness center, make it one of Disney’s best Deluxe properties. However, it’s at least a 10-minute drive from most Disney attractions, and there’s no monorail or water taxi service (only shuttle buses). The Grand Floridian offers more convenient transportation options, but it doesn’t have AKL’s intriguing African theme.
Part Neverland (totem poles and a Peter Pan kids' club) and part Hawaiian resort (nightly luaus and a Volcano Pool), the crowded, 853-room Polynesian remains one of Disney's most popular Deluxe-category resorts for families, thanks to its especially large rooms that sleep five and ideal location on both the Monorail and the beaches of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
The four-pearl Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a lovely destination resort near Orlando’s most popular attractions. It’s within walking distance of Epcot and a short drive or free shuttle ride to most other top parks. The massive complex has 17 restaurants, five pools, a beach, and a large convention center. It’s in the midst of a $125 million renovation that's making over all of the 2,267 rooms. The renovated rooms have a bright, sleek decor, but those awaiting an upgrade, while clean and well-maintained, are dated and tired-looking. While rates are competitive for a resort of this caliber, a daily resort fee and pricey parking add hefty surcharges. Travelers might want to also check out Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, which has lower rates and similar amenities.