For on-site reservations, call 407/939-7429.
One of Walt Disney World’s four “value” resorts, the Pop Century Resort (near Wide World of Sports; from $115 d) is the newest and the most fun. Ten blindingly bright motel-style buildings are painted in decade-specific themes, and the property is festooned with enormous renditions of pop-culture artifacts like yo-yos and Rubik’s cubes. The buildings house an eye-popping 2,880 guest rooms, and accordingly the queues in the enormous food court and the crowds in any of the three pools can sometimes be daunting.
The “moderate” resorts (from $185 d) are best represented by the Coronado Springs Resort and the Port Orleans French Quarter Resort. Coronado Springs is large but charming and well-organized, with 1,900 guest rooms divided among “casita,” “rancho,” and “cabana” buildings, all of which are easily accessible from the main registration-dining-pool areas. The French Quarter resort has “only” 1,000 guest rooms but is laid out in a fashion that’s very nearly quaint, with wrought iron fences and beautiful landscaping.
It shouldn’t be confused with the similarly named Port Orleans Riverside Resort; that one was formerly known as Dixie Landings, and its 2,000 guest rooms are spread out on property enormous enough to be nearly unnavigable. All of the guest rooms in the moderate resorts are around 325 square feet.
Somewhat surprisingly, the majority of Disney’s on-site accommodation options fall into their “deluxe” category, but again it’s worth noting that the primary difference between these big-ticket guest rooms and their less-expensive counterparts is primarily one of atmosphere and amenities; beds are comfortable and guest rooms are clean throughout the entire resort, so if you’re just looking for a pillow to rest your park-wearied head on, there’s little reason to splurge on these deluxe guest rooms.
However, those who do indulge themselves will find the splurge memorable. Animal Kingdom Lodge (from $290 d) is themed to emulate the experience of staying at a safari lodge. Employing lots of dark wood, natural light, and African craftwork, the ambiance is intensely evocative. Guest rooms are comfortably appointed, and a full-service spa, deluxe lounge, and enormous pool area add to the elegance. What’s outside the back door truly sets this resort apart; the planners devised a way to recreate an African savanna—complete with wild-roaming zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and other animals.
A recent addition to the property is the Jambo House (studios from $389, one-bedroom villas from $530, two-bedroom villas from $970), a collection of 216 villa-style accommodations that shares the amenities of the lodge but with larger units designed for extended stays.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort (from $300 d) is actually two hotels, the “Swan” and the “Dolphin,” logically enough. Operated by Starwood Hotels and typically catering to well-heeled conventioneers and high-end travelers, the resort is stylish and modern. Boasting one of Disney’s signature restaurants—Todd English’s Bluezoo—as well as a Shula’s Steak House, a Japanese restaurant (Kimono’s, which also features a lively, after-hours karaoke scene), and the requisite activities needed to burn those calories off (a spa, health club, tennis courts, swimming pools), the Swan and Dolphin’s level of luxury is almost high enough to make one consider forgoing rollercoasters and character visits for a day. The resort is located near Epcot, and, like all Disney accommodations, is serviced by Disney buses; an added bonus, though, is the boat service you can take directly into a secluded entrance into Epcot near the World Showcase.
For a truly upscale experience, the most well-heeled guests head for the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (from $529 d). From the stained-glass windows adorning the soaring atrium lobby and the enormous chandeliers to the spacious guest rooms, the Grand Floridian exudes Victorian elegance throughout its six buildings. Views across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom only add to the charm. The resort is also home to Disney’s best restaurant, Victoria & Albert’s, and an award-winning spa.
Though technically one of Walt Disney World’s “moderate” offerings,
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort ($355) are a truly unique lodging experience, and are strongly recommended for those traveling with children or those planning an extended stay. The 500-square-foot buildings won’t be mistaken for mansions, but the idea of having a home away from home in your own free-standing building is certainly appealing.
Spread throughout the campground are 409 cabins, and each has one bedroom with a bunk bed and a double bed, along with a Murphy bed in the living room; truly economical travelers can take advantage of the full kitchen and charcoal grill to prepare their own meals. The DIY ethos, thankfully, does not extend to toilet-scrubbing and bed-making, as each cabin is serviced daily by the resort’s housekeeping crew. Fort Wilderness is somewhat remote, which is a blessing when one wants to escape the crowds, but it also means you’ll experience somewhat longer travel times when going to and from the parks.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition