Best of Disney World

Best Disney World Moderate Resort Hotel

by josh on June 16, 2015

Updated 6/16/15

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Moderate Resorts

There’s a bit more variety in amenities, transportation efficiency, theme, layout, and dining options at the Moderates than with the Values. You may have to make some compromises and decide what features are most important. For example, French Quarter has the best transportation and the smallest footprint, but the worst restaurant choices and pool. Luckily, the Moderates are all priced the same, except for Coronado Springs which is about $6 more per night, so differences in cost won’t be a major concern. Room quality and furnishings are also nearly identical among the four resorts, with a recent refurbishment at Caribbean Beach Resort bringing queen beds and a wood door separating the sleep and vanity areas. Take a look at the following ratings to identify which Moderate is the best fit for your group and be sure to read the full review of the resorts you’re interested in to make the most informed decision. Like with the other resorts on property, all are run by Disney with similar standards of quality. To a point, the following could be considered splitting hairs and it’s likely that you’ll be pleased with whatever resort you choose.

Best Theme/Landscaping

  1. Port Orleans Riverside
  2. Coronado Springs
  3. Caribbean Beach
  4. Port Orleans French Quarter

This is the most arbitrary category because the theme that appeals to you and your group may be different than what appeals to others, but we’ll try to take an unbiased look at each.

Port Orleans Riverside arrives in first, with its lush landscaping, picturesque setting on the Sassagoula River, and the working 35-foot water wheel helping to elevate its ranking. Alligator Bayou and Magnolia Bend, the two distinct areas that make up Riverside, are visually interesting and provide two different interpretations of the Louisiana Bayou.

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Best Disney World Value Resort Hotel

by josh on May 7, 2015

Updated 5/7/15

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Value Resorts

With dedicated bus transportation and updated furnishings, it was once easy to recommend Pop Century as the clear winner in the Best Value Resort category. With Art of Animation bringing newer rooms, dedicated bus transportation, and flashier theming in September 2012, that distinction became less clear. Add room refurbishments at the All-Stars and higher pricing at Pop Century and Art of Animation and the line begins to blur even more.

On the other hand, Art of Animation’s over-the-top theming, particularly inside the rooms, may not be for everyone. And the All-Stars may still share buses, causing longer, less comfortable bus rides when standing is more common. Luckily, picking the right Value resort for your group should be easy if you consider the following categories.

Best Theme/Landscaping

  1. Art of Animation
  2. All-Star Movies
  3. Pop Century
  4. All-Star Music
  5. All-Star Sports

Art of Animation is the clear winner in the “best theme” category, particularly when the richly detailed Cars and Finding Nemo sections are considered.

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Updated 4/10/15 – Updated dates, refurbishments, events, etc.


This is a month by month look at the cost, crowds, weather, and special events at Walt Disney World.

The cost section relates primarily to booking a room at a Disney-owned resort. The cost of theme park tickets, upgrades, and other add-ons generally does not change throughout the year, with the exception of theme park tickets, which usually see one price increase during the course of the year.

The weather section is based on the historical data available. For a look at the last 15 years of Orlando weather on any date, check This is a handy reference tool, but make sure you look over more than just the past couple of years. The fall of 2009 was one of the hottest on record and January 2010 broke record lows when the temperature dipped below freezing several times.

The crowds section is based on data from the past several years. Generally speaking, the higher the price of a Disney resort room, the busier the Parks will be.  For example, Value season usually has the smallest crowds and Peak and Holiday seasons see the highest crowds.  We’ll also take a closer look at the various exceptions throughout the year.

The Park hours and entertainment section covers the hours of operation at the Disney Parks.  If the hours and entertainment aren’t yet available, you’ll see (expected) after the section header.  In this case, I’m basing the hours and schedule on past years.

The best week to visit section takes into account crowd level, available promotions, Park hours, ride closures, resort cost, special events, and other pertinent information.  Be sure to check out the day-by-day analysis when available to check on the daily crowd levels and dates of important events.

The closures and openings section lists all known and expected ride, Park, restaurant, and other closures and openings throughout Disney World.  If a ride is closed for refurbishment or reopened after refurbishment or a new ride or restaurant is expected, it will be listed here.

Finally, I’ve included a brief description of the special events and other nuances throughout the year.  This will help you plan around events that may adversely affect your vacation or you might want to tweak your plans to visit during a special event of particular interest.  I link straight to the Disney website throughout this calendar so you can read “the official word” about the events or purchase tickets.

January 2015

January Cost:

  • January 1-3 is New Year’s, which is just slightly less expensive than Holiday, but more expensive than any other date.
  • January 4 – 7 is Value 1, the cheapest season.
  • January 8 – 10 is Marathon, which is similar to Regular and Martin Luther King.
  • January 11 – 15 is Value 1, the cheapest season.
  • January 16 – 18 is Martin Luther King, which is similar to Regular and Marathon.
  • January 19 – 31 is Value 1, the cheapest season.

January Weather: It’s the coldest of the year in Orlando, with an average high of 69 degrees and an average low of 50 degrees. Historically, it rains on 22% of days.

January Crowds: Many United States school districts continue winter break though January 4th, Christmas level crowds continue into the new year. January 1st – 3rd remains extremely crowded with crowds tapering off significantly beginning Sunday the 4th,

Crowds are low for the majority of the rest of the month with two major exceptions. Average level crowds are seen for the Marathon from January 8th to 11th.  While the marathon brings in thousands of people to the resorts, they don’t have as big of an impact on theme park crowd levels. Martin Luther King Jr. crowds from the 16th to the 18th are some of the heaviest crowds of the month and the highest crowd level we’ll see until President’s Day Weekend in the middle of February.  It’s best avoided if possible, but still perfectly doable using the touring strategies discussed on this site.

January Park Hours and Entertainment:

Best Week to Visit Disney World in January 2015: January 20 through February 11th are several of the best weeks to visit of the year with decent weather, some of the lowest crowds of the year, and the lowest prices to stay on Disney property.

Closures and Openings:

Continuing Refurbishments:

  • Typhoon Lagoon: October 24 – January 3
  • Polynesian: Pool and other construction through at least March

New Refurbishments:

  • Splash Mountain: January 4 – January 30
  • Blizzard Beach: January 4 – March 14
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table: January 5 – March 6
  • Liberty Square Riverboat: January 23 – 27
  • Kali River Rapids: January 20 – February 4


Historically, January has the most refurbishments and closures of any month.  Lengthy pool refurbishments are also common at Disney resorts as are refurbishments at the water rides, including Splash Mountain.

January Special Events That May Affect Crowds or Your Stay:

The Disney World Marathon is held January 7 – 11.  While the Marathon doesn’t increase lines at the rides much, it does cause a lot of congestion in and around the Parks on the mornings of January 10th and particularly January 11th.  See for more information on the event, including pricing and exact race times.

The last night of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is January 4th.  See November and December for more information about the Lights.

Beginning in mid-January, South American tour groups tend to visit Disney World en masse due to a long vacation throughout the continent.  Expect to see large groups throughout the theme parks.  If you do see a group, it’s best to avoid them.  They are not as much of a nuisance as during the summer when overall crowds are so much heavier.

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While Animal Kingdom’s quick service options are fewer in number than the other major theme parks, they are all above average in the grand scheme of things.

Most Unique Menu

  1. Yak & Yeti (Anandupar Local Foods Café)
  2. Flame Tree Barbecue
  3. Tamu Tamu Refreshments
  4. Restaurantosaurus
  5. Pizzafari

Owned and operating by Landry’s rather than Disney, Yak & Yeti offers a diverse menu of Asian favorites along with a cold salad or vegetable couscous wrap if you prefer.  Over at Flame Tree, you can order St. Louis Style Ribs along with a fruit plate, smoked chicken salad, or smoked turkey breast sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise.  While Tamu Tamu Refreshments only has four entrees on the menu, each can’t be found anywhere else.  Restaurantosaurus now offers a unique Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Chicken BLT Salad, which are slightly different than others.  Rounding out the choices is Pizzafari, which mostly serves the usual Disney pizza.  But it also offers the unique and very good Chicken & Vegetable Pasta Salad and the Hot Italian Sandwich is only available here and Catalina Eddie’s at Hollywood Studios.

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Best Epcot Disney World Quick Counter Service

by josh on December 13, 2012

Epcot is where you’ll find the most diversity in your dining options. While you’ll still be able to sniff out a hamburger, it won’t be as easy as at Magic Kingdom where it seems like they’re haunting you at every turn.

Most Unique Menu

  1. Tangierine Café
  2. Katsura Grill
  3. Sunshine Seasons
  4. Boulangerie Patisserie
  5. La Cantina de San Angel
  6. Liberty Inn
  7. Lotus Blossom Café
  8. Sommerfest
  9. Kringla Bakeri og Kafe
  10. Electric Umbrella
  11. Yorkshire County Fish Shop

This is kind of a silly list because almost all of the food at each quick service in the World Showcase is unique.  I’ve basically ordered the list as to the number of unique items on the menu.  Thus, a quick service like Tangierine Cafe with a robust menu would have a “more unique” menu than La Cantina, even though both locations offer a completely unique menu.  With the exceptions of Electric Umbrella and Yorkshire County Fish Shop, no matter where you go, you’ll come across food that isn’t available elsewhere. And even Liberty Inn and Electric Umbrella have switched things up so they offer unique takes on the standards.

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Hollywood Studios is not known for its quick service food, but there are reliably good options at several locations.  Let’s take a look:

Most Unique Menu

  1. ABC Commissary
  2. Studio Catering Company
  3. Sunset Ranch Market (Catalina Eddie’s, Fairfax Fare, Rosie’s All American Cafe and Toluca Turkey Legs).
  4. Backlot Express
  5. Starring Rolls Cafe
  6. Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner
  7. Toy Story Pizza Planet

Ranking menu uniqueness is kind of difficult because many of the items are unique interpretations of Disney’s usual sandwich and burger fare. In a twist of fate, ABC Commissary actually comes in first, offering unique salads like the Asian or Couscous, Quinoa, and Arugula Salads available either vegetarian or with Salmon or Chicken. It also recently added a New York Strip Steak and Roasted Salmon, in addition to shrimp and fish platters. While those items aren’t entirely unique, they’re rare enough to put ABC at the top. Studio Catering comes in next, offering several pressed sandwiches that aren’t found elsewhere along with a Greek Salad, Sloppy Joe, and Chicken Caesar Wrap.  Sunset Ranch Market as one entity offers a ton of options, but most of them can be found elsewhere. Still, you’ll find unique salads, burgers, and hot dogs here. Backlot Express is similar, though it offers unique takes on the usual with the Buffalo Chicken Nuggets, Southwest Salad with Chicken, and rare Grilled Vegetable Sandwich. Starring Rolls offers a couple of interesting sandwiches on top of all their cupcake goodness, in addition to the same sushi that’s available at most resort quick services. Min & Bill’s drops a lot from its historically high rating, now offering an Italian Sausage in French Bread and a Frankfurter in a Pretzel Roll, in addition to turkey legs and pork shanks.  Finally, Toy Story Pizza Planet offers Disney pizza that is the same as Catalina Eddie’s on the other side of the Park, in addition to Pizzafari at Animal Kingdom. The only mildly unique item is the (very good) Antipasto Salad.

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Best Magic Kingdom Quick Service

by josh on December 12, 2012

Magic Kingdom has several of the most popular quick service locations at Walt Disney World, which makes sense because it’s the most visited of the four major theme parks.  With Be Our Guest Restaurant, it also has two of the best choices – that and Columbia Harbour House.  Let’s take a look at what’s available:

Most Unique Menu

  1. Be Our Guest Restaurant
  2. Columbia Harbour House
  3. Pinocchio Village Haus
  4. Tortuga Tavern
  5. Sleepy Hollow Refreshments
  6. Diamond Horseshoe
  7. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
  8. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
  9. Friar’s Nook
  10. Casey’s Corner
  11. The Lunching Pad

Be Our Guest Restaurant’s entire menu is full of items you won’t find elsewhere.  Columbia Harbour House also offers several entrees that you won’t find elsewhere, including tuna and hummus sandwiches, chicken pot pie, seafood macaroni and cheese, and clam chowder. Since it replaced Disney pizza with flatbreads, Pinocchio Village Haus also offers unique dishes, including the BBQ Beef Flatbread, Italian Deli Sub Sandwich, and a Mediterranean Salad, in addition to garlic knots, gelato, and tomato basil soup. While it may sound surprising, Mecican food isn’t that abundant in Disney World, making Tortuga Tavern’s burritos unique, especially now that Pecos Bill no longer serves the popular taco salad. Sleepy Hollow Refreshments offers waffle sandwiches unavailable at any other quick service.

The bottom half is less unique. While it isn’t often open, Diamond Horseshoe offers different interpretations of sandwiches and salads as most other places. While most of Pecos Bill’s items can be found elsewhere, it does offer Kurubi Style and the Southwest Chicken Salad.  Most of Cosmic Ray’s menu is standard Disney food, though their barbecued items are less common and it offers a great vegetarian tortellini salad. Both Casey’s Corner and The Lunching Pad offer similar Hot Dogs that are available at Fairfax Fare and elsewhere.

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Best Disney World Deluxe Resort Hotel

by josh on June 3, 2010

Best Disney World Deluxe Resort Hotel

Quick Introduction to the Disney World Deluxe Resorts

Of the three Disney World resort classes, selecting the right Deluxe is the toughest choice. Unlike the Values and the Moderates, the Deluxes have wildly different price points, ranging from $240 per night at Animal Kingdom Lodge with a parking lot view to $582 per night for an outter building garden view at Grand Floridian Resort, and that’s just for Standard rooms in Value season. Some Deluxes have as many as 20 different room categories with prices that top $3,000 per night. Room sizes are also vastly different, ranging in size from about 340 square feet all the way up to 440 square feet for Standard rooms. While 100 square feet may not seem significant on paper, in person it may seem like you’re adding an additional planet if your group consists of four or five people. In addition, there are significant differences in resort layout, dining choices, transportation options, theme, service, location, pool size, and more. The resorts come ranked in a number of categories to help you decide which resort is the best fit for your group. Don’t be alarmed if your final choice is rated on the lower end of any of the categories because there is no such thing as “one size fits all.”

Best Theme/Landscaping

  1. Polynesian Village Resort
  2. Animal Kingdom Lodge
  3. Wilderness Lodge
  4. Grand Floridian
  5. Beach Club Resort
  6. Boardwalk Inn
  7. Yacht Club Resort
  8. Contemporary Resort

Save for perhaps the Contemporary, all of the Disney Deluxe resorts have lush surroundings and immersive themes. Polynesian Village Resort arrives in first place because of the beautiful grounds, impressive Great Ceremonial House, perfectly-themed volcano pool, and lake-side white sand beaches overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Being able to walk into the lobby and see Cinderella Castle in the distance is truly something special.

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With only three sit-down restaurants, Animal Kingdom has the most limited choices of any of the theme parks that make up Walt Disney World.  In fact, there are fewer options at the Animal Kingdom than there are at several of the Deluxe Resorts.  Considering about 30,000 people visit the Animal Kingdom every day, it may appear as though the dining facilities are inadequate.  However, the Animal Kingdom usually closes around 5-6pm, and many guests choose to dine elsewhere.  It’s not uncommon for visitors to bus over to the nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge to dine at Boma, Jiko, or Sanaa or park hop over to Epcot for a meal and a few late evening rides.  Luckily, all three of the restaurants at the Animal Kingdom have something to offer.  The Yak & Yeti and Tusker House buffet in particular are vastly underrated and would be an excellent choice on or off the Disney Dining Plan.

Be sure to read over the full reviews for more information on any of the restaurants listed.  You can either click here for the full list in alphabetical order or click the individual highlighted links throughout this post.

Most Unique Menu

1. Yak & Yeti

2. Tusker House

3. Rainforest Café

Yak & Yeti has the most unique menu, featuring a wide variety of Asian inspired dishes including roasted duck, baby back ribs, skirt steak, lettuce cups, and wonton soup. The restaurant also offers different beverages than the standard Disney-owned restaurants. With a menu similar to the popular Boma buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Tusker House serves a number of interesting African and Indian inspired dishes including seafood stew, curry chicken, couscous, and about a dozen unique salads and soups.  For the less adventurous, there are also plenty of “normal” dishes like rotisserie chicken, top sirloin steak, cold cuts, and a host of others.  Rainforest Café comes in third because it’s a chain restaurant that has about two dozen locations nationwide.  You’ll find the usual variety of sandwiches, burgers, and salads as well as some more interesting dishes.

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Oh, boy.  There are a lot of choices at Epcot – 17 sit-down restaurants to be exact.  That’s eleven more than at Magic Kingdom, twelve more than at Hollywood Studios, and fourteen more than at the Animal Kingdom. Several of the best or otherwise most popular restaurants in all of Walt Disney World are found at Epcot.  At first it may seem difficult to decide which restaurant to choose.  Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to select which restaurants you want to eat at well before you even think about leaving for Disney World.  The days of walking up to a restaurant and getting a table with a minimal wait are long gone, in part due to the popular Disney Dining Plans. Fortunately, with changes that make it difficult for guests to double- or triple-book restaurants for the same meal, reservations for many restaurants are available the day before or even the day-of.  The following analysis should make it easier to hone in on which restaurants sound like they would be the most ideal for your group.

Be sure to read over the full reviews for more information on any of the restaurants listed.  You can either click here for the full list in alphabetical order or click the individual highlighted links throughout this post.

We’ll skip the “Most Unique Menu” category for Epcot.  Every one of Epcot’s restaurants features interesting and unique food, save for perhaps Garden Grill and Coral Reef.

Best “Value” AKA Most Expensive Meal on the Dining Plan

Add around $3 to each table service meal for the non-alcoholic beverage. When “dinner” is in parentheses, it means that the restaurant offers a different, more expensive menu at dinner.

1. Chefs de France (Dinner) (Average Entrée Cost $25, Average Dessert Cost $9, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $35, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $9, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $44)

2. Via Napoli (Average Entrée Cost $23.91, Average Dessert Cost $10, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $30, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $14, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert + Beverage $44)

3. Tutto Italia Ristorante (Dinner) (Average Entrée Cost $24.77, Average Dessert Cost $11, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $30, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $13, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $43)

4. Coral Reef (Average Entrée Cost $25.88, Average Dessert Cost $8, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $33, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $9, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert  $42)

5. San Angel Inn (Dinner) (Average Entrée Cost $25.17, Average Dessert Cost $7.75, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $28.50, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $8, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert + $41.75)

6. Teppan Edo (Average Entrée Cost $27.75, Average Dessert Cost $6.28, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $32, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $7, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $39)

7. Tokyo Dining (Average Entrée Cost $27.35, Average Dessert Cost $6.33, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $32, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $7, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $39)

8. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Breakfast: $38 for adults, $23 for kids 3-9; Lunch: $39 for adults, $23 for kids 3-9Dinner: $39 for adults, $23 for kids 3-9)

9. Garden Grill ($39 for adults, $20 for kids ages 3-9)

10. Spice Road Table(Average Entrée Cost $27, Average Dessert Cost $7, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $30, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $7, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $38.49)

11. Rose and Crown Dining Room (Average Entrée Cost $21.77, Average Dessert Cost $6.25, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $32, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $6.49, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert$38.49)

12. Biergarten (Lunch: $26 for adults, $14 for kids 3-9; Dinner: $38 for adults, $20 for children)

13. La Hacienda de San Angel (Average Entrée Cost $27.22, Average Dessert Cost $7.18, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $29.50, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $8, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $37.50)

14. Restaurant Marrakesh (Dinner) (Average Entrée Cost $27.11, Average Dessert Cost $8, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $29, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $8, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $37) This only includes the items that do not have an upcharge. There is an extra fee for the “royal feast” and the “sampler platters.”

15. Nine Dragons (Average Entrée Cost $18.87, Average Dessert Cost $5.33, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $27, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $7, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $34)

16. Le Cellier (Two Credits) (Average Entrée Cost $41.67, Average Dessert Cost $10.17, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $50, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $11, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $61 / 2 credits = $30.50)

17. Monsieur Paul (Two Credits) (Average Entrée Cost $41.60, Average Dessert Cost $12, Most Expensive Entrée Cost $44, Most Expensive Dessert Cost $13, Most Expensive Entrée + Dessert $57 / 2 credits = $28.50)

Many of Epcot’s restaurants are among the most expensive at Disney World and offer good values on the Dining Plan. Like most signatures, Le Cellier and Monsieur Paul are poor values with the cost split over two credits. When the $3 beverage charge is included, most traditional restaurants are also better values than the buffets, assuming your group tends to order the more expensive entrees.

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