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.

The Polynesian is one of the most relaxing, pristine resorts at Disney World.

Animal Kingdom Lodge falls to a close second place, but could just as easily take first depending on your own preferences.

Surrounded by 43 acres of African savanna and featuring (arguably) the most remarkable lobby of any of the Disney Deluxes, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a striking resort and the favorite of many returning guests.

Few other resorts in the world can boast panoramic views of 30 specifies of indigenous African wildlife and more than 35,000 native shrubs. It’s an amazing place and an experience every returning Disney World guest should take advantage of, even if you ultimately decide to stay elsewhere.

Wilderness Lodge is a gorgeous, casual resort with a Pacific Northwest flavor. It shares the beautiful Seven Seas Lagoon with the Deluxe Monorail resorts and has the feeling of being removed from the ruckus of Disney World while still being right in the middle of the action.

Water actually trickles down from a spring inside the lobby down to the pool below through a variety of waterways and waterfalls.

Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Flagship Resort, is friendlier and more accommodating than you might expect with beautiful architecture, white sand beaches, and a Victorian themed lobby.

It’s hard to not feel like a million bucks exploring the various courtyards and immaculately maintained gardens.

And let’s not forget the opulent lobby, where a live band plays outside Mizner’s Lounge nightly.

Beach Club Resort is the most family-friendly and relaxing of the Epcot-area resorts, offering a cool New England seaside vibe and a soft, welcoming color palette.

Beach Club gets extra points for a larger variety of unique, semi-private nooks and crannies located around the resort.

Boardwalk Inn, themed like an elegant 1940s Atlantic City resort, features an impressive façade and an inviting lobby. It drops in the standings because there isn’t anything particularly “wow-worthy” about the resort and while the BoardWalk area that surrounds the resort adds to its ambiance, guests staying at the Beach Club and Yacht Club are just a couple minutes away.

And it’s hard to beat the nightly sunset above the resort – here photographed at the Beach Club across Crescent Lake.

Coming in next to last is the Yacht Club, which isn’t necessarily an indication of horrific theming. The resort is still a solid “B to B+” on a graded scale, but falls to seventh due to its neutral color palette and less-than-inspring public spaces that are unlikely to connect with kids.

On the other hand, couples looking for an intimate, upscale resort should strongly consider staying here. And families shouldn’t necessarily be turned off – the substance is very similar to Beach Club, even if the style is arguably lacking.

The only Deluxe with potentially disappointing theming is the Contemporary Resort, which doesn’t boast much decoration at all. While the A-frame structure itself was a technical feat on a grand scale back in 1971, most guests won’t appreciate the bland, concrete architecture. While there might be something to say for the monorail whizzing through the center of the resort every few minutes, the inside is otherwise void of most things Disney and the industrial atmosphere seems out of place. In other words, nothing about the resort is particularly “contemporary” and the theme doesn’t transport guests to a time or place as successfully as the other resorts.

On the plus side, the lake and Magic Kingdom views from the Tower rooms are spectacular.

Overall, the Disney Deluxe resorts are extravagantly and diversely themed. It’s likely that more than one of the resorts will appeal to you and your group and you’ll want to take into consideration the other categories. For some guests, the theme is the most important part of their resort choice. While the theme may be vital to your vacation, I would still strongly recommend taking into consideration dining, transportation, room quality, and pool areas. While the Contemporary’s facade may not do much for your group, it’s also the only resort where you can walk to Magic Kingdom. Suffice to say, you won’t be disappointed by the top choices in this category and the resorts at the bottom of the list have something to offer as well.

Best Layout

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

This is a difficult category to quantify because so much of it depends on your room location and your personal preferences. For example, the least convenient room at the Grand Floridian is less convenient than the most convenient room at the BoardWalk, even if the Grand Flo arrives in first and BoardWalk in last.

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I have the Grand Floridian in first place because the restaurants, monorail station, and check-in are all located in the centralized main building that is relatively near all of the rooms. Expensive rooms inside the main building are particularly convenient and  it’s otherwise easy to move around the resort and find what you’re looking for and none of the points of interest are far from one another.

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The Contemporary Resort comes in second because rooms in the Tower are so convenient to the restaurants, check-in, and monorail station. Guests are just a short walk and elevator ride away and it’s all indoors and air-conditioned. However, guests staying in the Garden Wing must walk a considerable distance to the Tower and Tower guests are relatively far from the dock and pool. Still, it’s generally quick and easy to find what you need as you move about the resort.

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In third place, the Wilderness Lodge is shaped somewhat like a large “V” with two long wings jutting out of the main building. The good news is that the walkways are easy to traverse and air-conditioned; the bad news is that a room at the end of one of the wings means a considerable walk to get to the restaurants, check-in, and bus stop. The wings are shorter than the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s and a slightly longer walk is better than the confusing hallways of the Epcot-area resorts. The pools are also centrally located behind the resort along with the dock and beach areas.

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In fourth place is Animal Kingdom Lodge, which has a similar design to Wilderness Lodge, only the wings are longer. The quick service also necessitates a walk outside, which is less convenient. This can equate to a long walk to the buses and restaurants if you find yourself at the end of the wings. Luckily, the rooms at the end of the wings generally have the best view of the savannas and the hallways are nicely air-conditioned. Note that two buildings are pictured above – Jambo House is where you’ll find all of the standard rooms and several Disney Vacation Club villas. Kidani Village is a separate building that houses the majority of the Disney Vacation Club villas, in addition to a second feature pool, casual table service restaurant, and other amenities.

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Polynesian Village Resort is a relatively small resort with a centralized main building, pool, dock, and bus stop, but the layout can be confusing due to the meandering walkways and scattered guest buildings. Guest rooms are also housed entirely in disconnected longhouses without cover, so walks back to the room can be wet during common afternoon rain. It’s fairly easy to find the main building with the restaurants, check-in, and monorail station, but getting back to the room may be difficult because the scattered buildings all look the same. Chances are you’ll get the hang of it by the time you leave, but it may take a few trips before you figure out exactly which path to take. The pools, dock, and beaches are all centrally located in the middle and the back of the resort which is nice and nothing is more than five or so minutes away from anything else, which cuts down on walking.

Boardwalk Inn, Yacht Club, and Beach Club, all feature similar layouts with long winding hallways and points of interest that may be far away or at another resort entirely. For example, the Yacht Club and Beach Club share amenities, including Stormalong Bay, a quick service, and the pool bar/grill. This can mean a substantial walk to and from the pool and a particularly long walk for Yacht Club guests to get to the Beach Club’s quick service location or the pool bar, which is on the Beach Club side. The Beach and Yacht Club also share a dock, which is directly behind the Yacht Club. This equates to a five to ten minute walk over to the Yacht Club for guests at the Beach Club who want to use water transportation. Finally, both the Yacht and Beach Club sit next to the beautiful Crescent Lake, but few rooms have balconies that look directly out at it.

Yacht and Beach Club map:

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Yacht and Beach Clubs are so intertwined that Disney doesn’t even publish individual maps for each resort.

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BoardWalk Inn falls to last place because its quick service, restaurants, and most other amenities are outside the resort itself on the BoardWalk, which means guests will need to exit the resort out the back door to grab a sandwich or slice of pizza. The winding hallways inside the resort are also longer and more confusing than the other resorts and the bus stop is also further away than the other Deluxes. The walk certainly isn’t the end of the world, but as far as layout convenience goes, it’s easy to see its shortcomings.

Considering Disney’s attention to detail and careful planning, it’s a bit surprising that many of the Deluxe resorts have poor, confusing layouts. While it’s unlikely the resort’s layout will ruin your vacation, long walks from the bus to your room in the heat or rain after spending ten hours running around a theme park can make a wonderful day end on a sour note. Pay attention to the “Best Rooms” categories of each resort to hone in on the best room locations. While the best rooms are also usually the most expensive, there are advantages to some Standard rooms too, which is what those sections cover. If you’re able to get one of the “best” rooms at the Yacht Club, then chances are it will be better than one of the worst rooms at the Contemporary or Grand Floridian. For this reason, room location is even more important than overall layout, but it’s important to keep the overall layout in mind, especially when considering the bottom five choices on the list.

Best Dining

  1. Grand Floridian Resort (Victoria & Albert’s, Citricos, Narcoossee’s, Grand Floridian Cafe, 1900 Park Fare, Afternoon Tea, Mizner’s Lounge, Gasparilla Island Grill, Beaches Pool Bar)
  2. Contemporary Resort (California Grill, The Wave, Chef Mickey’s, Outer Rim Lounge, Contempo Cafe, The Sand Bar)
  3. Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jiko, Sanaa, Boma, Victoria Falls Lounge, The Mara,
  4. Polynesian Resort
  5. Wilderness Lodge
  6. Boardwalk Inn
  7. Yacht Club
  8. Beach Club

Boasting one of the best restaurants in Central Florida in Victoria & Albert’s, excellent food and service at Citricos, a picturesque waterfront setting at Narcoossee’s, casual dining at Grand Floridian Cafe, a whimsical character buffet in 1900 Park Fare, a decent quick service in Gasparilla Grill that serves 24 hours, and the best pool bar food of any resort at Beaches Pool bar, Grand Floridian Resort easily tops the list. And second place really isn’t close.

With the exception of V&A’s, and its $150+ 7-course meal, none of the restaurants are particularly uppity or pretentious. My favorite is Citricos, with its Mediterranean flair, attention to detail, and dynamic drink menu. For quick service, it’s hard to beat the poolside crab cake sandwich. Full reviews of each are available at the highlighted links:

Featuring panoramic views of Magic Kingdom from the 15th floor of the Contemporary, California Grill offers a menu blending west coast flavors with those from around the globe. Downstairs on the first floor, The Wave focuses on locally sourced, carefully prepared dishes with a focus on fresh, healthful food. The adjacent bar serves its own appetizers, in addition to the full restaurant menu, and is usually an easy walk-up on a busy night. Chef Mickey’s is the most popular character buffet on property. Hosted by Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto for breakfast, brunch, and dinner, the restaurant located on the fourth floor is open and airy with the monorail whizzing by every few minutes overhead. While it’s not known for its food, the playful characters and variety of food may make up for the low quality of some of the dishes. Serving just the standard bar menu, Outer Rim next door might leave something to be desired, but it’s a quick and relatively easy place to pick a cocktail. Contempo Cafe is arguably the best Deluxe resort quick service, serving up an expansive menu of high quality food. And finally, The Sand Bar is convenient to the feature pool behind the resort, offering sandwiches and other simple food along with drinks. Full reviews:


Best Transportation/Location

1. Contemporary Resort

2. Polynesian Resort

3. Boardwalk Inn

4. Yacht Club

5. Grand Floridian

6. Wilderness Lodge

7. Beach Club

8. Animal Kingdom

The Contemporary is the only resort where guests can easily walk to and from the Magic Kingdom. It also offers boat service to the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Cabins as well as Monorail access to the Magic Kingdom, Transportation Center, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian. Finally, the Contemporary has the best bus service of the Monorail Deluxes because it’s picked up and dropped off before the others when bus service is shared. Coming in second is the Polynesian, which is on the monorail line, has an easily accessible bus stop, and is in walking distance to the express monorail line to Epcot. Walking to the express monorail will save you a lot of time because you won’t have to travel around on the resort monorail and then wait for the express monorail to show up at the Ticket and Transportation Center. The Polynesian also offers boat service to the Magic Kingdom and Grand Floridian which is handy as well. The Boardwalk Inn is at the top of the Epcot-area resorts because it’s the closest and has its own dock that is centrally located at the back of the resort. It’s also the closest resort within walking distance of the Hollywood Studios. With boat access to the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios, there are plenty of places to visit via boat, which is much more fun than riding a stuffy bus. Of course, the Boardwalk Inn is also right on top of the Boardwalk area with its fun restaurants, night clubs, and street shows. Coming in fourth is the Yacht Club, which is rated higher than the nearby Beach Club because the boat dock happens to be behind the Yacht Club. This makes it much more convenient for guests to travel via boat to all of the same locations as at the Boardwalk Inn listed above.

Leading the bottom half of the list, the Grand Floridian is on the monorail line and has convenient boat access to the Magic Kingdom and Polynesian resort. Why is it so low on the list then? Unfortunately, the Grand Floridian has poor bus service, usually sharing with the far-away Wilderness Lodge which gets picked up and dropped off first. This can mean longer than average bus rides to the Hollywood Studios and the Grand Floridian is the farthest resort away from the Animal Kingdom. Coming in sixth is the Wilderness Lodge, which has boat access to the Magic Kingdom, but buses everywhere else. The Wilderness Lodge often shares buses with the nearby Fort Wilderness Campground and the much less convenient Grand Floridian, which adds considerable extra time to bus rides. It’s not in walking distance of any of the theme parks and is relatively isolated away from the rest of the action. The Beach Club falls all the way to sixth because guests will have to walk all the way to the back of the Yacht Club for boat transportation that is shared by many other resorts and theme parks. Like the Yacht Club and Boardwalk Inn, there is also no bus service to the front of Epcot. Last place goes to the Animal Kingdom, which only offers bus service to all of the theme parks. It’s also the most remote Disney resort and the furthest from all of the theme parks other than the Animal Kingdom. You’re looking at a 45 minute drive to and from the Magic Kingdom.

Overall, the Deluxe resorts offer the most diverse transportation options of the Disney resort classes. Both the monorail and boats offer a more fun way to get around the World and the convenience of being so close to the theme parks and other resorts is a nice bonus.

Best Rooms

1. Contemporary Resort

2. Grand Floridian Resort

3. Polynesian Resort

4. Yacht Club

5. Beach Club

6. Boardwalk Inn

7. Animal Kingdom Lodge

8. Wilderness Lodge

Disregarding price, the updated Contemporary Resort rooms are the nicest, most modern rooms at Disney World. Some guests may still prefer the subtler elegance of the Grand Floridian’s large, well-appointed rooms. In third place is the Polynesian Resort. Although its rooms feel a bit dark and outdated, they are still among the largest at Disney World and feature upgraded fixtures, bathrooms, and televisions. The Yacht and Beach Club as well as the Boardwalk Inn all have rooms that are about 380 square feet in size. As far as the room itself is concerned, they are all similarly outfitted with the only major difference being the theme. The Yacht Club is the most recently renovated, followed by the Beach Club and then the Boardwalk Inn. Chances are you won’t notice much difference between the three. Both the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge have rooms that are much smaller than the other Deluxes, at only about 340 square feet. They are also dark and standard rooms sleep only four people, compared to five at the other Deluxes. While the Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge are considerably less expensive, the major reason behind the price difference is the smaller rooms with lower quality furnishings.

Best Pool

1. Stormalong Bay at the Beach and Yacht Club

2. Boardwalk Inn

3. Grand Floridian Resort

4. Wilderness Lodge

5. Polynesian Resort

6. Contemporary Resort

7. Animal Kingdom Lodge

Far and away, the best pool complex is Stormalong Bay, which is shared by guests of the Yacht and Beach Club. It’s also the most heavily secured and resort guests must show their room key to receive a wristband and gain entrance. Boardwalk Inn features a spectacular slide, a fun theme, and a large pool which puts it in second place. The Grand Floridian’s main pool, while not ornately themed, overlooks the pristine Seven Seas Lagoon and the quiet pool is the largest of its kind. It ranks so high because there is usually plenty of room to swim and move about the water. In fourth place, the Wilderness Lodge features a beautifully themed pool and a second quiet pool. While the feature pool gets busy in the summer, the quiet pool usually has plenty of room. The Polynesian would be much higher on the list, probably in second place, except it’s so popular with “pool hoppers.” Although people staying at other resorts are expressly forbidden from swimming at the Polynesian, plenty of people still do and the resort does a poor job of keeping them out. This makes the Polynesian’s Volcano Pool extremely busy in the warm months. Although there is a smaller quiet pool, it’s much less fun to swim in than the Volcano Pool. Next to last is the Contemporary Resort, which has two large pools, but little theme or decoration. The slide is also not particularly exciting. In last place is the Animal Kingdom Lodge, which only has one pool open to all guests (guests staying at the Kidani Village Disney Vacation Club have access to a second pool). While it is the largest single pool in Disney World, it doesn’t make up for the convenient quiet pools at other resorts. If your room is at the end of Kudu Trail, you’re looking at a 15+ minute walk to and from the pool, which may be a hassle.

Chances are you’ll be pleased with the pool facilities at any of the Deluxes. Although the Animal Kingdom comes in last, the pool is still fantastic and it’s located in a beautifully themed area. It’s just unfortunate they neglected to build a second one on the other side of the resort.

Best Disney World Deluxe Resort Hotel

1. Grand Floridian

2. Polynesian Resort

3. Beach Club

4. Wilderness Lodge

5. Contemporary Resort

6. Yacht Club

7. Animal Kingdom Lodge

8. Boardwalk Inn

The “best” Deluxe resort is difficult to quantify because of the varying price points and substantial differences between the resorts. At the very least, I would recommend reading over the “best for” and “worst for” sections along with the “summary of key points” for each of the Deluxe resorts you are considering. While the Animal Kingdom Lodge may be listed seventh on this list, it may be ideal for your family if you don’t mind the longer-than-average bus rides, four person limit per room, and the possibility of substantial walks to the main building and pool. In addition, the Grand Floridian is the most expensive resort at Disney World and may not be worth the $200 extra per night over the Wilderness Lodge if your group doesn’t plan to spend much time at the resort. Unlike the Values and Moderates, the Deluxes have more substantial differences and the top rated resorts may not be the best choice depending on your wants and needs. Here’s as short of an explanation as I can give on the pros and cons of the various Deluxes and why they fall where they do, generally speaking.

The Grand Floridian is the best of the Deluxe resorts, with the largest rooms, easy to maneuver layout, oversized pools, finest restaurants, and quick transportation to the Magic Kingdom. The only deterrents are its bus transportation to the other theme parks and the high cost. While some visitors report feeling “stuffy,” the great majority of Grand Floridian guests are just like you and me. That is, people who have diligently saved over the year(s) to afford to stay at Disney’s best. It’s truly a beautiful resort with all of the amenities one would expect from a top resort. On the other hand, it may only be worth the money if you plan to spend a considerable amount of time relaxing and enjoying the resort and its amenities. The Polynesian has many of the same pros and cons as the Grand Floridian, but falls below it due to the somewhat outdated décor in the rooms, more difficulty finding what you’re looking for inside of the resort, and the overcrowded pools. On the plus side, the Polynesian has much better transportation, including a walkway to the Ticket and Transportation Center and a more relaxing, family friendly atmosphere.

The Beach Club tops the Epcot-area resorts because of its ideal location within walking distance of Epcot, its relaxed atmosphere, superior service, Stormalong Bay, and several casual restaurants on-site. The major downsides are its lack of balconies overlooking the lake, its shared bus and boat transportation, and a lackluster quick service. Luckily, you can visit Stormalong Bay for a burger or walk to Epcot and visit one of their excellent quick service locations, so there really isn’t that much of a need for a quick service with more abundant options. Of course, it would still be nice. In fourth place is the Wilderness Lodge, which has a tranquil atmosphere, attractive price point, above-average transportation, and a fun pool area. Although the rooms are smaller than the other Deluxes, the significantly lower price reflects it. The Wilderness Lodge also has boat service to the Contemporary and Magic Kingdom, which easily connects guests to the other Monorail Deluxes and Epcot express monorail line. Although it appears to be secluded, it actually isn’t that far away, so you get the benefit of being away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks while still being close to the action. It’s an excellent resort for guests wanting to be conveniently located near the Magic Kingdom without the additional expense of the Monorail Deluxes.

Falling to fifth place is the Contemporary Resort, mostly due to its lack of a theme and high cost for rooms outside of the Garden Wing. While it’s true that the Contemporary Resort boasts the cheapest rooms on the monorail line, the Contemporary’s Tower rooms start at $400 which is in line with Standard rooms at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian, both of which have a superior theme. The Contemporary’s strong points are its convenience to the Magic Kingdom and other Monorail Deluxes, boat service to the Wilderness Lodge, modern rooms, and easy to navigate layout. If you don’t care for a lush tropical atmosphere or the opulence of the Grand Floridian, then the Contemporary may be your best choice. I recommend either getting the cheapest room in the Garden Wing or upgrading to the Magic Kingdom View in the Tower. There’s really no reason to spend the money to upgrade anywhere else.

In sixth place, the Yacht Club completely lacks a quick service location, has a confusing layout, shares buses and boats with many other resorts, and features a less popular theme. While guests looking for a more upscale atmosphere may appreciate the Yacht Club, it may feel a bit stuffy to guests with younger children. The positives are similar to the Beach Club and include the best pool complex at Disney World, an excellent location within walking distance of Epcot and many other resorts, and upgraded rooms. If you prefer a fancy resort and don’t plan to eat any quick service meals on-site, then the Yacht Club may be your ideal resort.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge drops to seventh because of its remote location. Unless you plan to spend considerable time on your balcony looking at the animals, you are better off staying closer to the other theme parks and visiting the Animal Kingdom to enjoy its restaurants or the public animal viewing areas. It’s about a 35 minute drive from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Magic Kingdom and 25 minutes or more to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. If you have to wait 15 minutes for the bus then you’re looking at 80-120 minutes or more on the buses, assuming you only ride to and from the theme parks once. Depending on room location you’re also looking at considerable walks to and from the bus stop, main building, pool, and restaurants. On the plus side, the Animal Kingdom is a beautiful resort with a striking lobby and three superb restaurants. If you don’t mind the long drives or plan to spend a significant portion of your vacation at your resort then the Animal Kingdom may be a good choice. There are better options for first time Disney vacationers and those who plan to spend most of their time away from the resort.

In last place, though not without its positive attributes, is the Boardwalk Inn. While I love the exterior theme and the rooms overlooking the Boardwalk are among the most fun at Disney World, the interior leaves a lot to be desired. The layout is particularly confusing, with long winding halls and inconvenient elevator locations. There is also no on-site quick service and no restaurants inside of the resort. Instead, you’ll have to exit the resort and enter the restaurants from the outside. While there are plenty of choices, the ESPN Club, Kouzzina, and Big River Grille are nothing special and do not come highly recommended. At a minimum of $425 per night, the rooms that overlook the Boardwalk cost about as much as a Magic Kingdom View room at the Contemporary Resort or Standard room at the Polynesian or Grand Floridian. I would recommend visiting the Boardwalk area during your vacation, but don’t generally recommend the resort itself. One more positive that I have not previously mentioned is the Inn’s underutilized Bellevue Lounge, which is a fantastic place to sip on a fine cocktail and enjoy an afternoon or evening.

There is a Disney Deluxe resort that will fit anyone’s needs, provided you have a budget that allows for it. With a large pricing gap and a wide variety of strengths and weaknesses, it may take some time to research and determine which resort will best fit your group’s needs. Hopefully this abridged guide will help. Be sure to read up on the individual resorts that sound intriguing for even more information. I have a detailed overview of every Disney resort, including a closer look at each of the categories listed here and suggestions on room reservations. Good luck and happy planning.


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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