Disney World not only contains four theme parks, it has over 20 resort hotels to choose. From. Over the years, my family and I have stayed at several. Each has its own unique theme and layout. More importantly, there are different price levels and amenities to choose from for your particular vacation style. Will pools be an important part of your days, or maybe easy access to the parks is more important. Here are my top 5 recommendations for best Disney World hotels for families to help you decide.
Disney World’s Pop Century Resort
While scouting for Disney World hotel options price is a major factor, so I’ll sort my list from lowest to highest. Pop Century has long been my favorite option for keeping my budget in check. As part of the Value class of resorts, Pop Century stands out for being a bit smaller and not as crowded as the other three All-Star hotels. Dedicated busing for this resort also means shorter wait times.
Pop Century has a bit of appeal for both kids and adults. The motel style buildings are themed for the decades from the 1950s through 1990s. Here you’ll find larger than life icons, such as a 4 story bowling pin to represent the 1950s building, alongside classic Disney characters. Landscaping is nicer than you’d find at most chain hotels, but not as over the top as other Disney resorts. The three pools lack extras, such as water slides and playscapes, but there are daily activities at the main pool to keep kids occupied. The food court is also more impressive than other hotels with a great selection of items.
The rooms have been undergoing renovations recently, which has added a few benefits. Most notably, the twin full sized beds have been replaced by a queen and a queen sized Murphy bed, which folds up to reveal a 4 seat table. The rooms are a bit on the small side, so this adds some much needed space. The other improvements include a coffee maker and mini fridge. The bathroom layout features a vanity area separate from the shower and toilet, which makes for better morning organization. Due to the room size, I’d recommend Pop Century for families with one teen or two younger kids. Also keep in mind two rooms at the Pop may be cheaper than one larger room at another hotel.
TIP: Book a Preferred room to be near the main building and bus stop.
Disney World’s Port Orleans – Riverside Resort
If you’re looking for something a bit more laid back in style, the Port Orleans – Riverside hotel is a great place to unwind. Making the most of its Old South theme, the buildings are split into the more rustic Alligator Bayou and formal Magnolia plantation styles. Winding pathways lead through lush landscaping and riverways to the buildings.
As part of the Moderate class of resorts, Port Orleans features both counter service and sit down restaurants to give your family a bit more dining variety. One of the more unique features is Yehaa Bob Jackson’s old time piano performances in the lounge on select nights. The resort is located on the Sassagoula river and has free boat service to Disney Springs. The leisurely cruise is also a great way for kids to wind down during the day too.
There is a feature pool along with five other ‘quiet’ pools located throughout the property. Ol’ Man Island has a decently themed pool with water slide and a basic wading pool for toddlers, plus a pool bar. The quiet pools also have adjoining laundry facilities, which allows for lounging around while waiting for that load of clothes to dry. TIP: If your kids love to play in the pool and plan on spending a lot of time in the water, consider the neighboring Port Orleans – French Quarter, which has an amazing feature pool and splash zone.
Rooms are a bit larger than the Value class, similar to the average chain hotel. Some rooms have a fold down bed which will accommodate a younger child for a maximum of five per room. Port Orleans has some special princess themed rooms with unique decorations and fiber optic fireworks. As with Pop Century, booking a Preferred room will get you closer to the main building. The only downside of the Moderate resorts is their layout, which requires multiple bus stops and can result in longer travel times during busy periods.
Disney World’s Art of Animation Resort
While technically part of the Value class, Art of Animation is the only Disney World hotel centered around suites. The true two room suites, coming in at a price under the Deluxe resorts, make this one of my top picks for families. The hotel features a single central bus stop and excellent food court. But the level of detail throughout is what makes this resort stand apart from the others.
The resort is divided into four themes, Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, and Little Mermaid. Each building is decorated with larger than life characters and capped off with giant artist sketchbooks with drawings from the movies. It is very well done and does not seem gaudy at all. In fact, the Cars area will make you feel like you just walked into the film. The details don’t stop on the exterior.
The rooms are tastefully decorated to highlight the movies and keep you immersed in the Disney theme. The main room features a Murphy bed which folds out into a 4 seat table, a very small kitchenette (mini fridge, sink, and counter), and a couch bed. The second space is a dedicated bedroom, which as a parent I very much appreciate. The best part though is the two full bathrooms. Even with a family of six you’ll be able to get ready for rope drop in the morning.
The feature pool is visually exciting with giant statues of Finding Nemo characters and has an underwater sound system, but lacks any type of playscape or water slide. The splash area is fun, but geared more towards younger kids. There is a poolside bar and laundry facilities for adults to do adult things while the kids are having fun in the water.
TIP: The Little Mermaid section is made up of regular Value class rooms and rarely ever have discounted rates, which has never made much sense at this resort. When making your reservations, you can choose which theme you want to book.
Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort
Just the mere thought of Animal Kingdom Lodge makes me want to book a flight to Florida. Our personal favorite Disney World hotel is so well themed that it feels like a vacation destination itself. Thew main hall resembles a giant African lodge right down to the soft drumming and thatched roof. Better yet, walk out the end of the hall and you’ll find yourself in what appears to be the open Savannah complete with giraffes lounging about.
As part of the Deluxe class, Animal Kingdom Lodge, offers larger rooms, finer dining options, and inside corridors. The rooms are slightly larger than a typical chain hotel and have a small balcony. Book a Savannah room to have a view of the animal habitat right outside. Some rooms are available with bunkbeds, while others have a pull out sofa bed. For an extra bit of luxury, the Club Level has dedicated concierge access and daily food service. The Club lounge, which overlooks the main hall, has better offerings than others with a great breakfast spread and ample space. Later in the day, there are snacks plus appetizers, desserts, and cocktails.
Speaking of food, the Lodge has some of most popular restaurants in Disney World. Boma is an African inspired buffet that will please most palates, while the counter service selections at Mara are just as good. Jiko is an upscale dining option for adults, and luckily Animal Kingdom Lodge has childcare available.
The pool is surprisingly boring compared to other Deluxe class resorts, but Animal Kingdom lodge does offer other unique cultural and animal activities scheduled throughout the day. Guides are on hand in the Savannah viewing areas to teach about the animals, traditional drum sessions take place in the main hall, and guests can watch the wildlife at night through night vision goggles.
Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort
One of the iconic hotels of Disney World, the Grand Floridian sits just across the Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom. This stately Victorian themed seaside resort exudes class and sophistication. The grand hall is filled with classical piano tunes while Victoria & Albert’s offers Michelin 4 star dining. So, you might wonder why I would choose this hotel as one of my top family picks. As the saying goes, location is everything.
If spending time at Magic Kingdom is your family’s priority, then this is the place to be. Guests are just one monorail stop away and a quick boat ride will return you to the resort. In the intense summer heat of Florida, being able to quickly whisk away to the comfort of your air conditioned room or the pool is key. And if your family runs out of energy after a long day, you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the resort with the added bonus of the Electrical Water Pageant sailing by to cap off a night.
The Grand Floridian has two pools. The larger is pretty basic, while the second offers a water slide. The splash zone for the kids is where the real excitement is though. Aside from that, there is not a lot of extra entertainment for the younger crowd. This is why I choose this resort when focusing on Magic Kingdom touring.
There are a myriad of restaurant choices at the Grand Floridan. The two families will be most interested in are the Gasparilla Grill and 1900 Park Fare. The counter service Gasparilla Grill isn’t as large as what you’d find at a Moderate or Value resort, but I love that it is open 24/7. No more finding yourself tired and hunger after a late night park hopping with nothing to satisfy your appetite. 1900 Park Fare hosts two fun character meals. During breakfast hours we find a hodge podge of friends from Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, and Mary Poppins. At dinner time is one of my favorite character dining options when Cinderella and her entourage mingle with guests. We always have a lot of fun interacting with Cinderella’s step-sisters.
As with other Deluxe class Disney properties, there is a Club Level offering. We’ve found that the standalone concierge building, Sugarloaf Key, is a better experience than the main building (and a bit cheaper). It is a prime location for the bus stop, boat dock, and near Gasparilla Grill.
Whatever your budget and vacation style, there are several hotels at Disney World to fill your needs. There are very few hotels on property that we haven’t enjoyed, but some have more benefits than others. I hope this list helps narrow down your choices for your next Disney World vacation.