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 picks for best Disney World hotels for families to help you decide.
Disney World Pop Century Resort
Pop Century has always been my pick for an affordable stay at Disney World. The rooms are smaller then others, but when you’re only looking for a place to sleep and keeping an eye on your budget it is the perfect choice. Unlike other All-Star resorts, Pop Century has dedicated busing, which means less crowding when the parks clear out at night.
Kids will love the over the top themeing with giant characters outside the buildings. The pools are basic, but activities keep kids occupied during the day. The food court has a better than average selection, so you won’t get bored eating the same meals every day. For a family with two younger kids, or one teen, Pop Century will fit your budget and needs.
- Dedicated buses, unlike other Value class resorts
- Single bus stop
- Budget friendly room with Disney property benefits
- Small rooms
- Lack of feature pool
Disney World Port Orleans Resort
Port Orleans is a great option if you’re looking for something a bit nicer and not so Disney. There are two resorts here: Riverside, which is the larger, and French Quarter. Riverside has a sit down restaurant and two styles of buildings: the more rustic Alligator Bayou and the formal Magnolia Plantations. A feature pool on Ol’ Man Island is fun for kids, but the quiet pools tucked in amongst the buildings are more attractive when it’s busy. French Quarter has an amazing feature pool, which will keep kids busy all day.
Busing is a downside here since the resort is spread out. There are multiple bus stops at Riverside, and I’ve had longer rides due to sharing a bus with French Quarter during slow season. Overall, the ride times aren’t too bad since the resort is located centrally for all of the parks. An unique feature is boat service to Disney Springs. Aside from convenient transportation, it is a relaxing and scenic ride if you’re looking for a break from the parks.
- Relaxed atmosphere
- Beautiful theme without being in-your-face Disney
- Excellent feature pool at French Quarter
- Boat to Disney Springs
- Multiple bus stops add time to transportation routes
- Some buildings at Riverside can be far from main building
Disney World Art of Animation Resort
Art of Animation is the pinnacle of Disney design. The exteriors of the buildings and surrounding areas are decorated with live size characters to draw guests into the worlds of Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, and the Little Mermaid. Inside you’ll find the rooms are also tastefully done up in the same themes. The best part, though, is the two room suites. Each suite consists of an open common room with a Murphy bed/table and sleeper sofa, a separate bedroom, and TWO full bathrooms. It doesn’t get any better than this for a larger family or if you just want to spread out.
The food court at Art of Animation is huge and has a great selection, plus an ice cream stand. Busing is handle out of a single stop and the buildings are all within a reasonable distance. The feature pool doesn’t have a water slide, but there is an underwater sound system and a really fun splash area for the little kids.
- Large two room suites with two full bathrooms
- Amazing décor both inside and out
- Great food court
- Single bus stop
- Feature pool is lackluster for price level
- Little Mermaid rooms same as other Value class and never seem to have discounts
Disney World Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is our home away from home. The atmosphere of the main hall transports you to a far off land as soon as you walk inside. The rooms are decorated to match and you’ll find a hand carved warrior shield unique to your door. The rooms are a comfortable size and I can’t stress enough that if you’re going to stay here, book a Savannah View room with giraffes and more right outside the balcony. The Club Level lounge at Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite with a more interesting selection than others and a beautiful space to enjoy your treats overlooking the main hall.
Animal Kingdom Lodge hosts three restaurants, from counter service to fine dining. Boma, an African inspired buffet, is one of our favorite spots to eat at Disney World. Jiko is formal and adults only, but luckily there is a child care center at the resort. The pool is a let down for a Deluxe class resort. Unique activities, such as using night vision to watch animals, helps fill that gap. The store is also a highlight with all sorts of interesting souvenirs and hand crafted items.
Busing is handled from a single stop. While convenient, it can be a long walk from some of the outer rooms. Also be aware of long ride times to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. We’ve used taxi service or our own car to get around quickly on a few occasions.
- Live animals roaming the Savannah
- Contained in a single building
- Good range of food options
- Relaxing atmosphere
- Lots of activities
- Top notch Club Level lounge
- Some rooms can be a long walk from bus stop
- Long ride to Magic Kingdom and Epcot
- Feature pool is basic, unlike other Deluxe resorts
Disney World Grand Floridian Resort
Some are surprised when I recommend the Grand Floridian resort as a top pick for families with young children. The reason for this is the proximity to Magic Kingdom. A quick ride on the monorail delivers you right to the entrance and a short boat ride back is an easy way to escape the hot noontime heat and humidity. Guests can also watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the resort and the Electrical Water Pageant sails by each night.
The Grand Floridian’s décor is not likely appeal to many kids, but it does offer some fun. The chance to ride both the monorail and boats from the hotel is part of the adventure. There are also two character meals offered at 1900 Park Fare. The pools are OK, but the real fun is the splash area playscape.
Rooms match the classic Victorian style of the hotel and are a decent size. Buildings are scattered about the property, but it is not a huge resort so walking times are not bad. Food options run from counter service to five star dining. Gasparilla Grill serves up a smaller variety of counter service choices than Value class hotels, but I love that it is open 24/7. Nothing is worse than returning hungry from a long day at the parks and not finding anything open.
- Can’t get any closer to Magic Kingdom
- Monorail and boat service to Magic Kingdom
- Full range of dining options, including 24/7 counter service
- Character meals at 1900 Park Fare
- Fun splash area playscape for kids
- Full service spa
- Watch fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant from hotel
- Expensive rooms
- Theme is not interesting for elementary to teen age groups
- Rooms are in multiple buildings
- Long bus ride to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and water parks
Disney World operates over 20 resorts within their property and it is easy to find something for everyone’s taste. This list have been some of my favorites over the years and those that I find as a great fit for different types of family travel. Do you have a favorite Disney World resort? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.