Choosing the Best Disney Deluxe Resort for Your Vacation

When it comes to choosing the best Disney deluxe resort for your Walt Disney World vacation there are a lot of things to consider. For instance, you might want to be within close proximity to certain theme parks. Or you might plan to spend a good deal of time at the resort and would enjoy staying somewhere with numerous table service restaurants. Some might even prefer a resort with a boutique layout. Those only require a short walk to get to the hotel’s most popular amenities.

In this review of the Disney World deluxe resorts, we’ll take an in-depth look at each hotel in order to discern which one is right for your vacation. Know in advance, a deluxe resort that works well for one family, might not be the perfect fit for the next. That’s because each of these Disney World hotels is elaborately themed.

Overall, these resorts are the perfect fit for anyone wanting to truly invest in their Disney vacation. The only problem you’ll have by the time we’re finished is deciding which one is the best Disney deluxe resort for you!

Below I’ll provide an overview of what you can expect at a Disney deluxe hotel. Then we’ll take a look at Resorts Gal’s rankings for best Disney deluxe resorts.

Remember the Disney hotels in the deluxe category will, in general, offer the same amenities. Sure there are a few nuances here and there and we’ll discuss them per resort. My main point is when you find a hotel that sounds like you or your group, read our full resort review to learn more details.

Research a little further and decide if a stay here is worthy of those hard-earned vacation dollars. If you can’t justify the price, but still want to stay on property, check out our guide to the best moderate resorts and the best of the Disney value resorts.

The Difference Between a Disney Deluxe Resort vs a Moderate or Value

Disney’s Deluxe Resorts are considered to be the finest hotels available at the Walt Disney World Resort. When choosing a hotel, you can rest assured that a deluxe resort will offer the best location, amenity, dining, and recreation options. Additionally, deluxe hotels provide a few perks that you won’t typically find at moderate or value resorts.

For starters, the deluxe hotels offer a variety of room types, club level options, and higher-end amenities. The size of the guest rooms averages 350 square feet, which is significantly larger than the 260-315 sq ft range at the lower category resorts. And trust me, when you’re a family of four who’s spending a week in one of these standard rooms, every bit of square footage matters.

A while back we spent a few nights at Pop Century before moving over to the Contemporary’s Garden Wing, those rooms (the garden wing) run up to 420 sq. ft. Our room at the garden wing felt huge in comparison to where we had just left. It was one of those split stays where we had saved the best deluxe resort for last. It ended up being a very enjoyable trip.

Another perk that was recently announced for guests of Disney’s deluxe resorts and deluxe villas is the addition of extended evening hours in select theme parks on select nights. This will begin in early October as part of Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebration. A schedule for these special hours will be released later this year.

Our next benefit at the deluxe hotels is dining options. Dining options at each deluxe resort will be numerous in comparison to the other categories.

When it comes to a Disney deluxe resort, there are multiple counter service options, pool bars, lounges, table service restaurants, and signature dining. Some of the deluxe resorts even participate in Disney World character dining.

In comparison, a moderate resort will have a table service option, pool bar, and counter service. And the value resorts only offer one large food court and one pool bar.

By far, the deluxe’s have you covered when it comes to having a variety of dining choices. If you would like to learn more, I have a full list of every Disney Hotel restaurant here in one convenient location. In addition, it links to all of our available resort dining guides.

The next factor you’ll want to take into consideration at Disney’s deluxe resorts is location. Location can truly make or break your vacation if you’re planning to spend a good amount of time in the parks.

For instance, if you plan several days at Magic Kingdom, you might want to consider the hotels in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area. My personal favorite is Disney’s Beach Club in the Epcot Resort Area. The Beach Club Resorts proximity to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of the many things that makes the hotel desirable.

Since transportation options are in line with the location factor, we’ll look at that next. Deluxe resorts, in most cases, provide multiple forms of transportation. The only exception is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge because they only offer bus transportation. That’s because they provide a home to so many animals on the savanna that the resort needs to be a little further out from everything.

Guests staying at a deluxe resort on the monorail can take the monorail to access both Epcot and Magic Kingdom. (That is based on availability.) Additionally, guests can walk or take boat transportation to Magic Kingdom from these resorts.

Resorts on the monorail include Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and the Contemporary Resort. Make sure to take a boat ride to the park or resort while staying in this area, it’s a pleasant way to travel.

Meanwhile, guests staying at the Epcot Resort Hotels can walk to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Or they can take the Friendship Boat service. These resorts include Beach Club, Yacht Club, Boardwalk Inn, or the Swan and Dolphin.

In case you aren’t aware, being able to walk to a theme park is a fairly big deal. You won’t have to wait on a bus, boat, or stand in line at the Skyliner to get to one of the parks.

The same goes for the end of the night when the lines are filling up for transportation. You can take a leisurely stroll back to your cozy deluxe hotel room without all of the headaches of waiting in another line.

As for using the Skyliner, the Riviera has its own gondola station and sits adjacent to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. While the Riviera is not within walking distance to a park, it does offer two forms of transportation.

Lastly, Wilderness Lodge offers boat transportation to Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, and the Contemporary.

All of these resorts provide bus service to the other theme parks, water parks, and destinations like Disney Springs.

Another topic that’s somewhat specific to the deluxe’s is recreation and swimming. Each of these deluxe resorts has its own unique pool area. In fact, they are some of the best pools at Disney World.

As for what you need to know about the pools, each resort will have one feature pool and a quiet pool. Animal Kingdom Lodge is the only exception. They have one main pool but it’s very large. The feature pools at the deluxe resorts offer a waterslide and some have other fun features like a zero-entry pool area. These pools are going to be some of the nicest around!

Last but not least, one other item that sets the deluxe resorts apart from the moderate and value resort categories is room accessibility. All of the deluxe Disney resorts will have interior room access.

Interior rooms are a step up from both the moderate and value category of resorts where they have exterior room access. The only other Disney resorts that aren’t deluxe’s where you’ll find this is Gran Destino Tower or one of the family suites at Art of Animation.

Now that we’ve taken a thorough look at what makes a resort fall under this category, let’s take a look at the best of Disney’s deluxe resorts.

Best Disney Deluxe Resorts Ranked

People commonly ask what are the best Disney Deluxe Resorts, and I feel like it’s not a question that has a simple answer. The thing is, Disney does an excellent job with the theming of all their hotels. In order to determine what is the best deluxe resort, you’ll need to decide what’s most important to you and your family.

For example, some of you might like the idea of waking up to views of Cinderella castle every morning. If that sounds like a dream come true plan a stay at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian. Both of these resorts are only a few steps away from each other making it easy for guests to access dining at either. Another option for theme park view rooms is Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Bay Lake Tower.

For those that like the idea of waking up to animals in your backyard every morning, you’ll definitely want to reserve a savanna view room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. To us, this is about as close to a once-in-a-lifetime safari-style trip that you can get here domestically.

The main point I’m trying to make here is not to get too caught up on these rankings. Every single one of these Disney World Resorts is a great place to spend your vacation. Additionally, each one is most definitely number someone else’s choice for best Disney World Resort. The saying goes, “to each their own.” So everyone will have their own take as to how these should or could be arranged.

Therefore, if there’s one that resonates with you a little more than the others, that’s probably the best place to start. I’ll link to full resort reviews for each one of them.

#9 Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

If you are looking for charm, you might consider Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. This resort has a real Boardwalk sitting right outside its backdoor. The hotel is a bit of a destination within itself with all of the dining, extra-curricular activities, and nightlife.

There are excellent table service dining options here like Trattoria al Forno and Flying Fish. For counter service, there is the Boardwalk Bakery and a few other options.

Unfortunately, this hotel is somewhat lacking in quick-service food. But the proximity to the surrounding Disney parks provides plenty of nearby options. Make sure to browse over all the Disney hotel restaurants if you plan a stay here. There are so many within walking distance at the surrounding resorts.

This New England seaside-themed hotel is pleasant. And the entire surrounding Crescent Lake area makes an excellent location for evening sunset strolls.

As far as recreation goes, Boardwalk’s pool area is fun, especially for children. In addition, they have two quiet pools that offer more private settings than the main pool.

When staying at the Boardwalk, you’ll have easy access to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can literally walk to both parks and be there in a matter of minutes. This is a tremendous advantage because you won’t have to wait for other forms of transportation to get to either park.

If you would like to learn more about the Boardwalk Inn, you can read our full resort review here. Additionally, Boardwalk is home to the Boardwalk Villas. This section of the resort has upgraded deluxe studios that offer a few extra amenities in comparison to standard rooms.

#8 Disney’s Riviera Resort

Disney’s Riviera Resort is the newest hotel on Disney property. This resort is a dedicated Disney Vacation Club Resort. The other stand-alone DVC resorts are Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Bay Lake Tower. The main difference when staying in these types of resorts is that the rooms are actually deluxe studio villas. There are no standard room accommodations at these resorts. However, you don’t have to be a DVC member to reserve a room at any of them.

Technically, the Riviera is a Disney World Villa Resort, but it’s also considered a deluxe resort. And since I’ve had the opportunity to stay here and visit the resort several times for dining, I can assure you it’s definitely a high-end hotel.

Speaking of dining, the Riviera has some of the best dining options available. See our Riviera Restaurant Guide for more details. In addition, they have the best character breakfast experience I’ve had to date at Topolino’s Terrace Breakfast a la Art. The food and characters are great!

Riviera has a charming feature pool, and the children’s aquatic play area is too cute. You might also enjoy some of the other recreational activities available at the resort.

Additionally, this deluxe is home to its own Disney Skyliner station. You can board a gondola and be at Epcot or Hollywood Studios in a few short minutes. Well, when there’s not a lengthy line.

One of my favorite things about this newer resort (other than dining) is the fact that it has a boutique layout that’s extremely functional. If you are looking for a hotel that doesn’t require a ton of extra walking, you’ve found it!

It also doesn’t hurt that the resort is located next door to Disney’s Caribbean Beach. The grounds of both hotels are gorgeous and provide a wonderful place to break when you’re not at the parks.

If this resort sounds like a winner in your book, you can read more about it here in the full resort review.

#7 Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort

Our next stop for best Disney Deluxe Resorts is one of my personal favorites, Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort. While the Swan and Dolphin aren’t owned and operated by Disney, you’ll still find deluxe accommodations.

From the Grotto pool area to the stunning architecture, there is so much to see and do here. The resort boasts over 11 different dining options and 4 signature restaurants. This is where you’ll find fan-favorite, Shula’s Steakhouse. We have a full restaurant guide for the Swan and Dolphin if you’d like to learn more.

Since this hotel is located in the Epcot Resorts Area, you can walk to both Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Boat transportation is available and bus transportation is provided to the other Disney parks.

Additionally, sometimes the pricing is more reasonable here for the deluxe price point. However, you’ll want to add in any hidden charges like daily resort fees when you stay here.

A special tip for getting the best deal at this hotel is to call the resort at 1-888-828-8850 to see if any special offers are available. They have also been really good in the past to take my information and contact me when a room comes available.

For more information, you can read the full resort review here.

#6 Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Perhaps, the most classic of all the Magic Kingdom Resorts is Disney’s Contemporary. It’s the hotel with a monorail running through it. But our favorite feature is a bit of a secret when it comes to the resort. Disney’s Contemporary offers one of the best backyards in the entirety of Disney World. Guests get so caught up in being next door to the Magic Kingdom, that they hardly notice it!

Furthermore, the dining options at this Disney Deluxe Resort are pretty great for the most part. For starters, there’s California Grill which wins out as our best table service restaurant at Disney World.

And the resort’s large common areas on the fourth floor include a favorite counter service dining (Contempo Cafe), character dining, observation deck, and shops. Try the Contemporary Resort Restaurant Guide to learn all of your options.

In 2021, the Contemporary is receiving a much-needed facelift that includes rooms featuring the Incredibles!

Lastly, it’s always hard to top being able to walk to Magic Kingdom Park. It’s a short 10-minute walk to the main entrance. Find out more about this modern, classic Disney Deluxe Resort here in the full resort review. Or you can read more about the garden wing portion of the Contemporary here if you are looking for a little more privacy than the tower provides.

#5 Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Disney’s Grand Floridian is not only iconic, but it is the creme de la creme of Disney deluxe resorts. The Grand Floridan has a Victorian flair with a somewhat formal feel. Thankfully, it’s not too stuffy.

Don’t worry, you’ll feel right at home. The majestic resort sits across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom. You can access the park via monorail, walkway, or boat transportation.

Foodies will want to be aware this deluxe hotel is home to three signature restaurants. Not only that, one of our hidden gem dining locations, Grand Floridian Cafe, sits right off the lobby. My fondest memories of staying here include waking up to the sunlight pouring in from the balcony and hearing Magic Kingdom’s Ferry horns in the distance. It’s a pretty peaceful memory for a very busy Disney World.

The other big plus here is that Grand Floridian sits directly next door to Polynesian. It’s like having two resorts for the price of one!

Considering a stay at Disney’s most expensive resort? Our full review of Grand Floridian here details our experiences staying at the resort. For comparison, you might like to consider the Grand Floridian Villas portion of the resort. The villas have one of our favorite deluxe studio rooms.

#4 Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge makes our top five of the best Disney deluxe hotels. The resort offers a retreat-like feeling and a hint of what a stay in the Pacific Northwest might offer. Between the stunning woodwork and scenic surroundings, you won’t feel like you’re visiting the busy theme parks when you stay here.

For many, it’s worth the visit over to the Wilderness Lodge to tour the resort, especially at Christmastime. You can view a photo review of the Wilderness Lodge during Christmas if you like here.

If this doesn’t end up being the resort you pick, you can still plan a nice meal here during your trip. We love Geyser Point Bar and Grill for lunch or dinner. And have enjoyed breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe many times. Discover all of the dining options for this resort in our dining guide here.

Wilderness Lodge is the perfect Disney deluxe for those wanting to get away from it all. The entire deluxe hotel is full of private nooks and crannies to read a good book or do a little people watching. Did I mention there’s usually a fireplace involved?

Learn more about this and everything else the Wilderness Lodge has to offer here in our full resort review. And if you want to compare we have a full overview of the Copper Creek Villas, which is a separate Disney Vacation Club portion of the resort. (Boulder Ridge Villas are also part of this resort.)

#3 Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Our number three deluxe resort promotes relaxation with a Hawaiian vibe. Not to mention all the luscious landscaping across the grounds.

Disney’s Polynesian, an original 1971 resort is a favorite for many, including Resorts Gal.

The Polynesian has recently undergone a full resort refurbishment and with it brings touches of Moana to the guest rooms and resort. It’s the perfect resort to stay at when you’re dreaming of Hawaii a little more than you are a theme park-packed trip to Disney World.

As far as restaurants go, the Polynesian has some wonderful options. Kona Cafe is a great stop for a sit-down meal, the menu offers Asian and American cuisine items. And one of our top recommended resort quick services is Captain Cook’s, located off the lobby. I could go on and on about the other delicious offerings at this resort (Dole Whips, Drinks served in Pineapples, Sushi). There are so many I put them all together in a Polynesian restaurant guide.

The resort also falls into the Magic Kingdom Resorts area. If you stay here, enjoy the nightly fireworks one evening from the white sand beaches. The music from the show is streamed to a speaker system at all the surrounding resorts. And there’s no crowd involved!

You can read the full details of staying at Disney’s Polynesian Resort here if you’d like to learn more. For those that want to go really deluxe, check out the Bora Bora bungalows that sit out on the lagoon.

#2 Disney’s Beach Club Resort (and Yacht Club)

My “personal” choice for the best deluxe resort is Disney’s Beach Club and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. However, I’m listing it as the number two option. Only because number one has a little something extra going for it that you won’t find anywhere else.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort is connected to the Yacht Club making up one large resort in its entirety. The Beach Club offers a casual, seaside vibe, while the Yacht Club is a tad more formal. Additionally, Beach Club is home to the Beach Club Villas, a secondary Disney Vacation Club resort.

Both resorts sit across Crescent Lake from Disney’s Boardwalk, and next door to Disney’s Swan and Dolphin. Beach Club is the closest resort in proximity to Epcot. You can be out the back door and at Epcot within less than five minutes.

The Beach Club is home to Cape May Cafe which has a popular character breakfast in the morning and is a seafood restaurant in the evenings. Characters are only present for breakfast.

Martha’s Vineyard and Crew’s Cup Lounge are both hidden gems that serve wonderful food items. And Ale and Compass comes in as one of my top places to enjoy breakfast at Disney World. While you are there, don’t sleep on Yachtsman Steakhouse, trust me. Onion Rolls.

These sister resorts are home to the best pool in all of Disney World. Stormalong Bay is more of a mini-water park than a resort pool. It even has a lazy river. Make sure to plan at least one full day at the pool when you stay here.

Between the location, setting, and amenities this resort proudly stands as our number two choice for best Disney Deluxe. You can learn more about these resorts in our Disney’s Yacht Club Resort review and our separate review here of Disney’s Beach Club.

#1 Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Last but definitely not least, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge comes in as our top choice for the best deluxe resort at Disney World. If you dream of traveling to Africa, love animals, or just want a calming escape that’s away from it all, you’ve found your best option.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provides the opportunity to stay in a room that looks out onto a savanna of African animals! It doesn’t get much better than that. And it’s one of the few resorts that we insist upon upgrading your room view.

At Animal Kingdom Lodge, the main portion of the resort is known as Jambo House. Next door sits the DVC portion of the resort called Kidani Village. Either of these resort hotels is a relaxing place to spend a week-long vacation.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Review

In addition, both resorts have absolutely phenomenal dining options. There’s Sanaa, known for their popular bread service, and Boma (the very best breakfast in all of Disney World). Jiko, The Cooking Place is Jambo House’s signature dining restaurant and is also included in our top 5 signature dining options at Disney World as California Grill mentioned earlier.

If you don’t opt for a room upgrade, the resorts have numerous public viewing areas for guests to see the animals on the savanna. But there’s something extra special about waking up to a giraffe grazing nearby outside your room. Seriously, where else can you have such an experience?

To learn more about the Animal Kingdom Lodge, read the full review here. And make sure to consult our Animal Kingdom Lodge Restaurant guide here when planning a few meals for your stay.

Final Thoughts on the Best Disney Deluxe Resort

This concludes our look at Disney’s deluxe resorts our rankings for the best of the best. Before we wrap things up, I wanted to add back in those key points we covered that sets the deluxe resorts apart from the other categories:

  • Deluxe resorts offer multiple forms of transportation. The only exception being Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
  • Disney deluxe resorts offer lounges, quick service, pool bars, table service, and signature dining.
  • Every deluxe resort has themed feature pool areas along with quiet pools. The feature pools all have water slides.
  • These resorts have a laundry room by the pool and, in some instances, within the hotels.
  • Deluxe resorts offer club level, which is a concierge floor with special privileges if you would like to upgrade. For more information on the club level, make sure to check out the review of Beach Club’s Club Level here.
  • All of these resorts offer interior room access. By this I mean, you’ll walk through a lobby and interior hallways to access your room.

Hopefully, these factors will help you decide if the deluxe category is right for you.

Planning a Disney vacation? Make sure to check with an authorized Disney travel agent. I personally use and recommend Firefly Travels. You can contact them here.

Additionally, for off-property options, you might want to consider our best Marriotts near Disney World review. Or you are looking into an off-property resort with loads of amenities, try our Orange Lake Resort Review.

Some of our most popular reviews on the site include our best restaurants at Disney Springs, the Blizzard Beach water park guide, and the Loungefly Disney backpacks timeline.

So, what are your thoughts on these deluxe resorts? Have you stayed at any of these yet? or have any insight you would like to offer?

Leave a comment below and let us know which one you think is the best Disney World Deluxe Resort.

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