Disney Vacation Club has some excellent resorts; so many that it’s hard to determine which is best. My top Disney Vacation Club resorts are based upon a variety of factors, including theming, dining, pools, seasonal decorations, and the inarticulable “x-factors.” If you are deciding whether you should purchase Disney Vacation Club, you should read our DVC Buying Guide before reading this post.
What’s interesting about this list is that even the last place resort on my list is a resort that I really enjoy. Some of my best adult memories at Walt Disney World are at Saratoga Springs, where my wife and I stayed on our first real trip together in 2007, and again in 2008. Walking back to Saratoga Springs after a night at the Adventurers Club was great, and even though there’s presently no reason to visit Downtown Disney, Saratoga Springs is still a really fun resort. In fact, all of these resorts are fun.
This is interesting to me, because the most ardent opponents of Disney Vacation Club tend to be those who loved “The Vacation Kingdom of the World,” which is what Walt Disney World presented itself as in the 1970s. The construction of timeshare properties doesn’t preclude expansion elsewhere (unless Disney is weary of too much CapEx), but despite this, Disney Vacation Club has been viewed by many as the villain in the quest for theme park improvements. I don’t see this concern as valid. If anything, it makes Walt Disney World more well-rounded, and absolutely should not prevent expansion elsewhere. It has become a red herring, of sorts. But that is another discussion for another day…
Which hotel reigns supreme? Let’s get right into the list:
7. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
I’m admittedly a nostalgic person. Oddly, the Disney Vacation Club resort for which I have the most nostalgia is Saratoga Springs. This is because Sarah stayed here when we took our first serious Walt Disney World trip together as adults. It’s what caused us to fall in love with Walt Disney World again (it, and an amazing first night at California Grill…and an amazing monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom) and it’s the resort we eventually chose as “home” for our Disney Vacation Club purchase (for purely economic reasons). Some of my favorite memories of Walt Disney World include walking home to Saratoga Springs after some fun nights at the Adventurers Club, and it’s almost difficult to rank a resort at which we’ve had so much fun as last. But that’s where it lands, due to its theme (or lack thereof) and location. Read more in our Saratoga Springs Resort Review.
6. Old Key West Resort
Although these rankings are entirely mine, Sarah’s dislike of Old Key West does influence me a bit. By contrast, I love Old Key West. I love that it’s so spread out (walking it gives me something to do in the morning), and I love that the foliage has really matured here. It also has the largest Disney Vacation Club rooms, and was recently refurbished. Even viewing Old Key West in the most favorable light, though, it pales in comparison to other resorts, which have better dining, better entertainment, and better location. Old Key West will likely always be divisive among Disney Vacation Club owners, and I suspect most will place it near the top or the bottom of their own lists.
5. Bay Lake Tower
Bay Lake Tower is Sarah’s number one Disney Vacation Club resort, and I totally understand why…because we stayed here for New Year’s Eve and had a Grand Villa. Talk about an amazing experience! That experience is not representative of most stays, I suspect. I actually find it a bit difficult to give Bay Lake Tower a high or low rating. On the one hand, I love the theming, which has been panned by some, and I also think its location is great (something few would dare deny). It also has access to the monorail, and great dining at the Contemporary. It might be another divisive resort for many, but I love it. I just don’t love it as much as the top 4 on this list! Here’s our full analysis of Bay Lake Tower.
4. Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas
We’re getting to a point on this list where any of the resorts remaining could be my number one, depending upon the day of the week. Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas offer incredibly amazing (the best, actually) rooms, and the dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge is also the best at Walt Disney World. So what faults does it have? Well, location, but that can be minimized if you’re a fan of Disney’s Animal Kingdom or if you’re taking a trip to enjoy the resorts. It’s also amazing at Christmas, which is when I would encourage anyone to stay here. This is the one resort that should sneak to number one for a lot of you if you don’t agree with my number one.
3. BoardWalk Villas
Animal Kingdom Lodge’s rooms are better than Boardwalk’s, but I place a high value on location. Walking from the Crescent Lake resorts to Epcot is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World, and I’ve weighted my top resorts in light of that. If the walk isn’t fun for you, you will likely view these resorts differently. The pool at BoardWalk is awesome, the food is great, and the theming is a lot of fun. The rooms may not be the greatest, but everything else helps minimize that. Unlike some other entires, BoardWalk has no real weaknesses, and is pretty solid on every front.
2. Villas at Wilderness Lodge
The fact that I’ve used a photo of myself to illustrate what I love about this resort should be pretty telling. I love the ambiance of Wilderness Lodge at Christmas. Love actually might be too tame of a word. Looking at this photo takes me back to the night it was taken. We were in some park until well after midnight, but I still decided to take photos when we got to Wilderness Lodge. I don’t even remember which park, but I remember wandering around the empty grounds of Wilderness Lodge in vivid detail. This photo is absolutely posed, but a subsequent photo (which is not as good) caught me actually falling asleep next to the fireplace. So, admittedly, I am biased towards Wilderness Lodge at Christmastime due to my own personal experiences there. That said, objectively, Wilderness Lodge has great theming, great food, and is gorgeous at Christmas. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has stayed there around Christmas who doesn’t have a similar bias. Is a widely held bias really a bias? Or does it demonstrate something more?
1. Beach Club Villas
The top five spots of this were tough for me, and number one is really, really tough. This is mostly because I was underwhelmed by the Beach Club Villas rooms. Very underwhelmed. Based on the room alone, I’d rank Beach Club last or second to last. So how does it secure the top spot given that?! The pool. The amazing pool. But also its location and incredible dining options. Delving a bit deeper into the location, the Beach Club Villas are close to Epcot and offer the amazing Crescent Lake ambiance of the other resorts around there, but also has its own secluded, popcorn light-lit pathway. Given everything else that the Beach Club Villas offer, you will find yourself far less worried about the room here than you will anywhere else. That, plus the fact that the beds are pretty comfy helps it earn the #1 spot. Read our full Beach Club Villas Review for more.
If this article has you excited about the prospect of becoming a Disney Vacation Club member, we highly recommend that you read our Disney Vacation Club Buying Guide to see if membership is right for you. That Guide includes every variable you should consider, and provides an objective approach to buying into Disney Vacation Club, rather than the emotional pitch the Disney salespeople will give you.
If you’re not interested in buying into Disney Vacation Club, but still want Deluxe Villa accommodations at Moderate Resort prices, we highly recommend renting points Disney Vacation Club points, as you will save considerably over booking directly from Disney (typical savings over even a discounted Deluxe Villa price are around 50%). Renting is also a great way to try Disney Vacation Club before buying to see if it’s really right for you.
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Are you considering buying into Disney Vacation Club? What are your Disney Vacation Club rankings? Share your thoughts in the comments!