One of the defining features of the best Walt Disney World hotels is their lavish lobbies. This may seem like hyperbole, as location, on-site perks, and theme are usually what convinces guests to book one resort versus another. (Updated November 2, 2023.)
However, the hotel lobby is often what makes the first-impression upon arrival to Walt Disney World, that is often a lasting one. Disney likely recognizes this, which is no doubt part of the reason why so much money is invested into the resort lobbies, with Imagineers putting a ton of effort into creating beautiful environments.
To be sure, there are other ways that Walt Disney World hotels stand out from real world counterparts, but their highly-themed lobbies are among the biggest ways. These common area spaces are where we spend a lot of our time each trip, and are a huge reason why we resort-hop. Spending a bit of time in a Walt Disney World hotel lobby is a great way of soaking up its atmosphere, and also determining whether that’s a good resort for you to stay in during a future visit…
The best of Walt Disney World’s hotel lobbies feature ornate details, cozy furniture, towering atriums, and more; all of which makes them wonderful places and exemplars of themed design. These lobbies are like an attraction unto themselves, and are yet another place beyond the parks to enjoy while you’re on vacation.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at the 10 best lobbies at Walt Disney World…
10. Yacht Club
Honestly, we like the lobbies of the Yacht and Beach Club less since their recent refreshes that added modern accents and furnishings. The updates aren’t enough to knock Yacht Club off the list, but they are thematically incongruous. We “get” why Walt Disney World made these changes–to make the resorts look upscale, fresh, and appealing to mainstream audiences–but we still don’t like them.
In any case, the lobby of Yacht Club is still sophisticated and delightfully old school…even if it does feel a bit like a refined silver fox amidst a midlife crisis trying to look young and hip again. This lobby is probably the closest any of us will ever get to being members of an exclusive New England yacht club. Stately and well-appointed, Yacht Club’s lobby is the most ‘adult’ lobby in all of Walt Disney World, and feels elegant without the air of pretension.
The centerpiece of the lobby is an oversized globe, which has a turn of the century style to it. Here you’ll typically find the resort’s greeter, which is a nice touch. The theme here dictates a smaller and more intimate lobby, which does not have the same ‘wow-level’ impact, but Yacht Club’s lobby still shines. (Pro tip: if the lower level is too busy or crowded, take the stairs up to the seating area overlooking the lobby. Same set-up at Beach Club, too.)
9. Grand Floridian Villas
From a subjective perspective, I’d be inclined to rank the Grand Floridian Villas’ lobby even higher. On a couple of our recent trips, we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time sitting in this lobby working on our laptops, enjoying espresso and the peaceful atmosphere. It offers much of the same opulence of the Grand Floridian, but with a fraction of the foot traffic.
The highlight of this all is unquestionably the fountain in the center, whimsically adorned with penguins from Mary Poppins. This is not only pretty and fun, but also a way of adding nice white noise. Other details provide charm and elegance, and it all is reminiscent of a bygone era without any of the tired feeling that sometimes can be found at the Grand Floridian. What it lacks in grandiosity it makes up for with literally everything else.
8. Boardwalk Inn
Like the rest of the BoardWalk, the lobby here transports you back in time to an inn along a seaside amusement park. As with its neighbors around Crescent Lake, the highlights of BoardWalk Inn’s lobby are the details. From the miniature Boardwalk complete with rollercoaster to the beautiful light fixtures to the elephant statues to the children of the corn chairs (you read that correctly), and more. It is extremely well-appointed, and a great place to just sit and relax in the morning.
Beyond the main details, you’ll find a lot of texture in the carpeting, furniture, and decorations around the fireplace. Some of this is, again, a bit on the bizarre side (who knows, maybe this boardwalk had a freakshow?!), but it’s all in good fun…and honestly awesome that Walt Disney World still allows itself to be weird and kitschy in places.
Albeit not technically part of the interior lobby, we love sitting out back on the wicker chairs, watching the hustle and bustle of the BoardWalk. This lobby may not be one that knocks anyone’s socks off, but spend some time soaking up and appreciating its many details, and you might actually be convinced that it deserves to rank higher on this list. The lobby at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is, to borrow a term, a slow burn.
7. DVC Lodge Additions
We hesitated to include Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village and the Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge because (spoiler alert) both of their larger counterparts are higher up this list. However, there’s a lot that differentiates the the DVC lodge additions from the OG versions, so we arrived on the cop out of including but consolidating them into a single entry. May not make a lot of sense, but it is what it is.
In their defense, both Boulder Ridge and Kidani Village are in separate buildings from Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodges. Beyond that, the biggest differences are that the scales are significantly smaller, and everything about them feels more intimate. The design motifs are also different, as are the specific details. There’s a sense of vibrance and gaiety at Kidani that livens the mood up a bit. Meanwhile, Boulder Ridge has the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room, which is a wonderful love letter to Walt Disney and his affinity for trains.
6. Polynesian Village
Following its refurbishment, the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has become the most divisive lobby at Walt Disney World. Most people loved the old lobby, with lush vegetation and a huge waterfall as the centerpiece. Opinions are more mixed on the newer layout, which features an open floor-plan with large Tiki statue greeting guests.
While we liked the old lobby more and would’ve put it in the top 3 on this list, we don’t believe the new design is the travesty some Poly fans have made it out to be. The lobby still maintains the same vibe as the original, which was the intersection of the South Pacific tropical culture and tiki kitsch.
There’s still a wonderful scent in this area and the feeling of being in the tropics thanks to the colors, greenery, and design choices. There’s also something to be said for that first blast of air conditioning as you step out of the heat and humidity into the crisp and cool air of the Great Ceremonial House. More than anything else, it’s the atmosphere and vibe of the Poly lobby that makes it so special, and ~50 years later, it still hasn’t lost that.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of the lobby is that most of the time, it fails to convey the serenity of the tropics. The second floor is pretty raucous thanks to guests waiting at ‘Ohana and Kona Cafe, and there’s very little to absorb or mask sound (say, perhaps a water feature… 😉 ). Still, the Great Ceremonial House is beautiful, and at its best does capture the feeling of being in the South Pacific.
5. Coronado Springs
Coronado Springs barely made the original incarnation of this list, snagging the #10 spot thanks to its understated yet beautiful little lobby. It featured a lot to love, including a fountain under a large rotunda, mosaics, tile-work, and lighting all of which work together to give the lobby a rich amount of texture and made it feel like a cross between an open air market and a festival. All of that’s still there, but now it’s secondary–many guests may never even see it!
That’s because the original lobby of Coronado Springs Resort in El Centro has been displaced by Gran Destino Tower. It offers a lot of the same selling points as the original lobby, but all dialed up to 11. The friendship between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali serves as the mood board, of sorts, for Gran Destino, and it’s leveraged well.
Although there’s no surrealism to speak of, the lobby of Gran Destino Tower is a whimsical, magnificent visual feast, diverse in its design and execution. It pays homage to the Catalan Modernism style, and there are flashes of famed Spanish architect Gaudí in the lower-level lobby lounge.
The lobby as a whole has a certain fluidity and fun sensibility, while also managing to appear opulent and upscale. There are a lot of patterns, bursts of color, textures, and statement-piece visuals that are absolutely striking when you’re in their presence. Gran Destino Tower is like if Imagineering built a Las Vegas-style casino hotel, but made it Gaudí instead of gaudy.
4. Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House
Walt Disney World fans joke that Animal Kingdom Lodge is like Wilderness Lodge: Africa Edition. Beneath the surface of that joke, there’s plenty of truth. Both lodges use the same sense of breathtaking scale, high ceilings, and rich cultural details that attempt to transport guests to another place.
While not as transportive as Wilderness Lodge (in my opinion), Jambo House compensates for that with a greater aura of authenticity. The galleries and various pieces of art were curated with an eye towards showcasing depictions of African culture. This is good in the sense that it’s all very fascinating and a joy to explore, but showcasing another place is not the same as being in that place.
With that said, there is a ton of beauty and museum-quality art, and the lobby itself is basically a work of art. On top of that, the rear of the lobby has a balcony seating that overlooks the savanna where the zebras, giraffe, and dozens of other animal species can be seen. Just one of the many reasons Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of our top picks for Walt Disney World.
3. Grand Floridian
The Grand Floridian’s lobby is grand. It’s a grandiose lobby filled with breathtaking grandeur and perhaps a tad too much grandiloquence. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)
Joking aside, the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has all of the Victorian elegance and sophistication you’d expect of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. While at times it can feel a bit haughty or slightly antiquated, it does an excellent job of conveying the resort’s theme and general atmosphere.
This is accomplished via vibrant fresh-cut flowers, beautifully-detailed carpet, ornate furniture, and details–big and small. The larger ones include the giant birdcage elevator and grand staircases. This is on a “regular” day, when it’s Christmas season and that giant gingerbread house is in the lobby, the Grand Floridian somehow is even better.
Grand Floridian’s lobby is slated for a refresh in 2024. Hopefully, Imagineering manages to strike the right balance between authentic themed design and modernization. The Mary Poppins-inspired updates to the outer buildings are all pretty good, even if they’re not quite Victorian opulence (some compromises in the name of meeting guest expectations are understandable).
2. Wilderness Lodge
Wilderness Lodge’s lobby is transportive in a way that no other lobby at Walt Disney World can match. Entering this lobby is leaving Florida and checking into a National Park lodge in the Pacific Northwest. It doesn’t matter if it’s 95 degrees and humid in the outside world, sitting in front of the fireplace at Wilderness Lodge just feels right.
This suspension of disbelief occurs in Walt Disney World’s greatest environments, and is a result of a carefully-crafted illusion. In the case of Wilderness Lodge, that illusion is built upon meticulous attention to detail. Massive wooden beams supporting the building; brilliant chandeliers that look remarkably authentic; giant totem poles; fireplaces; beautifully-upholstered furniture; the list goes on and on, and trying to be exhaustive is a fool’s errand, as there’s always a new detail I notice with each visit. I could go on and on about Wilderness Lodge–I love it more than any other resort at Walt Disney World!
Thematically-speaking, this is far and away the best lobby at Walt Disney World and my personal favorite. However, it’s not our top pick for one simple reason: originality. There’s one lobby that doesn’t try to transport guests (well, except in a literal sense), but instead is its own unique thing that is distinctly Disney. Which brings us to the #1 lobby at Walt Disney World…
A lobby is a corridor or hall connected with a series of rooms and used as a passageway or waiting room, such as a foyer. Definitionally-speaking, a lobby is not necessarily at the entrance to a building. I’m just defining terms for fun–it’s one of my favorite hobbies! Okay, not really. Rather, I think it’s critical to ‘defend’ my pick here. The Contemporary’s grand atrium is not at its ground floor entrance near the check-in desk, nice as that may be post-reimagining, it’s on the fourth floor.
The fourth floor Grand Canyon concourse meets the definitional requirements of the word lobby. More importantly, it’s the area of the hotel that most closely parallels the other top entries on this list. The only thing it lacks is check-in desks. Big deal. Not one single entry onto this list made it due to its breathtaking check-in desks. Those are a non-factor as far as I’m concerned. If you have a computer–and it’s safe to assume you do since I don’t send these posts out by courier pigeon–you’re probably doing online check-in and bypassing the front desk, anyway.
The Contemporary’s lobby earns the #1 spot here because it is the most quintessentially Disney. Brilliant engineering, monorails whizzing through, a beautiful mural by Disney Legend Mary Blair, one of Walt Disney World’s most recognizable restaurants, and just an awe-inspiring appearance that you will not find anywhere else in the world (or World). Can you imagine the conversation that ensued when one of the Imagineers explained that they wanted the monorail–a state of the art transportation system at the time–to pass through an A-frame hotel?!
I’ll admit that this blog is critical of the Contemporary, and we’ve been doubly-so of Walt Disney World’s refusal to refurb the Grand Canyon Concourse when they redid the entrance area (beautifully, I might add). Back then, we played “count the carpet” (there are 5 different styles of carpet and 4 different types of tiles in the Grand Canyon Concourse) to underscore our frustration with the visual hodgepodge of the atrium. It has accumulated layers of clutter over the decades like the sedimentary rock layers in the actual Grand Canyon. But those complaints are only because we love the Grand Canyon Concourse so much, and think it deserves so much better from Walt Disney World.
Even as it stands, the Grand Canyon Concourse is an awe-inspiring sight to behold and the #1 lobby at Walt Disney World. Out of all the lobbies on this list, the Contemporary’s is the one with the most originality. It’s also the that makes the most indelible impression on the most guests, even those not staying at the resort. I vividly recall gliding through this lobby even as a kid, and the impact it made on me even then. The Grand Canyon Concourse has a true sense of Disney magic to it, and as such, it’s our top pick for Walt Disney World lobbies.
Do you agree or disagree with our rankings of the best Walt Disney World hotel lobbies? Do you think the Grand Canyon Concourse ‘counts’ as a lobby? Any favorites we missed? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!omments!