With dozens of resorts from which to choose, picking the best hotel for your Walt Disney World vacation can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve assembled this list of the top 5 hotels for 2023, which covers the hot accommodations next year. It includes everything from familiar fan favorites to sleeper picks that normally fly under the radar with WDW diehards.
What makes this list of the top 5 hotels at Walt Disney World different from any ole time? Glad you asked. Each of these resorts makes the list for a specific reason unique to 2023. They’re not necessarily our favorite resorts at Walt Disney World, but we do feel they are deserving of special attention or consideration this year for one reason or another.
Basically, the list is a mix of the top recent upgrades made to Walt Disney World hotels themselves or at parks with convenient transportation to each. Okay, plus our personal preferences as to which are the best options in each tier. In a couple of cases, we’ve left off some otherwise obvious choices because Walt Disney World has also “realized” that the upgrades have enhanced the guest experience at those resorts, and adjusted prices accordingly or removed discounts.
If you’re simply looking for our top resorts at Walt Disney World without any special consideration for 2023, here are our individual ranking lists:
With that said, let’s dig into this list of the top 5 resorts at Walt Disney World for 2023…
Pop Century Resort
Everything is cyclical.
If you asked for top resort at Walt Disney World a decade ago, Pop Century would’ve been the answer. We stayed there more than anywhere else, thanks to its mix of bang-for-buck, food court variety, transportation, and overall atmosphere as compared to the All Stars (and lower prices as compared to the then-new Art of Animation).
Almost all of that remains true today, albeit in different ways. Pop Century is a sentimental favorite that has only gotten better thanks to its new rooms and the Skyliner. Transportation alternatives and its food court remain superior to the All Stars, as does its atmosphere–in particular, there’s less risk of youth sporting events being hosted here.
For us, part of the increased appeal also comes thanks to increased prices at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, where the rooms are also starting to show their age. Even as much as we love Sebastian’s Bistro, the pools, and other amenities at Caribbean Beach, that resort has fallen slightly out of favor with us after being our go-to for several consecutive years. On a positive note, Pop Century is a 5-minute “flight” from Caribbean Beach, and a delicious dinner deal at Sebastian’s Bistro!
Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs
There’s a reason NBA players and Disney executives alike favor Gran Destino Tower over all alternatives. It’s one of the few hotels at Walt Disney World that’s actually operated like a hotel. Well, except for the loyalty program and associated perks. Otherwise, it’s a very good property by real world standards, definitely punching well above its ‘Moderate’ weight class.
This past year, I’ve stayed at Coronado Springs on four separate occasions, and it has quickly become my preferred resort. The biggest component of that is the unparalleled value for money it offers; base rates are reasonable given the quality and I can almost always find availability on the various Annual Passholder or other discounts. If I happen to be doing a solo stay, I also appreciate its atmosphere and late night dining options.
To those last points, Gran Destino is very much like a Las Vegas-lite or convention-centric hotel. The upside to this is almost all of the amenities you need under one air-conditioned roof, with excellent dining and lounges, a fitness center, and more. Additionally, the main food court, convention center, and even the bus stops are all pretty close and under covered or indoor walkways. If you’re traveling solo, you might feel less out-of-place, as many others are in the same shoes. It’s a similar story for couples, who
As such, Gran Destino Tower is now our #1 mid-range hotel recommendation for an adults-only trip to Walt Disney World or for honeymooners who are on a budget and aren’t particularly concerned with a richly-themed environment. For families, it’s hard to see the appeal of Gran Destino Tower unless you can get past the use of space in the restroom and lack of Disney themed design. There are other upsides, but these two downsides would seem to pretty much make it a non-starter.
Wilderness Lodge & Boulder Ridge
With TRON Lightcycle Run being the blockbuster addition in 2023, you’re going to see a trio of Magic Kingdom area resorts top the list of best places to stay at Walt Disney World in 2023. One way or another, it’s going to be advantageous to have non-bus access to that new attraction–it’ll likely use a virtual queue (if not, it’ll likely be open for Early Entry) and participate in Extended Evening Hours, giving Deluxe/Villa Resort guests an added edge.
There’s also the “fact” that Wilderness Lodge is always one of the top 3 resorts we recommend, making it an inevitability that this would rank highly (especially at Christmas!). On top of that, Wilderness Lodge is finally starting to offer discounts again–after being excluded for many special offers since its room reimagining, it’s in the top tier of the up to $100 off per night room promo Walt Disney World released for 2023.
Then there are those aforementioned rooms. They better balance form and function, making Wilderness Lodge more of a crowd-pleaser even if the most hardcore thematic purists like it a little bit less. With that said, the highlight for us will be the reimagined rooms at Boulder Ridge VIllas. These are an unequivocal upgrade, and will offer richly themed spaces plus improved utility…and lower prices thanks to using Disney Vacation Club points.
Grand Floridian / Villas
“Book the most expensive hotel, it’s probably good” is not exactly a hidden hack or terrific tip or trick, we realize. However, we have been vocally critical of Walt Disney World’s so-called flagship resort for years, and 2023 is (finally) time for it to shine. On top of that, our recommendation here is the same as with Boulder Ridge–to use DVC points (for non-members, consider renting Disney Vacation Club points to stay here for a fraction of the cost).
Walt Disney World actually wrapped up two DVC projects at the Grand Floridian this year. The first was a soft goods refurbishment at the standalone Villas at Grand Floridian, which replaced the sofa sleeper with the innovative pull-down Murphy bed that first debuted at Disney’s Riviera Resort. Other improvements also enhanced those already-excellent rooms, making them top picks for parties wanting to be a short walk or monorail ride from Magic Kingdom.
Then there was the transformation of Big Pine Key, converting 200 hotel rooms into “Resort Studios.” These are basically hotel rooms by a different name, and each can accommodate up to 5 guests. Big Pine Key is centrally located, while also being along the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon. We love these new Resort Studios–see Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside.
On the hotel side, Grand Floridian is also taking massive leaps forward with new rooms (identical to the aforementioned Resort Studios) that transform them from mid-tier Marriott caliber to something both distinctly Disney and luxurious. Then there are restaurant reimaginings and the likelihood of more improvements to come in 2023. The only wildcard that could throw a monkey wrench into all of this is an overhaul of the lobby or other common areas. If that occurs and is a massive project, it’ll definitely dampen our enthusiasm. But that’s a big “if” at this point.
For parties wanting a bit more space to spread out, Swan Reserve is an excellent option. In particular, the Signature Suites are fantastic, with a ton of space and a style that lends itself well to time together in the room. Even with just the two of us, this is a room layout that Sarah and I have really come to appreciate when traveling, as it’s nice when we need to work or one of us wants to watch television while the other sleeps, etc.
Beyond that, the rooms at the Swan Reserve are nicer across the board than anything else in the Crescent Lake area. This is especially true as compared to the ‘legacy’ Swan & Dolphin. Although it underwent room overhauls not long ago, these are still newer and more modernized. Not to mention the variety of room layouts, which will be huge for families or anyone wanting more space.
Location-wise, the Swan Reserve is an easy walk to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. With Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance likely to be two of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World for the next decade, this is advantageous. Then there’s whatever else opens at EPCOT in 2023. That probably won’t require ‘easy access’ from a hotel, but who knows. Maybe the next Figment popcorn bucket or souvenir sipper will have 10-hour lines and this will offer a competitive advantage!
Finally, there’s the matter of pricing for the Swan Reserve. It has been elevated since this tower debuted, but our hope is that with the ‘new resort smell’ wearing off, we’ll start to see better deals more in line with the Swan & Dolphin. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but even at full price, the Swan Reserve offers better value for money than anything else around EPCOT.
Bay Lake Tower
This is a second-half of 2023 wildcard. Bay Lake Tower is currently overdue for a refurbishment, and our expectation is that this will start once the Boulder Ridge Villas project is finished by Spring 2023. BLT rooms have been worse for wear for at least 5 years now, so this has been desperately needed for a while.
If you ask me (and I know you didn’t, but you did read this far, so I’m going to opine anyway), the rooms at Bay Lake Tower were poorly constructed in the first place and built just before the current ‘wave’ of innovative accommodations that marry space-saving styles with well-themed ones. Consequently, BLT could benefit tremendously from getting the Riviera treatment. We really look forward to returning to Bay Lake tower once that happens…but won’t until it does!
Overall, there are a lot of good accommodations options for 2023 Walt Disney World vacations. As more room refurbishment and reimagining projects progress, more potential options could join this list. There are also a ton of recently-redone resorts that we either unintentionally snubbed due to space (like Saratoga Springs!) or deliberately due to not being fans (like Contemporary!).
The good news is that after years of half-hearted and bland designs that supposedly “modernized” (but really just genericized) Walt Disney World resorts, Imagineering has had hit-after-hit on the room redesign and reimagining front. The bad news is that price increases have put many of these resorts out of reach for average Americans. Our hope is that this list of accommodations offering great bang-for-buck, or with significant savings when renting Disney Vacation Club points, makes that a bit easier when planning your 2023 trip to Walt Disney World.
Which resort is your top pick for 2023 at Walt Disney World? Any hotel on our list that you would or would not recommend? Any other resorts we snubbed? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!