Disney World Moderate Resort Rankings
Which Walt Disney World Moderate Resort hotel is best? It’s a common question among vacation planners, and unlike Value Resorts, it’s difficult to answer. Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter each have strengths & weaknesses, and our “worst” might be your “best.” (Updated November 6, 2022.)
With that said, we’re going to attempt to rank the best and the worst Moderate Resorts, being as objective as humanly possible here. We’re also going to note the pros & cons of each, discuss theme, amenities, resort layout & size, and other variables that impact the ranking. That way, you can choose the Walt Disney World Moderate Resort that will appeal to you most, irrespective of its ranking here.
This article was pretty much entirely re-written following the opening of Gran Destino Tower, which is itself a separate entry on this list. Both Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs also finished multi-year expansion and refurbishment projects and the Port Orleans Resorts have had their guest rooms redone. We’ve again revisited the rankings in Late 2022 based on recent stays and visits this year. Suffice to say, all of these Moderate Resorts are dramatically different from what they were like even a few years ago.
In general, the Moderate Resorts don’t receive enough attention. Budget-minded tourists flock to the Value Resorts (read our Value Resort Rankings), and guests seeking more extravagant trips go to the Deluxe Resorts (read our Deluxe Resort Rankings). While these are good reasons to stay at Value and Deluxe Resorts, what about those who want a little compromise? Those for whom cost is a concern, but not the overriding concern?
We often find ourselves in this position, and frequently pick Moderate Resorts when looking for the best compromise. I feel that all of the Moderate Resorts offer solid theming, which is far superior to the Value Resorts (unless you have small children who really like the style of the Values). Moreover, Moderates are significantly cheaper than the Deluxe Resorts. This makes Disney’s Moderates the ultimate “compromise” option.
With that in mind, let’s dig into the rankings…
N/A. The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness
We’ve decided to remove Fort Wilderness from our rankings as it’s a complete disservice to them and the other resorts on this list to even draw a comparison. Walt Disney World has Fort Wilderness listed as a “Moderate Resort” but that’s only because the campground doesn’t fit anywhere else. Ultimately, Fort Wilderness is a love it or hate it kind of thing, and you probably already know whether it appeals to you.
I happen to love Fort Wilderness. It’s one of my favorite places (calling it a “resort” is playing a bit fast and loose with the term) in Walt Disney World. Until Shades of Green came into being, we stayed at Fort Wilderness every year on our family trips, and I made a lot of memories there.
Beyond that, it’s one of the few vestiges of the original “Vacation Kingdom of the World,” and is a stark contrast to most other places to stay at Walt Disney World. The theming is natural: an undisturbed bastion of wilderness, with just enough artifice carved out so that Disney guests never are truly “roughing it.”
Fort Wilderness certainly isn’t for everyone, but preconceived notions and misconceptions of what it is will likely preclude some from giving it a chance. The Cabins are, in essence, Villas in cabin form, and are nicer than many other hotel rooms. This gives guests the best of both worlds: the ability to enjoy the natural world while staying in a nice hotel room. Fort Wilderness offers fishing, boat rentals, and a myriad of other activities that families with young children will enjoy, and has some great dining, too.
All of that said, given its price and the nature of the cabins, it doesn’t really make sense for me to compare it to the Moderate Resorts. It’s a great resort, if that’s what you’re after, but it is a definite outlier from the rest of this list in terms of what it offers and its price point. For that reason, I’m ranking it last. It’s by no means a bad option, but that’s with the “if you have a larger party wanting to stay in a cabin” caveat.
For what it is (an alternative to a Villa or Family Suite), I’ll give it a “highly recommend” ranking, but if you’re in the market for a single Moderate Resort room, you shouldn’t be looking at the Fort Wilderness Cabins.
5. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Our full Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort review has long considered the hotel something of a “mixed bag.” On the one hand, I think the rooms are among the nicest of all standard Moderate Resorts as they utilize space very well, are very modern, and have a variety of substantive enhancements not found at other resorts.
Moreover, Coronado Springs has an excellent pool area, far and away the most robust slate of dining options of any Moderate Resort, and other amenities not found at other hotels on this list. While not to everyone’s tastes, some of the outlying buildings are nicely themed, as well.
On the other hand, Gran Destino towering in the distance is a blight on the rest of the resort. This boxy, Vegas-style hotel aimed at conventioneers is definitely at-odds with the rest of the resort’s theming, and doesn’t belong at Coronado Springs. (Others who rank Coronado Springs low feel the convention clientele drags down the atmosphere; we disagree, but it’s a common enough complaint to warrant listing it here.)
With Gran Destino now open, our position on Coronado Springs Resort is that you should stay in that tower–if it appeals to you–or at a different resort entirely. More than anything else, themed design is what separates Walt Disney World resorts from the competition. In that regard, Gran Destino too huge of a blow to the rest of Coronado Springs to ignore.
4. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
It breaks my heart a little to put this in the #4 slot. For years, Port Orleans Riverside was our favorite Moderate Resort, and where we stayed more than anywhere else on this list. That hasn’t been true for at least a few years, and if I’m being honest with myself, I now love the idea of Port Orleans Riverside more than the actual resort. We still love to visit and spend time at this thematic exemplar, but when push comes to shove and we’re actually doing a stay for practical purposes, Riverside ranks low on our list of choices.
The simple fact is that each of the top 3 entries offer actual advantages to improve the quality of your vacation. That comes either via superior ease of access or luxurious accommodations. Riverside has neither of those things, instead having some of the most inefficient transportation and basic rooms, even following the recent refresh. Those downsides have become too big to ignore, and are the reason we find ourselves visiting Riverside rather than staying here–even though we love it.
With that said, Port Orleans Riverside has many strengths. It has an underrated slate of dining options, from the food court to the hidden gem table service restaurant to the lounge. It offers the theming of a Deluxe Resort for the price of a Moderate. It has the entertainment offerings of a Deluxe Resort for the price of a Moderate.
Riverside is divided into the rustic Alligator Bayou and more stately Magnolia Bend mansions; this gives it more variety, and richness in detail and design. The backstory is likewise interesting, engaging, and executed cleverly throughout the resort.
The grounds are absolutely stunning, with rich wilderness in the bayou and perfectly manicured gardens around the mansions. The quiet pathways that litter Riverside make it a great place to take a romantic stroll or evening surrey bike ride. Despite being fairly spread out, it presents as intimate and romantic, and offers the most immersive themed environments of any Moderate Resort.
Thanks to the bikes, carriage rides, and fishing, there’s a lot to do at Riverside. There’s also great evening entertainment for adults. Dining is also great at Riverside, with an excellent (and well-themed) restaurant in Boatwright’s and a very fun food court that offers plenty of variety in Riverside Mill.
3. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter used to be its own resort, simply “Port Orleans.” When the post-9/11 dip in tourism hit Walt Disney World, the former Dixie Landings and Port Orleans Resorts, which were in the process of being consolidated, received further consolidations to save on operating expenses.
This is significant because it meant shuttering Bonfamille’s Cafe table-service restaurant, and the loss of bike and boat rentals. French Quarter now “shares” these amenities, plus watercraft rentals and carriage rides, with its sister resort, Port Orleans – Riverside. While annoying, it’s fairly easy to access all of this with a short walk or boat ride over to Riverside.
Fans of French Quarter are most likely to point to its size–it’s the most compact of all the Moderate Resorts–as the primary reason why it’s the best Moderate Resort. With the opening of Gran Destino Tower, French Quarter has been bested in that regard, and falls down the list a bit as a result. However, the two aren’t really comparable–especially in price–so it’s difficult to penalize French Quarter in that regard.
Then there’s the exceptional themed design at French Quarter, with a romanticized take on New Orleans. It is intimate, has beautiful fountains and wrought-iron details, plus the alligator band (who doesn’t love a musically-inclined alligator?!). The pool is strong, the grounds are charming, and the layout is a definite selling point for families.
French Quarter has a lot going for it, and we ultimately give it the slight edge over Riverside because it’s likely you’ll see more upside from the condensed layout and convenient, single bus stop than you will downside from having to walk to Riverside for a table service dinner or various recreation.
2. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Thanks to its massive reimagining, Caribbean Beach Resort has addressed some of its biggest weaknesses and is now a contender for the title of best Moderate Resort at Walt Disney World. If you’ve read our full review, you know that I love Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, and consider it “Polynesian-Lite.”
While the guest rooms are once again starting to show their age (and will likely be refreshed again in 2023), the pool, restaurants, and main lobby are all top-notch. These have all been enhanced, and Caribbean Beach Resort now feels nicer and chicer. Banana Cabana pool bar has been upgraded, Sebastian’s Bistro is a quality waterfront restaurant, and the lobby is modern.
The biggest upgrade at Caribbean Beach Resort is the Skyliner gondola. Caribbean Beach Resort is the hub for the Skyliner, with two stations offering access to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, plus Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Riviera Resorts. This is an absolute game-changer for easily accessing those parks within minutes, which is great for Early Entry and midday breaks. Not having to rely on buses to get to these two parks is huge, the value of which cannot be overstated.
Then there’s the addition of Disney’s Riviera Resort, a new DVC tower that replaced several guest buildings at Caribbean Beach. The advantage here is in the amenities that Disney’s Riviera Resort offers. Dining is the big thing, with Primo Piatto, Le Petit Café, Bar Riva, and more easily accessible. Most importantly, there’s Topolino’s Terrace–both the Signature dinner and the Character Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends.
It’s not all upside. The construction of Disney’s Riviera Resort and the Disney Skyliner gondola system together destroyed some of the serene, tropical charm of Caribbean Beach. It’s no longer the lush tropical paradise that it once was–even if the new lobby and check-in, transportation, and dining options all count as huge substantive upgrades that will improve the quality of your trip.
1. Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort
Gran Destino Tower is destined to be a polarizing, love it or hate it, resort. If you read the above section on Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, you might assume we fall in the “hate it” camp. However, our full review of Gran Destino Tower reveals a bit more nuance.
We hate Gran Destino while standing in the outlying buildings at Coronado Springs Resort. From inside Gran Destino Tower, we…well, love is too strong of a word, but we recognize its strengths. Quite simply, Gran Destino is an excellent option for adults, honeymooners, or anyone wanting consolidated accommodations with everything they need under one roof. In fact, an argument can be made that Gran Destino Tower is one of the best luxury resorts at Walt Disney World.
The biggest upside to Gran Destino Tower is price. While the slate of amenities here makes this hotel tower comparable to many Deluxe Resorts, pricing is more like a Moderate Resort at a slight premium. Granted, it’s not located near any theme park and the themed design is not on par with the Deluxes, but if you’re not a “Disney person” or don’t care about theme and are just after a luxurious stay, Gran Destino is a very compelling option.
That lack of a distinct theme is arguably the biggest downside of Gran Destino, but we are cognizant of the fact, that this won’t matter to everyone. It sneaks into this spot with a laundry list of amenities and features the other Moderates just cannot touch. We’ve found ourselves staying here more and more, especially when rates are competitive. All-bus transportation is a definite downside, but it’s worth the hassle for getting Deluxe Resort caliber accommodations at a Moderate+ price.
Ultimately, there really is something for everyone at the Moderate Resort tier. If you want sprawling grounds that feel worlds away from Walt Disney World amid a richly-themed resort setting, Port Orleans Riverside is for you. If you want most of that minus the sprawling layout and with better transportation, check out French Quarter. For unrivaled transportation thanks to the Skyliner and easy access to exceptional eating, Caribbean Beach is your best bet. Looking for luxury accommodations that might be more at home in Las Vegas than Walt Disney World? Gran Destino Tower is unbeatable.
Even when it comes to those takeaways, our opinions aren’t the gospel. What separates any of the resorts on this list is pretty insubstantial or a matter of personal preference. That plus the priorities for your Walt Disney World vacation make a big deal with how these will rank for you. Given that, we’ve laid out the pros & cons of each Moderate Resorts so you can weigh the relevant considerations accordingly and make an informed decisions when booking your hotel!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
Which is your favorite Moderate Resort? How would you rank the hotels in this tier? Are there any that you dislike? Do you agree or disagree with our list, or the pros & cons for each Moderate Resort? 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!
I noticed that the description for the “Water or Pool View – 5th Sleeper” rooms at Caribbean Beach says: “2 Queen Beds and 1 Child-Size Pull-Down Bed or 1 Queen Bed and 1 Queen-Size Pull Down Bed and 1 Child-Size Pull-Down Bed”
I was not aware that CB offered any queen-sized Murphy beds. I wonder if this might indicate Disney’s future plans for renovation of the resort in general.
I’ve attended conferences at Coronado Springs, and it just didn’t feel like a Disney hotel. It’s a conference hotel. Very nice hotel, but I got no Disney vibes while staying there. Fairly expensive for a moderate hotel, too. Our #1 choice for moderate is always Port Orleans Riverside. We stayed there for 4 days at the end of October then switched to the Wilderness Lodge Wed-Sat. Enjoyed MNSSHP on Thursday, Oct 27. From Riverside, it’s a pleasant boat ride to Disney Springs, or a short walk over to French Quarter for Mickey Beignets (we did that a couple of mornings). We always get a preferred room in Alligator Bayou (building 14 or 15) so that we’re close to the food court and lobby area. Unfortunately Yehaa Bob was on vacation for most of our visit. Saw his Facebook post from Morocco. We did catch a bit of his Saturday show before he left.
I love Gran Destino, but boy could it use a grab & go dining option within the tower. It feels like a real haul over to El Mercado when you’ve arrived after the end of a long drive and just want something quick and simple for a late dinner. (Ask me how I know. )
I get why the Cabins don’t easily fit into any box, and the price might deter some looking at the other moderates. Would you consider doing a ranking of option for parties of six (or more)? The Cabins can be the least expensive option for such parties, compared to AoA family suites, and competitive with two Little Mermaid or two Pop rooms, for example. And it’s the only option below $500 at the MK resorts for large families. You could contrast those types of prices with suites at the Deluxe resorts, nothing how suites at Boardwalk and Wilderness Lodge only come with Club Level, a pro for amenities, but a con for price.
Our stay at the Cabins was very special and nice to not leave your room to enjoy a real breakfast with the kitchen and full fridge, which for those willing to cook (not me!) can offer more cost savings. The Cabins’ sticker price is not the whole story.
Tom, it might be time for an update to https://www.disneytouristblog.com/art-animation-fort-wilderness-hotel-comparison/ My family regularly travels to WDW as a multi-generational group of 5. We have two kids, (a rather tall 14-yr old and an 11-yr old), and travel with my senior mom. We’ve done and loved both FW and AoA, but it’s just no contest for us. The Fort is such an incredibly special place, with so much more going on, and we absolutely love being able to park directly outside our door at the cabins and cook a few of our own meals. IMO, however, so much of the choice between these two resorts comes down to how the sleeping arrangements work out for your party. AoA was awesome when our kiddos were small and we could be more flexible with the sleeping arrangements. Nowadays, however, my kids each want a separate bed, and the cabin’s bunkbeds are worth the sacrifice of AoA’s second bathroom.
I really can’t agree with GD being a moderate resort due to the pricing. Using 12/12/22-12/18/22 as a guideline, Standard view at GD is $467.00. Compare that to standard rooms at:
Coronado Springs: $355.33
POR- Riverside: $360.33
POR: French Quarter: $360.33
Looking in March, the Ft. Wilderness cabins were about$114.00 more expensive than Gran Destino’s standard view, showing an even greater outlier status, and showing why you’re correct to remind people of it, but no longer consider it a moderate. GD ranges from $91.00 – $112.00 more than the “other” moderates. Those moderates, however, are all within $21.00 of each other’s pricing.
While not as great an outlier as Ft, W.’s cabins, I think that GD deserves to also be in thus Moderate+./Deluxe-Lite class.
As to the other moderates, the CBR has a great vibe, location and convenience, but the rooms have aged poorly, and the room building infrastructure itself likely needs a gutting & rebuild as well. If you have bad luck with your room, you might find yourself wanting a different moderate. But if you don’t have room problems, even with a sated room, the convenience of the Skyliner beats everything else, plus easy access to the restaurants at Riviera. But the Skyliner puts you an easy ride (weather permitting) from all the Crescent Lake resorts restaurants, plus everything at Hollywood and Epcot.
Port Orleans, both of them is very nice along with the boat rides to Disney Springs. Basic Coronado Springs also is nice, though it is far from everything, but able to take advantage of the tower’s restaurants. However, the cornucopia available to the Skyliner resorts is amazing. I’m hopeful that the refurb of the Pirate Rooms at the CBR is just the start of an incoming refurb of the rooms at the CBR. But they’re not there yet. Until they do, understand that rooms at the CBR can be a bit of a gamble, and that there are no elevators to the 2nd floors of any of the buildings. Even so, the Skyliner, central location, pool and vibe is still a win for me at the CBR.
sated room is typo for dated room.
I read this article a whiiile ago and so much really has changed at these resorts! It’s kind of interesting that the list remains mostly the same regardless, though I do appreciate you differentiating out the Gran Destino Tower. I actually liked how it looked when we stayed at CSR in early 2021, towering over the lake at sunset as the lights started to come on. But…I can see your point if you were used to the resort without it.
As a young girl who was massively into fishing, archery, horseback riding, fire-building, etc – would you consider changing this line next time you update this article?
“(especially those with young boys)”
Something like ‘those with outdoorsy kids’ would be more inclusive and still hit your point, I think~
Thanks for pointing that out—I’ve changed the language!
Thanks Tom for an informative article on the moderate resorts, which we love!
Our favorite resort is POR. We loved the themed AB section with it’s tropical feel, the Mill quick service, the carriage rides, and the private pools. It never seemed crowded due to the layout of the resort. I know a lot of people complain about the buses at POR, but we never had a problem with any of them. We usually went to POR in “the slow season” of which there isn’t one anymore.
Then we switched to POFQ. My husband has nerve damage in his legs and can’t walk far easily, so we opted for a smaller resort. We found that a lot of people with mobility issues go to POFQ, and at times the waits for the buses can be long due to the ECV’s. Sometimes the guests come over from POR to use the bus system too. It is perfect for those who have mobility issues. We would have never changed from POR if we didn’t need a smaller place. I also am in the minority, but I don’t like the Mardi Gras vibe of POFQ. But understand that the mardi gras theme is unique to POFQ, and I’m sure many others love it. We would move back to POR in a minute if we could, so I would give POR #1 spot, POFQ #2, and CS #3. We have never stayed at CBR so can’t comment on it. We’re just so glad there are many different themes to choose from.
@Ruth, you’re not alone! I respect the size argument in favor of French Quarter, but the pool is too small and I really dislike the warehouse feeling of Sassagoula Floatworks. The mill is thoroughly themed and thoughtfully built out, in my opinion. I don’t mind how spread out POR is. I feel like a walk along that river is one of the most peaceful, vacation-like experiences available at WDW. I must be a sucker for greenery, though, because my hands down favorite moderate is Fort Wilderness.
Hi Tom, Great article! I think the most important point you make is that what is good for one family May not appeal to another. Therefore I love the way you describe each resort so that it helps a family decide what is good for them. We recently stayed at club level in Gran Destino Tower. We have an adult special needs daughter . The calmness of this resort was perfect for us. Plus we don’t need to have too much Disney motif after being in the parks . There’s just enough hidden mickeys ! The club level service made this resort better then our usual grand Floridian or Polynesian stays. Now we did venture over to carribean beach for a meal. The pool there was total chaos for what we would enjoy. However if you have younger children it definetly looked like fun . So all in all, your descriptions are on point and what’s good for one family May not be for another.
We typically visit WDW every 3-4 years and splurge on Deluxe resorts. However, in March of 2021 we scored 40% off a CBR room and enjoyed our stay. It’s all about location for us. In my opinion, the Skyliner is a game-changer, especially for trips focusing on HS and EPCOT. We requested and received a corner room (thanks Tom) directly across from the Skyliner station, which made early mornings so much easier. On our first day, my daughter got sick with a stomach bug. When I called the front desk to request help with a last minute ADR cancellation, the CM not only cancelled our lunch, but also rearranged our Park Passes for the week, asked if he could send food to our room, and called to check on us the next day! We enjoyed CBR’s pool and grounds as well. The food situation was a down side—Sebastian’s was still closed— but we had some good meals at Riviera nearby, and the rooms definitely needed some TLC. I assume that’s only gotten worse. We’re targeting 2024 for our next WDW trip and are planning to do
a split stay (thanks again Tom) at Wilderness Lodge and a Skyliner resort. Again, location and transportation! If a room refurb happens, we’ll definitely consider CBR.
GDT is certainly beautiful and has all the makings of a deluxe for sure. My top mods in order are POR, GDT, POFQ, CSR and last and most definitely least, CBR. All are my personal opinions for preferred theming, room condition, amenities, landscape, resort size, dining and transportation. I totally understand why/how you ranked these resorts and while the skyliner is a great benefit at CBR, it’s totally obvious Disney has purposely neglected the rooms at CBR and feels that alone is enough to charge the high mod rates it does for CBR. I would never pay rack rate to stay at CBR which is essentially the condition of a motel 8 at this point. The lobby/dining reno it did several years back is very nice but the rooms are terrible. I know the room updates are coming but it’s not enough for me to deal with the immense size and bus stops that never end. The re-theme of the pirate rooms is just another attempt to get guests interested in staying in this behemoth of a resort. Lipstick on a pig imo. I usually never say never about anything, but I’ve had way more bad experiences over the years there than good and I can’t say that about any other resort at WDW.
We stayed at Caribbean Beach this past summer and will NEVER stay there again. Between paying for water view and only getting a view of other hotel buildings, one of the ACs in the rooms we were staying it busting and leaking into both rooms (which it took 4 days for them to come out and work on), and the overall customer service. I’d rather stay at one of the lowest value resort then EVER return to Caribbean Beach again. I wasn’t worth the cost in any form or fashion. Such a let down! I’ve stayed at better side of the highway motels that felt cleaner then when we stayed there.
CBR is also on our NEVER list- the GM of this resort really needs to empower his team to do better. The customer service at this resort is lacking, not all the CMs but a good number of teammates are not happy and it shows. The overall condition of the rooms at CBR is awful and outside of the skyliner, there is nothing overwhelmingly compelling me to ever stay there again.
Best things about the moderates is they have a water slide and they have a food court. The food court is a game changer especially without the DDP.
Our favorite is Port Orleans. You get all of the perks of a small resort so no long bus stops around the resort and they have live jazz and gluten free beignets. The food is better at PO than at Riverside as well but PO also shares all of the amenities of Riverside – hop on a boat, take a stroll or a bike ride and you are at Riverside. It is really a two in one deal but we like to stay at the smaller resort where it is easier to get around. Riverside is pretty but huge! Plan to do a lot of walking.
Dixie Landings as it was called at the time was the first on site resort we stayed at and is still my favorite for all of the reasons Tom describes. Would love to go back.