Ranking Deluxe Resorts at Disney World

Our rankings of all Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World, the top tier of hotels, weigh themed design, value for money, amenities, location, pools, and more to determine the best, worst, and everything in between. These luxury accommodations can be great for a splurge and are all easy to love…if you don’t get sticker shock first! (Updated March 17, 2024.)

Honestly, it’s really difficult to rank the Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World. There are pros & cons to each, all have downsides & upsides nice, and ultimately each bring something unique and special to the table. Consequently, the rankings really can vary based on what you need, want, or how much you value that unique quality.

Due to this, it might make sense to group the hotels by areas, and first determine if you want to be close to the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, or somewhere else, and go from there. It also means which might be right for you depends more upon what type of theme appeals to you, which amenities matter most, and the “style” of your vacation.

Alternatively, if you’re starting from square one and don’t know which level of hotel is right for you, the resort ‘district’ that might be best, and more, we’d recommend first reading our Rankings of ALL Walt Disney World Hotels from Worst to Best. With over 30 different on-site resort options and hundreds of hotels in and around Walt Disney World in Orlando, choosing the best resort can be overwhelming–especially since it varies with each party’s priorities.

If you’re just getting started planning and don’t know where to start, that’s a great practical planning postThis is more of a ‘just for fun’ ranking of Deluxe Resorts, based on our own priorities and preferences. Again, the Deluxe Resorts are really difficult to rank. This is something we’ve discussed between the two of us from time to time in the past, and we have never really been able to agree on anything. Worse yet, our rankings change a lot. As such, you’ll probably find more value in parsing the descriptions to see what matters to you than simply looking at the numbers and using those as a hard guide with your own planning.

Finally, it’s worth noting that this list excludes Deluxe Villas, which are a different category. That means you won’t find Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, or Riviera Resort on this list at all (spoiler: the first two would be at the bottom). If you’re looking for a list that includes those and the Disney Vacation Club wings of Deluxe Resorts, see our Deluxe Villas or DVC Resort Rankings.

That list is most useful if you’re planning on renting DVC points to save money on top tier resorts at Walt Disney World. It’s also fun and is hotly contested–many DVC members are very passionate about their home resorts, having a vested interest in the ranks as they feel a sense of ownership (literally). The results are often very different from here, too.

With that out of the way, let’s dig into our list of the best & worst Deluxe Resorts at Walt Disney World…

8. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Yacht Club falling in last place pretty much gives up the ballgame, so to speak. We’re actually big fans of Yacht Club and think it’s underrated, especially the rooms. It falls in the last slot of this list not because there’s anything wrong with it, but because I think Beach Club is the superior option, and it’s easy to rank Yacht Club low as a bit of a cop-out since its sister resort still scores highly.

The resort has a certain masculine look to its common areas and feels refined almost in a flagship-esque way that the Grand Floridian should feel. At the same time, it just doesn’t have the inviting sense of fun and charm of its sister resort, the Beach Club. I don’t want to call Yacht Club stuffy, because I think that’s definitely extreme, but to me, the way this resort “feels” just doesn’t jive with the overall character of the Yacht & Beach Club (which might as well be lumped together for common area purposes). One big plus, in our view, is that service at Yacht Club tends to be a cut above because it caters to more demanding conventioneers.

Other strengths of Yacht Club are shared with Beach Club, and are its location near EPCOT (especially nice during festival season or if you plan on stumbling back from World Showcase after adult evenings in the park), its incredible pool, and a great selection of on-site dining options. Yacht Club is a strong option for guests who love Crescent Lake, but want a hotel with a more adult or sophisticated tone than Beach Club or BoardWalk Inn.

Downsides are that Yacht Club now has the oldest rooms of any Crescent Lake Resort, it’s farther from EPCOT or the Skyliner station than Beach Club, its hosting of conventions can make it feel too “business-y” (especially when paired with the refined theme), and the labyrinthine hallways can be a bit much. There are other cons to Yacht Club, but the rest are shared with Beach Club.

7. Disney’s BoardWalk Inn

For the 2024 update, I’ve struggled for an excuse to move BoardWalk Inn up the list. The new rooms are a welcome and overdue refresh, even if they’re not thematic stunners or as good as other recently-redone resort rooms on this list. Regardless, these reimagined rooms make us want to stay at BoardWalk Inn more than we did before, and that’s the true test.

Nevertheless, the resort reimagining is still ongoing, with Cake Bake shop slated to open this year–maybe/hopefully. That construction plus the unevenness of the new rooms is part of why BoardWalk doesn’t move up. The bigger reason, though, is simply that there’s no good basis for moving any other resorts down!

In analyzing its main strengths, let’s compare BoardWalk Inn to the Beach Club. First, there’s the design and style. While thematically different than the Beach Club, they are pretty similar. Most people are probably going to consider this a wash unless personal preference skews towards one or the other.

Next up is location. Both are near EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance, and you’d probably need a stopwatch to calculate which is closer. However, BoardWalk is closer to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, should you want to walk. Dining is another consideration. Both offer solid high-end choices and leave something to be desired for counter service.

On balance, Beach Club has the edge. Pools factor heavily into that, and Stormalong Bay at Yacht & Beach Club wins that by a colossally wide margin. This really leaves BoardWalk Inn’s selling point as an inarticulable “X factor”, which is a tough basis for ranking a hotel.

Our personal take is that BoardWalk Inn has a lot of this X factor. Objectively I feel like I can’t support why I love the BoardWalk Inn so much, but I just do. There’s a sort of vague romanticism about strolling along the BoardWalk, then heading up through the hotel, which balances the elegance and whimsy of a bygone Atlantic City inn, and to your room. Serious bonus points if that room has a balcony overlooking the BoardWalk.

6. Disney’s Contemporary Resort

There is something special about staying in that A-frame for Walt Disney World fans. Opening the door to your room and seeing a monorail zoom past is one of those quintessential “magic moments” and standing on your balcony watching the Electrical Water Pageant or gazing off at Cinderella Castle in the distance is something special. After being mesmerized by gliding through this “fancy” resort on the monorail as a child, staying at the Contemporary for the first time as an adult was magical–true wish fulfillment for a lifelong Walt Disney World fan.

Then there’s the Garden Wing. It was the last section of the resort to be redone with the Incredibles-inspired room reimagining. When we stayed in the main tower’s version of these rooms, we were not impressed. However, the Garden Wing version makes little iterative improvements and the rooms are nicer, even if they’re still a mixed bag.

What I also love about the Garden Wing is the price–it’s often $100 to $200 per night cheaper than the A-frame, making it the cheapest resort along the monorail loop. (The tradeoff is a less convenient location–but still a short walk to Magic Kingdom!) Point being, you either get an unbeatable location and pure Disney magic in the A-frame or a lower price and slightly nicer rooms in the Garden Wing.

Despite all its 50 year old magic that persists to this day, Contemporary Resort has a number of modern day faults. The cluttered atrium is a hodgepodge of 1970s and 1990s styles that does the otherwise grandiose space no favors. It and other areas around the Contemporary desperately need to be modernized, as they do not hold a candle to other Deluxe Resorts at this point.

Other recent changes have been made at Disney’s Contemporary Resort that are unequivocally positive. The lobby looks fantastic, paying tribute to the Vacation Kingdom of the World via historical photos as well as artist Mary Blair. This is a huge upgrade, showcasing how the hotel could marry mid-century modern with Disney themed design.

Convenient monorail access and being walking distance proximity to the Magic Kingdom are big selling points. Disney’s Contemporary Resort also has some strong dining options with Contempo Cafe, Steakhouse 71, and California Grill. Chef Mickey’s is overrated, but it’s certainly a draw for anyone wanting to meet the characters while eating.

5. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

Grand Floridian used to rank dead last on this list, which was a contrarian take that was honestly easy to make and wasn’t the least bit made for the sake of being provocative or whatever. In our view, the “insurmountable obstacle” to a higher ranking was that the regular guest rooms were among the dullest at Walt Disney World. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from a mid-range Hilton or Marriott. Well, that obstacle is now being surmounted!

Grand Floridian has taken massive leaps forward with new rooms that transform them into something both distinctly Disney and luxurious. We love these new rooms, which are identical to the Resort Studios that have been added on the DVC side. See Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside.

Then there are restaurant reimaginings and the likelihood of more improvements to come in 2024. 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. Regardless, the new rooms cause the Grand Floridian to move up considerably.

However, the Grand Floridian still isn’t perfect. Refurbishments have been all over the place, with some refreshes retaining thematic integrity and nicely modernizing whereas others have been incongruous and inert. This cuts to the crux of the problem with the Grand Floridian: it does not live up to its flagship, luxury hotel status.

There are still areas of the otherwise luxurious and well-appointed common areas that come across as an early-1990s take on Victorian instead of an actual Victorian theme. In other areas, theme has been eschewed entirely for the sake of modernity. Not to be overly dramatic, but it has a bit of an identity crisis and feels like ‘too many chefs in the kitchen’ with some of these changes. Most guests won’t notice all of this, though–or it won’t be overly bothersome.

Grand Floridians strengths are numerous. The dining here is some of the best at Walt Disney World, the grounds are lovely, and the location near the Magic Kingdom is a strong selling point. This last one in particular is huge, as the ability to walk, take the monorail, or a boat to Magic Kingdom is huge, and the convenience cannot be overstated, especially for those with small children or who enjoy midday breaks.

For me, though, most of the areas where the Grand Floridian excels is delivered upon similarly by other hotels at lower price points. It’s also difficult to overlook the absurd price points, which are higher than the Four Seasons at Walt Disney World, a nicer hotel by just about every criterion that doesn’t use the word “magical” or “monorail.” The Grand Floridian is going to appeal most to those who want the status of staying in Walt Disney World’s flagship hotel or those who really like the Victorian theme.

4. Disney’s Beach Club Resort

I love the Beach Club. From the grounds to color palette of the hotel to the pool and beyond, Beach Club has the perfect vibe for a relaxed vacation. Its common areas are inviting, feeling comfy and cozy and welcoming in a way that’s difficult to articulate. Regardless, it’s ideal for a Walt Disney World vacation.

The rooms have been refreshed at Beach Club within the last year, but the overhaul was not as dramatic as the one at BoardWalk Inn. Still, it replaced the soft goods while also–critically–adding more personality and Disney details. They’re still not perfect, but the last generation of rooms at Beach Club was downright dull, and that’s no longer (completely) the case.

In terms of the main draws, the incredible Stormalong Bay really can’t be overlooked. I am a total sucker for lazy rivers–as is just about every person who likes things that are awesome–and this pool with that and sand at the bottom really can’t be beat. This is the best pool at Walt Disney World and a shared strength of Yacht and Beach Club.

The Yacht & Beach Club dining is generally strong, with standout options at every level, all of which edge or clearly surpass those at BoardWalk Inn. The highlight is Yachtsman Steakhouse–steaks bigger than your head being another thing people who are awesome like. Beaches & Cream is also beloved among fans, but the reputation is better than the reality. The lack of a compelling counter service option is a downside to the dining scene, but even that has improved of late with upgrades to Beach Club Marketplace. It’s now better than the marketplace at Yacht Club.

Walking distance proximity to Epcot’s World Showcase is another big draw. In the end, unlike the Magic Kingdom Area Resorts, which are all clearly distinguishable from one another in objective terms, so much of the EPCOT Area Resorts comes down to personal preference due to shared amenities and walking distance proximity to one another. If we’re being honest: my infatuation with Beach Club is probably part of why it sits in the #4 spot here, whereas both Yacht Club and BoardWalk Inn–very similar resorts–rank lower.

3. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

This is the ranking that has us the most anxious. As of right now, the Poly is our #3 resort at Walt Disney World, and that’s even as construction on the new tower at the Polynesian occurs on the periphery of the current resort’s grounds. However, there’s nothing to say that’s the only construction that’ll occur at the Polynesian now or in the future.

The resort infrastructure will need to accommodate hundreds of additional rooms, and it’s likely other modernizations will occur to the existing buildings to help them blend together better. If those changes aren’t made, the resort could become even more crowded and overwhelmed than it already is. So for now, the Polynesian remains our third-favorite Deluxe Resort, and #1 monorail loop option.

The Poly ranks so highly because it does an excellent job at keeping one foot in the past, paying homage to both its own legacy and those of kitschy tiki resorts of a bygone era. Since its reimagining a few years ago, it also feels like a modern luxury resort, with updated amenities, grounds, dining, and an improved pool, among other things. Guest rooms are also spacious and nice, and have been given Disney character–quite literally–during the recent redesign. (See our Review, Photos & Video: New Moana Rooms at Polynesian Village Resort.)

Not all of the changes at the Poly in the last several years have been for the better. The removal of the waterfall in the lobby was a mistake, and the grounds lost some of their lushness in the process. However, the modernization of the resort has done wonders for it. The resort’s biggest shortcomings are its high price point, loudness of the lobby during peak times, and the lack of a true Signature Restaurant. Dining at Disney’s Polynesian Resort is solid, it could use something high end.

The Polynesian brings a lot to the table with its theme, which feels like a dose of tropical tiki culture in a laid-back, high-end setting. From Trader Sam’s to ‘Ohana to the vibrant, kitschy decor abounds throughout the Poly. It just exudes a sense of island fun that is unique among Walt Disney World hotels and has led the Poly to have a loyal following. Its location near the Magic Kingdom makes it appealing to families, but really, it’s an alluring hotel for just about any demographic from kids to retirees.

All of this is arguably enough to elevate the Polynesian into the #2 slot–and for many Walt Disney World fans, it’s #1. If you stay here during the off-season, only visit, or have memories of the resort going back a decade, I get that. But I also think fans view the Poly with rose-colored glasses, glossing over the crowds, changes, and other shortcomings. It’s still the quintessential Walt Disney World resort, though.

2. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

If I could only stay in one resort for the rest of my life, Wilderness Lodge would be my pick. No doubt about it whatsoever. This is my personal favorite at Walt Disney World, and that’s based almost entirely on my thematic preferences and the feeling I get sitting in a rocking chair in the lobby sitting by the fireplace.

Setting aside my strong personal feelings, Wilderness Lodge still makes this list as the best Magic Kingdom Area Resort. Considering the heavy hitters in the area this is probably both high praise and a bit surprising. The key to Wilderness Lodge is the mood its theme evokes. While other hotels in the Magic Kingdom area convey their themes effectively, I don’t think you can get lost in those themes.

At Wilderness Lodge, all it takes is a walk outside on the walkway through the thick woods and past the geyser, or sitting in an alcove by a fireplace, and you are instantly someplace else. Then there’s Christmas at Wilderness Lodge, which is totally next-level and unlike anything you’ll experience elsewhere. The main advantage Walt Disney World’s highly “Imagineered” resorts have over their real world counterparts is theme, and Wilderness Lodge is top-notch there.

The other big strength of Wilderness Lodge is the price. In terms of value for money, no other Magic Kingdom Area Resort comes even remotely close. This “cheaper” pricing is due to Wilderness Lodge not being on the monorail loop, which is going to be a big downside for some. I’d push back against that, as–in our experience–boat transportation is almost as efficient, while also being more pleasant and reliable. I’ve never been on a boat that has broken down and caused me to miss an ADR. Add to this some truly great (and often overlooked) dining options, and I think you have a hotel that is tough to beat.

The rustic theme of Wilderness Lodge isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but even the recent room design does a good job of balancing the outdoorsy style with modern luxury and features. (See our Review, Photos & Video: Wilderness Lodge New Rooms.) If you like those rooms, the resort’s theme as a whole, and want to be convenient to Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge is a can’t miss choice–and not just at Christmas.

1. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge brings a lot to the table. First, let’s focus on what it doesn’t bring: location. Just about any valid knock on Animal Kingdom Lodge can be summed up as having to do with its remote location away from any theme park that isn’t Animal Kingdom. Many guests identify location as a main reason to stay on-site at Walt Disney World, so that can’t be overlooked.

This location also means there are no novel forms of transportation–boat, monorail, Skyliner, etc–between AKL and the parks. It’s all buses. As much as I hate bus transportation, I think this complaint is overblown. Unlike other bus-only resorts, Animal Kingdom doesn’t have an internal loop with a half-dozen stops. The bus stop is easy and access to the parks is relatively efficient.

Now let’s take a look at everything it brings to the table. First, the rooms were recently redone and Disney did an awesome job balancing theme and modern touches. Second, AKL is arguably the best themed Walt Disney World hotel. From the meticulous design that makes it feel like an extension of the Animal Kingdom theme park to the art collection that you can see by perusing the common areas, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a hotel that really rewards those guests who are willing to spend the time drinking in its details.

Oh, and that doesn’t even address the living, breathing animals that graze on the 4 savannas outside of the hotel. This is the resort’s main draw and selling point, and the tradeoff for Animal Kingdom Lodge being relatively isolated. These savannas are something you won’t find at any real world hotel in the United States, and are the reason Animal Kingdom Lodge is a “destination” resort unto itself. You could sit and watch the wildlife for a long weekend, never even venturing to the parks. That’s what ultimately gives Animal Kingdom Lodge the edge over Wilderness Lodge, even if we personally favor the latter.

Then there’s the dining situation. With the Mara, Victoria Falls Lounge, Boma, Sanaa, and Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge literally has one of the best dining options are every single dining tier. In fact, I would put it ahead of the Grand Floridian in terms of overall dining quality, and that’s really saying something. Then there are rooms that wonderfully toe the line between theming and luxury (skewing, as always, towards theming), which are some of the best at Walt Disney World.

Finally, there’s the price point; while expensive, Animal Kingdom Lodge is often the least expensive of the Deluxe Resorts. All of this makes Animal Kingdom Lodge my current pick for the #1 Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World. This is especially true if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in your hotel (this would be our easy pick for a “hotel weekend” that would involve no park time), albeit considerably less true if you’ll be spending a lot of time in the parks and little time in your hotel.

At the end of the day, depending upon the day and our moods, almost any of these hotels could climb or fall the list. We cannot reiterate enough how much this list can vary based upon what’s important to you or the focus of your trip. We mentioned three categories at the beginning of this post: Magic Kingdom Area, Epcot Area, and Other Area, and you might notice the top 5 have hotels from each, which is deliberate, as you should definitely keep these zones in mind when considering which hotel to book.

To that end, if you need personalized advice about which resort is best for your family–since there’s no one size fits all answer—we recommend contacting a no fee “Authorized Disney Vacation Planner” (Disney’s term for a travel agent) to get a quote and to help you plan. They get their commission from Disney, so most of the authorized (key word) planners will charge you for booking their trip and helping. Here’s one such fee-free Authorized Disney Vacation Planner that we highly recommend. Request a quote from them, and then discuss your specific priorities and preferences so they can help you choose the Deluxe Resort that’s perfect for you!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, 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 clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Which Deluxe Resort at Walt Disney World do you think is best? Worst? Have your own rankings? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? 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!

185 Responses to “Ranking Deluxe Resorts at Disney World”
  1. Laurie March 22, 2024

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