Which DVC resorts are best & worst at Walt Disney World? These Disney Vacation Club rankings cover our top picks and least favorite Deluxe Villas based on theme, rooms, restaurants, pools, location and more. We cover the pros & cons of each property, and why we love each of them. (Updated February 8, 2022.)
We’ve re-ranked the resorts on this list once again following room redesigns at a couple of resorts (with a new #1 pick!) and more on the horizon. Admittedly, our opinions have also…let’s use the charitable term and say “evolved” since the last time we refreshed this list, and that plays a role in the rising and falling stock of some DVC resorts.
Before you close this post out as “irrelevant” if you’re not a Disney Vacation Club member, it’s worth noting that you do not need to be in DVC to stay at these resorts. For one, all are bookable directly from Walt Disney World, they’re the “Deluxe Villa” tier, which is treated just like a traditional hotel. For another, you can use our Tips for Renting Disney Vacation Club Points to step into the shoes of a DVC member–and save money in the process!
One thing we want to make clear is that there’s nothing objective about these Disney Vacation Club resort rankings. We initially tried that approach, but realized it’s a fool’s errand. For one, we have a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in our various vacations, and it’s tough to separate out our own biases from the basics of each property.
For another, this involves inherently apples to oranges comparisons. Unlike hotels as a whole, there are quirks to the DVC resorts. How does a purpose-built resort like Old Key West compare to an add-on like Bay Lake Tower or room conversions like the Polynesian Villas? Speaking of the Poly, does it get penalized for not having 1-bedroom units? Are common areas and amenities that are shared with the hotel included? If two separate resorts are very similar but one has distinct advantages, does the other fall significantly?
There’s also the reality that even the bottom resorts are places we enjoy. Some of my best adult memories at Walt Disney World are at Saratoga Springs, where we stayed on our first real trip together. Walking back to Saratoga Springs after a night at the Adventurers Club was great, and proximity to Disney Springs gives it a lot of appeal. Likewise, Bay Lake Tower’s short walk to Magic Kingdom might be enough for many to put it at the top of this list.
Really, it seems like each resort has a strong selling point that could make it #1. From the spacious rooms and laid back vibe of Old Key West to the wildlife and self-contained “resort” experience of Animal Kingdom Lodge, each brings something to the table. Beyond that, so much depends upon the purpose of our trip (e.g. is dining at Disney Springs a priority?), time of year we’re visiting (is enjoying Christmas in the Pacific Northwest important?), and more. All resorts compliment one another incredibly well, and part of the appeal of Disney Vacation Club is the ability to experience its many, varied resorts.
All of this leads to the caveat that this is all either just for fun or an exercise in futility, depending upon your perspective. With that on mind, on with the rankings…
10. 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. It also has Olivia’s, which is beloved among longtime DVC members–and for good reason.
Even viewing Old Key West in the most favorable light, though, it pales in comparison to other resorts, which have more well-rounded dining rosters, better entertainment, and more convenient locations. Pretty much everything that OKW does well, another resort does better. Whether it be the isolation and seclusion of Animal Kingdom Lodge or the rooms at Saratoga Springs, which compares to OKW in a lot of ways and gets the edge in most of them.
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. I certainly don’t hate it and would happily book a stay here, which should further underscore the top-to-bottom strength of the DVC lineup at Walt Disney World.
9. Bay Lake Tower
With each subsequent update to this list, Bay Lake Tower falls further. One of the big reasons for this is that our experience with the rooms in the last few years has been negative, with them looking worse-for-wear and prematurely worn. The build quality and finishings are just not on par with everything that came after BLT, and it shows.
Another reason is that Grand Floridian is also within walking distance of Magic Kingdom, meaning that Bay Lake Tower has lost its main selling point for us. Previously, that made up for a lot that BLT is otherwise lacking. Another big negative for us is the lack of Top of the World Lounge, which still has not reopened. We’re starting to wonder if it’s gone for good.
As a result of all that, we cannot imagine what circumstances would convince us to book Bay Lake Tower over the Villas at Grand Floridian, as the latter is superior on every single front. Same goes for the Polynesian Villas, which aren’t as directly comparable, but are also far superior as far as monorail loop DVC resorts go.
Nevertheless, Bay Lake Tower is a good option if you have small kids who will frequently want to take a midday break–or be in bed ~10 minutes after exiting Magic Kingdom at the end of a long day in the park. Even though it’s no longer the only DVC resort within walking distance of Magic Kingdom, it’s still the shortest walk, which counts for something. Bay Lake Tower also has access to the monorail, and solid dining at the Contemporary.
On the other hand, the rooms are smaller than counterparts at other resorts, the finishing isn’t quite as nice (we’ve had rooms here in rough shape a couple of times, which I’m told is not uncommon). Nevertheless, we really like Bay Lake Tower. We just don’t love it, as we do the other entries on this list! Here’s our full analysis of Bay Lake Tower.
8. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
I’m admittedly a nostalgic person. 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 and it’s the resort we eventually chose as “home” for our Disney Vacation Club purchase (for purely economic reasons).
Despite this, Saratoga Springs landed in last place on this list for a while. It was too bland, too far from everything worthwhile, and the rooms were nothing special. For years, it reminded us too much of a condo community we could find at home, and offered nothing to make us overlook those parallels.
However, Saratoga Springs Resort has aged like a fine wine. (It’s like the opposite of Bay Lake Tower, in that regard.) Over the last decade, thematic enhancements have been made to the pools and other common areas, and it now looks truly themed (albeit more lightly than other resorts) while also feeling fresh.
The latter point is thanks to a comprehensive, multi-year refurbishment project that brought nice new rooms. All of that, plus the superlative dining and shopping options within walking distance at Disney Springs makes Saratoga Springs a winner. Years after Pleasure Island closed, Saratoga Springs is once again a place we loved staying. Read more in our Saratoga Springs Resort Review.
7. Disney’s Riviera Resort
The newest DVC property at Walt Disney World, there’s a lot to like…but also a lot to dislike about Disney’s Riviera Resort. The biggest downside is that Disney has taken a region rich in beautiful architecture and lavish design, and made one of the most thematically boring and uninspired resorts. That’s a huge disappointment, and it feels like so much potential has been squandered here.
The biggest upside is the luxurious accommodations and the high end finishing of the rooms. Moreover, the restaurants slate is formidable and Disney Skyliner access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios is huge. The location is less appealing than Crescent Lake or Magic Kingdom DVC resorts, but Riviera Resort has enough to put it above Saratoga Springs and Old Key West. Read our full Disney’s Riviera Resort Review for more.
6. BoardWalk Villas
We place a high value on location and the resort’s overall theme, and BoardWalk scores highly in both regards. Walking from the Crescent Lake resorts to Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World, and the overall atmosphere at BoardWalk Inn is exceptional.
However, the last room refurbishment at BoardWalk left them dull and like an ordinary chain (a trend you’ll see continue with other entries on this list). The easy way to offset that is by booking a BoardWalk View room–you’ll want to spend all your in-room time on the balcony! Suffice to say, there’s so much to love about this resort. Read our full BoardWalk Villas Review.
5. Beach Club Villas
Although the Beach Club Villas room update was really uninspired and underwhelming, we still love the resort as a whole. The rooms may be lacking in the personality department, but the common areas more than make up for that. Moreover, the Beach Club Villas score highly because of the amazing pool, location within walking distance of two parks and the Skyliner gondola station, and reasonably good dining options.
Delving a bit deeper into the location, the Beach Club Villas are the closest resort to Epcot and the International Gateway Skyliner station. Beach Club Villas 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. Read our full Beach Club Villas Review for more.
4. Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas & Kidani Village
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House and Kidani Village arguably should be broken out and ranked separately given that the former is a room conversion and the latter is a quasi-stand alone resort. Yet, they’re a short walk from one another, have similar rooms, and largely share amenities. We see no material differences between them, and book interchangeably (with a conservation of points being our main goal).
The strength of both has long been the savanna, which is perhaps the best “amenity” offered by any Walt Disney World resort that no other hotel in North America can offer. This alone makes AKL a great “staycation” or resort-only experience, and would be enough to secure Jambo House and Kidani Village spots in the top half of this list.
But that’s not all that they offer. Both sides of the Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas offer solid rooms that do a good job of balancing theme and quality, the dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge is among the best at Walt Disney World, and the feature pools are underrated gems at both.
So what faults do they have? Well, location. 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. Read our full Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village Review for more info and photos.
3. Villas at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
With our prior update, the Villas at Grand Floridian claimed the #1 spot. With this update, VGF falls to #3. There’s a decent chance it’ll reclaim the #1 ranking once the current expansion and room redesign is done. (Wilderness Lodge has #2 on lockdown for personal reasons, but I recognize the “importance” of a Magic Kingdom monorail resort taking the top spot.)
As recognized previously, the Villas at Grand Floridian benefit tremendously from the walkway between Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom. That’s a game-changer, and makes VGF really attractive for us, as we’d rather walk than wait in long monorail lines at the end of the night.
The high ranking might come as an especially big surprise given that we’ve been detractors of the hotel side of Grand Floridian for a while. Instead of the flagship hotel at Walt Disney World, it often feels dated and failing to over commensurate luxury for the price point. This problem is slowly being fixed at the main resort, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
However, the Villas at Grand Floridian have never suffered from the same woes. The rooms are beautiful, luxurious, and better-themed. Guests can enjoy the many amenities that make Grand Floridian Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, but without paying those exorbitant rates. The location is fantastic. That’s why if we could stay anywhere at Walt Disney World right now, DVC or regular resort, the Villas at Grand Floridian Resort would be in the running as our pick. Read our full Villas at Grand Floridian Review.
2. Villas at Wilderness Lodge (All of Them)
Wilderness Lodge is far and away my favorite resort at Walt Disney World year-round, but I really love it at Christmas. Love actually might be too tame of a word. Looking at this photo takes me back to the night it was taken. Admittedly, I am biased towards Wilderness Lodge at Christmastime due to my own personal experiences there.
That said, objectively, Wilderness Lodge has great theming, solid pools, and great food. Geyser Point is an underrated gem and Storybook Dining at Artist Point is now one of the hottest character meals in all of Walt Disney World. The rooms were also recently refreshed, improving them and giving them a greater feel of luxury while still remaining on theme. And then (again)…there’s Christmas at Wilderness Lodge. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has stayed there around Christmas who doesn’t absolutely love the place.
Note that we don’t differentiate between Copper Creek and Boulder Ridge here as we don’t see the differences being significant or outcome determinative, but that will probably change after Boulder Ridge’s upcoming refurbishment. If the test room we’ve seen is any indication, we’ll prefer it significantly more than Copper Creek. You can read about the pros & cons of each in our Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
1. Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows have a laid back South Pacific theme, plus a convenient location on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop. Now that the hotel overhaul is finished, the arrival experience is even better and the grounds are looking nicer. (Undoing a bit of the damage from the previous reimagining.)
More significantly to this re-ranking is the room refurbishment to the Polynesian Villas. Although this project was a soft goods refresh rather than a full reimagining, it was one of the most thorough soft goods renovations in recent years. (The same is now coming to the Grand Floridian and Boulder Ridge Villas.) The functional improvements to these new rooms coupled with the finished resort refurbishment are enough for the Poly Villas to reclaim the top spot.
Beyond that, the style here hits the nail on the head, balancing Disney theming with high-end luxury. The atmosphere at this resort is top-notch, the pools are great, transportation is a breeze to Magic Kingdom or Epcot (a short walk to TTC), and the dining options are good (don’t sleep on Kona Cafe–despite its ordinary appearance, it’s better than ‘Ohana).
While my heart is with Wilderness Lodge, if I had to blindly recommend a resort to someone else without knowing anything about their personal preferences (e.g. you), it would be the Polynesian Villas. We’d even go a step further–this is our overall #1 resort at Walt Disney World for 2022. Thanks to the room quality and layout, proximity to Magic Kingdom, and the overall atmosphere, this is the quintessential Walt Disney World resort!
Itching to Do DVC?
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 ready to buy, we recommend using DVC Resale Market.
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.
What are your Disney Vacation Club rankings? Favorite resort? Least favorite? Are you considering buying into Disney Vacation Club? Do you agree or disagree with our rankings? 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!