Which DVC resorts are best & worst at Walt Disney World? These rankings cover our top picks and least favorite villas based upon a variety of factors, including theme, rooms, dining, pools, and more. We cover the pros & cons of each Disney Vacation Club resort at WDW, and try to set aside our own biases. (Updated December 7, 2020.)
We’ve re-ranked the resorts on this list once again amidst the Christmas 2020 season (with a new #1 pick!), as the Disney Vacation Club resorts are now about 6 months into their so-called phased reopening. During this period, we’ve seen a few regular resorts also return to Walt Disney World, an array of other progress, and plenty also stay the same.
Unfortunately, the hotel sides of many DVC properties remain closed with no opening dates scheduled this year or in 2021. Making this list more important than normal for planning purposes, and meaning that if you want to stay at many Walt Disney World resorts, DVC is your only option. (You do not need to be a member to stay in these resorts–see our Tips for Renting DVC Points for help with that.) As such, we’re re-ranking the resorts based upon the current strengths and shortcomings of each…
What’s interesting about this list is 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. They all compliment one another incredibly well, and part of the appeal of Disney Vacation Club is the ability to experience its many, varied resorts.
I know all of this sort of undercuts the rankings (it becomes a “what’s the point?” kind of thing), but when I originally made this list, I thought it’d be fun, nonetheless. Since then, I’ve returned to this post several times re-ranking the resorts, and it’s become something of a hassle.
I’m almost to the point of removing the numbers entirely and just doing this as a simple “pros & cons” post because 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…
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.
Even viewing Old Key West in the most favorable light, though, it pales in comparison to other resorts, which have better dining, better entertainment, and better location. 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.
9. Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
I’m admittedly a nostalgic person. Oddly, 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 years. However, it finally moved up to #9 during the 2020 update thanks to its nice new rooms, coupled with all of the superlative dining and shopping options within walking distance at Disney Springs. Years after Pleasure Island closed, Saratoga Springs is once again a place we loved staying. Read more in our Saratoga Springs Resort Review.
8. 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.
7. Bay Lake Tower
Now that Grand Floridian is also within walking distance of Magic Kingdom, Bay Lake Tower has lost its main selling point for us. Previously, that made up for a lot that BLT is otherwise lacking. Now, 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.
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.
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 most recent 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 could temporarily drop several spots or surge to the top, depending upon how you answer the titular question in our recent Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort Report: Spooky or Serene?
At present, the hotel portion of Jambo House–which is most of the resort–is not open. This means that roughly 10% of the rooms are currently occupied. Consequently, none of the hotel’s restaurants are open and the hotel has a totally different, much quieter, vibe. The animals are still there are most non-dining amenities are available, so whether this is a problem or a strength is debatable.
We generally loved our experience, but the lack of restaurant options was definitely a significant issue. Generally speaking, Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas offers solid rooms, and the dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge is among the best at Walt Disney World.
So what faults does it have? Well, location, but 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. 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. Temporarily, these drop a couple spots because of construction to the hotel side of the Polynesian, which means some amenities and dining options (among other things) are closed at the property.
Nevertheless, the Poly Villas score points as being among our favorite Disney Vacation Club (studio) rooms at Walt Disney World. The rooms are not only the largest of the studios, but the space is utilized really well. The decision to have an added walk-in shower was a good one, and the layout of the rooms is great for both couples and families. (You can see inside the rooms in our Polynesian Villas Review.)
Likewise, the style here hits the nail on the head, balancing Disney theming with high-end luxury. Note that this ranking is based solely upon the villas. About the only downside is the point chart, but even considering that, we think the Poly Villas are worth it. We are just going to pretend the bungalows don’t exist for the purposes of this review (since most people don’t have the points for them, anyway. We did stay in the Bora Bora Bungalows, and suffice to say, the experience was not good.
2. Villas at Wilderness Lodge (All of Them)
I love the ambiance of Wilderness Lodge 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, great food, and is gorgeous at Christmas. 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 you can read about the pros & cons of each in our Ultimate Guide to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
1. Villas at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The biggest winner of our Christmas 2020 update to this list is the Villas at Grand Floridian. This is due to a confluence of factors, some temporary and some permanent. Long-term, it benefits tremendously from the new walkway between Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom (we told you that’s a game-changer and our favorite addition of the year!). Short-term, Grand Floridian operating its hotel side and most of its amenities also gives it a boost, especially as compared to other top tier DVC resorts that are lacking in dining and other amenities.
The #1 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 our #1 pick. Read our full Villas at Grand Floridian Review.
Itching to Join 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.
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!
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!