This post rates my top Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World based upon a variety of factors, and covers the pros & cons of each, including theme, rooms, dining, pools, seasonal decorations, and more. DVC has some excellent resorts; so many that it’s hard to determine which is best without putting some really top-notch resorts on the low-end of the list.
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 kind of thing), but when I originally made this list, I thought it’d be fun, nonetheless.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…
TBD. Disney’s Riviera Resort
Although we’ve yet to stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort, we’ve taken a tour of two types of the rooms in the newest DVC resort (see our Photo Tour of Disney’s Riviera Resort), and have offered extensive commentary elsewhere on the blog about the un-themed nature of this resort.
After seeing it in person, we’re more impressed with the luxurious accommodations and the high end finishing. Setting aside theme (or lack thereof), the restaurants here are appealing, as is Disney Skyliner access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The location is less appealing than Crescent Lake or Magic Kingdom DVC resorts, but it should creep above Old Key West and Saratoga Springs into the #8 slot.
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).
Some of my favorite memories of Walt Disney World include walking home to Saratoga Springs after some fun nights at the Adventurers Club, and it’s almost difficult to rank a resort at which we’ve had so much fun as last. But that’s where it lands, due to its theme (or lack thereof) and location. However, being in walking distance of Disney Springs is now something of an asset, so at least there’s that. Read more in our Saratoga Springs Resort Review.
8. 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.
7. Bay Lake Tower
Bay Lake Tower ranks very highly for Sarah, and I totally understand why…it’s within walking distance of Magic Kingdom and that makes it great for a great midday break or crashing at the end of a long day in the park. It also has access to the monorail, and great 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 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 the next entry on this list). Nevertheless, there’s so much to love about this resort. Read our full BoardWalk Villas Review.
5. Beach Club Villas
Since we originally posted this list a few years ago, Beach Club has fallen from grace. This is mostly because the Beach Club Villas room update was really uninspired and underwhelming. Nevertheless, the Beach Club Villas still scores decently because of the amazing, its location, and incredible dining options (counter service aside).
Delving a bit deeper into the location, the Beach Club Villas are close to Epcot and 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. The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
For a long time, we have been detractors of the Grand Floridian. Instead of the pinnacle of luxury at Walt Disney World, it felt dated to the early 1990s. This problem is slowly being fixed at the main resort, and we think that’s in large part due to the successful style of the Villas that opened a couple of years ago.
Guests can enjoy the many amenities that make Grand Floridian Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, but without those exorbitant rates. Granted, the per point cost is high–and we still don’t think it’s as good as the new Polynesian Villas–but the Villas at Grand Floridian bring a lot to the table, and there’s a lot to like. Not the least of which is that awesome fountain in the lobby. Read our full Villas at Grand Floridian Review.
3. Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas & Kidani Village
We’re getting to a point on this list where any of the resorts remaining could be my number one, depending upon the day of the week. Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas offer incredibly amazing (the best, actually) rooms, and the dining at Animal Kingdom Lodge is also 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.
2. Villas at Wilderness Lodge (All of Them)
The fact that I’ve used a photo of myself to illustrate what I love about Wilderness Lodge should be pretty telling. 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. Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows are the newest Disney Vacation Club resort at Walt Disney World, with a laid back South Pacific theme near the Magic Kingdom. These villas score big points as my 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.
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.