Hotel refurbishments, resort construction, and room renovations are ongoing at Walt Disney World in 2020 and beyond! This updated resource will help you determine what to avoid, where to book, room requests, and what to expect in terms of hotel construction at Walt Disney World. (Updated July 26, 2020.)
Our latest update comes following the start of Walt Disney World’s phased reopening, at a time when fewer than half of the hotels plus all Disney Vacation Club resorts have resumed operations and welcomed back guests. We’ve done a handful of stays in the last month-plus and visited almost all other hotels.
That includes several of the Walt Disney World resorts on this list. Most notably, we were at Wilderness Lodge earlier this month, and covered the experience in Our Vexing Visit to Wilderness Lodge, which briefly touches upon the ongoing refurbishment project there. Unfortunately, most other hotels in the midst of construction projects have yet to reopen, but we still have updated status reports…
We do Walt Disney World hotel stays every month, usually emphasizing resorts where there are new things, changes, or ongoing construction to see how that harms, improves, or otherwise impacts the guest experience. We share our latest experiences via our emails. If you’ve yet to book a hotel for your upcoming Walt Disney World vacation and want to be notified about all of the latest resort changes, sign up here for our FREE Disney newsletter here.
Right now is a really weird time at Walt Disney World, which is especially true at the resorts. Prior to the closure, there were a surplus of hotel construction projects, most aimed at improving amenities and modernizing guest rooms before Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. That milestone event was expected to drive record attendance and push hotel occupancy rates to record levels. Now, there are serious questions whether all of Disney’s hotels will even reopen by then.
Nevertheless, when booking a Walt Disney World vacation, we highly recommend taking into account recently-completed and ongoing construction projects at the various resorts, as these absolutely can impact the quality of your trip. Booking a hotel with a closed pool or construction noise and cranes right outside your window is obviously going to be a worse experience than a resort that just finished its big refurbishment and still has that fresh feeling and ‘new hotel’ smell.
Suffice to say, a lot is happening on the hotel front at Walt Disney World. Let’s take a look at all of the current and upcoming major hotel projects that have the potential to impact guests…
Ongoing or Upcoming Hotel Refurbishments
All Star Resorts – Currently, All Star Resorts are receiving room redesigns akin to Pop Century. We stayed in one of these new rooms this spring, which you can read about in our Photos & Video: Newly Reimagined Rooms at the All Star Resorts post. This is a huge upgrade from the previous design, which was more minor leagues than all-star caliber. Suffice to say, we’re fans.
Currently, work is entirely finished at All Star Movies and has yet to begin at All Star Sports. It’s unclear where progress stands at All Star Music because these resorts have not yet reopened (and have no reopening date). We have reason to believe that work has not yet resumed, and likely will not before the start of the next fiscal year in October.
At this point, it appears that All Star Music will wrap up its room refurbishments at some point in 2021. It is now uncertain whether All Star Sports will receive the new room designs after that, or if Disney will hold off.
Art of Animation – While the lobby overhaul and Skyliner construction are both now finished, the Big Blue Pool is slated to be closed for refurbishment from September 8 through mid-December 2020. While this work takes place, Flippin’ Fins Pool, Cozy Cone Pool, and the Schoolyard Sprayground will remain open.
Additionally, rooms are quietly being refreshed in the Art of Animation Suites, with the carpeting being replaced with laminate flooring and other slight changes to furniture and furnishings. Work is now done on most of the Cars suites, with Nemo suites now underway, followed by the Lion King suite and Little Mermaid standard rooms.
Fort Wilderness Campground – Construction of Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge was slated to impact Fort Wilderness Campground guests through 2022. However, after the parks closed and all construction stopped at Walt Disney World, a new rumor emerged that Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge has been cancelled and construction crews have removed concrete and rebar.
This is borne out by a lack of visible or audible progress on Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge in the last several months. Note that this area (the old River Country water park) was largely in the land clearing stage, with portions of the beach at Fort Wilderness and other common areas still closed. There are still some construction walls up around the Settlement, and it’s unclear when these will be removed from Fort Wilderness.
Port Orleans Riverside – The soft goods refurbishment project that includes the addition of Princess and the Frog thematic elements and other functional design changes is now mostly finished at Port Orleans Riverside. We stayed in these and wrote about the experience in our New Rooms at Port Orleans Resort – Riverside post.
The Royal Rooms are still left to be renovated, but it’s unclear as to when that will occur. Neither Port Orleans Resort has a reopening date, and it’s also possible some light rebranding and signage changes could occur prior to Riverside reopening.
Saratoga Springs – For the first time in its 15 years of being open, Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is receiving a top to bottom refurbishment of both the exterior and interior of the resort. This will bring with it a reimagined room concept, which will feature a new style sofa bed similar to what’s being used at Disney’s Riviera Resort. The first of these rooms have already reopened, with more coming online over the course of the next two years.
Wilderness Lodge – It seems that every year has a big refurbishment project, and it’s finally Wilderness Lodge’s turn for that. Fans of Wilderness Lodge will no doubt recall that the resort was significantly impacted not too long ago when many hotel rooms were converted to DVC villas and the Cascade Cabins were built. However, none of the other hotel rooms were touched at that time.
Wilderness Lodge’s refurbishment project began in early 2020. Work has now been completed on the 7th floor, including the Yellowstone and Yosemite Suites, Club Level guest rooms, and Old Faithful Club Lounge. As you can see from the photo above, taken in July 2020, work is now underway on the 5th and 6th floors. The timeline for this project is unclear, as the hotel side of Wilderness Lodge does not have a reopening date.
Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) – Room refurbishments were completed on the standard hotel rooms followed by the Value Studios in early 2020. We recently stayed in a finished room and shared that experience in Awesome Animal Kingdom Lodge New Rooms.
This spring, work was also completed on the porte-cochère, airline check-in, bell services, and valet areas.
Beyond that, Coronado Springs saw a number of improvements and upgrades around the rest of the resort. The pool saw a refresh, regular rooms were remodeled, and a new over-the-water bar debuted. While Coronado Springs isn’t our favorite resort from a thematic perspective, these enhancements definitely improve the guest experience there.
Caribbean Beach & Riviera Resort – Thanks to a trio of projects: Skyliner construction, Old Port Royale overhaul, and Disney Vacation Club expansion, Caribbean Beach was the major construction project last year. Thankfully, this is all completed now.
We are huge fans of the finished product at Caribbean Beach Resort. The new lobby is chic but well-themed, and Sebastian’s Bistro and Banana Cabana are solid restaurants. The Skyliner is a huge plus, and Riviera Resort adds a nice slate of dining options to this area.
Old Key West – A hard goods top-to-bottom refurbishment just wrapped up at the start of summer. This was the resort’s biggest aesthetic overhaul to its rooms since it debuted. Among Old Key West die hard fans, the results have been controversial.
Many have derided the overly modern, generic style. Others prefer the fresh new look to the old “grandma’s beach house stuck in the early 1990s” vibe of the previous design. You can judge for yourself by taking a look at our New Rooms at Disney’s Old Key West Resort Photo Tour.
Additionally, the Disney Skyliner station at Pop Century, which is shared with Art of Animation, is now completed. This gondola offers efficient and (critically) non-bus transportation to both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Port Orleans French Quarter – Similar soft goods refurbishment project to the Port Orleans Riverside project discussed above. This made minor thematic and functional changes to the rooms, and concluded last year.
Yacht & Beach Club – Both of these resorts have finished their top-to-bottom hard goods refurbishments of guest rooms, and Yacht Club has similarly now opened all of its guest-facing public amenities with the debut of Ale and Compass Restaurant & Lounge.
As we previously shared, we’re fans of the newly-refurbished rooms at Yacht Club. The response from other Disney fans has been decidedly more mixed (and we are more mixed on the new rooms at Beach Club). In other words, your mileage may vary on the rooms, but don’t let the Convention Center construction discourage you from staying at either–it’s a nonissue.
Have any recent observations or experiences with hotel construction at Walt Disney World you’d be willing to share? Where at Walt Disney World are you staying in 2020 or 2021? Any resorts you’re intentionally avoiding? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments of these resort refurbishment or reimagining projects? 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!