Hotel refurbishments, resort construction, and character-inspired makeovers continue at Walt Disney World in 2021 & 2022– plus pool projects now scheduled for 2023. This resource provides info on room renovations, what to avoid, where to book, and what to expect in terms of hotel work at Walt Disney World. (Updated August 29, 2021.)
The latest updates come as Walt Disney World continues to bring more resorts online (see 2021 Walt Disney World Hotel Reopening Dates for the current status of all resorts), several of which are being opened after completing refurbishment or reimagining projects. We’ve done dozens of resort stays and visits in the year since DVC resorts began reopening and have seen and experienced a lot in the process.
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. 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, which begins on October 1, 2021. That milestone event is expected to drive record attendance and push hotel occupancy rates to record levels.
Now, Disney is scrambling just to reopen all hotels by then while also resuming resort improvement projects that were slated to be finished by October 2021. In some cases, this work has been delayed by over a year. There are also a slew of new, smaller projects that have begun unrelated to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
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 Movies – There are two projects that merit mentioning at All Star Movies. First, the Cinema Hall lobby will be undergoing refurbishment to update the check-in experience through mid-October 2021. During this time, the front desk will be unavailable. Guests may use either online check-in to bypass the lobby or see Cast Members stationed in the area. Everything else in Cinema Hall, including World Premiere Food Court and Donald’s Double Feature Shop, will remain open.
Second, the finished room reimagining. We’ve stayed in these new rooms, which you can read about in Photos & Video: Newly Reimagined Rooms at the All Star Resorts. This is a huge upgrade from the previous design, which was more minor leagues than all-star caliber. Suffice to say, we’re fans.
All Star Music & Sports – Once these hotels return in late 2021, the room reimagining discussed above should be completed. We’d anticipate that All Star Music will wrap up its room refurbishments before its reopening date at some point in Fall 2021.
It is uncertain where All Star Sports stands with the project. Our expectation is that it’ll also be finished upon returning, but there have not been credible rumors to indicate that it has even started.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village – From January 2022 through April 2022, the Samawati Springs Pool at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village will be closed for refurbishment. During this time, guests staying at Kidani Village may use the Uzima Springs Pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House.
Construction may be visible and audible while this refurbishment is underway during daytime hours, but not between dusk and 9:00 am. If you’re unfamiliar with the layout of these sister properties, Kidani Village and Jambo House are about ~10 minutes apart when using the walkway; there’s also bus service between the two.
Contemporary Resort – Now through late September 2021, the A-Frame Tower of Disney’s Contemporary Resort will take most of its guest rooms out of commission for room overhauls. During that time, most dining and shopping options will remain open, which is necessary since Bay Lake Tower doesn’t have sufficient standalone options.
Walt Disney World has confirmed that Incredibles-Inspired New Rooms & Redesigned Lobby are Coming to Contemporary Resort. (See post for model room photos.) While we’re not thrilled by this concept, the hotel desperately needs something. The Grand Canyon Concourse looks tired, dated, and visually chaotic. has been a hodgepodge for the last decade, with its style continuing to age and clutter continually added. Here’s hoping this refurbishment also includes a decluttering and cleaner design for the common areas.
Additionally, the water play area is currently closed for refurbishment and also scheduled to reopen in late September 2021. The Feature Pool, Bay Lake Pool, and whirlpool spas remain open. From January 9, 2023 to August 3, 2023, the Feature Pool and whirlpool spa will again be closed for refurbishment. The water play area and Bay Lake Pool will remain open during that project, as well.
Fort Wilderness Campground – From January 9, 2023 to April 3, 2023, Meadow Swimmin’ Pool and whirlpool spa will be closed for refurbishment. The water play area and Meadow Snack Bar along with the Wilderness Swimmin’ pool will remain open.
Work has been completed on Tri-Circle-D Ranch, which is now open to resort guests and those with reservations. Other enhancements in the Settlement are also finished and those walls have come down. There are still lingering vestiges of the cancelled Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge project. However, there is no audible/visible construction impact at Fort Wilderness, aside from the blight.
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – Disney Vacation Club has announced plans to expand the Villas at Grand Floridian by overhauling the Big Pine Key building of existing hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. This is expected to begin in late 2021 and finish by Summer 2022.
Beyond the DVC expansion, don’t be surprised if Grand Floridian receives a substantial overhaul in 2022 after the Contemporary and Poly are finished with their reimagining projects. There were rumors of a refurbishment pre-closure, but those have since fizzled out. However, it would make sense to take those rooms down next if occupancy remains low and other Magic Kingdom resorts can absorb the displaced guests.)
Old Key West – The check-in experience at Disney’s Old Key West Resort is currently being refurbished as of July 2021.
During the first phase of refurbishment, guests will check-in as normal in the main lobby while the den area is closed. In the second phase, the main lobby will close and front desk and concierge will temporarily move to the den.
Polynesian Village Resort – There’s currently refurbishment work at the Great Ceremonial House, which has caused the suspension of monorail service at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. This project also entails the construction of porte-cochère that will feature a high-pitched, open-truss roof covered in a thatch style. In addition to the porte-cochère, enhancements will be made to the lush gardens and fountains that welcome guests to the resort. This should be finished by early September 2021.
In addition to the Great Ceremonial House, room refurbishments were also part of the Poly’s overhaul. See our Review, Photos & Video: New Moana Rooms at Polynesian Village Resort for a tour and thoughts on the changes from our most recent hotel stay.
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.
Prior to the closure, the Royal Rooms were still left to be renovated. That is now expected to be finished when Port Orleans Riverside reopens on October 14, 2021.
Saratoga Springs – For the first time in its 15 year history, 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.
As we reported in our Photos & Report: Saratoga Springs Resort Problems & Progress, this project is now underway and will last through late Fall 2021. We stayed in the new rooms, and share thoughts, photos & video in Splendid New Rooms at Saratoga Springs Resort Tour. Congress Park, Springs, and Paddock sections are now finished–meaning preferred rooms are done. Work has now moved on to the Carousel.
In addition to room overhauls, work begins on the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa lobby and porte cochere refurbishment. This will be done in the following phases:
- Phase 1: The connecting hallway to the main lobby is now closed for refurbishment.
- Phase 2: From July 12 through late September 2021, the porte cochere will be closed. Disney’s Magical Express will continue to pick-up and drop-off, with a temporary walkway to reach the front desk and concierge.
- Phase 3: In early August 2021, the connecting hallway will open and the main lobby will close. Front desk and concierge services will be available in the hallway in addition to curbside check-in at the Disney Vacation Club Preview Center.
Villas at Polynesian & Grand Floridian – Both of these small DVC properties will receive renovations scheduled for completion this fall, which involve installation of foldaway beds behind living room sofas. This feature debuted at Disney’s Riviera Resort before becoming part of the recent refurbishment of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (pictured above). We are huge fans of this feature, and expect it to be a solid addition at both resorts.
Work is already underway inside Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, and is expected to be finished by late September 2021. Refurbishment work is set to begin in November 2021 at the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and be finished by early 2022.
Wilderness Lodge’s Boulder Ridge Villas – Sometime in 2022, the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will receive a full refurbishment, including redesigned rooms.
There’s also no concept art for those rooms, but our expectation is they’ll meld the style of Copper Creek with the functionality of the new rooms at Saratoga Springs.
Recently Completed Refurbishments
Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) – Room refurbishments were completed on the standard hotel rooms. 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.
Art of Animation – Room refurbishments are now done on all sections of the resort.
Pre-closure, work had finished on the Cars, Nemo, and Lion King Family Suites. Now, the Little Mermaid standard rooms are finished–we had the chance to see inside one recently, and it’s a significant improvement.
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.
Gran Destino & Coronado Springs – This multi-year project finally wrapped up in July with the debut of Three Bridges Bar & Grill as well as the 15-story Gran Destino Tower. (See our new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort Review.)
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.
Pop Century – We stayed in a new room at Pop Century (see our photo & video), and you should definitely look at that post before booking Pop Century, because now everyone who stays here will have a new room. The overall room renovation project is totally finished!
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.
Wilderness Lodge – This big top to bottom room redesign for the hotel side of Wilderness Lodge is now finished. In addition to standard guest rooms being redesigned, the same has happened with Club Level rooms and Old Faithful Club Lounge. Work on the grounds around Wilderness Lodge also has concluded, with Fire Rock Geyser being refurbished and some larger trees removed.
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!
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 2021 or 2022? 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!