Hotel refurbishments, resort construction, and character-inspired makeovers continue at Walt Disney World in 2021 and 2022. This resource provides info on room renovations, what to avoid, where to book, and what to expect in terms of hotel projects at Walt Disney World. (Updated January 21, 2021.)
Our latest update comes during 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 dozens of resort stays and visits in the 6 months since resorts began reopening and have observed a lot in the process.
The biggest updates at this point concern Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which has been added to the list, and Wilderness Lodge, which has seen the scope of its work expanded. Unfortunately, many hotels in the midst of construction projects have yet to reopen, so we aren’t completely certain of where those projects stand, 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 – This hotel trio is receiving room redesigns akin to Pop Century. We stayed in one of these new rooms, 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 (All Star Movies reopens in 2021). We anticipate that All Star Music will be the next to reopen, likely in Summer 2021.
We’d anticipate that All Star Music will wrap up its room refurbishments before its reopening date 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 to avoid the cost. If work goes forward at All Star Sports, it’s unlikely to be finished before 2022.
Art of Animation – The Big Blue Pool is currently closed for refurbishment through early April 2021. While this work takes place, Flippin’ Fins Pool, Cozy Cone Pool, and the Schoolyard Sprayground will remain open.
Room refurbishments are also 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.
Contemporary Resort – Although not yet officially announced by Walt Disney World, we have heard from several readers with confirmed reservations at the Contemporary who received calls or emails from Disney offering to move them to Grand Floridian or Bay Lake Tower.
Cast Members have indicated that this is because Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be undergoing a refurbishment from April through September 2021. During that time, at least some dining and shopping options in the a-frame building will remain open, which is more or less necessary since Bay Lake Tower doesn’t have standalone options (the currently-closed Top of the World lounge probably wouldn’t cut it).
Prior to the closure, Imagineering mocked up Incredibles-inspired mid-century modern test rooms at the Contemporary. The idea behind that was very similar to the Moana-inspired rooms (see below) announced for Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. While it has not yet been confirmed, our strong suspicion is that a similar character initiative will occur at the Contemporary.
While we’re not thrilled by the idea of an Incredibles IP-injection, as stated in our newest Contemporary Resort Report, 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. In addition to Incredibles stylization, here’s hoping this refurbishment also includes a decluttering and cleaner design for the common areas.
(Don’t be surprised if Grand Floridian is next up after the Contemporary and Poly are finished; 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.)
Fort Wilderness Campground – Work has been completed on the new Tri-Circle-D Ranch, and that location is now open to resort guests and those with reservations. Other work on a new playground and other enhancements in the Settlement is also finished and those walls have come down.
However, there are still walls up around the beach at Fort Wilderness and leading towards the former River Country water park site. This was previously for the next DVC project, but it’s widely believed and credibly rumored that Reflections – A Disney Lakeside Lodge has been cancelled. This is borne out by zero construction crews on site in months, the removal of concrete & rebar, and Disney quietly removing references to the project online. Accordingly, there is no audible/visible construction impact at Fort Wilderness, aside from the blight of those beach walls.
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 and delayed the reopening of the hotel side of the property until Summer 2021. The main work being done here is the construction of porte-cochère (concept art above) 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.
In addition to the Great Ceremonial House, soft goods room refurbishments are also occurring. Changes to the guest rooms will include a move to a Pacific Ocean-inspired color palette as well as details, patterns and textures from Moana, the Disney animated film that takes place on the Polynesian island of Motunui. While work continues and the hotel is closed, the DVC villas at the Polynesian remain open.
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.
As we reported in our new Photos & Report: Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort Problems & Progress, this project is now underway and will last through at least Summer 2021. We stayed in the new rooms this spring, and share thoughts, photos & video in Splendid New Rooms at Saratoga Springs Resort Tour. As of January 2021, Congress Park and the Springs sections are both finished–meaning preferred rooms are done. The Paddock section is also nearly finished, with work moving on to the Carousel.
Wilderness Lodge – This is a big project, with a top to bottom room redesign for the hotel side of Wilderness Lodge. Work has now been completed on the top three floors, including Club Level rooms and Old Faithful Club Lounge. Work is now underway on the lower two levels.
If the present pace is any indication, everything should be finished well ahead of the June 6, 2021 reopening date of Wilderness Lodge. Look to the new Copper Creek Villas for a rough approximation of what’s planned. Additionally, expect the addition of new feature wall art, walk-in showers, elevated beds, and removal of bunkbeds.
Work won’t end there. In 2022, 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. (See our new Boulder Ridge Report: Buy Low? for more insight and why we’re bullish on the property.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!