Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Best Resort For Each Park

I try to do a few things with this blog - make some posts with current, relevant Disney news, as well as giving my commentary on that news, break down some hard data and write some fun, opinion pieces.  Those first two aren't necessarily "fun" posts but I think they're important in the context of planning a Disney World trip.  

I noticed I've done a lot of those first two posts lately and not a lot of that third, more fun type.  I'm not even sure this one qualifies!  But sometimes I just like to give my opinion about various things Disney - if I didn't want to write things like this, why do I have a blog at all (you might be asking yourself that anyway)?  So today I wanted to talk about various resorts throughout Walt Disney World property and come up with the "best" resort to stay at for each park.

A few caveats, as always.  First, any list of "best" anything is colored by opinion.  Anyone can love (or hate) one particular aspect of a resort/park/meal/etc and that informs their opinion on them for the future.  That's no different here, so when I say best in this case, I mean the resort(s) that makes the most sense for ease of access to a nearby park.  

Now, I assume when most people take a vacation to Disney World, they visit all four parks.  Therefore a list of best hotels for each individual park might not seem that helpful, but rather a list of best hotels in general would make more sense.  My short version of that is one of two things - either stay in the Crescent Lake area to have close proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, or stay on the monorail loop for easy access to Magic Kingdom and a quick monorail ride to Epcot.  

But let's assume that you want to spend the majority of your time at one park - that park is often Magic Kingdom, but it could certainly be Epcot for you Food and Wine people, or Hollywood Studios if you really love Star Wars.  I guess it could even be Animal Kingdom, though I don't know many (or any) people who spend the majority of their time at that park (though this can change if and when they ever expand the park with the rumored Moana and/or Zootopia lands).

In any case, this post will look at each park and mention the best resort to stay if you want to focus almost exclusively on that one park.  The first option here is always a deluxe resort, which is our favorite way to stay largely thanks to renting DVC points to reduce a lot of that cost.  I've also included a lower cost choice as well, and discuss reasons why I chose both.  It probably goes without saying, but these are all on property resorts.  We've discussed whether to stay on or off property in the past and while I wouldn't fault anyone for staying off property, there's no good way to make a post like this about those resorts.  A large part of the reasoning behind the resorts listed below is proximity, and there are no off property resorts that will get you that same access.

Without further ado, let's start with the most visited theme park in the world:

Magic Kingdom: 
Top Choice - Grand Floridian
Budget Choice - Fort Wilderness

There are a bunch of resorts that are focused on Magic Kingdom, and with good reason - it's the flagship park, the most attended one and the park most synonymous with Disney World.  The most secluded resort with easy access to Magic Kingdom is the Wilderness Lodge, which is accessible by boat.  But the most well known (and expensive) resorts in close proximity to that park are the Seven Seas Lagoon resorts, often referred to as the monorail loop.

Any one of these resorts is good for access to Magic Kingdom. In the example above factoring in ALL parks, my preferred choice is the Polynesian, my favorite resort in all of Disney World.  But if we're just considering Magic Kingdom, the Poly loses out to the other two, since they're both much more walkable to the park (it is certainly possible to walk from the Poly, but it is a longer and more tiring proposition).

That leaves the Contemporary and Grand Floridian.  The Contemporary (and its DVC neighbor, Bay Lake Tower) has the shortest walk (0.6 miles, according to Google).  But the Grand Floridian's walk is only 0.8 miles and that latter resort has a leg up in a couple of other areas.  For one, I just think it's a nicer resort overall.  It is majestic, and truly befitting its flagship status.  It is definitely more expensive on average, but I'm not making that a big consideration here when we talk about the "best."

One other factor relates to the rooms at the villas, which is what you would get if you rented DVC points (our usual method).  In a standard villa room, Bay Lake Tower has a queen bed and a double pull out sleeper, while the Grand Floridian has a queen bed, a queen pullout sleeper and a pulldown daybed.  The ability to sleep five people (as well as the larger second bed) might be important to you (as it is to us).  That gives Grand Floridian the edge here.

The budget option is Fort Wilderness.  The campgrounds are a world to themselves, and not always something people want.  But you can stay at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness and while it might not be that much cheaper through Disney, these rooms are bookable through Priceline and other travel agent sites.  It's likely the closest resort you can stay in relation to Magic Kingdom besides what was discussed above.  Every other resort has bus service from further away, and are beyond the scope of this particular niche post.  

Top Choice - Beach Club
Budget Choice - POP Century

As mentioned above, the best resorts for Epcot are the Crescent Lake resorts, composed of Beach Club, Boardwalk and Yacht Club.  Really any of these are good for Epcot-centric trips, and it will largely be a matter of taste as to what speaks to you.  One factor here is that Yacht Club does not have DVC Villas, meaning you can't rent points to stay there.  That by default makes it the most expensive option of the three.

In this case, I went with proximity as the deciding factor, and it's hard to get any closer to Epcot than the Beach Club, which is a mere 0.2 mile walk to the International Gateway.  It's as close as you can get to actually staying in a park, Epcot or otherwise.  The barrier to entry is so low that it's easy to talk yourself into walking over just to catch the fireworks even after a long day elsewhere.

The budget choice here is Pop Century.  Really, the next best thing to walking to Epcot is taking the Skyliner, so I went with what is often the least expensive resort on the Skyliner route.  To me, it's almost always worth it to stay here (or Art of Animation) as opposed to the All Stars - a little more expense for a nicer resort and Skyliner access is a big deal.  

Hollywood Studios:
Top Choice - Boardwalk Inn
Budget Choice - Caribbean Beach Resort

Most of what I said about Epcot above would apply to Hollywood Studios as well, given the proximity of the two parks to each other.  But it would be an easy cop out to use the same choices for both parks, so I went with some additional ones here.

The Crescent Lake resorts are all walkable to Hollywood Studios, as well as Epcot, but the walk to the former is longer across the board.  The walk from Boardwalk is the closest, though it's not a wide margin (0.8 miles, again, according to Google).  The villas (DVC section) are at the end closest to Hollywood Studios, so for that reason, Boardwalk gets the nod here.  But again, all of these are good choices - it's a matter of a small distance only.

The other resort I considered in this spot was actually the Swan, which by technicality is not an official Disney resort. But both the Swan and Dolphin are essentially Disney resorts, and both are in this same vicinity.  But the walking distance from the Swan was actually the same as the Boardwalk, so I didn't let that be a factor here.  It's possible you can get a better deal on the Swan, so keep that in mind for a similar experience.

The "budget" option in this case is Caribbean Beach Resort.  This is the only budget entry that's not much of a bargain on price alone, as it is a moderate resort instead of a value.  Caribbean is generally the best of the moderate resorts anyway, both in theme and location, and its status as the "hub" of the Skyliner route is a big plus.  I listed it here because it has the only direct route to Hollywood Studios - no slowing down or changing at a different station.  That convenience alone made it my choice here, though Pop or any other Skyliner resort would be nearly as good (and likely cheaper).

Animal Kingdom:
Top Choice - Animal Kingdom Lodge
Budget Choice - All Star Sports

Animal Kingdom is the hardest resort to make a case for here.  Most people, as I said, aren't planning trips around many days at this park.  And it is the only one of the four parks to not have any transportation options available besides bus - no monorail, Skyliner, boat or even a walking option (despite the close proximity, Animal Kingdom Lodge is not walkable from the park).

But if we had to choose one, Animal Kingdom Lodge is our pick here.  The biggest selling point for the resort is that the theme is continued from the park.  Get a savannah view room and see the animals right outside your balcony.  It has a ton of great, underrated dining options as well, and despite the fact that it's not walkable, it is the closest of the resorts to that park.  It also tends to be the least expensive of the deluxe resort options, which is always a good reason to choose it.

The other option here is All Star Sports.  With the Skyliner not being a factor, I went with the least expensive value option.  With all things being equal (and the All Stars are in general), I picked the one closest to the parks, though those resorts often share bus service anyway.  Again, I would often spring for the slight upgrade to Pop or Art of Animation, but strictly from a budget and location perspective, this is the budget pick.

So there you have.  Let me know if you think I'm dead wrong about any of these if you want.  If nothing else, this was a good way to talk about some resorts that I don't often talk or think about.  

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