By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Picking Your Walt Disney World Resort Based on Appeal to Kids

By Dave Shute

OVERVIEW: DISNEY RESORT KID APPEAL

Disney World Resorts That Kids LOVE from yourfirstvisit.netYou and your kids can have a wonderful vacation at any Walt Disney World resort.

However, you will have the best first family Disney World trip if you go to a distinctively kid-appealing resort.  Because of this, and travel convenience, this site recommends Disney’s Polynesian Resort for those who can afford it, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort for those who can’t.

You may not be able to follow this direction.  For such families, listed below are the Disney resorts ranked in order of their kid appeal.

They are coded by price category as D for Deluxe, M for Moderate, V for Value, and DVC for Disney Vacation Club Resorts. (See this for details on what you get by price category.)

DISNEY WORLD RESORT HOTELS WITH GREAT KID APPEAL

1. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge  (D) and Villas (DVC) was designed to evoke the outdoorsy majesty of the great American National Park Lodges—buildings as glorious, exciting, and as promising of adventure as the great parks they serve, such as the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, and the Ahwahnee at Yosemite.

It succeeds spectacularly, indoors, outside, and in its hot spring/geyser themed pool area, and brings out in kids a sense that they are back in a larger-than-life old west, but one also of grace and beauty, where any adventure is possible.

2. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (D) and Villas (DVC).  The Lodge was designed by Peter Dominick, the architect behind the Wilderness Lodge, and has many of the same wonderful effects on kids.

It evokes safari adventure in Central Africa rather than the American wilderness, and adds to the architecturally-inspired sense of grand adventurous possibilities a glimpse of the exotic artifacts and architecture of sub-Saharan Africa, and actual views of wild animals in the savannas that surround most of the building.

3.  Disney’s Polynesian Resort (D) is designed to make the visitor think they are engaging in the lush, tropical, welcoming environment of the Pacific Islands, and was intended to be an appropriate backdrop to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom.

“Polynesia” was a more powerful adventure concept in the early 70s, when the resort first opened, and American culture was still influenced by the World War II romance of the South Pacific.

Even so, children still immediately understand that they are in an imitated world like no other they have every seen, bringing its own new and exciting things to see: dramatic and adventurous roof lines,  unusual tropical plants and trees, and exotic decorations.  Plus the flaming torches that line the pathways at night are really cool!

4. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (V). As deeply themed as any resort on property, and more “Disney” themed than any other.

Sections evoke the settings and characters of Finding Nemo, the Lion King and Cars (all family suites) and of Little Mermaid (all standard rooms).  The section themes are deeply carried into the rooms themselves.

5,6,7,8 (All V) Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Movies,
Sports, and Music Resorts. The appeal of these four value resorts to kids often utterly escapes their parents.  Essentially they are standard three (All-Stars) and four story (Pop) concrete motel blocks, painted in uncommon colors, surrounded by sculpture.

But to a kid, what colors, and what sculpture!  A 40 foot Roger Rabbit!  Equally large sculptures of Buzz Lightyear, Baloo, Dalmations (fewer than 101!), cowboy boots, a Big Wheel, and footballs!  Dozens more huge icons!

Kids will have seen nothing like this anywhere else, and they both get the immediate joy that kids always receive from either miniatures or larger than life figures, and understand that these objects were meant for their entertainment, and not for the pleasure of anyone else.

Among these four, the 40-foot tall character sculptures make Pop Century more “Disney-like” than the All-Stars. John Hench, a Disney Legend, noted in his book Designing Disney that “these beautiful sculptures [at Pop Century] are astonishing, unforgettable, and … have proven immensely popular.”

SOME KID APPEAL, FOR SOME KIDS

9. Disney’s Contemporary Resort (D) was, along with the Polynesian, one of the original two resorts to open when the Magic Kingdom opened, and was intended to complement the Tomorrowland section of the park.

The hotel’s atrium, traversed by the monorail, can be jaw-droppingly spectacular on first view.  The drama quickly fades, however, and the architectural experience reverts to its core sterile brutalism.

Bay Lake Tower, a DVC property adjacent to the Contemporary, is not so brutal, but to kids still uninteresting.

10. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (M) can also be initially exotic for children, perhaps from Boston, who have never seen buildings in so many vibrant colors before. The strong scattering of beaches around the property also intrigues kids. The recently renovated pool (including the only themed baby pool at WDW!) is now as attractive to kids as any at WDW except for the Yacht and Beach Clubs. The recently redecorated rooms include strong pirate theming in Trinidad South (not recommended; too distant) and light Nemo theming elsewhere.

11. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (M) can be architecturally exotic for children with no familiarity with southwestern or Mexican architecture. Nothing is as dramatic or adventurous as the resorts listed in the first group.

NO KID APPEAL

This discussion continues on this page.

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23 comments

1 Hi Dave { 08.01.11 at 6:53 am }

Do you have any pics of the actual rooms from one of the Value resorts ?? All Star Movies or All Star sports ?

2 Dave { 08.01.11 at 7:59 am }

Yup, in my value resorts section which begins here: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/08/04/the-value-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/ There’s next to no difference in rooms across the values so any of my photos should do!

3 Brianne { 05.13.12 at 10:39 pm }

My mom is taking the kids age 3 and 9, and I to Disney for my daughter’s 10th birthday. I have stayed at Pop Century and Animal Kingdom with my daughter before and loved them and hated them both for different reasons. However, my mom can not afford anything like Animal Kingdom Resort and was leaning towards a Moderate hotel. I am leaning towards the new Art of Animation Value resort but am hesitant because the beds were SO uncomfortable when we went and my mom has a bad back. What do you suggest.

4 Dave { 05.14.12 at 11:53 am }

Hi Brianne! I dunno much about beds and backs, but here’s a couple of thoughts.

1. Insofar as this helps, the moderates except CB have all gotten/are getting new beds (queens) and of course AofA will have new beds…

2. Given will the three year old be in a crib or in a bed? If a bed, you probably want three beds…which you can get in a family suite at AofA, or at the Alligator Bayou section of the moderate Port Orleans Riverside…

3. AofA family suites cost about $100 more a night than a moderate, but you get more space, a private bedroom for your mom, a microwave, two baths…

5 Sally { 08.07.12 at 11:08 am }

Dave, Our large family will be reduced by half when we go to Disney in late November for 3 nights. I am taking our youngest 2 children (ages 4 and 5) as our older boys (12 and 10) would rather do a sports-oriented trip with my husband (and we took them to Disney 6 years ago). Anyway, our needs for room size will be less so I am considering the resorts with the smaller rooms for value. We won’t need to run back & forth for naps so it’s not imperative we stay super close (Polynesian) though we don’t want to be too far away. I thought the Wilderness Lodge would be a good fit for us but the pool didn’t seem very impressive. Am I right? Have been scouring the maps and photos to try to figure this out. Other than the volcano it didn’t seem too exciting for little kids. I love the idea of lots of beaches and playgrounds like you get at Caribbean Beach resort and the pools looked varied and interesting – also think we’d be ok with 2 full size beds. Is this a good choice for us? Would the Beach Club be better? What is your estimate on travel time to Magic Kingdom with boats/walks etc. from there?
Another question/food-related. My 5 year old son can’t tolerate artificial ingredients and preservatives (my daughter is fine in this regard). Should I assume all Disney dining is normal amusement park fair in the sense that there will be few all natural/organic selections? Does the Caribbean have mini fridge/microwave in the rooms? I will have to come up with meals for him and really need that option in the rooms. Dining plan probably is not worthwhile in this case right?
Thanks!
Sally

6 Dave { 08.07.12 at 1:17 pm }

Hi Sally, any of the three choices you note would be terrific.

I think WL is overall the most stunningly kid-appealing hotel on property. Beach Club has the best pool, but is not as convenient to MK or as fun otherwise. CB is just what you note. You can find reviews of all these from the links on this page: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/04/26/walt-disney-world-resort-hotel-reviews/

In each case, it’s about 20 mins to MK.

No microwaves in any of these rooms. For a microwave, you need either a Family Suite or a DVC studio.

Disney is fantastic when it comes to special diets. Suggest you buy this book–it’ll tell you what they can do and what you need to do to take advantage of it: PassPorter’s Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line: Easy Access Vacations for Travelers with Extra Challenges

7 shaneeka { 12.25.12 at 11:27 pm }

Hi, I’m planning a trip to Disney world for my daughter’s 4th bday but I don’t know whereto stay, I wanted somewhere near the theme park and have a pool in the resort and serve meals, any suggestions pls email me, thanks

8 Dave { 12.26.12 at 8:26 am }

Hi Shaneeka, any hotel on this page will fit the bill: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/04/26/walt-disney-world-resort-hotel-reviews/ They are grouped by price (lowest first) and within price groups are ranked in order!

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9 Paola { 05.19.13 at 10:20 am }

Hi, we are planning our vacation with a 2 years old boy. We want to find something close and accessible to MK. We would like to have fridge and microwave. Also nice for the boy and us. We’ve been checking but the more we see, the more confused we are… Please any recommendations? This is our first time over there. Thanks in advance

10 Dave { 05.20.13 at 8:48 am }

Hi Paola, the microwave very much limits your options. The room that best meets your goals–very close to MK, fridge, and microwave–is a studio at Bay Lake Tower. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/09/13/review-bay-lake-tower-at-disneys-contemporary-resort/

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11 Mary Deaver { 10.02.13 at 8:44 am }

I need something with at least 3 bedrooms and a couch that turns into a bed.. It will be 7 adults and 2 maybe 3 kids..Let me know of pricing and where it is.. Something close ..

12 Dave { 10.03.13 at 7:41 am }

Mary, there’s nothing except for wildly expensive grand villas on site that meets your needs. The closest is the treehouses, which sleep 9–but the third bedroom has two bunk beds. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2009/08/16/review-the-treehouses-at-disneys-saratoga-springs-resort-and-spa/ You’ll need ot either go off site or have multiple rooms. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/planning-your-first-family-trip/special-circumstances/special-circumstances-large-families/

Was this even remotely helpful?

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13 sharon labraney { 05.01.14 at 11:35 pm }

I am 65 and son and wife 4 kids and 56old ant too place to stay cheap bit good.

14 Dave { 05.02.14 at 6:59 am }

Sharon, on Disney property there’s no cheap option that will hold all of you. The cheapest option on property is to book multiple value resort rooms. See this: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2010/08/04/the-value-resorts-at-walt-disney-world/

15 Donna { 07.21.14 at 11:30 pm }

Hi, travelling with a 1 yr old and 4 yr old, both of whom nap and sleep well! Looking for a hotel with
1.views over the park, so we can stay in but still see the fireworks? Perhaps a street parade?
2. Easy / quick access to return for naps
Thanks

16 Dave { 07.22.14 at 6:17 am }

Donna, there’s no hotels with views into the parks. The only one from which you can see fireworks from your room is the Contemporary Resort–if you purchase a theme park view. It is also the hotel that’s most convenient to the park that kids the age of your love best, the Magic Kingdom. See this for the scoop on it: http://yourfirstvisit.net/2014/06/25/review-disneys-contemporary-resort-2/

17 Reco { 05.23.16 at 11:28 am }

I’m planning a trip to Disney in September for me my wife and 3 kids ages 4, 3(turning 3 at Disney in September) and 10 month old. I’m looking for the best resort that could accommodate us with space and activities for kids. Last year we stayed at Port Orleans french quarter and the rooms weren’t very spacious, but there was plenty to do with kids and they loved the ferry and pool. Any suggestions

18 Reco { 05.23.16 at 11:38 am }

And we are staying for 6 days

19 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 05.24.16 at 9:27 am }

Hi Reco – I would recommend staying in a Family Suite at Disney\’s Art of Animation. You\’ll have room for the kids to move around. 2 bathrooms, and a mini kitchen. And talk about kid appeal, none better than AoA. It\’s just over the top fun and Disney. I would love to help you plan your upcoming vacation. You can contact me at KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499

20 Dave { 05.25.16 at 9:28 am }

Reco, for Disney World, POFQ has pretty big bedroom spaces, so if you want bigger ones, aim for the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, or Polynesian.

21 Walt Disney World Helpful Planning Links – Grandpax's Walt Disney World Helpful Information { 11.27.16 at 1:00 pm }

[…] Resorts That Appeal To Kids […]

22 JJ { 12.07.16 at 11:06 pm }

hello,
i just wanted to take my 2 year old daughter to disney resort but I am not sure which one to choose and I also want to know what are the things we can do in resort and do I have to take her to any of the theme park too or there will be enough rides in resort. Thank you!

23 Dave { 12.09.16 at 8:17 am }

JJ, there’s no rides in the resort hotels. I would do neither, but rather wait til she is older.

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