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.—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor

The Moderates Remix

By Dave Shute


Cabanas-Beach-2-at-Disneys-Coronado-Springs-ResortFor years now I’ve been advising first time visitors who may never return to avoid the moderates because, compared to alternatives like the Wilderness Lodge or Art of Animation, they are short on kid appeal.  They also have some real convenience issues…

This advice necessary follows the underlying logic of this site.  The site is meant to make the key Walt Disney World planning decisions fast and easy for first time visitors who may never return:

Disneys-Art-of-Animation-Resort-Standard-Little-Mermaid-Room-4-Story-Ariel1So to provide the specific instructions and the rankings, I had to develop ranking criteria.  It took me a couple of years before I went live with this site almost five years ago to establish for all the topics on the home page the ranking criteria, and then to get the data to use in the populating the rankings.

For where to stay, the ranking criteria came out as first kid appeal, and then, within kid appeal groups, breaking ties with convenience.  I also did rankings by price class, as I can’t think of any helpful way to set a priori the price tradeoffs among the price classes.

Disney-World-Resorts-Sorted-by-Kid-Appeal-and-Convenience (1)Kid appeal, as I define it, is principally visual, and it means whether the look of a resort has public space features that speak to kids of whimsy, playfulness, and/or adventure, signaling that that this resort was designed for them! (And not necessarily for their parents…)

I don’t mean that your kids won’t have a great time at the lower-kid appeal resorts.  The ranking is comparative, not absolute, and your kids can—and will!—have a ball at any of the Disney hotels. But there’s three deluxes and five value resorts with really distinctive kid appeal…

…yet there are no moderates with really distinctive kid appeal at that same high level.

So that’s the fundamental reason I don’t recommend moderates for first time family visitors who may never return.  My core criterion is kid appeal, and none of them really rises to the high level you can find in the other price classes that I can recommend it on the basis of kid appeal.

Annotated-Map-of-Disneys-Port-Orleans-Riverside-ResortThe moderates also have major transportation convenience problems, and all but Port Orleans French Quarter have a sprawling and sometimes painful layout.

But I do rank the moderates in order anyway for those who ignore my advice, or are not “first time family visitors who may never return.”  And here I do rank them by visual kid appeal—finding a slight edge to Caribbean Beach on this measure, because of its beaches, color and theming, a bit of an edge to Coronado Springs for similar reasons, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness bringing up the rear on this criterion.

The complete ranking based on these criteria is as follows

  1. Caribbean Beach
  2. Coronado Springs
  3. Port Orleans Riverside
  4. Port Orleans French Quarter
  5. The Cabins at Fort Wilderness


Exterior-4-Disneys-Port-Orleans-French-QuarterBut here’s the problem…if my sister called me and said “Dave, I’m gonna stay in a moderate—don’t try to talk me out of it—which one would you recommend to me, your sister?”  my answer would not be Caribbean Beach—it’d be Port Orleans French Quarter.

And not because of POFQ’s kid appeal, which is slim, and not because of transportation convenience, which, while better than the other moderates, is still weak.

Rather I’d recommend POFQ because of something not even in my criteria—it would be the compactness of POFQ compared to the other moderates, how much easier it is to get around there than at any other moderate, that would lead me to recommend it.

And for exactly the same reason I’d keep The Cabins last, but move Caribbean Beach to next to last—both these resorts are profoundly painful to get around.

I’m not quite sure where to slot Coronado Springs and Riverside on this “pain to get around” criterion.  Coronado Springs has a few more really awkward rooms (in the Ranchos section) than Riverside, but the very worst rooms in the Alligator Bayou section of Riverside are a fair hike away as well. So I’d put Riverside ahead of Coronado Springs, but not by much.

(Other points come into play with Coronado Springs.  It has many more amenities, and better and more varied dining and bars than any other moderate, but less fun room décor, and it sometimes can be overwhelmed by conventioneers.  So its extra positives get balanced out by its extra negatives.)

The main negative of French Quarter is the absence of a table service restaurant.  Frankly, the other moderate table service restaurants aren’t worth much anyway…I’d certainly never put dining at one on any of my itineraries…but this may be an issue to some.


Another way to think about this: the moderates are almost tied on kid appeal, and almost tied on transportation convenience.

Courtyard-2-Disneys-Port-Orleans-French-QuarterSo my basic criteria don’t much distinguish them. What if you throw those criteria out, and look at all other factors that contribute to a pleasant stay?  What’s the ranking then?  Well, based on the above, it’s

  1. Port Orleans French Quarter
  2. Port Orleans Riverside
  3. Coronado Springs
  4. Caribbean Beach
  5. The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

–with #1 a clear leader, 2 and 3 very close to one another, and 4 and 5 pretty distant from the top three.

So if I was gonna remix the moderates ranking, that’s what it would be.  Compare it to my basic list earlier on the page, where only one resort–the Cabins–has the same ranking, and #1 and #4 have flipped… and tell me what you think!

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1 Mike { 03.28.13 at 5:36 am }

I think your remix rankings get it right. POFQ may also be the clear winner in transportation/convenience with most buses to MK direct, not shared with Riverside, and no internal stops. In fact, our last trip most buses to all parks first thing in the AM were direct. Too bad everyone has caught on, never any discounts for anymore making it also the most expensive moderate.

2 Dave { 03.28.13 at 8:13 am }

Thanks Mike–all are good points!

3 Aaron { 03.28.13 at 9:08 am }

I think a quiet pool is the main feature POFQ is missing. It would also be cool if they opened up the test kitchen that’s on premises to guests in some way. I’m thinking a reservations only, pre fixe menu, behind the scenes tour from your table kind of thing. And they would serve you a meal based on whatever they were working on.

Unfortunately, no improvements are necessary because, as Mike has pointed out, it’s already the most popular moderate resort.

4 Dave M { 03.28.13 at 9:24 am }

For my kids, the main pool is the key attraction, and the Sea Serpent slides at POFQ was a huge win. They also loved the Louis-the-alligator-themed Murphy bed at Riverside (we stayed at the Riverside, and spent an afternoon at the POFQ pool, as well as a couple of afternoons at the River pool. We’ve stayed at the family suite at All-Star Music, and the pool was nice (and the kids love all the activities), but I’d give the moderates a much better score due to themed pool appeal – at least for my kids, the novelty of decorative architecture is far outweighed by a really cool slide at the pool.

5 Sharmon Brannen { 03.28.13 at 10:09 am }

We stayed at POFQ in Feb. 2012. We loved how compact and easy it was to get around. The lack of dining did not have any effect on us at all as our goal was to spend time in the parks! As for transportation, for us, the very best feature was the access and ease of taking a boat to and from downtown Disney. We used this every night. While Disney may be perceived as being mainly for kids, we had a great time and really enjoyed the lack of kid appeal. We are in our 40’s and children are grown, we wanted a vacation for us and POFQ was perfect. We are planning to visit again this December and we never even considered staying anywhere else!

6 Ginette { 03.28.13 at 5:47 pm }

First,thanks for all your help and advice in the last 8 months or so. We finally went to disney for the first time with our 2 girls (9 and7). 10 days. All disney. We did all the rides from teacups to roller coasters. We went the last week in February rather than mid march, at your suggestion. Very happy with our decision.

We were booked at art of animation but changed to riverside when a deal came. We were in a royal room, riverview, a step from the bridge to main building. The girls loved the rooms, the main pool with slide, the quiet pool steps from our room. One thing that they LOVED were the surrey bikes. I was surprised! We rented a 4 person bike twice. And rode around the resort. The rooms provided sufficient kid appeal and we enjoyed that it felt rural after a day on cement. Bus system was adequate. Never waited more than 10 min. although whether it was direct or a milk run was a mystery.
One more thing that surprised me was the girls’ favorite park. EPCOT!

Thanks again!

7 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:04 am }

Aaron, love the idea on opening the test kitchen! But as you note, Disney does not spend money that it doesn’t have to, so we won’t see that. And I have mixed feelings about whether quiet pools are features or bugs. You see a lot of them at sprawling resorts–OKW, POR CB, CS–because they are sprawling and the main pool is such a hike…

8 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:05 am }

Hey Dave great points–and there’s no question that a pool with a slide is better than one without one!

9 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:06 am }

Hi Sharmon, great points. Because I write for first time family visitors, DTD gets underplayed in my recommendations…for adults, the boat access is wonderful!

10 Dave { 03.29.13 at 7:12 am }

Hi Ginette, I’m so glad the site helped, and thanks for the report!

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11 Erin { 04.02.13 at 11:04 am }

I love the remix! We are taking our kids to WDW for the first time this fall, and we are struggling with POR vs POFQ. We like the PO setting, and feel that we needed something a little less Disney-In-Your-Face than AoA. We’re currently booked in a preferred room at POR because the kids really loved the AB Murphy bed. POFQ would have been my first choice, though. When the fall discounts are rolled out, I’m going to try and rationalize a switch to POFQ!

But honestly, the pools are fun, there is some good theming at both resorts, and there’s also the bonus of the boat to DTD. I think there’s a lot that PO offers to kiddos.

12 Dave { 04.02.13 at 12:51 pm }

Thanks, Erin, and I agree!!

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13 Tom { 04.05.13 at 2:48 pm }


our first trip to WDW was 4 years ago when my daughter had barely turned 1 yo and we had to walk around with the stroller everywhere. Perhaps with a bias towards Value resorts, since I considered them to be low class alternatives filled with fleas (erroneously as i discovered on later trips), we stayed at a Moderate one and Caribbean Beach was our choice. We were located at the other side of the front desk and we had to cross literally the resort to get to the food court. i must confess that the extra money we paid for it was not worth it in my opinion. Yes, it had a nice swimming pool that resembled a pirate ship, but that alone could not merit for the extra bucks spent.
I do think Art of Animation is as good a choice. Cheers!

14 Dave { 04.06.13 at 9:07 am }

Thanks, Tom!!

15 Beth { 10.01.15 at 12:25 pm }

LOVE your site. Great for everyone – even those of us who are not planning our 1st trip. We are planning our 3rd trip in late January,2016. I’m trying to decide between Royal Rooms at POR and Standard Rooms at Animal Kingdom. My biggest criteria is convenience. I have a 2 year old and will be going back to my room during the day for naps. We have stayed and Art of Animation and POFQ. Which resort would you recommend? I was hoping for Wilderness Lodge but missed the discount for this resort, so now I’m trying to figure out a Plan B. Thanks!

16 Dave { 10.01.15 at 1:52 pm }

Hi Beth, and thanks!!

It’s about the flip of a coin. AKL is further away from MK, but (for MK) has only two bus stops. POR is closer, but has 4 bus stops for MK, and often 5 for the other parks (adding POFQ). I suspect on average POR will be a little shorter, bit the average difference will be less than 5 minutes per trip. AKL as a resort is much more convenient, better pools, better dining, better views.

17 Beth { 10.01.15 at 2:09 pm }

That is pretty much what I was coming up with. Pros and Cons to both with no clear winner. I know that no matter where we go my kids will have a blast and that is what is important. Is there any place I’m missing that you think I should consider? With the discounts out there AKL and POR were pretty close to each other as far as price.

18 Dave { 10.02.15 at 1:43 pm }

Beth, with similar prices I’d do AKL in a heartbeat. The pool is much, much better, as is the overall architecture/themed environment, and the animals are very fun!

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