Have you ever thought about going to Walt Disney World and NOT going to a theme park? Although the theme parks are a lot of fun, I’ve found that sometimes the best vacation is just staying put at a resort. Not all resorts are created equal, however. Although the All Star Resorts are a good option if you just need a place to rest your head in between hours in the parks, they don’t provide the best vacation experience in terms of things to do if you’re just staying put. My family tends to do one or two staycation trips a year at Walt Disney World, and over the years we’ve developed our favorites. Here’s our picks for the best Walt Disney World staycation resorts.
Art of Animation
If you’re looking for a staycation on a budget, Art of Animation is a surprisingly good choice. Although it is classified in the value-ish category (and rooms like the Little Mermaid section scream “value-size”), if you can splurge a bit to go with the Cars suites, the rooms actually space that can make a staycation enjoyable. When it comes to dining, Landscape of Flavors has some really unique choices in food, and you get the benefit of being able to eat there or take a short walk across the way to Everything Pop at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Resort activities are what you’d expect–mostly pool parties and movies under the stars. But what really takes this resort up a notch is the Big Blue Pool. Yes, there are other pools (and for a quiet swim, the pool in the Cars section is fantastic), but the Big Blue Pool complex is amazing. It is easy to spend hours at a time there. Dude.
At the moderate level, the Port Orleans complex has a lot to offer. For me personally, I prefer French Quarter because it feels more quiet, and the smaller size means less walking to get to key features, but you can’t go wrong with either one. Even if you’re skipping the theme parks, being able to take a boat to Disney Springs opens up a world of possibilities for things to do. There are also a variety of things to do at Port Orleans that you don’t find at other resorts, including bike rentals and fishing, plus the “usual” movies under the stars, pool time, and playground. Like Art of Animation, having the two resort areas together means double the choices for meals. Oh, and did I mention beignets?
Fort Wilderness Cabins
When you think of staycation, Fort Wilderness should immediately come to mind because it is literally designed for staycations–ask anyone who brings down their RV with its own golf cart to stay for a month or so. If you’re dipping your toe into the world of staycations, a cabin at Fort Wilderness provides an experience that is unique to Walt Disney World. First, the cabin is actually bigger than some people’s first apartments (or was that just me with the high price of DC rents?). There’s plenty of room to spread out, bring some cards or a board game, and just enjoy family time. Looking for other things to do? Take a walk, bike ride, or golf cart ride around the resort to look for animals. Deer, turkey, and all sorts of birds, reptiles, and other small animals can be spotted throughout the resort. Looking for more active adventures? Try your hand at archery or go for a horseback ride. The pool areas are great to cool off, and you will likely find other families who would love to just hang out and let the kids play.
Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas (Jambo House and Kidani Village)
If time and finances permit, Animal Kingdom Lodge is my ultimate staycation resort choice. One complaint that comes up about Animal Kingdom Lodge is its remote location for getting to the theme parks. For a staycation, this not only is not a negative, it is a positive. You really feel like you are out away from it all. If you’re going to stay there, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend going the extra bit for a savanna view. There’s nothing like getting up, making a morning beverage of choice, and stepping out on your balcony to watch a giraffe walk by. For a lot of Disney’s promotional reels, what you see doesn’t always translate into reality. But for Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, the promotional shots you see are true to life. In addition, the restaurants on site are some of the best that Disney has to offer. The pool areas are spectacular. But aside from all of that (and that’s a lot just by itself), there are an insane amount of activities on a daily basis, either at your resort or accessible by a quick shuttle van ride or a brief walk. You can make animal enrichment feeders, learn about different cultures in Africa from people from different countries, take a culinary tour, or more. One favorite activity is animal viewing with night-vision goggles. If you’re staying over at Kidani, make sure to also check out what’s going on in the Community Hall. (You don’t need to be a DVC member to explore the amenities in the Community Hall, although some offerings may have additional fees for non-DVC members.)
So there you have my choices for the best places for a staycation at Walt Disney World. What are your thoughts? Have you ever done a staycation at any of these? Is there a resort you can’t believe I left off the list, or one you can’t believe I included? Let me know in the comments.