Choosing a resort is a tough decision, especially when Disney makes every resort look so tempting. And since you’re going to spend a good chunk of change on a place to call home during your vacation, you want to make sure it’s a good fit for you. Being a short boat or monorail ride away from the flagship park, Magic Kingdom, is a great place to start. So, to help you narrow it down to a specific resort in that area, we’re going to compare Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, Wilderness Lodge, and the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Villas associated with these resorts.
TouringPlans provides two different sets of ratings for each resort. First, we have a set from paid, knowledgeable inspectors with expertise in hotels, restaurants, and theme parks. Second, we ask readers of the Unofficial Guide and TouringPlans.com to submit a survey after their trips. The resulting data for the Magic Kingdom Resorts are shown below.
On the plus side, all the resorts rate favorably among both the experts and our readers. You really can’t go wrong. But if we had to pick a winner, Grand Floridian Resort for non-DVC bookings and Bay Lake Tower for DVC bookings are the two most recommended by readers and experts alike. If you’re interested in Bay Lake Tower but are unfamiliar with Disney Vacation Club, the good news is that you don’t need to be a DVC member to stay there. You can book directly through Disney or by renting DVC points. Renting points can save a ton of money, and we’re big fans of David’s Vacation Club Rental here at TouringPlans. (Disclaimer: When you use this link to book a DVC rental, TouringPlans gets a percentage of the sale.)
For the most part, view options are similar across the resorts except for Wilderness Lodge. Because it’s situated so far back from Magic Kingdom, they technically don’t offer Theme Park View rooms, though some rooms on upper floors sport a view of Cinderella Castle at a distance. Unlike the other resorts, they do offer a room option with bunk beds. Here’s what the room options look like for each resort:
Most of your amenities will be similar across the resorts. Exceptions include:
- Fitness Center – Polynesian Village Resort does not have a fitness center onsite. However, guests are welcome to use the facilities at Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
- Pools – Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Polynesian Village Resort, and Wilderness Lodge each have two pools. Bay Lake Tower has an additional pool for DVC guest use only. Most of the pools are nicely themed. However, the Contemporary pools do leave a bit to be desired compared to the others (for instance, the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower have a modest splash pad instead of a water playground for kids), so keep that in mind if the pool is a priority.
- Tennis – Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower Resorts are the only ones with a tennis court.
- Bike Rentals – If you’re looking to rent bikes, Wilderness Lodge is the only resort with that option available.
- Other Amenities – Sammy Duvall’s at the Contemporary offers a variety of water sports for an additional cost including parasailing, wake boarding, tubing, water skiing, and personal watercraft rental. Sea Raycers are available for rental from all Magic Kingdom area resorts.
Otherwise, all the resorts are Disney owned and therefore provide the same access to Extra Magic Hours, FastPass+, Magical Express transportation to and from the airport, suites, concierge-level rooms, free Wi-Fi, self-parking ($24), valet parking ($33), and complimentary park transportation.
With all the resorts in the same area, getting from one resort to another for dining isn’t too difficult. However, there’s a convenience factor to having some of the best restaurants just a few steps away in your own resort. With that in mind, here’s what each resort has to offer from a restaurant perspective with ratings provided by our readers:
Grand Floridian lives up to its luxurious reputation with more options and generally more highly rated restaurants. It’s also home to the famous Victoria & Albert’s. Wilderness Lodge is the only one without a character meal.
- Monorail – Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian Resorts all sit along the resort monorail line, which provides easy access to Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center (for transfer to the Epcot monorail). That leaves Wilderness Lodge as the odd man out as far as the monorail goes.
- Boat – All the resorts except the Contemporary provide boat service to Magic Kingdom.
- Walkway – The Contemporary (and Bay Lake Tower) have the distinct advantage of being within a short walk of the entrance to Magic Kingdom. Polynesian Village Resort is a quick walk from the Transportation and Ticket Center, which essentially makes it directly accessible to both Magic Kingdom and Epcot monorail lines.
- Bus – For all other parks, each of the resorts provide bus service.
Average commute times are shown below.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, Wilderness Lodge lags behind the others in some key areas like monorail access and dining options. However, when it comes to price, Wilderness Lodge is the clear favorite for lowest cost option available. Pricing can vary based on the type of room and booking season, so we include a range for each below.
In the end, I think it really comes down to your vacation style. If you’re planning to spend most of your time at Magic Kingdom, the walkway to/from Disney’s Contemporary can’t be beat for convenience. For those looking for a luxurious retreat, Grand Floridian is the go-to recommendation. Hoping for a relaxed or romantic getaway? Then Polynesian Village Resort could be the way to go. And when it comes to value – the convenience of a Magic Kingdom Resort for the lowest price – Wilderness Lodge has your back.
Which one is your favorite Magic Kingdom Resort and why? Let us know in the comments below!