As you may recall, Disney recently announced an update to the décor at its Contemporary Resort, which most notably includes several nods to The Incredibles in the room design. This, predictably, prompted effusive gushing from one arm of the Disney community, and the gnashing of teeth from the other. Why the venom, you may ask? Well, the primary objection has to do with the introduction of Disney characters and designs into Disney resorts. That frankly seems like kind of a silly reason to be upset as I say it out loud, but the fact remains that some think of their resort, or at least their room, as a sanctuary from the perpetual onslaught of all things Disney that you find in the parks.
You’re at Disney, and you’re not going to be able to avoid Disney IP entirely – every Disney hotel is going to have, at a minimum, some nods to the Mouse woven into the décor. There do remain, however, several Disney resorts where the references to Disney characters is minimized. So, without further ado, let’s dive into our Top 5 Disney Resorts To Escape From Disney!
Despite being a short boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom, the Wilderness Lodge (and the surrounding Villas and campground) feels like a different place entirely. There are allusions to Disney stories and characters throughout, of course, but they largely feel more like Easter eggs to be discovered more than overt, in-your-face design elements. The lobby, for example, screams “Pacific Northwest” much louder than “Disney.” It’s one of the most escapist places on property, and you might have to remind yourself at times that you’re still in Orlando. Even if you’re not staying there, it’s a great place to tour if you need a little vacation from your vacation.
The rooms are not overtly Disney-fied, either. It’s clear that the intent of the design was to keep you in the “wilderness” mindset, and while there are little reminders that you’re at Walt Disney World in the rooms, they aren’t going to jump out at you.
This is not to say that there are no obvious Disney touches at all — there certainly are, like this totem outside the gift shop. With that said, given the relative dearth of this sort of thing overall, its inclusion is more of a charming surprise than it might be amidst a sea of other Disney references.
Yacht & Beach Club
The Yacht & Beach Club (which I tend to think of as a single resort even though they are technically distinct spaces that share a pool complex) is another place that really transports you, and does so without overlaying the place with Disney Characters. The exterior is more consistent with a resort in the Hamptons than Central Florida, and the decor is decidedly nautical at both resorts.
Yacht Club is more about being ON the water, as you might expect, with lots of navigational touches, as compared to the lighter, more beach-y energy of the Beach Club, but neither of them scream Disney in the common areas.
One of the main benefits of staying at the Yacht & Beach Club is having access to Stormalong Bay. Despite being the best pool complex on property, Stormalong Bay doesn’t make slavish use of Disney IP in selling its theme.
The rooms at Yacht Club feature navy blues and dark wood, without overt references to Disney characters or properties.
At Beach Club, the rooms are similarly decorated with any eye towards the beach vibe, with lighter blue greens and seashell art. There are Disney touches, like the incorporation of the iconic Mickey head in the shower curtain, but you might not notice them if you’re not looking.
Please pardon the inclusion of a third deluxe hotel in my list, but the simple fact of the matter is that Disney relies more upon the inclusion of IP as a crutch from a design standpoint at the Value and Moderate resorts. Accordingly, the short cut here is that if you’re wanting the references to Disney properties to be more subtle, you really need to target the Deluxe resorts. Disney World’s flagship resort, the Grand Floridian, and its Victorian-era design, continues this trend, making limited obvious references to Disney IP.
This is not to say that Disney doesn’t sneak a little bit in, but it’s definitely subtle, and you might not notice it right off the bat…
For example, there’s a Mickey head worked into the flourish on the chair back.
And even where there is Disney branding, it is in some cases for the Grand Floridian itself rather than any Disney IP.
Coronado Springs Resort
The lesson from this article so far is that if you want to minimize the overt Disney references at your resort, it’s best to stick with the Deluxe properties, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to be awash in Disney IP if you don’t. Amongst the moderates, Coronado Springs feels the most “mature” (which is understandable given that it caters to conventions), and it also lacks the themed rooms you’ll find at Caribbean Beach (Pirates) or Port Orleans (Princess rooms at Riverside). The lobby in the Gran Destino Tower is a mix of contemporary and southwestern decor that manages to avoid screaming “Disney” even though there’s a massive painting of Walt Disney himself on the wall.
The Dig Site, the pool at Coronado, has an archeological tilt to it that would fit it just fine at a similarly themed non-Disney resort. It’s a great pool area, and the relative absence of Disney characters makes it very easy to buy into the theme.
The grounds at Coronado are quite nice, and do not rely at all upon Disney characters as design elements.
At night, the Gran Destino Tower is the focal point of the resort — not Mickey and the Fab 5.
The rooms likewise use minimal references to Disney characters. There are nods in the artwork, but it’s pretty subtle and tasteful.
The Value properties make the most overt use of Disney IP among the hotel tiers, and the décor in all of these hotels has a lot of over the top elements. Not all of those elements are Disney-focused, however. I’ll start with this: if you’re looking to avoid Disney IP at your resort, cross Art of Animation off of your list — it makes generous use of these elements (to great effect, I might add, but if that’s not what you’re looking for, that’s not what you’re looking for), and you’re going to see Disney characters at pretty much every turn. Among the others, they are pretty much interchangeable when it comes to Disney IP, and you’re going to find Mickey heads in borders and artwork in your room. With that said, if I had to pick one Value resort where the over the top design elements focus on other stuff, it would be All-Star Music.
The rooms at the various All-Star Resorts share some design elements, though the Disney elements at All-Star Music are relatively minimal.
The main Disney nod you’ll notice in the room is the border on the table, featuring the classic Mickey head as a design element. You’ll find this same table in the other All-Star Resorts as well, but there are additional Disney character references as well at those resorts not found at All-Star Music.
Honorable Mention — Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
This should actually be number 1 on this list, because it’s in a prime Crescent Lake location, has deluxe-level amenities for a fraction of the price, and has rooms that are utterly devoid of any Disney decor at all. I get that that’s a negative for some, but the purposes of this article, it would make this resort complex the clear winner — if it were a Disney resort. Despite being on Disney property, however, they are Marriott properties, and thus I left them out in the interest of fairness. For more detail on why you ought to consider the Swan and Dolphin for a trip, however, check out my article discussing the pros and cons of these properties.
So, what’s your favorite resort when you want a break from Disney while at Disney? Let us know in the comments!