If there’s one thing I know about the Orlando area, it’s that Walt Disney World always gets it right. Throughout the resort, there’s an almost absurd attention to the little details that make a vacation perfect. I believe in their magic—and especially the magic of their accommodations—so much so that I even got married there in early 2014 (with my reception at the Grand Floridian and many of my guests staying at the Contemporary, both of which you’ll find below). Disney’s nearly 40-square mile property includes 36 hotels, 26 of which are owned and operated by Walt Disney World. (The others are official Disney hotel partners, including the fabulous Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels near Epcot.) You really can’t go wrong staying anywhere on property. Plus, all hotels include Extra Magic Hours (early or late theme park access) and free transportation from the airport. Here are my favorites:
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
A sprawling and gorgeous Victorian-style resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian evokes the Palm Beach of yesteryear, and boasts 867 rooms and suites, including 181 on the concierge floors. The most lavish resort on Disney property, it features a Monorail stop for easy access to the Magic Kingdom, a white sand beach, a luxurious spa, and even a live orchestra in the lobby. In my opinion, it’s the most magical hotel in the Orlando area.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
This 14-story deluxe resort is as close as you can get to the Magic Kingdom. In fact, if you get a park-view room, you’ll be able to see the park’s spectacular fireworks display. The Contemporary is one of Disney’s original resorts, and it’s a favorite among kids both because it’s home to both Chef Mickey’s and because the Monorail cuts right through the hotel.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
The Polynesian Village Resort, a South Pacific-themed paradise, is also along the Monorail track. Like the Contemporary, it’s one of Disney’s original classic resorts. It features more than 800 rooms and suites, koi ponds and torch-lined walkways and beaches, all themed around the islands of Polynesia. The property also hosts the “Spirit of Aloha” dinner show and Club Disney, a popular supervised children’s activity center.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Sitting right on a 46-acre African-themed savanna, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers views of more than 200 birds and animals, including zebras, giraffes and gazelles, 24 hours a day. At night, you can even borrow night-vision glasses to view the wildlife. The upscale hotel also features one of the largest collections of African art in the United States.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Upscale amenities meet the wilderness in this lakeside property near the Magic Kingdom that evokes the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone Park. Totem poles, a stone fireplace, a bubbling hot spring and a waterfall-fed swimming area add extra ambiance to the resort, which includes nature trails, bike and boat rentals, and easy access to the theme parks.