The Four Upscale Neighbourhoods of Walt Disney World: #LuxuryDisney
The Four Upscale Neighbourhoods of Walt Disney World: #LuxuryDisney
Where to stay to be with the luxury Disney crowd at Walt Disney World
While Walt Disney World started humbly enough back in 1971 (there were only two resort hotels and a campground), it has since grown and expanded into a massive and complex resort destination. The 43 square miles that is Walt Disney World boasts its own government and infrastructure, over 60,000 cast members and even has a transit service that equals (or surpasses) those offered by many major cities (except this one is free for Disney Resort guests).
As the growth unfolded over the decades, planned communities of resort hotels emerged from nondescript swamplands, creating what I refer to as Disney neighbourhoods within the overall area that is Walt Disney World. And with that, Disney’s Deluxe Resort hotels and villas (the highest level of comfort and accommodation offered by Disney onsite) are clustered into four main neighbourhoods that are the most prized areas to stay.
The Four Upscale Neighbourhoods of Walt Disney World are:
- The Magic Kingdom Resort Area
- The Boardwalk/Epcot Resort Area
- The Disney Springs Resort Area
- The Animal Kingdom Resort Area
These are the four upscale areas within Walt Disney World that offer the best hotels, fine dining, exceptional amenities and the best proximity to Disney Parks that you can get.
So which Walt Disney World Deluxe Resort neighbourhood is right for you? Here are my top picks in order of desirability.
The Magic Kingdom Resort Area
This is the original and oldest neighbourhood at Walt Disney World and it’s still the best (in my opinion) and most revered. This is the top neighbourhood to stay in if you want to be in a premium location within sight of Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park (for three of the four hotels).
There are four main Resort Hotels here, each offering both hotel rooms and deluxe villas from which to choose. All properties front on the picturesque shores of either Seven Seas Lagoon or Bay Lake, the two main bodies of water that are connected by means of an overpass/tunnel on World Drive constructed near Disney’s Contemporary Resort hotel.
If you want to immerse yourself in a sense of history, choose between Disney’s two original resort hotels: Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. If want to stay in the best-of-the-best of Disney Resort hotels, then Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa should top your list. Or, if you like the idea of staying in this top-shelf community, but you prefer to be a little off the beaten track, then Disney’s Wilderness Lodge may be worth considering (even though it lacks the much coveted monorail access that is part of the appeal of this original Walt Disney World neighbourhood).
You can’t really go wrong in any of these four properties and staying here is definitely the place to be. It’s as self contained as it gets when it comes to any Walt Disney World resort community. It also offers two pretty spectacular accommodation options in the Bora Bora Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and the Cascade Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, for guests who really want to take it to the limit.
The Epcot/Boardwalk Resort Area
Clustered around the shores of Crescent Lake not far from the World Showcase Entrance to Epcot are three more Deluxe Disney Resort hotels (two of which also offer Deluxe Villa accommodations): Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn each offer Disney Deluxe Villas in addition to traditional hotel rooms, while Disney’s Yacht Club Resort offers hotel rooms only.
This neighbourhood is bustling with activity and boasts the bonus of being within very close range of two Walt Disney World theme parks: Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
A room here is generally a little less expensive than the Magic Kingdom Resort area and there are other merits as well. While Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is a beautiful resort hotel, the big draw in this area tends to be the Stormalong Bay pool complex that is shared by Disney’s Beach Club Resort and neighbouring Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Stormalong Bay is over three acres in size and features a sandy bottomed pool, beaches, a lazy river, two water slides and much more. Stormalong Bay is only available to guests of these two resorts, so it is often the decision-maker for many Disney travelers. However, if pools are not your thing, then Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is an excellent choice and a very upscale luxury resort hotel (and it does have pretty nice pools as well).
The Disney Springs Resort Area
The Disney Springs Resort Area is unique in that it features two Disney Deluxe Resorts that are quite different than all others. Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and Disney’s Old Key West Resort are both Deluxe Villa Resorts, and part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) suite of properties.
What makes these two resorts so different is that they are more like neighbourhood vacation communities than they are like resort hotels. If you were to purchase a condo or vacation townhouse in Florida, this is the type of place you might picture. For that reason, these two properties are excellent for guests who don’t mind being a little further away from the Parks (you’ll benefit from access to a car if you stay here), in exchange for a far more relaxed and tranquil vacation atmosphere. You can usually park right out front of your building and there are full amenities here, including pools, bike rentals, sports amenities, dining and much more.
While not next to a particular Disney theme park, both Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Disney’s Old Key West Resort are very close to Disney Springs. In fact, you can walk to Disney Springs from Saratoga Springs, and Disney Springs is only a short boat ride away from Disney’s Old Key West Resort. For those who prefer a dining, shopping and entertainment complex to a Disney theme park, this is something to consider. They’re also both very close to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park as well.
It’s worth noting that there are several non-Disney luxury hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area, some of which do offer limited perks previously only available to onsite guests of Disney resorts.
The Animal Kingdom Resort Area
Finally, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is the sole Disney Deluxe Resort in the Animal Kingdom Resort Area. This is not a property that I often recommend because it is very isolated from just about everything. You will definitely benefit from having a car if you stay here because you will otherwise be relying 100% on Disney bus transportation or taxis of some sort.
This neighbourhood is a potential good fit for you if you really like the idea of staying near the animal savannas — which are the main draw here. Just remember that there is nothing within walking distance of this Disney Deluxe Resort hotel and villas.
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As a Luxury Travel Blogger and author of The Very Best of Walt Disney World Resort, I blog regularly about Disney vacations of all shapes and sizes.
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Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist