Overrated and Undervalued at Walt Disney World
Overrated and Undervalued at Walt Disney World
Disney World hotels and restaurants that either get too much credit, or not the credit they deserve
When it comes to upscale dining and accommodations, Walt Disney World has no shortage of options from which to choose. Most of the top tier resorts and restaurants are at least “good” options, especially when it comes to Disney Deluxe Resorts.
However, not everything is created equal.
After more than 100 vacations to Walt Disney World Resort since 1971 (approximately 700 nights spent onsite in Disney Deluxe Resort properties) this is my list of restaurants and resorts that I feel tend to be either overrated or undervalued.
‘Ohana (Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort)
‘Ohana is one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World and it used to hold a strong position on my top 10 list of Disney dining. However, over the past few years (since approximately 2015 or 2016), ‘Ohana has slipped in both food quality and overall service. The interactive portions of the experience are fun, but it all feels a little rushed these days. It didn’t used to be that way. Plus, the food quality has definitely ticked downward from years past. All in all, there are better options for Disney dining that are worthy of a guest’s time and money during a week at Walt Disney World.
Note: This applies only to the dinner service at ‘Ohana. I do recommend the ‘Ohana character breakfast.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members may be aware of the merits of this sprawling equestrian-inspired property, but the average Disney guest often overlooks or is completely unaware of Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
As a full DVC resort, the property is not linked to any of the more well known Deluxe Disney Resort hotels. This is why many first-time guests in particular don’t know about it. However, anyone can stay here and with its villa-like ambiance and close proximity to Disney Springs, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is one of the biggest (65 acres in total) and best kept secrets at Walt Disney World.
Narcoossee’s (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa)
Ideally located on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon just a short hop from the Magic Kingdom, Narcoossee’s is a Disney Signature Dining experience with a magical location. However, the good news ends there. While this used to be my favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World, it has unfortunately been on a downward decline in terms of food quality, value and service, starting in 2014. The location is still exceptional, but if it’s a good meal that you seek you are better off at either the Citrico’s or even the Grand Floridian Cafe than Narcoossee’s.
Grand Floridian Cafe (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa)
My aha moment for removing Narcoossee’s from my top 10 list actually happened after a visit to the Grand Floridian Cafe in 2016. This quietly confident dining establishment has been gaining a large audience over the years and it’s not hard to see why. The Grand Floridian Cafe offers superb steaks and seafood at far more reasonable rates than its generally bigger cousins onsite at the Grand Floridian. It also offers a more consistent and friendly guest service experience as well. The menu here is inspired and it’s worth a visit.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
I have stayed at Wilderness Lodge several times (I make a point of staying at all Deluxe Disney Resorts and Villas on a regular basis to maintain an accurate point of view) and in my view this property is overrated among its peers in the Deluxe Disney category.
Just to be clear, the property itself is awesome. It’s well imagined and I love visiting Wilderness Lodge for a meal or just to take in the ambiance. However, from a guest experience staying at this resort, Wilderness Lodge is overrated in my opinion (yes, I know it has a legion of diehard fans). The service here has tended to be less consistent than other Deluxe Resorts and the amenities are sorely undersized for the number of guests. The pools, in particular, are where you will experience this most acutely.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a great place to visit, but there are better places to stay at Walt Disney World.
Trail’s End Restaurant (Fort Wilderness Campground)
Guests of Fort Wilderness know full well what a fun and enjoyable experience it is to dine at Trail’s End, but for much of the rest of the Walt Disney World guest group, this casual country dining experience remains off the radar.
Trail’s End has changed a lot over the years (we used to make our own pizzas there in the early days), but it’s still a fun all-you-care-to-enjoy dining experience in the relaxed environment of Fort Wilderness Campground. This is likely going to change once the campground gets more crowded by guests of Reflections when that hotel opens in a few years. But for now, Trail’s End remains an undervalued and very worthwhile Disney dining experience. Visit while you can before the crowds next door overrun the campground.
Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
Like many of the overrated dining establishments on this list, Be Our Guest was once quite a good culinary experience. As soon as it opened in 2012, it quickly gained an excellent reputation for both its unbeatable ambiance and unique menu just the same. Sadly, the quality of service and food have both declined over the past two years (particularly at lunch and dinner) and it is now rather overrated for the very average food that you get (considering the cost). From a pure ambiance perspective, however, Be Our Guest is worth a visit.
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
The original Disney Vacation Club Resort (it was called Disney Vacation Club when it first opened) is not well known among the general guest population at Walt Disney World, who tend to favor the more high profile Deluxe Disney Resort hotels. However, for similar reasons noted above for Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney’s Old Key West Resort is a hidden gem for anyone who wants a laid back vibe at Walt Disney World, but in an upscale luxurious environment (with a Florida Keys atmosphere). Rooms here are large and modern and they are unbeatable just about anywhere onsite at Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Just like Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a magical destination of Imagineering. The detail that went into the creation of this resort makes it a wonderful place to visit for dinner at Sanaa. However, staying here is another story entirely and the resort is highly overrated from a guest experience.
If you seek isolation or have a car, then it can be okay. However, the whole concept of the savanna view rooms sounds great on paper, but after about 10 minutes it gets pretty old. Most of the time you’ll find yourself looking at dead grass and a few trees. Furthermore, if you’re unlucky enough to get a room near the end of a wing, you’ll be wishing you had a hallway golf cart or an airport moving escalator just to get to the lobby. The guest relations experience at the front desk is average at best and not on par with other Deluxe Disney Resorts.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a nice resort, but I find that it’s overrated compared to other top picks in the Deluxe Disney level of accommodations.
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As a Luxury Disney travel expert and author, I blog regularly about upscale Disney vacations of all shapes and sizes.
Mike Belobradic: The Finer Side of Disney Travel
Luxury Travel Blogger – Deluxe Disney Travel Specialist