Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mickey Slept Here

Okay, today we're talking about hotels at WDW. As stated in the previous post, the Polynesian is my favorite, but I also have a soft spot for the Contemporary. As a kid, I marveled at the fact that the monorail traveled directly through the center of the hotel, and even as an adult I still think it's pretty bitchin. So today's questions is which WDW hotels do you like and why? What's important to you. Price? Location? Decor? I prefer to stay in a hotel with monorail access since I am a lazy, lazy man and don't want to drive my car once it's parked. Also, I have only limited experience with the "moderate resorts" so feedback on that would be useful. And I've never been to Disneyland in California, so info on the hotels there would be appreciated too. If you've never been to WDW, which hotel attracts your attention and makes you think you might choose it if you scheduled a visit?

(Wilderness Lodge pictured.)


  1. The one time I went and we stayed in an on-site hotel, we stayed at Fort Wilderness - because it was the cheapest.

    Basically you got your own double-wide trailer. As a kid I thought it was kind of cool because it had a Murphy bed. But then I thought the WDW TV channel was cool, too. At the time it had a central "lodge" which was like the lobby of a hotel, you could go there and play old-ass arcade games. But if you're playing arcade games at WDW you're an asshole anyway - or a dumb teenager, which I was.

    The one thing that was annoying, though I didn't care about it much at the time, was the fact that it was so far away from the rest of the Park, so you were down for a 20 minute bus ride to start your day. But I kind of liked riding through the Florida "wilderness". Plus the bus driver was the friendliest I've ever encountered before or since - like being a bus driver at WDW was an awesome job. He made a joke something like "and remember the pavement will be moving at the same speed as the bus" when he stopped to let us off. That's a classic Disney joke, to me, as by the time I left after being there for three days or so I felt like I spent half the time on moving sidewalks - I guess because moving sidewalks were/are THE FUTURE.

    Seeing your picture above, I see all that is gone now, which is kind of sad to me. I liked the idea that Disney had a trailer park, sort of. A way to ease in to the fantasy world, I guess. Now it just looks like one more of those hotels my parents would decide we couldn't afford and we'd have to stay at a Best Western near a liquor store or something. I'm sure it's nice but if that is "Fort Wilderness" then the other hotels must be varying degrees of Xanadu.

  2. Jim,

    I love that bus driver joke!

    I think you might be getting "Fort Wilderness" confused with "The Wilderness Lodge" pictured above. I made the same mistake at first too. The place you're thinking of is still there.

  3. My favorites are the Polynesian and the Beach Club. The Poly because of the monorail (and the Transportation Center is a five minute walk, as you note). Great when you have smaller kids and need to come back from the parks for a little downtime/nap. Also the best coffee at WDW is at the Kona coffee stand. Downside of the Poly is that the main pool is always so insanely crowded, we don't even bother with it.

    Beach Club for the best pool on property and you can walk to Epcot, and a quick boat ride to Disney Studios. Also: Beaches and Cream, an awesome ice cream parlor.

    We've stayed at one moderate resort, Riverside Port Orleans (used to be Dixie Landings). It's perfectly fine, nice pools, good food court & Boatwright's restaurant. Only downside is that it can be a long walk from your room to the center of the hotel. But I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a moderate.

  4. Jeff,

    I 100% agree about Kona Coffee. When staying at the Polynesian, I eschew the room coffee each morning and make an early morning walk to Kona for coffee for me and the wife. It's actually a fave ritual of mine since the place is dead quiet that time of the morning. A peaceful walk and some coffee before the Space Mountain craziness begins.

  5. Victor: I do that same ritual. Hardest thing about NOT staying at the Poly. Because generally the coffee at WDW is really not good. Nestle has the coffee concession, with only a few exceptions.

    It's a lovely resort but I will say that Wilderness Lodge is not my favorite. The rooms and the pool are great, but the main restaurant (Whispering Canyon) is so noisy (and the waiters, with their shtick, add to that) that I couldn't enjoy my meals there. There is nothing Whispering about that place.

  6. I think we're on the same page, Jeff. If you cut Whispering Canyon out of the equation, The Wilderness Lodge is pretty good. I had a very good meal at Artist's Point.

  7. I'll be taking my daughter's soccer team to Disney I. July tl compete in a national tournament @ ESPN wide world of sports complex. Anybody been there? Should I stay at a different site or stay there for convenience?

    My favorite hotel is Polynesian by the way.

  8. Wow. Posting a comment while walking with a Mega glare on my screen proved difficult I see. Sorry for the gibberish non-words.

  9. Josh,

    I have to admit I don't know a thing about the ESPN Sports Complex. Wouldn't mind hearing more about that myself.

  10. Last two times we've been to Disney, we've stayed at the Pop Century. For a "value" resort, it's pretty good. We don't spend a lot of time at the hotel anyway if we're doing a whirlwind four day trip, so a more expensive, fancier hotel is sort of a waste.

    That said, we've also stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Polynesian, and those Fort Wilderness trailers. The trailers are great if you've got kids who need a nap because there is a separate bedroom. Loved Animal Kingdom Lodge for the decor and savannah, but it was way too far from anything and the bus rides were interminable. Polynesian is great in so many ways: monorail, volcano pool, Kona coffee, even the cheesy luau. But it's a little over our price point right now which is why the Pop Century.

  11. I've spent a lot of time in the hotels from my College Program days. Unfortunately I've only been able to afford All Stars so far. But my favorite hotels are Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge, which have similar sensibilities.

    In particular I love the pools. AK Lodge has a fantastic pool. And Wilderness Lodge has the water fall running from inside.

    Of course the Swan and Dolphin has the best pool of all.

  12. Adam,

    I've always hesitated staying at Animal Kingdom because there is no monorail. But I've heard nothing but good things. I'll need to give it a try sooner or later, I think.

  13. Victor: slightly off topic, but my neighbor's father was one of the architects of the Grand Floridian resort. He sadly passed away recently, but it was interesting hearing him talk about getting to work on that resort.

  14. Re Animal Kingdom Lodge: It's beautiful (if slightly dark on the interior compared to other resorts) but I have heard that you just have to adjust yourself to spending a lot more time on buses. Do that and you'll enjoy it. We have friends who stayed there who loved it, even with the added transportation time. We only went there once to see it, and to eat at Jiko, which I thought was quite good, and my wife thought was just okay. (The wine list at Jiko is really good, though).

  15. Ok, first time we went we stayed at the All-Star Sports (yeah, we were on a budget). It was about what you'd expect. Like a decent mid-rate hotel, but lots of families and a tad on the noisy side.

    Second time we stayed at the Contemporary. Loved the convenience of the monorail, and being in the same place as the California Grill. The hotel itself was actually a tad disappointing, I guess because it's so old. It wasn't bad, was just expecting...more.

    The most recent two times we've been we stayed at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and loved it. No monorail, but great bus schedules.

    We'd love to try The Wilderness Lodge - we adore Artist Pointe - but its remote location gives us pause. Would also love to try the Grand Floridian, but the rates at that bad boy give us pause. ;-)

    Hubby has stayed at the Polynesian before (long time ago) with his family and remembers it being great.

    Have an invitation to go in December and stay at the Treehouse Villas, but don't know yet if that's gonna happen.

  16. I actually wrote part of a novel at Pop Century. I was in Florida (without my family) researching Panic and had a car accident (a deer ran in front of me on the highway). Had to wait for repair parts to be sent from Sweden so my sis-in-law got me a room at Pop Century (we didn't know exactly how long the repairs would take). My kids were 6 and 4 at the time and I didn't want them to know I was at Disney without them. Worked in my room during the day (on deadline) and then had dinner with my sister-in-law and bro-in-law and niece in the parks at night.

    The value resorts are a great buy if you're not spending a ton of time at the resort. The theming is very fun and I could see kids who were thrilled at all the cool decor on the sides of the buildings, in the landscaping, in the pools. No sit down restaurant, all counter service, but the food was fine. The rooms are a bit small but were very comfortable and the hotel was kept spotless and the staff was wonderful. I did hear people say the bus service to the parks needed to be beefed up. It was a bit noisier, just because all the rooms face outside but I was never disturbed. I'm sure the housekeepers thought I was some awful workaholic dad tapping away at my laptop while my family was inside the parks. I ended up staying there four days.

  17. Jeff.

    I find that if you're going to save some cash, you can actually priceline one of the resorts at Lake Buena Vista (the Hilto0n I thin is one) and it comes out to be a nicer place to stay for less money than Pop Century or one of the other value resorts. The Hilton was within walking distance of Downtown Disney and since I don't take the buses anyone it sort of works out the same as far as transportation. (I prefer my own rental car to the buses ... although still not as good as being on the monorail.)

    If you're a fan of the bus system it's a different story.

  18. Jeff and Victor, I can actually second the point about the Lake Buena Vista resorts. We've always stayed at the Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista and with Marriott Rewards and AAA discounts we get a nice two room suite for around $100 a night. They have a nice bus that goes right to the park and the free cooked to order breakfast every morning is amazing. Also, every night they have a Manager's reception with free (watery, but free) booze.

  19. Not sure I have anything new to add, but...

    I like The Contemporary, too. It feels iconic to WDW, I love the monorail running thru it and the character breakfast there was excellent.

    I've stayed at one of the Marriott LBV properties and it was excellent. We stayed there because there was five of us and we didn't want to cram into a hotel room and getting two rooms on property was ridiculously overpriced. Yes, we rented a car, too, but it was still cheaper. The two room condo was outstanding and wasn't crowded, so it was nice to be able to go back to it at the end of the day. The drive was minimal - maybe five to seven minutes and was close to DD, too.

    I have not been to the ESPN complex but I haven't heard great things - mainly that it looks better on TV and in concept than execution. It can also be incredibly crowded due to the tournaments that are hosted there and that traffic can be a nightmare as seemingly everyone has a car. Been told the facilities are top-notch, though.

  20. I've been to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex once -- as I've mentioned before, my brother-in-law works for Disney. The Cast Member softball tournament was at ESPN on one of their gorgeous baseball fields and I went to it with him (he played on a team). The facilities are really nice.

  21. Jeff (Abbott),

    Since you've been to ESPN, do you think it would absolutely suck to stay there for my daughter's soccer tournament, or would it be "good enough" considering the convenience of being close to the fields for her games? Is there easy transportation to the other parks?

  22. Josh: I don't believe there is a resort specifically at ESPN Wide World of Sports, at least according to its main page:

    Is there not a resort where the tournament has booked participants? I know that has happened with Pop Warner football teams (they tend to take over the value resorts for a week).

  23. Jeff,

    You are correct. The resort is technically Disney All Star Sports resort. ESPN doesn't have lodging. I guess I should edit my question to "is It worth staying at all star sports resort?"

  24. Josh: is it "worth it"? I don't know how to answer that question. If everyone in your daughter's team/tournament is staying there, then it probably makes sense to do so. If everyone gets to pick and pay for their own resort, it's a value resort, it will be cheaper but not have as many amenities as a moderate or a deluxe. It depends on what you want out of your stay and how much time you will have at the resort. I have not stayed at All-Star Sports so can't speak to the resort's specifics. I would be more worried if you have not yet booked a room for a stay in July; the Disney resorts tend to fill up. Good luck!

  25. I am a little late to the game here, but we loved the Wilderness Lodge (it is the only place we've stayed, though, so I can't compare).  

    We liked:
    The boat.  WL has a boat that goes from the Lodge to Fort Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom.  We loved having such quick access to the Magic Kingdom.  Plus, you get dropped off at MK near the monorail, so that is a positive.  Busses seemed to run well and reasonably frequently--the only place it took a long time to get to was Downtown Disney.

    The waterworks.  Starting with the faux spring in the lobby that becomes a river and then eventually the swimming pool, we loved this.  The pool was great-even when it was crowded there was still room to play.  Our daughter loved the small water slide-it was a good size for her age.

    Our room.  Although it was cozy, we had enough room for the three of us, and we liked the balcony looking out toward the boat dock.

    The lobby.  Although we did not spend a lot of time there, it created a great first impression and was fun to hang out in, if only for a 5-minute breather.  Also, the staff at the hotel were great-helpful and friendly.

    I agree that the Whispering Canyon Café is not the hotel's strongest link-I would not go there again.