LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — An African-themed safari lodge…an island retreat…Victorian opulence…a bustling boardwalk… a backwoods bayou…the great Northwest.
Although many of these worlds are continents — and centuries — apart, Walt Disney World guests can immerse themselves in these and more unique environments from around the globe within the 40-square-mile Vacation Kingdom in Central Florida.
In all, there are 25 themed, Disney owned-and-operated resorts. There’s something for every taste and budget — from “value” to “deluxe” — all offering special perks afforded to guests who choose to stay in the middle of the magic.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (a Disney Vacation Club ownership resort) is modeled after the grand hotels found during the late 1800s heyday of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., America’s first vacation destination.
True to its namesake, the resort features Victorian-inspired accommodations interwoven with the historic influence of horse racing. Also featured is a full-service spa and health club and a rockwork theme pool with a 126-foot-long water slide. The addition of 60 Treehouse Villas revives “treehouse living,” a cherished tradition at Walt Disney World Resort from 1975-2002. The villas are elevated 10 feet off the ground on pedestals and beams designed to blend into the forest environment.
In the value category of Disney resorts is Disney’s Pop Century Resort, a celebration of 20th century pop culture. Larger-than-life icons from each decade are found all over the resort and really “can’t be missed,” from 55-foot cellular phones to a gigantic Big Wheel made to “accommodate” a child rider that weighs up to 877 pounds. Guests can take a trip (or in this case, a walk) down memory lane in the main lobby, which features wall-mounted “shadow boxes” packed with fads and doodads from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
All of the Disney-owned-and-operated resorts carry on the tradition of themed adventures — in much the same way the Disney theme parks offer an escape to a timeless land of enchantment or adventure, a walk down small town Main Street or a peek at the future.
Here’s a quick tour of select Disney resorts:
The beauty and romance of Africa come alive at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The deluxe resort features handcrafted furnishings, gallery-quality African art and authentic cuisine in three restaurants. Nestled on 75 acres just west of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is built in the middle of its own 46-acre savanna, providing most of the rooms views into the animal sanctuary which is home to more than 200 exotic animals and birds. Many guestroom balconies overlook the reserve. The Villas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (part of Disney Vacation Club) offers studio, one- and three-bedroom vacation villas in Jambo House and Kidani Village. Accommodations feature intricate African-inspired details and home-like amenities, and most offer sweeping views of the savanna.
Nestled along the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, Polynesia comes to life at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. The resort, which opened in 1971, captures South Pacific island flair with lush landscaping, colorful birds and flowers, waterfalls and Polynesian dancers. A tropical interior, complete with bamboo-style furnishings, welcomes guests to this monorail resort. A family-fun swimming pool features a giant volcano and a water slide.
Backdrop to Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland is the ultra-modern landmark, Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The 14-story, A-frame resort is like no other in the world, with a monorail that runs through the cavernous lobby atrium.
Since its 1971 debut, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has been updated with curved linear shapes, and vibrant colors, textures and designs. Indirect lighting opens up the space and sets a mystical, modernistic mood. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (a Disney Vacation Club ownership resort) features studio, one- and two-bedroom villas, and a rooftop lounge delivering dramatic views of Walt Disney World Resort.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa takes guests back to the days of Florida’s golden era when grand hotels and opulent lifestyles were prevalent. The resort features Victorian-style structures with gabled roofs, snow-white buildings capped with red roofs and turrets, carved moldings and luxurious furnishings. The elegance follows through in a 40,000-square-foot convention center. The luxurious Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club (reopens 2013) offers a broad, balanced program of beautifying services, such as facials, manicures and pedicures. Wellness services, such as massage therapy body treatments, are also featured, along with a fully equipped fitness center.
The famous lodges of American National Parks at the turn of the century are recalled at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Among the pine forests and natural surroundings on the southwestern shore of Bay Lake, the wilderness-themed resort features quarried stone and lodgepole pine with a log-structured main lobby. Next to the lodge is The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (part of Disney Vacation Club). A unique feature of The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is its themed living room area that features railroad memorabilia, including a special exhibit on loan from the Disney family of two of Walt Disney’s personal scale-model train cars and a piece of the original track.
The charm and flavor of the 1930s mid-Atlantic coast is recaptured at Disney’s BoardWalk. Nestled on Crescent Lake adjacent to Epcot, this waterfront village includes an array of dining, entertainment and shopping experiences; meeting facilities; Disney’s BoardWalk Inn deluxe hotel; and Disney’s BoardWalk Villas (part of Disney Vacation Club), featuring studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom villas offering a variety of amenities.
Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod are recalled in Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort, themed to reflect New England seashore hotels of the 1880s. Both resorts share access to Stormalong Bay, a three-acre mini water park reminiscent of a Nantucket beach. A 750,000-gallon sand-bottomed pool and 230-foot-long water slide are featured.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort features oyster-gray clapboard buildings, hardwood floors and rich millwork.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort features pale blue and white stick-style architecture inspired by beach cottages of the 1860s and 1870s. Interior design includes white wicker furniture, a pastel color scheme and 24-foot-high ceilings in the main lobby.
Disney’s Beach Club Villas (part of Disney Vacation Club), characterized by pastel colors, intricate wooden accents and spacious villa-style accommodations, features studio, one- and two-bedroom units.
Informal, pastel-colored island homes with shaded verandahs create a South Florida theme at Disney’s Old Key West Resort (part of Disney Vacation Club). The luxury accommodations range from deluxe studios to one- and two-bedroom vacation homes to two-story, three-bedroom grand villas that sleep up to 12. Every home has a view of the Lake Buena Vista golf course, water or wooded area.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, a Disney Vacation Club ownership resort, brings to mind the late 1800s heyday of its namesake town in upstate New York, from its colorful Victorian architecture to its “health-history-horses” theme. Guests can take a relaxing dip in the High Rock Springs Pool or rejuvenate themselves with a spa treatment or visit to the health club. Treehouse Villas offer cathedral ceilings, granite countertops and flat-screen TVs in each three-bedroom elevated villa..
The romance of the south comes to life at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. The moderately priced resort combines two southern themes.
Ornate row-house buildings and cobblestone streets reminiscent of New Orleans provide fantasy adventures at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter.
Next door, the bayou and Cajun tradition of the lower Mississippi River is reflected at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort-Riverside with grand manors and rustic, bayou dwellings along picturesque waterways.
Villages with names like Martinique, Barbados and Trinidad surround a 42-acre lake at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Tropical birds and colorful flowers give the moderately priced hotel an island flair. ”We were challenged to create the character of famous islands that people could relate to,” Chao said. ”The bright colors, landscaping, slopes and textures we used reflect the local traditions and architecture of the islands.” Jamaica’s British influence is noted by the yellow and blue color scheme and Victorian style architecture; Trinidad, the “bird island,” uses browns and yellows; and Barbados, the “island of flowers,” features pinks and greens.
Tile roofs, mosaic accents, arched windows and doorways, and shady courtyards and patios highlight Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, located on the west side of World Drive near Blizzard Beach water adventure park. The resort is Disney’s first moderately priced convention hotel, featuring a 220,000-square-foot convention center with meeting and exhibit space and one of the largest hotel ballrooms in the southeast.
At Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, each of four distinctly designed wings celebrates rich storytelling, spirited characters and playfulness with colorful icons and whimsical themes inspired by classic Disney and Disney-Pixar films. Family suite wings showcase “Finding Nemo,” “Cars” and “The Lion King” while standard guest rooms anchor “The Little Mermaid” wing. The three-story value-priced resort tells the story of the animation process in phases from pencil drawings to close-ups. It immediately transports guests into the worlds of favorite Disney characters and animated films. Pencil drawings of Ariel, Lightning McQueen, Nemo and Simba adorn the entryway and a whimsical chandelier composed of 77 animation storyboards enhances the lively and modern Animation Hall lobby.
Disney’s All-Star Resorts offer value-category lodging with larger-than-life icons representing the best in music, sports and motion pictures. All three All-Star resorts offer uniquely themed pools and food court
areas featuring a variety of dining options. There are 215 family suites and more than 5,000 guestrooms.
Brightly colored, larger-than-life football helmets and surfboards, and stairwells in the shapes of three-story lifeguard shacks and tennis cans, draw sports fans to Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort. The value resort incorporates five sports themes — football, baseball, basketball, tennis and surfing.
Broadway, country, jazz, rock ‘n roll and calypso musical themes are featured at Disney’s All-Star Music Resort, with rooms and family suites.
Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort features giant icons from favorite Disney movies including “Toy Story,” “101 Dalmatians,” “Fantasia,” “The Mighty Ducks” and “The Love Bug.”
Take a spin back in time at Disney’s Pop Century Resort where guests of all ages can groove to pop culture from the past. And they can do it all at Disney’s value-category rates. Larger-than-life icons of 20th century popular culture are found all over the sprawling resort property — four-story Rubik’s Cubes and Duncan Yo-Yos, 65-foot-tall bowling pins and 55-foot cellular phones, to name a few. Individual lodge buildings pay tribute to popular culture from each decade.
Guests can go back to nature at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The 700-acre resort features campsites and Wilderness Cabins in a relaxed, rustic atmosphere. Guests can explore a quieter side of Walt Disney World Resort with activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, carriage rides, boating or hiking on nature trails. There’s even an old-fashioned marshmallow roast and campfire sing-along, followed by a classic Disney movie under the stars every night.