Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be a daunting task, especially for first timers: Where to stay? What's the best ticket to buy? How far in advance can I book a princess breakfast at Cinderella's castle?
To make things easy, here's a round up of local hotels, sorted by personality, to help you find the right fit.
Remember, after settling on a hotel, it's time to get dining reservations in order. Perhaps this quick guide to Disney restaurants might be of help. And, don't forget, there's plenty to do outside the parks.
Have any questions about staying at Disney? Ask them in the comments below.
Though it's theme might not be out of the ordinary (shingle style hotels on Nantucket and the Vineyard), Disney's <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/yacht-club-resort/" target="_hplink">Yacht Club Resort </a>has the coolest pool on property. Stormalong Bay, as it's called, features a sand-bottomed pool that's like being at the beach without all the critters. There's also a lazy river for relaxing and the water slide is one of the tallest of all the WDW resorts'. The pool complex is shared with the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/beach-club-resort/" target="_hplink">Beach Club Resort</a> right next door, so that's a good place to check out too. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
They don't call it the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/animal-kingdom-lodge/" target="_hplink">Animal Kingdom Lodge</a> for nothing. The hotel is African-inspired, down to the thatched roof, mud fireplace and 16-foot Ijele mask on display in the lobby. Oh, and the savannas outside. Animal-loving types will dig the animals that roam freely on the four savannas on the hotel grounds. Aside from being able to observe them from savanna-view rooms and special glass alcoves situated throughout the hotel, guests can also participate in the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/wanyama-safari-resort-tour/" target="_hplink">Wanyama Safari</a> to get even closer to the action. The safari is only available to guests of the hotel. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
One of the biggest perks of the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/grand-floridian-resort-and-spa/" target="_hplink">Grand Floridian Resort & Spa</a> is it's proximity to the Magic Kingdom and location on the monorail loop. It's also home to one of Disney World's biggest culinary draws, AAA Five Diamond award winning <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/victoria-and-alberts/" target="_hplink">Victoria & Albert's</a> restaurant. Each experience at the restaurant is a different one, as unique daily prix-fixe menus are crafted based on what's market-fresh that day. Men, make sure you bring a jacket, as those are required. And, leave the kiddos with the sitter. Children younger than 10 are not permitted. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
Couldn't decide betweeen Disney World and a beachy getaway? Kill two birds with one stone at the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/polynesian-resort/" target="_hplink">Polynesian Resort</a>. It's also conveniently located on the monorail, but the white sandy beaches and lush tropical foliage give the illusion of seclusion. The luau show is pretty cute, if you don't mind sitting through the kiddie stuff to get to the tribal dancers and fire breathers. If not, fruity cocktails abound, and are perfect when sipped a deux on a waterside hammock. After sundown, the beach becomes the perfect viewing point for the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the nightly Electrical Water Pageant that sails by. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
Ok, so all of Disney's resorts are great for families, but the newly-opened <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/art-of-animation-resort/" target="_hplink">Art of Animation Resort</a> has a little bit of an edge. It's considered a "value" resort by the folks at Disney, so the prices are going to be some of the lowest on property. And, even at those prices, you get a kitchenette (kitchens are otherwise found in deluxe villas, club-level suites and Fort Wilderness cabins) plus a separate master bedroom and two bathrooms. Rooms sleep up to six. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
We know it's hard to break it to a little girl, but Cinderella's castle does not double as a hotel. Try softening the blow with a few nights in one of the royal guest rooms at <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/port-orleans-resort-riverside/" target="_hplink">Port Orleans - Riverside</a>. There might be no Prince Charming, but there <em>are</em> light-up headboards that put on a fiber optic "fireworks" display. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
Channeling 1940s Atlantic City, the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/board-walk-inn/" target="_hplink">BoardWalk Inn</a> is a walk (literally) down memory lane for anyone enamored with the good old days. Beneath the hotel is a real boardwalk that features full-service restaurants and food booths hawking snacks like funnel cakes, corn dogs, ice cream cones -- all the fried and sugary goodness one expects to eat at the beach. Performers and two night clubs keep the place lively, and rentable surrey bikes keep people moving at a leisurely pace. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
Of course we wouldn't leave out the lads. The <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/caribbean-beach-resort/" target="_hplink">Caribbean Beach Hotel</a>'s name is a dead giveaway as to its theme. But, what it doesn't hint at are the pirate rooms that feature pirate ships for beds as well as other seafaring touches. Photo: The Walt Disney Company
Did you know that there's a hotel on Disney property that caters exclusively to members of the Armed Forces? <a href="http://www.shadesofgreen.org/" target="_hplink">Shades of Green</a>, which is run by the U.S. Army, is located across from the Grand Floridian and is open to all branches of the military. It features an on-site spa and golf course as well as restaurants. And, a ticket office inside sells discounted tickets to all of the major area attractions (not just Disney.)
For those looking for the convenience of staying on Disney property, but aren't into being bombarded by Disney <em>all</em> day, the<a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/swan-resort/" target="_hplink"> Swan Hotel</a> and the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/dolphin-resort/" target="_hplink">Dolphin Hotel</a> are the best bets. They're actually part of the Starwood family of hotels (bonus for SPG members!) so the design is much like any upscale contemporary hotel. Once inside, it doesn't even feel like being on Disney property anymore, with the exception of the character dining experience offered at the Swan's Garden Grove restaurant.
Another unique lodging option at Disney World is one you bring yourself -- in the forms of tents, pop-ups and RVs. There are four different types of campsites available at the <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/campsites-at-fort-wilderness-resort/" target="_hplink">Fort Wilderness Resort</a>, to accommodate all manner of campers, all nestled in a wooded outpost nearby the Magic Kingdom. Rent a golf cart to make navigating the 750 acres easy, especially since the parts of the resort housing the pool, campfire movie, stables and restaurants aren't accessible to cars. Don't have an RV and not into tenting it? Fort Wilderness also has <a href="http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/resorts/cabins-at-fort-wilderness-resort/" target="_hplink">cabins </a>that offer the same scenery with less hassle. Photo: The Walt Disney Company