Planning a first-time Walt Disney World vacation comes with a lot of decisions and magical “must-dos”. But one of the first, and most important decisions to make is where you are going to stay. With over 25 resorts on Walt Disney World property, how do you decide? You want something family-friendly, but also have good food options, and what about park proximity?
So. Many. Things. To help you narrow down the best Walt Disney World Resorts for first-timers, I have compiled a list of resorts that I think are perfect for a first visit. Whether it’s an adult-only trip, a multi-generational trip, or your immediate family, one of these resorts will be magical for your first visit.
Walt Disney World offers resorts in three tiers – Value, Moderate, and Deluxe. Each of the three tiers come with various amenities, room types, and price points. Did you know that Value Resorts do not have a water slide at their pools whereas Moderate and Deluxe pools have them?
Or did you know that Deluxe resort rooms are larger in terms of square footage? Not to mention the dining options….how do you decide?
Let me share with you my best suggestions for a Walt Disney World Resort for first timers in each of those categories.
Best Value Resort for First Timers
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is situated along Hourglass Lake, right next to Pop Century. The first feature of this resort that I love is the access to the Skyliner. Disney’s Skyliner system gives you access to two theme parks – EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios – as well as several nearby resorts. This is a huge perk for first times…..great park proximity at a value price!
Secondly, Art of Animation is truly the best themed resort. It features four of our favorite Disney / Pixar films all through the resort grounds, as well as in the rooms. The standard rooms are themed after the Little Mermaid. Then the Family Suites, which sleep 6 guests, are themed after Lion King, Finding Nemo, and Cars. There’s a theme for everyone! The artistry and creativity throughout the resort are stunning. Where else can you find a giant sketchbook, with your favorite characters in different phases of revision?
The Little Mermaid rooms feature two queen beds. Whereas the family suites have a master bedroom with a queen, and a full bathroom. Then the living area has a sofa bed, a pull down Murphy, another full bathroom, and a kitchenette.
Each area of the resort also features a themed pool after the film, and then the Big Blue Feature Pool is where you fill find the main pool. The zero entry and water play area are great for kids. Plus, they play music under the water!
Disney’s Art of Animation has one of the best Quick Service dining food courts on property. The Landscape of Flavors has a huge selection of food, as well as grab and go options. You can check out the menu here.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is immersive, and great for families of all sizes!
Best Moderate Resort for First Timers
Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter stands out as a great resort for first timers for several reasons. First, it is small and easy to navigate. It only has one bus stop, which is great! This gives you easy transportation to all 4 theme parks, and eliminates the need to be close to transportation or seek out the bus stop that is the first to pick up or last to drop off at the resort.
Secondly, French Quarter is quaint and beautiful. The fact that the landscaping, southern mansion style buildings, and easy to navigate grounds all work together to create a beautiful atmosphere, makes this a great resort. The rooms have two queen beds, and only sleep 4 guests. So the option for a family larger than 4 does not exist at Port Orleans, French Quarter. However, its sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside, does have rooms that sleep 5. That leads to another great feature of French Quarter….easy access to Riverside.
These resorts are “sister” resorts. So guests of French Quarter can swim in the pools at Riverside. Also, it’s easy to access Riverside, and vice versa, to expand your dining options. Not only can you access each resort, but also Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a boat ride away from French Quarter. This opens up all sorts of shopping and dining options that are very easy to access.
The serene environment, middle of the road pricing, and quiet atmosphere make Port Orleans French Quarter a nice escape from the theme parks and a great resort for first timers.
Best Deluxe Resort for First Timers
Walt Disney World is home to eight Deluxe Resorts, and that does not include the Deluxe Villa Resorts. However, for this time around, we are focusing on the resorts, not the villas. The Deluxe Resorts have proximity to the parks and many amenities that make them a great resort for first timers. Walking to at least one theme park, or perhaps hopping on the monorail or a boat, the Deluxe Resorts have location as one of their top assets. But which one is best?
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is my recommendation for first timers. Go big or go home, right? The Polynesian was original to Walt Disney World in 1971, so it’s 50 years old as well! Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is comprised of longhouses, and the Grand Ceremonial House, situated just across Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom.
The Polynesian is an escape. It feels as if you are on a private, Polynesian island surrounded by lush and tropical scents and scenery. The tiki torches and ukulele music add to the magic! You just can’t go wrong with the Polynesian.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort has rooms that house five guests. They contain a pull down bed and two queens for the standard rooms. These rooms have recently been refurbished with a Moana theme, that has small accents from one of Disney’s most popular films.
The Polynesian gives guests access to two theme parks via the monorail. You can access both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT from the Polynesian. Also, guests can access three other nearby resorts for dining and shopping easily from the Polynesian. As of late, guests can also walk to Disney’s Grand Floridian and even continue to Magic Kingdom via the walking path as well.
Not only is the atmosphere amazing, but so are the amenities. Kids will love the 142 foot volcano water slide located at the Lava Pool. And parents will appreciate all the unique dining options, as well as a Dole Whip anytime at your fingertips right at the Pineapple Lanai.
The Polynesian has the most “crossover appeal” in my opinion. Great dining options, an amazing atmosphere, spacious new rooms, a fun pool, and great location. It meets the needs of anyone in your family, kids or adults!
Being greeted with a lei, watching Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach, or relaxing among the tiki torches while watching a movie make the Polynesian a great resort for first timers who want an extremely magical experience!
There are plenty of Walt Disney World Resort options for any style and budget. As a first time visitor, these are the ones I feel are the best for guests who want that magical, truly unique Disney experience.