Everyone loves Disney, and one of the best ways to experience the theme parks is to stay at one of the nearby themed hotels owned by Disney. These hotels and resorts can complete your Disney experience and offer a wide range of stays, experiences, and themes.
They’re perfect for families, and one of the best ways to experience them is through the Disney Vacation Club, which has access to better rooms, more amenities and experiences, and some exclusive discounts.
- What Is Disney Vacation Club?
- Aulani, Ko’ Olina Hawaii
- Bay Lake Tower, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Wilderness Lodge
- Animal Kingdom Villas
- Beach Club Villas
- Boardwalk Villas
- Hilton Head Island Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Old Key West Resort
- Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
- Riviera Resort
- Saratoga Springs Resort
- Vero Beach Resort, Vero Beach Florida
- Villas at Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland, Anaheim California
- Villas at Grand Floridian Resort
What Is Disney Vacation Club?
Disney Vacation Club is Disney’s version of a timeshare program, where instead of purchasing real estate, you are buying points that you can spend with Disney for vacations.
Disney likes to extoll the flexibility of points, that you can spend them on cruises, hotels abroad, or any number of Disney-related services. Still, realistically you get the most value out of your points by using them to stay in one of Disney Vacation Club Resorts.
It’s not for everyone, but you can access many of the perks by renting points from a member. David’s Vacation Club Rentals is a website that specializes in renting the points, so you can stay in some more luxurious accommodations for up to 30% off compared to the price of booking directly through Disney.
If you’re interested in a membership, run the number carefully, and ensure you’ll use it as the membership lasts a long time, and the dues can be hefty yearly. But if you’re confident you’ll get good use out of your membership, then Disney Vacation Club might be a good choice.
Aulani, Ko’ Olina Hawaii
Aulani is Disney’s resort in Hawaii, not near a theme park. However, the sheer amount of activities and attractions at this resort make it well worth a visit, and it’s packed full of that signature Disney charm.
There’s always something new to see or do every day of your vacation, visiting the beach, taking part in the Menehune Adventure, snorkeling or diving in the manufactured Rainbow Reef, or playing in the expansive pool/play area.
Weekly movies and luaus are always a delight, and you can take lessons for fitness, Hawaiian culture, and a variety of other activities, many of which are complimentary. Book exclusive nature and adventure tours to see the Hawaiian Islands in style, or relax in the award-winning spa Laniwai, which includes expansive hydrotherapy waiting area.
They have a Kid’s Club so you can relax without the little ones and a community room for family activities. They also have an eighteen-hole golf course that stands among the best in Hawaii.
Of course, you shouldn’t forget the several dining options available on-site, including ‘AMA’AMA, the fine dining option that premiers contemporary seafood cuisine, Makahiki for casual dining, and numerous quick service options all over the resort.
There’s also a grocery store with hot food across from Aulani, within walking distance. If you’re looking to save money, you can buy their hot food and eat it at the hotel or on their patio.
Bay Lake Tower, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Bay Lake Tower is an excellent option for fans of the Magic Kingdom, as it’s only a short (5-10) walk from the main park area. Or you can hop on the Monorail, which takes a little longer but still gets you where you need to be, along with access to all the other park areas.
It also has access to all the restaurants and amenities at the Contemporary Resort, including Steakhouse 71, Chef Mickey’s, and California Grill. On the premises are the Cove Bar for quick service and the Top of the World lounge, a rooftop bar. The balcony is a fantastic place to view the fireworks, and the music gets wired in from the Magic Kingdom, so it’s as though you’re there.
The Bay Lake Tower also has access to the Contemporary Resort’s pools and exclusive access to its own pool, Bay Cove Pool. Regarding on-site entertainment, you can rent boats, book a cruise, nightly Disney films, and all the options available at the Contemporary Resort, including a pirate adventure for kids.
The Wilderness Lodge tops many people’s favorite lists, especially during the holidays, as the wilderness theme shines around wintertime. However, the lodge is excellent year-round, with the surrounding trails and cozy fireplace aesthetic.
Of course, the lodge is a lot more than just cozy. There are two different sections to the resort, Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek, but they essentially share the same amenities. The only difference is that the Boulder Ridge rooms are ongoing renovation and will be nicer once complete.
However, guests have access to the playful Copper Creek Springs Pool or the easygoing Boulder Ridge Cove Pool, Reunion Station, which hosts an array of activities for members, bike and boat rentals, basketball courts, fishing excursions, a nightly Seven Lagoon Electrical Water Pageant, nightly campfires, and nightly Disney movies.
For dining, you must check out Storybook Dining at Artist’s Point. It features Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and is one of the finest character dining experiences you’ll ever encounter. Whispering Canyon Cafe is another excellent experience where pranks and jokes abound. Children will delight in both; there are also quick service and bars on-site.
Animal Kingdom Villas
The Animal Kingdom has its safari with thirty species of African wildlife. Most rooms have a balcony facing the safari, so you can always look outside and see the animals, and it’s split into two areas, the Jambo House and Kidani Village. The African decor and theme are used very well, extending to the dining options.
You can swim in the Uzima Pool near the safari, play in the Hakuna Matata Playground, visit the arcade, or chill in the spa. This location isn’t as close to the parks, but if you don’t mind the long ride, you can still get back and forth.
There are also fewer attractions at the resort itself compared to others, but the biggest draw is the Uzima Safari. If you enjoy watching the animals, you can burn time just doing that.
The Mara handles quick service with food court-type dining, but it’s its share of exotic. The Jiko is their fine dining restaurant, and Boma is casual dining. Both offer a mix of genuine African cuisine and American dishes. Plus, a pool bar.
Beach Club Villas
Disney’s Beach Club Villas is a New England-style resort on the beach near Walt Disney World. This beach-themed resort is relaxing and entertaining at the same time. It doesn’t sit on the monorail, but you can easily access the parks via bus or car.
The Beach Club has three pools, two of which are calmer affairs for adults. The last, Stormalong Bay, is three acres of outstanding water play and swimming for kids. It’s modeled after a shipwreck and guaranteed to kids playing for a long time.
There are movies every night on the beach, volleyball and tennis courts, and even watercraft and bike rentals. You can even rent a boat and motor to the Disney Hollywood Studios across the bay, another great time.
There are no fancy dining options, but it’s just as well, considering you’ll likely be starved after hours at the beach and don’t want to change into fancy clothes to go to dinner. Cape May Cafe features character dining with Goofy, and there’s also the Beaches and Cream Soda Shop for casual dining. There are also some quick service places near the beach and poolside for nomming while out.
If you like the charm of the old-fashioned New Jersey Boardwalk, you’ll love Boardwalk Villas. Situated right next to Disney’s Boardwalk, the entire resort feels like you’ve been transported to 1940s Atlantic City.
Carnival games, carousels, and arcades abound, and the Boardwalk comes to life at night. It has one of the best themes of all the resort hotels, and the rooms to the entrance positively reek of charm. It’s not on the monorail, but you can take buses or boats to the theme parks if you can tear the kids away from the Boardwalk.
Attractions include two pools and one water play area called Luna Park, tennis, fishing excursions, Surrey Bike rentals for exploring the Boardwalk, a community hall, nightly outdoor movies, and a playground.
Dining options include the fanciful Flying Fish Cafe, the finest dining available on the resort. For casual dining, there’s ESPN Club, some exceptional dining experiences at Big River Grill, a microbrewery where you can see the beer being made, and Trattoria al Forno, which captures all the charm of 1940s Italian food.
Hilton Head Island Resort, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Unlike most of the resorts on this list, Hilton Head Resort is based in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island rather than near a theme park. The resort Oozes Southern hospitality and presents an unhurried and relaxed vibe that welcomes visitors to kick back and relax.
The beach is the main attraction, but you should also check out the Big Buoy Game Room, which features the latest and greatest in gaming. There’s also a variety of nature-themed activities, campfires, a community hall, a beach house, two pools, a gear rental, tennis, golf, and a lodge for older guests to enjoy.
With twelve miles of coastline, you can spend days exploring the beach, plus complimentary transportation. This resort is one of the best beach getaways of the Disney Vacation Club Rentals. There’s no theme park. At least explore the surrounding twins and go shopping, which has some of the best South Carolina offers.
Dining includes two quick service options on-site and many options in the nearby town, including Shelter Cove Harbor, right across from the resort, within easy walking distance.
Old Key West Resort
If you want to experience the charm and history of Key West, the Old Key West Resort is the place to be. Situated in the Disney Springs area, this resort is much more laid back and campy than most other resorts. While the lack of attraction might rank it low on some lists, there’s no denying this is the perfect resort for getting away from the hustle and bustle.
It’s filled with nature, has four pools, a Sandcastle Pool play area for kids, a dry Sauna at R.E.S.T. Beach, a community hall, bike, Surrey Bike rentals, fishing excursions, playgrounds, shuffleboard, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and two arcades. You can take things at your own pace with so many activities to enjoy.
You can get between this resort and the park areas by bus or take a rental car or Lyft. There are also a few walking paths between the parks and the resort you can walk on.
In terms of dining, the Old Key West Resort has one of the best dining experiences, Olivia’s Cafe, which features Goofy character dining. There are also some quick service places to satisfy poolside guests, and you can order pizza outside the resort.
Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Polynesian Villas and Bungalows are a part of the Polynesian Resort and are the first Disney accommodations to sit directly atop the water. Its theming, attraction, activities, and rooms are the best of any resort now, and it’s no wonder, given the incredible location, service, and setting. It’s also undergoing construction for a new tower to open in 2024.
You can find the spirit of aloha and enjoy the water with the resort on its island paradise. The Lava Pool doubles as a water play area for children and features a 120,000-gallon “volcano.”
There’s also a marina you can rent watercraft and fishing excursions and dockside fishing to round out the water-based activities. You can enjoy several activities while at the resort, including a treasure hunt and hula lessons.
You can round out the day with the Electrical Water Pageant in Seven Seas Lagoon or watch a classic Disney movie under the stars.
The Polynesian resort doesn’t slack when it comes to ding, either. The Polynesian food is top-notch, or there is more American food for the less adventurous. For character and dining, check out Best Friends’ Breakfast, where you can enjoy the day’s most important meal with Lilo and Stitch.
Visit the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show to see more of these iconic characters, or check out Kona Cafe of Ohana for a more casual dining experience. There are also some quick service options, or you can relax in one of their lounges.
Once upon a time, a man went to the French and Italian Riveria and fell in love with the region’s history, culture, and beauty. That man was Walt Disney, and his trip to Europe influenced his movies until the day he died.
The newest DVC Resort opened in 2022. Riviera Resort is meant to capture the magic of European flair. Luxury is the middle name, and you’ll want nothing. The children’s play areas are modeled to be beautiful and utterly elegant.
There are two pools, one for families and one for leisure, and European-style outdoor game areas, including a chess area, bocce ball, and a fire pit. You can take a gondola to the parks or take the bus to the park of your choice.
You can also check out the newest BippiboppiBoutique to get a completely new Cinderella-style makeover and check out La Boutique for souvenirs.
When it comes to dining, this resort has some of the finest available. On the roof is Topolino’s Terrace. Topolino is another name for Mickey Mouse in Italian. It has the finest Riveria-style fine dishes for you to enjoy and is known for fantastic food. Le Petit Cafe is a small quick service option in the lobby, and Bar Riva is for relaxing without the kids. If you’re looking for cheaper food, check out Primo Piatto for more casual and quick dining.
Saratoga Springs Resort
You’ll be off to the races at Saratoga Springs Resort, themed after a famous upstate New York retreat known for horse racing and health and wellness. This resort sprawls quite a ways, and it may be prudent to bring a car. But if you’re looking for a unique stay, you can get a Treehouse Villa that sits 10 feet off the ground!
Saratoga has plenty to offer guests with Sunrise Yoga, two feature pools, three leisure pools, water play areas, whirlpool spas, a world-class golf course, tennis, basketball, shuffleboard, equipment rentals, fishing excursions, community hall, pool, playgrounds, and an arcade.
You can quickly get between the resort and the parks using buses, ferries, or pedestrian routes from the Treehouse Villas. That is if you can tear yourself away from the resort and the incredible full-service spa, Senses, styled after the health movement in New York.
Visit the Turf Club Bar and Grill to watch your favorite sports and enjoy a casual dining experience. Or stop by one of their three quick service options or lounges to get a bite to eat.
Vero Beach Resort, Vero Beach Florida
Unlike most other entries on this list, Vero Beach Resort is not one of their theme parks, so be aware when staying here. It’s in Vero Beach, Florida, and has some of the sweetest beaches and beach experiences of all the DVC resorts.
The main attraction of this resort is the beach. It’s on the gorgeous Floridian Treasure Coast and right next to a sea turtle nesting ground, so if you time it right, you and your family can see something truly inspiring on your trip.
You can check activity programs for children, including educational tours of the nesting grounds, play on a shipwreck in the pool, play regular or miniature golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, scavenger hunts, bingo, waterslide races, and much more. You can rent equipment for sports or the beach, and they play movies on the lawn at night under the stars.
Vero Beach also has some great options for dining, including character dining at the Wind and Waves Grill, a quick service market, and two lounges. Of course, you can also explore the nearby town Vero Beach for their dining options, with tons to see and do in the city besides food.
Villas at Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland, Anaheim California
The Grand Californian Hotel is the only DVC property attached to Disneyland, the Californian theme park. More specifically, the villas at this location are for DVC members. Since it’s the only one available, it makes up for it by having everything you might want and more.
Incredible pools, water play areas, two specialty restaurants, and a theme park entrance not five minutes away from the Villas make this a stellar resort. Inspired by the Californian Arts and Crafts Movement, you can tour the hotel to learn more about this alternative movement in the seventies and eighties protesting the automation of modern living.
Or you can take a seat and listen to a live concert pianist in the lobby or even participate in a resort-wide scavenger hunt. With the theme park so close, you can find many activities and attractions just a step away from your room.
For dining, there’s character dining at Storytellers Cafe and fine dining at Napa Rose, which features the finest Napa Valley has to offer, two lounges, and a quick service market.
Villas at Grand Floridian Resort
The Grand Floridian Resort, or the villas there, is the crown jewel of the DVC resorts. This resort features the best of the best, fine furnishings, delicious dining, and tons of pools and recreation areas, all while being minutes from the Magic Kingdom on the monorail or ferry.
Still, the quick ride between this hotel and the theme park is divine, especially when getting back late. Two pools, an arcade, boat rentals, fishing excursions, a Victorian-themed spa, and nightly outdoor movies are all nice. You can also enjoy incredible shopping options at the resort and several great restaurants.
Not one, not two, but three fine dining options await you at this Victorian resort, Citricos, Narcoosee’s, and Victoria and Albert’s. There’s also character dining at 1900 Park Fare, the Garden View Tea Room where guests of all ages can enjoy afternoon tea, the Grand Floridian Cafe for casual dining, two lounges, and three quick service options.
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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