Disney’s Art of Animation Resort | Family Suites

The girls walking through the Art of Animation lobby

about disney’s art of animation resort

Type of Resort: Value

Types of Rooms: Standard rooms and family suites

Theme: the artwork and animation of beloved Disney and Pixar films

Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports Area

Transportation Options: Buses

Unique Amenities: Art of Animation is filled to the brim with amazing theming, starting with the buildings and grounds themselves. It’s really a place you have to see to understand the scope of design that Disney delivers here, between the artwork, giant set pieces, and building decor. AOA also has three pools, including the Big Blue Pool (the largest on Disney property, with giant Finding Nemo set pieces surrounding it, zero-entry point, underwater speakers, and “sprayground” that will thrill your kids), Cozy Cone pool (Cars), and Flippin’ Fins pool (Little Mermaid). They also have fine art photography available, if you want to commemorate your trip with family photos.

They also have the standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magical Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi. This is also one of the pet friendly resorts on property!

Dining: Landscape of Flavors is this resort’s quick service hub, featuring tons of stations and options for each meal. At breakfast, you can choose from traditional breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, and eggs, but my personal favorite was the breakfast burger. There is also a wide variety of lunch and dinner options, from salads, soups and sandwiches (I highly suggest the roasted turkey croissant) to burgers, pizzas, and pastas (we loved the make-your-own option) to more exotic flavors at the World of Flavor shop (tandoori chicken and Mongolian fish, for example).

The breakfast burger at Art of Animation's Quick Service restaurant

Shopping: The Ink & Paint Shop features a mix of sundries, collectibles, and souvenirs. They also have a large pin and toy selection. We had a lot of fun shopping here.

Activities: Bike rentals, Finding Nemo courtyard playground, Pixel Play Arcade, Movies Under the Stars, jogging trails, and swimming.

About Our Stay

The girls peering out the window from the Finding Nemo building hallway

Details of Our Stay

Time of Year: December 2017

Room Type: Finding Nemo family suite

Travel Party Size: 4 people (2 adults and 2 children), 1 household (We were joined by family on our last night and had 3 additional guests, two adults and one infant, also in our room.)

Our Experience

I feel like I can’t say enough about the spectacular theming at the Art of Animation resort. There are just so many details to take in. The resort is truly a Disney experience in and of itself. I have a soft spot for Finding Nemo and really appreciated the fun infused into this part of the resort. We all got a kick out of the giant seagulls on the building that would shout out “Mine! Mine! Mine!” at random times!

Our family suite was really spacious and well designed. We loved having two bathrooms at the end of the night, so we could all efficiently get baths and get to bed! The kitchenette was also great, because we really utilized that space with kid snacks and cups.

We were a little concerned about space when my cousin’s family joined us, but we were totally comfortable with all 7 of us in the room. I was pleasantly surprised by how comfy the Murphy bed mattress was!

Our family suite was the first one on our hall, just off the elevator. That meant that the ice machine and vending were just on the other side of our wall, which concerned us for noise, but was actually totally quiet. We loved how convenient everything was because of that too! If we stay again, I’ll definitely request that location.

We really enjoyed being so close to the main building and Big Blue Pool too. The “downside” (not a downside!) of that was that the girls wanted to just hang out at the pool all day and had no desire to go to the parks! They had so much fun playing in the sprayground area. We almost didn’t make it to the pool itself. There are tons of lifeguards stationed around the pool, along with life preservers, so we felt really comfortable too.

Art of Animation Big Blue Pool sprayground

Our only real complaint was that there weren’t any luggage carts available when it came time for check-out. The carts are first come, first served, so plan to go claim one early! It definitely was like salt in the wound to have to take so many trips to the car on check-out day. We were sad enough!

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Favorite Part: Basically, everything. The suite was large and comfortable, the pools were awesome, we were close to the QS restaurant, and the girls loved the theme!

Least Favorite Part: The busy buses and luggage cart shortage

Would We Stay Again?: No question. We had a great experience overall and loved the suite. The small drawbacks we experienced were anticipated going into a value resort and we didn’t find them as a reason to not stay!

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Art of Animation

 

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Staying at Disney Resorts with a Baby

If you’re planning a Disney trip with a baby, I highly (highly, highly, highly) recommend staying on property. There are so many convenience factors that make this a no brainer for our family. Disney really makes it easy to vacation with a baby!

This post contains some affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and purchase that item, I’ll receive a small commission for my recommendation. This helps me keep my site up and running and free! It’s my commitment to my readers that I only recommend items that we have and love! 

Your Resort Stay

Choosing the Right Resort

After staying at so many Disney resorts, I can assure you that there’s no “best” resort. They’re all the best at what they do. The question is rather – which resort is right for you? I have a whole post outlining how to make this choice here.

It’s my suggestion that you consider transportation convenience first and foremost when planning a Disney trip with a baby! There is no match for monorail resort convenience at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, or Contemporary.

That being said, that convenience comes at a price and it’s not a realistic one for many families. If that’s the case for you, my next suggestion would be the Cabins at Fort Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge moderate resorts, which still make Magic Kingdom accessible by boat.

If a value resort is more in your price range, I’d highly recommend Art of Animation! We’ve stayed in their family suites and Little Mermaid rooms and have great reviews on both. Their Big Blue Pool area is ideal for little ones with the splash pad area!

Regardless of your choice, rest assured that Disney will provide an easy and enjoyable vacation!

Making Your Reservations

Although babies don’t need park tickets, dining plans, or FastPasses, they do need to be included in your room reservation. They don’t count towards room occupancy costs or totals, but Disney still needs to know of their presence, in case of an emergency! Many people consider leaving the baby off their reservation, thinking it will save them money, but it doesn’t influence that at all. Safety first!

 

Getting Set Up in the Room

Sleeping Arrangements

I’m a big advocate for safe sleep environments, so it thrills me that Disney provides a travel crib or pack and play at no additional cost to families. Just make sure to note it on your reservation and mention it again at check-in! If you’ll be staying in a Villa at one of the deluxe resorts, a pack and play will likely already be in your room.

Depending on your room size, this extra piece of furniture can make for cramped quarters. Plan on folding it up if you’ll be spending a lot of time in your room. But also, make sure that anyone who will be alone with baby knows how to get it opened back up too! We have found that they fit perfectly between the two beds in value rooms (and the Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room).

When we visit, we like to bring our own sheets for the pack and play too. Our youngest has eczema and generally sensitive skin, so I like to bring sheets that have been washed at home. It also assures that we have a back-up if she springs a leak in the middle of the night!

Feeding & Food Storage

Almost every room at Disney has a mini-fridge (with full-sized refrigerators in the Cabins and Villas), so you’ll have a place to keep baby’s feeding items (breast milk, formula, opened baby food, etc) refrigerated. If your room doesn’t have one, you can always put in a request with housekeeping and have one delivered at no additional cost, pending availability.

Most rooms do not have their own microwave, but you’ll have access to one in your Resort’s quick service restaurant, typically open 24/7.

Bathing

When the baby was little, we would bring a fold-up bath sling for our bathtub. The tubs in most standard rooms are a bit cramped to comfortably get in the tub with baby, so the sling was a big help!

Making it Feel Like Home

My girls are used to sleeping with certain creature comforts, so we make sure to pack those items when we travel. If your little one is attached to a certain blanket or stuffed friend, make sure to bring it!

We also like to bring the girls’ iPad to use for white noise. While we haven’t had any noise problems in our many stays, it does help to tune out any hallway or bathroom noise and cover up any noise you may make while still awake!

Organizing Your Room

If you find yourself feeling a bit like sardines in a can, you’re not alone! Babies need so many things that it can feel like they’re taking over the entire room. Here are some tips for keeping your room feeling more organized.

  • Keep your stroller and pack and play folded up when not in use.
  • Store your bathroom related items (like baby’s bath seat) in the bathroom. We often keep all of our toiletries stored in a bag, so they’re not spread out everywhere.
  • Bring a bottle drying rack and small basket to keep baby bottles, pacifiers, and other little pieces organized next to the sink.
  • Keep all of your other food and drink related items on or in the dresser, where the mini fridge is located. We liked to use the dresser top as a mini snack bar, of sorts.
  • Remember that a mini fridge is, well, mini. You won’t be able to store large items there. If your baby is transitioning to milk, buy half gallon jugs, as the gallons won’t fit!
  • Utilize the closet and dresser storage to get things off the floor (and out of baby’s reach). We were always amazed by how many things our youngest got into when we were in a confined space!
  • Consider bringing a collapsible laundry basket (or even a trash bag!) to store laundry in.

 

Transportation & Amenities

getting to and from the parks

Disney transportation is one of our primary reasons for staying on property! Depending on your resort, you may have bus, boat, or monorail access to various parks.

Each Disney Resort will have its own bus or boat, while the monorail runs a loop to all of the accessible resorts. You don’t need to worry about having a car seat for any Disney transportation, as it’s not necessary. The only exception is the Minnie Van service that runs for an additional fee at the deluxe resorts, but they will have car seats available for your child!

You can read more about bringing your stroller on all of the various forms of transportation in our stroller post!

Resort Amenities

Your baby can enjoy most of the resort amenities, with the exception of adult lounges found at some Disney Resorts.

If you plan to bring them to the pool, know that Disney requires un-potty trained children to wear swim diapers. If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll use the pool, you can always buy swim diapers at the Resort shopping location. Don’t stress about packing them, unless you already have them and know you’ll use them!

 

Did we miss any information? Have a tip or trick we left out? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Split Stays at Disney Resorts

If you find it impossible to choose the right Disney resort for you, I’m here to present you with another option: stay at more than one. We love to book split stays at Disney World for all of our trips!

 

About our Split Stay Experiences

When we started planning our Disney trip to celebrate our daughter’s third birthday, it turned out to be a challenge to find the right room for all three phases of our trip (by ourselves, then joined by our best friends, and then joined by my cousin). Our needs and travel party were going to be different during each phase. This meant that they’d each need a separate reservation anyway, which meant potentially changing rooms each time. That’s when our brilliant travel agent suggested that we consider changing resorts at some point. She knew that we wanted to soak in all that Disney has to offer, so this option really made sense to us!

We really wanted to experience a Royal Room at Port Orleans Riverside for our princess-obsessed birthday girl, but we wanted to stay together with our friends when they joined us. So, that made our first choice really easy.

We had weighed our options for when our travel party would expand to 7 guests and thought the Cabins at Fort Wilderness would be perfect for our combined budget and desire to spend quality time together outside of the parks too.

When my cousin joined us and friends left, we decided to splurge on adjoining rooms at the Grand Floridian. She was pregnant and wanted her own bathroom and space, but also to feel connected to us. We also wanted convenience and short travel distances, since a pregnant body, toddler, and infant can be unpredictable.

Changing resorts three times with two kids in tow? I know. It sounded crazy. But it wasn’t nearly as stressful as we expected it to be! In fact, that’s how we’ve planned every Disney trip since!

 

Advantages of a Split Stay at Disney

Experience more than one resort within one trip’s budget

This was a big attraction for us. We really like being able to try different things all in one trip. It also allows us to experience deluxe resorts on a smaller budget, by balancing it with a value or lower cost moderate resort, without having to shorten our total stay.

Try different Disney Dining Plans

Since each reservation requires its own DDP, we were able to use different plans. For instance, we used the regular dining plan while at Fort Wilderness. When we moved to the Grand Floridian for Ruby’s actual birthday, we upgraded to the deluxe dining plan to cover all of our character and signature dining experiences.

Plan around transportation convenience

We planned our park days in part around the convenience of transportation from each resort. For instance, when we did our Art of Animation/Beach Club trip, we did Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom while at AOA (since our options were only buses or driving from either resort). Then, we did Epcot and Hollywood Studios while at Beach Club (since we could walk or take the boat).

Potential Disadvantages of a Split Stay

Losing Park Time

This is one of the most commonly asked questions when we talk about switching resorts. I understand the concern. If you’re really packing in the action, there’s a good chance you’ll lose a little time in the transition. In our experience, we have spent about an hour total switching rooms (from leaving the first room to getting to the parks). Your “lost time” is only as long as you take loading your luggage and moving your vehicle to the next resort or taking your luggage to Bell Services and heading to transportation. If you’re an early riser, you could easily handle the room switch before the parks are even open. If you’re not (we’re not), you can get packed up and ready the night before to minimize your time lost. You can even skip the front desk with online check-in! Just make sure to stop for your luggage.

Luggage and Room Space not Accessible During the Transition

If you plan to use Bell Services to move your luggage (more about this below), expect to be without your stuff or a “place to land” until check-in at the next resort. This can be a deal breaker for families with small children, if they regularly go back to the room mid-day. We’ve had great luck with our rooms being ready early, but it’s not something to count on.

Phone Calls may be Required

If you’re using a travel agent, they’ll likely take care of these phone calls for you. If not, you may need to place them yourself. The first phone call is to add the Disney Dining Plan, should you choose to use it and if you aren’t an Annual Passholder. You’ll likely purchase your park tickets on only one of your reservations, so you’ll need to call to add the dining plan to your “ticketless” room, as this can’t be done online. The other phone call could be to Magical Express, just to notify them of when you’ll actually be using the service. You should be able to handle all of this online, but some people find it easier to call in and confirm their ride to the airport!

 

How We Managed the Logistics

making Reservations

Each resort will require its own reservation and they won’t be “linked” in any special way. That means that each reservation will also require its own deposit. Your deposit is applied to your balance, but it is more expense upfront when you book your trip. Above, I discussed the additional phone calls that may need to be made to work out logistics in advance.

Packing

The success of split stays at Disney can start with a good packing job. I’m known for my detailed and organized packing, so this was a fun challenge. (You can read more about packing for infants and toddlers too!)

We aim for streamlined packing, so that things can stay organized through the transitions. This is accomplished by small changes, like packing a single toiletries bag for the entire family, so that everything goes out and back into a single bag in the bathroom. We also pack a large bag (or plastic bin) for all the miscellaneous stuff (phone chargers, baby wipes, snacks, etc).

My husband and I both bring our own suitcases, as you usually would, but we divide up our daughters’ suitcases by stay, instead of by kid. So, all of the clothing for one resort stay is in one suitcase, the next in another suitcase, and so on.

If we’re only staying at a resort for one night (which we’ve done twice), we’ll pack our entire family’s clothing for the next day in a single tote bag. Then, it’s just that bag and our toiletries bag that need to be touched.

Think about where you’ll store dirty laundry too. For us, we usually ended up condensing our suitcases into one “clean” and one “dirty”. For the girls, we’d just put all their dirty laundry back in that “stay’s” suitcase, not to be touched again until we get home.

Moving Resorts

Again, since we drove, it was as easy as packing the car up and moving to the next leg of our split stay at Disney. If you wont have your own vehicle, it can still be easy! You just bring your luggage to Bell Services and they’ll handle the transfer for you.

The night before we moved rooms, I’d put the laundry back in the suitcases, pack up snacks and miscellaneous stuff, and lay out the next day’s clothes. When we got up on “moving day”, we just had to pack our pajamas and head out.

Sometimes, we drive to the next resort and take transportation from there. For instance, when we moved to the Grand Floridian, it made sense to go straight there and take the monorail to Magic Kingdom. And sometimes we just drive straight to the parks and check in at the resort later, like when we moved to Fort Wilderness and were headed to Animal Kingdom that day. If you don’t have your own vehicle, you can just use Disney transportation to head to the parks and back to your new resort!

 

Have you done a Split Stay at Disney? Tell us about it or ask questions in the comments below!

 

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Everything You Need to Know About the Grand Floridian

About the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Type of Resort: Deluxe, Disney Vacation Club

Theme: Victorian elegance

Location: Magic Kingdom Area, on the monorail loop

Transportation Options: Monorail to the Magic Kingdom, other monorail resorts, TTC, and Epcot (switch at TTC). Boat to the Magic Kingdom. Buses to other destinations.

Unique Amenities: The Grand Floridian amenities are everything you’d expect them to be and then some.

There are two pools, each with their own special twist. The Beach Pool overlooks the Seven Seas Lagoon, with a peaceful vibe alongside a walking bridge, 181-foot waterslide, waterfalls, and a zero-depth entry point. There’s also a poolside bar and cabanas available for rent, as well as an incredible Alice in Wonderland inspired splash area that sent my heart soaring! The Courtyard Pool is directly behind the main building and caught our attention with a giant poolside chess set!

There’s also Senses, a full-service spa, and the Ivy Trellis, a full-service salon that also offers princess makeovers for young guests! Fine art photography is also available to commemorate your stay with family photographs!

The Grand Floridian the standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magical Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi.

Dining: You haven’t truly Disney dined until you’ve dined at the Grand Floridian restaurants. There are so many incredible dining experiences available here!

I have to start with Victoria and Albert’s, the quintessential fine dining experience, with meals that include things like Italian truffles and Russian caviar, served on fine china, crystal, and silver. There’s also private dining and Chef’s Table seating available for a truly indulgent experience.

Cítricos offers Mediterranean infused American cuisine, along with a lounge featuring an award-winning wine list and special 12-course dinners available via the Chef’s Domain at Cítricos.

Narcoosee’s serves up seafood inspired by the waterfront view for brunch and dinner, with views that overlook the fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant.

The real star of the show for our young family is 1900 Park Fare. The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast features Mary Poppins, Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Pooh, alongside a delicious spread of breakfast foods to suit every taste. Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner is one of the most unique character meals, in our opinion, because it features Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, and the Stepsisters! You so rarely get to dine with “villains” and Ruby adores the sisters!

The Grand Floridian Cafe rounds out the table service locations on property as a casual, but elegant restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

There are also three opportunities for tea, including the Perfectly Princess Tea or Afternoon Tea in the Garden View Tea Room and the Wonderland Tea Party at 1900 Park Fare.

The Gasparilla Island Grill is the 24-hour quick service hub at the Grand Floridian and also where you’d pick up your resort mugs with the Dining Plan. I recommend the mahi mahi “Reuben”! Adults can also enjoy cocktails at the two pool bars and Cítricos and Mizner’s lounges.

Shopping: There is so much shopping to do here, including shops like Basin White (specialty soaps and other bath products), Commander Porter’s (apparel from brands like Tommy Bahama), M. Mouse Mercantile (souvenirs), Sandy Cove Gifts and Sundries (groceries, snacks, spirits, souvenirs), and Summer Lace (upscale women’s boutique).

Activities: Because of their waterfront location, there are some unique activities available at the Grand Floridian, like the Pirates Adventure Cruise, fireworks cruises, and other specialty cruises (including the Yacht 1, which can hold 17 guests and a butler and is rented by the hour). You can also catch the Electrical Water Pageant floating by.

In the lobby, you can sit and enjoy the pianist and the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra throughout the day.

There’s also motorized boat and cabana rentals, fishing, Arcadia Games, Movies Under the Stars, campfire activities, basketball, jogging trails, and swimming.

About Our Stays at the grand floridian resort & Spa

Time of Year: May 2017

Room Type: Garden view, lagoon view

Travel Party Size: 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids), 1 household. (My cousin also joined us in a connecting room for part of the trip.)

Our Experience: I’ll be honest. I was skeptical about spending this much money on a resort.  We had so much park time planned, that I couldn’t imagine us getting our money’s worth. But, I get it now. It was worth every dollar spent!

From the moment we drove into the Grand Floridian gates, we felt “at home”. I also love that the gate guards say “Welcome home!”. It’s definitely appropriate! The Victorian architecture is just spectacular. Ruby was amazed as the monorail went by overhead. And then she laid eyes on the carriage and antique car parked outside.

The lobby was filled with fresh cut flowers, live music, and beautiful furniture. It was just a “wow” arrival moment. We also loved the way they incorporated Disney decor in such an elegant way, like in the marble floors and wood detailing.

The outer buildings’ interiors are also lovely, but not as awe-inspiring as the main building. They are still elegantly Floridian though. We quickly settled into our spacious room, complete with plenty of storage space that handled our suitcases, double stroller, pack & play, and other baby gear with ease. The beds were very comfortable, as was our couch.

We were in Sago Cay, which turned out to be the perfect building. We’ll definitely request it on any future trips. Sago Cay is directly across from the quick service restaurant, close to the main building (monorail), and has a walking path to head directly to the buses (instead of going through the main building). We also had a gorgeous lake view just outside the building and a partial view even from our “garden view” patio.

Our stay was also enhanced by lots of little things – chocolates on the pillow, super friendly cast members, larger sized toiletries, coffee and water in the room, and other little things like that. They aren’t reasons to stay, on their own, but they just make you feel wrapped in the Disney magic.

If I was really going to nitpick, the only oddity was the bathroom door. When they updated the bathrooms and installed the elongated toilet seats, they didn’t account for door clearance, so the door hit the toilet. It was in no way a deal breaker, but it was just a funny little detail that seemed like something Disney normally would have addressed. (We stayed at the Grand Floridian again and our other room had a notch carved out of the door to clear the toilet, so I guess some of them were addressed. It made me giggle when I saw it!)

For us, the big draw was monorail access to Magic Kingdom – and it didn’t disappoint. The monorail was rarely congested and ran constantly. We loved that there was a security checkpoint at the resort, so we didn’t have to wait in security lines at the park. This allowed us to routinely make it door-to-park in 10-15 minutes!

We also loved being close to our favorite restaurant, 1900 Park Fare! The food across the resort is just delicious. Even the quick service restaurant food seemed a little more elevated than at other locations.

But here’s how you know we really loved our time here. At the end of our Disney trip, we headed south to visit family in Miami for a few days. On the way home, we called our travel agent and asked if there was a room at the Grand Floridian for that night… and stopped for one more night’s stay! We pulled into the parking lot, hopped the monorail and went straight to catch the fireworks in Magic Kingdom, rode a ton of rides, grabbed quick service on our way back to the room, and crashed. It was the perfect way to end our Florida adventure.

This second room was a lagoon view. The room interior was basically identical to our previous room, spacious and lovely. We loved looking out over the Polynesian, but there was a downside. A noisy downside. The boat horns! We heard them well into the night and early the next morning. So, if you’re a light sleeper, the lagoon view may not be for you. If you’re a sip-your-coffee-on-the-patio person, it really may be though! I’m some combination of the two… and I’m not sure which would win out!

Outside of our actual stays at the Grand Floridian, we’ve visited again for meals. On our last trip, the resort was decorated for Christmas and it was truly spectacular. Their Christmas trees and decorations are just gorgeous. The life size gingerbread house has to be seen to be believed though. I mean, smoke actually comes out of the chimney! We went wild buying special holiday treats from the bake shop inside too. Gingerbread roof tiles for everyone! If you’re looking for a magical Disney Christmas memory, this is it. Don’t miss it!

Favorite Part: Monorail, monorail, monorail, and did I mention the monorail? The feeling of decadence, comfort, room size, all of it.

Least Favorite Part: I can’t think of a single thing. I guess the boat horns from the lagoon view.

Would We Stay Again?: Obviously, yes! We did! So far, this is our favorite resort on property by a long shot.

 

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Prioritizing Your Needs

When I’m booking a Disney stay, there are a few key factors that I like to consider beforehand and rank in order of importance.

Convenience to the Parks

If you’re traveling with little ones, this could be the deciding factor in your resort planning. Each resort has different transportation methods to get to the park, most being by bus.

If you’re really looking for the pinnacle of convenience, look at Deluxe Resorts like the monorail Resorts surrounding Magic Kingdom and the walkable Resorts surrounding Epcot. There is nothing like being door-to-gate in 15 minutes!

There are also some deluxe and moderate resorts connected to a park or Disney Springs by boat, which can almost match the convenience, especially if they’re the larger boats that allow for strollers to roll on.

Generally, the buses become busier as your resort level drops. So, if you hate a crowded bus, this might be a top ranked priority for your trip. Personally, I don’t mind the buses, but my husband hates them!

Resort Amenities and Activities

Each resort offers unique amenities that match their theme. While there are many found across properties, regardless of resort level, there are some that may truly stand out for your family (like horseback riding or the biggest pool on property).

If you’re planning an action-packed trip with tons of park time, your resort amenities might not be a major factor in your choice. Conversely, if you like to plan “down days” in between parks, you may want more activities at the resort to fill those days!

Travel Budget

Disney trips can add up, no matter what budget you’re working with! Consider what your total travel budget is and where you’re willing to cut corners.

Our family opts to drive, so we can spend our airfare savings on more Disney fun. We’ve also done blow-the-budget deluxe stays and more conservative value stays to free up more money for other things. It’s all about your priority for this trip.

I can assure you that you’ll have a magical vacation, no matter where you stay or how long you’re there for. Don’t let your FOMO blow your budget on a resort you don’t really need!

Room Size

In our experience, our room sizes have been directly proportional to what level of resort we’ve stayed at. For lots of families, room size isn’t a deal breaker, because they’re out of the room a lot. For others, they need room to spread out and enjoy their down time.

Port Orleans Riverside Royal Room

For my family, we prefer a larger room. Our youngest still sleeps in a Pack & Play and we travel with a double stroller, so value rooms are a tight squeeze for us and our stuff. If we’re booking a lengthier stay, we take this into consideration before choosing a resort.

Other Considerations Before You Book

Time of Travel

Look at your travel window and decide how much wiggle room you have, if any.

Some families have to travel during school breaks and their dates are set in stone. If you have more flexibility, that may allow for booking around promotions and special events.

We often take our travel dates into more consideration than just promos. It partially ties back into the amenities ranking. If it’s going to be really cold, the pools aren’t a big deal. If it’s the holidays, one of the highly decorated resorts might be worth the stay. We also consider what holidays might affect pricing and park hours, like during Sept-Dec when Magic Kingdom closes early a few nights a week for parties.

The Grand Floridian's lobby at Christmas

Travel Party Size

Your travel party size can affect resort availability and pricing. You want to consider how many guests you’ll have and how they might be broken down into rooms. If you’re a large family with several children, you want to consider if you’d be comfortable requesting, but not being guaranteed, connecting rooms or if you want to look at a suite or villa.

Travel Party Ages

I think it’s impossible not to have fun at a Disney resort, but there are certainly some that are more fun than others for kids or adults. For instance, my girls would stay at Art of Animation every single trip because of all the artwork and interactive fun, while we would take the refinement and luxury of the Grand Floridian any day. It’s a balancing act! On our last trip, we split the time between AOA and Beach Club! Which brings me to my next point…

You Don’t Have to Choose Just One!

We are frequent resort hoppers. People sometimes think we’re a little mad, and they may be right, but it works for us! We love getting to have multiple resort experiences in one trip. It takes a bit of planning, but it’s completely doable. This can be ideal for travelers who want a taste of deluxe, but can’t swing the entire trip that way!

My Suggestions by Priority

If you want convenience and you’re prepared to spend…

Book at one of the Magic Kingdom monorail Resorts (Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Polynesian) for quick access to the park, as well as monorail access to Epcot.

Grand Floridian

If you’re traveling without kids or really prefer Epcot and Hollywood Studios, book at either the Yacht Club, Beach Club, or the Boardwalk for walkability to Epcot and a short boat ride to Hollywood Studios.

If you want convenience and you’re prepared to spend a little less…

Book at Wilderness Lodge or the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, so you still have the boat to Magic Kingdom (which is large enough to roll your stroller on) and the TTC (which means monorail to Epcot is an option too).

The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

If you want an action packed resort and are prepared to spend…

Book at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness for some of the most unique amenities on Disney property. I can’t say enough about how much adventure there is waiting for you there!

If you want an action packed resort and have a tight budget…

Book at Pop Century or Art of Animation for a fun and vibrant environment and lots of stuff to explore.

Art of Animation Little Mermaid area

If you want a peaceful resort and are prepared to spend…

Book at the Grand Floridian. It’s the lap of luxury and you won’t regret it.

You might also consider Old Key West or even Animal Kingdom Lodge, especially the Savannah view rooms!

If you want a peaceful resort and are prepared to spend less…

Book at Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach, or Coronado Springs. Saratoga Springs might also be an option.

Port Orleans Riverside

You might also consider the Cabins at Fort Wilderness, because there isn’t enough to be said for having your own “building”, patio, and no shared walls.

If you want to save your money for the parks…

Book at the All-Star Value Resorts. They’re the most economical stay on property, while still getting the perks!

If you’re traveling with a larger party and want to stay together…

Book at the Cabins at Fort Wilderness or Art of Animation family suites.

The bedroom in the Art of Animation Family Suite

You may also consider Villas at the various Disney Vacation Club resorts, but those come with a much steeper price tag! The Treehouse Villas are on our wish list.

Did we miss any suggestions? Any questions? Leave us a comment!

 

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The Cabins at Fort Wilderness

Type of Resort: Moderate

Theme: the American frontier and pioneer life

Location: Magic Kingdom Resort Area

Transportation Options: Take a water taxi to Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge, or the Contemporary and buses to other parks

Unique Amenities: It’s so surreal to feel like you’re really “in the woods”, while being a short boat ride from Magic Kingdom. Because of this spacious setting, Fort Wilderness has an internal bus system to move people efficiently around the resort. You can also rent a golf cart for your stay and skip the internal buses! There are two pools, the Meadow Swimmin’ Pool (with a 67-foot corkscrew water slide, whirlpool spa, and kids’ splash area) and the Wilderness Swimmin’ Pool. There is fine art photography available, if you want to commemorate your trip with a family portrait session! Guests can now preorder groceries for their Cabin too. You just submit your list and your groceries arrive on check-in day! They also have the standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magical Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi. This is also one of the pet friendly resorts on property!

Dining: You won’t go hungry at Fort Wilderness. Stop by the Chuck Wagon food truck for a dinner of hot dogs, burgers, and salad or P & J’s Southern Takeout for a whole range of quick service food like pizza, fried chicken, Italian subs, salads, and traditional breakfast fare. Adults can also escape to Crockett’s Tavern for pizza, wings, beer, and wine. Trail’s End is a family buffet of down-home cooking. The real stars of the show are the entertaining dinners available here. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a two-hour dinner show featuring music, dancing, and comedy, while Mickey’s Backyard BBQ features all-you-can eat BBQ, live music, and classic characters we all love like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip and Dale!

Shopping: The Meadow Trading Post and Settlement Trading posts stock groceries, spirits, and souvenirs. You can rent movies at the Meadow Trading Post too!

Activities: You could truly plan an entire vacation around Fort Wilderness activities without setting foot in a park. Circle-D Ranch is full of fun, from taking a tour of the stables to see Cinderella’s ponies and the blacksmith making horseshoes, to horseback and pony rides. This is also home to the horse-drawn Dragon Calliope that Walt himself purchased for one of the Disneyland parades. You can also take extremely reasonably priced group wagon rides or private horse-drawn carriage rides from the Ranch. If you’d rather take a more active tour, you can even hop on a Segway as part of the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure. The Fort Wilderness Archery Experience will thrill Merida fans, learning how to use a compound bow with lots of target practice for 90 minutes. At night, you can head to the water to check out the Electrical Water Pageant floating by too. If that’s not enough, there’s also motorized boat, kayak, and canoe rentals, bike and golf cart rentals, fishing, playgrounds, two arcades (David Boone’s Wilderness Arcade and Davy Crockett’s Wilderness Arcade), Movies Under the Stars, campfire activities, basketball, volleyball, jogging trails, and swimming.

About Our Stay

Time of Year: May 2017

Room Type: Cabin

Travel Party Size: 7 people (4 adults, 3 kids), 2 households

Our Experience: Our travel party included my best friend, her husband, and her son, who’s also Ruby’s best friend. We were celebrating the kids’ third birthdays and wanted to stay all together.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the Cabin experience with two households, but we weren’t disappointed! It was such a luxury to have a full kitchen with three kids in tow – a dishwasher and full size refrigerator without the Villa pricing. The master bedroom had a comfortable queen bed and extremely comfortable bunk beds that the kids loved. The bathroom was large, although tough to manage 7 showers and routines in! The living room was a good size with a large TV. The only real letdown was how uncomfortable the sleeper sofa was. I mean, that thing was terrible. If you plan to stay with multiple adults, you might want to plan to rotate nights, so everyone sleeps in comfort at some point.

We also really enjoyed being able to park right at our front door. With two strollers, it was nice to stow them away in the cars at the end of the day! It was also amazing to have our own patio to relax on. This is the only place on Disney property where you can smoke on your patio, so that’s something to consider if you’re traveling with a smoker. We really enjoyed being able to put the kids to bed and hang out on the patio with our best friends each night.

We opted not to rent a golf cart, because we were dealing with two strollers, but we occasionally wished that we had. It would have been nice to hop on and drive directly to the dock or bus stop! If we stay again, we will definitely rent one! That being said, we never waited more than 5 minutes for an internal bus and the walk to the bus stop was short, so we made do just fine!

Favorite Part: The peace and quiet after long days, the patio, the convenience of having a full kitchen and parking right outside, the boat to Magic Kingdom

Least Favorite Part: The internal buses made trips feel longer and meant wrestling with bags and strollers twice, the uncomfortable sleeper sofa

Would We Stay Again?: Definitely! It felt like a great value for the cost and was so relaxing. Todd has anxiety and the peaceful retreat really helped him stay centered. Fort Wilderness really is unlike any resort on property.

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort | Little Mermaid Rooms

about disney’s art of animation resort

Type of Resort: Value

Types of Rooms: Standard rooms and family suites

Theme: the artwork and animation of beloved Disney and Pixar films

Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports Area

Transportation Options: Buses

Unique Amenities: Art of Animation is filled to the brim with amazing theming, starting with the buildings and grounds themselves. It’s really a place you have to see to understand the scope of design that Disney delivers here, between the artwork, giant set pieces, and building decor. AOA also has three pools, including the Big Blue Pool (the largest on Disney property, with giant Finding Nemo set pieces surrounding it, zero-entry point, underwater speakers, and “sprayground” that will thrill your kids), Cozy Cone pool (Cars), and Flippin’ Fins pool (Little Mermaid). They also have fine art photography available, if you want to commemorate your trip with family photos.

They also have the standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magical Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi. This is also one of the pet friendly resorts on property!

Dining: Landscape of Flavors is this resort’s quick service hub, featuring tons of stations and options for each meal. At breakfast, you can choose from traditional breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles, and eggs, but my personal favorite was the breakfast burger. There is also a wide variety of lunch and dinner options, from salads, soups and sandwiches (I highly suggest the roasted turkey croissant) to burgers, pizzas, and pastas (we loved the make-your-own option) to more exotic flavors at the World of Flavor shop (tandoori chicken and Mongolian fish, for example).

The breakfast burger at Art of Animation's Quick Service restaurant

Shopping: The Ink & Paint Shop features a mix of sundries, collectibles, and souvenirs. They also have a large pin and toy selection. We had a lot of fun shopping here.

Activities: Bike rentals, Finding Nemo courtyard playground, Pixel Play Arcade, Movies Under the Stars, jogging trails, and swimming.

About Our StaY

Ruby, posing in front of the Christmas tree in the Art of Animation lobby

details of our stay

Time of Year: December 2017

Length of Stay: two nights

Room Type: Little Mermaid standard room

Travel Party Size: 4 (2 adults and 2 children), 1 household

Our Experience

I’m going to sound like a broken record, but the theming of these buildings are so incredible! Our girls were blown away by the big set pieces outside our building. It took us forever to usher them to the room, because they wanted to stop and look at everything. In their defense though, so did we! There is just so much detail at this resort. I feel like we noticed something new every time we stepped outside.

Once we made it to our room, we were delighted by the theming there too! It really was adorable.Everything from the chairs to the mirror to the shower curtain were Little Mermaid themed. It was a dream come true for our Ariel lover!

Much like our review of the Port Orleans Riverside Royal Rooms (the rooms actually seemed identical in terms of size and layout, just different theming), our only complaint was space. These rooms are equitable in size to your normal motel room and have doors that open to the outdoor corridor. For a long visit (or in our case, kids with a lot of stuff), you may find yourself a bit cramped. Still, despite the smaller room sizes and more motel feel, we didn’t hear any hall or neighbor noise, except for the occasional toilets flushing.

These rooms are the furthest away from the main building, which isn’t a big problem, unless you’re relying on getting your morning coffee there. At other resorts, one of us usually makes a coffee run while the other gets kids dressed, before we all walk back over for breakfast and more morning fuel. The main building was definitely too far away for us to just make trips back and forth. In fact, we didn’t visit it more than once during this part of the stay.

Because of the long walk (and long bus lines), we ended up not using the internal buses from AOA. We walked out on our first day and saw a few buses worth of people waiting to head to Magic Kingdom. So, we quickly decided to drive our own car instead. We noticed that the lines weren’t bad later in the day, so it was definitely a timing issue. If you plan to use the buses during peak times, definitely plan to be at the buses early. There are a lot of guests at this resort and they’re all going the same places that you are!

We didn’t use the pools during this part of our stay, but we did during our family suites stay. You can read about that experience and the pools here!

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Favorite Part: The look of wonder on our kids’ faces and the feeling of really being transported into the Disney bubble.

Least Favorite Part: Tight quarters for all of our stuff, being pretty far out from the main building, and very busy buses.

Would We Stay Again?: It was a major standout for Ruby, so we would definitely consider it. I don’t think we’d stay for a long trip (with a lot of stuff), but it would be one of our first choices for a quick weekend trip!

 

 

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Port Orleans Riverside

Port Orleans Riverside

Type of Resort: Moderate

Theme: Rural Louisiana

Location: Disney Springs Area

Transportation Options: Take a water taxi to Disney Springs and buses to the parks.

Unique Amenities: Both Port Orleans properties (Riverside and French Quarter) share amenities, so you get a lot of different experiences staying here! There are several pools, including Ol’ Man Island (which is a 3.5 acre space that’s part pool, part fishing hole, with a 95-foot waterslide, kiddie pool, whirlpool spa, and poolside bar), Doubloon Lagoon (part of POFQ, this pool has a 51-foot sea serpent slide, kids’ water play area, whirlpool spa, and poolside bar) and five other leisure pools. Possibly the most unique experience here is the 25-minute horse drawn carriage ride ($55/ride for up to 4 adults or 2 adults and 3 children). There is also fine art photography available, if you want to commemorate your trip with a family portrait session! They also have the standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magical Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi. This is also one of the pet friendly resorts on property!

Dining: The Riverside Mill Food Court (traditional breakfast foods and Louisiana inspired burgers, fried seafood, pizza, and hot dogs) is quick service, while you can opt for a table service dinner at Boatwright’s Dining Hall and enjoy lots of Louisiana favorites like shrimp and grits. There is also a pool bar and a lounge (that serves food) for adults to enjoy a cocktail. You can also head over to the French Quarter side for more NOLA inspired eats!

Shopping: Fulton’s General Store serves as the shopping hub for POR, with souvenirs, sundries, and more. This is also where you’ll pick up resort mugs, if you’re on the dining plan!

Activities: Bike and surrey bike rentals, fishing, two playgrounds, two arcades (Medicine Show Arcade at POR and South Quarter Games at POFQ), Movies Under the Stars, campfire activities, jogging trails, and swimming.

About Our Stay

Time of Year: May 2017

Length of Stay: one night

Room Type: Royal Room

Travel Party Size: 4 people (2 adults, 2 kids), 1 household

Our Experience: I hadn’t stayed here since it was Dixie Landings when I was a kid! This resort is so gorgeous. Being from New Orleans, we obviously felt very at home at Port Orleans. My husband joked that it’s what home would be like if they had better infrastructure and less violence. Nevertheless, it was fun to be back at a resort I’d experienced as a kid and see what Disney had done! We loved our Royal Room theming. Ruby loves Tiana with a special fondness, along with all of the Disney princesses, so this was the perfect place for her. She was blown away by the LED fireworks displays on the headboards and must have pushed the button a thousand times. We only stayed for one night, as we arrived ahead of the rest of our party. While we loved the theming, we felt short on space with our double stroller and luggage loaded into the room. If this had been a longer stay, I think we would have ended up frustrated or loading half of our stuff back in the car. If our kids were older, with less stuff, I don’t think space would have been much of an issue though! The room was a little bit noisy, but not annoyingly so. We could hear our neighbor’s toilet flush and occasionally hear noise outside. The bus stops were a bit of a walk, but we were pleased with how centrally located the main building was.

Favorite Parts: The room theming and headboards

Least Favorite Part: Feeling cramped

Would We Stay Again?: When we can travel lighter, we would definitely stay again. Ruby still talks about this room!

Saratoga Springs Villas

Saratoga Springs

Type of Resort: Deluxe, Disney Vacation Club

Theme: Late 1800’s Saratoga Springs, NY, which was known for its horseback riding and spas!

Location: Disney Springs Area

Transportation Options: Take water taxis from two locations to Disney Springs and buses to the parks.

Unique Amenities: There are 5 pools across the resort, including the Paddock Pool (with a 146-ft waterslide, two smaller kid friendly waterslides, whirlpool spa, and zero-depth entry point into the pool), the High Rock Spring Pool (waterslide built into the rocks, waterfalls, the same zero-depth entry point into the pool, and a Donald Duck splash pad area for kids with a small water slide), and three additional leisure pools (one of which includes the Grandstand Water Play Area, where kids can race spraying sea horses). The country-club inspired Buena Vista Golf Course and the Senses full service spa add a real touch of luxury to the resort as well! They also have the more standard Disney amenities like merchandise pickup and delivery, laundry services, mail, ATM and bank services, airline check-in, concierge services, Magica Express, online check-in, and complimentary wi-fi.

Dining: The Artist’s Palette is the quick service hub of the resort, with tasty and somewhat elegant options like french toast strata, lobster club sandwiches, paninis, and thin crust pies. There’s also another quick service option, Chips & Slices, which serves breakfast, snacks, and sandwiches. There are three pool bars, two of which also serve food. Adults can enjoy cocktails at the Turf Club Lounge, where I highly suggest getting into theme with a mint julep! The Turf Club Bar and Grill is modeled after a racetrack clubhouse and is a delicious option for dinner, with sophisticated takes on American classics. We really enjoyed this meal!

Shopping: The Artist’s Palette also doubles as their hub for merchandise and groceries. We found this store to be exceptionally well stocked, even having umbrella strollers! There’s a wide range of merchandise, from souvenirs to collectibles and designer bags.

Recreation: Bike and surrey bike rentals, fishing, Community Hall, Win Place or Show Arcade, Movies Under the Stars, campfire activities, sunrise yoga, tennis, basketball, jogging trails, golf, swimming, and the spa. So much to do!

Visit their site to learn more here.

About Our Stay

Time of Year: Thanksgiving 2016

Room Type: 3 bedroom grand villa

Travel Party Size: 7 people (5 adults, 2 children), 3 households

Our Experience: We loved that the guard said “Welcome Home!” at the gate. It’s small, but it’s one of my favorite parts of Disney Vacation Club resorts! The resort is beautiful, but sprawling. It can be a long walk from your room to the main buildings! There are several bus stops within the resort, so bus rides to the parks feel kind of tedious (we were the first stop, which was great on the way home, but not fun on the way to the parks with an excited toddler). They were decorated for Christmas and the lobby was just gorgeous. Their decorations aren’t as unique as other resorts, but they were still spectacular! We loved our villa and the theming, although it was a bit outdated at the time of our stay. We loved the large common areas to spend time together and having a kitchen with a dishwasher for bottles and kid stuff during our stay! The couch was stiff and uncomfortable, but it wasn’t a major detractor. The bedrooms and bathrooms were each a good size and the beds were comfortable. We all loved the giant jacuzzi tub in the master bath! There are two bedrooms upstairs, which is important to know if you have mobility issues or toddlers! We loved having a patio to enjoy evening cocktails on after the kids went to bed. We didn’t get a chance to use most of the resort’s amenities, because our stay was so short, but the pool and golf course outside our building both were well kept and inviting. I actually really enjoyed watching the maintenance crew working on the golf course each morning from our patio with a cup of coffee! It’s amazing when you start thinking about the volume of cast members and attention to detail happening across Disney property!

Favorite Parts: Having boat access to Disney Springs, the jacuzzi tub, being all together, and having parking access right outside our building

Least Favorite Parts: The walk to the main buildings and the couch

Would We Stay Again?: I’d love to stay in the Treehouse Villas if we stayed again, because they look so inviting. There are so many options for Villas across property, that it really comes down to amenities and proximity that will work best for the trip!

1900 Park Fare Breakfast

We have done a lot of character meals. I mean, A LOT. And we have eaten at 1900 Park fare a lot. I mean, A LOT. Big parties, small parties, birthday meals, you name it. And I can say, with confidence, that breakfast at 1900 Park Fare are our favorite character meal experiences at Disney World. Read about our dinner experiences here!

 

about Breakfast and Brunch at 1900 Park Fare

Cost: $35 – 59.99, DIsney Dining Plan accepted

Characters: Alice in Wonderland, Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Tigger, and Pooh

Reservations: Highly suggested! Log in to the Disney website, your My Disney Experience app, or call (407) 939-3463.

Food: This expansive buffet includes traditional breakfast food (bagels, eggs, waffles, breakfast meat) and specialty items like the Grand Floridian’s signature strawberry soup smoked salmon lox, and omelet and carving stations. Personally, I love the blintzes and red velvet pancakes, while my girls love the breakfast pizza. At brunch, you’ll also find a breakfast burrito bar, salads, and typical kids’ lunch foods joining the menu.

Rating: 5 out of 5 frying pans

 

About Our Experience(s)

As I noted in the food section, the buffet is awesome. There’s something for everyone – and lots of it! The food and service is always impeccable, but the characters are what really sets 1900 Park Fare apart for my family.

The Mad Hatter is such a unique character to see brought to life. He really puts on a show and will have as much fun with you as you’re up to have! Ruby is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, so Alice is really the star of her show. We adore her spot-on accent, great references, and kindness with the little ones. My girls wait anxiously to crawl into her lap!

Mary Poppins is also truly practically perfect in every way. Tigger and Pooh seem to take turns at the restaurant’s exit, where you’ll find a PhotoPass photographer waiting to take your picture. The other character will come to greet you in the dining room.

I like how the characters seem to move through the dining room in a really informal way, not a clear pattern like some other character dining experiences. They never seem rushed and truly take their time with each guest, often including multiple tables in their conversations as they go.

 

More Information

Location: Inside the Grand Floridian main building

Transportation Options: If you’re staying on property, you can take a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then hop the monorail. You can also take the monorail directly from any of the Magic Kingdom area deluxe resorts, Magic Kingdom, or the Ticket and Transportation Center. If you’ll have a vehicle, you can also drive directly to the Grand Floridian by following signs to the Magic Kingdom area resorts and park at the resort. Or try the new Minnie Van service, Lyft, or Uber directly to the resort!

Things to Know: When you check in for your reservation, they’ll request a phone number to text when your table is ready. We love this feature, because it frees us up to explore the Grand Floridian’s lobby and shops while we wait. Also, make sure to exit at the back of the restaurant (opposite of where you came in), so you don’t miss the extra character meet & greet and PhotoPass opportunity!

While You’re There: Check out some of the fabulous high end shops in the Grand Floridian lobby. You can also take a stroll around the resort to see the giant chess set by the main pool, the teacup splash pad area, and enjoy the views of the lagoon and Bay Lake (you can even spot the castle)! You also don’t want to miss the great photo opportunity just outside the resort’s main entrance. You’ll find an antique car and carriage that make a beautiful backdrop for photos.

A+R Insider Tip: Since we love Alice in Wonderland so much, my girls often wear their Alice themed attire to this breakfast. I like to plan to head to Magic Kingdom afterwards, for awesome photo opportunities by the Mad Tea Party ride!

 

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