The Last Resort

by Emily Owens-Pickle, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the January 20, 2009 Issue #487 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

It is a brand-new year and many of you have moved past the cRaZiNeSs that is December. It is time to put the finishing touches or maybe just begin your WDW vacation planning... this is where I (hope to) come in.

My family is looking forward to an extended World trip during a personal favorite, the 2009 Flower & Garden Festival. I still have not booked a resort. I know, I know! But how to find the right one? And I've been to WDW... a lot.

So how can I help AllEars® readers, veterans and newbies alike, plan their next excursion? I was browsing the AllEars® site and musing over the fact that though we Disney-philes do have the same 'core' loves of the Disney Company (Walt, Mickey, Disney Magic, Aloha Isle... ) we sure do fill the spectrum when it comes to restaurant, resort, and attraction preferences. For instance, I adore Fort Wilderness even with the admitted transportation drawbacks. I am also in Anita's boat (Friendship) in regards to the Grand Floridian... beautiful yet somehow very uninviting to me, though some swear against and by both of these resorts.

Here it is: we are different folks and we will never feel the same on every aspect of Disney. Our preferences will change as our family dynamics, pocketbooks, and life stages change. So what if we took a look at our personality needs/wants right now and tried to make a decision on the resort choice for our next trip?

'Emily's First Things First' or 'Disclaimer on Methods':

You will not agree with me on all of these. Some of these resorts could have probably fit in more categories. For instance, most of the Disney resorts feel luxurious -- Disney service is the standard. So sure, I could have crammed everyone into 'relaxing' or 'fun'. I only put the few resorts in each category that I personally feel ideally fit based on my experiences. Also, I could have made a category for Animal Lovers but I think we would all agree that animal fanatics would probably enjoy the ANIMAL KINGDOM Lodge... savvy, mates?

Lastly, with enough planning you can make anywhere in the world 'relaxing', 'luxurious', or one big 'par-tay!' As AllEars® writer Mike Scopa recently blogged, Disney let's YOU magic it YOUR way, so do not let me put you in a box.

All that said, I absolutely do want to hear your (nice) thoughts and comments on what I missed and overlooked!

P-A-R-T-Y (paaaar-tay!)

Port Orleans (French Quarter): I really don't need to explain why I would consider this resort an obvious choice as a par-tay cen-tral. New Orleans. Mardi Gras theme. That pretty much sums it up. ($$)

Saratoga Springs: Recent Pleasure Island changes aside, you are across the water from Downtown Disney, with shopping, restaurants, music, movies and even a circus! Come on -- a circus! ($$$)

Boardwalk: The Boardwalk is one of Disney's ideally placed resorts. You have the recreation of a seaside boardwalk complete with street performers, eateries, and even a piano bar. You cannot NOT have a good time at this place. Bored with Boardwalk? Stroll down and step into the International Gateway of Epcot where a world of party awaits. ($$$$)


Fort Wilderness: I think 'wilderness' and 'adventure' are pretty synonymous. For the 8-year-old with a Peter Pan-sized imagination or the 38-year-old reliving 8 years old, this resort is a great atmosphere for expecting a collision with Huckleberry Finn at every pine-filled corner. You are also a boat-ride away from the Magic Kingdom (AdventureLAND!?) and you can relive every day's adventure with Chip & Dale's S'mores Sing-A-Long fireside at the campground. ($$)

Wilderness Lodge: The West comes East and you will feel the adventure the moment you enter this amazing lobby to be greeted by crickets chirping and the amazing soundtrack. An enormous stone fireplace fills one corner of the Wilderness Lodge and laughter (also yelling) pours out from the Whispering Canyon Cafe. You will know from these immediate observations that a trip to the Wilderness Lodge is an adventure everyone in your family will love. (Tip: ask about the 'Flag Family of the Day' when you check-in) ($$$)

Beach & Yacht Club: Three words (and a hyphen): Storm-Along Bay. This wonderfully themed pool surpasses the 'Ideal Pool Wish List' of any child…and okay, any adult as well. It is so popular that guests of this resort are given wristbands to keep pool-hoppers out and resort guests floating happily along the lazy river and running up the pirate-ship slide. Yep-that's what I said: pirate ship. How can you not have adventure at a resort with a pirate ship marooned in the front…that has a SLIDE?? ($$$$)

Caribbean Beach: Slow down skeptics! Caribbean had to eke by because of the new 'Pirates of the Caribbean' themed-rooms. 'Pirates' is THE Disney adventure movie and so this resort at least deserved an adventure mention.


Swan and Dolphin: The atmosphere exudes peace and the in-house spa, Mandara, is one of the top-rated in the area. So relax, breathe, schedule a massage, and send your [husband/child(ren)/boss/life in general] to the Magic Kingdom while you schedule a citrus scrub and long lunch. Ah… ($$$)

Contemporary: This was a hard resort for me to place in any category. Initially a flagship resort I feel like the Contemporary has struggled to find a niche in the resorts, especially considering the Deluxe Resort price tag. Still, I think anyone who has seen in pictures or person the new additions will agree that Disney is revamping and revolutionizing this resort with the addition of Bay Lake Tower (a brand-new DVC tower with the comforts of home). A fireworks observation deck! Renovation of rooms and restaurants? A hop, skip and jump away from the Magic Kingdom... sounds relaxing to this mouse. ($$$$)

Grand Floridian: This resort boasts Disney's finest dining establishment, Victoria and Albert's, luxury shops, a spa, salon, live music, and monorail service. A chocolate (dark, no less) on your pillow every night pretty much seals the deal for relaxation and I think you will find it at this resort. ($$$$)

Saratoga Springs: The grounds are quiet, well-kept and the in-house spa features menu offerings such as 'Sleeping-Beauty Body Masque & Wrap', 'Rosemary Spring', and 'Maple Sugar Body Polish'... Gift cards can be sent to AllEars® c/o Emily O. Pickle: ($$$)


Value Resorts (Music, Movies, Pop Century and Sports): There are building-sized yo-yos, instruments, characters, etc. flung throughout the resorts. There is a humungous piano-pool (Music) and everything is bright -- real bright. I think the Value Resorts are fantastic for families; a value rate and a place where your children can do minimum damage (even children who have consumed three Mickey ice cream bars cannot hurt a three-story Lady replica... trust me). Also great for no-fuss adults who do not require bells and whistles and/or plan to spend very little time at their resort. ($)

Port Orleans (French Quarter): New Orleans is whimsy -- the wacky colors and sometimes odd traditions. It is a get-out-of-yourself-have-fun-get-silly kind of place and you are a boat ride away from Downtown Disney. ($$)


Pop Century: I like this resort -- I do. It feels like a step up from the other Value choices. The theming is so well-done and it doesn't have a low-budget feel. I'm not a huge fan of the food court (found a bone in the chicken salad once -- gag) but I'm not keen on Disney quick-service in general. I have heard negative comments about the bus service, but I've paid more and seen worse so I can't complain. This resort will let you step back in the near-past and 'Remember when... ?' ($)

Port Orleans (Riverside): It's the huge fans waving lazily in the check-in area and the water wheel chugging out back. It's the horse-drawn carriage rides and the bunnies that hop around in the morning munching bushes outside your hotel room... I love Riverside. It makes me feel warm and cuddly inside. I feel like Grandma is going to walk in any minute with a plate of buttermilk biscuits. It slows me down to a genteel Southern pace and you are next door to the wild and crazy of Naw'lins if you need a pick-me-up. Bonus: you can take a water taxi to the French Quarter or Downtown Disney. ($$)

Boardwalk: A lot of time and detail went into this resort and, despite the shorts-clad tourists and baseball caps, the extensive theming still brings you to a different time and place. Close your eyes, block out fellow mice, feel the breeze of the Eastern Seaboard and welcome to way back when (sans Prohibition). ($$$$)

Old Key West: The Old Florida we love... slow pace, the lazy life, quiet afternoons, and great friends close by. The original Disney Vacation Club resort brings the best of South Florida to Central Florida. Really and truly: welcome home. ($$$)

Grand Floridian: I love the pictures of Disneyland when it first opened -- ladies riding rides with their white gloved-hands clutching matching patent-leather handbags. Men in leisure suits queuing for "Pirates of the Caribbean." Classic. For the mature mouse of body or spirit fear not -- the Grand Floridian is one place on WDW property where the outfit of original Disney-goers would actually not feel too out of place. The design and decor is turn-of-the-century and if you want to go all out, this resort is the way to go. ($$$$)


Animal Kingdom Lodge: Wow. I just... wow. Folks: There are fake fires burning as you come up the drive. You can learn (and fail) to speak Bush-man. The hotel is amazing, giraffes walk by your bedroom window, and you can eat at some of Disney's best restaurants. You can also attend talks given by the African cast members and learn about the countries and peoples of that amazing continent. At the risk of redundancy: Wow. ($$$)

Caribbean Beach: You in Jamaica 'mon (it's even worse if you could actually hear me). I'm from Florida -- I think this resort might be a little lost on me. But if you live in Idaho, Maine, Vermont, etc., then I think you could appreciate a resort where the theming is bright sun and warmth -- sweet warmth! (I'm channeling my inner Idaho-an.) ($$)

Coronado Springs: I "heart" mountains of any kind and I think one reason is because I'm a natural Floridian. I love the sun and sand, but it is nice to have a change of scenery. If you are battling snow and ice half of the year then a trip to a warm and bright place might be just the trick. This large resort is built around a 15-acre lake and is filled with Zen moments ($$).

So there you have it, mice -- my humble 'Accommodation Recommendations' on your next WDW vacation. Your resort can well be a memory within itself; I (VERY) reluctantly left the Animal Kingdom Lodge every day during our 2006 trip to head to the parks. It was a tough call. Remember that when all else fails, you should relax. When my husband and I went on our Disney cruise we demurred at dancing with the crew during one of the theme parties. The cast member put her hands on her hips and said, "Come on -- YOU'RE ON VACATION!" It's a good vacay-motto (and we danced our heads off…).

This is Walt Disney World -- resort cast members have been making Disney vacation memories for almost four decades. Walt is waiting for you to enjoy his dream and all of the little dreams it has spawned... come on -- you're on vacation!

Money Key:

$ -- Budget
$$ -- Moderate
$$$ -- Expensive
$$$$ -- Very Expensive



A native Floridian, Emily Owens-Pickle first visited Walt Disney World when she was 5 years old. She bee-lined down Main Street USA looking for the fastest route to the top of Cinderella Castle and hasn't looked back since. Two years ago she was lucky enough to marry into a family of fellow Mouse-addicts and together they shamelessly (over)indulge in everything Disney.



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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.