Walt Disney World is known for its theme parks, attractions, and shows, but you don’t always have to go into the parks to have a good time. The Disney World resorts offer tons of fun things to do without ever leaving the hotel.
Every resort at Disney World is special in its own right, but there are some that are so good you never have to leave them to have a great vacation.
Here are some of our favorite resorts to have a Disney staycation.
Polynesian Village Resort
Polynesian Village Resort is one of the Deluxe Magic Kingdom Resorts that is on the Monorail resort loop. The Polynesian hearkens back to an era when tiki bars and Polynesian culture grew in popularity across the country. The Polynesian opened in 1971 when Disney World opened and has been giving Disney World guests classic tiki vibes ever since.
The Polynesian has tons of fun activities so you’ll never have to leave. There is a pool with a volcano and waterslide that will instantly whisk you away to a tropical paradise. There is a beach on the water where you can see fireworks in Magic Kingdom every night. Like most Disney World resorts, there are movies under the stars, too. And the Polynesian has some awesome food, including ‘Ohana, Kona Cafe, Capt. Cook’s, Tambu Lounge, Pineapple Lanai, and the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.
But there is one thing that the Polynesian has that the other Disney Resorts are sorely missing. Behind an unassuming door on the ground level of the Resort is Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, arguably the coolest bar in the World. This tiki bar has all the trappings of a kitschy tropical bar but with tons of Disney Imagineering magic.
With animatronic characters in the ceiling and lights that come alive when certain drinks are ordered, Grog Grotto is a whole experience. Bar stools have also been known to spontaneously lower when guests have had a few drinks. The drinks menu features several rum based cocktails, and the food is delicious with Polynesian dishes like Kalua Pork Tacos and Poke. And of course since it is Disney, there are collectible souvenir tiki mugs. Trader Sam’s tiki mugs have become highly collectible, and there can be lines winding through the Resort when a new mug comes out.
With great food, entertainment, and atmosphere, the Poly is an experience in and of itself — no park tickets required!
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Staying in the Grand Floridian is truly staying in the lap of luxury. The Grand Floridian is one of the most expensive resorts at Disney World, and you get what you pay for. The resort is modeled after classic Victorian Palm Beach architecture. The Grand Floridian has everything you expect from a Disney resort, but what we’re going to focus on are all the extras available at the Grand Floridian.
Senses Spa is a prime example of living the good life at the “Grand Flo”. With massages, hair styling, and plush robes you will really feel like you are on vacation — with no rides in sight.
Now that we’re all relaxed it seems like time to go for a bite to eat. The Grand Floridian has some of the grandest and best restaurants in all of Disney World. Some of the standouts include Citricos, Narcoossee’s, Grand Floridian Cafe, and the Enchanted Rose Lounge, but the crème de la crème is Victoria & Albert’s. The restaurant is a recipient of the AAA Five Diamond Award. Not only is the regular menu a culinary work of art, but there is one unforgettable dining experience available for any fan of good food. The Chef’s Table is a one of a kind experience where the chef prepares a stellar multi-course meal specifically for your group. The table is in the kitchen, where you can watch as the food is prepared and talk to the chefs.
If top of the line comfort, a relaxing spa, and amazing dining experiences aren’t enough for you, the hotel as some great shopping options including Basin White and the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Basin White sells gifts and fancy soaps (some with scents you won’t find anywhere else). While the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers a princess experience for little ones. They can get their hair and makeup done and get the full royal treatment.
After a full day of spa-ing, feasting, shopping, and being turned into a princess, there is no better way to end your day then with watching a parade. The Electrical Water Pageant happens every night in Seven Seas Lagoon. The parade is made up of colorful light up floats that is reminiscent of the Main Street Electrical Parade, and you can watch it from the Resort.
If you hear the call of the great outdoors, the Wilderness Lodge is perfect for you. Wilderness Lodge has the feel of the Pacific Northwest and all the log cabin-y goodness of classic National Park lodges, including creek that runs from inside the lobby to the pool outside.
Since it is a Disney resort, there are all the best amenities including a giant pool, an arcade, and nightly outdoor movies. However the Wilderness Lodge also offers access to outdoors-y experiences like biking, jogging, and fishing.
As would be expected, the dining options in the Wilderness Lodge are also not to be missed. With homey, stick to your ribs fare at places like Roaring Fork and Whispering Canyon Cafe, but one of the stand out dining experiences is Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. This is one of the rare occasions when you Snow White, the Evil Queen, and some of the Seven Dwarfs. This one-credit character meal is worth the price — even without factoring in the delicious food.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is more than just a hotel; it is also a savanna with over 30 species of African animals. Some of the animals that roam about the savanna include giraffes, zebras, kudu, and flamingos. Imagine looking out from your balcony and seeing a giraffe walking by. Yeah, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a full vacation experience.
But it’s not just the animals that make Animal Kingdom Lodge a perfect staycation resort. The restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge are legendary. All of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge serve African- and Indian-inspired cuisine. Jiko is the Resort’s signature restaurant, Boma is a buffet, Sanaa offers single-credit Table Service, and The Mara is a Quick Service gem.
In addition to these, there are a few unique dining experiences, too. One of them is dining with an Animal Specialist where you get to have lunch at Sanaa with one of the animal experts at the Lodge. During the four-course lunch you will learn all about the different animals that are right outside the window on the savanna.
Between the wild entertainment and exciting food, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a vacation destination.
Beach Club and Yacht Club
Technically this is two different resorts, but for all intents and purposes they are often treated as one resort. Yacht Club and Beach Club share a lot of the same facilities like pools, restaurants, and a beach. Beach Club and Yacht Club are northeast-style resorts with beachy and nautical charm.
You can fish and rent boats to drive around Crescent Lake and play tennis and volleyball. But the pool, shared by the two Resorts, is legendary. It’s called Stormalong Bay, and it includes a zero-entry sand-bottom section, a water slide that is themed after a pirate ship, and a lazy river. This is a Resort pool for those who want to staycation like it’s their job.
With the nearby Boardwalk Resort area, you can just walk right over and do a little shopping or head to one of the great restaurants and bars over there (when you’re not floating in the lazy river). We recommend checking out Abracadabar for some magical beverages.
Although the two Resorts have a bevy of dining options, Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is one of the World’s most popular spots, with the vintage feel of a beach-side diner. Guests often visit the Beach Club just to get the famous Kitchen Sink Sundae. The Kitchen Sink is a giant sundae made up of every topping, a scoop of every type of ice cream in the shop, and a full can of whipped cream, all served up in a giant metal kitchen sink. It’s a sweet treat worth staycationing for (and you might need to because you’ll be waddling out after this!).
It may be hard to imagine going to Disney World and not heading to the parks, but with any of these options, you can have a truly magical vacation without a park ticket.
What are some of your activities to do at Disney that aren’t in the park? Let us know in the comments.