Nine Walt Disney World Resorts You Should Visit, Even if You Aren’t Staying There

For as huge as Walt Disney World is, only a small portion is devoted to the theme parks. If you’re not giving the resorts a look, you’re missing out!

Seriously, there’s something for everyone.

From amazing dining to unique attractions, you’ve got to incorporate these resorts into your vacation plans. Best of all, you don’t need to pay a cent for admission!

Disney’s Boardwalk

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is named for its most iconic attraction: a turn-of-the-century style Boardwalk packed to the gills with shops, dining, and beautiful views.

Disney’s Boardwalk

Located a short way from Epcot, this is an underrated Disney gem. Restaurants like ESPN Club, The Flying Fish, and Trattoria al Forno (home to some of the best breakfast at the resort) line the boardwalk, while kiosks offer churros, drinks, and the occasional midway game. You can grab a She Sells Sea Shells Cone from Ample Hills, or just relax on the perfectly cut grass and watch the seagulls fly by. It’s a perfect, low-key Disney stop.

Disney’s Beach Club Resort

Beach Club Resort

Speaking of classic nautical styling, Beach Club is a must-visit for several reasons. Yes, there are fun activities, a great character meal, and some lovely vistas… but we’re really here for the ice cream.

Beaches & Cream Kitchen Sink Sundae

Beaches & Cream has the most elaborate ice cream sundaes at Disney, including the famous Kitchen Sink… which includes an actual sink. Even if you just come to the snack window, this is a resort worth a visit.

Polynesian Village Resort


This resort is one of the most gorgeous spots at Disney, with tropical flowers everywhere, an incredible luau show, and views of the Electrical Water Pageant. One of the best parts, however, is ‘Ohana; one of the best restaurants at Disney, bar none. Rated incredibly high by reviewers and readers alike, ‘Ohana is one of the best meals at the resort. Drinks at Trader Sam’s, with its retro-tiki aesthetic, aren’t so bad either. The proximity to the Magic Kingdom also makes it great for a quick stop after a day at the park.

Art of Animation Resort

Cars Section at Art of Animation

There isn’t a ton of luxury dining or shopping at this resort, but it’s definitely the most Disney of all the Disney resorts. With sections dedicated to Cars, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Finding Nemo, this place  is perfect for a casual stroll and some unique photo ops. The Skyliner station also makes it a quick trip to Epcot and Hollywood Studios.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Zebras on the Savanna

What other hotel includes a whole savanna? You don’t need to be a guest to enjoy the wildlife here, making it a great stop for animal lovers… or folks who couldn’t get a Kilimanjaro Safari FastPass. Plus with dining spots like Jiko and Sanaa, this is one of the best stops for foodies at the resort.

Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge


This is a two-for-one special because if you’re staying at one and don’t visit the other… what are you doing? Method acting as a pioneer? You’re at Disney World. Ride the pony, eat the beans, experience the air conditioning.

In all seriousness, this is probably the most beautiful property at Disney World. Not only is there plenty of wildlife, but you can do things you’d never expect to do at Disney. You can kayak, fish, go horseback riding, or even rent a carriage for a romantic ride through the forest. The Lodge features some amazing accommodations like Artist Point, and that enormous fireplace. Meanwhile, Fort Wilderness itself includes popular places to eat like Trail’s End and Pioneer Hall. It’s a bit out of the way, but if you can get here, definitely make it a stop during your trip.

Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Grand Floridian Entrance

It’s so hard not to recommend the monorail resorts because they just have so much to offer. Fine dining, afternoon tea… but the star attraction here is the new Enchanted Rose… or as I like to call it, Beauty and the Bar.

Enchanted Rose Concept Art ©Disney

Enchanted Rose takes the Beauty and the Beast flair from Be Our Guest and channels it into a more subdued lounge environment, with details inspired by the live action film. While you won’t find The Grey Stuff, you will find an amazing bar and a selection of elegant starters that will tickle your taste buds.

Contemporary Resort

Some of you have probably been through the Contemporary Resort, thanks to its monorail station… but have you ever gotten off there? You should.

Contemporary Resort ©Disney

In addition to having one of the most iconic character dining experiences EVER, the Contemporary is the best place to watch Happily Ever After outside the park, with the Lounge at California Grill being prime real estate. Enjoy a cocktail, eat some snacks, and watch the sky light up.

There are so many other resorts with amazing things to offer that this is just a small sampling. What are your favorite spots? Let us know in the comments!

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Austin Lang is an Orlando local with a love of Disney, puns, and Disney puns. He's been a contributing writer for AllEars since 2019, and has been sharing his quirky view of Disney life ever since.

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3 Replies to “Nine Walt Disney World Resorts You Should Visit, Even if You Aren’t Staying There”

  1. Last year, I took my mother, who was visiting with us to Disney World. We were turned away from visiting two of the Disney World resorts (the Beach Club and Polynesian) . My mother wanted to buy some Disney toys for our children and maybe get a quick bite to eat. We were told by the gate guard, ‘Since you are not staying here and not on official business, you are not allowed to park here for either shopping or eating” (unless we had a confirmed dining reservation). I am an annual passholder, but that didn’t matter, either.

    1. This last January, my wife and I experienced the same thing at the Wilderness Lodge. She wanted to do some shopping at the lodge. However, we were turned away by the gate guy citing the same reasons as R. Jackson. We are also annual passholders.
      Later, a cast member told us to use our annual passes and park at the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Then, take the monorail or ferry over to the park. Instead of going into the Magic Kingdom, walk over to the bus area and take the bus going to the Wilderness Lodge. Which we did, but what a hassle and time waster.