There are 22 Disney-owned and operated hotels in Walt Disney World, each one having a unique theme and more.
And, while these hotels all have redeeming qualities that keep us coming back time and time again — we can’t help but think of what might have been. Disney has dreamed up tons of hotel ideas that never came to fruition, but oh, how we wish they had.
These four unbuilt hotels were originally planned for Disney World and would have sat along Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake — some were even mentioned in promotional materials for Disney. Each hotel would have significantly changed the landscape of the Magic Kingdom Resort area we know now, so excuse us while we reminisce on the Disney World future that never was.
Disney’s Persian Resort
The first “hotel that never was” we’re getting into is Disney’s Persian Resort. Situated along Bay Lake, the hotel was planned to mimic Middle Eastern design, featuring those iconic domes and spires reminiscent of the Taj Majal and more Islamic Architecture found throughout the region. Plans even showed this hotel would connect to Magic Kingdom via the Monorail.
But, the 1970s energy crisis hit causing an economic shift in the tourism industry, and the Persian hotel idea was put on the back burner. At one point, the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, reportedly offered to fund the project — but the Iranian Revolution halted the plans yet again.
Disney’s Asian Resort
No, that’s not the Polynesian hotel you’re looking at — it’s concept art for Disney’s Asian Resort. Originally designed in the 1960s along with the rest of Disney World’s “phase one” project, plans show this hotel was to have 500-600 themed rooms inspired by Thai architecture. There would have also been a 160-foot-tall tower with a restaurant at the top.
Land was even cleared out for construction along with an access road to the site being named Asian Way. But, as Disney was planning to start construction in 1972 — you guessed it — the energy crisis took away any chance of this hotel being built. Now, this land is home to the Grand Floridian Resort instead!
Disney’s Grand Venetian Resort
At one point, Disney had plans for a couple of different Italian-themed hotels. The Grand Venetian would have been built between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort and was supposed to open in the 1970s as well. As you might have guessed, the hotel was going to be themed after Venice, Italy, specifically.
You might have also guessed that the energy crisis of the 70s is also responsible for killing this idea, and you’d be right. Later, in the 1990s, plans for a similar hotel — Disney’s Grande Venezia Resort — were drawn up. The hotel would have included “intricately designed buildings with terra cotta roofs, canals with functioning gondolas, lighted fountains, a masquerade-themed pool, a conference center, and a wedding chapel.” Of course, this never happened either.
Disney’s Mediterranean Resort
That same site was also considered for a Greek-themed hotel known as Disney’s Mediterranean Resort. Inspired by a Greek fishing village, Disney hired famous architect Alan Lapidus to design this sweeping, grand hotel. It was designed to be competition for the Grand Floridian when it was first proposed in the 1990s.
According to Disney, the hotel was never built because the ground was too swampy and would have required much more work — and money — to actually build. That, combined with Disneyland Paris’ less-than-steller financial performance, led to Disney scrapping this project altogether.
If you need us, we’ll just be over here wallowing in the fact that these Disney hotels were never actually built. But, Disney did just announce a huge $60 billion investment, so maybe some of that dough could be used to revisit these concepts. Hey, we can dream, right?
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Which hotel would you have chosen for your trip? Tell us in the comments!