When traveling, some folks want a hotel that is as much of destination as whatever attraction they’re there to see, while others are content as long as there’s a bed and a few bucks to be saved. Disney’s moderate resorts offer the best of both worlds, making them the perfect choice for budget-minded guests who also want to spend some time relaxing back at their hotel.
After all, a Walt Disney World vacation isn’t just expensive – all that time in the theme parks can be downright exhausting. But, which of the Disney moderate resorts should you choose for your next trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth? Read on for a breakdown of the best Disney moderate resort to suit your group size and interests, along with the pros and cons of staying at these massive hotels.
Affordability Meets Great Amenities at the Disney Moderate Resorts
From the steep ticket prices to spendy theme park food, and not to mention shopping for souvenirs, visiting Walt Disney World is already a pricey endeavor. So, as nice as they are, forking over a bunch of cash for a room at one of the deluxe resorts on top of it all is often the last thing many people want or can afford to do.
And unfortunately, while the value resorts are the cheapest places to stay at Walt Disney World, they’re also the most basic. For guests who want a welcoming retreat after the craziness of the theme parks, complete with plenty of dining options and sweet perks like themed pools and fun activities, this can be a bit of a dealbreaker. That’s where Disney’s moderate resorts come in.
What Is a Disney Moderate Resort?
Of the three levels of Disney resorts – value, moderate and deluxe – the moderate resorts sit in the Goldilocks zone. Not as expensive as the deluxe resorts with more (and nicer) amenities than the value resorts, Walt Disney World moderate resorts are just right, no matter if you’re trying to stay somewhere on the cheap or hoping for a hotel with a few bells and whistles.
Just like Disney value resorts like Pop Century, moderate hotels at Walt Disney World hold the title for the biggest resorts on property. Guestrooms are located in many different buildings spread throughout each sprawling resort, with the vast majority of rooms accessible from an exterior corridor, similar to a motel (the only exceptions being the Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and the Fort Wilderness cabins).
Five different hotels at Walt Disney World are considered moderate resorts. They include:
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Why Stay at a Disney Moderate Resort?
While they may fall in the middle of the pack compared to the value and deluxe resorts when it comes to price and the range of amenities offered, there are many reasons to stay at a Walt Disney World moderate resort. Whether you need some more square footage or want a slight break from the pixie dust, here are a few things we think you’ll love about the Disney moderate resorts:
Room Rates Are Pretty Affordable
Sure, they might not be as cheap as the value resorts. However, the Disney moderate resorts are still pretty reasonably priced – especially when compared the Disney World’s deluxe resorts, which start out at around $500 or more during slow periods.
In fact, moderate hotels at Walt Disney World are actually priced more comparably to the wallet-friendly value resorts, running just $100 more per night over the off-season. Expect to pay as little as $250 nightly during low travel times to as much as $500 over the holidays for one of the standard rooms. Offering a good deal more space, the Fort Wilderness cabins are a bit more expensive, ranging from around $450 to $875 per night.
Subtle Ambiance with a Sprinkle of Pixie Dust
Like the deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World, moderate resorts feature more subdued theming, opting for immersive design that transports guests to a different place and time in lieu of kaleidoscopic, Disney-inspired murals and tubs of Play-Doh as tall as buildings. For many, this can be a welcome change of pace. A pixie dust palate cleanser, if you will.
Worried that they won’t be fun enough for the kiddos in your group? Don’t be! What they lack in over-the-top magic, they more than make up for with simple, perfectly themed nods to their favorite Disney characters inside the rooms and kid-friendly perks like elaborate pools decked out with unique theming and winding waterslides.
Refurbished and Uniquely Designed Rooms
Another benefit of staying at one of the Walt Disney World moderate resorts is the renovated rooms with unique, themed touches and a sprinkle of pixie dust. Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach and the Port Orleans resorts are still coming off a relatively fresh refurbishment (thanks, COVID-19?), with updates made to standard rooms in 2018 and 2019. Meanwhile, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness opened only slightly before that in 2016.
Over at Port Orleans – Riverside, kids and Disney adults alike will especially love the Royal Guest Rooms. Hosted by Princess Tiana herself, these regal accommodations are filled with special design details inspired by your favorite Disney princesses and princes. Sadly, over at Caribbean Beach, you can no longer sleep like a swashbuckler, as the Pirate Rooms have been discontinued.
More Space Than the Value Resorts
In addition to a slew of awesome amenities, rooms at the Disney moderate resorts also enjoy some more square footage in exchange for the slightly higher rates. Compared to the value resorts, which range from 260 square feet for standard rooms, moderate resorts tout quite a bit larger footprint, from 314 square feet for standard rooms to around 504 square feet for one of the Fort Wilderness cabins.
More Time in the Parks and Fewer Crowds with Early Park Entry
Who doesn’t wish they could have more time and shorter lines in the theme parks? We know we do. While Disney moderate resort guests can’t participate in Extended Evening Hours like folks staying at the deluxe resorts, they do still enjoy access to Early Park Entry. With 30 extra minutes in the theme park of your choosing before it officially opens, this handy perk can give you a huge head start on your day.
Upgrade Your Stay to Disney Club Level at One Moderate Resort
With spendy experiences like Star Wars: Galactic Battlecruiser and a $450 princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you might not think that there’s such a thing as affordable luxury at Walt Disney World. Enter the Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs.
Available from around $200 more per night in the low season (still less than a stay at some of the deluxe resorts), discerning guests can opt to upgrade to club-level access, complete with complimentary hors d’oeuvres throughout the day and bespoke concierge service.
Disney Moderate Resorts Do Have Some Downsides
Having said all that, Walt Disney World moderate resorts aren’t for everyone. If you’re still not sold on these mid-range Disney World hotels, keep reading for some of the biggest downfalls to staying at the moderate resorts.
Massive Resorts Make for Long Walks to Hotel Amenities
As we mentioned earlier, the moderate resorts are among the largest you’ll find at Walt Disney World. Seriously, they are giant, with many guest buildings spread across a huge area, including around lakes and even tucked in the woods.
So, depending on where your building is located, don’t be surprised if you end up walking for quite a long time- we’re talking 10 to 15 minutes – just to get to resort amenities such as restaurants, pools, merchandise outlets and the front desk. Add in some suitcases or infamously hot and humid Central Florida weather, and you’ve got quite the lengthy and, probably, annoying schlep.
Internal Bus Loops with Multiple Stops Mean a Lengthy Trip to Your Destination
Along with long walks to the hotel’s main hub, another huge pitfall of the Disney World moderate resorts’ massive size is the seemingly endless ride to the parks on the internal bus loop. While moderate resorts might seem less busy than the value resorts, that’s only because they’re that much bigger when it comes to square footage, with many guest buildings spread across the resort property.
And although the value hotels share one stop for the entire resort, most of the Disney moderate resorts have three or more bus stops on the internal loop. So, if you’re located near the second stop of the loop, you’ll need to sit through two more stops before finally getting on the way to your destination. Here are the number of internal bus stops at each moderate resort:
- Caribbean Beach: 7 Bus Stops
- Coronado Springs: 4 Bus Stops
- Fort Wilderness: 3 Bus Stops
- Port Orleans – French Quarter: 1 Bus Stop (buses are shared with sister property, Port Orleans – Riverside)
- Port Orleans – Riverside: 4 Bus Stops
As you can imagine, this can add up to a lot of time, especially if you’re riding during busier times of the day. Fortunately, guests staying at Caribbean Beach Resort have not one but two different ways to get around: the Disney Skyliner and bus transportation. Sure, you might need to walk a while to get there, but at least the Skyliner is a fun way to get to Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the Disney BoardWalk.
Some Buildings Don’t Have Elevators
Lengthy walks and long waits for the bus might be inconvenient but manageable for many. However, another huge downfall of a couple of moderate resorts at Walt Disney World – and it could be a dealbreaker – is a lack of elevators. Whether you have accessibility concerns or you simply don’t want to schlep all that luggage upstairs, this can be a huge problem.
For example, while there aren’t any elevators in the two-story buildings in Alligator Bayou at Port Orleans – Riverside, the resort’s three-story “mansions” next door in Magnolia Bend do. Over at Caribbean Beach Resort, meanwhile, no elevators are available in any guest buildings. That being said, if you want to stay at one of these resorts and absolutely need a ground-floor room or access to an elevator, all you need to do is contact Disney prior to your reservation with your request.
Usually Fewer Dining Options Than the Deluxe Resorts
Lastly (and for foodies, perhaps most importantly), when compared to the value resorts, Disney moderate resorts tend to be slightly lacking in the dining department. Where deluxe resorts typically have two or more table-service restaurants – usually a mix of signature, family-style or buffet and general sit-down dining – a quick-service restaurant and a lounge, that isn’t typically the case at the moderate resorts.
That being said, there are still plenty of delicious dining options to be had at the moderate resorts – especially at the Coronado Springs Resort. Thanks to the on-site convention center, food-loving guests can tuck into a whole slew of restaurants, from quick-service cafés and pool bars to waterfront lounges and a rooftop Spanish steakhouse.
Best Disney Moderate Resorts for Every Walt Disney World Vacation
All sold on a stay at one of the Disney moderate resorts but not ready to commit to a reservation? We suggest you let your interests and desired vibe be your guide. Here’s our take on the best Disney resorts for you, your group and whatever you’re into.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Best for Island Vibes, Tropical Eats and Disney Skyliner Access
Opened way back in 1988, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is the oldest of the moderate resorts. From the white sand beach dotted with swaying palm trees and hammocks to the pastel-hued buildings strewn around the grounds, this picturesque resort takes guests on a romantic trip to the islands.
But be aware, thar be pirates about! With the closure of the Pirate Rooms, aspiring swashbucklers can no longer drift off to sleep on the high seas. However, young pirates and mermaids can cool off in the Fuentes del Morro Pool, which is designed to look like an old fort, or set sail on a Pirate Adventure Cruise (when they’re available).
Before heading to the Skyliner or back to your room, be sure to get a taste of the islands at one of the on-site restaurants. Sebastian’s Bistro serves up platters overflowing with roasted chicken, mojo pork and grilled flank steak rich in tropical flavors, while next-door Banana Cabana is a quirky pool bar offering fruity cocktails and flavorful bar bites with an island twist.
Location: Hollywood Studios and Epcot Resort Area
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Best for Fitness-Focused Amenities, a Buffet of Dining Options and Affordable Disney Luxury
As a convention resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort isn’t for everyone. However, what it lacks in pixie dust, it more than makes up for with the sheer amount of amenities. From a slew of restaurants and bars to one of the best hotel pools at Walt Disney World, the Mesoamerican-inspired Lost City of Cibola, there’s something at Coronado Springs for kids and adults alike – but mostly adults.
The entire resort is inspired by a mishmash of Central and South American influences, along with the Gran Destino Tower, an ode to Spanish design. This surprisingly luxurious addition even housed athletes during the NBA Bubble, and what’s good enough for them is good enough for us.
Fuel up on tapas and steak at Toledo, the resort’s rooftop restaurant, and catch the sunset over the water and a glass of sangria at Three Bridges Bar and Grill at Villa del Lago. Then, if you like, work it all off at the resort’s fun run or an instructor-led group fitness class.
Location: Animal Kingdom Resort Area
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
Best for New Orleans Charm and Mardi Gras Fun Without All the Walking
With tons of New Orleans-inspired touches like wrought iron, old-timey street lamps and cobblestones, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter is arguably the most charming of the moderate resorts. But that isn’t where the Big Easy influence ends.
Guests can also party like it’s Mardi Gras at Doubloon Lagoon, nosh on shrimp & grits and other soul food favorites at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, and munch on beignets while listening to live jazz at Scat Cat’s Club.
But, that’s not all. Port Orleans – French Quarter also happens to be the smallest of the moderate resorts. So, you never have to walk too far to get a bite to eat. For a real taste of New Orleans, hop on a horse-drawn carriage ride along the Sassagoula River. Or, hop on the water taxi for a leisurely ride to Disney Springs.
Location: Disney Springs Resort Area
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Best for Southern Hospitality and Soul Food in a Spanish Moss-Draped Setting
While Port Orleans – French Quarter lets the good times roll, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside takes things at a slower, more genteel pace along the lazy Sassagoula River. Much larger than its sister resort, Port Orleans – Riverside is made up of two distinct areas: charming Alligator Bayou and the grandeur of Magnolia Bend. Traveling with a little princess? Consider booking one of the Royal Guest Rooms, intricately themed rooms hosted by Princess Tiana herself.
Ol’ Man Island is the place to go for wholesome fun, whether you want to splash around in the pool or do some old-fashioned cane fishing. After a filling meal of Southern comfort food favorites at the quick-service Riverside Mill Food Court or table-service Boatwright’s Dining Hall, make a stop at River Roost lounge for boozy beverages and the playful musical antics of Yehaa Bob Jackson.
Location: Disney Springs Resort Area
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
Best for Spacious Accommodations and Rustic, Away-From-It-All Atmosphere
Compared to the other moderate resorts, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground feels more like a rustic retreat in the middle of nowhere than a bustling theme park resort. Hidden amongst the pine trees, the Fort Wilderness cabins offer a unique place to stay at Walt Disney World, featuring plenty of space to spread out for larger families and groups and even a full kitchen for rustling up some grub.
In addition to these memorable accommodations, fans of the great outdoors will definitely want to take advantage of the resort’s many impressive amenities, including horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking and archery. Or, say hello to the Walt Disney World’s herd of horses at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
And, of course, don’t forget the food! Although you won’t find a bunch of dining options at Fort Wilderness, the restaurants it does have are top-notch. Fill up on bottomless BBQ and downhome charm at Trail’s End Restaurant or, for a full dinner and a show, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dazzles diners with rollicking Wild West capers and all-you-can-eat buckets of fried chicken and ribs.
Location: Magic Kingdom Resort Area
Well, that concludes our guide to the best moderate resorts at Disney World. Have you ever tried one of these reasonably priced resorts? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how to make your vacation even more affordable with our discount Walt Disney World tickets.