You’ve never had as many choices for hotels at Walt Disney World as you do today. However, staying at Disney isn’t cheap. If you’re looking to go for a week in July, the cheapest Disney hotel will cost over $200 a night and that’s one of the “Value” resorts. If you’re looking to stay at one of the Monorail resorts, be prepared to pay at least $500 a night. Once Disney was able to charge that much for their rooms, other hotels began to take notice. Hotels with names like Four Seasons and Waldorf Astoria.
While the Disney resorts have theming and location, they just don’t make you feel like you’re at a luxury hotel. Even the top of the line Grand Floridian gets chaotic during the day, with kids running around the lobby, families scattered around on couches while waiting for rooms, and streams of people walking through, either coming from or going to the monorail station connected to the second floor. Having a piano player or a band doesn’t put out a classy enough vibe to overcome all that frenetic energy.
In the past decade, two luxury hotels have opened near Disney property. Here’s a look at what’s available for those looking for a more refined experience while visiting the Disney parks.
Waldorf Astoria Orlando
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando opened in 2009 and is a 502 room hotel located in the Bonnet Creek area, directly adjacent to Walt Disney World. While technically not a part of Disney World property, it’s surrounded by Disney on three sides and Interstate 4 on the other. The only entrance to the area is from Buena Vista Drive, very close to the Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort.
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has won many accolades in the past nine years:
- Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012)
- Best Hotels in Florida, U.S. News & World Report 2017
- Best Resorts in Orlando-Walt Disney World, U.S. News & World Report
- Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Awards – Best Hotels in Florida (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013)
- Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice Poll: Top US Hotels for Business Travelers. Voted #8. (2015)
- 2015 Luxury Hotel of the Year – Hilton Worldwide (also won in 2011)
- Florida Green Lodging Program, Two Palms (2014)
- Conde Nast Traveler Gold List (2013, 2012)
- 2012 Travel + Leisure “T+L 500” World’s Best Hotels
Since you’re probably going here to visit Walt Disney World, the hotel has shuttles from the hotel to the Disney parks. However, these aren’t Disney Transport buses. You’ll have to walk from the bus stops like guests staying at any of the other off-property hotels.
The Waldorf Astoria in Orlando was the first hotel outside of the original in New York built from the ground up, and they tried to keep as many things from original hotel as possible at this outpost. The restaurants and bars have the same names, like the Bull and Bear and Sir Harry’s Lounge and Peacock Alley.
Unlike New York, this hotel has an eighteen hole par-72 golf course designed by Rees Jones, featuring a five tee system to welcome golfers of any skill level.
The Waldorf Astoria Orlando features two pools, one more the adults and the other for families. If you’re looking for even more excitement, guests are allowed to share the facilities of the adjoining Hilton Bonnet Creek, including their Lazy River.
Finally, to complete your luxury vacation, why not take a trip to the Waldorf Astoria Spa?
Our menu of services includes locally sourced ingredients such as our signature ingredient, Tupelo honey, which is infused into our unique skin treatments, products, and personalized therapies.
Lastly, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is a member of both the American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts or FH&R (available to American Express Platinum Cardholders) and the Visa Signature Hotels program (for those with the Sapphire Reserve card). If you can get a decent rate at the hotel, these benefits may make a stay even more worthwhile.
Here are the AMEX FH&R Benefits:
Room upgrade upon arrival, when available
Daily breakfast for two people
$100 Spa services credit to be used during your stay
Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
Noon check-in, when available
And the Visa Signature Benefits:
- Best available rate guarantee
- Automatic room upgrade upon arrival, when available
- Complimentary in-room Wi-Fi, when available
- Complimentary breakfast for two
- $25 USD food or beverage credit
- VIP Guest status
- Late check-out upon request, when available
While the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is a very nice hotel, a few years after it opened, one of the most exclusive hotel chains opened a hotel directly on WDW property.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando
10100 Dream Tree Blvd
Lake Buena Vista, Florida
The 443 room Four Seasons Orlando opened in the exclusive Golden Oak development in 2014 and immediately became the ultimate luxury hotel in the Disney World area. With a clientele of travelers expecting a world class property from which to base their Disney World vacation, the Four Seasons does not disappoint.
The Four Seasons has racked up the accolades since its opening:
- Awarded AAA Five-Diamond Award; first and only hotel in Central Florida to be named a Five Diamond property
- Awarded No. 1 hotel in Orlando by U.S.News & World Report magazine; only hotel in Central Florida to make the list of U.S.News Best Hotels in the USA List (Coverage in Orlando Sentinel)
- Named to the Travel + Leisure “It List: Best New Hotels”
- Fodor’s Travel named us in the 12 Best Spas
- Named to Thrillist’s list of 10 Best Luxury Hotels
- Named to Luxury Launches’ list of 15 Best Luxury Hotels
- Named to the 2015 Conde Nast Traveler “Hot List” of Best New Hotels and Resorts
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando was ranked among the Top 25 Luxury Hotels in the United States by TripAdvisor, based on the reviews of millions of travelers for this year’s travelers’ choice awards
- Named to the Robb Report magazine annual list of the “Best of the Best” Awards in the Best Hotels & Resorts category
- Named to CVENT’s Top 100 Meeting Resorts in the U.S.
- Florida Trend Magazine “Golden Spoon Award,” for Capa restaurant, named Best New Restaurant in the State of FL
With base rooms starting at 500 sq. ft. (for comparison rooms at Grand Floridian are 440 sq. ft.), you have plenty of room to relax. All rooms have a personal balcony and most of them have views of the Magic Kingdom park, the resort lake/pool area or the surrounding Golden Oak residential neighborhood.
A huge advantage of staying at the Four Seasons is that until the end of 2018, you’ll get access to Extra Magic hours at the theme parks and the ability to make FastPass+ ride reservations 60 days in advance.
The Four Seasons also has its own Character Breakfast. Two or three times a week, there is the Goofy & Pals breakfast at the Revello restaurant. The food sounds like it’s a step up from your normal breakfast buffet fare and digital copies of all pictures taken by the onsite photographer are included with the price of breakfast.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort is excited to offer the Good Morning Breakfast with Goofy & His Pals character breakfast weekly at Ravello restaurant. The buffet-style breakfast is offered on Thursdays and Saturdays (and also on Tuesdays during peak school break periods) and features a wonderful assortment of traditional breakfast offerings along with an omelette station, charcuterie, an assortment of fresh breads and homemade jams, and a children’s buffet. A photographer will be on site to capture your wonderful memories with Goofy & His Pals, the always-entertaining stars of the breakfast. The Character Breakfast includes complimentary digital downloads of the professional photographs taken with Goofy & His Pals.
One of the only disadvantages to staying at the Four Seasons is that you need to use bus transportation to get to all of the theme parks, and there’s no transportation to the Disney Springs area. These buses drop off and pick up guests with all the other non-Disney hotel transportation and will not drop you off right at the park entrances like Disney buses do.
Four Seasons provides complimentary transportation to Magic Kingdom® Park, Epcot®, Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. Luxury motor coaches will transport guests every 30 minutes to the Magic Kingdom® Park and every hour to the additional parks. Please note, for transportation to Magic Kingdom® Park, guests arrive to the Ticket & Transportation Center and must take a short monorail ride into the park.
If you’re looking for things to do at the hotel, there’s no shortage of activities. There’s a family pool with a splash zone, lazy river and two water slides.
There’s also an adult pool that’s perfect for relaxing when you send the kids off to the complimentary Kids For All Seasons camp that has activities during the day at The Mansion.
If you need to keep to your fitness regimen while on vacation, the Four Seasons has fitness facilities and group classes every day that are complimentary to all resort guests.
For golf fans, the Tranquilo Golf Club is there to satisfy your need to get in a round or two during your Disney vacation. The Tom Fazio designed course opened in 1992 as Osprey Ridge and was renovated and reopened in 2014 with the Four Seasons resort.
Fazio designed a contrasting extra-long links style golf course. Tranquilo Golf Club at Four Seasons Resort Orlando features dramatically elevated greens and tees, nine water holes and more than 70 bunkers placed strategically throughout the course. The golf course’s dramatic fairways cut through forests of scrub oak, pine, palmetto, cypress and bay trees.
If getting pampered in the spa is more your idea of a great vacation, the Four Seasons has you covered complete with couples treatments and poolside bungalows.
Nestled in the idyllic, luxurious enclave of Golden Oak, the Spa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort is an oasis of serenity. The 13,000-square-foot (1,208-square-metre) sanctuary is inspired by the natural palette and imagery of the Florida Everglades. Contemporary design complements indigenous sensibility and provides an unmatched environment in which to experience unparalleled spa services.
Like the Waldorf Astoria, the Four Seasons is also a member of the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program. American Express Platinum cardholders can book rooms through the Fine Hotels and Resorts website and receive the following benefits
Room upgrade upon arrival, when available1
Daily breakfast for two people
- Guaranteed 4pm late check-out
- Noon check-in, when available
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
$100 Spa services credit to be used during your stay
There’s also a special offer currently for the Four Seasons. You can receive a complimentary 4th night when booking a paid stay of at least four nights at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort. To take advantage of this offer, book from March 3, 2018 through September 26, 2018 for hotel stays from May 1st and completed by September 30th.
Should you stay at a luxury hotel at Disney instead of one of the Disney resorts? I guess that depends on what you’re looking for in terms of your vacation. Pricewise, the rooms at the Waldorf Astoria tend to run for less that rooms at the Four Seasons. The Four Seasons is the most expensive and costs about the same or slightly more than the top level Disney resorts such as the Grand Floridian, Boardwalk or Contemporary Resort. If you’re going to be spending the whole day in the parks. then a Disney hotel with access to Disney Transportation, proximity to the parks and total immersion into Disney might be what you’re looking for. However if you’re going to be spending some time on your vacation relaxing, then the Waldorf Astoria or Four Seasons might be better choices. The on site amenities of those hotels are far greater than anything offered by Disney hotels. Both hotels have pools that rival some water parks, as well as quiet pools for relaxing (that you’ll never get at a Disney pool). There’s no question that the level of pampering and customer service you’ll receive at one of the luxury hotels is far above the experience you’ll get when checking into or out of a Disney resort.
Like everything, this is a Your Mileage May Vary choice. While some families will love the frenetic energy the Disney resort hotels provide, others will want the luxurious elegance that either the Waldorf Astoria or the Four Seasons offer their guests. Pick the one that will suit your travel style best. I’m sure you know which type of traveler you are.
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