When it comes to choosing your accommodations, unless you are going to constantly be in your hotel room, I do not invest too much time in choosing the “view” from my room. Especially when it comes to visiting WDW.
A plus to staying at the Disney World Moderate Resorts is that there a few extra amenities that are not included with the Value Resorts. Some resorts are just as nice as the deluxe resorts but with a moderate price tag. My recommendation, if your stay at Walt Disney World is not just for the parks and you want to turn it into a full-fledged vacation with added leisure time; the moderate resorts are the best for this.
You get a few extra comforts included to fully enjoy the resort, versus the value resorts which are more like crash pads. If you’re like me, the only time you see the inside of your hotel is either very bright and early as you get ready to catch that first bus to the park to catch the Extra Magic Hours, or at the very end of the night after you’ve been walking in and around the parks, and you just end up falling asleep as soon as you get to your room exhausted.
Disney is very good at helping you choose that room that is right for you. When booking your vacation the WDW website will help you choose whether to be close to the front desk, food, pool, or transportation. If there’s anything to be picky about when choosing what “kind” of room for your stay, of the three I would pick transportation.
It saves you time in the morning to get to the buses instead of having to trek all the way through the resort. You do sacrifice not being as close to your other amenities (restaurants/food courts and pools) but after a long day running around the parks you want the trek back to your room to be as short as possible.
Resort time! Your 5 Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World are:
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside
- The Cabins at Fort Wilderness
Before diving into the resorts let’s briefly get all the similar amenities and recreational options out of the way so we can focus on the unique features of each resort.
Bike rentals – Available at 4 out of 5 of the moderate resorts (Caribbean Beach, French Quarter, Riverside, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness)
Movie Under the Stars – this staple is available throughout the WDW resorts and not just at the moderate level; but also at your value and deluxe tiers too.
Guided Fishing Excursions – Complete with a rod, reel, tackle, and bait (don’t worry there are artificial options available). With the help of an experienced guide up to 5 guests can take a 2 or 4-hour catch and release excursion. Available for all ages, amateurs and novices alike, and at 3 out of 5 of your moderate resorts (Fort Wilderness, Caribbean Beach, and Riverside)
Running Trails – for guests who not only participate in the runDisney marathons but who also enjoy a morning (or evening) run all 5 moderate resorts do have running trails which are just over 1 mile long
These are only a small handful of recreational things you can do at any Moderate Resort, but there are many more things to find and explore in each resort so let’s jump in.
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
What happens when you take the best of Spanish architecture, rural desert ranchland, and coastal Mexico and put them all together? You get Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Over in the Animal Kingdom area of Walt Disney World, Disney’s Coronado Springs first opened in 1997. The resort’s namesake is Spanish explorer, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, known for searching for the Seven Cities of Gold.
If you go to the Dig Site Pool, it gives you a sense of what it’s like to find a lost city of the sun, this pool is nothing short of incredible. Complete with a 50-foot pyramid, a Jaguar slide measuring 123-feet-long, the largest hot tub on Walt Disney World property and an adorably named Siestas Cantina Pool Bar (“siesta” – an afternoon rest or nap); there is fun for everyone at the Dig Site. For guests looking for a more leisurely visit to the pool, there is a leisure pool in each section of the resort.
Each set of buildings is inspired by a different region and style of homes. “Casitas” or “little houses” are inspired by buildings that can be found in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Monterrey, Mexico. The Ranchos section of the resort inspired by rural desert ranchland.
Finally, the Cabanas are reminiscent of beachside homes along coastal Mexico. Standard guest rooms fit up to 4 adults with either 2 queen beds or one king bed, a rollaway bed is available for rental of a rate between $15-$20 per night (subject to change).
Each room has basic guest room amenities (TV, coffee maker, ironing board, etc). In recent years Coronado Springs has been under construction, not only with renovating the pre-existing guest rooms, but also the brand new Gran Destino tower opening Summer 2019. The Gran Destino tower will be opening in the heart of the resort adding 545 brand new guest rooms and 50 new suites.
Coronado Springs is one of two resorts at Walt Disney World that houses a convention center on its property (the other located at Disney’s Yacht Club). The sheer size of the resort alone accommodates not only Walt Disney World guests but guests there only for conventions. With a “conventioneer” clientele this resort has a slightly toned down theming, catering more for the adults and convention crowds.
Also to get to the parks from Coronado Springs, guests have the option of driving their vehicle or taking the bus. With a total of 5 bus stops, there is a bus available to take you and your family to the park from any section of Coronado Springs.
On a scale of 1 to 5 stars, I rate Coronado Springs 4 out of 5. There is no question the Dig Site pool gets huge points for family-friendly fun and great theming, but during a busy convention this resort does book up quickly, and the property is massive!
The downside to this is the trek from your hotel room to the buses could be quite far, unless you opt for a preferred room which places you closer to the resort’s pools, El Centro and the bus stops. Since you are closer, rates for preferred rooms are usually higher than standard rooms.
Disney’s Port Orleans
Located in the Disney Springs area of Walt Disney World, along the banks of the Sassagoula River, you’ll find two resorts inspired by the diverse, historical landscape that is New Orleans, Louisiana. Disney’s Port Orleans opened its doors with French Quarter opening in 1991 and Dixie Landings, present-day Riverside opening the year after in 1992.
Minus each resort’s unique theming, the resorts are very similar. From the size and layout of the guest rooms, amenities and recreation. Along with standard amenities, you can find at the other moderate resorts, both Port Orleans resorts offer carriage rides around the Sassagoula River. For a fee, you can sit back, relax, and take in the sights of both French Quarter and Riverside on a 25-minute horse-drawn carriage ride around the Sassagoula Lake.
Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter
Inspired by the celebration of Mardi Gras and the French-Spanish architecture found in New Orleans. All throughout the resort, you’ll find masquerade masks, statues of jesters, and alligators playing various instruments giving you the sense of lively celebration and jazz that you would find when strolling through streets like Bourbon and Royal in New Orleans.
Unlike Port Orleans – Riverside which has 16 buildings, French Quarter has only 7 buildings and holds over 1,000 guest rooms at about 312 sq ft per room; accommodating a max of 4 adults. It includes your standard in-room amenities: coffeemaker, wall safe, mini fridge, etc. The theming continues to the resort’s pool called the “Doubloon Lagoon,” overlooked by King Neptune aboard a 51-foot-long sea serpent slide.
For the grown-ups, as your little ones enjoy the lagoon (complete with whirlpool spa and water play area) you can enjoy a “grog” at the Mardi Grogs pool bar. To keep the party going, on select nights there is live entertainment that lines the small roads through the resorts, just like what you’d find at any given time in New Orleans. Unlike the other moderate resorts, there is no table service restaurant at French Quarter.
Instead, the resort has a food court named “Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory,” which has been known to be among the best food courts at the WDW resorts. With offerings of American-Creole, from burgers and pizzas to jambalaya and ribs; there is something everyone and even the pickiest of eaters here.
Now due to the size of French Quarter, the resort tends to sell out quickly. Especially since the resort’s rate ranges between mid to low $100’s to mid to high $200’s depending on the time of year your visit will be in, but the resort’s size does make getting to and from the park’s more convenient, as opposed to the other moderate resorts that are much bigger, with many more buildings and more spread out.
The trek to the bus or boat to get either to Disney Springs or the parks is a shorter walk than one through the likes of Coronado Springs.
Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside
Shifting from inside the city of New Orleans and “going down the bayou,” to Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside. Until 2001, Riverside was formerly known as “Dixie Landings.” Inspired by the southern charm of plantation living along the Mississippi River. Sitting on almost 200 acres of land, Riverside has a total of 20 buildings in two different sections.
Magnolia Bend is comprised of two to three story plantation-style mansions. With 16 two-story buildings, Alligator Bayou is a much more rustic cajun theming. All 20 buildings hold a staggering 2,048 guest rooms making Riverside the largest resort at Walt Disney World. Something unique to this resort is the Royal Guest Rooms, rooms with detailing that feature Tiana (we are along the bayou here) and the other Disney Princesses.
With touches such as the Magic Carpet from Aladdin, Cinderella’s shoe and Chip (from Beauty and the Beast) carved into the woodworking inside the room. Along with photos of your favorite princess all hanging out in the resort. Like Caribbean Beach, the pull-down twin-sized bed has a photo of a sleeping Louis (from Princess and the Frog) as he drifts down the river. Lastly, the headboard above each Queen sized bed is complete with lights that illuminate the fireworks in the headboard.
Just like French Quarter, Riverside also has horse-drawn carriage rides around the Sassagoula River for an additional cost. Unlike its sister property, Port Orleans – Riverside has a couple of offerings as far as dining is concerned. Boatwright’s Dining Hall is a table service restaurant offering Cajun style dishes.
For the adults in the family, River Roost is a charming, full-service bar with live entertainment provided by Yehaa Bob. If it’s a dip in the pool you’re after, give “Ol Man Island” a visit. Inspired by down-home watering holes, complete with an abandoned sawmill, wooden bridges, and a 95 foot-long water slide.
No resort at WDW would be complete without a pool bar, and the Muddy River pool bar calls Riverside home. Water slides and abandoned sawmills not your thing? There are 5 other leisure pools all throughout Riverside, perfect for guests who are looking for a more relaxed pool atmosphere.
I would like to say, even though the Royal Guest Rooms are cool to stay in, this resort is massive and is not high on my list of recommendations. Even if you wanted to enjoy your time at the resort versus the park, these buildings are so far apart from each other that you’d have to plan your “walking time” ahead to get to where you need to go promptly.
Even more so heading to the parks, with the added distance to get to your bus or boat, still having to possibly wait 20 minutes to get on the bus, and finally traveling to the parks. Let’s not forget, this resort does not have elevators in the Alligator Bayou buildings.
Alligator Bayou is only two stories, but after a long day of running around at the parks, the last thing I want to do is climb up some stairs to get myself to bed. Riverside is a great resort nonetheless but not the highest resort on my list of recommendations.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
At Walt Disney World you can travel to the Caribbean Islands without ever leaving the mainland. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is also one of the biggest resorts at WDW, sitting on more than 200 acres of land, with 2,109 guest rooms divided into five villages. Jamaica, Aruba, Barbados, Martinique, and Trinidad.
Inspired by the laid back vibe, vibrant colors, and white sand beaches of the Caribbean Islands. If there was ever a resort where you wanted to just lay out on a hammock and soak up the sun, Caribbean Beach Resort is it. The newly renovated Caribbean Beach Resort took the old Finding Nemo motif and gave the resort a new bungalow, island resort feel in the newly refurbished rooms.
The recent renovation has made the rooms more space efficient, for example, the closet has moved into the bathroom which is housed behind two barn doors versus standard doors. A part of the recent renovation is the new Old Port Royale where your front desk, several restaurants, the arcade, and gift shop are all now located.
In the heart of Caribbean Beach is Caribbean Cay an island in the middle of the lake to hideaway, take the kids to the playground, watch movies under the stars, or even rent a boat and go on your own pirate adventure. Speaking of pirates, Caribbean Beach does have pirate themed rooms which will cost you around $35 to $50 additionally to your nightly stay.
Unlike French Quarter, Riverside and Coronado Springs, the rooms in Caribbean Beach are slightly smaller than the other moderate resorts, measuring in at about 300 sq ft per room.
Rather than queen beds, this resort has two double beds, which knock some points off of my recommendation of Caribbean Beach, but before we count this resort out we need to talk about the pools. This resort has 7 pools total, the one I want to talk about is the Fuentes del Morro pool. Located at Old Port Royale, this pool looks like it was pulled straight out of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.
Fuentes del Morro has several waterfalls, waterslides, and water cannons that sit on top of a fort. Kids and adults alike can appreciate the theming in this pool. Caribbean Beach does have both a food court (Centertown Market) and a couple of table service options with Spyglass Grill and Sebastian’s Bistro.
The Cabins at Fort Wilderness
An alternative option from staying in a hotel is The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. The 750-acre resort is nestled in a forest of pine and cypress. Wildlife such as deer, ducks, armadillos and rabbits around the property, the cabins are a charming alternative to the other resorts Walt Disney World has to offer.
You and your family can stay in a cabin complete with a full kitchen. Complete with full appliances, silverware, plates and bowels for a family of 6, a private patio and charcoal grill; you can’t help but feel right at home. Inside the cabin there is a living room with a double sleeper sofa, bedroom with a Queen size bed and a bunk bed and a full bathroom. Of the moderate resorts, the Cabins have the most unique recreational activities to choose from.
Besides pools, guests can try their hand at archery; go on pony rides, and wagon and carriage rides. Along with your standard bike rentals and fishing excursions, guests can even go canoeing and kayaking. During the holidays, guests will even decorate the cabins during their stay, to make their cabins a little more of a home away from home during the holiday season. One thing to keep in mind when booking a cabin, in your cabin there is only one bathroom for a cabin that can hold up to 6 people.
Now if you don’t choose to stay at Fort Wilderness, I strongly recommend seeing the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. A fun western themed dinner show in the Pioneer Hall. Not only is the show funny and corny but the family style all you can eat dinner is delicious.
Now those are just brief overviews of the moderate resorts Walt Disney World has to offer. From the five resorts, my highest recommendation is Port Orleans – French Quarter. Even though the resort is still fun for the family with the Mardi Gras theming, the resort still finds an intimate charm to it; almost like you forget you are at a resort at a Disney Park. The lower part of my recommendations would be The Cabins at Fort Wilderness.
The location and amenities are not like other Disney World resorts especially for its moderate price level. But to share one bathroom with five other people just sounds like it could become troublesome. I hope my tips and recommendations have helped you decide where to take you adventure. No matter where you stay at Walt Disney World, I hope you and yours have a magical time!
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