The Moderate Resorts at the Walt Disney World Resort provide guests with hotels that are more location themed, rather than Disney/character themed, and provide a more upscale experience than a Value Resort. Like a Value Resort, they provide plenty of magic, just in a more subdued fashion – you may need to search for “hidden Mickeys” instead of having the larger than life characters throughout the resorts.
The best Walt Disney World Moderate Resorts are great for visitors that are looking for hotels that have the best of both worlds – comfortable rooms to put their head at night after a busy day in the parks along with a great place to relax on those days that are not spent in the parks. So, if you are looking to stay on property, have a bit more upscale experience at a moderate cost, and get a great Disney experience, a Disney Moderate Resort will be right up your alley.
In this “Best of” entry, we will be reviewing the Walt Disney World Moderate Resorts and letting you know which ones we think are the best. We will discuss theming, rooms, pools, amenities, and other benefits of each resort. At the end of this article you will have a great idea of whether or not a moderate resort is right for your vacation and, if so, which one of these great resorts is the best fit.
The Basics of Disney Resorts
Before we get into the ins and outs of the Moderate Resorts at Walt Disney World, there are a bunch of amenities and extras that you get no matter where you stay. It does not matter if you are staying at the most expensive room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, or pitching a tent at Fort Wilderness. Disney provides certain extras for all of their guests to ensure that everyone has a good time.
If you read our article on Best Disney Value Resorts, you can scroll past this section and go right to the Moderate Resorts specifics.
Pools and Pool Bar
Each Disney resort will be equipped with a main pool along with additional “quiet” pools. The pools at Moderate Resorts will each be themed in a fashion similar to the overall resort theming, they will be equipped with a water slide and hot tub, and will have a bar nearby to get a snack or frosty beverage to help you cool off during the hot Florida afternoons. Moderate Disney hotel pools will not have the “deluxe” theming that you’ll find at the deluxe resorts but they are a significant step up from the Value Resorts.
Who doesn’t like shopping? Especially for Disney souvenirs. All Disney hotels will have a gift shop where you can not only purchase Disney, Mickey, and resort specific branded items, but you will also be able to purchase snacks, beverages, and any toiletries or sundries that you may need. For the most part there isn’t much difference between Value and Moderate hotel gift shops though as they will have similar items at all of them.
Food Court/Quick Service Dining
When the time comes to get something to eat, you may not want to take the time to go to a full service sit down restaurant. You may just need something quick so you can get to the parks or back to the pool. The Value Resorts will have the biggest food courts of all of the resort categories. Disney Moderate hotels still have a food court but they are significantly smaller than the values but still have great quality food to choose from. Disney has truly done a great job over the years of ensuring that the food courts and quick service options at all of their resorts have quality choices.
All Disney resorts comes fully equipped with an arcade full of games for those days where the weather might be bad or when you are simply just trying to take a break. It can be an overlooked part of your resort, but it will certainly come in handy if the kids need something to do for an hour. Typically though with the arcades, the best ones are in the value resorts and the Deluxe hotels tend to have the smallest ones. As you can guess the moderates are somewhere in the middle here in terms of size and selection of games to play.
Movies Under the Stars
Each evening, generally by the main pool area, your resort will play a movie for its guests. If you are lucky, and it is shown by the pool, you may even be able to swim and watch at the same time. Add in some complementary Pop Secret Popcorn, and your night is complete.
First, if you are flying into Orlando International Airport, Disney will provide you with bus transportation both to and from your resort to the airport via Disney’s Magical Express. They’ll even take care of picking up your luggage and deliver it to your resort room. Second, you will have access to all of the transportation options (most common is bus transportation) that will get you around the vastness that is the Walt Disney World Resort.
Primary transportation will be bus transportation via the Disney buses, however, you can make your way around via boat, monorail, and now Skyliner. Using Disney transportation can be a bit of hit or miss at times, and it might take you a bit longer than hopping in a car and driving somewhere, but it is all part of the experience of being at Disney. Where else can you ride a monorail and then go hop in a gondola in a matter of minutes?
Extra Magic Hours
Now we are getting to the fun stuff – theme parks! When you stay at Disney resorts, you will have access to generally one park per day, either an hour before park open or up to two hours after park close, where only guests staying at a Disney resort can be present. This is a huge advantage when you are unable to secure a fastpass for that E-Ticket attraction like Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You will be able to enter the park before the masses and ride without much of a wait. It doesn’t matter if you’re staying at a value, moderate, deluxe Disney resort (including some select Disney Springs hotels) you’ll have access to Extra Magic Hours.
Speaking of Fastpasses, everyone gets access to Fastpass, whether you are staying at a Disney resorts or not. However, if you are staying at a Disney resort, you will have access to book your Fastpasses 60 days in advance, and for the length of your trip. Whereas, guests not staying on Disney property can only book their Fastpasses 30 days in advance, and only one day at a time.
What you get at a Disney Moderate Resort
So, now you know all of the stuff each guest staying at the Disney Moderate resorts will receive to give you an idea of what it looks like.
Nicer Standard Rooms
When you decide to take that jump up from Value Resorts to Moderate Resorts, you will certainly be getting upgraded standard rooms. To start, the rooms are bigger. Most rooms at one of Disney’s Moderate Resorts will measure in at around 314 square feet, about 55 square feet bigger than the Value Resort rooms. However, if you stay at Caribbean Beach Resort or in the new Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs Resort, you will have access to even larger rooms. Rooms at a Moderate Resort will have a queen-size bed, coffee maker, and at most Moderates, rooms will have a separate vanity area with a double sink.
Since many of the value and moderate hotels now have revamped rooms, the thing you’ll notice is the Value rooms are more bare in terms of their theming compared to the moderate rooms which seem to have a bit more of a Disney touch and elegance to them. This wasn’t the case a few years ago as used to the value rooms had tons of Disney cartoons all over the walls and the moderate rooms were sort of all over the place. The jury is still out on the updated rooms and how people like them but we feel the moderate rooms are a nice touch.
When you are staying at Disney resorts in the moderate and deluxe category, there begins to be many more things to do at the resorts themselves. What activities are offered varies amongst the different hotels but you can expect to find things like Surrey bike rentals, beach volleyball, face painting and other resort specific activities that they announce are available. When you check in either a castmember will provide you with a guide showing you all the activities that are available or you can ask a castmember for the information as well.
More Dining Options
In addition to a quick service food court style dining option, all Disney Moderate Resorts will also provide access to at least sit down/table service dining options. These table service options provide another excellent way to enjoy Disney Resorts, as they always have different and unique items that are in line with the geographical or regional theming of the resort. It’s one of the things that separates them in a rather big way from Value Resorts because values don’t have table service options like the Moderate and Deluxe resorts do.
Bigger & Better Pool Areas
As we mentioned, each Walt Disney World Resort has multiple pools, however the pools at the Moderate Resorts are just a step above those at the Value Resorts. each “main” pool at a Moderate Resort will come equipped with a water slide. That in and of itself can make a resort day much more fun and exciting. Moderate Resorts will also have a whirlpool/hot tub in the main pool area, which can be extremely relaxing after being on your feet all day in the parks
Pros and Cons of Moderate Resorts
Before we get into the pros and cons of each individual resort , we want to provide an overall thought of Moderate Resorts in comparison to their sister Disney Resorts and off-site resorts
Now, unlike the Value Resorts, theming at the Moderate Resorts is more geographically based. We enjoy the theming at the Moderates because it is a bit more upscale, but Disney does incorporate enough Disney touches that you do know that you are still at Disney. The rooms are a bit nicer and have a more sophisticated and elegant theming to them.
Most of the year, you can make the jump from a Value Resort to a Moderate Resort for less than $100 per night. That may seem like a lot, and it is. However, the benefits that you get for staying at a Moderate Resort are certainly worth the extra cost. Especially if you are going on a “staycation” or going to be spending any significant time at the resorts because the Moderates have so much more to offer vs the value resorts.
Rooms & Amenities
If you are traveling as one or two people, the size of the rooms may not be a deal breaker for you. However, if you are a family of three or four, having larger rooms for extra space to move around is huge. Also, all of the Moderates rooms have queen-size beds and coffee makers, making both getting that rest and, getting up in the morning that much easier.
Like the Value Resorts, the Moderate Resorts are equally, if not larger in size. The distance from some of the rooms to the main building or pool area can be a 15 minute or longer walk. This also leads to having multiple bus stops, potentially making you time on the bus longer.
Now, in comparison to Value Resorts and Deluxe Resorts, the amenities that you get for the price that you pay at a Moderate is perfectly in line. However, if you look outside of the “Disney Bubble” at resorts at similar price points to Moderate Resorts, you may find that the amenities are a bit more vast.
The 5 Best Disney Moderate Resorts
The Moderate Resorts include Coronado Springs, the Cabins at Ft. Wilderness, Caribbean Beach, and Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. There is so much going on at the Moderate Resorts these days, it is so hard to determine how to split them out and what belongs. However, we have looked at all of the Moderate Resorts and come up with a list of the best moderate hotels that Disney has to offer.
5. The Cabins at Fort Wilderness
To kick off our best moderate hotels list is The Cabins at Fort Wilderness. This hotel and rooms provide a unique resort option for those guests that do not want the typical hotel stay while on vacation. The cabins are spacious with a separate bedroom, full kitchen, sleeping for six, and parking right next to the cabin (for those with vehicles). Fort Wilderness provides what many might call a “glamping” experience at Disney World. The Cabins are set in a wooded area with plenty of walking trails where guests can take in all that nature can offer.
Fort Wilderness offers a multitude of unique entertainment offerings, both paid and unpaid. From the complementary Chip n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long, a petting zoo, Tri-Circle-D Ranch, to bike rentals, a day at Fort Wilderness can be jam packed with activities.
When you get hungry, don’t forget about Trails End Restaurant. This “all you care to enjoy” eating establishment provides a breakfast buffet sure to get you going in the morning, and a dinner buffet to satisfy the carnavour in all of us. If you like entertainment with your meal, don’t miss the Hoop-dee-do Review. This dinner show includes singing, dancing, comedy, and improv with the assistance of the audience. It is not to be missed.
From a transportation standpoint, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness offer buses to each theme park and Disney Springs. However, in addition, guests can also catch a boat to the Magic Kingdom. So, if you are looking to stay at a Moderate Resort, can afford a bit more than the other resorts, and plan on visiting Magic Kingdom multiple times, this may be the resort for you.
Fort Wilderness is truly a unique resort and one of the best moderate resorts at Disney. Though depending on the demand can many times be priced more in the deluxe resort price range but that’s because they are in such demand. One downside to this resort is that it relies on an internal bus system to take you to the main area where you can then get on a bus to go to the parks or Disney Springs. For instance if you wish to get to the Magic Kingdom it can take almost an hour, if not longer to get there by the time you leave your room and walk into the Magic Kingdom.
You can find yourself spending lots of time waiting on an internal bus. If you are planning to stay here we recommend renting a golf cart as that will enable you to get around the resort quicker and easier as there are also few places you can take your car once you are in the resort.
4. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter
Determining how to rank the Port Orleans Resorts was tough. In the end, the number 4 ranking for Port Orleans French Quarter was due to the “on-site” table service restaurant being located at Riverside. Otherwise, French Quarter is a quaint resort that will transport all guests right into New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras. The beauty of this resort is brought out by the stunning fountains, courtyards, and wrought-iron details throughout what is the smallest resort on Disney property. French Quarter also features the alligator band statues that works to combine both the wildlife and music found in New Orleans.
The spacious rooms at Port Orleans French Quarter were refurbished in 2018, so they are still looking fresh and include plenty of storage space. This is one area that French Quarter has the upper hand vs. Riverside. In addition to the rooms being refurbished in 2018, Port Orleans French Quarter refurbished both their food court and pool areas in 2016. French Quarter now has a huge splash pool area which is a big plus, as the other moderates do not have splash areas for kids.
Although the Mardi Gras theming at Port Orleans French Quarter is fun and exciting to most, some kids (and adults alike) may not love the masked jester and clown figures throughout the resort. Similarly, although an extremely fun pool and slide, the serpent theme of the slide may also frighten some kids.
Being a Disney Springs resort, guests staying in rooms at Port Orleans French Quarter will have boat service to Disney’s biggest shopping and dining center. So, along with all of the dining at the resort (Riverside included), the ability to get to some of the best restaurants at Disney is extremely easy. Theme park transportation, however, will strictly be through the Disney bus system.
All in all, we really like Port Orleans French Quarter, however, in comparison to the other moderate hotels, including the next one on our list, it falls a bit short. Port Orleans Resort French Quarter is still one of the most unique resorts on all of Disney property.
3. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside
The sister resort to Port Orleans French Quarter, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort may be the best themed of the Moderate Resorts and comes in at number three in our best Disney Moderate Resorts list. Themed to resemble both the bayou and luxurious mansion areas of the south, this resort is absolutely gorgeous. You can walk along the stunning pathways and visit the bayou section and get a taste of wilderness and then stroll through the mansions area and be transported to the lap of luxury.
Port Orleans Riverside though gorgeous outside, is lacking a bit on the interior. The rooms at Port Orleans Riverside, unlike the rooms at French Quarter have yet to be refurbished. They are very well themed, but are certainly showing their wear. If, however, you are looking for a special treat, check out the Royal Guest Rooms. These special rooms are themed “generally” after Disney princes and princesses, however, Tiana is a bit more prominent than the rest as she is, as you know, a New Orleans princess!
Port Orleans Riverside is where you will find the “on-site” table service restaurant, Boatwright’s Dining Hall. Boatwright’s is going to provide diners a bit of the south on a plate. From Nashville Hot Chicken, to Jambalaya, to Shrimp and Grits, Boatwrights is the spot for good southern inspired food at Disney. If you are looking for a little late night entertainment, you will not want to miss Yehaa Bob Jackson at the River Roost Lounge. Yehah Bob is a fan favorite who wails out classic tunes on a piano nightly.
On your resort day or for that mid-day break, be sure to visit Ol’ Man Island and the main pool at Port Orleans Riverside. The water slide is small but fun, and the pool has a very cool sawmill inspired water feature. If you want a bit more relaxation, check out the jacuzzi or hammocks.
Like its French Quarter sister, Port Orleans Riverside is considered a Disney Springs Resort as it is conveniently located to Disney Springs, with boat service regularly available to bring you to all of the shopping and dining. Outside of the boat service, if you are staying at Port Orleans Riverside, you will be utilizing the Disney bus service to all of the theme parks.
2. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
This is where things start to get interesting when ranking the moderate hotels. The difference between the best Disney World Moderate Resort and the number 2 resort is extremely small, and it really depends on what you value when looking at hotels. Coming in at number 2 on our list of best Moderate resorts is Caribbean Beach. As its name states, this resort is themed around being in the Caribbean Islands. With brightly colored buildings, beaches, and an old Spanish Fort themed main pool area, this resort is a feast for the eyes. Disney has made multiple enhancements here over the past few years and it shows. Just a couple of years ago, this probably would have been at number 4 or 5 on this list.
The standard rooms at Caribbean Beach were refurbished just a few years ago, so they still have that clean and modern feel that Disney has been going for with the refurbishments. Comfortable and spacious, but not that much different than many other rooms at the other moderate hotels. However, many of the rooms have a pull-down “5th sleeper” that can accommodate a 5th person in the room, which many rooms at Disney don’t provide.
Caribbean Beach is a large resort, so some folks may stay away, or need a preferred room to have proximity to Old Port Royale, the main pool, and Sebastian’s Bistro. However, the rooms furthest away provide some additional peace and quiet after a busy and loud day at the parks.
Now on to where Caribbean Beach really shines, amenities and transportation. Caribbean Beach has one of the coolest pools on property, probably second overall, right behind Stormalong Bay at the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. The Spanish Fort themed pool (complete with pirate ship and slide) is large, and is located next to probably the best pool bar on property, Banana Cabana. And, right next to Banana Cabana is Caribbean Beach’s signature table service restaurant, Sebastian’s Bistro. Serving Caribbean inspired fare, this new addition is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
As Caribbean Beach is large, you can probably deduce that there are many bus stops throughout the resort to take guests to and from the theme parks. As waiting at the bus stops can be a pain, what Caribbean Beach has that none of the other Moderate resorts have is the Skyliner transportation system. This transportation option is a game changer if you are going to Epcot or Hollywood Studios (still have to take the bus if you wish to go to Magic Kingdom or Epcot).
This ride in the sky will get you there quicker than a bus and it is so much more fun. These additions almost got Caribbean Beach to the number one slot, but it could not overtake the additions and enhancements that our #1 Disney World Moderate Resort has made.
1. Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Topping our list of the Best Disney World Moderate Resorts is Coronado Springs. For years this resort was overlooked by many Disney guests as it mainly played towards the convention crowd. Although it still has a convention center and there is generally a convention going on, everything that Disney has done to this resort has made the typical Disney guest want to come back over and over again.
The standard rooms at Coronado Springs were refurbished just a couple of years ago, so they are still some of the more newer looking and comfortable rooms on property. Another larger resort, Coronado Springs has multiple bus stops with no other transportation option, so this is the biggest (and in our opinion only real) con of this resort. The Dig Site pool area is a large and Aztec themed with a jaguar slide. A hot tub, kids play area, and bar are adjacent.
What makes Coronado Springs jump to number one is what they have done in the last couple of years to enhance the overall feel and experience that guests get. It all starts with Gran Destino Tower. Some people may feel that the Tower is in its own category, and we generally won’t disagree as it bridges the gap between Moderate and Deluxe. The rooms in the Tower are larger and provide expansive views of all of Walt Disney World.
The Tower also has rooms that provide guests with a “Club Access” experience similar to Club Level at the Deluxe Resorts. Available to all guests at Coronado Springs, the Tower also has a fitness center and Senses Spa. The Tower has also added a new table service restaurant in the Spanish inspired Toledo and 2 new bars – Barcelona Lounge and Dahlia Lounge.
Coronado took it a step further with their unique dining options by adding another restaurant/bar/lounge when they built Three Bridges Bar and Grill at Villa del Lago. Disney literally built three bridges that led to this Bar and Grill serving Spanish-American inspired food and drink in the middle of Villa del Lago. To top it all off, Three Bridges offers a unique sangria experience on the weekends called Sangria University. Learn all about sangria and how its made, along with getting to not only sample (full glasses), but you then get to create your own.
They still have a fantastic food court for quick grab and go meals that in our opinion is a bit better than you will find in the food courts of the value resorts. All of these new rooms, dining options and deluxe feeling experiences was able to skyrocket Coronado Springs to number one on our list of Moderate Resorts.
One thing that Coronado Springs has that no other Disney Moderate Resorts have is a gym! This is because Coronado Springs is Disney’s main convention hotel and this is a common thing that many business travelers that go to conferences want to be able to have. So if working out on your vacation is something you want to do, then Coronado Springs is a solid choice for you. The gym is just the icing on the cake when it comes to Coronado Springs and it’s truly one of the best hotels on all of Disney property.
There you have it, from the Port Orleans Resorts to Coronado Springs, our list of the Best Disney Moderate Resorts. Do you agree? Is your favorite moderate resort different? That is the great thing about Disney Resorts, they are all different and each one appeals to so many different people that there is one for every guest to enjoy.
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