Downtown Disney Hotels
The Downtown Disney hotels are on Disney property, but not owned or operated by Disney. They are all located along Hotel Plaza Boulevard, close to the Downtown Disney complex, and their proximity to the Disney World theme parks makes them highly desirable among non-Disney-owned hotels.
The seven resorts in this group run their own bus system to the Disney parks, and from some of them it’s easy to walk to Downtown Disney and pick up Disney’s own bus transportation, which runs to the Disney World resorts (which is especially convenient if you want to eat in a Disney resort restaurant). One difference between these hotels and a Disney-owned resort is that you cannot charge items in the parks to your room key. Another is that, with the exception of the Hilton, the Downtown Disney hotels do not participate in Disney’s Extra Magic Hours.
I tour each hotel in the Downtown Disney group on a regular basis, and stay regularly at the ones listed as MouseSavers Preferred. On these site inspections I tour the lobbies and restaurants, check out amenities such as pools and exercise rooms, and look at multiple guest rooms.
All of the hotels in this group offer good basic amenities, including an in-room safe, hairdryer, iron and ironing board, coffeemaker, dataport on the phone(s), and a Disney gift shop that sells theme park tickets.
Click on the links below to see extensive reviews and photos of these outstanding “best buy” hotels in Downtown Disney!
Best Western Lake Buena Vista in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort - Moderately priced full-service hotel near Downtown Disney offers spacious rooms that sleep 4 (5 with a rollaway). Some rooms have great views.
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort – The only all-suite hotel in the Downtown Disney area offers extra space for families. MouseSavers.com readers get FREE continental breakfast! Suites sleep up to 6 people.
Hilton in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort – Offers the only access to the Extra Magic Hours of any hotel in Downtown Disney, plus extensive dining and shopping. Kids eat FREE with a special MouseSavers.com offer! Standard rooms sleep up to 4 people.
Other Downtown Disney Hotels
Expected to open in early 2014, this high-rise boutique hotel (formerly the Hotel Royal Plaza) is expected to be a sophisticated alternative to the typical Disney World hotel. Once the massive remodel of this hotel is complete, I will check it out and update MouseSavers.com with more details.
Buena Vista Palace (formerly Wyndham Palace Resort and Spa) is a 1000+ room convention hotel. Since it was acquired by new owners in 2005 it has received major renovations. The rooms and public areas have all been freshened up.
The guest rooms are in two buildings. The main building, which houses the restaurants and bars, the spa, and other important amenities, is 27 stories high, making it the tallest building on Disney grounds. Views from the top of this high rise can be quite spectacular. The other building, on the opposite side of the grounds and closer to the main pool area, houses a combination of standard rooms and one-bedroom “parlor suites.”
I have done repeated walk-throughs of this hotel. I find the indoor public spaces in both buildings quite dark, even when visiting on a beautiful sunny day. The architecture does not admit a great deal of natural light. However, the renovations have improved things a great deal.
The guest rooms have been renovated attractively with a contemporary decor. Virtually all guest rooms at this resort have a balcony or patio. Standard rooms have two Queen beds or a King bed. Parlor suites have a bedroom that is much like a standard room, plus a separate living room with a pull-out sofa, small fridge, microwave, wet bar and additional half-bath.
The grounds are the largest of the Downtown Disney resorts, and are beautifully maintained. The hotel has multiple pools. Two of them — a large free-form half-outdoor/half-covered pool and an outdoor lap pool — are on Recreation Island, which also offers a whirlpool spa, a pool bar/grill, a game room, a small kiddie pool and a kids’ climbing/play area. Other than these areas, I would not describe the resort as “kid-friendly,” and we have seen relatively few children during visits.
Watercress Cafe is open for breakfast and lunch and offers bright, cheerful surroundings. Unfortunately the prices are high, even when compared with similar convention hotels in the area. Watercress Cafe hosts a Disney character breakfast on Sunday mornings. Close by is a pricey grab-and-go style deli/market area where you can buy a quick prepackaged snack or breakfast, baked goods, a cup of coffee, etc. There are few food options that would appeal to kids.
At dinnertime you can try The Outback, an expensive steakhouse with an Australian theme that is NOT part of the Outback Steakhouse chain. It features a koi pond (don’t ask me how that’s Australian), lots of dark carved wood, imitation petroglyphs and a not-so-attractive open kitchen in the center. The decor is very dark. There are also two lounges (one a sports bar) inside the hotel, as well as a pool bar. The hotel has 24-hour room service.
If you are a spa fanatic, this hotel has one feature that sets it apart from the others in Downtown Disney. Buena Vista Palace has a large, elaborate and restful spa facility (the Palace Spa) that rivals Disney’s spas (click here to see any current spa discounts). Facilities include a waiting area, plush locker rooms, covered outdoor whirlpool spas, an outdoor lap pool, and many private treatment rooms where you can get scrubbed and massaged to your heart’s content. There is also a very pretty courtyard area outside the spa where you can sit at a small table and relax, and a decent fitness center with everything from treadmills to free weights.
The resort is within easy walking distance of Downtown Disney — it’s right across the street from the Marketplace section. The free self-parking is a fair distance away and you’re walking uphill when coming from the parking lot to the front entrance. Also, you will either have to navigate two flights of stairs or walk on a steeply sloped driveway with no sidewalk and cars potentially coming at you around a blind curve. You’ll probably want to use the valet parking, for which there is a substantial daily fee.
The majority of the resort’s guests are part of a convention or group, and due to the design of the hotel, it really isn’t possible to segregate the convention-goers from family vacationers. This may affect your experiences here.
The hotel charges a daily resort fee. Rooms are equipped with high-speed Internet access (daily fee charged).
In October 2004, Holiday Inn Lake Buena Vista Downtown (formerly Courtyard by Marriott) closed down to repair hurricane damage. It sustained substantial damage from Hurricanes Charley and Frances. The hotel was in limbo for a long time. In February 2010, the hotel reopened following a top-to-bottom makeover of the guest rooms, restaurant and lounge, lobby, atrium and pool.
While it has been freshened up quite a lot, this remains a pretty basic hotel with limited facilities. The architecture is dated and somehow feels like a motel, even though all of the rooms open onto interior corridors. It is a 14-story building surrounding an atrium lobby.
Rooms offer the standard amenities you’d expect from a Holiday Inn, with two Queen beds or one King bed. The atrium lobby has a restaurant/bar on the ground level, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. A grab-and-go area nearby allows you to pick up a few quick-service food and beverage items.
There is a nice new zero-entry pool and whirlpool spa, which are overlooked by room balconies. There is no shade at the pool except if the sun is in the right position, in which case the building shades it.
In addition the hotel offers a small, very basic fitness center, self-service laundry room and a game room for kids. There is both self-parking (for a fee) and valet parking (for a fee).
This hotel became the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista in November 2010. Formerly it was the Grosvenor Resort and then the Regal Sun Resort. Some desperately needed renovations were done in late 2007/early 2008. The lobby decor has been updated and now looks fresh and pleasant, though the architecture causes it to be rather dark.
Standard rooms are small (slightly larger than Disney’s All-Stars), have two double beds and can accommodate four people. Rooms in the tower are slightly larger than those in the wings. The wing rooms have exterior corridors and motel-style bathrooms with a hanging area for clothing (no closet). None of the rooms have balconies or windows that open.
The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet, with Disney characters a three days a week, as well as lunch and dinner. A small bar with a pool table is adjacent to the restaurant. There is another bar in the lobby, open seasonally. There’s a convenient quick-service market selling snacks and drinks in the lobby. Limited room service is available.
The pool area has been updated. There are two pools: one is now zero-entry with a rather low-end children’s splash area. There is a large heated spa. The pool area has a bar/snack stand, open seasonally. There’s absolutely no shade around the pool, so bring lots of sunscreen.
For kids there is a game room/video arcade, and there is live entertainment (a murder mystery theatrical) on Saturday nights.
The hotel has free self-parking. There is a Dollar rental car desk in the lobby.
Service, cleanliness and upkeep continue to seem below average. Even with the updates, the hotel still feels “tired” to me, and the layout of the wing rooms is not great. The wing rooms are equivalent to the rooms in a Disney Value resorts, but without the theming or other benefits.
If you stay at the Wyndham, try to get a tower room, because those are significantly better than the wing rooms.