Are you taking a trip to Disney World with a preschooler (i.e. child aged 3 to 5 years)? We have reviewed each of the Disney World resorts to determine which is the best Disney resort for preschoolers.
Preschoolers love to engage in their surroundings. They are inquisitive and love to see and try new things, but they still have their limits. The criteria that we thought were most important in choosing our best Disney resort for preschoolers are pool, theming, character dining and, to a lesser extent, location. Other factors include rooms, common areas, and grounds.
We’ve picked a best Disney resort for preschoolers in each of the Disney price categories: deluxe villas, deluxe resorts, moderate resorts and value resorts.
The Deluxe Disney resorts and villas are: Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas, Beach Club Resort and Villas, Board Walk Inn and Villas, Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Village Resort, Villas and Bungalows, Wilderness Lodge and Villas, and Yacht Club Resort.
The Moderate Disney resorts are: Cabins at Fort Wilderness, Caribbean Beach Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, and Port Orleans Resort – Riverside.
The Value Disney resorts are: All-Star Movies Resort, All-Star Music Resort, All-Star Sports Resort, Art of Animation Resort, and Pop Century Resort.
Other resorts include: Swan Resort, Dolphin Resort, Old Key West (DVC), Saratoga Springs (DVC), and Fort Wilderness Campsite (campers only).
Ranking Disney World resorts is inherently controversial and arbitrary. Remember, these are our choices for best Disney World resorts for preschoolers. We have different picks for babies, preschoolers, school age kids, tweens, teens and adults.
Preschoolers love Disney, and it is likely that wherever you stay will result in a magical trip that just might be one of the first that they remember!
Best Disney Deluxe Resort for a Preschooler
Winner: The Polynesian
Nice pools, exquisite theming and character dining can all be found at the Polynesian. The theming at the Polynesian is truly a treat. You feel as if you are in the South Pacific. The Polynesian is spread out and has two nice pools for kids, the Lava Pool, which is zero-entry, and a quiet pool. The Lava Pool can get full, but we have always been able to get a spot at the quiet pool, even during the busiest season of the year. We recommend requesting a specific longhouse so that you can be as close to the Main Building as possible. We like Samoa – it is between the hotel’s two pools and very close to the Main Building. They cannot guarantee you will get it, but it is definitely worth asking.
The convenience of being able to take a young child back to the hotel in a short period of time without taking him or her out of the stroller is truly wonderful.
The Polynesian has nice grounds for little ones to explore with their parents. The gift shops are adorable, and the Main Building is a great air-conditioned place for new walkers to wander around and check things out. There is a Mickey character breakfast at O’Hana that can fill up, but you can usually book an ADR with a little planning. It is not as tough to get a reservation as some other character dining.
Polynesian is the only resort to offer Dole Whip. You can find it at the Pineapple Lanai. We won’t tell if you splash some rum in there…
Runner-Up: The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
If you are choosing from Deluxe hotels, for young ones, the value of having a resort on the monorail cannot be overstated. There is soooo much to explore at the Grand Floridian with your preschooler. The pool is a great one for that age – the zero-entry pool is huge and gives them lots of room to play in very shallow water. It helps them get comfortable with the increasing-depth of pools. There is also a quiet pool (Beaches) and pool bars with food at both locations.
Grand Flo has great character dining – and you are one monorail stop from Magic Kingdom. Why is this the winner for preschoolers? Let me explain. There are two different character meals that allow your preschooler to meet awesome characters. My preschool gets into Winnie the Pooh as much as she does Cinderella. You can meet characters from both at 1900 Park Fare.
Best Disney Moderate Resort for Preschoolers
Winner: The Caribbean Beach resort
This one is a kid favorite, and also has incredible pools.
Guest buildings are arranged in six villages named after Caribbean islands. We recommend going for a “Preferred Room.” They will be in one of the 6 buildings closest to Old Port Royale. That is the area with the main pool, food court, restaurant, and shops. There is also a bus stop in front of Old Port Royale. If you want one of the closest standard rooms, request a room in Aruba number 51, Jamaica number 45, or Martinique number 22.
Being close to the Main Building is nice so that you can easily enjoy the nicest amenities and a zero-entry pool! The Disney transportation offered is the bus, so if you want to get somewhere quickly, consider driving or taking a taxi or uber.
Runner-Up: Port Orleans Riverside Resort
Port Orleans Riverside is a nice resort for preschoolers. It is a large resort and there is lots to see and do. Your preschooler will love exploring the grounds of Alligator Bayou’s wilderness and the manicured gardens of Magnolia Bend.
Of the two Port Orleans resorts, Riverside is the only one with a sit-down restaurant. You are also welcome to use the amenities of Port Orleans French Quarter. Some people prefer the pool there to the one at Riverside. You need to either drive or take a Disney bus, taxi or uber to get to the parks. There is even a boat available to take you from Port Orleans to Disney Springs. Disney Springs is a wonderful place for a meal and an early evening with a preschooler. They are opening new restaurants all the time!
Best Disney Value Resort for a Preschooler
Winner: Art of Animation
We chose Art of Animation over Pop Century because there is a good chance your preschooler will be familiar with at least one of the characters that the hotel features. The Big Blue Pool is huge and has colorful, whimsical, Finding Nemo theming. It is a kid favorite. If they stick their ear in the water (or go underwater) they will be able to hear Finding Nemo music!
There are multiple sections of the resort – Cars, Finding Nemo, Lion King, and the Little Mermaid. You can stay in any of the different areas. The Little Mermaid rooms are the standard rooms, and they are located the farthest away from the Main Building and Food Court.
You will need to catch a bus or drive to get to the parks, so plan in some extra transportation time.
TIP: It may be worth it to spend money on Uber Family (uber with carseats) or a taxi if your transportation times are long or you will be trying to leave a busy park mid-day. Download the Transportation Wizard app to get an idea of how long your travels will be.
Runner-Up: Pop Century
Pop Century has nice theming and is fun for preschoolers as well.
Pop Century also has great pools. The Hippy Dippy Pool has a 1960’s themed and a nearby splash pad. There are also two quiet pools. You spend lots of time at the resort when you have a toddler, and having pools at varying intensity levels can be very helpful.
Food is available at the Everything Pop Food Court. It gets high marks from many guests and is often cited as the best food court at the Disney World resorts.
Our winner and runner-up in the Deluxe Resort Villa category are the same for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The focus is on being on the monorail and proximity to Magic Kingdom.
Best Disney Deluxe Villa Resort for Preschoolers
Winner: Disney’s Bay Lake Towers Resort
It is only a ten minute walk to the Magic Kingdom or you can walk over the Contemporary and hop right on the monorail! This particular hotel makes traveling with a preschooler about as easy as it gets. You never even have to fold your stroller.
The villas have a full kitchen and nice living area that is separate from the bedroom. There are not restaurants at Bay Lake other than a quick-service pool option, but it attaches to the Contemporary via a short walkway. There you can find Chef Mickey’s, Contempo Cafe, and the Outer Rim Lounge. The California Grill and The Wave…of American Flavors are also at the Contemporary. If you get a park view room, you will be able to see the fireworks well from your room.
If you want to spend the morning at the Magic Kingdom, you can easily head home when your child starts to get tired or overstimulated. To get to Epcot, transfer monorails at the Transportation and Ticketing Center.
The pool at Bay Lake is quiet and has a zero-entry area and a splash pad. You are also welcome to use the pools at the Contemporary. These pools are a nice place to spend a relaxing afternoon.
Runner-Up: The Villas at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
The Grand Floridian Villas are located on the monorail, which is extremely convenient with a preschooler. You are able to get around so easily. Grand Floridian also has wonderful restaurants and shopping. The are located next to the Alice in Wonderland-themed splash pad and Beaches pool (and pool bar!) They are supremely well outfitted but their feel can be a little stuffy.
There are wonderful restaurants at the Grand Floridian and you can get easily to the Magic Kingdom and other Deluxe resorts for more options.
A note on why the Villas at the Polynesian didn’t make the list – the water. These incredible villas are located directly over water. From the standpoint of bringing a young child, that feels a little risky, and we don’t want uneasy parents. They are beautiful, though!
How did we do? Did you get your preschoolers favorite resort? Let us know in the comments!