Are you taking a trip to Disney World with a kiddo in elementary (primary) school, i.e. aged 5-9 years old? We have reviewed each of the Disney World resorts to determine which is the best Disney resort for school-age kids.
Here are each of the resorts we considered, organized by Disney price category. Winners are below.
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).
Kids love Disney, so it is tough to really go wrong. That said, kids that are of an age to attend school generally are easier to travel with on buses (they do it every day!), so we did not prioritize the monorail or ease of getting around as highly as we do with younger age groups.
We focused on theming, the pools, grounds and common spaces. Other criteria included room quality and space and dining. We also offer recommendations for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, tweens, teens and adults!
Best Disney World Deluxe Resort for School-Aged Kids
Winner: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is exquisite. Dining, theming, the pools, and of course the animals are all truly impressive.
Boma – Flavors of Africa is a must-do. They have delicious, fresh food that is inspired by over 50 African countries. The restaurant resembles a lively African marketplace with a delicious buffet.
And the animals! Animal Kingdom Lodge is arranged around four savannah areas with animals that roam around them. Upgrading to a savannah room means you get to see them at all hours. You may even get a giraffe visitor that comes to your balcony to say hello!
Although you must ride in either a car or bus to get to the theme parks, the bus rides are relatively short and direct. They do not involve transfers to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, water parks or Disney Springs.
The pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge is as beautiful as the rest of the resort. Thankfully, the animals have their own watering holes. 😉
Runner-Up: Disney’s Beach Club Resort
Beach Club is within walking distance of Epcot, has arguably the best pool on Disney property, and has bright, fun theming. Disney’s Beach Club and Disney’s Yacht Club are sister resorts and guests can enjoy the amenities of either one.
The pool has a sandy bottom. Seriously. It’s beyond nice. It is called Stormalong Bay and it is 3 acres of a water wonderland. Disney has had to increase security to make sure that people from other resorts don’t sneak in. A nice dip in that pool is a perfect way to end a stimulating day at the parks. Well, perfect if you also get some ice cream at Beaches and Cream, of course. You are also able to use the pool at the Yacht Club, the sister resort to Beach Club, which has three pools as well. The resort decor is inspired by New England. The main lobby features a palette of cream, rose and mint green. It’s a lovely place for an unforgettable family vacation.
Best Disney World Moderate Resort for School-Aged Kids
Winner: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is designed to feel like you have walked onto a Caribbean island. The pool is wonderful and reminiscent of a Spanish Fort. Bright colors and lush, tropical foliage are everywhere at Caribbean Beach.
The Main Building, Old Port Royale, features a restaurant, arcade and shopping. 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.
Runner-Up: Port Orleans Riverside Resort
Port Orleans Riverside is a large resort. You will get to most places via bus, taxi, or uber, but there is a boat that can take you Disney Springs. Disney Springs is getting better every day and a wonderful way to spend an evening.
Of the two Port Orleans resorts, Riverside is the only one with a sit-down restaurant, which is a plus. You are also welcome to use the amenities of Port Orleans French Quarter, including the pool. 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 World Value Resort for School-Aged Kids
Winner: Disney’s Art of Animation
It is tough to beat the magical theming, awesome pool and lively atmosphere of Art of Animation for a school age kid. The resort is divided into four themed areas – Finding Nemo, Cars, the Lion King, and the Little Mermaid sections. Choose a finding Nemo Suite if you want to be closest to the Main Building with the food court. The standard rooms are all housed in the Little Mermaid buildings, which are the farthest from that area.
There are three pools – the Big Blue Pool, the Cozy Cone Pool in the Cars section of the resort, and the Little Mermaid Pool. All three have nice theming. The Big Blue Pool even pipes Finding Nemo music underwater!
Runner Up: Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Pop Century is fun and full of bright colors and fun themes that will entertain children and adults alike. It is designed to be an homage to pop culture of decades past. There you can even find a larger-than-life Roger Rabbit. How exactly do you explain the awesomeness of Roger Rabbit to your kids? And no, there is not a Jessica… Pop Century can be a fun way to engage with your family in topics that might not otherwise come up!
The pools are great – the Hippy Dippy Pool has a 60’s theme. There are also two quiet pools. They are all great places to wind down after a day in the parks! The food court is also well-rated.
Best Disney Deluxe Villa for School-Aged Kids
Winner: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas
For the same reasons that Animal Kingdom ranked number one for Deluxe resorts for school age kids, Animal Kingdom Villas also take that honor in the Deluxe Villa category. The African safari theming, the views of the savannah, and the amazing restaurants are incredible.
There are two options for staying at a Deluxe Villa at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jambo House houses the original Deluxe Villas and they are located in the larger Animal Kingdom Lodge resort. If you stay in Jambo House, you will get a room on a top floor. Jambo House provides easy access to the main AKL Uzima Springs pool, and AKL table-service restaurants Boma and Jiko, and the only quick service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Mara.
Kidani Village is the other Animal Kingdom Villa complex. It is located about a half a mile from the Jambo House. Staying at Kidani offers access to Samawati Springs pool complex, which includes a large children’s water play area. The Kidani pool complex will be used primarily by DVC guests, while Uzima Springs is shared equally between DVC and non-DVC guests. Kidani offers only one restaurant, the table-service Sanaa. The one-bedroom villas at Kidani have two bathrooms vs Jambo House’s one. The villas are also larger than those at Jambo House.
Runner-Up: Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
The theming at Fort Wilderness is absolutely magical, the pool is incredible and there is wonderful dining. Artist Point restaurant is probably one of the best kept secrets at Disney World. The best part is that you can usually manage an Advanced Dining Reservation. You can even get to Magic Kingdom via boat! It’s a nice way to start the day.
Have another favorite resort for school age kids? Let us know in the comments.