Home » The 5 Best DVC Properties for Guests Who Want to Explore Beyond Disney Parks

The 5 Best DVC Properties for Guests Who Want to Explore Beyond Disney Parks

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As crazy as the idea may sound to infrequent guests of Walt Disney World, there are times when a guest at an official Disney resort doesn’t want to visit an amusement park at all. The hotels themselves as well as their surrounding areas offer such an overwhelming number of entertainment options that heading to one of Walt Disney World’s vaunted theme parks can feel superfluous. Why would you navigate the buses, boats, and park crowds when you can have a great time right where you already are?

It’s one of the not-so-hidden secrets of the Disney Vacation Club. Many DVC members spend full days if not entire vacations enjoying the amenities of a DVC resort. If the idea of a less hectic day at Walt Disney World intrigues you, here is a list of the best Walt DVC hotels for people who don’t intend to visit the parks.

1. Saratoga Springs

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In a previous article, I named this resort as the worst onsite DVC property at either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Your torch and pitchfork attacks notwithstanding, I stand behind this assessment with regards to the priorities most people have when visiting Disney theme parks in Orlando. Saratoga Springs is located away from the majority of activities the average tourist would enjoy at Disney’s theme parks.

DVC consumers are a different breed. A key aspect of the “Welcome Home” lifestyle is enjoying one’s second home. DVC properties are escapist paradises, and the disadvantage of Saratoga Springs with regards to theme parks switch to net positives for people who plan to hang out around the hotel.

Saratoga Springs features a theme of “Health, History and Horses,” and the horse racing lifestyle is on full display throughout the facility. It is designed to remind people of patrician hobbies such as golf and tennis. In fact, guests who take the boat to Saratoga Springs can easily wind up standing on the golf course if they turn left instead of right at the dock. The integration of the course with the property is that complete. Fans of the outdoors also have a unique option here thanks to the Treehouse Villas, a singularly unique type of elevated cabin that can host up to nine guests. The great outdoors never felt so elegant.

In addition to the best sporting activities of any DVC property, Saratoga Springs also offers convenient access to Downtown Disney, which is soon to become Disney Springs. The recent opening of a bridge makes the trek pedestrian-friendly to guests at the hotel who want to walk rather than ride to the entertainment hub of this area.

2. Old Key West

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Many of the positives involving Saratoga Springs apply to this resort as well. While Old Key West does not have walking access to Downtown Disney (unless you’re a vacationing marathon runner), it does offer direct boat transportation multiple times each hour, weather permitting. So, shopaholics are covered, and the proximity of this hotel to Saratoga Springs means that golfers can play a round of golf at that property while enjoying a bigger room at Old Key West.

The other signature aspect of the oldest DVC resort is its twin hubs, Hospitality House and the Turtle Pond area. The Hospitality House area features the hotel lobby, a quick serve restaurant, a marvelous pool with waterslide, and DVC table service favorite Olivia’s. Turtle Pond offers another great pool plus the hugely popular yet somehow underrated Gurgling Suitcase, one of the best DVC resort bars. And if the two pools onsite aren’t enough for you, Typhoon Lagoon is only a mile and a half away.

The laid back atmosphere of Old Key West is thematically tethered to its penchant for Jimmy Buffett music. The beach vibe is intentional. Old Key West is arguably the best lounging resort of any DVC property. As such, Old Key West is the perfect place to relax, something of a rarity for Disney resorts. Like Saratoga Springs, it is targeted toward an older clientele than the DVC hotels located closer to the theme parks. Between hectic park visits, the slower pace of Old Key West is a welcome respite.

3. Animal Kingdom Villas

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Given the proximity of Jambo House and Kidani Village to Animal Kingdom, it’s a bit silly not to visit the park while you’re here. Even so, these villas represent the rarest opportunity of any DVC property. Guests at these resorts can enjoy the sort of view generally only witnessed during an African safari, and you receive the benefit of such amazing scenery without having to leave your room.

The breathtaking views at Animal Kingdom Villas are singularly unique not only across all Disney hotels but realistically for any major hotel chain in the world. At any moment, the view from your balcony may include frolicking giraffes, zebras, or other creatures you ordinarily must visit a zoo to watch interact. Animal Kingdom as a theme park offers a more detailed exploration of the same premise, but there is no reason to fight the crowds there when you have the same scenery looking out the window of your room.

Even if you are not a fan of the local (but imported) wildlife, the twin hotels still offer a lot of entertainment. The restaurants are renowned for their African delicacies. Whether you are a Boma, Jiko, or Sanaa fan or love all three, some of the best table service options at Walt Disney World reside at these two hotels. And if all this still isn’t enough to sell you on hanging out at the hotel, the African-themed pools are dynamic. Plus, these twin DVC sites are only three miles away from Blizzard Beach.

4. Beach Club Villas

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An argument could be made for Boardwalk Villas instead, but my thinking here is simple. Beach Club is only a walk across the bridge away from the same features that Boardwalk claims, and it has an ace in the hole.

Beach Club Villas is home to Stormalong Bay, a mini-water park located onsite. Easily the best Disney resort pool in Orlando, Stormalong Bay is so popular that there are restrictions about who can use it. If you are not staying at the hotel, you will not be able to swim there. While this is technically the rule at several DVC properties, Beach Club Villas is the only place where it’s always enforced. The pool is three acres in size, and it features a 230-water slide plus a serene lazy river that I daydream about more often than I should.

The way that Beach Club mirrors its DVC counterpart across the water is that it offers convenient access to the throwback shops on the Boardwalk. There are several clothing stores and multiple restaurants including the hallowed ESPN Club. Since ESPN is a Disney property, there are even occasional tie-ins between the restaurant and broadcasts being made for the various ESPN networks. In other words, you may see a few celebrities during your meal if you eat there.

What Beach Club Villas offers DVC members cannot be matched. It has a mini-water park onsite, and it is only about 200 steps away from a stylized miniature version of Downtown Disney. Plus, you can even see Illuminations from some hotel rooms, which adds the perfect romantic touch to a day of relaxation.

5. Grand Floridian

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This selection may be a bit controversial to some. In terms of onsite activities, Grand Floridian is a bit thin compared to other DVC resorts. It is still a wonderful place to be when you’re not spending a day at the park, though. Perhaps no other DVC participant is better for indulging oneself. Senses Spa is the type of splurge that elevates a vacation into the memory of a lifetime. Plus, the restaurants at Grand Floridian represent some of the finest of any resort in North America. Citricos, Narcoossee, and the 1900 Park Fare character meal are all top-flight table service options. Then, there is the crown jewel of all Disney restaurants, Victoria and Albert’s. If you ever want to eat the finest meal imaginable at a theme park resort, this is the place. It’s been a AAA Five Diamond Award winner every year since 2000 and recently won a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award as one of the best 25 restaurants in the United States. It was even ranked higher than the legendary Le Bernardin. And it’s just an elevator ride away from your hotel room!

I would also suggest spending a few minutes enjoying the Alice in Wonderland splash pool. Without giving anything away, it’s an unusually exciting way to get wet. Also, Beach Club Villas and Grand Floridian offer an additional fun way to pass time when you’re not at one of the parks. They have “beachfront” areas where you can walk barefoot through the sand. It’s like sneaking in a quick trip to the beach while still in Orlando.

To a larger point, Grand Floridian deserves a spot on this list. After all, if you want to enjoy the best of DVC without hitting a park, there is no better place to be than the signature Walt Disney World resort.