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
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
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.