Official Disney resorts are immaculate triumphs in theming. What’s odd about them is that many aren’t very Disney. What I mean is that when you enter the lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you feel like you’re transported to the South Seas. At Disney’s Beach Club Resort, the sand under your toes persuades you that you’re spending the day at the beach. Where is Mickey Mouse in all of this, though?
The truth is that Disney doesn’t construct hotels inspired by Disney characters as a rule. The notable exceptions are international locales. It’s an understandable decision but one that bums out those of us who are Disney fans. Here’s a list of the American Disney resorts that are the most Disney-like. Its contents may surprise you.
This list required an exhaustive amount of research. I looked at countless hours of hotel videos and photographs to guarantee that I knew the most important Disney elements of every official resort. In evaluating the properties, I’ve locked in on the ones that emphasize Disney characters and films.
Yes, every hotel has Hidden Mickeys and various other ties to all of your favorites. Most of them are subliminal, though. This list is about the ones that you don’t have to be a Disney diehard to notice. The only other rule is that the resorts have to be in the United States. Otherwise, Toy Story Hotel at Shanghai Disneyland would be the runaway winner. It’s the only Disney resort thus far that’s 100 percent Disney-themed. Star Wars Hotel will join it in a couple of years, though.
8. Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
You should notice a trend throughout these rankings. For whatever reason, Disney’s most expensive resorts are the least Disney in structure. The company wanted to mimic some of the most famous vacation destinations in the world. To achieve their goal, they hid the Mickeys, as it were.
The oddity is that the Value Tier resorts are all about Disney characters. Presumably, the difference is that these hotels tend to skew younger, with lots of traveling groups and starter families visiting. So, Disney leaves comfortable imagery up for them. When you enter All-Star Music, it’s not exactly brimming with Disney aspects. Music artists and jazz symbols decorate the walls, but there is a giant Mickey Mouse headphone arch on display.
At the pool, the Three Caballeros are the (artificial) house band playing the tunes. It’s not much by way of theming, but it’s not enough to qualify. Its presence demonstrates just how little of Disney’s core intellectual properties are on display at their hotels.
7. Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The only true Disney characters on display at the Contemporary are the ones playing on a movie screen in a nook in the lobby. Its presence is to work as a distraction for kids while their parents check into the hotel. Other than that, the closest thing is the famous Mary Blair wall treatment on the fourth floor, but it doesn’t feature Disney characters.
Why have I listed the Contemporary? The monorail travels directly through the fourth level concourse. And guests staying on higher levels of the hotel do have a view of some Disney characters. Specifically, Chef Mickey’s has a Mickey Mouse sign and characters roaming the restaurant during operating hours. No, it’s not much, but it’s more than most Disney resorts have. Plus, the monorail is as closely associated with Disney as anything short of Mickey and Minnie Mouse.