Hotels in Florida Near Disney

by Lisa Fritscher

Walt Disney World draws millions of annual visitors to its theme parks and recreational activities. The complex offers official hotels at all price points, while just outside the gates are dozens of hotels of all descriptions. Official Walt Disney World resorts provide free transportation throughout Walt Disney World, while many nearby hotels offer free or low-cost shuttles to multiple area attractions.

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Official Walt Disney World Resorts

The official Walt Disney World resorts provide a number of advantages. If you do not have a car, Disney’s Magical Express offers a free ride from the airport to your hotel. Participate in the Disney Dining Program, where you prepay a set cost per day for all of your meals, and take part in Extra Magic Hours, where one theme park per day is open for extended hours. These hotels are generally priced higher than nearby hotels within the same category of service. The heavily themed official Walt Disney World resorts are divided into Value, Moderate and Deluxe categories. Value resorts are budget priced and offer a slightly upgraded version of standard budget hotel amenities. Deluxe resorts are comparable to any high-end hotel with spacious rooms, multiple restaurants and a full schedule of activities. Moderate resorts fall somewhere in between.

Downtown Disney Hotels

The Downtown Disney hotels are a collection of seven properties located at Walt Disney World near the Downtown Disney entertainment complex. Although they are not owned or operated by Disney, these hotels offer advantages such as theme park views and frequent shuttle buses to the parks. In order to stay competitive with the official Disney hotels, these properties offer amenities such as multiple restaurants, free or low-cost wireless Internet access, free breakfast and frequent discounts.

Upscale Lodging

Bonnet Creek is a small section of Walt Disney World property dedicated to upscale lodging alternatives. Modeled after the historic Waldorf Astoria in New York, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is arguably the most luxurious of all. Enjoy the championship golf course, relax at the spa, or take in the faithful re-creations of the New York property’s legendary bars and restaurants. The hotel offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the Walt Disney World theme parks and Downtown Disney every half hour from early morning until late night. Located just over a mile from Walt Disney World, the Gaylord Palms Hotel and Convention Center is styled as an early 1900s Florida mansion. The sprawling property incorporates the very different design elements of Florida’s three most recognized locales -- Key West, St. Augustine and the Florida Everglades. Amenities include over four acres of indoor gardens, a 20,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, and an eclectic collection of eight bars and restaurants.

Budget Alternatives

Due to stiff competition, it is difficult to find a truly bad room in the Walt Disney World area. Highway 192, located just outside Disney property, is filled with both chain and independent hotels of every description. A particular highlight is the Super 8 Maingate, just a five-minute drive from Disney. The property is clean, comfortable and surprisingly well-appointed, and the staff is friendly and helpful. The hotel is across the street from Old Town, a retro amusement complex that hosts a weekly car show. Colloquially known as I-Drive, International Drive is an excellent choice for those who plan to visit nearby attractions such as Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando as well as Walt Disney World. The Rosen Inn, located at the Pointe Orlando shopping and entertainment complex, is just 15 minutes from Disney. The property offers spacious, comfortable rooms with upscale mattresses, free wireless Internet and attraction ticket sales. Dining options include a buffet restaurant, deli, small convenience store, and a Shogun Japanese steakhouse.

About the Author

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.