The Best Walt Disney World Resort for Adults

Disney's Yacht Club Resort offers adult-oriented amenities and activities. It's also just steps from Epcot.
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Written by Carissa Rawson
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Disney's Florida resort is well known for its family-friendly activities and theme parks, but it has no shortage of attractions and experiences geared toward adults who love Disney. This extends to its lodging options, too.

For adults who value impeccable theming, outstanding customer service, thoughtful restaurants and entertainment at every corner, any Walt Disney World hotel fits the bill, to some extent. Of course, some Disney World hotels are better than others. So which is the best Disney resort for adults?

The best Disney World hotels for adults vary based on how much you prioritize design and amenities versus affordability.

The best Deluxe Disney World resort for adults: Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

The pool complex at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

On the high end, NerdWallet’s pick for the best Disney World resort for adults in the Deluxe tier is Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The elegant, New England-inspired resort has a lazy river set within its 3-acre pool complex, and is also the site of the Yachtsman Steakhouse. It also sits right up against Disney’s BoardWalk, which is a hub for nighttime adult entertainment including the Atlantic Dance Hall and the Jellyrolls dueling piano bar, both of which are limited to adults ages 21 and up.

The resort, which evokes images of New England and its seafaring traditions, is full of amenities, and its location next to Epcot makes it a top choice for adult park goers. That's because Epcot happens to be one of the best theme parks for adults thanks to its World Showcase area. There, visitors can sample delectable food and beverages (including the boozy ones) from a variety of countries — so you can skip the Uber after drinking your way around the world.

If you want to skip the theme parks, there's still plenty to do at or around Disney's Yacht Club Resort. You might spend the day out on the water by renting a boat. Another water option involves you getting in it — that's at the 3-acre pool complex featuring a lazy river. Choosing to rent a poolside cabana includes a dedicated attendant and cocktail service.

Don't miss a meal at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, a fine dining restaurant that Orlando magazine’s readers deemed the third-best steakhouse in the city in 2021.

The biggest downside to the Yacht Club is its cost. At the very low end, prices start at $537 — and that's for off-season travel, according to Disney price tracking site TouringPlans. For larger rooms on peak nights, you could easily pay many thousands of dollars.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Disney resorts can be booked via Capital One’s travel portal, allowing you to redeem your Capital One Miles rather than paying cash.

Though, Disney frequently runs promotions for discounted rooms. You can also score discounts if you’re a Florida resident, a Disney+ subscriber, an annual pass holder or a member of the military.

The best Moderate Disney World resort for adults: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

The Oak Manor Lawn at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside boasts towering oak trees that provide a lush backdrop for wedding ceremonies, which can be held at the resort. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter is the best Moderate resort for adults seeking a subdued stay. Themed to New Orleans’ historic French Quarter, the hotel grounds are usually quiet, thanks in part to the calm Sassagoula River that flows throughout the grounds. Its sister resort, Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, is also a worthy contender.

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The best Value Disney World resort for adults: Disney's Pop Century Resort

An aerial gondola vehicle from the Disney Skyliner glides in front of Disney’s Pop Century Resort. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

If cost is most important, the best hotel at Disney World for adults is Disney's Pop Century Resort. Its location is among the best of Disney’s lowest-priced hotels, considering it has its own Disney Skyliner station. Plus, given that it’s themed to the fads of the 1950s through the 1990s with touches like the 1960’s-inspired “Hippy Dippy Pool,” the hotel might resonate more with adults versus kids anyway.

The best Disney World resort for adults if you're a Marriott Bonvoy member: Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort (Florida)

(Photo courtesy of Marriott)

Our final option on this list of Walt Disney World hotels for adults isn’t quite a Disney resort, but it is on Disney property. The Dolphin is a Sheraton property, which is one of the Marriott brands. Because it's part of the Marriott Bonvoy program, frequent Marriott loyalists have two reasons to celebrate: You can earn and redeem Bonvoy points to stay here, and you can flex your Marriott elite status here.

A big reason to love this property is the location, as the Walt Disney World Dolphin and its sibling hotel, the Swan, are the only two non-Disney run hotels on Disney property. Both sit near the Yacht Club and Disney’s BoardWalk, giving guests access to many of the same benefits — including the ability to walk to Epcot.

And Disney’s BoardWalk is the place to be for adults who love nightlife. The Atlantic Dance Hall and the Jellyrolls dueling piano bar are both reserved for adults ages 21 and up — and are a hoot.

For more relaxed activities, the Dolphin offers that too, featuring several pools (including lap pools, whirlpools and a white sand beach), including a dedicated children’s pool, as well as a spa and gym. It’s also the home of the award-winning restaurant Shula’s Steak House.

While the cheapest rooms are similar in price to the cheapest rooms at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, the priciest rooms don't max out anywhere near as high. And if you're sitting on a bunch of Bonvoys, you might be able to stay for free if you redeem your Marriott points there.

Marriott elite members benefit even further by receiving the typical benefits offered at any Sheraton, including complimentary breakfast (with Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status or higher), late checkout and room upgrades.

Because it's not a Disney resort, you won't find any Disney theming here. But for adults, that might be a welcome reprieve.

What it does still offer is many of the same, convenient amenities that Disney resort guests are entitled to, such as 30 minutes early entry to any Disney theme park every day. There's a complimentary water taxi from the hotel's boat dock to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, plus bus transportation to the other parks and Disney Springs (buses depart every 20-30 minutes).

What about the Swan versus Dolphin?

NerdWallet selected the Dolphin as the winner, but the reality is they're very similar and share many of the same amenities. They're located next to each other, meaning both have convenient proximity to Epcot. No matter which of the two hotels you stay at, you'll have access to all the pools and volleyball courts, as well as restaurants.

The Dolphin ultimately won out because of its size. With about twice the rooms, it'll likely be easier to find availability — especially for points bookings. Rooms are also larger, and many actually accommodate more people per room, which can be great for adults in a group — whether that's people traveling for a bachelorette party or just friends taking a group trip. The lobby is also grander.

Other great Disney World hotels for adults

While not winners, here are others that stand out — and might be the best for some travelers:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa stands out as the poshest of Disney resorts. It's got an elegant Victorian charm with modern conveniences.

Here, pampering and refinement reign supreme, evidenced by hotel features like the opulent Victoria and Albert's restaurant, which has won the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award every year since 2000. Just beware that it's not cheap. The prix-fixe menu begins at $295 per person, and there’s no a la carte option available. There are no screaming babies at this restaurant, as the age minimum is 10 years old.

Disney considers Victoria & Albert’s, located inside the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, as its culinary crown jewel. (Photo courtesy of Disney)

The hotel also has a spa, and it's an incredibly romantic spot to watch fireworks given its proximity to the Magic Kingdom. But it's that Magic Kingdom proximity that is both a blessing and a curse. Families love the hotel give how walkable it is to the theme park gates. Adults vacationing at Disney might rather stay near one of the other theme parks besides the Magic Kingdom anyway. It also didn't win purely because of the high price point. It's one of the most expensive Disney resorts at Walt Disney World.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

The Animal Kingdom Lodge immerses travelers in African-inspired ambiance and actual wildlife encounters — often from your hotel balcony. This distinctive sanctuary stands out from the pack with exquisitely designed rooms adorned with African-inspired artwork.

The hotel lost points because its location can be inconvenient (it's walkable to nothing beyond the hotel grounds). Unless you have a car, you'll be reliant on bus service, and it's a relatively long bus ride to the theme parks. But that might be ideal for adults who prefer to relax rather than be in the center of buzzy action.

At this resort, you might curl up in a rocking chair on the back patio, which overlooks four savannas that house more than 30 species of African wildlife, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu and flamingos.

While there, stop for a sampling of the South African wines at the hotel’s Cape Town Lounge and Wine Bar.

Benefits of staying at Disney World hotels for adults

Benefits of staying at Disney World hotels include:

  • Early theme park entry: Disney hotel guests can enter theme parks 30 minutes before everyone else (park admission is required). Adults who don’t mind rolling out of bed early can beat the crowds of families who might have more trouble getting kids out the door quickly. Getting there early means also potentially avoiding paying for line-skipping privileges.

  • Extended evening hours: Similarly, guests at Disney’s Deluxe resorts are entitled to stick around longer (typically two hours past the standard closing time) on some nights and at some parks. While that might be past kids’ bedtimes, adults can usually take advantage of fewer crowds.

  • Free and plentiful mass transportation: Every Disney hotel is served by buses, and some hotels provide more unique modes of transit including boats, monorails or an aerial gondola called the Disney Skyliner.

If you're on a tight budget (or have points to spend): Book Disney Good Neighbor Hotels

While not on Walt Disney World property, adults might consider Disney Good Neighbor Hotels, which are hotels owned by other companies (mostly large, international hotel brands that offer loyalty programs). Because of that, many can be booked at lower cash rates and sometimes even for free (assuming you have hotel points to your name, earned either through frequent stays or credit card rewards).

While the hotels in NerdWallet’s ranking above are all Disney-owned (aside from the Swan and Dolphin), adults might prefer staying off-property anyway to get out of the Disney bubble and catch a break from the constant theming of Disney characters. Good Neighbor Hotels also often offer other cost-savings such as breakfast, kitchenettes or pet-friendly rooms.

Plus, many of the Disney Good Neighbor hotel benefits match what actual Disney hotel guests get, including early theme park entry. For proximity to nightlife, restaurants and other entertainment, adults should consider the Good Neighbor Hotels in the Disney Springs area.

Disney Springs area hotels bookable on loyalty points include:

Other Disney resort options for adults beyond Walt Disney World

If you’re interested in an adult-oriented Disney trip but aren't committed to Walt Disney World, or even Florida, there are other excellent Disney resorts for resorts throughout the U.S., including locations in South Carolina and Hawaii.

Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort (South Carolina)

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

One of Disney’s lesser-known resorts, the Hilton Head Island Resort is a luxurious lodge-themed property on — you guessed it — Hilton Head. The island is a recreation destination, with great beaches and even better golfing.

It was originally built as a Disney Vacation Club resort, intended for members of the timeshare-like program. But you don't need to be a DVC member to stay there, as you can sometimes find availability in cash. Or, you can buy DVC points from third-parties (which resell DVC points accrued by existing DVC members unable to use them this year). It also happens to be among the lowest-cost DVC resorts anywhere in the world when you book on points (DVC points rates start as low as 6 points per night.

As far as cash rates, you can find studio rooms starting at about $300 per night.

Its location away from Disney World makes this resort a little less of a hot spot for children, though you’ll miss out on visiting the theme parks while you’re here. Instead, options for daily activities include dolphin cruises, guided nature walks or tennis.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa (Hawaii)

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

Clear across the country is Aulani, a Disney resort on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. It has all the typical amenities you’d expect of a Hawaiian beach resort, including a beachfront location and incredible pools.

Although Aulani puts families front and center with kid-friendly amenities such as “Aunty’s Beach House” (a club for kids ages 4-12), Disney character photo ops and nighttime stories around a campfire, it still is a delight features some adult-only spots. These include the two whirlpools at 'Alohi Point, which features a scenic oceanfront overlook. You can also take advantage of the Laniwai Spa for a relaxing massage or skin treatment.

And definitely don't miss the ‘Ōlelo Room Bar and Lounge. While the Hawaiian language is classified by the United Nations as a critically endangered language, this bar is helping keep the language alive. The walls are decorated with Hawaiian words, and every bartender who works there speaks Hawaiian.

Consider a Disney cruise

(Photo courtesy of Disney)

Another NerdWallet report analyzed Disney Cruise versus Disney World prices and found that the average Disney cruise is typically cheaper than a Disney World vacation, especially for longer and more luxury-style vacations.

Sure, Disney cruises are great for children and families, but there are plenty of adult activities including live music and variety shows that cater to adults, plus adult-exclusive swimming pools, spas and dining.

How NerdWallet chose the best Disney World resort for adults

Choosing a Disney resort for your vacation as an adult can entail different considerations than a trip with children. The kid's menu and wading pool probably don't matter, but the wine bar and adults-only spa and restaurants can be the star of the vacation. With that in mind, here are the criteria NerdWallet analyzed when selecting the best Disney resorts for adults:

  • Location. While families might spend most of their Disney World time at the Magic Kingdom park, adults might not even visit that area at all. Other parks like Epcot and Animal Kingdom tend to have more adult appeal, which played into proximity rankings.

  • Price. NerdWallet broke down resorts into three price categories, which are Value, Moderate and Deluxe (the same classification that Disney World uses for its hotels), to more-fairly compare properties.

  • Adult amenities. NerdWallet considered availability of amenities either strictly for (or more geared toward) adults, such as thoughtful bars, as well as adults-only areas like spas or pools.

  • Other activities and amenities. Whether for adults, kids, or kids at heart, NerdWallet considered the overhaul resort experience, no matter one's age. Resorts got bonus points for quality, entertainment, other amenities and activities, and style.

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Walt Disney World hotels for adults: which is best?

While Walt Disney World may be known for its kid appeal, there's adult-oriented magic when it comes to a Disney trip too — and that extends to the accommodations. If you’re looking for the best Disney resort for adults and you want to pull out all the stops, consider the Yacht Club Resort, whose eminent location and variety of activities make it the best option for those traveling without children.

But there are so many more options. From chic and contemporary hideaways to sophisticated retreats, there's a perfect place for adults to unwind at any Walt Disney World resort.

(Top photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

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