I was five years old the first time I saw the sleek, stylish transportation system taken from Walt Disney’s utopian dreams.
The year would have been 1979 and my grandfather had saved for a Disney World vacation at the Ft. Wilderness Campground.
Each day, going to the Magic Kingdom and back on the Seven Seas Lagoon, we’d pass under the monorail’s tracks. It’s nearly impossible to find the right words for how I felt at the age of 5, viewing the monorail and the impossibly futuristic triangular Contemporary Resort it ran through.
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Which Disney hotels does the monorail go to?
There are three hotels on the Magic Kingdom Monorail Loop, known as the Resort Monorail. They are all deluxe resorts and offer views of the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Castle and its fireworks show. They all have villa options as well. The Contemporary’s villas are in Bay Lake Tower.
Each also has a view of the charmingly outdated Electrical Water Pageant, a kind of water parade distant cousin to the Main Street Electric Parade.
A Disney monorail resort stay remains the height of the Disney vacation experience.
So which monorail hotel is the best? For this exercise, we’re going to assume that we are choosing rooms with views of the Magic Kingdom.
1. The Polynesian Resort
The Polynesian is a warm deluxe level option.
When you enter the lobby, you enter a Polynesian paradise that feels inviting and accessible. Make sure to get Polynesian leis for the kids and reservations for a character dining experience with Lilo and Stitch at Ohana.
Get a Dole Whip from Pineapple Lanai and explore the area around the Lava Pool which has its own volcano waterslide. The Oasis pool’s a quieter option if you’re looking for a more relaxing pool experience.
Dining options include the excellent Ohana, The Oasis Bar & Grill and Kona Island with its evening sushi bar.
2. The Contemporary Resort
Due to the popularity of Chef Mickey’s character dining experience, I suspect the Contemporary may be the most visited of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts.
But the hotel is more than the train running through it and a key character meal. There are two pools, with one that caters to families and has a large water slide. Also, Bay Lake Pool is designed to be a quieter experience.
With rooms that start at $500 a night, the hotel offers a wide array of rooms, suites and villas to fit nearly any party size.
The facilities include basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. And also fishing and motorized boat rentals. Other amenities include jogging trails, cabana rentals, movie nights and campfires for S’mores.
In addition to Chef Mickey’s, restaurants include Steakhouse 71, a stylish but casual steakhouse, and The California Grill, an award-winning culinary experience with spectacular views from the 15th floor. The California Grill does have a dress code.
You can get breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Contempo Cafe or coffee and a pastry at Contemporary Grounds.
Bar and lounge options include the Outer Rim and the Sand Bar. Disney Vacation Club members and those staying in the villas will have access to the Cove Bar at the area’s private pool. Check current rates on TripAdvisor. The resort is also listed on Kayak.com.
3. Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa
The Grand Floridan may be the best resort in the park. It’s just out of my league, and may be out for many families.
Based on a classic Victorian-era English resort – which when I think Florida, Victorian-era resort springs right to mind – the Grand Floridian is all class.
Currently starting at $700 a night, the resort has a lot of amenities, not the least of which is staying in about as close proximity to the Magic Kingdom as possible.
In addition to the kid-friendly Courtyard Pool, the fantastic Beach Pool with its 181-foot waterslide is among the best pools Disney has to offer.
The Dining Room at Victoria & Albert’s is also possibly the best restaurant in Disney. It is billed as an epicurean odyssey, and it should be. The Prix Fixe menu starts at $295 per guest. Optional wine pairings start at $150.
In addition, the Chef’s Table experience at the restaurant is certainly the most exclusive dining experience in the park.
There is an age requirement. Guests must be at least 10. It also a dress code for Victoria & Albert’s.
Specifically, guests are expected to dress in semi-formal or formal attire that “respects the restaurants’ elegant and opulent aesthetic.”
Other on-property dining options include but are not limited to:
Inspired by a whimsical setting in “Mary Poppins Returns”, this dinner restaurant features a menu crafted by Chef Andres Mendoza, serving Florida cuisine with a Mediterranean influence.
Gasparilla Island Grill
This restaurant features a more laid-back dining option with sandwiches, flatbreads and more. It’s open for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Coastal cuisine is served with epic views of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Open only for dinner, Narcoossee serves fresh seafood and land-based options like Prime New York Strip and the Dry-Aged Pork Ribeye.
Garden View Tea Room
It’s an elegant morning or afternoon tea room overlooking the gardens and pool.
This is a newly reimagined lounge inspired by “Beauty and the Beast”. For a more relaxed lounge experience, check out the Courtyard Pool Bar.
Narcoossee and Citricos have a dress code in which guests are expected to dress in attire that “respects the restaurant’s sophisticated and upscale aesthetic.” No swimwear is allowed.
There’s also an elegant full-service spa, which is perfect when you need to recover from a long day in the park the day before. Check for rates on this resort on TripAdvisor. It’s also available on Kayak.com.
What are the best hotels on the Skyliner?
Well, the simple answer is Disney’s Riviera Resort. The other hotels on the line are moderate or value resorts. It’s just a different level of experience.
Still, we should rank them.
4. Art of Animation
But John, isn’t Art of Animation a value resort? It is in name only.
Why Disney lists this resort, which currently starts at more than $211 per night, as a value resort eludes me.
I suppose it’s something of a tweener, caught between the value and moderate resorts but closer to the moderate side, in my opinion.
5. Caribbean Beach Resort
I’m tempted by this resort. Sorely tempted. We love the Caribbean Beach. We love the vibes, the restaurants and the main pool area with two slides at this moderate resort.
Its main drawback is that it’s a little spread out, which can make getting to the main stuff at Old Port Royale a bit of a pain.
But it’s beautiful and it doesn’t feel just like a hotel. It feels like a vacation destination in its own right. Currently starting at $238 per night, it’s the right combination of price and experience. Check current rates on TripAdvisor or Kayak.com.
6. Disney’s Riviera
Starting at $400 per night, there’s just a real move-up in experience for this Deluxe Villa Resort that’s part of the Disney Vacation Club experience.
What is the vacation club? It’s basically Disney timeshares. You can still book a room here if you’re not a member and there are sites devoted to helping Disney Vacation Club members move their timeshares on the secondary market if they’re not going to use them.
The resort’s main restaurant – Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera – is one of the premier dining experiences in Disney. It’s just a fantastic vacation destination if you can fit it into your budget. Check TripAdvisor or Kayak.com for current rates.
7. Pop Century
There’s no shame in this ranking. I love the Pop Century experience. From the Hippie Dippy pool to the themed sections of the park, I’d happily stay at the Pop Century tomorrow.
However, it is the most dated of the four Skyliner resorts. Both the Riviera and the Art of Animation are relatively new, and the Caribbean Beach has undergone a major renovation in the last 10 years.
Still with room rates starting currently at $163 per night, Pop Century is the best of the value resorts.
All the All-Star Resorts, including Music, Sports and Movies, share a bus line while Pop Century has its own plus the Skyliner. That alone makes it top of the class. Check TripAdvisor for current offers. It’s also listed with Kayak.
Is the Disney Skyliner better than the monorail?
In general terms, the bus system is the best way to get around the resort if you’re talking about the pure mechanical vision of getting around the parks. The buses go to every Disney resort, Disney Springs and each of the Disney theme parks.
They are frequent and utilitarian and predictable.
The Skyliner? It connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT to a handful of Disney resorts. The ride, which is high up over the resort, is the premier transportation experience in the park.
I’m not sure I’d say the Skyliner is better than the monorail system. It’s just a different method of accomplishing the same goal. However, it seems to me the Skyliner is far more apt for expansion to other hotels and other parks than the monorail, so maybe it has the upper hand based on future potential.
How many stops are on the Resort Monorail Loop?
Five. From the Magic Kingdom going towards the Contemporary, you’ve got the Contemporary, followed by the Ticket Center, followed by Disney’s Polynesian Resort, followed by the Grand Floridan and back to the Magic Kingdom.
Is the Walt Disney World monorail system still necessary?
I think so. You’ve got the elaborate bus system and the ferries as well as the still relatively new Skyliner. However, the monorail carries thousands of guests, as well as a peculiar kind of nostalgia, around the parks today.
With this in mind, the monorail remains an efficient transportation system.
Do you have a favorite resort on the monorail system? Let us know in the comments!