If you’re planning a trip to Disney World you may hear people talk about Disney hotels on the monorail as the best resorts to stay in. But what makes them so great? And is one of these three popular Disney World resorts right for your family?
In this post we’re going to break down everything about Disney World monorail resorts: what they are, what makes them unique, and the pros and cons of each one.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase using a link, I may get a commission at no cost to you.
What is a Disney World Monorail Resort?
A Disney World monorail resort is one of the three hotels that are directly connected to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom by the Monorail System.
(Oh wait…let me back up. If you’re a Disney World beginner (which, by the way, you should check out this post for Disney beginners) you should know that the monorail is basically a train in the sky. There are Monorail Systems for both Magic Kingdom and Epcot.)
One of the things that makes the Disney World monorail resorts so popular (besides how well done they are) is their proximity to easy transportation, especially to Magic Kingdom. Each resort has its own monorail station as well as walking paths and boat transportation to Magic Kingdom. And all of these things make it super easy to get from your hotel to Disney World’s most popular park.
There are three Disney hotels on the monorail:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
All three of these resorts are Deluxe resorts, meaning they are among the priciest of Disney World resorts.
But all three offer perks, theming, and dining that is hard to beat anywhere else.
How to Save Money on a Disney Monorail Resort
Before we even get to each resort, let’s talk about one question that so many people have: How can you save money on a Disney Deluxe Resort? (Which…all three of the monorail resorts are.)
I have two options for you to help make the possibility of staying at a monorail resort more manageable:
- Book through a travel agent. Using the services of a Disney travel agent is completely free, and many travel agents have rooms they can book at discounted prices.
- Rent Disney Vacation Club (DVC) point. DVC members don’t always use all of there points and put them up for other people to rent. Each of the three monorail resorts has DVC rooms available, and you can rent points through a reputable site like David’s Vacation Club Rentals. This can make a stay at a Deluxe Resort significantly cheaper. We’ve used them before and been super happy with the process!
Another thing to note: if you love the Monorail Resorts but can’t justify the cost of staying there, you can definitely still visit! Even if you aren’t staying at the resort you can enjoy the dining, the lobby, and other public spaces (you mostly just can’t use the pool).
Ok, now let’s dig into each of the Disney hotels on the monorail!
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney’s Contemporary Resort was one of the first resorts to open at Walt Disney World. It opened in 1971 along with Magic Kingdom. It has a modern and sleek design, as well as the shortest walk to Magic Kingdom (which is a big plus!).
The Contemporary consists of a large A-frame building (that the monorail goes through!) along with a smaller Garden Wing. There is also a walkway to Bay Lake Tower, which is a Disney Vacation Club resort.
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Rooms
The rooms at the Contemporary have a mid-century modern vibe, and in 2021 they are being redesigned to incorporate elements from the movie The Incredibles as well as some subtle nods to the monorail. (They are refurbishing rooms in the tower first, and it sounds like refurbishments to the Garden Wing will be coming later.)
In the main tower you can choose a Theme Park View (which is pricier) or a Lake View. In the Garden Wing you can choose Garden view or Standard View (which means you could get a parking lot view). Choosing a Theme Park View means that you can view the fireworks from your room, plus it’s just fun to be able to look out your window and see Cinderella Castle.
Also, because this is a Deluxe Resort, the rooms have a good amount of space.
Dining at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
The Contemporary Resort has two of the most popular restaurants on property: Chef Mickey’s (which is a highly popular character meal) and California Grill (where you can watch the fireworks while dining). I do think that Quick Service dining options are pretty limited though. The main Quick Service restaurant is Contempo Café and they can have a pretty limited menu.
Let’s break down all the available options here. We’ll split it up into Quick Service (where you order at a counter) and Table Service.
Contemporary Resort Table Service Dining
- California Grill — California cuisine with Magic Kingdom views
- Chef Mickey’s — American food; Character dining with Mickey and Friends
- Steakhouse 71 (not yet open) — Steakhouse that will be replaced The Wave, opening October 1, 2021
- Outer Rim — Cocktail Lounge
Contemporary Resort Quick Service Dining
- Contempo Café — Sandwiches, burgers, and salads
- Contemporary Grounds — Coffee, smoothies, and breakfast pastries
- Cove Bar — Cocktails and a few food options at the Bay Lake Tower Pool (for Vacation Club Guests and those staying at Bay Lake Tower)
- The Sand Bar — Burgers, hot dogs, and cocktails at the Feature Pool
More Features at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
There is a lot more fun you’ll find at the Contemporary Resort, too. Here are a few of the amenities and recreation you’ll find.
- Two Pools — The Feature Pool, with a water slide and splash area and the smaller Bay Pool. (If you are staying at Bay Lake Tower there is a separate pool.)
- The Game Station — game room
- Basketball, volleyball, tennis courts, and jogging trails
- Olympiad Fitness Center
- Movies Under the Stars
- Boat Rentals
Disney’s Contemporary Resort Pros & Cons
There are a lot of great reasons to stay at The Contemporary! But there also reasons why you might decide to choose another Disney Monorail Resort instead.
Contemporary Resort Pros:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort has the shortest walkway to Magic Kingdom. You can leave your hotel room and be at the gates of Magic Kingdom in a matter of minutes!
- In addition to the Magic Kingdom walkway, there is easy monorail access to both Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center (where you can change monorails to go to Epcot).
- The new Incredibles rooms look super fun!
- The monorail goes THROUGH the building. THROUGH THE BUILDING.
- The atrium area of the resort has a fun and busy feel.
- Rooms with some of the best fireworks views.
- Houses Chef Mickey’s and California Grill, if those are high dining priorities for you.
Contemporary Resort Cons:
- Because it’s a Deluxe Resort, The Contemporary is definitely on the pricier end of where you can stay at Disney World.
- The Contemporary is the first stop on the Resort Monorail, meaning if you get on here, you’ll have to stop at the other two resorts plus the Transportation and Ticket Center before you reach Magic Kingdom. (Which makes the walking path a better option.)
- Quick Service Dining options are pretty limited.
- To me, Disney’s Contemporary Resort can feel a bit more sterile and industrial than some of the other Deluxe Resorts. The theming isn’t quite as…themed…as some other resorts.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Okay, I’m going to do my best not to let my bias show way too much here because different resorts are right for dinner families. But Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (aka The Poly) is my favorite.
Along with Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Polynesian was one of the resorts that was available when Disney World opened in 1971. It’s a classic Disney resort and a big fan favorite (with good reason). The Polynesian has a whole relaxing vibe to it. You really feel like your walking into a vacation from your vacation when you walk through the doors to the lobby.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort consists of a main building (The Great Ceremonial House) where the lobby is, and the rooms are in other smaller buildings scattered throughout the resort. So let’s break down the details here.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Rooms
Recently, the rooms the Polynesian have been updated to a Moana theme. But because this is a Deluxe Resort, of course Disney has kept it classy: an accent wall with Maui’s tattoos, updated color schemes, and new art. (Nothing too extreme.)
Because the rooms at the Polynesian are spread out in different buildings, there are a variety of views you can get: Theme Park, Lagoon, Pool or Marina, and Standard. And while it’s great to have a Theme Park View, one awesome thing about The Poly is that you can also watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks (and the nightly Electrical Water Pageant) from the Polynesian’s beach.
Because the Polynesian is so spread out, one thing to consider is what building you want to be in. While Disney can’t always grant requests, you can make them. So check out a map of the resort property and think about where you might want to be. (When we stayed there, we were in the Rarotonga building and loved being right next to The Great Ceremonial House.)
Dining at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
The Polynesian has some great restaurants and some of the most popular dining in Walt Disney World. I’m telling you, people go crazy over ‘Ohana and Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. If you want to eat at their more popular table service restaurants, you’ll definitely need a reservation in advance.
One thing to note is that although restaurants at The Poly tend to serve Polynesian and Asian inspired dishes, each meal (especially breakfast) also has foods that will look very familiar to you. So don’t stress if you have picky eaters in your family.
Table Service Dining at The Polynesian
- ‘Ohana — Polynesian food; one of the most popular restaurants at Disney World
- Kona Café — Polynesian and Asian inspired dishes
- Spirit of Aloha Dinner — A dinner luau show; only available certain nights
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto — Popular tiki bar with lots of hijinks to enjoy
- Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace — Outdoor option for Trader Sam’s
- Tambu Lounge — Cocktail lounge/bar next to ‘Ohana
Quick Service Dining at The Polynesian
- Capt. Cook’s — Polynesian inspired dishes (don’t miss the Tonga Toast for breakfast)
- Kona Island — Grab and go breakfast pastries (a.m.) and sushi (p.m.)
- Pineapple Lanai — The place where you can get Dole whip outside of Magic Kingdom!
- Barefoot Pool Bar — Burgers, seafood, and cocktails by the Lava Pool
- Oasis Bar & Grill — Burgers, seafood, and cocktails by the Oasis Pool
More Features at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
The Polynesian is truly just a gorgeous property to relax on. And there are some other features and amenities that make this a great stay.
- Two Pools — Lava Pool with a slide and kid’s area and the Oasis Pool (aka the quiet pool).
- The Beach — The Poly has a great beach area where you can relax and watch the fireworks
- Movies Under the Stars
- Boat rentals
- Jogging trail and volleyball court
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Pros & Cons
Polynesian Resort Pros
- Disney transportation is great here. Take the monorail to Magic Kingdom (with just one stop at the Grand Floridian before you get there). Or you can walk right to the Transportation and Ticket Center to take the monorail to Epcot. There’s also a boat to Magic Kingdom, or if you really want to walk you can walk from the Poly to the Grand Floridian and then on to Magic Kingdom.
- Watching the fireworks on the beach is such a great time.
- The whole resort has such a relaxing and chill feel.
- The Polynesian has really fantastic dining options. And although there is still only one real Quick Service restaurant, it has some really good food.
- The Moana themed rooms are newly updated!
Polynesian Resort Cons
- Definitely one of the priciest Disney resorts.
- Because the rooms are in different buildings, you have to walk outside to get to your room from the lobby (which can be a bit of a bummer if it is raining).
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Perhaps the *ahem* grandest of all the Disney resorts (even among the Disney hotels on the monorail) is the Grand Floridian. This guest favorite is fancy schmancy, with all kinds of amenities and luxury that fit its Victorian Era theme.
The Grand Floridian opened in 1988. So while it’s not one of the original hotels, it’s been there for a VERY long time and is definitely a Disney classic. If you want to stay at Disney in splendor, then this is the place for you.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Rooms
The rooms at The Grand Floridian are decorated to the resort’s Victorian theme. Like the Polynesian, the rooms are spread out in various buildings, so you may have to walk outside to get to your room. This also means there are a variety of views you could have: Lagoon View, Theme Park View, or Garden View.
This means you may also want to consider which building, which are all named after Florida Keys, you want to be in. Perhaps you want to be close to Lobby with the dining options and monorail station. Or perhaps you want to be closer to the boat dock and away from some of the activity.
Again, because this is a Deluxe Resort, you will have plenty of space in both your room and bathroom.
Dining at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Most of the food served at The Grand Floridian will be American style, so it should be pretty easy to please everyone in your party food-wise. Note that the Grand Floridian also houses the most expensive restaurant on Disney World property: Victoria & Albert’s. And several of the Table Service dining options have a dress code, so you probably can’t just waltz in with whatever you wore to the theme park that day.
Grand Floridian Table Service Dining
- Citricos — American food + seafood options (has a dress code)
- Grand Floridian Cafe — American cuisine
- Narcoossee’s — Seafood (also has a dress code)
- 1900 Park Fare — American food; also the location of character dining
- Victoria & Albert’s — American fine dining (the fanciest restaurant at Disney World, so of course there is also a dress code)
- Garden View Tea Room — British tea experience
- Enchanted Rose — Beauty and the Beast inspired cocktail lounge
- Citricos Lounge — Lounge next to Citricos that serves a lot of the same food.
Grand Floridian Quick Service Dining
- Gasparilla Island Grill — Sandwiches and burgers
- Beaches Pool Bar & Grill — Burgers, sandwiches, and drinks at the Beach Pool
- Courtyard Pool Bar — Wraps and salads at the Courtyard Pool
More Features & Amenities at The Grand Floridian
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa may have the most extras on property (I mean, its name does include spa so…). Here’s a good idea of what you can expect there.
- Two Pools — The Beach Pool with waterslide and kid’s splash area and the quieter Courtyard Pool
- Arcadia Games — Game room
- Senses — A Disney Spa and Salon
- Health Club — Workout facility
- Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique — Salon for kids where they get dressed up as princesses and knights
- Movies Under the Stars
- Boat Rentals
- Jogging trail and basketball courts
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Pros & Cons
Grand Floridian Pros:
- Perhaps the fanciest resort on property with tons of amenities.
- The last stop on the resort monorail before you get to Magic Kingdom. Plus there is now a walking path from the Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom! There is also boat transportation.
- SUCH a pretty lobby!
- A plethora of fine dining options.
Grand Floridian Cons:
- One of the priciest resorts on property.
- Limited quick service dining options (and I’ll be honest…the one time I’ve been to Gasparilla Island Grill it was anything but quick).
- If you want to feel relaxed and chill on your vacation, this resort *might* feel a little more uptight.
- The rooms are nice, but haven’t been recently updated like those at The Contemporary and The Polynesian.
Each of the three Disney hotels on the monorail have unique offerings and theming…and I wouldn’t complain about staying at any of them! Weighing the options for each one may help you make a decision about with Monorail Resort to stay in. But just to break it down a little more simply:
- Stay at Disney’s Contemporary Resort if you want a family-friendly stay that is SUPER close to Magic Kingdom.
- Stay at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort if you want a more laid-back vibe, with easy monorail access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
- Stay at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa if you want luxury and lots of amenities.
We hope that helps you make a decision! But I promise you this: if you’re staying at a Disney Monorail Resort, not matter which choice you make you can’t go wrong!