Independent Hotels in Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World has a huge collection of its own hotels, however, there are some independently owned hotels on site.
The majority of the hotels situated within Walt Disney World are Disney-owned properties, offering exceptional service and a number of advantages not available in hotels outside of Walt Disney World. However, these hotels can be expensive meaning many guests chose to stay in less expensive accommodation outside of Walt Disney World, losing the advantage of proximity to the parks that the Disney hotels can offer. The seven hotels in the Downtown Disney Resort Area offer many of the advantages that Disney resort guests experience but at a lower price.
The seven DDRA hotels are The Holiday Inn at Walt Disney World, Doubletree Guest Suites, Hilton, Royal Plaza, Regal Sun Resort, Buena Vista Palace Hotel & Spa, and the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort. The hotels do vary in quality, with the standard being around three or four stars, with the lesser quality hotels being comparable to Value and Moderate Disney Resorts and the higher end hotels, such as the Buena Vista Palace being comparable to some of the Deluxe Resorts on Disney property.
Advantages of Staying at a DDRA Hotel
DDRA hotels are often considerably cheaper than similar Disney owned hotels. Quality is generally good at all the hotels, though not as consistent as at the Disney owned properties inside Walt Disney World. The main advantage, however, is the proximity to everything at Walt Disney World. Apart from The Swan and Dolphin Resorts, the DDRA hotels are the only non-Disney owned properties inside Walt Disney World meaning guests who stay there will have an advantage over off-site guests when it comes to getting to the parks and other attractions.
As the name would suggest, the Downtown Disney Resort Area is very close to the shops, restaurants, and other attractions within the Downtown Disney entertainment complex. A number of the hotels in the DDRA do offer Disney character meals and some also have Disney stores, giving the hotels a Disney feel despite them not being a Disney Resort.
Disadvantages of Staying at a DDRA Hotel
None of the Downtown Disney Resort Area hotels are connected to the parks and resorts by the Disney Transportation System. Whilst these resorts do offer privately-run shuttle services they are not as reliable nor as frequent as the shuttles provided at Disney Resorts. Guests at Downtown Disney Resort Area hotels are in close proximity to Disney Transportation System at Downtown Disney buses from the stops in the Downtown Disney Area are generally not as reliable as those travelling from the resorts.
Another disadvantage for those looking to avoid long wait-times at the parks is that none of the DDRA hotels, apart from the Hilton, offer Extra Magic Hours to their guests. Whilst Extra Magic Hours are not essential to efficient touring of the parks they can be a real helping hand in cutting down wait times. This can be a major or minor disadvantage depending upon the value guests put on getting to the parks early. This won’t affect those who enjoy waking up late on vacation but may be seen as a problem by those who love careful planning.
To summarise, guests who are looking at renting a car who are not especially keen on being in the parks early and late may see considerable advantages in staying at a Downtown Disney Resort Area. However, those looking to use the Transportation System and follow a touring plan that involves Extra Magic Hours may see more advantage in booking a Disney owned hotel