When deciding what Walt Disney World resort hotel to stay in, you’ll be faced with lots of options. There are deluxe, moderate, and value resorts on property, but there are also many off-site hotels that are great family hotels. There are many fantastic benefits of staying at the Walt Disney World Resort, but it can often be expensive. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, both located right on Walt Disney property, offer some of the benefits of staying on-site but sometimes at a better price.
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Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
Location of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
One of my favorite places to stay at Walt Disney World is in the Epcot resort area – where you’ll find the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. There, you’ll be within walking distance of both Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios as well as Disney’s Boardwalk. Boat transportation is also offer to both of these parks. If you are headed to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs, you’ll be able to take a bus.
It’s also a great location because you’ll have a variety of restaurants and entertainment options to take advantage of in the evenings. I especially like spending time at the Boardwalk area, which offers a festival, fun environment, along with shops and restaurants. Although the Swan and Dolphin are not managed by Disney, they are located on Disney property, making it very convenient to stay there. You’ll also be able to walk to the Fantasia Gardens Mini Golf Course.
The Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and Disney’s Beach Club resort are also located within walking distance of the two properties.
Benefits of the Swan and Dolphin Resorts
If you are staying at the Dolphin and Swan, you’ll be able to take advantage of some Disney benefits that on-site Disney guests get, including the following:
- Complimentary transportation to the parks and Disney Springs
- Extra Magic Hours (extra hours at the parks just for on-site guests)
- The ability to schedule FastPass+ 60 days in advance
- Free parking at the Disney theme parks if you have a car
- Package delivery – get your purchases made at the theme parks delivered to your resort so you don’t have to carry them around.
Other perks include:
- Disney character dining right at the Swan in the Garden Grove restaurant
- A Disney ticket desk right a the resort.
- If you are a member of the Starwoods Hotels Preferred Guest program, you’ll be able to use and earn points in the program with your stay.
- A complimentary shuttle to the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
You will, however, miss out on a few Disney perks. Guests of the Swan and Dolphin do not receive the following perks that Disney resort guests get:
- Access to the Disney Dining plan, which can be a good way to save money on dining
- You won’t be able to take the free Magical Express Service to and from Orlando International Airport
- The resorts do not have any sort of theme, like the other Disney resorts, so they do feel more like business hotels and less like theme park hotels
- Complimentary MagicBands – although you can purchase a MagicBand 2 in any Disney merchandise shop. Rooms do not unlock with the MagicBand, so you won’t necessarily need one.
- Restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin are not part of the Disney dining plan and you can’t use your MagicBands to pay for your meals
Rooms at the Disney Swan and Dolphin
The Michael Graves designed Dolphin Hotel and Swan Hotel are pretty big properties with great rooms. Both offer 2,270 rooms and suites. They have big, impressive lobbies and may be a bit more intimidating than the other on-property hotels.
Rooms at the resorts are a nice size – most offer a good-sized bathroom, a mini refrigerator, and a long dresser. Beds are the Westin signature Heavenly Bed, which definitely lives up to its name. Many of the rooms have some nice views of Walt Disney World as well – the photo above was taken from a room at the Swan. You’ll specify your desired view type when reserving your room. Some rooms even have a resort fireworks view. The rooms are probably most equivalent to the rooms at the deluxe Disney resorts.
Room amenities include in-room Starbucks, WiFi, refrigerator, flat panel HDTV, in-room safe, irons and ironing board, and hair dryer. Of course, with so much right outside the door, you won’t be spending too much time in your room.
Amenities at the Disney Swan and Dolphin
In addition to the Walt Disney World amenities listed above, the two properties offer other great family-friendly shared amenities. My favorite of these is the huge grotto pool area, which includes waterfalls and a water slide. On one of my visits to the Swan, I enjoyed just sitting in a chair by the pool relaxing. Kids will especially enjoy this grotto pool area. The resort also has two lap pools, a kiddie pool, a spring pool, and four whirlpools. Cabanas can be rented by both a half day and full day and include mini fridge stocked with water and soda.
Other resort amenities include:
- A white sand beach
- Watercraft rentals
- Water volleyball
- Two sand volleyball courts
- An arcade
- Basketball hoops
- Ping Pong
- Giant checkers
- Tennis courts
- The Mandara Spa
- Two health clubs
Younger kids may enjoy Camp Dolphin. If you are dining at Shula’s, Todd English’s bluezoo or Il Mulino New York Trattoria, your children can get two complimentary hours at the camp while you dine (one kid per adult entree purchased).
Disney Swan vs Dolphin
You may be wondering what the difference is between the Disney Swan vs Dolphin. The hotels are definitely similar, and share the amenities between them. You’ll find that the views offered are a bit different, so if you have a preference, you’ll want to keep that in mind. The Dolphin also has rooms with two double beds while the Swan offers rooms with two queen beds. If you are booking a room with two beds, and want a bit more space, then you’ll want to book a room at the Swan.
Swan and Dolphin Restaurants
Between these two properties, you’ll have access to 17 different lounges and restaurants. The include signature and casual restaurants, as well as quick service spots and lounges.
Signature restaurants are:
- Shula’s Steak House
- Il Mulino (my favorite restaurant on property)
- Kimonos (Japanese food)
- Todd English’s Bluezoo
Casual restaurants include:
- The Garden Grove (where you’ll find a Disney character breakfast)
- Fresh – Mediterranean Market (which has a delicious healthy breakfast buffet)
- The Fountain (complete with an ice cream counter)
- The Cabana Bar and Beach Club (open seasonally, right by the Dolphin lap pool)
- Splash Pool Bar and Grill (open seasonally, located by the beach)
There are three quick serve spots:
- Picabu (open 24/7)
- Fuel (grab and go)
- Java Bar (coffee and pastries)
Even if you aren’t staying at the Walt Disney World Dolphin or Swan, I’d recommend considering one of the signature restaurants. They are delicious. Just keep in mind that they aren’t part of the Disney Dining Plan.
The Dolphin and Swan need to be booked separately – they won’t be part of your Disney vacation package. I’d recommend checking prices whenever you start planning your Disney vacation, and then you can decide if it’s worthwhile.