Which DVC Resorts Offer the Best Theming

As Disney Vacation Club members, we filter through countless criteria in deciding where to purchase contracts and where to spend our vacations. Perhaps we’re overthinking the discussion, though.

Ultimately, what matters the most is that we experience the best Disney visit. And what does Disney do better than anyone else? Imagineers construct immersive campuses that delight us with their creativity. Here are the five DVC resorts with the best theming.

Boulder Ridge at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Realistically, I’m ranking both DVC properties with this one, but you understand why. The theming at Wilderness Lodge somehow persuades you into believing that you’re on a camping trip.

Photo courtesy of: Disney Tourist Blog

Disney designed this hotel to mirror the national park lodges of old. When you stay here, you’re only a few minutes away from the heart of Disney capitalism. Despite this fact, you’ll remember your visit as a stay at a cabin in the woods.

The rustic interior, the exterior forestry, and the tranquility of the nearby river all enhance the vibe. This hotel provides the ideal escape after a crowded park day.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas

Admittedly, getting the theme right here shouldn’t be too challenging. It’s an animal-based hotel, and the savannahs host animals. But that’s the glib interpretation.

In truth, Disney themed Jambo House and Kidani Village to African housing. You can’t help but notice the stylistic nature of the buildings from a distance. Once you enter, you’ll appreciate how much loving detail Imagineers have shown in populating the hotel interiors.

In some instances, Disney has acquired African items and brought them to Florida specifically for the hotel’s cultural authenticity. The resort leans heavily on bamboo, just as Wilderness Lodge employs wood for its theming. That usage even includes the hotel rooms themselves.

As for the animals, the hotel’s design ensures that guests are never more than a short walk away from a place where you can watch them play. You are spending the night in a literal animal kingdom. It’s a stunning triumph by Disney that this is even possible.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Since 1971, guests have used the Polynesian as an exotic vacation destination only minutes away from Magic Kingdom. Disney leaned hard into this premise from the very beginning, hiring people from the South Seas to move to Florida and work here.

The very DNA of the Polynesian emphasizes its core concept. It’s an island getaway imbued with the culture and spirit of its people. Each stroll by South Seas Lagoon will transport guests to a faraway land akin to Bali. Disney heightened this connection when it added the Bungalows as part of the DVC inventory.

At the Polynesian, you’ll also find kitschy elements like the Lava Pool. They accentuate the tourist’s perception of a trip to the South Pacific, even if it’s silly and over the top.

Finally, the Great Ceremonial House defines tone-setting at DVC resorts. You’ll know where you are and what the theme is simply by entering the building. That one whiff of the lobby’s fragrance and the lei a cast member hands you will sell you on the premise.

Disney’s Riviera Resort

Once upon a time, workaholic Walt Disney would take his wife and his brother’s family on European vacations. These trips often served as inspiration for Disney movies and, eventually, theme park attractions.

Disney World's Riviera Resort Hotel

The Riviera celebrates this piece of Disney history by recreating elements of French and Italian Riviera vacations. Also, management has adorned the walls with countless Disney family photos taken during these trips.

Disney goes the extra mile with its latest resort. It even infuses the restaurants and bars with appropriate themes. You may experience confusion when you exit the hotel and remember that you’re at Walt Disney World, not a luxurious resort on the Mediterranean.

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

I struggled in picking my final cut, ultimately dropping The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s BoardWalk Villas, and Disney’s Old Key West Resort. Instead, I chose Saratoga Springs due to the novelty of its theming.

Disney took a real place, the Saratoga Race Course, and removed it from time. You’re not visiting the modern course but rather the one that hosted a prior generation of race enthusiasts. You’re traveling back in time to an era of countryside retreats at a place where horse racing ruled the land.

Members of high society performed annual pilgrimages to Saratoga Springs for its races and its spas. Not coincidentally, you’ll find signs of both here. The pools are even named as if they’re natural springs instead. These little touches, plus a boatload of horse pictures and statues, exemplify the theme.

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