Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
There’s nothing quite like winter in the northeast. After a rather warm winter last year, it’s been pretty cold here in New York. It seems like it has been snowing lightly every other day. A week or so ago we had the coldest temperatures we’ve seen in five years. There’s nothing like single digit temps and a stiff winter breeze to make you feel alive, is there? And now, as I write this article, New York and the surrounding areas are preparing for a major winter storm.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the snow and the winter for that matter. I’m a lifelong skier and the very notion that up to two feet of fresh snow is going to be falling in the mountains this weekend has me all set to bundle up and hit the slopes. But at the same time, all this cold is also making me long for some warm weather. And, inevitably, that longing for the warm weather starts me longing for a visit to – where else – one of the warmest places I’ve ever been, Walt Disney World. And what’s one of the best things to do when you’re visiting the most magical place on earth and are in dire need of cooling down? Swim in your Disney resort pool, of course.
Now, anyone out there with a child of virtually any age will be able to corroborate the following statement: When choosing a resort to stay in during your vacation, it’s all about the swimming pool. Staying at Walt Disney World is certainly no different. Yes, it’s about the parks and the attractions and the characters, but let’s be honest – it’s really about the pool. Ask any kid about the best part of their trip – even to a place as kid-centric as Disney – and the pool will probably be at the top of their list. They can’t help it. They’re kids. They love pools. My kids love pools. They always have and I can’t blame them. I still love the pools. Choosing any resort, anywhere, it’s always one of my first questions, “Is there a pool?” and “What’s the pool like?”
One of the many things that Disney does exceptionally well at their resorts is swimming pools. There are many things to think about when considering where to stay when you visit Walt Disney World. Location, price, amenities, and dining options are just a few, but on top of that list, especially in Orlando’s warm, sweltering, summer months should be – the pool. If I counted correctly, and I believe I did, there are currently 57 pools spread out amongst the 24 different Disney resorts and vacation clubs. If you’re basing some—or all of your Walt Disney World resort decision making on how great the pool is then you need to know: which ones are the best?
Here's my one caveat for this list: I’m excluding the incredible Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club. Quite simply, it’s the best pool down there. It’s really more mini-waterpark than pool and safe to say that it is probably one of the best pool complexes anywhere. So, I’m leaving it off my list, because it has too much of an advantage. It’s like comparing the Magic Kingdom to your local Six Flags. Sure, they’re technically both amusement parks, but really…do I have to explain any further? That’s not a fair comparison to make and neither is comparing the truly amazing Stormalong Bay to the other pool complexes in Walt Disney World. Luckily there are still plenty of wonderful pools to be found, so let’s take a look at my Top 5 Favorite Walt Disney World Resort Pools.
There are 7 pools, one kiddie pool, and two whirlpools at Caribbean Beach, the first of Disney’s Moderate resorts. Each of the six “island villages” have their own pool and they are quite nice. But it’s the main pool in what’s known as Centertown where the resort’s food court, sit down restaurant, and shops are located that should draw your attention. Renovated in 2008, this sprawling Pirate-fort themed pool has a zero-depth entry and features two slides and several water cannons to cool off under. Next to the pool is a wonderful Pirate ship/aqua play area especially for the little guys. Although I must admit, this past summer I spent lots of time waiting for the big bucket to drop cool refreshing water on me. It’s a fantastic place for little kids – and big kids alike.
Another Disney gem can be found here at the head of the Sassagoula River on Ol’ Man Island in the Riverside section of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. Ol’ Man Island is an oasis of sorts. It’s got quiet paths, a multitude of towering trees, a playground for the kids, a bonfire area, a great bar – The Muddy Rivers Pool Bar – and even the classic catch and release Fishin’ Hole. Centered on the island is a wonderfully themed pool with water fountains, leaking buckets, a spouting geyser and a fun water slide. Add in a great little wading pool and an 8-person spa and the package is complete. It’s a fantastic place to relax after some hectic time in the parks.
There are so many things to love about the Wilderness Lodge. The magnificent grounds in the center courtyard are strewn with huge boulders, pathways and gardens set alongside the stream and waterfalls that start in the main lobby and meander their way down to the main pool. Couple this with the grand views of glorious Bay Lake and it’s surrounding natural woodlands and you’ve got one of Walt Disney World’s best all around locations for a pool.
My family and I have always considered these pools to be special. All things considered, we’ve probably spent more time at the quiet pools in the rustic Alligator Bayou sections of Port Orleans Riverside than at any other pools in all of Walt Disney World. Impressive, towering pines and beautiful, flowering trees surround them and more often than not, we’ve been able to enjoy these pools virtually by ourselves. Sometimes we’ve actually been the only family there. Other times it’s been maybe two or three others. I’m not sure why. It’s certainly not for lack of beauty. The free-form shape makes them blend in more naturally than most of the other quiet pools throughout Disney World. They seem nestled into their surrounding landscape and that makes a big difference. If you’re looking for a serene pool experience in the middle of the most popular tourist destination on the planet, look no further. This is it.
To me, this is THE pool in Walt Disney World. Follow the stream outside of the Great Ceremonial House through the dense flora and winding pathways to this fantastic pool on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon and you’ll think you’ve accidentally wandered into paradise. The 40 foot high volcano, which actually smolders, hides a fun slide within it’s rocky exterior and a waterfall teems off of its slopes into the pool below. The pool itself has a zero entryway, an in-pool seating area with heated jets, piped in music under the water and – oh yeah – a view of Cinderella Castle off in the distance. Order yourself a Key Lime Pie Martini from the Tambu Lounge, grab a lounge chair or better yet a hammock on the nearby beach and drift off into a blissful state. Stick around the pool at night for the tiki torches, the Disney movies on the adjacent beach and the Magic Kingdom fireworks extravaganza, Wishes, reflecting off the waters of the lagoon and you’ll know why I chose this as my favorite pool in all of Walt Disney World. I’m sure I’m not alone.
So, as I’m waiting for the possibility of a foot of snow to blanket us in just a few days, my thoughts are clearly drifting towards that beachside pool in tropical Polynesia or that rustic slice of nature in the Louisiana bayou. How about that bayside Caribbean retreat with the Pirate fort or the majesty of that pool in the flowered wilderness of the great American national parks?
Fortunately for me, and for you readers out there, we don’t have to travel to all of these far off places to find these wonderful hidden oases.
All we need is a trip to our favorite magical escape, Walt Disney World, and these amazing watering holes can all be ours. If it’s all about the pool – and once again, trust me, if you have kids, it is all about the pool – then these choices will definitely go over big with the entire family.
Those are my favorite pools from across the many Walt Disney World resorts. I’m sure I’ve left out a few favorites. Click on the link below to let me hear which resort pool tops your list and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.
(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.