Gluten-free or not, choosing a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel can be overwhelming. Deciding between over 25 Disney resorts and villas… where to start?
For once you can be thankful you need a gluten-free diet. It will actually help you narrow down your search to find the BEST resorts, with the best (and most) gluten-free options.
Other factors that will help you choose are budget, amenities, family size, and which of the four parks you plan to visit the most.
Disney World has three main categories of resorts: Value, Moderate, and Deluxe.
We’ll also address Disney Villas in case you are using Disney Vacation Club Points or want the space and amenities offered in a 1-3 bedroom villa with a kitchen.
The Touring Plans blog has a detailed explanation of resort categories breaking down the differences between each group. In general, price, room size, room quality, amenities, activities, and food options increase as you go from Value to Moderate to Deluxe/Villas.
Rest assured, whichever category you choose, you will have access to amazing gluten-free food.
If you’ve already made up your mind and chosen a category, feel free to jump ahead to find the best Disney World resort for gluten-free in your budget:
- Best VALUE Resort for Gluten-Free
- Best MODERATE Resort for Gluten-Free
- Best DELUXE Resort for Gluten-Free
- Best VILLAS for Gluten-Free
Pop Century Resort and Art of Animation Resort TIE: Best Disney World VALUE Resort for Gluten-Free
It’s a tie between Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. They are basically twin hotels, right next to each other. Both are colorful, heavily-themed resorts. Art of Animation is themed with popular Disney classics, and Pop Century with fads from the 1950s-90s with different areas of the resort representing each decade.
Why are Pop Century and Art of Animation the Best VALUE Resorts for Gluten-Free?
Two reasons. Large food courts. And the Skyliner!
Extensive Options at the Food Courts
Because value resorts have only one restaurant, their quick service options are pretty extensive. Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors and Pop Century’s Everything Pop Shopping & Dining are food court style, quick-service restaurants.
They have similar menus where you can order Disney’s standard gluten-free fare and lots of kid favorites: burgers, pizza, chicken strips, mac & cheese, and sandwiches. Breakfast includes fun Mickey-shaped options. Try a Mickey frittata one day and Mickey waffles the next.
Both restaurants have the option to mobile order. I highly recommend mobile ordering to save time and be sure of allergy protocols. However, if you have multiple allergies or are bored with the gluten-free menu selections, request a chef consult.
Fabulous Disney Skyliner Location
The Disney Skyliner is the main reason these parks tie for first place in the Value category. Pop Century and Art of Animation are located next to each other, with a Skyliner stop in between.
Not only does the Skyliner provide a really cool way to get to Epcot and Hollywood Studies, but it also gets you easily to So. Many. Gluten-free options.
Hop in a gondola and get off at the next stop to enjoy fish tacos at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort. Keep going one more stop, and you’ll be at Disney’s Riviera Resort for a character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace or eating a gluten-free Croque Monsieur at the quick-service Primo Piatto. Or head all the way to Epcot’s International Gateway and choose from several restaurants at Disney’s Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Boardwalk Inn resorts.
Note, Skyliner lines can be long during peak seasons/times, but resort hopping in the middle of the day is usually quick.
Similarities Between Art of Animation and Pop Century
Art of Animation boasts the largest pool at Walt Disney World, along with two other smaller themed pools and a splash pad. Pop Century, similarly, has three pools and a splash pad.
Both resorts offer nighttime campfire activities (with marshmallows and one-use skewers), Movies Under the Stars, a playground, and an arcade.
Dining options are similar at each resort’s large, quick-service restaurant.
Art of Animation and Pop Century are within easy walking distance from each other and, most importantly, from the Skyliner.
In addition to the Skyliner for Epcot and Hollywood Studios, Disney’s complimentary bus transportation is available to/from all four theme parks and Disney Springs.
Differences Between Art of Animation and Pop Century
Other than Art of Animation’s claim to the largest pool in Disney World, there are a few differences between Art of Animation and Pop Century:
- Your furry friend is welcome at Art of Animation. It is one of Disney World’s four pet-friendly hotels.
- Art of Animation has Family Suites that sleep up to six. This can be a tremendous value for larger families, rather than booking two rooms. Pop Century rooms sleep up to four guests.
- The Pop Century rooms for four are slightly smaller than Art of Animation’s Little Mermaid rooms for four. The Pop Century rooms for four feature one queen bed and one queen Murphy bed. While the Art of Animation Little Mermaid rooms for four have two regular queen beds but are located farther from the Skyliner. It’s a bit of a trade-off, depending on what is important to you.
If you have Fido and six people in your party, Art of Animation is the clear winner. Otherwise, it’s a toss-up.
You could not possibly run out of gluten-free options at Art of Animation, Pop Century, and the other resorts along the Skyliner route. Hands down, these are the winners for the value category. You will be spoiled with gluten-free food.
In terms of gluten-free dining options, both resorts get you the most bang for your buck anywhere on Disney property.
Port Orleans French Quarter: the Best Disney World MODERATE Resort for Gluten-Free
Port Orleans French Quarter is a New Orleans-themed resort with all of the romance and charm you’d expect. Cobblestone streets, magnolia trees, gas lamps, horse-drawn carriages, and jazz music all set the mood.
Why Is Port Orleans French Quarter the Best MODERATE Resort for Gluten-Free?
Need I say more? Port Orleans French Quarter is home to arguably the best gluten-free treat in all of Walt Disney World, gluten-free beignets.
Those of us with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or who otherwise need to eat gluten-free, go out of our way to get this sugary, fried dough, made in a dedicated fryer.
Lucky you, if you stay at Port Orleans French Quarter. You can simply roll out of bed and start your day with beignets. Or end your day with beignets. Or both.
Quaint & Easy to Navigate
Everything is within a five-minute walk. As the smallest moderate resort at Disney World, you will love how quickly you can make your way to those beignets, and the pool, the lobby, the rest of the food, and the one bus stop in Port Orleans French Quarter.
Fans of this resort, both gluten-eaters and gluten-free, love how easy it is to get around. The value of being a short walk to everything can not be overstated. After clocking 7-10 miles in the parks every day, your tired feet will thank you for booking a room at Port Orleans French Quarter.
The one downside is that, unlike the other moderates, Port Orleans French Quarter has only one restaurant, Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory, and it’s a quick service. But what a restaurant it is!
Delicious Cajun Food
Delicious Cajun quick-service where almost anything can be made gluten-free. It’s hard to consider Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory much of a downside.
The breakfast offerings are all of the important Disney basics, including Mickey waffles, Mickey-shaped frittata, bacon, sausage, potatoes, and more.
Where Sassagoula really stands out is with its unique Cajun-inspired lunch and dinner entrees: really good jambalaya, a delicious gluten-free french dip, shrimp & grits, salmon, buttermilk chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans, plus all of the kid favorites like mac & cheese, pizza, chicken strips, and burgers & fries.
Sister Resort’s Food
Plus, you have a sister resort next door, with even more dining options.
Port Orleans French Quarter’s sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside, is only a short water taxi, bus ride, or 10-minute walk away. At the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, your dining choices expand to include the quick-service Riverside Mill Food Court and the table-service Boatwright’s Dining Hall. You will love all of the southern flavors available between these two resorts.
Sister Resort’s Amenities
Recreation and amenities are also expanded with a sister resort. When you stay at one, you can use the other’s pools. You’ll enjoy splashing around the main pools at both of these resorts, Dobloon Lagoon in Port Orleans French Quarter and Ol’ Man Island in Port Orleans Riverside. They have fun theming and waterslides.
Port Orleans French Quarter has nightly campfires with marshmallows and Movies Under the Stars several nights a week. Both resorts have arcades and playgrounds. You can rent bikes or even a surrey bike to ride together along the Sassalouga River.
You can also book a horse-drawn carriage ride that leaves out of Port Orleans Riverside.
The Best Transportation to Disney Springs
Disney World’s complimentary water transportation will take you to Disney Springs, where you will find Ein McKenna’s NYC, a 100% Dedicated gluten-free bakery.
You can also use Disney’s complimentary bus transportation to get to Disney Springs or the theme parks.
Other Moderate Resorts to Consider
Port Orleans Riverside
While Port Orleans French Quarter is the clear winner in my opinion, due to its beignets, charm, and walkability, Port Orleans Riverside takes second place. They are priced similarly. You’ll have to travel a little farther to get to the beignets and to most things around the resort. However, Port Orleans Riverside rooms offer three things its little sister does not: Themed Royal Guest Rooms, rooms with a 5th sleeper (child-size pull-down bed), and some pet-friendly rooms.
Port Orleans Riverside is a great option, if Port Orleans French Quarter matches your budget, but not your party’s room needs.
Caribbean Beach Resort
It’s worth mentioning Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, home to the very cool Fuentes del Morro Pool. The dining options are full of Caribbean flavors (jerk chicken, Cuban sandwiches, fish tacos), but fairly limited. However, just like at Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, with the addition of Disney’s Skyliner, you will have easy access to a wide variety of food at Skyliner and Epcot Area resorts. The Caribbean Beach Resort also offers rooms with a 5th sleeper.
Polynesian Resort: Best Disney World DELUXE Resort for Gluten-Free
It’s not easy choosing the best Disney World Deluxe resort, because they are all… well… deluxe. Each one has many gluten-free food options, beautiful and comfortable rooms, amenities you would expect from a four-star hotel, and immersive theming throughout the resort.
While you will have a fabulous gluten-free experience at any Disney Deluxe Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort edges out the competition for a few reasons.
Why Is Disney’s Polynesian Resort the Best DELUXE Resort for Gluten-Free?
Location. Location. Location.
Disney’s Polynesian Resort is on the monorail loop from the Magic Kingdom. Jump on the monorail and quickly get to the Magic Kingdom, or with one connection, to Epcot.
Just as quickly, you can get to the other Monorail Resorts (the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary) for even more food options, if you are somehow bored with the Polynesian’s food. Highly unlikely!
Not only can you monorail to the Magic Kingdom, but you can also walk or take a boat there. The boat is a must-do, at least once.
Plus, from the Polynesian, you can take the boat or monorail to the Magic Kingdom, and then hop in another boat to the Wilderness Lodge for the Storybook Dining or Fort Wilderness for the Hoop Dee Doo Review, two of Disney World’s best dinner experiences, gluten-free or otherwise.
Newly Remodeled Rooms
The rooms are beautiful. For larger parties, all of the rooms sleep 5 adults. Or if money is no object, splurge for a bungalow to sleep up to 8.
While I have not personally stayed in a bungalow (they look awesome), I have stayed in and highly recommend the theme park view rooms for nightly views of the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from your room’s private balcony.
Fabulous Polynesian Theming and Resort Amenities
The Polynesian will give you the feeling of being at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii. Almost.
Like all of the BEST resorts we’ve discussed, you’ll have access to the usual Disney on-property experiences, like roasted marshmallows and Movies Under the Stars.
At the Polynesian, you can also watch the night-time Electrical Water Parade on the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from the beach, marina, or pool.
A gluten-free note about the Fireworks Cruise. Snacks and soft drinks are included. Let Disney know when you make your reservation that you need gluten-free snacks, and follow up with an email to Disney World Special Diets a week or two before your Fireworks Cruise.
Delicious South Pacific, Asian-Inspired Food
You will find no shortage of gluten-free burgers, fries, pizza, nuggets, mac & cheese, and Mickey Waffles all over Walt Disney World properties. But these BEST resorts offer unique food experiences that folks on a medically necessary gluten-free diet cannot readily find. This is your chance to eat food that’s normally off-limits.
Take advantage of the ease of mobile ordering and get sushi from Kona Cafe to Go. And definitely order the Thai coconut meatballs from Captain Cook’s quick-service. Between both of these quick-service restaurants, you’ll have so many gluten-free choices!
For table service dining, make a reservation at Kona Cafe or ‘Ohana. Request a chef consult for the safest and best gluten-free experience. Almost anything on the menu can be made gluten-free if you speak directly to the chef.
Breakfast at ‘Ohana with Lilo & Stitch is one of my favorite Disney World character breakfasts. You’ll get your own skillet full of gluten-free breakfast.
Dinner is an all-you-care-to-eat feast. The gluten-free meat selections are particularly good. There are no characters at dinner, but if you time it right, ‘Ohana is another great spot to watch fireworks.
Gluten-Free Insider Tips! For breakfast, the famous Tonga Toast (banana-stuffed French toast) is not on the gluten-free menu, but the chefs at Kona Cafe will usually make it for you using a gluten-free roll, upon request. Similarly, Captain Cook’s chefs are able to make gluten-free pulled pork nachos (not on the gluten-free menu), if you ask.
Runner-Up Deluxe Resort: Animal Kingdom Lodge
I sigh happily whenever I think of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Yes, the Polynesian Resort has a much better location than Animal Kingdom Lodge, which requires a bus ride (a short ride to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park) or a car to go anywhere. But location and transportation aside, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is spectacular, especially for gluten-free guests.
The lobby is breathtaking. And the animal watching is such a treat. You are sleeping in a zoo, with all of the comforts of a four-star hotel.
The Savanna View rooms are particularly amazing.
The African-inspired dishes served throughout the Animal Kingdom Lodge are so unique and wonderful, and the gluten-free versions do not disappoint! I recommend the Boma buffet, gluten-free zebra domes (from Boma at dinner, the Kidani gift shop, or Mara quick service), and the gluten-free bread service (from Sanaa or Sanaa to Go).
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is ideal for a vacation where you plan to savor a little more resort time since there is so much to enjoy! As the lowest-priced Deluxe Resort, you get a lot of value booking here.
Best Disney World VILLAS for Gluten-Free
When choosing from Disney World Villas, the best resorts are the same as in the Deluxe category discussed in detail above.
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
The Polynesian villas are the best because of their ideal location and quick access to so much of Disney’s best gluten-free food.
The Animal Kingdom villas are in second place for their unmatched in-house food and experiences. There are villas in two neighboring lodges, Jambo House (a mix of mostly hotel rooms, with some villas) and Kidani Village (all villas). On the gluten-free food front, the ease of traveling between the two lodges makes them a toss-up. I would choose based on availability or check out this comparison review from WDW Vacation Tips.
Consider a Split Stay
Why not have the best of everything? You don’t have to spend your whole trip at just one resort. Book half of your vacation at one resort, then move to another resort mid-trip. If you are switching between tiers (say a value and a moderate) be sure to start in the lower tier of the two and move up! Disney will transfer your luggage while you spend the day at the parks.
Whichever BEST resort you pick, I wish you a magical, gluten-free vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth!