I'm going to keep it real here and acknowledge that, as a WDW vacationer, pools often were not at the top of our priorities list. We had a pool at home and were usually looking to max out park time over pool time when we were in Disney.
That said, as we came more and more, the quiet time together as a family became more and more of a priority. And it also became obvious that our time poolside was often what our kids took home as their favorite vacation memory. Not to mention that a nice pool (not to mention a nice hot tub!) is a major, major plus when you're here for race weekends. There's nothing quite like finishing a marathon and taking your limping butt back to the resort to lie unapologetically poolside for the rest of the day.
And so over time our family has come up with its own list of favorite pools. This is not to say that there aren't other amazing pools on property – there are!! – or that your family won't have a different list. But as a family that spans from young children to senior adults all looking for their own brand of fun, we like a pool that offers it all and these are the ones that we gravitate to the most.
#5 Copper Creek Springs Pool at Disney's Wilderness Lodge
This pool is on this list for one key reason. Like the rest of Wilderness Lodge, it's gorgeous.It's zero entry on one end – where the water actually flows in from Copper Creek Falls. You can lounge or enjoy the 67-foot waterslide built into the rocks and then relax for a bit in the hot and cold whirlpools.
There's also a great splash pad area for younger vacationers. Though it's outside of the pool gates, which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine since it makes it hard to keep an eye on a kid in the pool and a kid on the splash pad at the same time.
Still, this pool is as beautiful as everything else at Wilderness Lodge. Set against the backdrop of the resort and surrounded by nature, it's easy to forget you're not vacationing in the Pacific Northwest. And when you're done you can swing by the Salon by the Springs, just next to the pool area, for a treatment – or hit up Geyser Point on the water for some food or a drink.
#4 Samawati Springs Pool at Disney's Animal Kingdom – Kidani Village
Samawati Springs Pool is as visually stunning as anything else at Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge. And it's a good size at 4,700 square feet and more than 118,000 gallons. Against the backdrop of AKL's peaceful Kidani, you can spend the day lounging or enjoying the 128-foot waterslide. The pool also features a zero-depth-entry area, which is great for younger vacationers or people of any age just looking to sit poolside and cool off.
But the real reason that Samawati Springs Pool is on this list is the water park area.
Uwanja Camp is a water playground by the pool with three zones for kids of all ages. The Observation Station area is dedicated to kids ages 4 and under, while the Departure Zone caters to children ages 5-7 with a tipping water tower and squirting flowers. Finally, at Base Camp kids 8 and up can have a blast hitting each other with water cannons.
And when you're ready for a nosh, Maji is just outside the pool gates and gorgeous.
All in all, Kidani just offers the full package with its incredible pool and water park area.
#3 The Big Blue Pool (and the Cozy Cone Pool) at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
The Big Blue Pool at Disney's Art of Animation is a party for your eyes. Again zero entry, this Nemo-themed masterpiece is the largest resort pool on property at more than 308,000 gallons.
One of the coolest details here are the underwater speakers that let you listen to your favorite Disney songs from “under the sea” so to speak. And the littlest travelers can enjoy themselves alongside everyone else at the Schoolyard Sprayground splash pad.
You can also grab some food and drink at the similarly themed The Drop Off pool bar.
Or relax while the little ones play on the Righteous Reef Playground just outside of the pool area.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the Cozy Cone Pool just around the corner in the Radiator Springs section of Art of Animation.
If your kids are as Cars-obsessed as mine – or you just want something a little (or a lot) quieter than the Big Blue Pool, you'll want to pop over to this smaller, quieter pool. It's a dead ringer for the Cozy Cone from the movies and is surrounded by cone-shaped cabanas where you can relax while surrounded by life-sized models of your favorite Cars characters.
#2 Stormalong Bay at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts
There's no arguing that Stormalong Bay is a masterpiece. Not putting this pool – commonly considered the best on property – in the #1 spot is simply a matter of personal preference. Stormalong Bay, which is shared between Beach Club and Yacht Club, spans an incredible 3 acres and includes everything from a meandering pool area to water volleyball to a lazy river to white sand beaches. Sections of the pool even have white sand bottoms – so you really can forget you're not actually at the beach.
Across the Boardwalk area outside, you'll find a life-sized shipwreck replica that starts a 230-foot-long waterslide back into the pool.
You'll even find an elevated tanning area here with a pool table if you need a break from all of the water fun.
The entire area encompasses an incredible 795,000 gallons of water. There's no arguing that Stormalong Bay is more than a resort pool – it's a destination (reserved for guests of the Beach and Yacht Clubs) in its own right.
#1 Lava Pool at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Putting this above Stormalong might be a controversial move but it's just a no brainer for my family. In addition to being just plain gorgeous, the Lava Pool at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort is incredibly family friendly. It's zero entry on one end, which is great for the little ones as well as adults looking to lounge in a cool spot without full on swimming. And on the other side there's a 142-foot waterslide built into a volcano that sits alongside an incredible splash pad that's also within the pool gates. That might sound like a small detail – but there's incredible value in being able to sit in one spot and watch both your still-a-bit-timid-in-the-water 5 year old have a blast on the splash pad while your daredevil 8 year old enjoys the pool slide over and over again. Too many resorts put the splash pad far from the pool itself – or even outside of the pool gates – which can be a real challenge for parents looking to make everyone happy and still supervise all of the kids at once.
There are also some incredible options for food and drink in and around the pool gates – everything from the Barefoot Pool Bar to the Oasis Bar & Grill to Dole Whips at Pineapple Lanai – not to mention the deck outside Trader Sam's.
All of this said, this gorgeous pool probably wouldn't be at the top of the list if it weren't for its setting – overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. You aren't going to find a better vantage point to relax and enjoy the view than here. The pool is set directly across from Cinderella Castle across the water and they pump the soundtrack from Happily Ever After in at night so that you can fully experience the show in all of its glory while swimming, enjoying a drink, or relaxing in the infinity style hot tub.
Honorable Mention: Luna Park Pool at Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Villas
I make no secret of my love for Disney's Boardwalk and it's unapologetic embracing of all things weird and creepy. From the nanny chairs in the lobby to the just plain haunting massive clown at Luna Park Pool, the Boardwalk is Disney's rare indulgence in freakiness.
But as much as we laugh about Luna Park Pool's clown and its “we all float down here” vibe, when I told my kids I was writing this article and asked their opinion, they were in full agreement about Boardwalk deserving a prime spot on the list. Because this old school carnival themed pool also boasts the 200-foot-long Keister Coaster waterslide. Surrounded by the scenery of a 1920s boardwalk amusement park in all of its freaky glory, you can enjoy this crazy waterslide, swim in the more than 184,000 gallon pool, and watch as grinning elephant statues spout water from their trunks.
So it just goes to show you… I can wax on for pages about gorgeous backdrops and zero entries – my kids just want to have a good time in the Pennywise pool.