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Disney by Design

Design and Disney

Great design and…Disney? The two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, the Walt Disney Company has always dabbled in the architectural avant-garde, hiring architects such as Robert Venturi, Philip Johnson, and Michael Graves to design buildings for their theme parks, resorts, and corporate campuses. Influential mid-century artists such as Mary Blair were also on the Disney payroll, as Walt himself recognized that talent, creativity, and attention to detail would always surpass cost-cutting gimmickry, especially when it came to crafting superb vacation experiences for guests.

Walt Disney and Mary Blair

Disney's carried on this tradition of employing star architects and artists to design and decorate their resorts over the years. Though Disney hotels are associated with families, at many of the newer resorts, you'd be hard-pressed to find a Mickey Mouse motif anywhere. These are upscale resorts are aimed at adults who wish to immerse themselves in a totally cultural – not just Disney-branded – experience. Disney even offers a points-based vacation ownership program that allows guests to purchase timeshares in several of their most design conscious, adult-friendly properties. Check out the Disney Vacation Club to learn more; below are a few of our favorite options.

 

Disney's Aulani Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

Aulani Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

The Aulani Resort was designed in consultation with Native architects and cultural experts for a totally Hawaiian experience (Disney started from scratch when they were advised by experts that their original plans were inappropriate). Guests have the option of staying in ultra-lux suites or simple studios, while vacation club members can purchase 1-3 bedroom villas for their own use.Aulani Resort, Oahu, Hawaii

The lobby of the Aulani boasts artwork by contemporary Hawaiian artists, including Martin Charlot and Solomon Enos. While the resort offers all the on-site amenities you expect from Disney, including great dining and lounging options, it's located near to several "must-sees" in Hawaii, such as Diamond Head, the Honolulu Zoo, and the Dole Plantation (featuring the world's largest maze).

 

Animal Kingdom Villas, Florida

Animal Kingdom Villas
 
Want to go on Safari, but can't justify a trip to Africa? Animal Kingdom Villas in Florida offers a similar experience, but with all the comforts of home and the immersive experience you expect from Disney. Set on a 21 acre wildlife preserve and boasting over 30 species of wildlife, guests at the villas have the unique opportunity to watch giraffes and other exotic animals meander by their rooms every morning.
 
Animal Kingdom Villas
The Animal Kingdom Villa owners are also welcome to enjoy any of the amenties offered by the neighboring Animal Kingdom Lodge, as well as special perks such as extended hours at the theme parks and opportunities to go "on safari" at sunrise (wild animals are early risers, unlike the typical vacationers!)
 
Villas at Wilderness Lodge, Central Florida
 
Villas at Wilderness Lodge
 

Wilderness Lodge is Disney's homage to the rustic lodges found in national parks across the United States and the cultural craftmanship of the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest. Think Theodore Roosevelt in Yellowstone or John Muir in Yosemite, spending the evening by a roaring fire in a lodge beautifully constructed out of local timber after a day of hiking, hunting, fishing, and enjoying the unspoiled beauty of the national parks.
 
Villas at Wilderness Lodge
 
The 7-storey lobby is furnished with authentic touches such as hand-carved totem poles and chandeliers constructed out of hand-painted rawhide. However, these villas boast one amenity you won't find in national

parks: a pristine white-sand beach on Bay Lake. A bonus for green travelers: the villas have been approved by the Florida Green Lodging Program as buildings environmentally responsible and eco-friendly. MT

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