Resort Hopping is one of my favorite things to do at Walt Disney World! Visiting the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, and The Polynesian Village Resort are as much on my trip to-do list as Pirates of the Caribbean or devouring a Mickey Premium Bar. That being said, I feel that guests who skip the resorts, or who don’t know they are allowed to visit the resorts, fail to achieve the full Walt Disney World experience. So for those who don’t know, anyone is allowed to visit the Walt Disney World Resorts, even if they’re not a guest of that resort or of any resort on property. But why should you? That’s what I intend to address in my five Disney World Resorts to See During Your Vacation!
Let’s start with Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, shall we? The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa boasts a Victorian Florida theme and is Disney’s take on luxury and sophistication. But no need to worry about feeling out of place or having rambunctious kids in tow. While the Grand Floridian Resort is like stepping into an old fashioned postcard, this is a Disney World Resort after all!
How to Get There
If driving your own car or a rental car, the Grand Floridian Resort is located at 4401 Floridian Way in Orlando, Florida, just off Seven Seas Drive.
Free transportation to and from the resort consists of Disney Buses, Ferry Boats, and the most famous mode of Disney transportation of all, the Monorail! A 1 mile walking path between the resort and the Polynesian Village Resort is also provided, offering views of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the Wedding Pavilion, and the Magic Kingdom Park in the distance.
Why You Should Visit
A number of Walt Disney World Resorts boast awe-inspiring lobbies, and the Grand Floridian’s lobby is at the top of the list! In addition to a grand staircase, a cage elevator, and enchanting Disney-inspired tilework under your feet, the Grand Floridian’s 5-story lobby is topped with stained glass domes and massive chandeliers. Tip: For the holidays, a life-size gingerbread house and a towering Victorian Christmas tree occupy the lobby and are must-sees!
The Grand Floridian Resort offers more shops than any other Walt Disney World Resort, which is why it’s one of my favorite locations to hunt for resort exclusive merch, Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, and that perfect souvenir to take home.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a resort that evokes lots of curiosity. It is unlike any other resort on Disney property because it straddles the line between being a Disney resort and being a Starwood property. Its history is rich and intriguing, but this post is not about the ins and outs of this whimsical resort. Besides the architecture, décor, and infrastructure there is something else that really sets this resort apart from all of its neighbors: the food and beverage.
Photo by Brandon Glover
The quality of their food and beverage operation is not just evident in their variety of restaurants and dining options, but also showcased once a year on a grand scale. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is an incredible event that puts this resort at its best. I’ll share some of my experience at this magnificent event as well as an overview of the variety of dining options found at this resort.
Photo by Brandon Glover
Variety of dining options
In the beginning the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin operated as two separate hotel companies. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton. During the first years of operation these two brands were separate entities, not part of the same parent company like they are now under the Starwood Hotels banner.
Model of the vast resort – photo by Brandon Glover
This initial separation between the two hotels helped set the foundation that the Swan and the Dolphin could be complete destinations on their own and thus provide enough dining variety among themselves. Each wing has at least one quick service option, one casual sit down restaurant, and one signature restaurant. Plus there is in-room dining and a personal pantry delivery service, oh and don’t forget the authentic sushi restaurant with a lively late night karaoke scene.
The best dining options
The signature dining at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is bar none the standout experience of the resort. Each restaurant is distinctly different from the next. It’s hard to decide which of the signature restaurants is best for a romantic date night or an impressive night with colleagues.
Todd English’s bluezoo’s creative cocktails – photo by Brandon Glover
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a wonder to behold. It is one of the few Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts that feels far removed from the theme parks and yet it is just a few moments away from the most attended theme park of them all: the Magic Kingdom. When I set out to enjoy this week’s “fun day”, a visit to Wilderness Lodge was not in the original plans. But the best laid plans sometimes fall apart when real life responsibilities pop up. Faced with less time than I’d hoped, I decided to give into the nagging need to visit Wilderness Lodge that had been pulling at me for quite some time. My visit rekindled my love and appreciation for this resort and allowed me to explore some of the construction taking place at this resort as it prepares to expand its Disney Vacation Club inventory.
The transition into the world of the wilderness begins the moment you turn right onto Timberline Drive and pass under the archway leading to the Security shack. The tall pines tower above, flanking either side of the drive. Wildflowers add pops of color along the way.
The lodge stands proud and majestic. It is an impressive sight to behold. No matter how many times I’ve visited this resort that first sight of the lobby never fails to make me grow wide eyed and wide grinned. The towering totems, the tee-pee light fixtures, the view all the way to the top floor, it’s all so warm and inviting.
Check out the hoof prints in the walkway!
Many guests compare Wilderness Lodge to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and / or Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I have a hard time accept the comparison to the Grand Californian because the theme and style is actually very different than Wilderness Lodge. Grand Californian represents the Arts and Crafts movement of California with a tinge of Art Nouveau. Some of the rich colors such as deep wood tones and rich evergreen are repeated at both resorts, but if you are attuned to details you can clearly see the difference in the two themes.