Walt Disney World Resort Hopping – Part I
Walt Disney World resort hopping is a great activity to do on a day you are not planning on visiting the parks. This could be a good way of discovering new places on your arrival or departure day, a day when you would not want to waste a theme park ticket. It is also a great way to checkout properties for future visits. Since not all guests have a car when visiting Walt Disney World we decided to cover the resorts by areas that can be easily reached via Disney transportation. Today’s post will focus on Magic Kingdom Resorts. You can do this tour using your car of course but, assuming that you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, we invite you to sit back, relax and take Disney transportation.
From your Walt Disney Resort use Disney transportation to the Magic Kingdom, board the resort Monorail and make the Contemporary Resort your first stop. The resort has a sleek, almost Asian look, although the pyramid structure itself is a period piece, of course. There’s no compelling theme, but then show us a child who isn’t wowed by monorails tearing though the inside of a hotel. The hotel is home to Chef Mickey, a restaurant with an all-you-care-to-eat buffet where Mickey, Minnie and friends will come and join the party. Sublime Vistas and Spectacular Cuisine that is how Disney describes the Contemporary’s famous California Grill restaurant. We couldn’t agree more and suggest you return at night for a meal with a view. As the fireworks start the restaurant will dim its lights and the music of Wishes is piped in. Should you dine prior to the fireworks simply bring your receipt to the check-in desk on the 2nd floor for reentry to the restaurant. Enjoy the show either from California Grill Lounge or the outside observation deck.
Back on the Monorail skip the Ticket and Transportation Center and make the Polynesian Resort your next stop. Arrayed at the Seven Seas Lagoon facing the Magic Kingdom it is a huge complex laid out like a South Seas–island village around a ceremonial house. From the tiki torches at night to the bleached-sand beach, kids love the Polynesian. The resort’s location at WDW’s transportation nexus makes it the most convenient resort for those without a car. The resort is home to the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show featuring South Seas-island native dancing followed by an all-you-can-eat “Polynesian-style” meal. The resort restaurant Ohana also offers a daily character breakfast (7:30 – 11:00 a.m.) when Mickey, Pluto, Lilo and Stitch join guests for some early morning mayhem. The beach of the Polynesian is a perfect place to enjoy the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom and to watch the daily, free Electric Water Pageant held around 9:00 p.m. The resort just added Villas (DVR properties) perfectly situated on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Next stop on the monorail route is the Grand Floridian Resort. It has a lot to offer: a white-sand beach, a spa and fitness center, tennis courts, elaborate theatrical dining from high tea to personal butler service, and so on. But the tone strikes some people as rather hoity-toity, the music in the lobby can be disconcertingly loud, the rooms are not as expansive or good-looking as the public spaces, and the complex is frequently crowded with sightseers. Also, because a wedding chapel is on the grounds, there are frequently receptions, photo sessions, and bridezilla fits—which, depending on your outlook, add charm or are inconveniences.
We love visiting the Grand Floridian at Christmas and at Easter. During the yuletide season the resort has a wonderful gingerbread house on display on the ground floor of the lobby. Daily a Disney pastry chef shares gingerbread house decoration techniques with guests and the presentation comes with free recipes and tastings for all. Artists performs Christmas carols in the lobby.
During the Easter season the lobby is decorated with enormous chocolate Easter eggs. Throughout the year a pianist plays on the ground floor and an orchestra entertains guests on the second floor of the hotel. The beach of the Grand Floridian is also a great viewing area for the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom.
Next the monorail will take you back to the Magic Kingdom. Here we invite you to board a boat and sail to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Villas. The deluxe resort is inspired by the national-park lodges of the early 20th century. Wilderness Lodge & Villas ranks with Animal Kingdom Lodge & Villas as one of the most impressively themed and meticulously detailed Disney resorts. It’s also by far the hands-down favorite hotel of children. Situated on the shores of Bay Lake, the grounds of the lodge are landscaped with evergreen pines and pampas grass.
The lobby boasts an 82-foot-tall stone fireplace and two 55-foot Pacific Northwest totem poles. Timber pillars, giant tepee chandeliers, and stone- and wood-inlaid floors accentuate the lobby’s rustic luxury. Although the resort isn’t on vast acreage, it does have a beach and a delightful pool modeled on a mountain stream complete with water- fall and geyser. Except for watching the geysers go off at the lake, one of our favorite things to do here is having a meal at Whispering Canyon Café. Things can get a little wild as servers literally throw napkins and straws at you, tell you that it is rude to take a call at dinner; and you might end up with every ketchup bottle in the restaurant on your table should you have had the misfortune to ask for the beloved American ingredient. Kids will love the interaction, just don’t plan on spending your Valentine’s dinner here.
Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is an eight-minute boat ride away from Wilderness Lodge and ideal for nature lovers. The grounds are home to a free petting farm and nightly campfire stories with Chip and Dale.
If you want to splurge go for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue where six Wild West performers entertain you while you feast on all-you-can-eat barbecue ribs, fried chicken, corn, cornbread and strawberry shortcake. The prix-fixe menu includes unlimited wine, beer and soda. Albeit pricy the show is hilarious, high-spirited hootenanny the whole family will enjoy. At Christmas guests staying at the campgrounds decorate their campsites to the max. Make sure to pay a visit.
From Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground take a boat or a bus back to the Magic Kingdom or any park close to your resort.
We hope you enjoyed the journey. Our next adventure will take you on a visit to the Epcot area resorts. For more information and a complete review of all Disney properties check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World
Photo credit: Easter egg at Grand Floridian Resort courtesy of Daisy Lauren