What to do on days you aren’t at the parks at Disney World

For whatever reason, there might be a day or two in your Walt Disney World vacation where you don’t end up going to a park. Sometimes it’s because you get in late or it’s the day you are checking out, sometimes you purposely schedule a down day to regroup and get your energy back. Having an off day or scheduling some off time is always a great idea. Remember, the point of a Walt Disney World vacation is to enjoy yourself, not feel like you’re at work, meticulously going by a schedule to pack everything in. Here are six great options that you could devote a whole or half day to and work on getting your energy levels back to normal.

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Each Disney World pool is unique.

1.Pool Time
Save for a couple exceptionally cold days in the winter, it’s basically swimming season all year round in Florida. Most kids go absolutely nuts around the pool, and Disney has done a great job of catering towards kids’ interests. More and more splash zones are popping up at Disney pools, and there are some very cool pool area themes depending on what hotel you are staying at. The Yacht and Beach Clubs’ Stormalong bay is very popular, with a sandy bottom lazy river, and shipwreck waterslide, it’s almost like a mini water park. Caribbean Beach’s pirate theme allows you to explore like a pirate on the open seas. And even the value resorts will have larger than life statues to immerse you in the theme. Disney pools have several lifeguards on staff, and there are complimentary lifejackets for the little ones. So grab your refillable drink mug and sunglasses, and relax to the sounds of some of your favorite music (and splashing kids) and soak up some rays and relaxation.

downtown-disney-00-full2. Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney (DTD) is currently undergoing a massive renovation to be reopened as Disney Springs. What you can expect from Disney Springs is even more dining and shopping, mixed with some entertainment. Heading to DTD can take a long time depending on what hotel you are staying at, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there and back. DTD is a great place if you saw something in the park but forgot to buy it then and are now having buyers remorse. The World of Disney Store will have what you need, but the Disney themed stores don’t end there. You can look for toys, art, candy, and even Christmas Disney themed trinkets. And if eating is your thing, there is something for everyone, from food trucks and grabbing a quick bite, to more formal steak and seafood restaurants. This is a great non-park day stop, especially if your definition of relaxation is retail therapy.

Q4-29 Winter-Summerland June 1999    MRA3. Mini Golf
If you’re looking to do something with your kids, why not try some miniature golf? Disney World has two mini-golf courses, Fantasia Gardens, located by the Dolphin hotel, and Winter Summerland at Blizzard Beach. If you are staying on property and purchased a package, you will probably get a coupon for minigolf in your package info packet. Because it’s a Disney mini golf course, you can expect terrific theming and creative shots to keep the whole family interested.

boardwalk thigs to do

The Boardwalk has places to eat, shop, drink, and relax.

4. The Boardwalk
Some people don’t know that you can visit the boardwalk area even if you are not staying at an Epcot resort (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin.) The Boardwalk has some restaurants, surrey bikes to rent, and street performers throughout the day. Or you could take a stroll all the way around the lagoon to take in the beautiful sites. Almost like a mini Downtown Disney, the boardwalk has everything from hot dog stands to more upscale options. There are even some nightclubs if you’re interested in evening entertainment. If you want to get there and aren’t staying close to Epcot, you can always get on the bus to Hollywood Studios and walk or take the boat over. If you are driving, there is parking across the street.

hoop dee doo things to do

Enjoying the food and dancing at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

5. Dinner Shows
Going to a dinner show is another great option for an off day since you won’t need a park ticket to get to any of them. The Spirit of Aloha show is located at the Polynesian hotel, and both the Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are at Fort Wilderness. If you are on the Disney Dining plan, you can use two table service credits for these shows. They are roughly two hours long and pack some good food and entertainment into that time. While you are at Fort Wilderness, you could also have your kid ride a pony, or even go on a horse drawn carriage ride. Plus, alcohol is included which never hurts.

activities at hotel

Your Disney World hotel has more going on than you might even know.

6. Enjoy the activities at your hotel
When you check into your hotel, they should give you an activities sheet of things that are going on around your hotel that week. This might include activities for kids like making a craft or decorating cookies, it might be learning how to make towel animals, it might be movies under the stars or a campfire. Sometimes there will be singers or musicians depending on the time of year or the hotel. When you take some time to really enjoy your hotel, you might not feel as bad about the extra money you decided to spend to upgrade yourself, because suddenly you can see the value that higher-priced resorts offer.

So whether you feel like shopping, eating, or doing something new for your kids, Disney World is much more than just the parks. This is just a small list of extras to experience on your vacation. If you’re looking for even more, make sure to contact me. There is truly something for every interest, ability, and age. When you stop and take some time to slow down and relax, you will probably find everything more enjoyable (your own family included.)

My Disney World Agent Education Program

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

A special guest stopped by our last day of the Disney Agent Education Program.

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected for a Disney agent education program. Every couple months, Disney offers these programs to agents who are new to the business, or need a refresher on things. It was a whirlwind four days of learning more about the business, and visiting many hotels and even the Disney Cruise Line. Here are some of the highlights I got to experience:

Animal Kingdom Lodge

Pretty soon I will write up an entire blog entry on this hotel. It was my first time staying at the Lodge and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I was never one to really gravitate towards an African theme, and I was always turned off by the fact that you couldn’t walk to a park from the hotel. Now that I have stayed there, I can’t wait to go back. The hotel is beautiful, and there is something, or some animal hiding around every corner. My room looked out onto a small part of the savanna.

Disney's Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge was overflowing with animals.

Throughout the day I could see different types of birds and grazing animals. The highlight of my room was seeing the giraffes every night. While having a savanna view was definitely awesome, I don’t even think it was necessary. Down every hallway, there are windows to see the animals. Every exit door you can open and peak out to the savannas. And right off the lobby, you can walk little trails to get better views of different animals. There was never a shortage of zebras. The hotel is kind of dark and quiet, making me feel like it was all for me. This hotel definitely has a lot of extra activities. You can sign up for safaris, and even use night vision goggles to see the animals in the evening. What you give up in terms of walking distance to parks, the animals and hotel more than make up for with amenities and scenery.

Disney's Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Disney’s Art of Animation is just plain fun.

Art of Animation 
Since I am usually visiting Disney World with just my mom or husband, there has been no need to stay in a family suite. Seeing them was just a treat. The Art of Animation resort has a tremendous amount of detail. Even the landscape and music will suddenly change as you move from the Finding Nemo pool to the Lion King building. You really feel like you stepped into the movies. I found the total immersive feeling more here than any other value resort. The suites are great and really well thought out. You can fit six in these rooms that have one stand alone bedroom with bathroom, and a separate pull out couch and drop down murphy bed / table with bathroom and kitchenette. We also got to eat lunch in the food court, and it was some of the best looking food I have seen at Disney. There was so much more to eat than the traditional burger. Pasta, salads, sandwiches, and different ethnic foods guarantee that there will be something for everyone.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Where else can you find gingerbread houses like these? Only at Disney.

Gingerbread houses

Since I was there around the Christmas holiday, I was able to see all the trees in the hotels, holiday decorations, and some beautiful gingerbread houses. The Contemporary Resort had a huge Frozen themed gingerbread house, complete with characters. The Beach Club holds a rotating gingerbread carousel. Both the Grand Floridian and Boardwalk Inn had Gingerbread houses so big, that they were selling gingerbread cookies from inside them.

Going onboard the Disney Dream
Even though I took my maiden voyage on the Disney Dream last August, getting to board on a day that they get the ship ready blew my mind a little bit.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

The Disney Dream is big, beautiful, and has something for everyone.

On the same day people disembark the cast members have only a couple hours to get everything ready for the next batch of people ready to board. This means total turnover of rooms, common areas, restaurants, and lounges. Something I also got to do this time that I didn’t do on my three night cruise was explore literally everything onboard the ship. I was able to see the kids sections, all the way from the nursery, to kids clubs, to teen lounges. I was able to check out all the adult lounges. I was able to see the two exclusive restaurants, Palo and Remy, that require advanced reservations. I also got to see every room category onboard. Even though I was completely exhausted after this action packed tour, I feel very comfortable with the Disney Dream, and am still amazed by how beautiful, clean, and well-maintained it is.

Illuminations Dessert Party

On our very first night, we had an exclusive area of the World Showcase just for the agents to eat some dessert and watch Illuminations. Even though I have seen this firework show a million times, I have never seen it with such an amazing, unobstructed view – while drinking beverages and eating delicious desserts. I know that dessert parties can be pricey, and it’s not something I would do every time, but maybe on a special occasion I would suggest splurging.

See Illuminations like never before.

See Illuminations like never before.

During this party, they gave us exclusive Mickey glasses that are only available for these dessert parties. They somehow polarize the light so every light source you look at looks like a Mickey head. It was both trippy and super cool at the same time. It added a little extra magic to an already great show.

While I was exhausted every night after my full day of conferences, site tours, and having some time at the park, it was an awesome experience. Although I am a Disney dork through and through, there is always something new to learn, and something new going on. My agent education program was a great experience. I hope to one day attend the program in Disneyland as well.

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 2

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s continue on down that deluxe resort road, down the road to Epcot (and Animal Kingdom). The next batch of deluxe resorts continue to wow us with their theming, amenities, and park proximity. Characterized as the Epcot resorts are the Beach Club, Yacht Club and the Boardwalk Inn. These three resorts surround Crescent Lake. Then in a world of its own is the Animal Kingdom Lodge, located in close proximity to the Animal Kingdom. Each one of these resorts has something great to bring to the table.

The Beach Club/Yacht Club
These two resorts are like brother and sister. They are actually attached and share without question, Disney’s best pool, Stormalong Bay. Both hotels have very similar layouts and share the theme of being by the ocean. The theme of the Beach Club is turn of the century New England seashore. The Yacht has more of a boating, nautical feel. Some people say that the Yacht Club has a slightly more adult feel to it, but just like every resort on property, families of all ages are welcome, and shorts and Mickey shirts are the norm. These resorts share buses too, but you will have a nice relaxing covered bus stop to wait at.

Walkway to Epcot

Walkway to Epcot

Proximity
By far, the best perk of these hotel is the proximity to Epcot. In case you didn’t know, Epcot actually has two entrances, the main one by the monorail and spaceship earth, and one called the international gateway, located between England and France. You can only get to this entrance from the Epcot Resorts. The walk from the Beach Club to Epcot it literally 5-10 minutes depending on your pace. The Yacht club might be an extra 5 minutes since it’s situated on the farther end. This comes in handy if you want to drink your way around the countries, stay late at the International Food and Wine Festival, or want to make a quick getaway after Illuminations. Both hotels also line Crescent lake, the waterway that connects Epcot to the resorts and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can definitely walk to Hollywood Studios from the Beach and Yacht Club, but it will probably take you 20-30 minutes. If that seems like too much, hop on one of the Friendship boats. Yacht and Beach club share a dock where a boat will pick you up and take you to your final destination. FYI, the boat makes a few stops and can take a while. The order of the stops is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach, Boardwalk, Epcot, then reverse order. So remember, even though it seems close, I wouldn’t try to cut it too close with Fastpasses or dining reservations.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Pool
Let’s hop back to the pool situation. Stormalong Bay is a huge, sand bottom pool complete with lazy river, waterfalls, coves, bridges, kids sections, hot tubs, and water slide. This pool was becoming so popular, everyone wanted to go. Now it is for hotel guests only, and cast members will check you magic bands to make sure you are a resort guest. Also FYI, one of the only complaints I’ve heard about this pool is that the entrance to the water slide is actually outside the pool area, close to Crescent Lake. If you are alone at the pool with a young child, it might be difficult to constantly keep an eye on them. However not to worry, there are always tons of lifeguards everywhere.

Refill your mug by the pool

Refill your mug by the pool

Dining
Staying in the Epcot Resort areas opens up your dining options because you are in short distance of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach club, and the Swan/Dolphin. The Yacht club does not have any quick service dining options so you will have to go elsewhere if that is what you are looking for. And that brings me to a money saving recommendation if you are debating buying the Rapid Refillable Mugs. I would not buy them if I was staying at the Yacht club because there is no where to refill them. All the refill stations are located at the Beach Club (which has 3). Now they will work at any hotel so if you were staying by the pool all day you could refill them at the poolside grill Hurricane Hanna’s, but if that’s not the case, it’s not convenient for you at all. On the flip side, if you are staying at the Beach Club, I would highly recommend buying the mugs. You can even use them at the Beaches and Cream restaurant. Don’t forget they will also work at the participating Boardwalk refill stations if you are over there.

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Boardwalk Inn
The Boardwalk Inn captures the feel of a coastal 1920’s seashore boardwalk. Again you have the convenience of walking or boating to Epcot through the international gateway as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a slightly closer walk to the studios from the Boardwalk since it’s across the lake from Yacht/Beach. The Boardwalk is a perfect place for families that enjoy more of a nightlife or bustling feel. All of the restaurant’s for this hotel are actually on the boardwalk, so you must go outside to access them. You will have a variety of dining options, from quick service, to casual, to ice cream, to more high end.

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

There is something for everyone. There are also two clubs on the boardwalk, Atlantic Dance Hall and Jellyrolls for some evening entertainment and dancing. You can also rent surrey bikes on the boardwalk and make the Crescent Lake loop. FYI, if you have a fear of clowns, this is not the resort for you. The pool is home to a giant (creepy) waterslide clown.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a room facing the lake because there are also very pretty gardens on the other side of the hotel for you to stroll though. This hotel is the smallest of the deluxe resorts in terms of available rooms so it can fill up fast, especially during the International Food and Wine festival. All the Epcot resorts tend to fill up during this time. Also, during certain times of the year, the Boardwalk might share a bus with the Swan/Dolphin and they usually drop at the Boardwalk last. If you are willing and able, I’d hop off and walk back to the Boardwalk. It’s such a pretty view walking around the lake anyways. If there are any runners reading, the Crescent Lake loop is approximately 1 mile, or the path along the water to Hollywood Studios would make a great out and back.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge
Situated close to its Animal Kingdom counterpart, the Animal Kingdom lodge brings the feeling of an African wildlife preserve right to central Florida. Definitely the highlight of this hotel is the savanna views of the animals. There are 3 separate savannas, Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima, and each one offers a different view and some difference in animals. Your room will come with a viewing guide, and there are many cast members that can answer questions about the animals. There are also special sunrise and sunset safari tours you can reserve. This is definitely not cheap, however you will have 3 hours of pretty much a private safari tour. This is another resort that has bunk beds available which could work well for certain parties. FYI, not all rooms face the savanna. This is something you must request when selecting a room category. This hotel has plenty of dining options for the more adventurous and the mundane.

View of the pool.

View of the pool.

The hotel offers one of the largest pools on Disney property but note to adults, there is no quiet pool at the Animal Kingdom lodge. This hotel also has the most rooms out of all the deluxe resorts. I have yet to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge simply because of it’s location. All of the other deluxe resorts allow you to walk, boat, or monorail to a nearby park or two. Animal Kingdom Lodge just seems so out of the way to me that I haven’t been able to commit to transportation only by bus for the price of deluxe. But that is just me, and if animals are your thing and you love the Animal Kingdom, this place should be a perfect fit.

The Epcot resort area is becoming one of my favorite places to stay for the convenience and proximity to two parks. Even getting to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom does not take that long. A few more FYI’s about all deluxe resorts, all hotels will have different room options, suites, and club level. One of the more annoying things considering the price you pay, not all rooms are guaranteed walk out balconies. You will definitely have a sliding glass door that opens, but there might not be an actual patio with chairs, just a railing. This is something you can request and hope for the best. As always, contact me if you have more questions or want recommendations for your next stay. That concludes the deluxe resorts but there are still plenty more accommodation options on property. Stay tuned for Disney Vacation Club villas.

Getting Ready For Your Walt Disney World Vacation…MagicBands

magic 5 About a month out from your Walt Disney World vacation, you will receive a special little present in the mail: MagicBands. These are the greatest things Disney has given us since Dole Whips, and I’d like to share with you not only why they are awesome, but some tips for stress free use.

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Peel off the black part to make it a kids sized band

Right away I was super impressed with the bands. You can choose from seven colors (red, yellow, green, grey, blue, pink, orange), from your My Disney Experience account after you have a Disney reservation. The bands have your name inscribed on them in case you have a large party with duplicate colors. The bands also arrive as one size fits all, but have been creatively designed to magically turn into a kids size band by removing part of the strap. The bands are lightweight, waterproof, and can be easily taken off if you don’t feel like sleeping with it on.

Why Is The MagicBand So Magical?

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Your name is printed on the inside to keep every in your party straight.

Disney has pretty much done away with the paper ticket and has phased out paper fastpasses. Everything is now linked to your band.

Your MagicBand:
1. Will open your hotel room.
2. Is your ticket into the parks.
3. Is your fastpass+ ticket onto a ride.
4. Can be linked to your photopass account.
5. Can be linked to you credit card to pay for meals and souvenirs.
6. Allow you access into certain areas around your hotel (i.e. Stormalong Bay pool).

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

MagicBands let you toss that fanny pack away.

You can just about go to the parks wallet free if you’d like. You may even feel lighter or opt to leave your fanny pack at home. I especially appreciate the convenience of everything rolled into one because I have forgotten my ticket in the past. I also had to put up with my husband asking “do we need our tickets for this?” obnoxiously every time we left our hotel room during our first Disney trip together. MagicBand made it easier to manage his negative behavior, because I could see it on his wrist and could ignore him when appropriate. Other times that MagicBand would have helped me was when I was with a group of my friends and we had been at one of the parks in the morning when it was cool and I was wearing jeans. I used to keep my park ticket in my back pocket so I’d have easy access for the fastpass machine. That evening I changed into shorts and went back to the Magic Kingdom. I didn’t realize my ticket was still in my jeans pocket until we were at the gate. A pain in my butt that will never happen again.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

Get all up in that Mickey head grill.

How To Not Look Like A Newbie:
There is a Mickey head in the middle of the MagicBand. There is also a Mickey head on anything that will read the MagicBands RFID chip (hotel room door, park entrance turnstiles, fastpass return line, etc.) Your band will only read if you touch Mickey head to Mickey head. Yes, you actually need to touch your band to the Mickey Head. You’ll see many people who don’t read this blog waving their MagicBand over the sensor and hoping for Disney magic to allow them entry. While the park attendants will patiently remind you that you need to touch Mickey to Mickey, the patrons behind you may not be as patient. Want to get your kids excited/train your kids to use them, practice at home by decorating your house with Mickey stickers. Put your kids to the test. Put them high, low, on top of counters, on doors. Your family will not only look unbelievably awesome for knowing what to do, (read: you will look like an awesome parent with your life together when your kids manage their MagicBands flawlessly, and who doesn’t want to look like an awesome parent?) You will also save some time not having to learn how to use them.

Complimentary when staying on property.

Complimentary when staying on property.

FYI:

MagicBands are only complementary to Disney World Resort guests and Annual Passholders. If you are staying off site, you will have the option of purchasing a MagicBand at one of the parks. If you do not wish to purchase a MagicBand, you will have a card that will essentially do the exact same thing. If you do have a MagicBand, you do not have to link it to your credit card. It might become all too easy to start waving your wrist around in the air and spending money on souvenirs like you just don’t care. Also, even if you do opt in, your children won’t be unless you want them to. Remember how I mentioned the My Disney Experience account? This is how you choose your fastpasses and link them to your MagicBand. Make sure to link your reservations ahead of time to avoid frustrations. I will go over the My Disney Experience app/account in a different blog, but for the meantime, those staying on property can reserve fastpasses 60 days out and off property 30 days out.

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 1

welcomeWe have come to the next part of the hotel series: deluxe hotels. Anyone trying to do Disney on a budget should stay far far away from these guys. The deluxe hotels are available in themes to match anyone’s interest and needs. Since there are 8 deluxe hotels on property, I am dividing my posts up so as not to overwhelm anyone with the amount of exciting Disney knowledge. This post will focus on the Magic Kingdom resorts which include The Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, the Polynesian, and the Wilderness Lodge. Each vastly different from each other, and each awesome in their own right. Unlike the value and moderate resorts which closely resemble each other, deluxe resorts march to the beat of their own drum. I have stayed at 3 of the Magic Kingdom resorts, and been a frequent customer at the Contemporary. Allow me to break down what amenities each resort possesses, along with some pros and cons you might experience.

Grand Floridian Lobby

Grand Floridian Lobby

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Notably the most expensive resort on property, the Grand Floridian does try to live up to its grand name. This Victorian themed resort has multiple buildings, restaurants, and entertainment. Many people wonder with such an expensive resort (rates typically are around $400 a night or more) will they feel out of place dressed in a tee shirt and flip flops. The answer is no. Everyone is in the same boat you are. They are spending the days in the park, they are walking to the pool, they are exploring the hotel. Occasionally you will see people dressed up, but it’s usually because they are on their way to dinner.

Grand Floridian Orchestra

Grand Floridian Orchestra

One of the most enjoyable parts of this hotel for me was the live music. Every night in the lobby they either have a pianist or an orchestra serenading you with your favorite Disney classics. While this hotel is beautiful, I have to say I was not a fan of the room décor. Victorian is just not my cup of tea so I didn’t want to hold it against them, but then I saw the room pictures from the new Grand Floridian villas and those look beautiful to me. So in my opinion it might be time for a room remodel. Again, my opinion. This hotel is conveniently situated on the monorail line, but you also have the option of taking a boat over to the Magic Kingdom. At this time, you cannot walk to the Magic Kingdom since there is a waterway in the way, but there are nice walking paths on property. Some things to consider when staying at the Grand Floridian, while you are super close to the Magic Kingdom, everything else will be pretty far away.

Club Level is always stocked with delicious treats.

Club Level is always stocked with delicious treats.

Do not be surprised if it takes you an hour or more to get back from Downtown Disney, so as always, plan accordingly. I was unexpectedly upgraded to club level when I was there on my 21st birthday which was fantastic. Food and drinks are provided all day long. Tip: If you are doing a club level, I would not recommend the dining plan and vice versa. There comes a point where you physically can not eat anymore food and you start to feel gluttonous and wasteful. I would pick one or the other so as not to gain an additional 20 pounds on your vacation. FYI, the club level does include alcohol, so let that sway you one way or the other.

The Contemporary

Bay Lake side of Contemporary Atrium.

Bay Lake side of Contemporary Atrium.

I have had some really fantastic stays at the contemporary resort. This hotel always screams Disney to me when I see the iconic monorail pass through the building. I have an entire post dedicated to interesting tidbits about the Contemporary resort so I will try not to repeat myself. This hotel has a modern feel to it. You have the main atrium and an additional garden wing where you will have your more affordable rooms. The rooms at the contemporary are my favorite of the deluxe hotels. Clean white sheets and pillows, giant square sinks in the bathroom, modern desk, and even a day bed that could sleep an extra child. If you have a room in the atrium, you will either have a view of the Magic Kingdom or Bay Lake. FYI, Chef Mickey can be loud if your room is close to that side of the building. Some people prefer the garden wing for this reason.

The monorail is quieter than Chef Mickey.

The monorail is quieter than Chef Mickey.

Strangely enough, the monorail is very quiet, and you will never notice it going though when you are in your room. My absolute favorite thing about staying at the Contemporary is the walkway to the Magic Kingdom. It is literally a walkway just for you, and will get you there faster than taking the monorail. While these deluxe hotels are pricey, you are really paying for the convenience of being close to the action. The contemporary also has a nice marina on the Bay Lake side where you can parasail. One thing this hotel doesn’t have compared to some of the other resorts are nice walking paths.

The huge hospitality suite

The huge hospitality suite

While Bay Lake is fun to look at, I was never wowed by the grounds themselves. I was also upgraded while staying at the Contemporary to the hospitality suite/club level. I literally felt like a millionaire and got a taste of what celebrities might do when they go to Disney. Connected to a regular room was a huge living room, complete with kitchen, couches, dining room, and extra bathrooms. It was unbelievable big. And the club level is located on the Magic Kingdom side of the atrium which means incredible views and again, all you can eat and drink throughout the day.

Enjoy the Spirit of Aloha

Enjoy the Spirit of Aloha

The Polynesian
While I have never stayed at the Polynesian, I definitely plan to after the extensive rehab that is currently happening. The Polynesian will be going back to its original opening name of the Polynesian Village Resort. This hotel houses a lobby and 11 additional long house buildings. Each will have a different view or will be closer to something. For example, you can request rooms closer to the pool, closer to the main building with the monorail, the bus stop, etc.

Self serve Dole Whips

Self serve Dole Whips

Since this hotel is also on the monorail line, you can hop on in the main building, or have the option of boating over to the Magic Kingdom. The tikiman http://www.tikimanpages.com/poly/ can give you some great updates on what is actually happening to the resort and how your stay might be affected if you have an upcoming trip planned there. The Polynesian does have some great dinner entertainment, with the Spirit of Aloha luau dinner show. This hotel also serves Dole whips which have becoming something of a cult classic refreshment. FYI, while this hotel is situated on the beach of the Seven Seas Lagoon, you cannot swim in the lake. Apparently flesh eating bacteria is just waiting to take hold of some unsuspecting tourist. Don’t let it be you.

View from Wilderness lodge room.

View from Wilderness lodge room.

Wilderness Lodge
The Wilderness Lodge has a very rustic/lodge feel. The lobby is very beautiful and has a stream that flows through the hotel to outside and eventually shoots off as a geyser. This hotel is great for the family looking for deluxe amenities, but doesn’t want to pay top dollar. Often the rooms here will be $100 less than the contemporary or other deluxe resorts. While this hotel is not on the monorail line, it is a Magic Kingdom resort, so you will be transported to the Magic Kingdom by boat. This hotel sits close to Bay Lake and has a nice walking path out the the boat docks.

Bunk beds room, love 'em or hate 'em.

Bunk beds room, love ’em or hate ’em.

While I think the hotel is beautiful, I did not find the rooms to be as nice. This resort offers a bunk bed option, but I found that made the room seem smaller. However based on your families needs, this could work out perfectly. This hotel is very close to Fort Wilderness and a nice walking/biking path links the two resorts. Wilderness Lodge has some very nice restaurants and is home to Whispering Canyon Cafe, a western/comedy/audience participation family style dinner.

More on Deluxe Resorts
What you get with a deluxe resort is a theme of a place and/or time and less in your face Disney (This doesn’t mean there aren’t tons on hidden Mickey’s to find). These resorts are far smaller than your value and moderate hotels, so there is more of an intimate, personal atmosphere.

Interior hallways in the deluxe resorts

Interior hallways in the deluxe resorts

All of the deluxe resorts also have interior hallways, meaning the walk to your room is inside a building unlike the values and moderates where you walk outside, similar to a motel. This means that your window view will not have people walking past it like the values and moderates, so it’s up to you if that view is worth shelling out a little more dough. Keep in mind, the deluxe resorts don’t really have food courts, and what they do have is often very small and get’s very crowded at breakfast time. If you are not super into breakfast, consider eating in your room, or grabbing something at the park. On the flip side, the deluxe resorts offer way more table service dining options (buffets, character meals, dinner shows, elegant dining). These can be fun and tasty, but pricey too. So if it’s in the cards, go for it, if not, you have plenty of great options all over the Disney World Resort to choose from. Stay tuned for part 2 of this post where we will look at the Epcot resorts, Beach Club, Yacht Club, and Boardwalk, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge.