Disney resorts are so creatively conceived, so beautifully and authentically themed, so artfully landscaped, they are destinations in and of themselves. Whether you secretly aspire to eventually stay at all of the Walt Disney World deluxe resorts or are just curious to see them all, Disney transportation puts them within easy reach. You can coordinate your resorts stops around your park visits, since some resorts are accessible on foot. And resort touring is a great way to escape the mid-afternoon heat and crowds!
Create your own Grand Circle Tour of the Seven Seas Lagoon resorts – hopping on and off the monorail to see the Contemporary, the Polynesian Village, and the Grand Floridian. But you may want to space your visits to these flagship resorts over more than one day. It’s nice to savor each resort, so plan to stay for a meal at one or more, if possible. In any case, stay long enough to stroll the grounds and absorb the atmosphere. (The atmosphere is one thing at Disney that’s free!)
The Contemporary is the first monorail stop from the Magic Kingdom (on the resort line, of course – not the express!), and your arrival above the Grand Canyon Concourse will be memorable. An escalator (or elevator) ride will take you down to the gift shops and restaurants. Don’t hurry by Mary Blair’s beautiful, seven-story mural. Can you find Cinco, the five-legged goat?? Refuel with a flatbread from the Contempo Cafe, and head out to see the Contemporary marina.
From the Contemporary, it’s a short and pleasant Blue Flag Launch ride to your next resort destination: the majestic Wilderness Lodge. You’ll have a great view of the Bay Lake side of the resort as your boat arrives and you wind along the winding boardwalk, through the cypress and pines. Pause by the miniature version of Old Faithful, called Firerock Geyser, that shoots water 120 feet in the air. Inside, you’ll be wowed by the soaring lobby with its evocative Western instrumental music, teepee chandeliers and looming fireplace (whose beautiful stone layers represent the geographical strata in the Grand Canyon). Roaring Fork food court has some of the best sandwiches on Disney property, so there’s no need to leave hungry! Step outside the front of the resort to have a look at the topiary buffalo and her calf — directly across from the porte-cochère. Depending on where you’re headed next, you could hop on a bus or go back to the Magic Kingdom or Contemporary by boat.
Another afternoon tour could be devoted to the Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian. The resort launch from the Magic Kingdom will stop at the Grand Floridian first; so if you go by water, make the GF your first stop. (Alternatively, if you take the monorail, you’ll stop at the Polynesian first.) It’s magical to visit the Grand Floridian in the evening when the pianist and the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra (perched on the second floor) will be alternating sets. It’s not uncommon to see guests dancing to a big band tune or singing along to “Let It Go” from FROZEN. The Basin White shop on the second floor is a refreshing place to stimulate your senses with some Pink Sugar Shea Salt Scrub.
Whether you’ve toured the Polynesian Village or the Grand Floridian first, simply walk to the other resort when you’re ready. The paved pathways along the Seven Seas Lagoon make for a lovely stroll, and the distance is short. On a warm evening, you’ll be happy to find that the Polynesian’s Pineapple Lanai is one of the few places in the world outside the Magic Kingdom (and Hawaii) where you can procure a Dole Whip. You’ll find seating outside overlooking the volcano pool, tropical landscaping, and flickering tiki torches.
Epcot is another Disney park that acts as a convenient jumping off point for resort tours. The Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts are a pleasant walk (or boat ride) from Epcot’s International Gateway (set back between the UK and France pavilions). Beaches & Cream is one of the best ice cream parlors at Disney (and now accepts ADRs). The launch docks by the little lighthouse in front of the Yacht Club Resort and will take you across Crescent Lake to the Boardwalk Inn Resort. (Note that the Boardwalk can also be reached from Disney’s Hollywood Studios either by boat or on foot.) The lively Boardwalk offers evening entertainment (including outstanding jugglers and magicians) and food offerings, including funnel cakes, treats from the Boardwalk Bakery, and exotic, enticing flavors of ice cream from the new Ample Hills Creamery.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is an short bus ride away from the Animal Kingdom Park – and well worth an afternoon’s visit. Walking into the lobby of Jambo House, you’ll feel as though you’ve been hit with a wall of sensory overload — the African animals carved into the railings seem to be galloping around each floor, up to the soaring thatched cathedral roof overhead. Delectable aromas drift up with sounds of the beating drums at Boma two floors below. Here’s a simple way to capture and savor the flavors of the Animal Kingdom Lodge: head down to the Mara food court outside near the pool. Purchase a small box of Zebra Domes. Take them upstairs to the Victoria Falls Lounge and order a Chocolate Martini (Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, Stoli Vanil Vodka, White Crème de Cacao, and Frangelico). The chocolate beverage will be the perfect foil for the secret ingredient in the Zebra Domes – Amarula cream liqueur from South Africa (made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree). Pick a seat overlooking the wood tile and pole rooftops of Boma and enjoy. Karibu!
Now that you’ve visited all the deluxe resorts at Disney, you can get a head start on a moderate resort tour by jumping on a boat from Disney Springs up to Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside. Just be sure to finish your beignets at the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory in time to catch a returning Sassagoula River Cruise returning to Disney Springs. Don’t worry – you won’t turn into a pumpkin if you don’t make it by midnight — buses run until 2:00 a.m.!