Whether you arrive by road, rail, or water, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort will get you with a great big, red-roofed, white trimmed, cupola-ed, “Wow!” Inspired by the architecture of the Victorian Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, the elegance of this grand dame of a resort is both subdued and overwhelming at the same time.
The Grand Ambiance
The resort’s vintage car and carriage wait outside the main entrance under the porte-cochère for guest photo ops. The monorail glides above silently, with the respect the Grand Floridian deserves, into the second floor portico. You step into the main building and the resort says, “Gotcha!” all over again. The jaw drops and the eyes go up, up, up five stories to the soaring ceiling with its stained glass domes in genteel shades of soft green and blue. A thick, patterned carpet keeps the sound of conversations to a minimum as piano player entertains guests. In the evening, a celebration of sound comes from the musical stylings of the dashing Grand Floridian Society Orchestra on the second floor balcony. They take requests, so don’t be afraid to ask for your favorite song. Have a look at their stack of sheet music — as thick as an old school telephone book. The orchestra plays Disney favorites as well as big band standards. Both children and adults may be spotted dancing along on the lobby floor. If the musicians play, “Let it Go,” guests will be singing along as well as dancing!
Where to Eat (and find characters)
1900 Park Fare is the character meal restaurant just a few steps inside the Grand Floridian main building. It has a large dining area decorated with whimsical carousel animals and an antique band organ. Mary Poppins can be found here at breakfast? Supercalifraglistic! She’s ably assisted by Alice, the Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Pooh. Cinderella holds court at the dinner hour (don’t miss the strawberry soup!) with the support of her prince and amusingly obnoxious step-family who will help you create unforgettable vacation photos!
On weekday afternoons, children aged 4 to 12 can celebrate a very happy unbirthday at 1900 Park Fare’s Wonderland Tea Party hosted by Alice herself. Heart-shaped sandwiches are accompanied by tea (apple juice). Cupcake decorating, a craft activity, and storytelling keep the young ones entertained until the return of their parents (parents can also stay and observe, of course) at the end of the hour. Disney Photopass photographers are standing by for photos of each child with Alice and the Mad Hatter.
Guests can also enjoy tea in the Garden View Tearoom. As its name suggests, the tables here overlook the flower-lined pathways and fountain of the resort. The Garden View Tearoom is also home to Disney’s Perfectly Princess Tea. Unlike the Wonderland Tea Party, children must be accompanied by an adult. The Perfectly Princess Tea is a bit of an investment, but the character interaction, singing, and princess parade are worth every penny to some families. Each little princess takes home a selection of keepsakes.
The Grand Floridian Cafe is the perfect spot for a family meal at a moderate price, looking over the same garden-like grounds as the Garden View. They’re famous for their chocolate fondue. For fine dining, choose Citricos or Narcoossee’s (adjacent to the Seven Seas Lagoon). Victoria and Albert’s, a true foodie Nirvana, has won the AAA Five Diamond Award every year since 2001. At the opposite (but still delicious) end of the culinary spectrum, counter service Gasparilla Island Grill serves up hamburgers and sandwiches. Look for the fun seasonal cupcake flavors. You can count on Disney to make almost anything fun — Garparilla’s has come up with a rotation of seven gourmet hot dogs, one for each day of the week, themed on cities and regions across the United States. (As always, menus are subject to change.) The “Cleveland” is topped with French fries; the “Seattle” with jalapeños, cabbage, and Sriracha; the “Kansas City” with sauerkraut and Swiss; the “Memphis” with bacon and barbecue sauce; the “Idaho” with toppings in a baked potato rather than a bun; the “New York” with onion sauce, mustard, and kraut; and finally the “Chicago” with a pickle spear and tomato on a poppy seed bun. Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggity dog!
What is it like to stay here?
As luxurious as you might imagine. And no resort is closer to the Magic Kingdom, though it’s not possible to walk there (as you can from the Contemporary). In only one monorail stop, you’re at the Magic Kingdom turnstiles. On the way back, take a resort launch – as service to the “Grand” (as insiders refer to the resort) is direct by boat. (By monorail, you do have to circle most of the lagoon, with three stops, to get back around to the Grand.)
The Grand is the most deluxe of Disney’s deluxe resorts, and it has a price tag to match. But it’s not just for the rich and famous. There are various discounts available, and “normal” people find creative ways to save and plan for at least one night at the Grand. Guest rooms accommodate five (not counting children under 3). The main building houses club level rooms, while most guest rooms are in the buildings (named for islands in the Florida Keys) scattered pleasingly around the property. Sago Cay and Big Pine Key are closest to the Main Building. Conch Key is closest to the Marina and boat dock. Most of the Magic Kingdom view rooms are in Boca Chica.
If you’re an early riser, you’ll be out and about in time to see the “Mouse Keepers” every Monday morning in their Parasol Parade. There may be as many as fifty parasol-twirling members of the housekeeping staff parading from the Marina area to the courtyard around the pool.
Grand Floridian Room Types
- Standard Rooms – Located in the outer buildings of the Grand Floridian, these rooms tend to be very similar inside, with only the difference being the view from the balcony. Most of these rooms feature 2 queen beds and a day bed, sleeping 5 total. Views include Garden View, Lagoon View and Theme Park view. The Garden View will be of the pool area, gardens, internal parts of the resort and similar views. The Lagoon View will be looking towards Seven Seas Lagoon, and some may feature a slight view of the Magic Kingdom. The Theme Park view rooms all have a great view of the Magic Kingdom right from your balcony.
- Deluxe Rooms – Located in the outer buildings, the deluxe rooms are similar to the standard rooms, but tend to be a bit bigger, and many features a portion of the building “turret” as part of the room.
- Club Level Rooms – Outer Building club level rooms are located in the Sugar Loaf building, and feature views of the pool or marina. The rooms are similar to the standard rooms, but feature access to the Sugar Loaf concierge lounge plus other benefits. There are then standard view and Theme Park view rooms located in the main building at the Grand Floridan. The main building club level rooms have access to the main building concierge lounge.
- Suites – There are one and two bedroom suites located in the outer buildings. The one bedroom suites will sleep 6, while the two bedroom suites sleep 8. These suites also have access to the concierge lounges
Splash and Play
There are two large pools – the Courtyard Pool is located along the central walkway near the main building and has a large zero entry area and nearby ping-pong table. The Beach Pool boasts an adjacent Mad Hatter water play area, the longest resort water slide on Disney property, and a rock water fall.
A complimentary marshmallow roast takes place every day, followed by a Disney movie shown under the stars. A pleasant evening stroll along the lamplit pathways beyond the Beach Pool will take you past the Disney’s Vacation Club building (stop inside to see the Mary Poppins themed fountain), the Wedding Pavilion, and eventually the Polynesian Resort.
You can view two night time “shows” from the beaches or boat dock of the Grand Floridian (or possibly from the balcony of your room!). At about 9:10 pm the magical Electrical Water Pageant begins. (If your family hasn’t seen it yet, whet their appetites by viewing it online beforehand.) This floating musical light show has been delighting Magic Kingdom resort guests since 1971. And the big show is Wishes! at the Magic Kingdom, which can be viewed from the comfort and serenity of the Grand.
On the lobby floor, Summer Lace offers women a selection designer clothing and accessories (including Dooney & Bourke bags). Commander Porter’s, on the second floor, does the same for men. M. Mouse Mercantile, the second floor shop near the monorail, provides lots of souvenirs, toys, and children’s clothing. Be sure to stop in Basin White, also on the second floor. Here, washing your hands becomes a spa experience rather than a chore. Guests are invited to indulge the senses by sampling choices like pink sugar scrub or peppermint salt scrub, followed up with a tropical hand lotion.
Turn down service takes place in the late afternoon or early evening. Any used towels will be replaced (a boon after the family has been swimming), toiletries replenished, the bed turned down, chocolates on the pillow, the lights turned low. A little pampering can be very relaxing.
Holiday Time at the Grand
As everything at the Grand Floridian is superlative, you won’t be surprised to find a towering Victorian-trimmed tree, and the grandest resort holiday tradition — a life sized gingerbread house with a sixteen-foot tower! Cast members inside are selling baked goods and treats through the cottage windows including gingerbread (roof) shingles and edible ornaments. You’ll also find chocolate peppermint bark, chocolate pops, holiday cupcakes, and Stollen bread. Don’t miss the gingerbread Mickey with chocolate-dipped ears!
It’s bound to be a Grand stay.