With its Victorian themed decor and outstanding service, Disney’s Grand Floridian resort provides guests who wish to splurge a unparalleled experience. Its family oriented activities and close proximity to the Magic Kingdom,along with upscale dining options, make it a sound choice for those who seeking a memorable luxury stay while visiting Walt Disney World’s theme parks.
Opened on July 1, 1988, The Grand Floridian is referred to by many as the crown jewel of Walt Disney World resort hotels. It is by far the most opulent and elegant of all Disney hotels we’ve experienced so far. Reminiscent of bygone grandeur, turn-of-the-century Floridian palace resorts, the deluxe, Victorian, red-gable-roofed gem offers a memorable stay for adults and young ones alike.
What Works for Families
• Luxurious, yet family-friendly hotel that has easy and quick access to the Magic Kingdom.
• Free Wi-Fi in rooms and public areas and free parking
What Doesn’t Work for Families
• Staying at this resort doesn’t come cheap. During the mid-April week we stayed, room prices ranged from $600-2500 a night depending on the type of room.
• There is no on-site childcare center.
Compared to other hotels that are mainly dependent on the Disney bus system, we liked that the incredible location of this property contributes to saving a considerable amount of travel time. The proximity to the Magic Kingdom is helpful particularly for families with special needs, or younger kids who might need several breaks in a day to retreat to the quiet of the room.
We rented a car for easy access but from the airport, guests can ride the Disney’s Magical Express – a shuttle bus service to and from the Orlando International Airport and any Disney resort, included in any paid Disney hotel stay. Buses are available for the parks, though a fast and exciting monorail option appealing to kids is available too. It stops right next to the lobby and travels to Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Resort as well as the Magic Kingdom. The water taxi across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom is an excellent scenic alternative. You may also choose the Disney bus system, which takes guests to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Park in addition to the newly revamped Disney Springs.
One of the more striking features of this hotel is the dramatic atrium lobby, with a five-story-high ceiling, stained-glass cupolas, and colossal chandeliers. Elegantly decorated with tasteful floral arrangements, the lobby provides a sweet-scented, quiet spot to regroup after a hectic day in the parks.
The Victorian theme successfully continues throughout the resort grounds with white clapboard-sided buildings ornamented with elaborate railings, sophisticated wood cornices, and latticework.
We walked along the quaint waterfront admiring the blend of English and Southern gardening that uses shrubs and roses as well as the indigenous palm trees and southern magnolias.
The resort offers multiple options for guests according to party size and budget. The nightly fireworks and parades can be seen from the Lagoon and Theme Park view rooms. The Deluxe and Club options are more pricey but offer larger rooms with lounge access where guests can enjoy continental breakfasts, snacks throughout the day and evening cocktails.
We went with the most economical choice which was the Garden view room. With its two queen beds and a sofa bed, it can cozily accommodate up to five people. Everything about the room were luxurious. We had fans and air-conditioning to combat the Florida heat and humidity, and we could relax on the beds, ottoman, and chair. From the safety features on the front and balcony doors to the perfect height of the room safe; impressive attention to detail has been shown for families with young children and special needs. We were grateful for the complimentary high-speed Internet, MP3 docks and ample power sockets for charging our appliances. The flat-screen TV came in handy for our son, and I liked the desk with a table that pulls out from beneath it. There was plenty of space for storage including the wardrobes, large dresser and side tables. The empty refrigerator was perfect for keeping our drinks cold, and we regularly made use of the coffee maker. I was glad for the iron and ironing board to freshen up my clothing when I took it out the suitcase.
The bathroom had a hair dryer, bathrobes and complimentary toiletries including a mint foot scrub that felt heavenly on my feet after a day in the parks. We could shower or bathe in the bathtub, and I was happy to see the extendable washing line option above the tub. I was super impressed to see something I have not seen before in hotel rooms- a laundry hamper. I love that extra, practical touch.
The Grand Floridian is the only hotel with its Disney chapel where you can have characters in the wedding party, should you choose to. There are extensive shopping stores and a 9,000 foot full-service spa health club. The resort offers a plethora of outdoor attractions and kid-friendly activities.
For water sports lovers, The Captain’s Shipyard offers pontoon or motorboat rentals, water cruises, parasailing, and fishing excursions. Those who can’t get enough of the Floridian outdoor scene are welcome to use the resort’s tennis courts, rent a bike, play volleyball or enjoy a game of golf in the nearby Magnolia course.
We chose to lounge by the pools. Our favorite was the zero-depth-entry beach pool with an 181 foot water slide and waterfall, lounge chairs, hammocks, and even cabanas. Younger kids will be delighted to splash around in the Alice in Wonderland themed water play zone.
If you succeed in prying your kids away from the parks, The Grand Floridian provides activities in the vast lobby. Sign them up for the Grand Adventures in Cooking where they play chef for a few hours, or the Pirate Adventure where they dress up and look for hidden treasures in the lagoon.
The resort offers several choices in dining depending on different needs. From prompt and noteworthy room service to the classy Victoria & Albert’s venue where the menu changes daily, there is something for everyone. There’s the American Mediterranean fusion Citricos or Narcoossee’s, which specialize in seafood.
Families seeking more budget-friendly alternatives should try the Grand Floridian Cafe or cafeteria style Gasparilla Island Grill restaurant, open 24 hours a day. Our son discovered the chocolate-filled cupcakes there and insisted on getting one every night before going to bed.
Character meals are a Disney staple, so we weren’t surprised to find out the Grand Floridian offers three choices. The 1900 Park Fare restaurant has both a Supercalifragilistic Breakfast and a Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner buffet option.
Parents who wish to splurge can opt for the My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Wonderland Tea Party where participants get to mingle and chat with Alice.
Not to be Missed Experiences
Early risers can enjoy a cheery parade at 8 a.m. sharp from the marina to the courtyard pool featuring fifty parasol-toting housekeepers every Monday and Friday.
Guests can book a one-hour $15 guided walking tour through the resort and get a unique behind-the-scenes tour of the highly acclaimed Victoria & Albert restaurant.
Recently, Disney has added to the magic by introducing the Princess Promenade. It is a free afternoon event at 3:30 in the hotel lobby during which the Princess and her beau descend the hotel’s staircase and dance with the guests.
If you happen to be at the hotel at 9 p.m., make sure you see the Electric Water Pageant on the Seven Seas Lagoon from the beach and pool areas.
Autism Travel Tips
• If your child is noise-sensitive or gets antsy in large crowds, they can still view the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the room balcony, beach, a marina boat or even the monorail.
• If your child is on a restricted diet and requires specific foods, you can save time and money by having items delivered directly to the resort by Garden Grocer.
• If you feel your child isn’t safe in a room with a balcony, ask for a first floor room with a patio instead.
Situated at 4401 Floridian Way, Lake Buena Vista 32830, check-in is at 3 pm, and check-out is at 11 am. Call (407) 824-3000 or fax (407) 824-3186 for more details.