Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in Orlando, Florida, is one of the premier luxury destinations for Walt Disney World visitors. Located one monorail stop from Magic Kingdom, it’s difficult to overlook the property’s convenience. The grandiose, Victorian resort with its red gabled roofs and immaculately landscaped gardens are indicative of a simpler time, but the hefty price tag shows that opulence still comes with a price.
Hotel Review: Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
The Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World was the host property for a recent media event I attended, and I eagerly anticipated the opportunity to review such a desirable destination. Unfortunately, my time on property was limited due to work commitments, so I had to rely on the experiences of my husband and three children to write much of this review.
What Works for Families
If someone is looking for a property close to the Magic Kingdom, stay at The Grand Floridian. The property is one stop away from the Magic Kingdom on the monorail and the park can be reached by water taxi as well. Those headed to other Walt Disney World resorts can enjoy the convenience of the Disney bus system.
The Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks are visible from the property. This means no fighting the crowds late at night at the park. Simply head to the marina, the beach, or if you have a “Theme Park” view room, relax in your pajamas and enjoy. This is a feature our family certainly enjoyed.
The Grand Floridian has a very nice main swimming pool overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon with a waterfall and waterslide, and a smaller pool behind the main building. There’s also an Alice in Wonderland themed water play area for younger children. Snack and beverage service is available poolside which is convenient for families.
Family Friendly Activities
Just about everything at Walt Disney World is family friendly so this should not come as a surprise. Children are welcome (and expected) everywhere, and treated extremely well by staff. On certain evenings, the property shows “Movies Under the Stars” where guests are treated to a complimentary Disney movie screening. There are also Grand Floridian campfire activities where guests can gather to roast s’mores by the fire, which was a big hit with my kids. The resort also has a view of the evening Electrical Water Pageant from its beach. In the afternoons, a pianist showcases his talent in the grand lobby of The Grand Floridian, entertaining guests with Disney tunes while visitors often dance alongside the piano. In the evening, a full orchestra plays in the lobby, adding to the festive Victorian atmosphere of the resort.
Rooms that accommodate a family of 5
I was very excited we would not need two rooms to stay on property as is often the case with a family of five. There were two queen beds and a couch that converted into a single bed. It didn’t leave much space in the room, but we didn’t spend a lot of time in the room except to sleep, so this didn’t really bother us.
What Doesn’t Work for Families
We did not have a Disney dining plan, so every night my husband and the kids had to be creative when it came to dinner. One night my husband wanted to order a pizza from Domino’s, but was told it would be an additional $20 because the driver would have to pay to “come through the gate” onto The Grand Floridian property. They ended up ordering a very “average” pizza from room service. It was $21 for a large cheese pizza and $2 for each additional topping. I guess they were very hungry because the cost for two pizzas with delivery and taxes was around $60. Gulp.
No separation in the room
I had a couple of very early mornings and there was no way to separate the bathroom area from the sleeping area. No doors, no privacy. I actually used my flashlight to navigate through the room so I wouldn’t disturb anyone while I was getting ready. No one will be able to “sleep in” when you stay in one of these rooms.
Long delay for service
One night my husband called for extra pillows around 9:00 p.m. When I returned at 10:30, he still did not have them so he went to sleep. I heard someone knocking on our door at 11:15, but I was already in bed, so I didn’t answer. A few minutes later someone tried to enter the room. Thankfully the lock was on the door, but I hope if this was the pillow delivery, the property will re-think how late they allow staff to come to the rooms.
Another time the in-room safe stopped functioning, locking our valuables inside. It took the staff a couple of hours (and several phone calls) to come and resolve the problem (which had stopped working because it had a “full memory” of codes).
The Grand Floridian isn’t lacking when it comes to amenities. The hotel offers complimentary transportation to and from the airport, free on-site parking, and transportation between all the Walt Disney World theme parks and Disney Springs. This will save families money on parking, gas, and toll fees. There’s also free wi-fi throughout the property and on-site at the parks.
The Grand Floridian offers boats available for rent, no experience necessary! Families could head out from the marina and tour the Disney waterways. I imagine this would be a fun way to explore the area.
There are many boutique shops throughout the resort and it’s always fun to window shop or indulge in some Disney souvenirs. Of course there’s a store for your basic sundries as well.
Senses is the spa at the resort, offering full services from facials to massages. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to relax on this trip, but the thought of having a treatment in a Floridian garden at the turn of the 20th century is certainly intriguing. I can only hope I will have free time on our next visit to enjoy some of their services.
Staying at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is not cheap. An average nightly room rate when we stayed in April was around $550. On the TMOM scale, that is $$$$.
The Grand Floridian now has villas on site, and that could certainly be an option for families looking to stay longer and desiring more space. These units have everything you would find at home, including a kitchen, separate bedrooms, a living room, and dining area. These villas can be booked as part of Disney Vacation Club or through a service like Vacatia. Vacatia is a new booking website which allows travelers to find accommodations that are spacious, have all the comforts of home, yet all of the amenities and services you would expect to find at a resort. It would be worth looking into if the villas interest your family.
There are plenty of dining options at The Grand Floridian resort. Those wanting a character breakfast can head to 1900 Park Fare where fan favorites Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, The Mad Hatter, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh have been known to make an appearance. The restaurant also hosts a Wonderland Tea Party and Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. Advance reservations are recommended.
The Garden View Tea Room features traditional afternoon tea and the Grand Floridian Café is casual elegance serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Families will love the convenience of the quick service restaurant Gasparilla Island Grill, which serves breakfast until 11 a.m., and decent burgers, salads, and sandwiches the rest of the day until 11 p.m.
There are three fine dining restaurants on property, Victoria & Albert’s (a AAA 5 diamond restaurant since 2000), Narcoossee’s (seafood on the waterfront in an elegant setting), and Cítricos (Mediterranean flavors with an award winning wine list). You will definitely want a reservation (and a babysitter through Kid’s Night Out, the childcare service offered by Walt Disney World resorts) for any of these three restaurants.
Does Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offer guests a stay they will never forget? I would have to say yes, because they do everything over the top as only Disney can do. From the moment you enter the lobby with its majestical stained glass ceiling and gorgeous floral arrangements, you can’t help but love the effort that went into making this resort amazing. On the flip side, the rooms were nothing special (aside from the fact they sleep five). I’ve stayed in many hotel rooms and paid half the price for a similar room. Unfortunately, the service hiccups my husband experienced make me think there is certainly room for improvement at this resort. The Grand Floridian may be a gem of a property, but it might need a bit more polishing to make it shine.