The Walt Disney Company is known for going all out in maximizing a given motif so meticulously as to always keep all authenticity rightfully intact. We’ve seen such examples of elaborate theming carried out time and again with various Park attractions, restaurants, and of course making up the fabric of Disney Resort accommodations.
It is a ‘hotel’s theming’, in fact, that often plays a pretty significant role as the ultimate deciding factor for potential Guests when they just can’t choose which option to stay at. After theming comes all those extras to consider, like pricing, amenities, and even proximity to your favorite Parks.
But what do you do when you find yourself wavering between two similar interests in theming and Resort designation? If you’re someone who loves that nostalgic, turn-of-the-century style and is looking to stay at one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts, for instance, you may find yourself struggling to choose between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.
While both Resorts have their own unique callouts, they also possess a lot of similar draws. You have to look a little deeper to weigh everything objectively and evenly when making your final decision. So, to help you out, we are providing you with this side-by-side Resort profile, focusing on each one’s specific highlights and classic callouts.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort opened to the public on June 28, 1988. It is located in what is known as the Magic Kingdom Resort Area due to its proximity to Magic Kingdom Park. Its elegant theming is patterned after the Victorian-style beach resorts that were once common during Florida’s Golden Age, right around the late 19th/early 20th century. And the overall design carries well within the Grand Floridian’s grandeur in just about every way, from style and décor to architectural highlights.
In addition to its main building, where you will find a lavish five-story lobby laden with charm and regality, the Resort also features multiple outer building dwellings for Guests to room in, all of which are named for islands in the Florida Keys. Other unattached edifices on the property can be found in the way of restaurants and recreational extras.
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn opened almost a decade later, back on July 1, 1996. Making its home within the EPCOT Resort Area, the BoardWalk draws inspiration in both architecture as well as in the many decorative elements that give it such class and character reminiscent of those bygone era boardwalk districts that were once such a part of American East Coast towns around the turn of the 20th century. And while the Resort offers plenty in the way of direct onsite options, it goes without saying that its extensive namesake boardwalk district plays host to plenty of additional endeavors in the way of entertainment, shopping, and dining.
Because both the Grand Floridian and the BoardWalk are Deluxe Resorts that also carry the Disney Vacation Club designation, they each boast an array of different ways to stay onsite. There are of course those standard hotel rooms at both locations that feature all the mainstay amenities, home-away-from-home essentials, and extra magical touches that come as part of any stay on Disney property.
Additionally, both Disney’s Grand Floridian and BoardWalk Inn boast the option for premium upgraded Club Level offerings, including multi-room suites and a host of impeccable extras in Guest services. And for those looking to go big on their overall Resort experience, there’s even the option to stay within a spacious villa at either Resort.
Every accommodation at both Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn varies in the way of views, access points, and locations across the grounds. All the same, what each has in the way of viable designations is arguably comparable in every way that really matters. Although, it should be noted that the Grand Floridian’s rooms do tend to be larger.
Onsite features at any given Walt Disney World Resort have a lot to say about the overall Guest experience. And both Disney’s Grand Floridian and the BoardWalk boast a vast and versatile array of phenomenal features not to be overlooked.
The Grandest Features
At the Grand Floridian, you can enjoy plenty of onsite shopping and recreational pursuits all contained within the Resort grounds. From arcade games to jogging trails and a full-service fitness center to sports courts, there’s just so much to do in the traditional sense. They also have those more unique undertakings to consider as well, including motorized boat rental options and even stellar spa services right onsite.
Because pools tend to be the primary delight at any Disney Resort, it goes without saying that the Grand Floridian also stays afloat in such stellar offerings in this category. Their starring attraction is undeniably their scenic zero-entry Beach Pool, which offers uncontested views overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon to enjoy all while also taking delight in the pool’s cascading waterfalls and when zipping down at high speeds via their 181-foot-long waterslide. Their quieter Courtyard Pool offers a more serene experience and even boasts an adjacent whirlpool spa.
Features Across the Board
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn plays host to a versatile collaboration of extended fun both central to the Resort grounds as well as in a convenient surrounding range. On property grounds, Guests can enjoy plenty of the usual perks, like sports courts, arcade games, onsite shopping, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and even surrey bike rentals. There are also nearby options for renting out a boat for on-water excursions.
Extended entertainment options can be found along the bustling BoardWalk scene, from nightlife delights to family-friendly extras. Their entertainment district is, after all, Disney World-renowned. And on a side note to those that love a good game of miniature golf, staying at the BoardWalk puts you right in a convenient range to nearby Fantasia Gardens & Miniature Golf.
In keeping up with the poolside pleasantries, it should be noted that the BoardWalk plays host to three great options to plunge into (as well as kiddie options). Two are more leisurely, relaxing recommendations — perfect for taking things easy. Each of the two also features its very own whirlpool spa.
For those looking to combine watery wonders with a reminiscent, old-timey carnival experience there is the one and only Luna Park Pool. A lively scene indeed, have yourself a spectacular splash in this bold, 184,217-gallon watering hole, laden with squirting elephants and other amusing features. But the one that stands out most of all is the very imposing 200-foot-long waterslide, modeled after those classic old wooden rollercoasters.
Because dining is absolutely integral to any Walt Disney World Resort experience, both the Grand Floridian and BoardWalk Inn come out on top in offering up a myriad of mouthwatering options among their numerous on-premises establishments. From quick-service convenience to outstanding table-service recommendations, the options are plentiful enough at both locations to please any palate.
Dining at its Grandest
Those looking for quick-service picks won’t be disappointed in what the Grand Floridian has to offer at the versatile Gasparilla Grill. Other options exist as well, including those found at various poolside bars.
However, it is undoubtedly their premium table-service designations that are the Resort’s biggest claims to fame. They are, after all, home to some of the most widely hailed dining establishments in all of Walt Disney World. Some examples include Narcoossee’s, Citricos, and the one and only Grand Floridian Café. This is also the location where you will find what is arguably the most lavish dining experience of all: Victoria & Albert’s, which is soon to reopen.
Not to be outdone, the BoardWalk Inn has its own long line of well-known dining establishments to its credit. Their biggest anchoring eats, directly situated on Resort property, include quick-service hits like their BoardWalk Bakery, Pizza Window, and many more. Likewise, their full-service table delights include Flying Fish, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, Trattoria al Forno, and several others. Additionally, there are other options to be enjoyed via the extended BoardWalk promenade that surrounds the Resort.
Location to Parks
As we mentioned previously, sometimes a Resort’s location to Parks and attractions, in tandem with the available means for transportation each one boasts, may essentially make or break the final decision on where to stay. So, whether you’re more of a Magic Kingdom-minded Park-goer or one who enjoys EPCOT or Hollywood Studios (or both), you may already have sealed the deal away in your mind. All the same, here is a comprehensive layout of distance and navigating laid out between these two Resort designations.
The Grand Ways to Travel
We’ve already established that Disney’s Grand Floridian is in very close proximity to Magic Kingdom Park. And as of a more recent revision to the site surrounding Seven Seas Lagoon, now Guests staying here can even walk to the Park via a newly established walkway. A nice scenic stroll offering access and new insights to areas that were previously off-limits to Guests, the journey totals 15 to 20 minutes tops, one way, depending on walking speed.
But if you aren’t up for walking there is another very exclusive way to get to the Park that only two other resorts in the area can boast. We are, of course, referring to the connecting monorail route — which is probably your fastest and most convenient option. Another suggested mode of transportation is taking a leisurely boat ride across the water leading straight to the Magic Kingdom.
Getting to other Parks from the Grand Floridian can be easily done via the constantly running shuttle services, complimentary for Guest use at all Disney Resorts. However, if you are interested in a (sometimes) quicker way to make it to EPCOT, you can rely on the monorail to get you there, accordingly, if you play it right. Just take the monorail from the Grand Floridian over to the Transportation and Ticket Center and switch over to the monorail that continues on to EPCOT.
A Broader Way to BoardWalk
The option for walking to Parks also exists at the BoardWalk Inn. Because you are in close range to both EPCOT as well as Hollywood Studios, you can take a walking path that leads to both destinations accordingly. In fact, out of all the accommodations within this area, Disney’s BoardWalk offers up the shortest walking route to Hollywood Studios, at just under a mile. At the very most, you’d probably be looking at a walk totaling 15 minutes or so. And because the Resort is so close to EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance, you can easily make the stroll from room to Park in about five or 10 minutes, depending on where you are staying on-premises.
Again, there is also a relaxing boat option you can take if you aren’t up to walking to nearby Hollywood Studios. Or perhaps you’re just looking for an excuse to enjoy a leisurely time out on the water.
For getting around to other Disney destinations, like Animal Kingdom Park, Disney Springs, or Magic Kingdom Park, you have those trusty shuttle service options well in place. It should also be noted, however, that for those Guests looking to Park Hop from EPCOT to Magic Kingdom Park, you can rely on the same monorail option we highlighted above, venturing to the Transportation and Ticket Center, getting off, and then continuing on with the monorail bound for the Magic Kingdom and Resorts.
Lastly, while it serves no purpose in the way of traveling to Parks, Guests staying at the BoardWalk are also in close access to Disney Skyliner Transportation. This may, however, come in handy if you make dining reservations at one of the other resorts conveniently located on the gondola line.
We’ve presented you with all the ins, outs, and fun facts surrounding these two wonderful Disney Resorts. The rest is up to you to weigh in with your own observations and personal considerations, and then essentially make your final decision. But whichever option you do end up choosing, keep in mind that you will be right in the heart of Disney Magic either way.