Roam the Savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids in Walt Disney World

Spend time at the pool at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy a safari vacation at Walt Disney World when your family stays at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Waking up to a view of an African game preserve tops many people’s bucket lists. I certainly thought I would never see such a place…until I checked into Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids in January of 2017.

Imagine exploring the African savanna, surrounded by blooming landscapes brimming with countless animals. The chance to take a wildlife safari sounds a bit out of reach, especially for Central Florida. But, I found this and so much more during our latest visit to Walt Disney World.

Enjoy the flowers at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Walk around the grounds of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids and enjoy the flowers. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Traveling to Walt Disney World many times as a child and seven times as a parent did not prepare me and my kids, ages 11 and 12, for the awesome African adventure in the middle of our most recent Disney trip. The remote site gave us a feeling of a true escape away from the chaos of lines and theme park crowds.

When visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, I found myself transported to a faraway continent. The soaring ceiling and authentic African artwork are unique. The beautiful tribal prints, ornate carvings and large glass windows kept my eyes constantly darting around the lobby area. In fact, the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the most beautiful properties at Walt Disney World.

Watch the zebra while staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Watching the animals from your room tops my list of must-dos at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Fully themed in African culture, this resorts provides the feeling of a serene escape. The décor, food, and cultural representatives give this resort an authentic vibe. In addition, the educational opportunities and theming makes this resort unique and original.

What I loved at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort 

  • Unique theming
  • Several ethnic dining options with lots of vegetarian items
  • Many educational programs
  • Authentic African art and cultural pieces
  • Two large swimming pools with waterslides
  • Night vision binoculars for animal viewing

What I wanted at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

  • More buses to theme parks
  • Less music (or quieter) poolside
  • A larger, wider hall leading to the elevator

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort overlooks the savanna.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort buildings overlook the savanna and its animals. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort opened in 2001 and consists of two main buildings–Jambo House and Kidani Village. Separated by a flora-lined half-mile walking trail, the two buildings provide dining and entertainment options for all visitors. Guests can also choose to ride a van that travels between the two buildings every 15 minutes.

Also, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers approximately 43 acres of African savanna-themed, natural looking landforms. The resort provides a home to 200 animals and 130 birds.

Watch animal gaze on the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Gaze on the grazing animals of the savanna, like this Oryx, at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The deluxe resort features four main restaurants, a lounge, and two large pools with waterslides. In addition, Animal Kingdom Lodge features a playground, fitness center, free learning opportunities, unique views and safari-themed excursions.

My room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort

Jambo House offers 972 rooms and 324 units in Kidani Village, part of the Disney Vacation Club (DVC). Resort rooms, designed in a semi-circle, resemble a Kraal African village.

The room at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
My standard room with a savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

During my stay, I reserved a standard room with a savanna view featuring two queen beds on the third floor of Jambo House. The beds were comfortable, linens plentiful and the room was decorated with African carvings and fabric prints. The balcony features a small table with two chairs that overlooks an active savanna. The savanna provides scenes full of wildlife, including ostriches, zebras, cranes, wildebeests, gazelles and ducks.

The amenities include free Wi-Fi, room service, mini-fridge, and a flat-panel TV. Rooms also feature a desk, two chairs, ceiling fan, coffee maker, and almost all rooms have full balconies. Standard rooms sleep four guests + one child under 3 in a crib.

The bathroom at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort.
Our bathroom featured a granite vanity with two separate sinks. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

The bathroom features a granite vanity outfitted with two sinks though it’s missing the doors that I find in moderate resorts that provide an additional dressing area. I found a iron and board and a hair dryer.

In a separate room, I found a standard tub with a shower head and toilet. The bathroom continues the African savanna theming.

The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge with kids.
The bathroom at the Animal Kingdom Lodge features a standard tub. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Surprisingly,  rooms provide about 344 sq. ft. which is the smallest of the deluxe resorts. Compared with the larger, yet more expensive Grand Floridian Resort and Spa that features 440 sq. ft.

Table Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features several restaurants with African and Indian-based cuisines, as well as traditional offerings. In Jambo House, Jiko-The Cooking Place, offers a fine dining experience with a limited menu and romantic ambiance.

Though beautifully decorated, the service was mediocre and the beef short ribs and lamb loin (considered the restaurant’s specialties) were both not available on the night we had reservations. Because Jiko-The Cooking Place is categorized as signature dining, we expected more. Consequently, it was our least favorite restaurant at this resort.

Enjoy the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
I enjoyed several of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

A bustling and popular buffet restaurant, Boma-Flavors of Africa serves breakfast and dinner. My daughters and I ate both breakfast and dinner at Boma and greatly enjoyed the experience. The buffet offers unique African dishes as well as familiar dishes for those less adventurous. We thoroughly enjoyed Simba waffles and jungle juice for breakfast and delicious vegetarian options for dinner.  Click here for a full review of Boma-Flavors of Africa.

Sanaa, which is Swahili for “art” or “work of beauty”, is found in the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village building. It showcases the most beautiful views of Sunset Savanna. We enjoyed two table service meals at Sanaa and plan to return to try more items.

Presently, the food features unique, flavorful and fresh offerings. Menu items include butter chicken, lentil dhal, seafood curry and African-inspired Biryani with seasonal vegetables. Check out the Indian-style bread service, which comes with five flavors of naan and nine accompaniments. Click here for a full review of Sanaa.

Animal lovers will love this resort at Walt Disney World where guests wake up to gazing animals on the savanna and kids activities at every bend.

Quick Service Dining at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Also, a large, quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is called Mara. It opens to a patio that overlooks the Uzima Springs Pool and has outdoor and indoor tables.

The menu includes familiar breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, waffles, eggs and bacon. Lunch and dinner menus offer soups, flatbreads, burgers, and falafel pitas. Mara features salads, fruit cups, and grab-and-go items, too.

Pools at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Animal Kingdom Lodge features two main pool areas. Uzima Springs Pool is an 11,000 square foot oasis that faces Uzima Savanna and closest to the guest rooms in Jambo House. With a zero-entry point, a 67-foot waterslide and a lounge and bar connecting to the pool’s deck, this pool gives guests a wonderful place to relax after a long day inside the Disney theme parks. Other features include a children’s wading pool, coupled with two whirlpool spas.

The pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy an afternoon at the pools of Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Near the Animal Kingdom Villas-Kidani Village, Samawati Springs Pool surprisingly holds 118,138 gallons of water. It features an 128-foot waterslide and zero entry. Uwanja Camp features a children’s water playground with three zones for varying ages.

Poolside huts provide complimentary towels.  Both pools feature lifeguard stations, but check the posted signs near each pool for hours of operation.

Activities at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with Kids

The Hakuna Matata Playground, located between Jambo House and savanna viewing areas, gives children a chance to climb and play.

The most exciting activity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids is watching the African savanna wildlife in a large habitat. I found many public viewing areas, some with benches and fire pits. Once the sun goes down, night vision binoculars provide a chance to view animals on the dark landscape.

I found lots of kids activities at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids.
Enjoy table tennis at Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids during your stay. Photo Credit: Jen Koepplinger

Also, my daughters and I met eager African cast members that shared their knowledge and answered questions about their homeland. We found cultural lectures, storytelling and native games available for free, among other things. My daughters chose to decorate cookies and small cakes.

Beyond typical expectations, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge features an exciting dining experience with an animal specialist for as many as 12 guests. Click here for a review of this exclusive experience.

In fact, to enjoy every event at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort with kids, ask for a calendar of resort activities at the front desk of Jambo House and Kidani Village.

Getting to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is located at 2901 Osceola Parkway, Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

About one mile from Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom Lodge is a short drive southwest from the theme park. Disney transportation provides guests with shuttle buses approximately every 30 minutes.

Twenty-four miles from the Orlando International Airport, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a 30 minute drive from the airport. Click here for driving directions.

Disney provides complimentary buses for resort guests to and from the Orlando International Airport via Disney’s Magical Express motor-coach vehicles. Reserve Magical Express transportation when booking online through the Disney website or by calling (407) 939-1936.

If traveling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge from another Disney resort, take Disney buses to the Animal Kingdom theme park and board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

From a Disney theme park, just board the bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge provides valet parking for $20-$25 a night. Complimentary self-park lots provide spaces for Jambo House guests. Kidani Village features a self-parking garage. Presently, vehicle parking is for resort guests and those with dining reservations.

Looking for More Resorts and Information?

The writers at Carful of Kids have stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, see what we have to say about the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

Click here to learn how to plan a Walt Disney World vacation like a pro.

Tips from a Disney Mom:

  • The four main Animal Kingdom Lodge dining options accept some Disney Dining Plans.
  • Advanced dining reservations are best for all table service restaurants.
  • Because this resort is slightly remote, buses are the only forms of transportation to Disney theme parks.  Consequently, consider driving your own vehicle.
  • Check this resort out, even if you don’t plan to book a room.
  • The Disney planning book I use can be purchased here.

 

35 Places for Family Fun in Disney Springs

Visit Disney Springs with kids for shopping, dining and entertainment.
Walk over the bridge near Morimoto Asia to enjoy this view. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Over the last year, Disney Springs blossomed into a family fun destination. Disney Springs is my first stop after landing at the airport since I build in a transportation day in case of airport delays. Disney Springs with kids is the place to build Disney excitement while providing lots of options in dining, entertainment and shopping.

Table Service at Disney Springs

It’s a vacation, so take a break and treat yourself. After several visits to Disney Springs, I’ve sampled several different table service restaurants.

Eat at the Boathouse when visiting Disney Springs with kids.
The Boathouse serves up seafood along with steaks and burgers in a laid-back restaurant. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The BOATHOUSE wowed me with its views of Lake Buena Vista and extensive menu of seafood and steaks. I loved the nautical theme and the service was attentive. Be sure and catch the vintage amphi-cars drive into the water, located close by.

STK specializes in grilled meats, like the filet, along with inventive sides with an upscale environment. The views from the second-story terrace offer sweeping views.

Enjoy STK when you visit Disney Springs with kids.
The Truffle Fries at STK are gush worthy. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I gushed over the parmesan truffle fries so I ate a week’s worth of carbs. The lil’ burgers, featuring wagyu beef, are tender tidbits of burger perfection.

Another favorite, The House of Blue Blues Gospel Brunch, tops my list for comfort food. Served as an extensive buffet, I gorged myself on BBQ and southern favorites before the gospel choir lit up the stage with uplifting spirituals.

Dining at Disney Springs with Kids 

Enjoy pizza at Wolfgang's Express in Disney Springs with kids.
I found a pizza kids will eat that appeals to adults at Wolfgang Puck Express. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my latest visit, my boys, 9 and 12, wanted pizza so we stopped at Wolfgang Puck Express where I walked away with a pepperoni pizza for under $15 for us to share.

If kids want sandwiches, I suggest the Earl of Sandwich for lunch. Another solid option for kids in a quick service format.

Stop by Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs with kids.
Kids love sandwiches? The Earl of Sandwich has them covered. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Rainforest Café offers another option for families with their familiar menu and décor.

Desserts and Coffee in Disney Springs

Did someone say dessert? I found my go-to treat at Sprinkles, for cupcakes. With a wide range of flavors, everyone satisfied their sweet-tooth.

Enjoy cupcakes at Sprinkles in Disney Springs with kids.
Cupcakes your addiction? Then Sprinkles is your destination. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Lucky for me, I found two Starbucks locations in Disney Springs so I refueled.

A new addition is the ultimate ice cream shop topped in chocolate. Stop by Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop for decadent indulges, since it’s a vacation.

I found a patisserie and crepe shop in Disney Springs too.

Adulting Disney Springs Style

As soon as the sun sets, Disney Springs transforms from a family destination to the scene for dinner and cocktails.

Enjoy Disney Springs after dark.
Disney Springs transforms after dark with upscale dining and cocktails. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

If looking for a casual evening, then I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. With my favorite tunes overhead and a pair of bowling shoes on my feet, this is the place to hang out with friends.

And the food, their sushi is tops in Disney Springs. Between games, I grabbed a slice of pizza, like my favorite, BBQ chicken. Don’t forget the sliders or the nachos, both actually helped my game.

Enjoy Splitsville in Disney Springs with kids.
Not just bowling, I enjoyed sushi and pizza along with sliders at Splitsville. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Bowling begs for beer and Splitsville features an extensive selection of beer and wine. If that doesn’t satisfy, I found lots of signature cocktails.

If bowling isn’t your game, then stop by Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar for drinks after dinner. The atmosphere reminds me of an Indian Jones hangout and if the inside tables are full, head outside to watch the lights glitter off Lake Buena Vista.

Entertainment for the Family at Disney Springs

With its own free-standing theater, catch Cirque Du Soleil’s La Nouba. I did and wow this show bypasses the traveling shows in a big way. I found the theater features a more intimate seating arrangement that allows for better views.

Disney Springs also features an AMC theater with 24 theaters so I can’t imagine not finding your favorite movie on the big screen.

Enjoy the House of Blues in Disney Springs with kids.
The House of Blue features a gospel brunch along with a concert venue. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Though I ate at the House of Blues for brunch, it’s also a concert venue booking a variety of acts.

Kids love seeing the giant tethered balloon assent 400 feet into the air next to Lake Buena Vista. For the brave-hearted, seeing all the parks at once might be a bucket list experience.

Top Things to do in Disney Springs with Kids 

Find the splash pad. With a park bench perfect for resting adults, I found the splash pad at the entrance of Disney Springs near the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

If the kids loved the splash pad, then check out spitting Stitch located outside of the World of Disney.

Enjoy the carousel in Disney Springs with kids.
A ride on the hand-painted Venetian carousel is a must for kids. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I can’t pass up the hand-painted Venetian carousel. It’s a work of art and an amazing site at night.

The marketplace train express offers littles another way to ride in Disney style. Even the Disney Springs Water Taxi is fun for families.

Stop by all the kid-oriented outdoor sculptures. With LEGOS topping the list here, don’t miss Mr. Potato Head either.

Shopping at Disney Springs

Do all your shopping at Disney Springs. My kids loved the LEGO Store and this store offers free activities. Even if you have a million pieces at home you have to check out the sculptures in and around the store. Really. The Hulk, a dragon, Buzz Lightyear and the list goes on.

Stop by the LEGO Store in Disney Springs with kids.
LEGO Store, your destination for cool kid art. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Star Wars fans in the house? Then visit the Star Wars Galactic Outpost for gifts for the kids and the first-generation fans too. The make-your-own light saber bar is a must.

The dino-loving kids will find the Dino-Store at the T-REX.

For Moms, I start at the sprawling World of Disney for unique Disney gifts. Another destination for distinct Disney gifts, Disney Days of Christmas features ornaments for your tree. I suggest D-Living too.

Add a day to explore Disney Springs with your kids for your next Walt Disney World trip. With a ginormous selection of dining, shopping and activities open nearly around the clock, it's deserve a day for itself.

If you forgot something at home, fear not. Disney Springs offers all the brands you love. I found Anthropologie, Columbia Sportswear, Free People, Kate Spade, Levis, Lilly Pulitzer and Zara.

Need shoes or luggage? Not a problem. I found those too.

Getting to and around Disney Springs

Disney Springs is located at 1480 Buena Vista Dr. I found lots of free parking and the lots are labeled. Valet parking is available.

I always use the Disney Springs Water Taxi to get around. My kids love it and it saves a few steps. With three stops, one at each end and one in the center, I was never far from a dock.

If you staying in the Buena Vista area, a complimentary bus runs frequently or take the bridge back to the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. For guests of Saratoga Springs Resort, Disney Springs is right across Lake Buena Vista and I found a bridge.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Disclosure:

This site uses affiliate links in which I get a small commission if the book is purchased. Some of the resorts stays were hosted for review purposes.

Get More for Your Money at Mystic Dunes in Orlando

Mystic Dunes for families offers resort activities and lots of space.
With 600 acres and 23 buildings, I found Mystic Dunes for families a top value choice in Orlando. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

With over 600 acres to discover, Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club offers resort-style lodging away from all the noise and activity of Walt Disney World yet just a few short miles to all the theme park adventures. I delighted in the manicured landscaping and resort activities to keep my kids busy while offering me a quiet retreat to indulge in some reading. I suggest Mystic Dunes for families wanting more value yet still close to all the Orlando action.

What I loved at Mystic Dunes Resort

  • The Ambience. It’s away from the hectic noise of Walt Disney World.
  • Four resort-style pools, including the Dunes Lagoon with a slide.
  • The property was well-maintained.

What I wanted at Mystic Dunes Resort

  • More restaurants located nearby.
  • A more walkable resort, I needed a car to get around the property.
Pool hop with the kids a reason I love Mystic Dunes for families.
Enjoy one of four pools at Mystic Dunes Resort, like the garden pool. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Mystic Dunes for Families

I found 23 separate buildings with several floors of accommodations and four different pools. At the welcome center, I found a fitness center, activities center along with a market and the garden pool and tiki bar.

Managed by Diamond Resorts and Hotels, I found the property well-maintained and spacious. During my stay, I reserved a one-bedroom studio ($ to $$) that accommodated four in building 23, steps away from the Dunes Lagoon Pool.

With four pools, I like Mystic Dunes for families.
The terrace pool offers a zero-entry for the littles. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

I stayed at Mystic Dunes Resort in April.

My Studio at Mystic Dunes

During my visit to Walt Disney World, I ventured further away from the resorts and parks. A few short miles away in Celebration, the traffic and noise disappeared.

Located on the third floor, I was surprised how roomy my studio felt with just 650 sq. ft. The bedroom was immediately off the entrance, providing a little privacy.

With lots of space to spread out, I like Mystic Dunes for families.
My studio’s living and dining room at Mystic Dunes Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

A short hall offered a mom luxury, a stackable washer and dryer behind a door with detergent for one load. A nice feature for families staying for several days.

The open kitchenette featured granite countertops with an electric range, a dishwasher, a full-size refrigerator and a microwave. I found all the necessary dishes, cutlery, utensils and cookware for a family of four.

A kitchenette is great for family trips and I love Mystic Dunes for families.
The kitchenette at Mystic Dunes offers everything needed for a quick meal. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The living area was a tad small and featured a queen-sized, pull-out sofa with bedding located in the bedroom closet. My boys, 9 and 12, were able to unfold the bed by themselves and didn’t complain about the mattress.

I found a counter with two barstools and a small round table with two dining chairs. I would have preferred four chairs but I guess the kids could use the barstools for eating.

A kitchenette helps families save money and whey I love Mystic Dunes for families.
A counter with bar stools offers a place for kids to eat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My Bedroom at Mystic Dunes

Though the website’s description called my unit a studio, it featured a separate bedroom with a door that closed and separate closet with a in-room safe, iron and board, and a separate TV.

My bedroom featured one queen-sized bed made with white cotton linens. With celery green walls and beachy-white furnishings, I found the room calming in the middle of a hectic family trip to Walt Disney World.

A separate bedroom in my Mystic Dunes studio.
My studio featured a separate bedroom with a ceiling fan and a TV. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

My bedroom featured a whirlpool tub in the corner that seemed out of place. It needed to be on the other side of the wall since the bathroom is right outside of the bedroom.

My Bathroom at Mystic Dunes

The bathroom features a shower outfitted with a rain shower head and plenty of hot water during my visit. The large vanity housed lots of towels and I even found pool towels in the bedroom’s closet.

The bathroom didn’t offer a standard tub. The vanity only featured one sink.

Dining at Mystic Dunes Resort

For convenience, I ordered a pizza from Maui Pizza Delivery located at the Kenzie’s full-service restaurant at the Clubhouse, on property. It was reasonably priced and I picked it up since I planned to eat at the pool, though delivery is available.

Kenzie’s full-service restaurant and bar features a full menu. Snacks and bar food can be purchased at the tiki bars located at the pools.

Several dining options at Mystic Dunes for families.
The Mystic Dunes Clubhouse features a full-service restaurant, Kenzie’s along with Maui Pizza available for pick-up at the bar. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my stay at Mystic Dunes, I found a sundry store that sold treats and frozen meals. I saw several families using the complimentary grills to cook up dinner and eat al fresco on the picnic tables. A great option for mom who doesn’t want to tidy up a kitchen and let dad man the grill.

For my visit, I brought little bags of cereal to speed up breakfast since getting to the nearby parks was a priority for my kids.

Enjoy a cocktail at a tiki bar in Mystic Dunes Resort.
Order a cocktail or bar snacks at one of two tiki bars in Mystic Dunes Resort. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Activities at The Mystic Dunes

With four pools to choose, my boys, 9 and 12, pool hopped. Finally landing at the resort-style Dunes Lagoon with a two-story water slide. With several private cabanas, the Aloha tiki bar that serves poolside snacks and live entertainment on select nights, this area hops throughout the day.

During my stay, I found a steel drum percussionist to entertain the sunbathers while adding to the tropical vibe of the pool. A small sand area provides a place for littles to play.

A water slide and waterfall at the pool keeps kids busy.
The Mystic Dunes Lagoon with a two-story waterslide tops my kids list. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Though labeled a quiet pool, the Garden Pool, also offers a tiki bar along with shuttle board, water volleyball and ping-pong. Closeby, I found the tennis and basketball courts.

Located next to the welcome center, the activities center is a hub for fun. My boys enjoyed several different games, like Foosball. The activity center also hosts crafts for kids and adults (some free and others low-cost). Guests receive a full schedule of activities and crafts at check-in.

Lots of family fun at Mystic Dunes Resort.
Lots of fun for kids at Mystic Dunes, like a game room, loaner bikes and sports courts. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

The activity center loans out miniature golf equipment course for the 18-hole course across the street. I found loaner bikes in assorted sizes along with tandem options. A great option for teens yearning for more independence in a resort that seemed too large to walk.

Golf is available at the Mystic Dunes Clubhouse and Golf Shop. The resort features an 18-hole par 71 championship golf course.

Less than 10 miles from Magic Kingdom, Mystic Dunes Resort offers lots of value for families and four different pools. My kids loved pool hopping and I loved all the activities for kids and adults, like daily crafts, miniature golf, sports courts and even BBQ grills.

Getting to Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club

Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club is located at 7600 Mystic Dunes Lane in Celebration, Florida. The gated community is 25 miles from Orlando International Airport (MCO) and 8 miles by roads to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

During my stay, I rented a car to get around since it was cheaper than shuttles or taxis. The parking is complimentary and located right outside of the buildings.

Transportation to-and-from the airport is not included. Complimentary transportation to the theme parks is and a schedule is available at check in.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa, and the Coronado Springs Resort. Follow the links for more reviews.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista and the Best Western Lake Buena Vista too.

I always use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Know before you go:

  • A $13.00 resort fee is charged per day, per unit.
  • The management company collects $100.00 fee for damages.
  • It takes 7 to 10 days to be refunded to your card.
  • The management company offers its timeshares to all guests though I didn’t feel any pressure and didn’t attend any presentations.
  • Kids must be 48″ to use the water slide.

Disclosure:

As a result of a partnership with Vacatia.com, I enjoyed a complimentary room. This post includes affiliate links in which I receive a commission if you order a book.

The Ultimate Day of Adulting – Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival

 

Epcot, International Food and Wine Festival,
Need a break? Love food, wine and chocolate? I know I do so I headed over to Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival to sample my way across the World Showcase recently.

The International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World offers a day of sampling culinary treats from around the world while walking from one country to the next in Epcot’s World Showcase. Since the first festival in 1995, each year brings more sampling. Though one question persists, what to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival?

The International Food and Wine Festival features special events like cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings and bottle signings. Along with the culinary world tour, savory and sweet curated samplings are expertly paired with wine and spirits. With smaller portions, I found it easy to sample lots of dishes to find a new favorite and the cocktail prices were reasonable.

What to Eat at the International Food and Wine Festival

I spent a couple of hours riding my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World that reopened this summer, before heading over to the World Showcase. I’m not the most adventurous morning eater, in fact I usually skip breakfast, though the International Food and Wine Festival opens at 9 a.m.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival is your vegan.
I sampled the vegan offerings like the Loaded Greek Nachos at the Greece kiosk.

After a quick stop at Epcot’s Guest Relations Booth for the Times Guide, a Festival passport and a map, I’m ready and hungry. The International Food and Wine Festival passport is your go-to guide for information, like the regional-inspired offerings from each country. The pocket-sized passport includes stickers that let you mark off your culinary adventures.

In addition to the regular countries that reside in Epcot’s World Showcase, the International Food and Wine Festival includes pop-up kiosks with additional countries like Greece and Australia. I found booths dedicated to desserts and champagne along with farm fresh offerings in the Showcase Plaza, the area across the bridge.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival, like a classic cheese plate paired with wine.
The artist’s palette loaded with wine and cheese pairings pleases a crowd at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival with vegans isn’t an issue. I found the Loaded Greek Nachos with meatless sausage and vegan Tzatziki (Greece).

And not so vegan options like Bavarian Bratwurst with a hard roll (Germany) and the Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (Canada), satisfied my meatier appetite.

For my sweet side, the Chocolate Studio offered a red wine chocolate truffle that paired with Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port. The Wine and Dine Studio offered an artist’s palette of wine and cheese, a pairing of La Bonne Vie goat cheese with dried cranberry bread, karst cave-aged cheddar cheese paired with a fig compote and a Statesboro blue cheese served with candied walnuts. The palette included Conundrum White Blend, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Winery Maestro Red Blend.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival, have some port and chocolate.
A glass of port paired with a red wine truffle. You just have to sit down to enjoy this treat. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit, it was hot, like highs over 90F with humidity to match. So I sampled bubbles, like the St-Germain Sparkling Kir in France. The Mimosa Royale with sparkling wine, orange juice and orange liqueur offered a refreshing afternoon break in Morocco. The Wyder’s Dry Pear Hard Cider located near the entrance of the World Showcase was light on the palette too.

Events at the International Food and Wine Festival

All items can be purchased separately at the kiosks but if you want to order, eat and repeat then purchase an International Food and Wine Festival Tasting Sampler. For eight food and beverage entitlements across the World Showcase, it’s $59 plus tax. For 16 food and beverage entitlements, it’s $109 plus tax. The card comes on a bracelet for easy swipe-and-go; no fiddling with a wallet.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival. I love a champagne cocktail.
On a hot day I find a champagne cocktail refreshing like the Mimosa I got in Morocco. Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

Want to celebrate in high style at Epcot? The Ultimate Day at the International Food and Wine Festival helps you accomplish your mission. And it offers everything imaginable so you don’t have to answer the question, what to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival.

The 7-hour day begins with brunch at the Wonders Retreat then head to the VIP lounge for beverage demonstrations. A guided craft beer sampling comes after a ride on Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World. Finish the day up with champagne and reserved seats at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. The day costs $399 a person and doesn’t include admission to the park.

 

Looking to get away this fall, Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival offers sips and nibbles from across the world.

Don’t forget the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the American Gardens Theatre with a different band every few days hitting the stage at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Hour-long cooking classes teach budding gourmands the insider tricks, daily at 4:00 p.m. for $49 per person.

As always, the day caps off with fireworks with the Illuminations Reflections of Earth. A spectacular show that’s packed with power and fire.

Kids at the International Food and Wine Festival 

I want to leisurely walk around and sample the culinary offerings while enjoying all the details of each country in Epcot. That’s why I didn’t take my kids, 8, 12 and 13, to this year’s International Food and Wine Festival.

The World Showcase in Epcot has activities for kids but my kids don’t like them. Sorry, it’s the truth. They want to head to the rides and stay there for the whole day. And kids get whiney if they don’t get their way. So Mom left them at home for this quick trip.

What to eat at the International Food and Wine Festival,
What to do at Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival with your kids? Photo Credit: Catherine Parker

During my visit, I rode a few of my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. Then I headed to the World Showcase for the rest of the day to eat, drink and enjoy being an adult. As a Mom, I don’t get to do this often and we all know a kid can kill a wine buzz.

If you bring your kids, the Kidcot Fun Stops offer kids the opportunity to create arts and crafts at 11 different World Showcase stops. Just for the International Food and Wine Festival, kids can play hike-and-squeak with Remy from Ratatouille. After purchasing a map with stickers from the official festival merchandise location, kids search for Remy hidden across the World Showcase and turn in the booklet for a special treat when they’re done.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa. One of my friends recently stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort too.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

 

Need more hints? I wrote a newbie guide to planning a last minute Walt Disney World trip.

Disclosure:

Consideration for brands mentioned. This post uses affiliate links in which I get a commission if you purchase a book.

Know before you go:

  • The International Food and Wine Festival is free with a one-day park admission ($) though that doesn’t include any food or wine. This festival doesn’t offer free samples.
  • While the rest of the country is cooling off, September is hot and humid in Central Florida. I suggest visiting Walt Disney World in October unless you are used to heat and humidity.
  • Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is popular, expect large crowds over the weekends.
  • Remember the water bottle to stay hydrated, sunscreen, a hat, comfy shoes, a mister and face wipes all packed in your backpack.

Choosing the Right Disney Springs Resort for Your Family

 

Best Western Lake Buena Vista, Disney Springs hotels, Walt Disney World hotels for families,
The hotel pool seems to entice all the kids while on vacation.

Over the last year, I’ve stayed at numerous Walt Disney World properties and they’re not all the same. From the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the flagship property at Walt Disney World, to the Pop Century Resort, a value option, I found the Walt Disney World properties came at a premium. Though the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando airport transfer, and the option of reserving Fast Passes 60 days before your trip are nice perks.

This trip I wanted to explore the Disney Springs area since it offers numerous dining and shopping options that don’t exist when staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. I spent one night at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, steps away from Disney Springs. I am a member of the Best Western loyalty program that rewards its members with free rooms and I redeemed some points for a room for my last Walt Disney World trip.

What I Loved at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

  • The location is convenient. You can walk or take the complimentary bus to Disney Springs.
  • Getting to the Walt Disney World parks couldn’t be easier either, the complimentary bus dropped me off at the Transportation and Ticketing Center.
  • The trip back to the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort from Magic Kingdom took about an hour after the Magic Kingdom Electrical Parade–gate to my door.

What I wanted at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

  • It might be an official Walt Disney World Resort with easy access to the Walt Disney World parks but you can’t take the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando airport shuttle.
  • I would like to see the airport transportation an easier process, made at the time of the hotel reservation.
  • I would like to see the $14 per night resort fee rolled into the nightly room rate.
  • The amenities and facilities are not as nice as some of the other hotel properties on the same street.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort:

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort ($-$$) offers 325 rooms, steps away from Disney Springs. Located at 2000 Hotel Plaza Boulevard along with seven other hotel properties, like the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, the best resort in Disney Springs for kids, Walt Disney Hotels for kids,
The view from my balcony can’t be beat, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is the only hotel property that has balconies in Disney Springs.

Though the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is consistent with other Best Western’s across the country. I felt it lacked the amenities and services that other hotel properties offer in the Disney Springs area, like a true resort pool, character breakfasts and kids activities. Guests have come to expect these in a hotel that caters to Walt Disney World vacationers.

The lobby was small though I found the staff helpful. I found a concierge desk where guests could buy last minute tickets. An official Disney souvenir shop along with a sundry shop are located in the lobby area.

Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World? Disney Springs offers lots of shopping and dining after a day in the parks. Is the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort right for your family?
The Best Western Lake Buena Vista is steps away for all the shopping and dining in Disney Springs.

The common area featured Marketplace, a grab-and-go section to pick up some snacks or drinks for your room. The restaurant, Trader’s Island Grill, featured a full breakfast with Mickey Waffles along with dinner in the evening.

The pool area was nice but lacked the resort pool experience that family vacationers have come to expect in Orlando. Kids will like the game room with a selection of arcade games.

For Moms, guest laundry is available if you need it. To self-park, it’s $8 a day and for valet it’s $12 a day.

My Room at Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

During my visit, I stayed in a double queen room on the eleventh floor. I entered my room from an interior corridor, a nice feature than my room at the Caribbean Beach Resort ($$) lacked.

Hotels for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort,
My room at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort offered standard hotel room amenities with a tad more space than I used get from a Walt Disney World hotel.

Inside my room, I found it compared to other Walt Disney World hotel properties and it featured a private balcony. The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort is the only Disney Springs property to offer balconies with chairs.

Best hotels for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Hotels near Walt Disney World,
My room featured a small table for games or late-night snacks and I found a mini-refrigerator in the credenza along with a balcony.

The beds featured updated white linens with pumpkin coverlets that matched the furnishings in the room. My room didn’t have a work station though had a small table with two chairs for games or late night snacks.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, best resort for families in Disney Springs,
The bathroom featured granite countertops and a shower and tub combination.

The credenza holds the flat-screen TV and the mini-refrigerator that’s a must-have for traveling families. I found a charging station on the credenza, my favorite feature in hotel rooms since my family charges a device or two per person.

Best resort for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort,
Outside of the bathroom, I found a vanity with a hairdryer and the in-room coffee–perfect for families.

Outside of the standard hotel bathroom, I found a vanity area outfitted with a hair dryer, mirror and in-room coffee. A nice feature when traveling with kids since I know this Mom never has time to put on make-up before one of my kids needs to use the bathroom.

Dining at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort offers several dining options to fit a family’s needs, like the Trader’s Island Grill, Pizza Hut Express and Marketplace for grab-and-go snacks and drinks.

Best Western Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World,
Need your Mickey Waffle fix? The breakfast buffet has them along with lots of fruit and an omelette station.

Trader’s Island Grill offers a hot breakfast including the must-have Disney breakfast item, Mickey Waffles. Though most Best Western’s include a complimentary breakfast, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista features an expanded breakfast buffet. For adults, it’s $15.99 and for kids 10 and under it’s $8.99. Kids can even make omelets as a junior omelet chef.

best resorts for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Walt Disney World Resort,
Disney Springs offers lots of dining options, like House of Blues that hosts a Gospel Brunch on the weekend.

During my stay, I opted to get to Magic Kingdom as early as possible and skipped a hot breakfast and bought some yogurt at the Marketplace to eat while I waited for the bus.

Activities at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista:

The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort has an arcade for the kids. The pool is nice and features a kid pool for the littlest guests. I found a gazebo in the pool area as well.

best resorts for families in Disney Springs, Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort, Walt Disney World hotels,
The complimentary bus transportation to Disney Springs as well as the Walt Disney World parks is a nice perk at the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort.

Walt Disney World tickets can be purchased in the lobby and complimentary transportation is right outside the lobby. The bus picks up every 30 minutes.

Disney Springs:

I visited Disney Springs last April. While it was promising, I still saw a lot of construction. I was floored by the transformation over the summer.

Sprinkles, Disney Springs, What to do in Disney Springs,
Looking for desert, I suggest Sprinkles, especially for the kids.

The kids loved the integrated splash pads, carousel and mini train. Even the boat transportation across the Lake Buena Vista gets the kids excited.

I found dining options galore, like Earl of Sandwich, Sprinkles for cupcakes, STK Steakhouse or The Boathouse. I tried all and all exceeded my expectations though be prepared for lines during their peak periods.

What to do in Disney Springs, Splitsville,
Want to bowl during your vacation to Walt Disney World? Splitsville is the place for you with sliders, pizza and sushi along with a full bar.

Looking for a place to hang out with friends, I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. The sushi is tops along with the several different sliders. I found signature cocktails, wine and brews on the menu.

Looking for resorts and more information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Grand Floridan Resort and Spa.

If looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.

Know before you go:

  • The Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort has a $13.99 per night resort fee.
  • Parking is $8 a day for self-park and $12 a day for valet.
  • The complimentary bus is shared with several hotel properties and take a picture of the stop when you get to the park, just in case.
  • There’s a separate bus for Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Ask the bus driver for additional park stops.
  • Research airport shuttles before getting to Orlando. Cabs and Uber can cost $60 to $70.

 

Getting More for Less in Disney Springs at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista

Consideration for brands mentioned.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Resorts near Disney Springs, Walt Disney World Official Hotels for families,
Like most kids, the Carful of Kids love a resort-style pool that I found at Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the closest resort to Disney Springs, in Florida.

A trip to Disney is a splurge for most families. I know I have to squeeze every bit of value from my vacation dollars by researching and weighing all my options.

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I stayed at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort. It’s the closest resort to Disney Springs and an official Walt Disney World Resort. Offering amenities that families desire, like a resort pool, free bus transportation to the Disney parks, character breakfasts and a Fun Director for the kids.

I found a lot to love about this property, especially the recently renovated interiors that appeal to adults. That means no silly Disney-theming. Instead I found a beachy, contemporarily-styled property that I could relax and enjoy my stay without rolling my eyes.

What I loved about Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

  • The newly renovated property is bright and I love the Florida Getaway feel after the $10 million renovation completed in 2015.
  • Character breakfasts are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays that offer more individual time with the characters.
  • The Oasis pool playground with a zero entry grabs all the kids and the Oasis Poolside Bar and Grill is open for lunch, dinner and poolside drinks. This is the place to spend your afternoon.
  • Two budget options, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort Tower and the Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista. Very similar in interior styling, except the Garden has an exterior corridor and Tower has an interior hallway to access your room. Both share the same lobby and facilities.

What I wanted at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

  • Wyndham Lake Buena Vista might be an official Walt Disney World Resort with easy access to the Walt Disney World parks but you can’t take the Magical Express, the complimentary Orlando Airport Shuttle.
  • I would like to see the airport transportation an easier process, made at the time of the hotel reservation.
  • I would like to see the $20 per night resort fee rolled into the nightly room rate.

The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Property:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista ($-$$$) offers 626 rooms, steps away from Disney Springs. Located at 1850 Hotel Plaza Boulevard along with seven other hotel properties, like the Best Western Lake Buena Vista Resort Hotel.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families in Walt Disney World,
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista opened in 1972 as the Americana Dutch Inn, the third property on the Walt Disney World property. Courtesy Photo

The property originally opened in 1972 as the Americana Dutch Inn and the third hotel to open on the Walt Disney World property. Over the years, the property has been managed by different brands and undergone several renovations.

My Room at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

During my visit, I stayed in a double queen room in the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Tower, a 19-story tower with 232 rooms with elevators right off the registration desk. My room had updated white bedding and contemporary white furnishings.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, Closest Resort to Disney Springs, Hotels for families in Disney,
I love the casual, yet contemporary interior of my room. It’s also a Mickey-free environment which I appreciate and my kids didn’t miss.

The work station offered a charging station and task light. Great for those trying to stay up-to-date with the work email. The credenza housed the mini-refrigerator for the kids drinks or left-over desert. When I entered my room the hutch with the cubbies and hooks caught my eye. A super-cute feature and I loved the use of bead board that gave my room a beachy feel.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, resorts for families at Walt Disney World,
In the credenza, I found a mini-refrigerator and a pair of pull out stools just the right-size for kids to watch TV. As a working Mom, I appreciated the work desk with a task light and a built-in charging station.

The bathroom featured a tub and shower combination that was a bit small for families. The granite countertops and lighted vanity mirror added to the luxury feel. I would have liked an additional vanity, though in a pinch, I found a mirror above the work desk.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families near Disney Springs,
My bathroom at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista featured granite countertops and vanity lighting along with a full line of toiletries.

The Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista, a value option, is located in the same area and has access to all the same amenities and using the same registration desk. The five-story building has two wings and 394 rooms with exterior entrances.

Family Fun at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista offers lots kids activities starting with the pool, an oasis with two pools and a hot tub. The Poolside Bar and Grill serves snacks and drinks for the whole family.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resorts for families near Walt Disney World,
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista has a Fun Director for the kids that organizes crafts and games for a small additional charge.

The game room is a hit with the older kids. And the on-site Fun Director can organize fun crafts just right for the younger kids at an additional cost.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort of families near Walt Disney World,
The grounds at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Resort offer lots of outdoor activities like tennis, basketball, swimming or just running around in the grass like kids.

I found a pair of lighted tennis courts along with a half-sized basketball court. If working out is part of your routine, the fitness center is open 24-hours a day.

All the Walt Disney World Parks are a quick bus ride away with complimentary transportation in front of the hotel. At the end of the night after the fireworks and the Magic Kingdom Electrical Parade, I was in my room in an hour—from park gate to my door.

Dining at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista:

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista offers several dining options to fit a family’s needs. The Sundial Café, open 24-hours a day, offers drinks, snacks and small meals ready to take back to your room or eat at the adjacent tables.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World
I love the convenience of Sundial, the 24-hour grab-and-go cafe with drinks and snacks.

The Eclipse Lounge offers a bar and snacks in the evening before heading out. The Poolside Bar and Grill is available by the pool.

Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, closest resort to Disney Springs, best resort for families at Walt Disney World,
Need your Mickey Waffle fix? The breakfast buffet has them along with lots of fruit, quiche, an omelette station and all the traditional breakfast favorites.

The signature dining event at Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the character breakfast from 7:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. At a lower price point than the other Disney Resorts and more time with the characters, I liked this feature the most and it’s open to guests from other properties.

Disney Springs:

When I visited Disney Springs last April, I saw a lot of construction. The transformation over the summer amazed me.

Looking for family fun away from the Walt Disney World? Disney Springs offers dining, shopping and kids activities day and night. Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the closest resort to all that Disney Springs has to offer.
Disney Springs offers lots of family-friendly options close to Walt Disney World. The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista is the closest resort, just right over the pedestrian bridge.

I found dining options galore, like Earl of Sandwich, Sprinkles for cupcakes, STK Steakhouse or The Boathouse. I tried all and all exceeded my expectations, though be prepared for lines during peak periods.

Need some shopping therapy? Disney Springs offers Mom her shopping while Dad hangs at the pool with the kids. All your mall favorites plus specialized Disney-themed stores are open late for convenient end-of-day shopping. I picked up souvenirs for the family instead at the parks.

Disney Springs for food, places to eat near Walt Disney World,
Lots of dining options at Disney Springs, like Sprinkles Cupcakes, STK Steakhouse and Splitsville.

Looking for entertainment? I enjoyed the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues on Sunday morning. A brunch buffet with southern favorites and live gospel music that lifted my spirits for hours.

Fans will enjoy Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba with aerobatic feats that define gravity. The dedicated venue showcases the performance better than the traveling shows.

Looking for a place to hang out with friends, I suggest Splitsville for bowling and dinner. The sushi is tops along with the several different sliders. I found signature cocktails, wine and brews on the menu. Another choice for adults, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.

The kids loved the integrated splash pads, carousel and mini train. Even the complimentary boat transportation across the Lake Buena Vista is fun for kids.

Know before you go:

  • If you arrive before your room is ready, leave your luggage with the Bell Services and head to the park or Disney Springs.
  • Weight all your transportation options getting to-and-from the airport. It’s expensive.
  • Your souvenirs from the Walt Disney World Parks can be delivered to the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista.

Resort Review: The Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida

 

The Courtyard Pool at the Disney World's Grand Floridan.
The Courtyard Pool is the place to rejuvenate the kids after a day in the parks.

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa was the last property on my three-resort tour of Walt Disney World. The flagship resort of Walt Disney World has a refined elegance of a bygone era with its Victorian architecture, afternoon tea service and grand lobby overflowing with music and flowers. The Grand Floridian Resort offers its guests a soft spot to sip some champagne and refresh after a full day in the parks.

What I loved about The Grand Floridan Resort

The Grand Floridian offers a grand experience for families who yearn for the convenience of a Walt Disney World Resort and want a refined environment. Walking into the Grand Floridian lobby is sensory experience, the architecture is as impressive as the 3-foot tall flower arrangements. The service is refined yet welcoming to all–from Grandmas to toddlers.

Interior of the Grand Floridan Resort in Disney World
The sounds of musicians and the perfume of flowers transport you to a bygone era in the lobby of the Grand Floridian.

Getting to the parks is easy from the Grand Floridian, I found the Magic Kingdom Ferry, the Magic Kingdom monorail and bus service to the other parks. The transportation from the Grand Floridian Resort within Walt Disney World was the best of any of the resorts I visited.

The Grand Floridian offers a wide variety of activities for kids and adults alike. For the kids, kids’ cruises and character meals top the list. For Mom, the Grand Floridian has one of the best spas in Orlando and an elegant afternoon tea service. Boat rentals, jogging trails are available on-site and golf is located nearby.

What I wanted at The Grand Floridan Resort

The big draw for my kids is the parks themselves and my boys, 8 and 11, are immune to luxurious surroundings of the Grand Floridian. The pool wasn’t as exciting to them as the Spanish-fort themed pool at the Caribbean Beach Resort.

For the Grand Floridian’s price point, I expected more luxury, especially in the toiletries and amenities. While I didn’t find a glaring faux pas, other luxury brands offer more for less.

The Resort:

The Grand Floridian Resort ($$$$$+) is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort located on 40-acres next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. Built to resemble a grand Victorian seaside resort of the late 19th Century, it features 867 guest rooms across the main building and five additional buildings. Next to the lagoon is a pool, a white sand beach, a marina and a view of Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom.

The Grand Floridan Resort at Disney World offers sophisticated service.
The Grand Floridian offers the highest level of service available at any of the Walt Disney World Resorts.

The self-parking is complimentary though not as convenient as the Caribbean Beach Resort. To get to the Grand Floridian Resort, I used the Magic Kingdom monorail and the ferry. Both are fun and try both for a different experience. I used the Walt Disney World bus transportation to get to other resorts and the complimentary Magical Express to get to the Orlando airport.

I had to check-in with the front desk since my room was part of a conference and I couldn’t check-in prior to my arrival. The front desk staff was courteous and I didn’t have to wait. Though the staff didn’t know where my welcome reception was located when I asked for the location by name. I had to walk around the property for 10 minutes and asked several different employees.

The Grand Floridian has several room configurations and one and two-room suites are available. Complimentary Wi-Fi is included.

I visited the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in April.

The Room:

I had a reservation for a standard room on the first floor of the Sago Cay building. Since I transferred from the Pop Century Resort, my luggage was not in my room when I checked-in at 3 p.m. It arrived later in the afternoon and was in my room when I arrived at the end of my day.

The interior of The Grand Floridan Resort room at Disney World.
The beds in our room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa make for a great night’s sleep.

The rooms at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa provide 440-square feet with a large vanity area and separate tub and toilet area in the bathroom. Our room featured two queen beds, a pull-out sofa, a desk with a chair. The room sleeps five people and I found plenty of room for a pack-n-play.

Our room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa exuded luxury with deluxe bed linens and lots of towels. I found throw pillows on the chenille sofa. Our room had a private patio with a pair of chairs and a table perfect for early morning coffee.

The Grand Floridian Resort room at Disney World offers a pull out sofa.
The sofa in our room at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa pulls out for another kid’s bed.

With a large closet with sliding doors, I found plenty of room to stash our luggage on the luggage rack provided. In the closet I found a pair of plush robes, an in-room safe, deluxe wooden hangers and a padded lingerie hanger along with extra bedding.

On the marble-top console, I found a coffee maker with coffee though I expected to find creamers at this level of property not the standard issue condiment packets with powdered creamer. The deluxe ice bucket and real glassware were located above the mini refrigerator. At this price point, I want wine glasses and a wine opener.  I didn’t find a mini-bar or complimentary water bottles either.

The bathroom vanity in The Grand Floridan Resort at Disney World
The marble counter and a pair of sinks is nice. But I wanted a separate shower and a soaking tub for the room rate of the Grand Floridian.

The bathroom of our Grand Floridian Resort room was luxuriously appointed though it was missing some of the extras. I expected an enclosed glass shower with a separate soaking tub. I found a standard tub and toilet in the same room, slightly bigger than what I found at the Caribbean Beach Resort.

The vanity area featured marble countertops with a double sink and decorative mirror with accent lighting. I found a lighted make-up mirror, a decorative tissue holder, a hair dryer along with a hamper for dirty clothes. A great place to put my dirty clothes bag that I pack for trips.

The toiletries were nicer than other Walt Disney Resorts but I wanted more. I found a facial bar, a bath bar, bath gel, shower cap, shampoo and conditioner. I wanted mouthwash, cotton balls, Q-tips, a sewing kit, a shoe polish wipe and a make-up towelette.

Family Fun at The Grand Floridan

The Grand Floridian features many activities including a jogging trail, an arcade, a pirate adventure for kids, fishing excursions, fireworks cruises and watercraft for rent. The spa, Senses, is one of the best in the area. The Grand Floridian has a fitness center and a full-service salon. The Grand Floridian Resort features two pools, one so large ducks think it’s another lake.

The Beach Pool overlooks the Seven Seas Lagoon and the swimming white-sand beach. It includes a 180-foot water slide, waterfalls and lots of lounge chairs. Need a little space poolside, I foundcabanas for rent with flat-screen TVs and a mini refrigerator with complimentary water and soda.

For the smaller kids, I found a water play area for kids under 48-inches located next to the Beach Pool. Stop by the Beaches Pool Bar and Grill for snacks and drinks or visit the campfire area on the swimming beach.

The Alice-in-Wonderland splash pad at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World.
The Alice-in-Wonderland themed water play area for the littlest guests is a must-do.

The Courtyard Pool is located behind the main Grand Floridian building. It’s a quieter choice for guests to enjoy a swim. It includes a hot tub and the Courtyard Pool Bar is close.

New Balance has a one-mile running trail at the Grand Floridian Resort and I found Arcadia Games inside of the main building. Like the Caribbean Beach Resort, kids can take a pirate adventure without the parents. There’s also watercraft rentals at The Captain’s Shipyard.

The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is an elegant choice for families wanting a little added luxury to their Walt Disney World vacation.
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers an elegant choice for families wanting a little added luxury to their Walt Disney World vacation.

Since the Grand Floridian is right across the Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom, fireworks cruises as well as guided fishing excursions offer popular experiences. The Electrical Water Pageant floats by the Grand Floridian too.

Where to eat at the Grand Floridan Resort

The Grand Floridian offers the most dining options of any of the Walt Disney World resorts. With in-room dining, quick-service, casual dining, character dining and fine dining, families have plenty of options.

The character meals at the 1900 Park Fare are a popular event, reservations available 180-days in advance. The Garden View Tea Room offers a morning tea and an afternoon tea for families wanting a special, dressy experience.

Note about transferring resorts during your stay:

I changed resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World will transfer your bags free of cost. I packed up our bags and rolled them down to luggage services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient and brought them to luggage services myself, located next to the main entrance.

Looking for more reviews and information?

I’ve stayed at the Pop Century Resort, the Art of Animation Resort, the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Coronado Springs Resort.

Looking for off-property resorts, I’ve stayed at the Wyndham’s Lake Buena Vista, the Best Western Lake Buena Vista and the Mystic Dunes Resort and Golf Club.

I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information.

Disclosure: 

This room was provided for review purposes, the opinion is my own. This post includes affiliate links in which I get a commission if you purchase a book.

Know Before You Go:

  • Make reservations for popular dining spots as soon as possible, preferably when released.
  • For Victoria and Albert’s, kids must be 10-years-old. No casual wear.
  • The Garden View Tea Room offers a morning tea service for younger children and traditional afternoon tea.
  • The Magical Express picks up across the Monorail station.
  • The Grand Floridian offers airport check-in.