Guide to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
While all of the participating locations in the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) are magnificent, one resort claims a certain cachet that elevates it. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is the most luxurious official Disney property at Walt Disney World, and it’s held that position for more than 30 years. Here’s a guide to The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
A Brief History of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it became the first Disney theme park to launch with a pair of resorts opening simultaneously. Those properties, Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, became staples of the Walt Disney World experience. They reflected the ultimate vacation package, one where guests could stay at an elite resort at night while visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth during the day. Only a monorail ride separated the properties from the theme park.
By the mid-1980s, 15 years had passed since those resorts had opened. They were no longer perceived as the only luxury resorts in Orlando, Florida. The town had evolved to the point where competition was everywhere. Disney needed to re-establish dominance. After weighing several options, they chose a Victorian style meshed with the beachy atmosphere of Florida. It’s a turn-of-the-century Palm beach design. It quickly became the premier location for high society when they took their kids to Walt Disney World.
Should you want to read a full history on the development of the Grand Floridian, there’s an excellent two-part article at Huffington Post. Here’s part one, and here’s part two.
The Style of the Grand Floridian
Technically, the theme of the resort is Victorian-era design. Realistically, it’s luxury in every sense of the word. Disney wanted to build a hotel where they could cater to the elite. Even Princess Diana took her sons to Walt Disney World at one point, and this is where they stayed. With such regal customers, Disney ensured that every element of the hotel is elegant bordering on decadent.
Imagineers and architects modeled the Grand Floridian after many historical resorts known for their patrician look and homey vibe. When you enter the lobby here, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time to an era when a beachfront resort embodied the height of vacation luxury for the elite. Thanks to the live music playing, the lobby somehow feels equal parts like a jazz club and the check-in for a five-star hotel.
The vibe at the hotel was initially intended as a way to make guests appreciate the balmy weather in Florida. The name of the hotel isn’t an accident in this regard. Summery pastels and vibrant, bright colors are on display everywhere. The Victorian style of the architecture somehow enhances the feeling that you’re in Florida but somehow a better version of Florida than the real thing. It’s another masterpiece of Imagineering immersion straight down to the tantalizing hotel scent that is piped throughout the Grand Floridian. I love it so much that I buy candles that mimic the resort’s smell.
The DVC Aspects
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are aptly named due to their design. Disney built an entirely new structure on the Grand Floridian campus. Its sole purpose is to cater to DVC clientele. With so much space available, the new villas are relatively large in size.
A basic studio is 374-square feet. It includes a queen bed, a pullout queen bed, and a pull-down kid’s bed. All rooms come with Standard or Lake Views, the latter of which are more expensive in terms of points. Even the studios seem luxurious and worthy of the Grand Floridian name. You’ll find high-end countertops and tiles, a mirror television in the bathroom, and a walk-in shower among the many upgrades that come standard in these villas.
Given the illustrious nature of the Grand Floridian, it claims the heftiest points chart of any Walt Disney World property. Yes, it even surpasses the other two participating monorail resorts. A standard room costs 17 points for a weeknight during Adventure or Choice season and increases in cost from there, maxing out at 36 points for Friday/Saturday during Premier season. The same room is 20-37 points for Lake View. The cheapest week for a studio is 125 points while the most expensive one is 271 points, albeit with a Lake View.
Suites are extremely popular at the Grand Floridian for obvious reasons. They’re also quite spacious. A one-bedroom is 844-square feet. It comes with a king bed, a queen sleeper sofa, and the kid’s bunk bed pulldown. Note that the studio and the one-bedroom sleep the same number of guests, five. The suite is roughly double the points cost of a studio. This is the case for all seasons, days of the week, and room views.
The two-bedroom suites come in two forms, Dedicated and Lock-off. The latter is a combination of a one-bedroom suite and a studio meshed together to sleep 10. Dedicated two-bedrooms have a king bed, two queen beds, a queen sleeper sofa, and the pulldown kid’s bed. Both versions of the two-bedroom suite sleep 10 and have 1,232 square feet of space, making them ideal for large families.
The most exquisite of all Grand Floridian villas is the three-bedroom Grand Villa, whose name isn’t an exaggeration. This suite sleeps 12 and has 2,800 square feet of space. Should you want to impress loved ones with a dream vacation, this is the place. Of course, it will cost you. The cheapest cost for a night here is 112 points. A week runs between 824 and 1,419 points, putting it on a par with the bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
In addition to the significant points cost, the Grand Floridian does have space limitations. It’s the smallest DVC resort, with only 147 rooms available as the upper limit. For this reason, it sells out most of the time, often before the opening of the seven-month window. It’s definitely a resort where you should own points if you want to stay here regularly.
The most obvious amenity of the resort is that it’s on the monorail. You’re only one stop away from the Magic Kingdom, the most popular theme park on the planet. Similarly, you can exit at the Transportation and Ticket Center to board the direct monorail to Epcot. Plush, you can hop on the monorail to eat at Disney’s Contemporary Resort or Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. You have easy, convenient access to everything on the monorail, the ideal Walt Disney World location.
The pools at the Grand Floridian are somewhat novel. They’re not designed for children. Since this hotel is upscale, Disney catered it to an entirely different demographic, save for one section.
The Courtyard Pool is the most famous waterfront area. It’s an idyllic setting, especially at night. The lighting stands in stark contrast to the darkness of the resort, creating a moonlit glow that’s hypnotic. It’s a massive space complete with hot tub and pool bar. There’s also a Beach Pool that’s precisely what it sounds like, and it too has a bar with some unexpectedly excellent food.
Disney introduced an Alice in Wonderland-themed playground area for kids at the east side of the property. A Mad Tea Party Hat is the iconic part of it. Thanks to some clever Imagineering, a spout pours water into a gigantic hat. Once it fills with enough liquid, it starts to tip. Eventually, it dumps over, spilling water all over the giddy children stationed beneath it.
The restaurants at the Grand Floridian are the high-bar at official Disney resorts. The Grand Floridian Café delivers the best bang for the buck as a quality Table Service restaurant that tends to get overlooked due to the competition at the resort. 1900 Park Fare resides in the same section of the hotel, just off the lobby. It has a pair of character meals, one at breakfast and another at dinner. Both are wonderful and worthy of a visit.
The hotel features a pair of Signature Dining experiences, too. These places require twice as many Disney Dining Plan entitlements, although it’s up for conjecture how many guests here employ the dining plan. Citricos is a wine lover’s paradise and features Mediterranean cuisine that will blow your mind.
Narcoossee’s is situated by the water and celebrates this fact with a seafood slant. In addition to excellent food, it also provides a view of the Happily Ever After fireworks. Both restaurants are only open for dinner, though.
The pride of the Grand Floridian is its most exclusive restaurant. Victoria & Albert’s isn’t just the highest quality dining experience at Walt Disney World. It’s one of the top two fine dining restaurants in America according to TripAdvisor. When you eat here, you’re mixing a Disney vacation with a foodie’s dream dining experience.
The final noteworthy amenity is the hotel lobby. When you take the monorail to the Grand Floridian, you’ll inevitably wind up here, as the station boards on the second floor. Take a moment to appreciate the majesty of this place. The color scheme and design embrace and elevate the Grand Floridian’s theme. The hotel frequently has a live band playing jazz or classical music, giving you a good reason to hang out for a while and relish in the serenity. It’s one of the most relaxing spots at Walt Disney World.
Resort Pros and Cons
The pros at the Grand Floridian vastly outweigh the cons. The lobby alone justifies a visit even when you’re not staying here. Its premiere position on the resort monorail system guarantees that you’re never more than a few minutes away from the Magic Kingdom, the Transportation and Ticket Center, and the other two monorail resorts.
The food options at the Grand Floridian are quite possibly the best at any Disney resort in the world. While counter service fans won’t find it ideal, many guests staying at the Grand Floridian want to enjoy a lovely meal away from the park. The ones who feel this way will never have to leave their hotel to eat like royalty. Also, some of the other restaurant guests may very well be royalty.
The only con regarding the hotel is the atmosphere. Some guests may feel uncomfortable at such a luxurious resort. The clientele here is decidedly upscale for a Disney theme park, which creates a mismatch of folks like me in a t-shirt and polo shirts alongside people who have never bought any clothing off the rack in their lives. Perhaps that’s my insecurities talking, but I’ve noticed similar comments from other DVC members over the years. Either way, if that’s the worst quibble about the Grand Floridian, it’s effectively clear of negatives.