The Grand Floridian – A Historical Spotlight!

Back in 2011, some keen eyes on a few Disney fan sites discovered that Disney had filed permits for an expansion of their Grand Floridian resort! We all know Disney is fairly ‘hush-hush’ about their current DVC plans because it becomes competition at the existing resorts that are currently for sale. However, after 20 years of DVC, people have caught on to Disney’s tactics and they knew it would be a DVC expansion. I actually want to take it back before these permits were filed and not limit the story to just the DVC portion. Unlike Bay Lake Tower, the Grand Floridian DVC building is officially an extension of that resort and we need to know the history of the resort itself!

It’s the late 1960’s and the Magic Kingdom is just getting under way. The Disney company had more land than they could even use at the time and knew they needed some places for people to stay on property. Even today, staying ‘off property’ can be a challenge, but back then the surrounding land was just swamps. So, Disney decided to build five resorts around their man-made Seven Seas Lagoon in order to house their guests. The resorts were Disney’s Contemporary, The Polynesian Resort (both are still around obviously) and the other 3 were The Persian Resort, The Venetian Resort and The Asian Resort. Our focus today is on the Asian Resort because it would later become Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort…..shocker I know.

Artist Rendering of the proposed Venetian Resort at Walt Disney World

We all know Disney is notorious for throwing out random additions to the parks and then not even starting them: The Broadway style theater in Magic Kingdom,  a Bobsled ride in Epcot, the addition of Dragons in Animal Kingdom and the list goes on and on. This was NOT the case with The Asian Resort. The Asian Resort was so real that a street was named ‘Asian Way,’ Disney cleared the land for it, planned a monorail station and even advertised it! This was supposed to actually happen. The Asian Resort was to feature 500-600 rooms and was going to be themed around Thailand. It was going to feature a huge 160 foot tower with high ceilings and A-frame architecture. There was supposed to be opulent furnishings, dining, statues and everything else that would make this resort an authentic Thai experience. 

The actual rooms were supposed to have a majority facing ether the lagoon or the central courtyard area and they even made plans for a convention center that would be partly underground, much like the Magic Kingdom’s land structure. This resort was also chosen for this location so the the backdrop would be beyond Adventureland, so you could still see the theme extending beyond the park. Sadly, it just wasn’t meant to be. The resort was cancelled in 1972 because of the national energy crisis and oil shortages. Americans weren’t traveling as much and Disney decided it didn’t need as many resorts to house their guests and the project was shelved. 

For almost 20 years, the land sat, unused, but still primed and ready for something. The economy had rebounded and Disney needed more resorts again. Disney looked into a few ideas and settled on The Mediterranean Resort and The Grand Floridian as new additions. Several Disney Imagineers traveled the country and borrowed ideas from other resorts in exterior and interior theming. Resorts like the Del Coronado in San Diego, Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire, and the Grand Hotel in Michigan…..none of which are in Florida, but it’s fine. The overall theme was described as, ‘a journey back to the turn of the century…to another time and another place.’ (The Grand Floridian has become one of my favorite resorts, but none of this is screaming ‘Florida’ to me)

The resort was finished fairly quickly, compared to other Disney projects and was set up along the monorail. The resort featured iconic white walls and red gabled roofs, upscale dining options and space for additions like a wedding pavilion and the convention center, which came a few years later. 

Finally, back up to December 2011, Disney officially announced the Grand Floridian Villas expansion for Disney’s Vacation Club. At the time, Disney still had three resorts available for contract purchases because of the stagnant economy through the late 2000’s. The Grand Floridian Villas was actually the first DVC to be announced after the economic troubles of the years prior. The Grand Floridian Villas officially opened in October of 2013 but sales had begun earlier in the year. The initial starting price was $145 per point and sold out quickly. The Grand Floridian is sold out currently and actually had its waitlist closed because so many people are on the list to this day.

Easily one of the Disney Worlds most recognizable resorts, the Grand Floridian still remains one of the most popular and exclusive Disney resorts on property!

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