In 1988, Walt Disney World opened the resort that park officials deemed the most lavish property ever built.
Now, more than 30 years later, this place still holds a claim to that title. Better yet, Disney Vacation Club members can own there!
Here’s what to expect at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the crown jewel of Disney’s hotel empire in Orlando.
Arriving at the Grand Floridian
I won’t lie. If you’ve been a DVC member for a long time, recent visits to the Grand Floridian have come with a touch of sadness.
The late, great Richard Gerth passed away in 2018. Before that, the kindly man had held the door open for Disney guests for nearly 30 years.
Of course, memories of him will linger forever, as the elderly man symbolizes the familial, genteel nature of the resort.
You’ll most likely arrive at the Grand Floridian via bus or monorail. The latter transportation method will drop you off on the second floor of the hotel lobby.
The bus will drive you to the front entrance, where a new generation of Gerth’s proteges will happily hold your door and help you with your bags.
Once you enter the hotel lobby, you’ll instantly feel like you’re at Walt Disney World.
This stately building would make any shortlist of Best Disney Resort Lobbies. The multi-floor view is airy and bright.
During the holidays, it’s even better, as management decorates the place for Easter, Christmas, and the like.
Imagineers recently redesigned the lobby, removing the bandstand to create space for other amenities.
This change reflects the fact that Disney laid off the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra.
So, the Grand Floridian is in a bit of a transitional phase, at least to those of us who have been visiting for a while.
Thankfully, you’ll still hear music in the lobby. The piano remains, and a performer still plays up to five sets daily.
You’ll also want to investigate the hotel lobby’s birdcage elevator, which is a throwback to a different generation of five-star resort elegance.
Hanging Out at the Grand Floridian
Look, you’ll want to hang out at the Grand Floridian a lot during your stay. This place offers so many deluxe amenities that you’ll never want to leave.
The restaurants here are arguably the best of any DVC resort. You can dine at the Quick Service establishment, Gasparilla Grill, when you want an ordinary meal.
I recently dined here during the pandemic when we were the only couple in the restaurant. It’s legitimately one of the best Disney experiences of my life.
The food is tasty, the desserts are decadent, and the staff is indescribably friendly. Plus, you can look out at the boat dock from some tables!
A small step up in quality will lead you to the Grand Floridian Café, which I consider one of the most underrated Table Service restaurants at Walt Disney World.
The Buttermilk-fried chicken and Lobster ‘Thermidor’ Burger receive most of the hype…and justifiably so.
Still, I have a pro tip for you. Eat here for lunch…but order breakfast! You’ll smile all afternoon if you do.
Remarkably, I’m only scratching the surface of restaurants. The two upscale dining experiences are Narcoossee’s and Citricos.
Narcoossee’s highlights coastal cuisine with a particular focus on seafood. Meanwhile, Citricos just received a modest re-theming.
When you dine here now, you’ll notice elements of Mary Poppins throughout the restaurant. Oh, and the food’s tasty, too.
Somehow, I still haven’t touched on the culinary experience at the Grand Floridian that’s transformative.
Victoria & Albert’s isn’t just the best fine dining option at Walt Disney World. Places like TripAdvisor have selected it as one of the best places in America!
What’s Close to the Grand Floridian
Disney classifies the Grand Floridian as a Magic Kingdom resort. You could guess this by its location on the resort monorail line.
You always have the option to hop on the monorail and ride it straight to Magic Kingdom.
You can also switch at the Transportation and Ticket Center when you want to visit EPCOT.
The hotel also comes with two walkways of note. You can and should walk from here to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort occasionally. The view is outstanding!
Remarkably, Disney recently added something even better. In November of 2020, the Grand Floridian opened its walkway to Magic Kingdom.
The trip looks like this:
The walk takes roughly 15 minutes one-way, saving you the aggravation of waiting on a bus or monorail.
I realize that not everyone wants to add to their step count at Walt Disney World, but I love having this option.
The other two parks at Walt Disney World, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom are relatively close as well.
According to Google, these two parks are 6.3 and 7.0 miles away from the Grand Floridian. Similarly, Disney Springs resides 6.9 miles from the hotel.
Ergo, you’re never far from anywhere you’d like to go on the Disney campus.
What Else Should You Know about the Grand Floridian?
The hotel pools at the Grand Floridian are delightfully decadent, and one of them comes with an adorable play area.
I’m talking about the Beach Pool, which has a pool on one side and a splashy playground on the other.
The highlight of the playground is a Mad Hatter hat that gradually fills with water. After a while, the hat will tip over, causing a massive splash that kids adore.
They’ll stand there and wait for the hat to fill for as long as it takes. If you’re anywhere in the area, you’ll always know when the hat has tipped due to the squeals of laughter.
The Beach Pool, which is technically the Grand Floridian’s water pool, also comes with a waterfall feature that I enjoy.
By the way, you can also book a private cabana at this pool if son inclined.
Of course, the main pool is the one that you can see from many hotel rooms. It’s the Courtyard Pool, where Disney also hosts its Movies Under the Stars events.
Disney has pulled out all the stops here, as it’s a zero-entry heated pool that stretches out across a vast distance.
I don’t know what the maximum occupancy is here, but it’s one of the largest pools in the DVC collection.
Are There Special Room Types?
Speaking of DVC, the hotel is currently undergoing a new addition. Building 9 will convert to add more rooms.
Until that section opens, Grand Floridian remains one of the most challenging properties to book due to its limited inventory.
The Deluxe Studios and One- and Two-Bedroom Villas come with two booking options, Standard View and Lake View.
The difference in DVC points cost is fractional for the studios, but it can make a difference for a weekly stay in a villa.
So, you must decide whether to pay more based on how much time you’ll spend in the room.
I’ll warn you that the people who stay at the Grand Floridian tend to get addicted and hang out at the resort more than most places.
People deem the Grand Floridian as the linchpin of Walt Disney World’s resort system for a reason, after all.