Surprising as it would be to Ross and Jamie of 2014, Ross and Jamie of 2017 are addicted to Walt Disney World. So faced with a few weeks where our annual passes are blacked out, I wanted to check an item off my bucket list: visiting the Disney resorts during the holiday season.
All of the resorts (aka hotels) decorate for the holidays, but while some of them keep it very simple, others are known for going all out, from Christmas trees and wreaths to gingerbread houses and trains.
I knew that realistically, I wouldn’t get to see them all. (Could I? Sure. But it would get old and I don’t want to spend all of my free time driving to busy parking lots.) So I narrowed my list down to a Top Ten, with the goal of seeing at least two resorts and more, depending on how much energy Ross and I had this past Wednesday.
The day got off to a slow start. We both slept in. I was ready to go by 11:15, but Ross needed another half hour or so, and ultimately after some stress and discussion and debate we decided yes, we’re doing this, and we’re in the car by about noon, with a cooler for lunch, lots of water and a sunny day to explore.
If you decide to do this, I recommend a car (even if it’s a rental) because Disney doesn’t have direct buses from resort to resort. I also recommend bringing lots of water because most resorts don’t seem to have very good water fountains.
My number one choice was Port Orleans – French Quarter. I fell in love with the beautiful, Mardi Gras-inspired color scheme and decor here. The resort itself is really well themed and Christmas made it even more special. I had heard it was a pretty walk by the water to Riverside (during the daytime, a boat is also available, and the boat goes to Disney Springs all day too) so we walked there to check it out. Their dining hall and bar looked amazing!
After walking back, we headed to my real reason for wanting to come here. They have gluten-free beignets! The kitchen staff were perfect, making me feel so safe, and I got hot chocolate sauce to pair with it. You can order 3 or 6, and though I planned to share half, I ended up eating 5 out of 6 because my husband loves me.
The beignets are outstanding. Not quite the melt-in-your-mouth texture you’d expect from the gluten kind, but out of this world delicious, and even better paired with chocolate.
After stuffing myself with sugar, we headed out to the car to make our way to my second choice resort: Grand Floridian.
As you can tell by those two photos, our initial attempt failed. We tried to park at Grand Floridian itself, but their lot was too full, so it was restricted to those with a reservation. Instead, we parked (with ease) at the Polynesian, one of our favorite deluxe hotels thus far. It was a good excuse to tour an old favorite and visit Stitch before taking the monorail to our destination.
Grand Floridian is extravagant and old-fashioned and too fancy for Ross and I. Nevertheless, there are parts of it (like some of the architecture, and the orchestra) that I love. They host some very special holiday decorations. Last Easter we visited the incredible Easter egg decorations their chefs had made. This time I had to see the gingerbread. They also carry a variety of gluten-free treats (most made fresh), but all except for one had run out by the time I got there.
After GF, Ross needed a break from the crowds, so instead of taking the monorail (and going through security a second time), we followed the walking path to the Polynesian. It’s a nice walk along the water mostly, so we enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if Ross would be too tired to continue, but he eagerly put the Boardwalk area into his GPS. First stop: Beach Club!
I have passed the outside of Beach Club many times. It has the most epic pool and bar area, with a giant pirate ship and a sandy bottom, all shared with Yacht Club, and it has a beautiful beach.
When we walked into the lobby, I was pleased by the decorations. Not a ton of character, but they looked really pretty. And I enjoyed the carousel gingerbread display a lot! The smell was really delicious too.
Next up was Yacht Club. It reminded me of my grandfather. I’m sure my mom’s parents would have loved vacationing here, with the nautical influences, proximity to Epcot and the Boardwalk and even a miniature village and train for the holidays.
Our final destination was Boardwalk Inn. They had a fun gingerbread display that recreates many of the shops at Disney’s Boardwalk. They also had some treats for sale.
The Boardwalk Inn feels a bit like a less fancy version of Grand Floridian. It’s pretty, but in a fairly non-descript way, and it feels too fancy for me. But the reality is I’d love to stay at any of the Boardwalk resorts. You can’t beat walking distance to Epcot (and Hollywood Studios and Boardwalk as a bonus) in my book!
After our final stop, we walked the Boardwalk and visited the beach, where Ross recorded a video for Instagram. Then we made our way back to the car.
I loved our resort tour and I’m so thrilled we were able to fit so much in. Next time, Wilderness Lodge is a priority, and I want to see Fort Wilderness and Pop Century lit up too.
And of course we skipped Animal Kingdom Lodge, our absolute favorite. But that’s because we are visiting there on Christmas!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Peace, Joy and a Happy New Year to you all from Ross and Jamie. Wishing you a wonderful 2018.