One of Disney’s Deluxe Resort Hotels -- considered Disney’s best
Gorgeous Victorian-themed architecture and elegant furnishings throughout
Stunning multi-story lobby with ornate chandeliers and a bird cage elevator
Beautiful rooms with refined furnishings and nice amenities
Two pools, plus a kids splash zone and a sandy play area
Six restaurants and four bars -- home to some of Disney’s best dining
Senses Spa and Ivy Trellis Salon (one of few Disney resorts with a spa)
Small fitness center and outdoor sports courts
Monorail service to the Magic Kingdom (one stop)
Connected to the Polynesian Resort via footpath
Extra Magic Hours and Magical Express benefits
Free parking and Wi-Fi
Disney’s priciest rates -- which can be steep for what’s offered
Fitness center is a let down for a four-and-a-half pearl property
Always crowded, plus lots of kids during school holidays
Front desk lines can be long (common at Disney hotels)
The Grande Dame of Disney, the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, is a Victorian stunner that pays homage to the Atlantic coast’s golden era. With gorgeous architecture, meticulously kept grounds, and a multi-story lobby with turn-of-the-century grandeur, this luxury property is a destination all its own. The resort's two pools, on-site monorail and boat transportation, and firework-view rooms are great for families, but the hotel also appeals to adults with its Senses Spa and high-end on-site dining. The 867 guest rooms are elegantly decorated, but they don’t feel incredibly luxurious, especially when considering the hotel’s exorbitant nightly rates. For a comparable price, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort is a truly luxurious experience, though it’s farther from the Magic Kingdom.
A stunning Victorian-themed property, though it can fall shy of top-notch luxury
From the moment guests arrive beneath its stately portico, the Grand Floridian wows with Victorian-style details. Knickerbocker clad bellmen tip their derby caps at passing horse-drawn carriages, and ragtime music plays through hidden speakers. Inside, the impressive multi-story lobby transports guests to the turn of the century, with tufted sofas, stately wingback chairs, and a grand piano. Enormous chandeliers draw the eye upward toward vaulted stained-glass ceilings, but the room’s most novel feature is its birdcage elevator -- yet another nod to the regal beach resorts of the 1800s that used to dominate the coastline. The overall effect encourages guest to feel as though they've stepped back in time to Florida’s golden era, but the long front desk lines will quickly remind you that you’re in modern-day Disney.
The Grand Floridian’s all-white lobby is impressive, but we’d argue that it’s less exciting than the lobbies at Animal Kingdom and the Wilderness Lodge (other Disney Deluxe Resort Hotels). The Grand Floridian’s stunning architecture and beautifully manicured grounds also make it a destination in its own right, so the property always feels crowded with people who are just stopping by to check it out. Obviously the hotel is family-friendly, but the Grand Floridian's Victorian embellishments appeal to more adults than other Disney properties. However, travelers expecting a top-notch luxury experience will likely be disappointed as the Grand Floridian lacks the sophistication and astounding service of the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton -- even though all three hotels often have comparable nightly rates.
One of Disney's best locations, across the Seven Seas Lagoon from Magic Kingdom
Many travelers claim that the Grand Floridian has the most enviable location in Disney World. It’s just across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom, and guests can take a five-minute boat ride from the hotel to the park. The Grand Floridian is connected to several other Disney resorts as well, including the Polynesian and the Contemporary, via the monorail, which stops conveniently outside the Grand Floridian's lobby. That said, while it's easy to get to the Magic Kingdom in five to 10 minutes, it's a bit of a trek to Epcot (about a 30-minute monorail ride that involves changing stations or a 15- to 20-minute drive, depending on traffic). But guests report that the monorail is more convenient than the bus. Other Disney attractions, like Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Disney Springs aren’t accessible via monorail, so guests will have to take Disney shuttle buses or drive themselves (between 15 to 20 minutes). Off the Disney compound, Universal Studios is a 25-minute drive, while Orlando International Airport is a 35-minute drive.
A throwback to Florida's grand Victorian-style seaside resorts, the Grand Floridian has standard rooms that are among the largest, and most elegant, of any Disney resort. At 428-square-feet, rooms are much more spacious than those at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or Wilderness Lodge, and slightly more spacious than those at the Polynesian next door. However, luxury travelers expecting rooms to compare with the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton will likely be disappointed. While rooms are tastefully decorated, and arguably the most luxurious among Disney's offerings, they’re a bit generic -- especially considering the hotel’s pricey nightly rates.
In the Standard Room we visited, two-toned taupe walls set a neutral palette for the room’s elegant furnishings. Tufted headboards, a diamond-patterned light fixture, and medallion-backed chairs feel appropriately princess-y, while a red chenille sofa adds some much needed drama. A single pillow is monogrammed with the hotel’s initials in a stately gold-leaf style. In-room amenities include flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, and Keurigs, but don’t expect the USB charging stations or personal iPads found at the Four Seasons. Closets are stocked with ironing equipment, electronic safes, and robes. Considering the Grand Floridian is one of Disney’s premiere properties, bathrooms are pretty disappointing. They’re typical Disney hotel bathrooms, with the vanity located in a separate room from the shower and toilet. The floral-print wallpaper and marble counter tops add elegance, but the shower/tub combos fall flat. Guests are given the same Disney-brand toiletries found at every other Disney resort. All rooms have outdoor balconies, but in typical Disney fashion, they’re tight on space.
The Grand Floridian has several different room types, but the majority of rooms are standard hotel-issue layouts, with one king or two queen size beds. Guests can upgrade to a variety of different view types, including Park View Rooms where guests can see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks at night. Club-level rooms offer access to a club level lounge that serves continental breakfast, snacks, and drinks throughout the day. Club-level guests also receive personal check-in and concierge service, which can be a particularly nice perk, considering the hotel’s typically long front desk lines. Besides Standard Rooms, the club level also offers one- and two-bedroom suites.
Excellent on-site amenities, Disney perks, and freebies
The Grand Floridian has excellent on-site amenities, including boat transportation to the Magic Kingdom, multiple shops with Disney souvenirs and sundries, outdoor grilling and picnic areas, and a signature Disney arcade-style game room. Wi-Fi and standard parking are free, and guests are entitled to Disney hotel benefits, like Extra Magic Hours and the Magical Express luggage transportation service.
There are two pools at the Grand Floridian -- the Beach Pool and the Courtyard Pool. The Beach Pool has a zero-entry shallow area that gives way to a deeper swimming area, where the pool’s waterslide terminates. Large fake boulders provide a water feature that helps drown out the din of vacationing children. Cushioned lounge chairs are slightly nicer than typical Disney offerings and are surrounded by white umbrellas. The adjacent kids' splash zone is Mad-Hatter themed, with a giant green top hat that regularly overflows and soaks anyone within splashing distance. The Courtyard Pool is a bit tamer than the Beach Pool, but always seems equally crowded. It’s larger than the Beach Pool, so guests have more room to spread out across the water. Both pools have their own bars that serve drinks and light meals.
The Grand Floridian is known to have some of Disney’s best dining. It’s home to three premium restaurants -- Citricos, Narcoossee’s, and Victoria & Albert’s -- as well as two additional sit-down restaurants, an all-day quick-service spot, a tea room, and four bars. Reservations are highly recommended for all of Grand Floridian’s restaurants. Many reservation-less guests complain that it’s nearly impossible to get walk-in seating.
Victoria & Albert’s is Disney’s only "AAA Fine Dining" restaurant, and appeals to those looking to splurge. The restaurant is open for dinner and serves a seven course, chef’s choice tasting menu. Victoria & Albert’s is often lauded as one of Florida’s finest restaurants, but it can feel stuffy, and a touch out of place in Disney. Reservations are required, and men must wear dinner jackets; jeans (for men or women) are not permitted. Unsurprisingly, Victoria & Albert’s does not accept any Disney dining plans.
Compared with Victoria & Albert’s, Citricos and Narcoossee’s are more laid-back, but both maintain a high-end atmosphere. Citricos serves a European inspired menu but the restaurant itself feels a tad dated. Narcoossee’s is a seafood eatery that overlooks Seven Seas Lagoon. At night, guests can see the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the restaurant’s outdoor terrace.
Other dining venues include 1900 Park Fare, a buffet restaurant that hosts all kinds of character meals, including the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, the Wonderland Tea Party, and Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but the experiences are classic Disney magic. The Grand Floridian Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a charming space that looks like an English garden. Gasparilla Island Grill is the hotel’s 24-hour quick-service restaurant. The quick-service concept is incredibly popular across the Disney brand, and is known for its varied options, tasty food, and unbelievable cleanliness. In the mornings, guests can swing by for coffee, bacon and eggs, and Mickey waffles, while lunch and dinner hours feature American favorites like burgers, sandwiches, and flatbreads. It also sells snacks and desserts like chips, doughnuts, and ice cream bars. The Gasparilla Island Grill has indoor and outdoor seating that overlooks the hotel’s tiny marina.
In keeping with the hotel’s Victorian theme, the Garden View Tea Room serves daily afternoon tea. Guests can munch on scones and finger sandwiches while sipping a variety of international teas. (Look out for Mrs. Pots and Chip!) Those looking for adult beverages can grab a drink at Mizner’s Lounge, Citrocos Lounge, or either of the two pool bars.
One of few Disney hotels with a spa, plus a tiny fitness center, and outdoor sports courts
The Grand Floridian is one of few Disney hotels with a full service spa. Senses is a Victorian themed spa, with a wide variety of spa and salon treatments. It’s also home to the hotel’s 24-hour fitness center -- a dinky gym that looks more like the fitness room for an airport hotel. It’s outfitted with LifeFitness cardio and weight equipment, but doesn’t compare to the gym facilities at other Deluxe Resort Hotels (like the Wilderness Lodge). For those who’d prefer to exercise outside, there’s an outdoors sports court, and a mile-long walking path that connects the Grand Floridian with the Polynesian.
Travelers who have visited the Grand Floridian in the past will notice that the property no longer has a “beach” (essentially a manmade plot of sand in front of Seven Seas Lagoon lined with lounge chairs and kids playground equipment). After a horrific alligator incident (on Grand Floridian grounds) that resulted in the death of a two-year old in 2016, Disney hotels no longer have these once-popular beaches. Now the area is roped off, though there’s still some sand, and guests can only access the water if they rent a pontoon-style boat from the hotel.
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