When we moved to Orlando, I worried we wouldn’t get to enjoy Disney resorts as much as we did as hotel guests. Instead, I found we get to experience and explore the resorts even more as locals. In addition to this, they make great date night locations. They continue to be one of my favorite things about Disney World. Each one is so diverse and its own well-themed world. Here are some of our favorite resort areas to spend time in as locals.
Special Note: While parking can be tricky at some of these resorts we recommend either parking at Disney Springs or a theme park (if an annual pass holder) and taking free Disney transportation to your resort destination or booking a dining reservation and enjoying the great food offered at many of these locations.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite resorts. It’s so well themed and it makes a great evening to experience dinner at any of the fantastic restaurants here and explore the multiple savannas. If you’re looking for signature dining, Jiko has you covered. For something more casual, Sanaa at Kidani Village has some amazing dishes. Or for a taste of everything, the buffet at Boma is worth considering. After dinner, we like to walk the grounds and visit the savanna overlooks at both Jambo House and Kidani Village. You can get from one lodge to the other by walking , taking the inner resort transportation, or driving. We prefer to walk. Plus, the inside of both lodges is a cultural experience. The lobby and halls are filled with authentic African art.
BoardWalk and Yacht & Beach Club
The entire Crescent Lake area is beautiful. Within walking distance, not only do you have BoardWalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club, but you also have everything at the Swan, Dolphin, and Swan Reserve. There are a lot of good restaurants in this area such as Flying Fish, Trattoria Al Forno, Yachtsman Steakhouse, Ale & Compass, Il Mulino, Shula’s Kimonos, etc. On top of this, there are great lounges, bars, and one of the best places for nighttime entertainment, Jellyrolls. During the day, you can rent a surrey bike and stroll around Crescent Lake. There is nighttime entertainment and games on the boardwalk and a variety of shops as well. I could also sit on the large porch at BoardWalk for hours and people watch.
Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter
I recommend Port Orleans for locals mostly because of the entertainment of Yee-Haw Bob at RiverRoost. It’s worth it to have dinner at Boatwrights (which has improved considerably) and stay for the evening entertainment. Be sure to check the schedule online for when Yee-Haw Bob performs. I also just love the grounds of both Riverside and French Quarter. You can walk from one to the other enjoying the New Orleans theming and Sassagoula River. There are also horse-drawn carriage rides, surrey bike rentals, playgrounds, and more that day guests can take advantage of.
Polynesian and Grand Floridan
This resort area is also one of my favorite places on property and within walking distance from each other. I love walking through the lobbies of both resorts. At the Grand Floridian, you will find restaurants like Citrico’s and Narcossees, and more as well as my favorite lounge, Enchanted Rose. At the Polynesian, you’ll find places like ‘Ohana, Kona Cafe, Tamu Lounge, and Trader Sams. These are also great resorts to watch the fireworks. At the Grand Floridian, you can see them from the outdoor seating area for Gasparilla’s or the boat maria. At the Polynesian, the beach has great fireworks views with the music piped in. Both resorts also offer great places to watch the Electric Water Pagent at night.
Coronado Springs feels like a deluxe resort among moderates. The reason I love spending time here is that the resort is stunning and the grounds are beautiful. We love walking the paths around the resort. Gran Destino Tower is a destination in itself. Here, you can experience dining at Toledo or checking out the Dahlia Lounge with its amazing views of the parks. Other dining options at Coronado include Rix Sports Bar & Grill, Maya Grill, Cafe Rix, a few pool bars, and one of my favorites Three Bridges Bar & Grill at Villa del Lago. Three Bridges offers tasty food with a beautiful setting situated in the middle of Lago Dorado, the lake the resort encircles.
Riviera and Caribbean Beach
One of the newest additions to the Disney resort family, Riviera, has a lot to offer locals. When you visit this resort, you can spend time here and at Caribbean Beach. I really love walking around resorts and the loop at Riviera and Caribbean Beach Resort is always a fun walk. In addition to this, some of my favorite dining locations can be found in this resort area. Topolino’s at Riviera is a wonderful restaurant with beautiful sweeping views of the parks with a lovely outdoor space to view fireworks. Sebastian’s at Caribbean Beach is underrated for the food and overall value. It’s worth spending an evening here having dinner and walking the grounds watching the Skyliner.
I’m interested to hear your opinions. As Disney World locals or even frequent visitors, what resorts fo you love to spend your time as Disney locals?
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