My Disney Top 5 - Hits and Misses at Disney's BoardWalk Innby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
My last Top 5 article talked about how the quick trips to Walt Disney World can sometimes be your best trips. Just about a month ago we returned from another one of those amazing short Walt Disney World trips. Thanks to the Jewish holidays, we were able to jet down to Orlando for a long September weekend. Only two days into the school year and we were off and on a plane! Our little four-day weekend escape certainly lived up to our expectations. Although it was a little busier than I thought it would be, it was still off-season travel and the attraction wait times and park crowds reflected as such. The New Fantasyland walls were finally down. The wonderful little area built around the Tangled Tower is all finished and a host of other new surprises were waiting for us throughout the resort.
However, the newest aspect of this trip was our first-ever stay at Disney's BoardWalk Inn. We've walked around the boardwalk many times in our previous visits and have stayed across the lake at Disney's Yacht Club. The BoardWalk Inn has an extremely loyal cadre of fans. People are very passionate about this place. It's always one of Disney's top rated resorts so we were eager to finally check in and see what all the fuss was about.
Which brings us to this list. In the past, I've crafted articles extolling what I felt were the Top 5 virtues of whichever particular Disney resort I had just visited. I did so for my favorite resort, the Polynesian. I also wrote ones for Port Orleans Riverside and Caribbean Beach. In anticipation of this last trip, I even wrote an article about the Top 5 things I was looking forward to at the BoardWalk Inn.
So, as I sit here a month after our trip and reflect back, the question becomes, "Well… what did you think?"
In the spirit of full disclosure, here are the details of the trip in question. We were there for four nights and five days—Wednesday through Sunday. My family of five consists of my wife and myself, our 14-year-old daughter, and 11-year-old twin boys. This was our tenth trip together as a family in 10 years. We traveled with our good friend Laura and her daughters, ages 13 and 11. They haven't been there quite as much as we have as a unit, but Laura is a bit of a Disney veteran in her own right from before she had kids in tow. Our BoardWalk Inn rooms were connected and were standard view, boardwalk side of the resort, looking out at the central courtyard between the BoardWalk Inn and the attached DVC BoardWalk Villas. Bottom line: we're two Disney-experienced families staying right in the thick of things at the BoardWalk Inn.
So, what did I think? I have pros and I have cons. In the interest of fairness and for those that read MousePlanet for trip planning advice, I offer up a slightly different take on my usual list with my Top 5 Hits and Misses at Disney's BoardWalk Inn. (With all apologies to MousePlanet's own BoardWalk champion, Steve Russo.)
5 – Dinner Choices: Hit
It's hard to beat your choices for a nice dinner within walking distance of the BoardWalk Inn. The BoardWalk itself has Kouzzina, Big River Grille & Brewing Works, Flying Fish Café and the ESPN Club. Across the lake at Yacht and Beach Club there's Cape May Café and its character meals, Captain's Grille and Yachtsman Steakhouse. The Swan and Dolphin have a whole slew of restaurants between them and oh yeah…Epcot is just a short stroll or boat ride away. That's a fairly impressive list of great sit-down meals at your immediate disposal.
4 – Lack of a Central Area: Miss
This has been mentioned before in many reviews I've read of the BoardWalk Inn, and now I can see why. I didn't think it would bother me all that much, but I have to say I missed having what I can only refer to as a central area in the resort. By that, I mean I missed having the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian or the restaurants, shopping and counter service food right downstairs from our room at The Wilderness Lodge or even the central building at Riverside, Sassagoula Steamboat Company. You can get all of the things you need at this resort… you just have to go downstairs and outside to the boardwalk to find it all and it's not all that convenient.
Is that really a big deal? Actually it can be, and it was a running comment amongst our whole group. For instance when we first arrived, we were greeted by one of those lovely afternoon Orlando rainstorms. We were all quite hungry and wanted to just sit down and grab a bite. We didn't want restaurants and wait service, but just a quick "grab and go" or a counter service meal to satisfy our cravings.
The Bakery, while delightful and yummy, had a few offerings—but the only place to sit was outside… in the rain. The BoardWalk Pizza is also quite good, as were the hot dogs from BoardWalk To Go, but once again… tables outside in the rain. We found ourselves huddled under an awning trying not to get wet as we choked down our meal: definitely not what we had in mind.
Something similar happened another day when we returned from Epcot and were hungry for lunch. This time, we were trying to escape the heat. We really could have used a cool escape to sit and eat some lunch. Once again, the choices were tables outside or eat up in my room. I found myself longing for a nice, dry, air-conditioned, indoor table like at Captain Cook's at the Polynesian. I also wasn't crazy about having to head down to the Bakery each time I wanted to refill my mug. It may sound like a minor miss to some, but it bothered us all quite a bit on this trip.
3 – Location, location, location! Hit
Walking in and out of Epcot really is a fantastic thing and completely spoils you, especially when you end up taking a bus over to Magic Kingdom or Animal Kingdom. I never mind the Disney buses, but it sure is nice to walk instead. We only took the boat into Epcot once, and then walked every other time. Walking in actually beat the boat, so there was no point in taking it most of the time. We even walked over to Hollywood Studios along the wonderful path along the water. I love staying at a Monorail resort, but being able to just walk right into two parks from the BoardWalk really is a dream.
2 – The Boardwalk: Hit
Disney's boardwalk is a unique place. It's a beautifully themed and well-executed throwback to the boardwalks of yesteryear. The view across the lake of the Yacht and Beach Club with Spaceship Earth in the distance is wonderful. It's definitely worth your time to stop and watch the jugglers or other entertainers in the evening. Seashore Sweets ice cream and candy certainly hit the spot several times as did the Mickey muffins from the Bakery. The shops are well stocked with food, wine and Disney treasures. The flowers in the courtyard are beautiful. It's all put together very well. A walk along the boardwalk, day or night can truly be a treat.
1 – The Boardwalk: Miss
So, given what I just said above, how exactly can the boardwalk also be a miss? I'm sorry to say that several times on this trip, my "Disney bubble" was popped on the boardwalk because of the very nature of what the boardwalk is. First (and this is really a matter of room location), while the partial lake view from our balcony was quite nice, what wasn't quite nice was the noise level we experienced every time we sat out there. We love ending our day with a glass of wine on our balcony while the kids drift off to sleep. I requested a room with a balcony facing the inside of the resort to avoid looking at the main entrance and buses and taxis, etc. I'm quite sure that facing the inside courtyard around the quiet pool would have been very tranquil. The main boardwalk side courtyard that we faced is quite a different story. We were consistently hit with very loud people and music, and I can't even imagine being stuck on a balcony above or adjacent to the restaurants and bars. No thanks.
And speaking of bars, one night coming home from the Magic Kingdom, we hopped on the Yacht and Beach Club bus instead of the BoardWalk. It had a very short line and was pulling up right when we got there. The walk around the boardwalk home would be no big deal. Actually we thought it would be a nice way to end our night. And it was, until we left the Yacht Club area and got to Jellyrolls on the boardwalk. The loud group of drunks that had just emerged was barely tolerable. What wasn't at all tolerable was the creepy, drunk guy sitting alone on the bench who started to make comments to my daughter as we passed by. We've never felt skeevy or unsafe at Walt Disney World, ever, but making our way through the smoking, foul-mouthed drunks at that end of the boardwalk completely ruined that nice Disney family walk.
...And then it happened again at the opposite end of the boardwalk on our last day of the trip. We spent Sunday morning at the Magic Kingdom and midday walking around our favorite place, World Showcase. We had a fantastic day at both parks and were enjoying our last bits of Disney magic walking back to the resort to check out and board a Magical Express bus home. When we turned the corner onto the boardwalk, we were hit by loud, screaming, football fans spilling out of the ESPN Club.
Once again, I was faced with walking my family through a gauntlet of beer-drinking yahoos—only this time, they were all wearing football jerseys and yelling at widescreen TVs. That's not the way I wanted my final Disney moments of the trip to be. In my humble opinion, the ESPN Club belongs at Downtown Disney and not here on the boardwalk. It seems that the lovely atmosphere created at Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas is book-ended by two places that, once again in my opinion, just don't belong there.
Did I enjoy my time at The BoardWalk Inn? Yes, I did. I see its charms. I see the beauty of the place. It's completely unique and I can see why so many people love the place. But I have to be honest: I probably won't stay there again. I'd rather be across the lake at the Yacht and Beach or basking in the tranquility of the Polynesian any day. That may be an unpopular sentiment. I know how fervently people love the BoardWalk and you're completely entitled to that opinion. But know that I wasn't alone. My wife wasn't in love with the place either for much of the same reasons I listed above and our new Disney traveling compadres in the adjoining room stayed at the Beach Club on their last trip and want to go back there next time.
I'm glad I stayed there. I'm glad I braved that creepy clown pool and got to soak in all the niceties that the BoardWalk Inn does have to offer. I'm just not a convert to the place—and that's OK. All of you out there who love the BoardWalk so much can have my room.
If you want to find me, stop by the Polynesian and we'll sit on the beach and watch Wishes together because that's where this Disney fan definitely belongs.
I'm sure there are some comments out there on this one. So, click on the link below, let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.