Places to hide out, Epcot Resorts Editionby Donna Fesel, contributing writer
My vacations to Walt Disney World are action-packed in order to include all my family's favorite attractions, restaurants, and activities. Typically, I am on the move right from the rope-drop opening of each park early in the morning. We stay in the parks until early afternoon, and then hot and a bit tired, head back to our hotel for a well-earned breather. After four or five hours of downtime, we're ready to go out for dinner and maybe to hit a theme park for fireworks or a parade.
My family's afternoon downtime at Disney World is one of the most important parts of our trip. We swim (Stormalong Bay at Disney's Beach Club Resort) is a favorite now that my son is older), the arcade (Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort has a pretty solid one), or do some great recreational activities (during a stay at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort we went canoeing).
However, for my husband and son, at least once during every trip, nothing beats a good old afternoon nap. I have never been much of a napper, so when my two guys conk out in the middle of the day, I have some time to do more of something I really love. I love to read and usually don't get to do enough of it in my non-vacation life. One of my favorite things to do before any trip I take is to put together four or five books I am excited to dive into and read during every moment of downtime I can spare.
I grab my book, my glasses, my MagicBand and my Tables in Wonderland card and head out of my hotel room. Tables in Wonderland is a Disney discount program available to Annual Passholders, Florida Residents, and Disney Vacation Club (Disney's timeshare program) guests, and with it you receive 20 percent off food and drinks at many Disney locations. There is a fee for the card and it is good for one year upon activation. With my Disney essentials in hand, I set out to explore my hotel and its environs in search of a quiet and air-conditioned nook to settle into.
When we are staying in one of the Disney-owned Epcot resorts (Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Villas, or Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resort), I have found that the quietest places indoors during the middle of the day to late afternoon are the various hotel bars and lounges. In these wonderful spaces, I am welcomed by comfortable seating, a friendly bartender and usually only a handful of guests. Sometimes the space I find may not be great for reading, but has wonderful food which warrants a return visit.
Martha's Vineyard is a bar located adjacent to and providing bar service for Cape May, the very popular Beach Club seafood buffet restaurant. The entrance to the bar is an open and wide space with a view out the large hallway windows to the Stormalong Bay pool area. Inside Martha's Vineyard, you can soak up the tasteful seaside-themed surroundings: wood-paneled walls, pastel accented furniture and carpeting (teal and mauve), and a stately wood bar with a grape motif. The space also features several flat screen televisions in the center of various furniture groupings. During my visit there was a small group watching one of the televisions, but the volume was kept reasonable and didn't encroach on my solitude.
According to its bartender, Martha's Vineyard is open 5 p.m to 11 or 11:30 p.m., depending on the evening. I visited right at 5:00, and was greeted by an unhurried bartender who immediately offered me both the standard Disney World bar beverage menu and a food menu. I selected a glass of white wine and once served, settled into a comfy spot. The bartender provided me with a bowl of a delicious, crunchy, complimentary snack mix to enjoy as well.
Right next to Martha's Vineyard is a space called "Ariel's" which is used for private events. On the day I visited, an event was taking place and thanks to the open-wall design of Martha's Vineyard, I was able to enjoy the strains of Marimba being played at Ariel's. If you are interested in more sustenance, a few select menu items are available, and include such items as Cape May Café Chowder, with cornbread, a frisee salad, an artisan cheese plate, house-made potato chips with chorizo cheese dip, and a crab cake with succotash, fried seafood tacos, and a Cap May seafood sampler called Taste of Cape May. Tables in Wonderland is accepted here for both food and drink.
Ale & Compass Lounge is a hotel bar located right off the Yacht Club lobby. This space, which is heavy on colonial influence, features a beautiful decorative fireplace, nautical theming, a lovely wood floor, a few small groupings of furniture, and a flat-screen television. The bar also features only three walls like Martha's Vineyard, but there was only nominal noise drifting in from the stately and quiet Yacht Club lobby. Sometimes the only noise I could hear was the pretty Yacht Club lobby music drifting in to enhance the experience. Ale & Compass also features the standard Disney World bar menu, as well as a very few small plate selections (cheese board, lobster sliders, truffle fries, and buffalo chicken nuggets).
Yacht Club guests seeking a cup of coffee or a continental breakfast in the morning are served at Ale & Compass as well. Ale & Compass is open for breakfast from 6:30 to 11 a.m, and for drinks and snacks from 4 p.m. to midnight. When I ducked into Ale & Compass, I chatted with the wonderfully pleasant bartender, ordered a cold drink and settled in to read near the fireplace. The space at Ale & Compass is very pleasant, and my experience was just fine, but I found that perhaps due to its lobby location, folks wandered in and out pretty often. I only stayed for an hour, but if I was going to settle in longer, the space might not be ideal. Tables in Wonderland is accepted here.
Crew's Cup Lounge is a sit-down restaurant space located adjacent to the excellent Yachtsman Steak House at the Yacht Club (you can see into the Yachtsman's steak aging room). The Crew's Cup is styled like a pub, with booth seating, as well as upholstered furniture groupings, lots of wood, and a flat screen television here and there. A "crew" theme dominates, with lots of copper, crew paraphernalia, and trophies.
The Crew's Cup Lounge features the standard Disney World bar menu as well as a full menu of delicious and interesting food (including a roasted beet salad, truffle fries, short ribs, pasta, and sandwiches—certain items are lunch only or dinner only).
Crew's Cup Lounge is open from noon until midnight for all your eating and drinking needs. I've visited Crew's Cup Lounge twice once for a family lunch with my husband and son (the food rocked). We particularly loved the addictive truffle fries. I visited on another occasion and sat in one of the comfy chairs enjoying a glass of wine and watching the television.
Crew's Cup Lounge is a hidden gem for a fairly reasonably priced meal and which requires no reservations. It wasn't a great place to read quietly (not when I've visited, just a lot of bustle), but a great find nonetheless. Tables in Wonderland is accepted, and this location is a table-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
And last, but certainly not least, the Boardwalk's Belle Vue Lounge is located on the second floor of that resort. When you enter, you are in a wonderful and special space. There are a lot of comfortable furniture, old-time radio programs that play in the background, Philco radios, and antique board games and books to admire, and still other board games to play. You can plop down on one of the needle-point chairs or head outside to the expansive balcony with seating to enjoy your beverage.
I visited the Belle Vue Lounge with my husband and son, largely for research for this article, but once seated inside, we found ourselves playing Chinese Checkers and enjoying the great radio programs. We could have stayed for several more hours if we didn't have dinner reservations. Belle Vue Lounge is quiet and wonderful, with an iconic mix of things to look at and do.
In addition to the standard Disney bar menu, the Belle Vue offers several unique offerings. In addition, if you are at Boardwalk and looking for a light breakfast, the Belle Vue offers that, as well. Drinks are available between 5 p.m. and midnight, and breakfast is available between 6:30 a.m. and 11 p.m. Tables in Wonderland is accepted, and the breakfast is a quick-service option on the Disney Dining Plan. I will absolutely head back to this unique and hidden Disney gem to enjoy some downtime.
On your next trip to Disney World, get out and explore some of the amazing and unique features of not only your hotel but also nearby Disney hotels. You never know what wonderful new find awaits you.