My Disney Top 5 - Reasons I'm a Walt Disney World Crescent Lake Person

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. I hope you're all well and enjoying the start of your new year.

As a Disney fan, I've sort of been living the dream the last 5 months or so. After a nearly three year Walt Disney World drought sponsored by COVID-19, my family and I made a triumphant return to the most magical place on Earth this past August. That joyous occasion not only marked our return to the magic, it was also the week we moved one of our 20-year-old twin boys into the Disney College Program. So, after all these years of going to the parks and resorts on just about a yearly basis, we now had one of us actually working there! Casey became an Animal Kingdom cast member this past August, and we couldn't be prouder. Except, of course, on the most recent visit this month when we moved his twin brother, Alex, into the program. As it stands now, 40% of our family is working at Walt Disney World!

After not being in our favorite place for close to three years, we've actually been there three times in the last 6 months! Yes…it's to see our boys because we desperately miss them. But the ancillary benefit, of course, is…we've been at Walt Disney World three times …in the last 6 months! They're both scheduled to be there until at least this August, so I imagine we will keep having to get ourselves down there to see them. The things we put ourselves through for our kids.

Now, over the course of these three wonderful Disney visits, we've managed to stay in a few different places. In August, we figured we'd book a full week down there. We'd spend some time having fun in the parks as a family and then move Casey in at the tail end of the trip. For that visit, we conserved and returned to an old favorite, Port Orleans French Quarter. We hadn't stayed there since 2004, and it was truly wonderful to be back. After two insane years of COVID craziness, French Quarter's small size and tranquil atmosphere was just what we needed. Dropping off Casey at Flamingo Crossing where the College Program cast reside, we were already planning our fall return to see him. This time, it was back to another old favorite, the Yacht Club. We were last at the Yacht Club in 2018 for my 50th birthday and at that point it was by far our top choice Walt Disney World resort. We'd rather stay there than just about anywhere else and why not? It's a beautiful place with so much to offer its guests.

Once January rolled around and it was time for Alex to move down there, we were able to get a good cast member price on two Disney classics, the Grand Floridian and the Beach Club. Casey secured some time off and moved in with us for his little "on property" vacation. We had never stayed at the Grand Floridian before and, despite it being considered Walt Disney World's flagship resort, we never really intended to. The Beach Club was a new choice for us too. After staying at the Yacht Club 4 or 5 times, we fell in love with it and never considered the resort literally next door, but it was available so we hopped on it.

It's long been said that there are two camps of Disney regulars, the Seven Seas Lagoon people, preferring to stay around the Magic Kingdom at the Polynesian, Contemporary and Grand Floridian resorts and the Crescent Lake people opting instead to put their heads down on Yacht, Beach and BoardWalk Inn pillows. I have to admit, once we stayed at the Poly two years in a row back in 2010 and 2011, I was convinced that we were Seven Seas people. then we fell hard for the Yacht club and decided that no, we were definitely Crescent Lake people instead. Now, on this last trip, we had a taste of both. Plus, in November, despite staying at the Yacht Club, we spent some time hanging around the Polynesian for old times' sake. We hopped in an Uber one evening, had dinner outside at Captain Cook's, walked around the resort and then took a boat over to the Magic Kingdom to cap off our night. So, where do my loyalties lie now? I guess the answer is obvious considering this article's title, but let's take a closer look with my Top 5 reasons I'm still a Walt Disney World Crescent Lake guy.

5 - The Skyliner

Can the Skyliner, Disney's newest form of resort transportation, compete in coolness to the Walt Disney World Monorail, which encircles the Seven Seas Lagoon? No…no it cannot. Let's face it, the monorail is an attraction all unto itself. However, after staying at the Yacht Club for all those years before the Skyliner arrived, and now staying there and at the Beach Club with it, I can safely say that this has become an added plus to staying over in the Crescent Lake area. Case in point, my son and I wanted to check out one of the newest resorts down there, the Riviera. So we hopped onto the Skyliner for a walk around the resort's common areas. Checked it out and was easily back home to the Beach Club.

As much as I love the monorail, you won't get this view anywhere but on the Skyliner. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Skyliner opens up easy access to the Riviera, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation Resorts and the Disney''s Hollywood Studios theme park to the residents of the Crescent Lake resort area. It's a peaceful and unique way to see Disney property and I hope that one day they expand over towards Animal Kingdom or Disney Springs.

4 - Dining Choices

Now, I'm not disparaging the dining options over in the Seven Seas Lagoon area at all. After all, there are some absolute classics there between the three resorts. In the past 6 months we've eaten at Gasparilla Island Grill, The Grand Floridian Cafe, Captain Cook's at the Poly and the Contempo Cafe over at the Contemporary. Couple that with top-notch dining locations like Citricos, Kona Cafe and the California Grill, which is still one of the best restaurants I've ever eaten in anywhere, and it's hard to beat this corner of Disney property for food. And I'm leaving out places that I haven't been like Narcoossees, Victoria and Albert's (I still have no interest in ever putting a suit on at Disney) and the one that keeps evading me, 'Ohana.

There's plenty of dining options at Disney's BoardWalk alone. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

That is until you explore the food options over in the Disney BoardWalk area. We've eaten in all the counter service places at Yacht, Beach and BoardWalk, and they're all solid choices. The Yacht Club has Ale and Compass and Yachtsman Steakhouse; Beach Club has the great Cape May Cafe buffet and the delectable Beaches and Cream, and they both share the poolside Hurricane Hanna's. Add the BoardWalk Pizza Window, Flying Fish, Trattoria al Forno, Big River Grille and Brewing Works, and all the Swan and Dolphin eateries and…oh yeah…the fact that you can literally walk right into Epcot's World Showcase and have 11 countries' worth of sit down and counter service places to eat and you can see what I mean about the Crescent Lake area having a leg up on dining. Give me a late night stroll along the BoardWalk with a Mickey shaped pretzel and a Marvelous Watermelon Margarita from Boardwalk Joe's Marvelous Margaritas and I'm pretty darn happy. I've yet to have that experience walking around the Seven Seas Lagoon because you just can't have that experience over there.

3 - Yacht and Beach Club Resorts

We've now stayed all all three of the Disney resorts around Crescent Lake, Yacht Club, Beach Club and BoardWalk Inn. Over at the Seven Seas Lagoon we've stayed at the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. We still haven't stayed at the Contemporary, but we've been there enough to dine, shop and walk around to fairly compare. In my opinion – and this is an opinion based column, after all – I'll take the Yacht and Beach Clubs hands down over all the others. It was great to stay at the Grand Floridian. It was luxurious. The room was huge and the view from our lagoon-side balcony was just tremendous. I never got tired of sitting on that balcony and watching the monorail, the boats and the Magic Kingdom off in the distance. I also can't knock sitting in the hot tub and hearing the relatively nearby whistle of the Walt Disney World railroad. That was certainly cool. And I can't really knock the Polynesian. It's awesome. But, truth be told, it's my second choice now more than ever. The Yacht and Beach just has it all.

The lazy river at Stormalong Bay in the evening. Photo by Donald Fink.

Disney's Beach Club as seen from Crescent Lake. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The resort is luxurious yet comfortable. It's got the greatest pool complex of any hotel or resort I've ever been to. Easy access. Great dining choices. Tranquility, yet a busy vibe. Hands down, our favorite place to stay on Disney property and probably one of our favorite places to stay anywhere is Disney's Yacht Club Resort and I think it always will be.

2 - Walk Into Epcot

With regard to the Seven Seas Lagoon resorts, we've done the walk from the Contemporary over to the Magic Kingdom several times after a Chef Mickey's meal and it's definitely convenient. It's not exactly the prettiest walk alongside the Disney buses as they slowly pull in, but I guess that's a fair trade off. Now that they have opened up a bridge over the canal that holds the Electrical Water Pageant barges, it's possible to walk from the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian over to the Magic Kingdom. It's not a short walk, especially from the Poly, but it is pretty and tranquil. Keep in mind that if the bridge over the aforementioned canal is open, you cannot complete your walk. My wife found that out the hard way. She was walking back from the Magic Kingdom enjoying her walk in solitude after leaving a packed Main Street only to get halted at the canal for a good long stretch.

After a short stroll from your room to the International Gateway you can get a wonderful view of the new Ratatouille area of France. Photo by Chris Barry.

This is where Yacht, Beach and BoardWalk have the edge. The walk into Epcot is brief and beautiful and is the best way to start or end a day at Epcot. What an awesome feeling it is to know that when Harmonious ends, you can take a leisurely stroll through World Showcase out through the International Gateway back to your home away from home and be there in minutes. It feels like some sort of secret back door that only certain guests are allowed to know about. Same thing for the morning. No bus. No boat. No monorail. Just a short peaceful stroll and you're there. It's wonderful and once you do it enough, you're hooked. Even the walk to Hollywood Studios along the canal is beautiful and tranquil. So the Crescent Lake area's walkability is a hands down win for me.

1 - The Vibe

I can remember the first time we "discovered" the BoardWalk area. We were staying over at Port Orleans Riverside. We hadn't yet stayed at a Deluxe resort. We loved Port Orleans and still do for that matter. We spent the day in Epcot and walked out to the BoardWalk to grab some dinner at Spoodles. (Yes! Remember Spoodles?) Afterwards we rented one of those surrey bikes. My twins were only 4 or 5. We put them both in the front "basket" seat in their matching Mickey Mouse aloha shirts and proceeded to ride around the BoardWalk to the Yacht and Beach and right away, I knew I wanted to stay here.

The balcony of our Beach Club room set the tone for the whole stay. It was serene yet we could watch the boats and the guests make their way around the lake. Photo by Chris Barry.

There was a certain feeling in the air. There was a movie on the lawn of the Beach Club, a fire in the fire pit. Kids were running across the path to get to that awesome pirate ship slide that careens its way into Stormalong Bay, the aforementioned best pool complex ever. Moms and dads were sitting out on the beach in chairs having cocktails while the kids played in the sand with pails and shovels. People were out strolling. They weren't rushing around. There was a deliberate slower pace in their gait. It was both tranquil and busy at the same time. It struck a perfect balance. It's just got the right vibe. I felt that way the first time we finally stayed there. I felt it at the Yacht Club in November and at the Beach Club a few weeks ago. It's what I love most about the place and it's what has me longing to go back. I miss that perfect vibe.

Now, I realize that comparing these two high end resort areas sort of reeks of privilege. And I don't want to come off as some sort of snob. I don't have to stay at the Yacht Club or the Grand Floridian to be at Disney. I adore the French Quarter and – to my surprise – I thoroughly enjoyed my stay chaperoning a school trip to the All Stars a few years ago. And I cannot in good faith disparage the resorts over around the Seven Seas Lagoon. The Polynesian is awesome. I'm thrilled that I stayed at the Grand Floridian. It's beautiful and you can't beat those views from the waterside balconies; they're simply extraordinary. Once I finally get a room at the Contemporary, I'll let you know my thoughts. It's a Disney original and I'm sure staying there would be totally unique.

When I'm at Walt Disney World I'm in my happy little bubble, whether I'm sitting on a Grand Floridian balcony watching the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom or I'm on my way home to Port Orleans on a Disney bus after an exhausting day storming the parks. But Disney is about making the magic happen. And there's a certain kind of magic that happens when I'm at the Yacht and Beach Club that I just don't get anywhere else on Disney property, and so I'll scrimp and save and do without in order to make that magic happen as much as I can. Having two kids living and working down at Walt Disney World is going to make that happen more often – we're already planning a return visit in a month or so – and I hope that we'll be stationed around Crescent Lake somewhere when we do. That's my home away from home for sure.

That's all for this time. As always, I'd like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to share your thoughts and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.



  1. By wdwchuck

    #5 Not a big Skyliner fan. We had some issues at the Rivera that turned us off pretty good. Should probably try it again though.
    #4 Yes, one of the top 3 meals I have ever had was at California Grill. But we haven't been able to get in for years so I go with your choices. We love the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Excellent food and some of the best service around.
    #3 Never stayed at the Yachtsmen but Beach Club and Boardwalk have been outstanding. Still love the Floridian and when we when the lottery that will be our home base.
    #2 Walking in and out of the back door of Epcot will be forever one of our favorite things about staying at Crescent Lake. Leaving without fighting the buses or traffic is just a beautiful thing. And the huge bonus of walking to Hollywood Studios is outstanding.
    #1 Like you, I have always loved the bubble vibe. The only time that didn't happen was when we stayed at a Value Resort. But we lived and learned. I did go and look at getting a 1 or 2 bedroom villa at Beach Club next month and most of them were sold out but there was one 2 bedroom for $1880 a night. I know several people who have that kind of money to spend and everyone of them would not do it. I try and learn from those people.

  2. By Dave1313

    I'm going to open with a question on your opening premise re: the 2 camps (and your evolution form one to the other). Doing the rough math, it would seem when you and your family thought you were of the Seven Seas Lagoon camp, your kids were in the roughly under ten to early teen years, right? Do you think the evolution to Crescent Lake could also have had to do with the kids getting older and then the family was more focused on some of the attractions and offerings ("big kid" rides, food, etc) at EPC and DHS? I ask because when I did a family trip with my sister's family, we did stay at Poly, and everyone thought it was great. The kids were only 5 and 6 then, however. We may end up doing another trip like that hopefully in the next couple of years, but the kids are now both young teenagers. Not that we would ignore MK (as I know you do not), but I find myself contemplating if Poly would be the right answer for a future trip. Then again, I myself don't restrict to the 2 camps, I found trips involving AKL and WL ("almost SSL", but no monorail, of course) very nice.

    Now to your top 5 :

    5) I do like the Skyliner, and have not had any serious issues with it (a colleague at work was less fortunate - he got stuck on it for 3 hours in the early days, and he is in no rush to ever ride it again, as a result). I did ride it once just before Christmas in 2019, and while my planned trip (EPC--> DHS and back) worked out fine, there was a HUGE line at the CB transfer station. It occurred to me then, that there is no good way at the moment to know when you get on at one end what kind of backups there may be or crowd levels at the transfer station. Aside form there potentially being some reason Disney does not want to do it, I can't guess why they would not include Skyliner status in the app, similar to how they predict ride times and any shutdowns that may happen. That to me would be a huge Skyliner improvement to help me figure out if I want to do Skyliner or maybe take a boat (or even walk ). Obviously you can't change your mind when you get to CB, you are then stuck with Skyliner or going to the bus stop.

    That said, I share your hope that someday they expand it with the rumored "phase 2" to get to the DAK and Coronado Springs areas.

    4) I'd probably agree, but might call that one even. I've never been to Citrico's, and was only able to ever get an ADR at Cali Grill one time. I have been to Narcoossees a few times and really like it, same for Kona Cafe. So far, I liked the addition of Steakhouse 71 at the Contemporary. I still need to make it to Cape May and Ale and Compass, but did like Yachtsman. Been to Flying Fish when it was still "Cafe" (liked it), but haven't been since they re-modeled and removed "Cafe" from the name.

    3) Not being a visitor who ever uses the pools, I feel that aspect is a bit lost on me (though based on how it looks alone, I'd think the Poly large Volcano pool is pretty nice, but maybe it can't compare to Stormalong in actual use? And I guess it's smaller by quite a bit, not directly serving 2 adjacent resorts like Stomalong does.).

    2) Definitely agree here. The fact that it's 2 parks you can enter either with a short walk or boat ride is unbeatable. No other Resorts can claim that advantage for two of the parks. I'm curious, when your wife ran into the open bridge at the canal can you elaborate on how long she had to wait (10 minutes, half an hour, more?)? I want to check out the long walk to the TTC to avoid the Ferry/Monorail rush at park close someday, but if the risk of an open bridge adds a LOT of time, I might re-think that idea.

    1) While my actual stays at Crescent Lake are somewhat limited (3 days at Yacht I think 6-7 years ago, and 5 days at Dolphin in late 2021), I have been at Yacht/Beach in the evenings few times when having ADRs at those resorts. So I think I agree on the Vibe in the evenings.

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