Beach Club v. BoardWalk Inn
If you’re looking for the best hotel near Epcot at Walt Disney World, there are several options. In this post, we’re going to compare the two that are most popular among Disney fans: Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Disney’s Beach Club Resort.
Admittedly, this is one of the less exciting comparisons in this series. (It’ll be tough to top last week’s showdown between Animal Kingdom and Wilderness Lodges.) Due to a combination of Michael Eisner’s obsession with this style and their location within a 10 minute walk of one another, there’s not a ton that separates these two resorts. (This comparison would be more interesting on the Disney Vacation Club side, but that’s not what this is.)
In fact, for many Walt Disney World fans, there won’t be any surprises here. The biggest distinguishing factor between the two resorts is pretty well known, and after that, it’s largely a matter of personal preference. In terms of our personal preference, we don’t think you can go wrong with either. Both rank highly in our Walt Disney World Deluxe Resorts Rankings, and even though they are both pricey, we love staying here during Epcot’s various festival. (Now wishing we booked at one for Festival of the Arts after hearing how awesome it is!)
As with all posts in this ‘versus’ series of Walt Disney World hotel comparisons, we use 6 elements of two different resorts to determine which is “the best.” With that, it’s time to compare and contrast…
Theme: BoardWalk – Both hotels are similar in theme. DisneyWar contains an anecdote about former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s obsession with his childhood vacations in the seaside communities of the Northeast, which at least in part drove the design of these Crescent Lake resorts. On the plus side, Walt Disney World got a cool resort ‘district’ out of it. On the downside, the 3 Disney hotels in the area are very similar in style.
Of these resorts, BoardWalk Inn has the most distinct theme, and goes the furthest to execute it. Beyond the actual Atlantic City-esque boardwalk, there are design references throughout the resort to Luna Park, Coney Island, etc., and turn-of-the-century pieces of decor pulled from those places. Beach Club is more generalized, meant to recreate the seaside resort cottages scattered around New England in the early 20th Century. If you’re judging strictly based upon thematic execution, BoardWalk wins. However, for most people, this is probably going to come down to how they digest each theme, and how it makes them feel. A lot of people–us included–prefer the vibe we get from Beach Club, but this subjective “feel” from the theme is going to vary from person to person.
Rooms: BoardWalk – In terms of layout, size, and features, there are no noteworthy differences between the standard rooms in each. At least, not that I’ve noticed. With that in mind, let’s turn to style. I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog recently harping on the balance of theme and luxury. Specifically, how many resorts at Walt Disney World used to skew (too far, in my opinion) towards theme at the expense of luxury, but have sense overcorrected and now do not incorporate a sufficient amount of theme. Beach Club’s new rooms are arguably Exhibit A in this regard. Aside from a few flourishes, it’s difficult to distinguish Beach Club’s rooms from a trendy, modern day hotel at the beach. I view that as a problem.
BoardWalk’s rooms have a few additional flourishes, from the art on the walls to the Minnie Mouse lamp and more, that help them do better with the balance. They also don’t feel like they’re trying to be modern or trendy, and yet still manage to feel sophisticated and nice. On that basis, they have the edge.
Dining: BoardWalk – Both resorts have highs and lows when it comes to dining. Being a hotel that doubles as an entertainment district, BoardWalk has a varied dining lineup with something for everyone on the table service front. Beach Club technically only has Beaches & Cream and Cape May Cafe. The restaurants throughout Crescent Lake are so incredibly easy to access from one another that table service dining is tough to consider a selling point. (Especially since our top fine dining recommendation would be a progressive dinner that incorporates some of both resorts.)
Instead, it might (should?) probably come down to the better, convenient counter service options at each hotel. Both are really weak. If you want counter service at BoardWalk, you’re stuck heading down to BoardWalk Bakery, which has a limited menu in addition to the baked goods. The scene at Beach Club is even worse, as Beach Club Marketplace is basically an afterthought in a gift shop and convenience store. Hurricane Hanna’s is a better option than the Marketplace, but you have to go out to the pool, and that’s a hassle. Ultimately, we’ll give the narrow edge to BoardWalk, but it’s really a matter of ‘least bad’ in terms of counter service, not best.
Transportation/Location: Push – Location is one of the biggest selling points of these resorts, as it’s easy to stumble home after a day of Drinking Around the World or enjoying some wine seminars during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Both are walking distance to Epcot via the International Gateway and also walking distance to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The differences in the walking times are negligible, and influenced by the location of your room, anyway.
Boat service is also available to these two parks. Bus service is similar(ly bad) at both, although the close proximity of these resorts makes it easy, on the way back, to just hop off wherever the bus stops first.
Pools: Beach Club – Ranked #1 by us and everyone else, Storm-Along Bay is the gold standard of Walt Disney World pools. This sprawling pool complex 3 acres in size with sand at the bottom and a lazy river is in a league of its own. It also has a 230-foot ‘shipwrecked’ water slide, ample lounging space, and an engaging environment that makes it fun to explore. Just as the sand in the pool will literally stick to you and get all over your room, it will also stick in your memory and be one of the highlights of your trip (or at least, your kids’ trip). Storm-Along Bay rivals Animal Kingdom Lodge’s savanna is the single most compelling amenity in all of Walt Disney World. This will be the reason you’ll find your family spending inordinate amounts of time at the resort, and BoardWalk Inn has nothing even remotely comparable.
Meanwhile, over at BoardWalk Inn, there’s Creepy Clown Pool. (Known officially as Lunar Park Pool.) This pool has it all: roller coasters, brave little elephants, and creepy clowns. Well, maybe it has “everything” if you’re Stefon from Weekend Update. Even if you think Storm-Along Bay is slightly overrated, I don’t think anyone could contend that Lunar Park Pool is superior to Lunar Park Pool in any way. And since there’s no pool hopping to Storm-Along Bay, you have to stay there to enjoy that pool. Meaning that’s Beach Club’s biggest selling point.
Cost: Beach Club – These are both pricey Deluxe Resorts that are among the most expensive in all of Walt Disney World. However, prices are consistently lower at Beach Club. It’s less than a 10% difference on average, but it all adds up. (The gap grows as you move to nicer view tiers–no surprise since the BoardWalk view rooms are among the coolest at Walt Disney World.)
Verdict: Beach Club – Even though we’re declaring Beach Club the winner–and if you value all of the variables we’ve set forth here, it is–this is ultimately a case of “it depends.” Most categories here could be overridden by personal preference, except one: pools. Storm-Along Bay is objectively better, and by a significant margin.
The question thus becomes, does that matter to you? If you’re planning a trip for December, January, or some other time of the year when the pools might not be open, or if your party just doesn’t really care about the pool, that factor should be taken off the table. Without Storm-Along Bay serving as the trump card, BoardWalk has advantages in theme, rooms, and dining, but your personal preference might differ: perhaps you agree with our takes above, giving BoardWalk the edge. Or, perhaps you prefer the airy, laid back style of Beach Club, like its chic rooms, and find Beach Club Marketplace perfectly suitable as a counter service option.
So where, exactly, does that leave this? It depends. If you’re a first-timer, especially one with kids, we would recommend erring on the side of Storm-Along Bay pool being a deciding factor. Kids tend to love this pool, and Beach Club is cheaper anyway, so that’s the safer bet. If you’re not a first timer but are still having trouble deciding…it probably still comes down to the pool.
Now, I’m curious as to what everyone else thinks. As promised after our last versus post, here’s a poll so you can vote for your favorite of the two:
Considering theme, rooms, dining, pools, price & other factors, which of these two Walt Disney World hotels do you prefer:
– Disney Tourist Blog (@DisTouristBlog) January 16, 2017
Last week’s poll for Wilderness Lodge v. Animal Kingdom Lodge was close, with AKL scoring 51% of the votes (to my surprise!). I’ll go ahead and predict a victory for Beach Club this time, and by a larger margin. It’ll be relatively close, but Storm-Along is a big deal for a lot of Disney fans. (I’m guessing 60/40 in favor of Beach Club.)
As for us, it really depends upon the time of the year. If it’s a warmer month, Beach Club–no question. I love Storm-Along Bay and think that plus a progressive dinner throughout the area makes a perfect ‘resort day.’ Plus, the whole atmosphere of the resort just feels right for summer…at least to us. If it’s a colder time of year, we prefer BoardWalk. (Although realistically, colder usually means Christmas, and I’d prefer to stay elsewhere completely then.)
Now that we’ve shared our take, we want to know your preference. Is Storm-Along Bay the deciding factor for you, or is something else? Are we missing a key variable that could, potentially give one the edge? Please give your feedback via the poll and comments below. While we hope this post is helpful in offering a head-to-head comparison of the most crucial elements of each Walt Disney World resort experience, we know it’s not definitive or the final word for every guest. In addition to reading the comments before making your own decision, we suggest supplementing this with our full review of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and our Disney’s Beach Club Resort Review (the latter is a bit outdated).
First, I love the comparison articles but I have two comments. I think it would have been reasonable to include Yacht Club with Beach Club as Disney considers them essentially interchangeable and they have the same management. Second, I think you should consider another series on the Club levels for deluxe resorts. While an argument could have been made for including this in the original comparisons, it too late for that now. Perhaps combining it with your DVC head to head that you referenced elsewhere?
A Club Level comparison could/would be great, but I’m not willing to spend the money it would cost for that series of posts. 🙂
Ha! Here’s something to consider: book the discounts early and you can get club level. It is worth the money if you eat/drink a lot at the hotel. I would be interested in seeing the different club levels. Maybe you can have some sort of reader insight on this? Maybe highlight some readers and their experiences? (I’m merely thinking off the top of my head. I enjoy your articles and insight).
Other than the pool, we like everything better at Boardwalk. We won’t stay anywhere else. My kids love just being able to run downstairs and have the entire Boardwalk complex right there. It’s just so convenient,
After staying at all the deluxe hotels we’re firmly Boardwalk people. Grand Floridian is actually our favorite stay but it can’t beat the location of the Boardwalk. With both Epcot and Hollywood Studios suffering now with building projects and empty spaces neither one is a full day park for our teenagers, so to be able to walk between the two and include a stop at our room on the way is invaluable. Also prefer the size of Boardwalk as it feels more intimate than Beach Club. And say what you will about the Bakery. A trip to WDW is not complete with out a cupcake for breakfast at least one day!
I LOVE Boardwalk, but then, we never used to be pool people. Before we owned DVC, we always just ran off to the parks and never really saw the resort pools. Since becoming DVC members, we have spent time at the pool at each of our stays. It would be hard for me to pick someplace besides boardwalk if I were staying at an EPCOT area resort, but I’ve heard so much about stormalong bay, maybe we’ll have to try it.
I will say I think the slide itself at the pool at boardwalk is a lot of fun, but that clown is creepy. When we stayed at Boardwalk we had a pool view, and even on the top floor it looked like the stupid thing was peeking right into our room. We managed to startle ourselves a few times glancing out the window and seeing it watching us. Always Watching….
I just can’t justify the Boardwalk to myself. Staying at the Beach Club means exclusive access to Stormalong Bay, the Beach Clubs biggest selling point. Meanwhile, the Boardwalk’s biggest selling point, that being the actual boardwalk, is wonderfully accessable to Beach Clubbers. Staying at the Beach Club I still get all the wonderful dining and entertainment offerings of the Boardwalk. I still get to immerse myself in the theming. Staying at the Boardwalk, I don’t get access to Stormalong Bay.
We stayed at Beach Club last year and Boardwalk this year. I don’t know what was going on at the Boardwalk bakery the end of November, but it was dirty. There were fruit flies around the soda fountain all the time. One day, I rinsed my mug and noticed that the sink was clogged. By that evening, there was a full sink of filthy water. For whatever reason, the Boardwalk just didn’t have the luxury feel of Beach Club. I would choose Beach Club from now on.
Boardwalk 100% for me. I’ve stayed in both Villas more than once. I rarely use the pool and usually just grab breakfast at the resort I’m staying at. The Boardwalk Bakery is so much better than anything the BC has to offer. Plus the walk is so short of any of the Epcot resorts that dining isn’t really a factor.
Beach Club. Even though I love the Boardwalk for the proximity to the Boardwalk and all of it’s amenities, I cannot get past the creepy clown pool. Why clowns, why Disney??
Really enjoying the versus articles. Keep up the good work!
Largely a matter of personal preference is right. The pool at Beach Club is best but I live on the New England coast so the hotel theme has no appeal for me. After all, I’m “getting away from it all” on vacation! I also prefer the Boardwalk because when my kids were in the 8-12 year old range that there were many more things they could do on their own at Boardwalk compared to Beach Club. This gave them a little more independence which we all appreciated.
We loved the Boardwalk during our last trip in December and it was priced $100 lower per night than Beach Club. If you consider all the Boardwalk food stands as counter service (I do), you really can’t compare. The bus service was actually not bad either. Most days ever didn’t wait more than 10-15 minutes for a bus. We had a great view of the Illuminations fireworks from Boardwalk too.
We have stayed in both resorts’ villas, as non DVC, and regular rooms as well. We were even comped a night at the Boardwalk Presidential Suite once, when it was new. Both resorts’ villas were essentially identical, except for the newly updated decor at the BC. What sways us consistently to the Beach Club Villas is
1) The main pool 2) The lobby and “porch” areas are more gracious and useable 3) The Beach Club Villas have a dedicated pool that is quieter and less creepy than the clown/circus themed one at BW 4) It’s a pleasant, easy, mostly air-conditioned walk to the restaurants and shop at the Yacht Club 5) The BW rooms overlooking the lake get very noisy from traffic on the wooden boardwalk below, and the often yelling people…more so than pool noise.
We totally agree that the new furnishings taking over the Beach Club rooms are so, so sad. Gone is the charm; even the hallways in the main building look depressing.
Other than that aspect, the Beach Club is delightful and our first choice at WDW.
I’ve read all of these so far and this one is the hardest for me to find an objective answer to. With the understanding that this isn’t a DVC comparison, we’re fairly new DVC members and I suspect the Boardwalk will always be our #1 choice. The point costs are low, we haven’t had much trouble booking it, and we love the ability to walk to either EPCOT or Hollywood. Trattoria al Forno is one of our very favorite restaurants at WDW (and usually easy to get reservations) and Ample Hills is our favorite ice cream spot.
The biggest reason though, and as I said, it’s not objective, is that the Boardwalk was the first DVC resort to really feel like “home”. We’ve stayed at all three monorail resorts and the Boardwalk just feels much more relaxed. I haven’t stayed at the Beach Club in over 20 years and we’re booked there this March, so we’ll see if my opinion changes. I have a feeling my kids are going to overrule me for future trips based on the pool anyway.
You forgot to use a criteria weighing how much the theme of each hotel is ruined by the views of the Swolphin 😉
It’s also worth considering the Yacht Club, here – a three-way showdown? I’d say that the Yacht Club has a certain offer that neither the Beach Club nor the Boardwalk manage – even though they’re all nice, of course!
Or maybe we should just go to Hawaii…
if you were to compare these two resort’s dvc villas instead, which would you choose in the end? We just got back from a stay at beach club in a 2 bedroom villa and loved it! I loved the ability to walk to epcot, but also we loved the pool…a lot. When we go back to disney world, i was thinking of staying at boardwalk villas instead because their standard view villa rooms are so much cheaper. We would save hundreds on a week + stay. Like you said, the walk to epcot is pretty much the same for both resorts, but i am worried we will miss beach club’s pool. Do you think its worth spending a significant amount more for stormalong bay?
This question is exactly why I specifically indicated this was not a DVC comparison. I love those low point standard view rooms at BWV, but they are really difficult to score during popular seasons unless you own at BoardWalk. Conversely, BCV can be difficult to book year-round unless you own there.
Ultimately, you have the same type of dilemma (particularly from a ‘where to own’ perspective) but for different reasons.
To answer your question, yes it is worth the premium in points. Then again, part of my decision might be influenced by the fact that we’ve been shut out of BCV for the last 3 years when trying to book with points. That difficulty might lead to me wanting it even more! 😉
Thanks for responding and giving me your opinion between the two. I kind of feel the same…the pool is worth the extra cost.
We tried at exactly 7 months out and neither Boardwald’s value rooms or andthing in Beach Club was available for a trip starting Memorial Day weekend. On one hand it was disappointing, on the other it made the decision easier! 🙂
Do we think there is more variation between *resorts* as far as service quality, or between the *particular staff* you interact with. I ask because my recent trip to Beach Club was quite disappointing. The room was (relatively speaking, obviously) a mess when we arrived. For example, food had been left in the refrigerator. I called about the food and was told to throw it out which (1) smell and (2) it didn’t fit well in the receptacles. She said she’d tell them (it never got resolved through the end of my stay). There were other little things too (desk, shower, sink not thoroughly wiped recently).
It was marathon weekend, so I was sympathetic to them being busy, and I’m not one to be too bothered by this, but I will say it had me thinking about maybe trying Boardwalk (where I haven’t been for years) again. Do we think this sort of thing is a one-off, equally likely at any resort?
There’s no variation between/among the resorts as far as service quality goes–not even between Pop Century and the Grand Floridian. As everyone does, we have anecdotal positive/negative experiences with certain hotels at Walt Disney World, but those experiences change from visit to visit (and sometimes even day to day).
From time to time, we hear feedback from readers about how they’ll “never stay at X again!” because of the service, opting instead for another Walt Disney World hotel. The reality is that the same negative experience (or conversely, the same positive experience) is just as likely to be encountered anywhere.
Unfortunately, Disney’s/TDO’s structure doesn’t empower or enable individual resort management teams to strive for better guest service or cultivating strong(er) front line teams. As such, the perception of good/better service should never be the basis for choosing one WDW hotel over another.
Gotcha, seems to accord with my experiences generally. Some of my most notably great service came when we were at Pop Century recently. Honestly looking for an excuse to go back there soon.
How about Beach Club vs. Swan & Dolphin, then?
We’ll get to that. 🙂