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:
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).