BoardWalk Inn Resort Reimagining: Spring 2023 Construction Update

BoardWalk Inn is currently in the midst of construction and changes part of a resort reimagining. This post shares details about what’s on the horizon and work that Walt Disney World has already completed at this iconic inn. (Updated April 27, 2023.)

About one year ago, Walt Disney World announced that they’d be making “a seaside splash at Disney’s BoardWalk!” The multi-year project would see Walt Disney World reimagining elements of the beloved turn-of-the-century promenade and inside the Deluxe Resort, iwith a charming new lobby design, nearby coffee bar, delectable dining options, refreshed guest rooms, and other special touches.

This follows reimaginings of Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Village Resorts last year, which brought with them a range of enhancements including character-inspired guest rooms (Incredibles and Moana, respectively). It also comes after lobby overhauls to a number of resorts, and as Walt Disney World converts a number of guest rooms at Grand Floridian to Disney Vacation Club villas. Expect elements of those enhancements to appear at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, too.

Inside Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, light and airy touches will reinvigorate the lobby, lounge, and guest rooms. Just off the lobby, a new coffee bar is now open that offers artisanal beverages and quick bites. One major addition offering storybook sweet treats and dreamy desserts is The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers, a new table service restaurant and bakery.

Expected to open in Late 2023, the Cake Bake Shop replaces ESPN Club and will offer both savory and dessert menus. The restaurant will also serve afternoon tea service in a whimsical atmosphere that complements the magic of the idyllic charm of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn that guests know and love.

During the construction, all other venues at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn remain open. This includes the inventively-named BoardWalk Ice Cream. (Hey, at least it’s better than “BoardWalk Ice Cream: An Edy’s Eating EXPERIENCE! ~ at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort.”)

I’ve poked fun at BoardWalk Ice Cream (only because I still miss Ample Hills), but I do have to give Disney credit–they replaced the temporary signage with a nice, dimensional one. I’m not sure when this happened, but it’s not new. I noticed it a few months ago and didn’t have anywhere to mention it until now. Didn’t seem worthy of its own post. Also to Disney’s credit, at least this venue isn’t sitting empty. (Ample Hills’ downfall wasn’t Disney’s fault.)

Inside Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, it’s hard to tell whether work on the lobby is finished.

Earlier in 2023, the lobby was under construction. When the walls came down, the biggest change was that the uninterrupted check-in desk (singular) had been replaced by smaller kiosks that allow Cast Members to more freely move around them. This is consistent with other resorts, and isn’t really a material change. Unless you were specifically looking for it, you probably wouldn’t notice anything is different.

To the best of my knowledge, nothing else has changed. Maybe they swapped out a couple pieces of furniture (as a few items did look fresher), but even that I doubt. In comparing my old versus new images side by side, I can’t spot any material changes.

As such, I’m skeptical that the lobby work is finished, and will continue to pop in for to keep checking. Every time we’ve been in the Crescent Lake area lately, I’ve popped into the lobby for one last look “just in case.” I have no idea when work here will begin, and am hoping some advance notice will be given. From my perspective, this is unnecessary. BoardWalk’s lobby is a thematic gem with quirky charm and character.

Hopefully the lobby project is finished, as no matter what Disney does here, there’s no way it’ll have the same personality. The lobby is already the perfect mix of charming, well-appointed, and exquisitely themed. It’s not dated in a 1990s way, and is unlikely to benefit from any reimagining.

I fear that any changes to the lobby will amount to introducing design flourishes touches that signal it’s a modern luxury hotel, but are at odds with the underlying themed design. That’s already happened at other Deluxe Resorts, with the refreshed Yacht Club lobby probably being the best example of the changes that’ll come to BoardWalk Inn.

I also worry that some of the quirky (and frankly, creepy) details will be lost. There’s minimal upside that can come from Imagineering messing with BoardWalk’s lobby, and a lot of downside.

If further changes are made, they’ll likely replace the carpet with something that signals “modern” (splashes of paint or broad brushstrokes) along with the removal of whimsical details (creepy clown chairs) and replacement of furniture with contemporary couches from Wayfair. That has been the Walt Disney World playbook on this type of project.

And in fact, that’s precisely what we’ve seen happen with the reimagining of Belle Vue Lounge.

I can’t really say I’m up in arms about this, but I don’t really see the point of these changes. The new-look Belle Vue Lounge is mostly a half-measure. The eclectic and more antique-looking furniture was replaced with more modern and generic-looking furniture, as was the carpet and some items displayed on the walls.

I wonder, did this really move the needle for anyone who didn’t like Belle Vue Lounge before and thought it was too old fashioned? It still looks similar; only astute eyes are going to spot the changes–the exact kind of guests who are more discerning and appreciate well-themed designs.

For me, the biggest difference is that it’s lacking in thematic cohesiveness. The new furniture also looks cheap and lacking in durability–literally like someone went to the “popular” page on Wayfair and ordered items at random.

To be sure, the utilization and appeal of this lounge could definitely be improved, but Belle Vue does have a passionate fanbase as a ‘secret spot’ or ‘hidden gem.’ I can understand Disney wanting to give these spaces refreshes to give them new life and more mainstream appeal, but either do it right or don’t do it at all. The bland half-measures only alienate, and don’t attract new fans.

From our perspective, a good template here would be Barcelona Lounge at Gran Destino Tower. Obviously not in style–as pretty as that is, it obviously should not be replicated at BoardWalk. That has an iconic look and does a nice job of embracing café society, with a day-to-night espresso bar that transitions to a Spanish-style Gin Tonic hub in the evening. Granted, Barcelona Lounge was purpose-built with this in mind and it’s unlikely Belle Vue Lounge could be retrofit into something like this, but it’s the right idea.

Then there’s Carousel Coffee, which replaces the lobby gift shop.

This makes the reimagined Belle Vue Lounge look like a thematic exemplar by comparison.

Carousel Coffee is as bland as can be, with the only “theme” coming via selective color (???) photos on the walls.

This has been roasted online by Walt Disney World fans, and for good reason. While I don’t hate it as much as many people, it still boggles my mind that the design team looked at the lobby and other spaces at the BoardWalk and thought this was a good fit.

Obviously, it’s bland and generically modern. That this looks like something you’d find in the lobby of a Hilton Garden Inn is only part of the problem.

The bigger issue is that it’s totally incongruous with its surroundings. Even if you like this for whatever reason (hey, to each their own!), it’s impossible to claim that this is stylistically and thematically coherent with the rest of the lobby–or literally anything else at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.

Then again, I hope it stays that way. I don’t want to see the rest of the lobby transformed to mesh with this (lack of) style. I’d rather it be the outlier and everything else remain well-themed.

The guest rooms at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort could definitely use a reimagining. The hotel side rooms are well-themed and have some great details, but they feel more and more like relics from the 1990s with each passing year. As much as I’d personally love themed-to-the-hilt hotel rooms, there’s also the practical reality of guest expectations, and these simply do not comport with the ~$700 nightly price point.

The room refurbishment is currently underway as of Spring 2023, and some rooms are actually finished. We have yet to stay in the new rooms, but they actually look decent from photos. We’ll withhold full judgment until seeing them in person, but preliminary impressions are positive.

Then there are the Disney Vacation Club rooms, which are among the dullest villas at Walt Disney World. These were refurbished at the start of the ‘modernization’ wave, before Imagineering hit its stride balancing theme, functionality, and high-end finishings. They’re underwhelming as compared to the newer rooms at Riviera, Saratoga, Grand Floridian, or the Poly Villas.

According to the 2023-2024 Disney Vacation Club Resort Refurbishments & Construction Timeline, these rooms will be updated during the BoardWalk reimagining. No word yet as to timing, but it should be within the next year.

Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to watch how work progresses around the promenade and inside the hotel over the next year or so. We’re big fans of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and hope its quaint style is preserved through this reimagining and that whatever modernization occurs isn’t too jarring from a time period perspective.

However, we also realize that there’s a lot of room for improvement, with a lot of spaces that have stagnated for years and could use a shot in the arm. It’ll be nice to see some new dining options, and here’s hoping that others are refreshed. As a whole, I’m cautiously optimistic about the changes at the BoardWalk. Hopefully Imagineering uses a deft touch to bring BoardWalk into the 21st century while maintaining its (last) turn of the century personality.

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What do you think of the construction and changes coming to Disney’s BoardWalk Resort? Sad to see ESPN Club removed, or ready for something new? Think this reimagining will work with the hotel theme, or is it unnecessary? Have you stayed at the BoardWalk Inn or Villas in the last few years? Do you think the resort is dated and tired, or still has a good look? Think the lobby, guest rooms, or both need an overhaul? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

47 Responses to “BoardWalk Inn Resort Reimagining: Spring 2023 Construction Update”
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