We love Walt Disney World transportation (well, not the buses) and we love using it for leisurely days outside the theme parks. Whether that mean riding the monorail or boats around for our Christmas Yuletide Tour or now using the Skyliner gondolas as a means of exploring and eating, there’s a lot of “free fun with transportation” to be had at Walt Disney World. (Updated December 5, 2020.)
This is true now more than ever as Walt Disney World’s phased reopening continues and the parks have both reduced hours and reduced snacks. Currently, only EPCOT really offers a fun wining and dining experience. For some of you, this won’t matter. For those like us, who view snacking as crucial to visiting Walt Disney World, that’s where this plan comes into play.
The good news is that every single resort along the gondola route is now open, so you can enjoy the Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll or Disney’s Gondola Gastro Glide itinerary once again! Note that some restaurants are still closed or have modified menus, so it’s things are not completely back to normal. Nevertheless, we think this strategy and plan will be an awesome, free way to spend your non-park day–or even a nightcap after the parks close early…
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the Skyliner gondolas connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to Art of Animation, Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, and Disney’s Riviera Resorts. With the exception of the last one, these are all Value or Moderate Resorts, which are not typically what Walt Disney World visitors seek out for hotel hijinks.
Many of you have probably never visited these resorts. You might even wonder why you should visit–what these “lower tier” hotels hold of interest. Quite a lot, actually! For one, there’s little rhyme or reason as to the seasonal desserts that end up at each resort tier. It’s common for Value Resorts to get some incredible limited time offerings–better than what winds up at some of the Deluxe Resorts. There are also some great permanent menu items at these hotels to which we’ll direct your attention.
For another thing, every Walt Disney World resort has worthwhile themed design. It’s no secret to regular readers that Caribbean Beach Resort is one of our absolute favorites at WDW, and Pop Century is up there as one of the places we’ve stayed most. In fact, one of the reasons we were anxiously awaiting the Skyliner is so that it would expose a new set of guests to a couple of resorts we love.
In short, this is a great fun and free (well, aside from the food and drinks–but the activity itself is free, unlike going to the parks) way to enjoy your non-parks days at Walt Disney World. Let’s cut to the chase, and begin our Skyliner Sip & Snack “Stroll,” gliding around the gondola resorts…
Disney’s Hollywood Studios – We’ll start at DHS just for the sake of convenience. If you’re doing a day outside of the Walt Disney World parks, it still makes sense to go here first due to transportation and parking restrictions at the Skyliner resorts. (The Skyliner station is outside the park, so no need to enter…unless you want!)
If you are planning to visit DHS before starting this Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll, we’d refer you to our Best Disney’s Hollywood Studios Snacks post. Our top recommendation for something sweet is the Carrot Cake Cookie; for something savory (or boozy), you can’t go wrong with literally anything at BaseLine Tap House. From there, continue to Pop Century via Caribbean Beach’s Skyliner Hub…
Disney’s Pop Century Resort – This resort doesn’t have the strongest reputation among Walt Disney World dining options, but we think there are some diamonds in the rough here. At sunset or dusk, the Petals Pool Bar right outside the lobby is another favorite spot of ours. We usually grab a snack from inside and eat it out here, enjoying the ambiance.
As for Everything Pop Food Court, there’s almost always an intriguing seasonal dessert (or 3!) here. Normally, the iconic item we recommend is the Tie-Dyed Cheesecake (a must-have if you’ve never tried it). If that’s not available when you visit, consider the Cookies ‘n’ Cream Mickey Cupcake.
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – Next, we head across Generation Gap Bridge for Art of Animation. There, you’ll find Landscape of Flavors which is one of our favorite food courts in all of Walt Disney World, albeit with a more limited lineup than normal.
If you’re going for something substantive, the Mongolian Grilled Fish or Tandoori Boneless Chicken Thighs are winners. If you’d rather do a light treat…like dessert…see what seasonal items are available. Failing that, the hand-scooped gelato bar or Italian Float would be our top recommendations.
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort – This is the whole reason this Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll exists in the first place and, we used to have a trio of my favorites here. Unfortunately, both Spyglass Grill (home to the superlative Chorizo Burger) and Sebastian’s Bistro (home to the equally exceptional Caribbean Pull-apart Rolls) are currently closed. We’re hopeful that these restaurants will reopen sooner rather than later, or if not, those popular menu items will be relocated. Stay tuned for that.
For now, after exiting at the Skyliner hub, walk over towards Old Port Royale and make a stop at Banana Cabana Pool Bar. This is one of our favorite lounges in all of Walt Disney World. The menu is nothing that’ll wow you, but the ambiance (with views of both the pool and across the water–perfect for sunsets!) is impeccable, and the Cast Members here are an absolute delight.
Disney’s Riviera Resort – From Old Port Royale, you’ll want to continue around Barefoot Bay towards Riviera Resort, which is home to a wealth of dining options. We’d recommend either Topolino’s Terrace for a fancy meal or the Primo Piatto counter service restaurant for something less expensive.
At Topolino’s Terrace, we like the Beets Barigoule (it’s shockingly delicious…and gorgeous), Rigatoni, Braised Lamb Shank, and Filet Mignon. Of the desserts, the only thing on the current menu that we’ve ordered is the Pistachio Mousse (pictured above), which is also fantastic.
At Primo Piatto, we’re fans of the Sausage and Pepperoni Hearth-Baked Pizza, Croque Monsieur, Spicy Italian Sandwich, Grilled Vegetable Skewer, and Tuna NiÃ§oise Salad. (If you’re super early and arrive for breakfast, the Croque Madame and Blueberry-Lemon Pancakes are both highly recommended.)
If you already had a full meal and are just looking for drinks or desserts, check out Bar Riva or Le Petit Café. The latter of which is a stylish patisserie with satisfying specialty coffee drinks, exquisite pastries, and late-night drinks and small plates, in a Parisian setting inspired by the 1970 animated classic, the Aristocats. Some caffeine might be in order to perk you back up after all that eating–because we’re not done yet!
Epcot’s International Gateway – Once you’ve had a hearty meal at Riviera Resort, you’ll want to stroll over to the Skyliner station to catch the gondola to Epcot’s International Gateway. There, you’ll have two options. The first is to enter World Showcase and grab a dessert of your choosing. (Nearby France is a can’t miss choice.)
If you’re doing this on a non-parks day, instead wander over to Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. With Ample Hills Creamery now permanently closed, Beaches & Cream is once again the go-to dessert spot at Crescent Lake. Here, we either recommend finishing the Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll with a bang, by ordering the Kitchen Sink–a monstrous creation that serves four (although I’ve eaten one almost entirely by myself on more than one occasion). Alternatively, our top pick for more modest appetites is the No Way Jose.
Ultimately, this is a lot of eating, drinking, and resort hopping. In addition to dining and drinking at each of these Walt Disney World hotels, we hope you take the time to wander and explore their grounds, especially if you’ve never spent any time at them.
Even if you don’t want to, you’ll probably have to walk around a bit to shake off the food coma and work up your appetite to power through this Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll. If you try even half the foods on this list, we think you’ll have a pretty awesome experience!
What are your must-eat or drink menu items on the Skyliner Sip & Snack Stroll? Anything–or anywhere–we didn’t mention that you think is worthy of inclusion? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!