Our Stroll-less Stay at Grand Floridian

It’s been over 7 months since Walt Disney World revealed plans to build a walkway from Grand Floridian Resort to Magic Kingdom. I’m confident of this because we immediately began trying to book a DVC stay when our window opened for the Villas at Grand Floridian.

Surely the new walkway would be open by Christmas, especially given the popularity of the lucrative Grand Floridian Gingerbread display. We stalked the Disney Vacation Club member site for availability December 1-14 (the cheapest point season) to no avail, finally settling for something in February.

It was the perfect plan. We’d be able to rope drop Magic Kingdom, walk back for a midday break, and return for the evening hours. We could leave right after the fireworks, showing how much time could be saved by walking instead of waiting for the monorail. It was the perfect idea–we could have fun staying at one of our favorite DVC resorts and also make it a “for the sake of research” stay…

In retrospect, we were overdue for disappointment. We’ve had a lot of luck with recent hotel stays at Walt Disney World, getting upgraded to a reimagined 1-bedroom unit at Saratoga Springs Resort last month. Last year, we similarly had success scoring one of the few (at the time) awesome new rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Anyway, we weren’t so lucky this time. We’re likely looking at at least several more months before this is ready. Nevertheless, we’ll share some of the highlights from our rare stay at the Villas at Grand Floridian Resort, including a look at our studio room, what we ate, and more…

While the swinging bridge is now in place and there’s some visible progress on the path that will connect in both directions, a lot of work on the path remains to be done–especially closer to both Grand Floridian Resort and Magic Kingdom. Above is how things currently look from the Grand Floridian marina.

Walls are up around the perimeter of Grand Floridian’s outer buildings, but no progress has started on the path beyond these walls. There’s also still construction being done on the Magic Kingdom entrance area, and the pedestrian path can’t open until that’s finished. In a couple of spots, huge mounds of earth need to be cleared before the path can be completed.

Given how this pathway project has progressed in fits and starts, we have no tentative estimate of when it’ll be finished. The pace could ramp up and it could be done by Easter. Conversely, work could pause for a couple of months or slow down again, causing further delay. Our best guess at this point is “by summer” but keep in mind that our best guess at another point was “by Christmas.” Last Christmas.

We debated whether we should cancel our Villas at Grand Floridian Resort reservation, having a pretty good idea the walking path wouldn’t be ready by the date of our visit. However, we had points to burn sometime before June (with no option to bank), and figured we might as well revisit the villas.

After all, we like the villas more than the hotel side of the Grand Floridian Resort, and it ranks fairly highly in our Disney Vacation Club Resort Rankings. (And will probably jump a spot once that walkway is done.) And while we couldn’t wander over to Magic Kingdom, we nonetheless took plenty of strolls around the grounds of Grand Floridian…

One thing I really love about the Villas at Grand Floridian is the lobby atrium.

I know this isn’t nearly on par with the grandiose lobby in the main lobby with its soaring atrium, but I prefer the intimate style here, the soothing trickle of the fountain, and the comparative lack of guests.

The main building can be chaotic with visitors, whereas that’s seldom the case at the villas.

When we stay here, I enjoy taking my laptop down to the lobby and sitting on those comfortable sofas. (There used to be an espresso machine down here but, sadly, that appears to be a thing of the past.)

We stayed in a studio with a standard view this time, which is our ideal scenario at this property.

While I think this room is surpassed by Disney’s Riviera Resort, I still far prefer the overall package of the Villas at Grand Floridian.

We also really love the balcony with a view overlooking the monorail.

All things being equal, I’d probably take this over a water view. (Probably in the minority on that.) Definitely if this view costs fewer points. (Definitely not in the minority on that.)

Notice anything about the bed in this photo?

I’ll give you a hint: something is there that’s frequently missing–one of my odd ‘hills to die on’ quirks when it comes to Walt Disney World hotel rooms.

Here’s a look at the bounceback flier in our room. (For more info, see our How to Book Bounceback Discounts at Walt Disney World.)

We’ve had success with receiving these recently–I think this flier has been in our last 6-8 hotel rooms. Either Disney is getting better about placing them in rooms, or we’ve been exceedingly lucky.

One thing we neglected to do is make any Advance Dining Reservations. We’re doing a pretty good job (I think) of updating older restaurant reviews, and are eager to revisit both Narcoossee’s and Citricos. However, I’m concerned that one or both are going to see a reimagining this year (a la Enchanted Rose Lounge, minus the Beauty and the Beast inspired part) and I don’t want any new review to quickly become obsolete.

For pretty much all of our resort stays after this, we’re planning on doing the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan and leveraging that. First on the agenda is the pricier character meals that we haven’t done recently. Dinner at Akershus, Cape May Cafe, Hollywood & Vine, and more are all on the agenda.

Back to our present stay, we made a last-minute ADR for Grand Floridian Cafe while standing outside Gasparilla Island Grill and not seeing anything we really wanted.

As we wrote in our recent Grand Floridian Cafe Breakfast Review, it’s a good option that’s generally easy to do on a walk-up basis. It also generally attracts a much older demographic (with interior design to match), making it a nice place for a quiet, laid-back meal.

For her dinner, Sarah ordered the Impossible Burger: Caramelized Onions and Plant-based Smoked Gouda on a Brioche Bun served with Lettuce, Tomato, and Pickle.

I’m not sure any review of this is necessary at this point–it’s identical to what you could order at a couple dozen other Walt Disney World restaurants. If you like Impossible Burgers, you’ll like this. It’s a solid and predictable plant-based option.

For my meal, I ordered the Buttermilk-fried Chicken: Hand-breaded Chicken Breast with ‘Loaded’ Smashed Potatoes and Warmed Bacon Vinaigrette.

I’ll level with you–the main reason this post exists is because of this Buttermilk-fried Chicken. Sure, I wanted to do an update on the bridge and pedestrian path to Magic Kingdom, but it really doesn’t look a ton different since the last time we covered it a couple months ago.

Once I tasted this, I knew I had to write about it…but my original idea for “An Ode to Buttermilk-fried Chicken at Grand Floridian Cafe” felt excessive. We’ve had a lot of good meals at Walt Disney World recently (and at GF Cafe, in general) and few have been as delightful as this.

This Buttermilk-fried Chicken is the pinnacle of comfort food. The boneless chicken breast itself was tender and juicy, with the batter providing a perfectly crisp texture and mild seasoning. By itself, this fried chicken would’ve been pretty good.

However, it’s the tang of the bacon vinaigrette that elevated this to the next level. It’s not simply a guilty pleasure indulgence–this chicken is actually interesting and has some nuanced flavor. Add to that the creaminess of the loaded smashed potatoes, which themselves were perfection, and this is one of my early favorite meals of the year at Walt Disney World. (Obviously, it doesn’t measure up to our exceptional experiences at Takumi-Tei, but that’s an apples to oranges comparison.)

I like several of the entrees that Grand Floridian Cafe serves for dinner (including the New York Strip Steak and Lobster Burger), but I’d choose the Buttermilk-fried Chicken over all of them. It’s worth the boat or monorail trip from Magic Kingdom to seek this out.

That’s really about all we have to share from this Villas at Grand Floridian Resort stay. The report probably doesn’t sound particularly event, but it was a great hotel-centric visit for us. We spent a lot of time simply wandering the grounds, and were probably better off not having the walking path to Magic Kingdom. We didn’t have any reason to leave for the park this way, and spent more time simply unwinding and enjoying the resort.

Plus, now we have an excuse to book another Villas at Grand Floridian Resort stay. At this point, I’m already looking to September…not because I think that’s when the walking path will be done, but rather, that’s because that’s when studios require the fewest points and when there’s actually availability. So, check back in another ~7 months for our report on how using the pedestrian bridge works out during our next stay at the Grand Floridian. 😉

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Any feedback on our Villas at Grand Floridian Resort stay? Are you looking forward to the walking path to Magic Kingdom? Have you tried the Buttermilk-fried Chicken at Grand Floridian Cafe? 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!


28 Responses to “Our Stroll-less Stay at Grand Floridian”
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