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. 😉
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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!
Tom, I haven’t had the buttermilk fried chicken at GF Cafe but I have had it at Olivia’s at OKW and it’s delicious. I prefer the gravy that comes with it there. I wouldn’t eat the bacon vinaigrette. Isn’t that a salad dressing? I am not sure what that is but I don’t eat any salad dressings.
The chicken and lobster burger sound like Michel Ricard specialties. Maybe he had a role in the menu.
Tom, Do you remember the child that was dragged into the water by a crocodile at The Grand Floridian? Was that poor family compensated for their loss of the child and are they building a walk because of that incident. That was appaulling that Disney knew their were crocodiles in the water and they didn’t get them off the property. Disney were at fault for that poor child loosing its life and anyone staying at the overpriced Grand Floridian should make sure they find out if the crocodiles are removed from the water before staying their. I have never heard of such a tragic thing happening at such a high priced hotel before. Other hotels probable check their water resorts frequently to make sure their are no life threatening crocodiles close to the hotels. I will never stay their because of just that fact. I know you can afford this because you get benefits that everyday people don’t get because you publish and recommend staying on site but most people can’t afford to pay $500 to $2000 dollars a night for the fluff.
Errr….Patty, Florida has alligators, not crocodiles (except in the very southern part of the state). There is no way they can guarantee that there are no alligators in any water in Florida. There are signs everywhere warning of snakes and alligators and Disney has not allowed swimming in Bay Lake for many, many years. The parents of that child chose to ignore those rules/warnings and let their child go in the water. It was a horrific accident that was not on Disney’s shoulders.
Jenny, you are correct. I live on Marco Island in SW Florida and we do have crocodiles not too far from our island in some of the mangrove areas just to the north of us off the mainland.
Patty, Disney has taken the precautions of barricading the water front areas by the resorts. They haven’t blocked the view, but used rope and stone barricades around the resorts at Bay Lak and the Seven Seas Lagoon. I know I have seen an alligator near the Beach Club Villas in the canal that runs near the resort. Usually when Disney finds a grown alligator, they have removed it from the property. But with so much natural waters on Disney property (and it’s like every other body of water in Florida), they can’t remove all of them. Alligators have been seen on the golf courses and in other waterways on the property. In addition, black bears also have been seen on the property. I know some were seen along the Trumbo Canal that runs between Disney Springs and Old Key West and Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter. We have black bears in SW Florida, too, but none have been spotted on our island. We also have Florida cougars which are endangered in our area and bobcats. The biggest problem in the Everglades is the rapidly growing python population, no matter how many they round up each year.
People have to respect nature because Disney can’t control all of it all the time.
“People have to respect nature because Disney can’t control all of it all the time.”
Seems like you are in the parks a lot. Have you moved back to Florida? Have you been able to make this your full time job blogging about all things Disney?
For breakfast, try the Fried Chicken and Waffles. My son added the strawberry toppings (whipped cream, strawberries, strawberry syrup and sugar cookie crumbles) and was in heaven – declared the best meal of his 11 year life!
Nice cameo of Happiest Millionaire picture. Very underrated Disney movie.
Yes!!! One of my absolute faves!
Well, well. I noticed in the photo of your studio at the Grand Floridian your room had some lovely CARPET!!! It has not yet stripped out by the Disney folk who want their overpriced rooms to take on the aura of a prison cell…. easy to clean but comfort and atmosphere be damned. How lucky you were.
One of the problems with un-carpeted rooms is the noise level. Its enough to listen to unruly kids running down the hallways screaming at early/late hours when quiet is being sought. I have been in more than enough hotel rooms where I shared a wall with someone else’s screaming child. Ditto listening unwillingly to other’s loud TVs. All that sure to be magnified by the lack of sound absorbing carpet.
You two are in WDWNT’s youtube video @Regal Eagle today! Enjoy your meals:) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXBNBmF7unE
There will never be a DVC villa nicer than the one at the GF. Period.
We just ate breakfast at the GF Café about three weeks ago. It was the noisiest meal we’ve ever eaten there. We were seated in the back room instead of in the closer areas to the entrance. There were at least two families with screaming children and in both cases, the adults at the table totally ignored the screaming children. I guess it should have been the nanny’s job to attend to them and she wasn’t there. /sarc/
I had the Eggs Benedict and that will be my last time. I’ve eaten them several times, but this was the worst since the eggs were way undercooked. I’ve had them come that way before and asked them to return them to the kitchen. This time I was hungry and thought I’d go ahead and try them. But they were really, really uncooked and the whites were clear. I guess I just need to skip the GF Cafe from now on.
As for the mashed potatoes that I usually find at WDW, I have found that they are over-processed and gluey. If anyone finds mashed potatoes at WDW that are fluffy and not gluey, please let me know where you got them.
I’m looking toward to the path too, but if I had the choice, I’d much prefer a walking route from the Contemporary to the TTC. I do that frequently, and the monorail is simply not sufficiently reliable in my opinion. It’s only about half a mile. It would also be a shorter walk from the MK to the TTC for those prepared to do it. I guess it’ll never happen though, thanks to the need to cross the lake. 🙁
I’d love a path the whole way around. It would be great for a morning run, or to host a runDisney event.
Checking out a map, it looks like there currently a sidewalk on the west part of World Drive that goes south from the Contemporary, under the water bridge, to the point where the monorail passes over the road.
Is that true? If so, Disney could finish building a path fairly easily, as soon as it gives up the idea of building north of the TTC.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any room for walking between the Contemporary and the TTC. The road under the water bridge is narrow and so is the edge along the road under the bridge. It would be pretty dangerous for pedestrians there.
There is a walking path from the Contemporary to Magic Kingdom, I just used it last week. There’s a fair amount of construction going on around the path, but it is open and completely connects the hotel to the MK.
I’m eagerly awaiting that path opening – on our last morning of our last GFV stay the monorail went down and we missed most of EMH, it would have been so much easier to stroll around.
I’m with you re the room options too – GFV is our home resort and we have stayed in the studios there quite a lot over the last 6 years. We have gone with water views and standard views and would always choose standard if we can – the perfect room being the last room on the wing closest to the Wedding Pavilion – you get peace and quiet, monorail views and a partial water view with sunrise over the Poly. perfect!
Tom (or anyone else), do you mind telling me how much the buttermilk fried chicken costs, or what type of restaurant the GFC is in general? Would love to go over and try it in a couple months, but wondering if my wife and I would need to sneak away from the kids.
@ Craig, I, too, was curious. ATM, $24. https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/grand-floridian-resort-and-spa/grand-floridian-cafe/menus/dinner/
Thank you!! I guess I should’ve done a little more digging, and I would’ve found the answer. Lol
Tom, is this the same walkway that was previously started but never finished? I’ve heard it referred to in the past as the “walkway to nowhere.” Also, you didn’t mention the boat launch that goes from MK to GF and Polynesian, which is another transport option besides the monorail. When my family stayed at GF three years ago, we would take the monorail to MK, but since it only runs clockwise, we would take the boat back to the GF hotel dock.
I had that same Buttermilk Chicken meal and concur with you. It was one of my favorite meals. And at less than half the cost of O’Hana Meat Skewers, it’s even more amazing! I imagine that the walking path will not only push GFVs higher on the rankings but will make the Polynesian’s #1 spot on the list even more solid. On a busy night or morning, I’d think nothing of taking a Magic Kingdom/Polynesian walk. In fact , I think it would be rather pleasant compared to a cramped ride on the monorail. By the way, my conspiracy theory is that they are building that path because they know the monorails will be down when they replace them and have to modify the tracks. One can wish.
Thanks Tom for the update on the path. Our family is staying at Grand Floridian for a 6 day stay next week and we have had a couple of amazing past stays at this resort that we decided to change from the Poly back to the Grand again for this years stay. Too many good things to mention about the Grand and just a special place to enjoy overall.
Did your bounce back offer have a minimum amount of nights you have to book?
We were there last week. Bounce back was just a discount on hotels. No package deals with minimums….
I don’t recall Disney ever mentioning that the bridge was for the GF (and presumably Poly too). I am thinking that it will be for the next hotel they will be building north of the GF and west of MK. The walking path and bridge is a lot cheaper than re-routing the monorail.
By the way – this is just speculation on my part. I have no insight at all. But when looking at hotel locations, walking to parks is a huge benefit and that location would allow that.