The Disney World property offers over 20 themed hotels and resorts. Each resort transports guests through time and location using intricate details, well-timed special effects, and delicious offerings. A fun and frugal way to experience Disney is to spend a day resort hopping! For those of you that aren’t familiar with the concept, resort hopping is when non-registered guests of a hotel or resort visit to grab a bite to eat, shop at the local mercantile, or explore the sights of the hotel. This past week Derek and I have been enjoying the beginning of our Disney honeymoon. We decided to resort hop and couldn’t have been happier about experiencing some Disney magic while becoming more acquainted with the property.
Resort Hopping is a great way to check out the Disney resorts, extend your vacation, or decide which hotel you would stay at in the future. Click here to read about 5 Ways to extend your Disney Vacation that won't break the bank, including resort hopping! Unique dining, shopping, and guest experiences can be found at each resort location, along with extra special touches to make your visit magical. Guests can journey from New Orleans to the French Polynesian back to Florida, all on a visit down the monorail or a boat ride around the lake.
In total, Derek and I gallivanted around the WDW property exploring 9 resorts and made a bonus stop at the Disney Boardwalk! It was definitely a full day, but surprisingly we were able to maintain a leisurely and relaxed pace. The resorts at Disney really are special to see, offering a wide variety of experiences, cuisines, and themes that anyone can enjoy. We loved being able to enjoy each resort, and hope Disney continues to allow this activity. Remember that when you are resort hopping, you are an unregistered guest on the property and should respectfully avoid areas like the pool and room hallways.
So how did we do it, and how can you resort hop around the WDW property? Buses, boats, ferries, and the monorail are all viable free transportation offered on the Walt Disney property. Using Disney transportation is key to a smooth day of resort hopping. During the planning stages of our trip I found a great resource by WDW Prep School that helps navigate between any two locations at Disney World. It really helped Derek and I out, especially after we got mixed up on the wrong bus… oops!
We started out the day by driving our own vehicle from camp to the Wilderness Lodge. Each resort offers free parking for visitors and we were able to leave the truck safely for the day. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was inspired by National Park lodges in the wilderness of northwestern America. Inside we were astounded at the great room with its rustic stone fireplace and towering totem poles. The resort grounds were just as breathtaking. An indoor stream led to a winding path along the clear waters of Copper Creek. Eventually the creek rushed into Copper Creek Falls and flowed to form the resort’s pool area, known as Copper Creek Springs. A boardwalk path leads to Fire Rock Geyser, a somewhat ordinary looking rock formation. Time your visit to arrive on the hour and see the geyser display before heading out. Unfortunately Derek and I weren’t able to see the geyser erupt this visit. After taking a quick peek at Fire Rock we headed further down the boardwalk to catch a boat.
From the Wilderness Lodge we jumped on a boat that took us around the lake to Fort Wilderness Campground. While it was nice to see the transportation route we will be taking to and from the Magic Kingdom from our resort later in the trip, we tried to leave some of the views as a surprise! After a quick dock, the boat then headed further around the lake to the ultra modern Contemporary Resort. Some say this resort is too sterile, but it would definitely suit a modish taste. The Contemporary acts as the properties closest resort to
Magic Kingdom; guests can meet Chef Mickey as the monorail glides toward the park overhead. Inside the main tower is a 90-foot mural reminiscent of the It’s A Small World attraction. At this resort Derek and I got our first taste of Disney Christmas with a gingerbread house sighting! Throughout the resorts we were able to appreciate intricate life-size confectionery homes, along with Christmas decorations and merchandise.
Polynesian Village Resort
Neither of us had ever ridden the monorail and were thrilled to jump on at the station. We rode the monorail from the Contemporary to the Polynesian Village Resort, an oasis built in the spirit of South Pacific living. I knew this would be one of my favorite resorts, being such a Lilo & Stitch and Moana fan! Lush vegetation, steamy weather, and bright flowers created a feeling of relaxing somewhere very far from home.
Pineapple Lanai, a walk-up window at the resort, is home to the famous Dole Whip snack. We opted to get a Dole Whip float. This is one WDW snack that definitely lives up to all the hype. Coming in under $6 this frozen pineapple treat was the most refreshing and delicious confectionery of the day! During our visit on Disney property Derek and I will see the Polynesian Village on two additional occasions. One evening we plan on seeing the Spirit of Aloha dinner show, and on our final morning in Disney we’re having breakfast at Ohana. We can’t wait to head back over and enjoy this resort even more!
Grand Floridian Resort
Farther down the monorail track we stopped at one of the most lavish resorts in all of Disney. The Grand Floridian mixes Victorian architecture and design with an exquisitely swanky modern twist. Sightings of royalty are rumored to occur, as Prince Charming occasionally escorts Cinderella down the grand staircase. Cinderella wasn’t making appearances this visit, but her glass slipper was on display near the Enchanted Rose lounge on the second level. A live orchestra playing ragtime, jazz, and Disney classics as well as several upscale dining options create an elegant atmosphere. Master bakers worked on the Victorian gingerbread house displayed in the main lobby outside a tea room.
Port Orleans French Quarter
After a short monorail ride to Magic Kingdom with a bus transfer to Port Orleans French Quarter, we drifted to New Orleans. Architectural details are reminiscent of the Antebellum era, Mardi Gras colors and characters detail the corridors. The friendly and colorful concierge greeted us and recommended all the best locations to visit at the resort. We were sent on an adventure to explore the cobblestone streets lined with gas lamps and balconies before returning inside to sample Creole delicacies. At the Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory Derek and I ordered a large helping of jambalaya. It was a large portion for the price and came with a gigantic square of cornbread. The dish was advertised as containing chicken and andouille sausage, and we were slightly disappointed to only receive one small bite of chicken in our jambalaya.
After splitting a lunch plate, and on strict recommendations, we tried some “world famous” beignets from the Scat Cat’s Club. Beignets came in a variety of flavors- from classic to pumpkin spice- with toppings. An ice cream sundae option was also on the menu! We went with an order of three classic beignets, which come doused in powdered sugar. This is one messy treat! People at the table next to us created a table cloth of napkins to try to combat the mess. Blinded by the Mickey-shaped sugary goodness in front of us, we dug in with pure animal instinct and worried about cleaning up the mess later.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Bellies full of fluffy beignets, we took a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Inside the lodge we were transported to a traditional take on an African savanna settlement. The open concept lodge provided window and porch views of four savannas that house over 200 animals and birds. Derek and I were able to see several birds, zebra, and giraffe while touring the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Drumming echoed from the Sanna restaurant lobby on the first floor and could be heard reverberating around the hotel. While leaving Animal Kingdom Lodge we made our first big blunder of the day, we got on the wrong bus! Instead of hopping on a bus to ANY other park, we boarded a bus to Epcot in our search for the Yacht Club. This wouldn’t have been a problem had we been park visitors for the day. From the International Gateway in Epcot there is a path that would lead directly to our desired destination.
Yacht Club Resort
In the end, getting on the wrong bus didn't cost us too much time. Disney has a large fleet of public transportation vehicles and we never waited long for service. At Epcot we had to board a bus to the Magic Kingdom, and at that terminal catch a bus to the Yacht Club. Boom. Back on track. We waltzed into the elegant New England style yacht club like we planned it that way. The decor is brimming with nautical touches and the resorts pool includes a real-sand bottom. We were delighted to walk out of the lobby and take in the Disney Boardwalk, a favorite of ours.
Beach Club Resort
Before running off to the boardwalk, Derek and I decided to check a few more resorts off our list. The Beach Club, the Yacht Club’s more relaxed sister resort, is only a few steps away. Again a nautical theme is present throughout the lagoon pools with sandy bottoms.
From the Beach Club we strolled to the Swan Hotel. Towering palm trees back lit in bright hues of red and purple ran through the Swan Hotel lawn. Renaissance clam shell fountains and swans can been seen as pillars approaching the hotel. Inside similar swans take flight in elegant fountains.
BONUS: Disney Boardwalk
After rushing through the last three resorts- we were tired and excited for a respite at the boardwalk after all- we headed to our charming destination. On this second visit to the boardwalk Derek and I shared a bench on the boardwalk’s edge listening to lapping waves and taking in twinkling lights across the water. Talk about a perfectly romantic spot to celebrate a honeymoon! Afterward we made a stop to the pizza window for some slices and hit up Joe’s Margarita Stand for a Mickey pretzel. While dining we sat on a turf lawn near the entrance of the boardwalk and watched a few scenes from the newest Aladdin movie several cast members projected on a jumbo inflatable screen.
Not wanting to spoil too much of the movie, we headed toward the Boardwalk Bakery to grab a to-go treat. Derek chose a deliciously decadent brownie that was so rich it had the mouth-feel of a truffle! I went with a Mickey inspired Oreo cupcake complete with whipped icing and chocolate mouse ears. One aspect of the cupcake that was extra special were the yellow and red sprinkles, which were actually crunchy and coated in white chocolate- yum! From the bakery we found ourselves caught in a crowd watching a street magician outside the AbracadaBar before heading toward the bus station.
Completing the Loop
From the Boardwalk Resort bus station we took transportation to Magic Kingdom. Then we loaded onto a boat to journey back to Wilderness Lodge where our truck was parked. Our view from the lake was spectacular; the sky was lit brightly by Cinderella’s castle. We saw many boats anchored on the lake during our trip back to Wilderness Lodge. Disney offers several boating packages to enjoy evening fireworks on the lake. If our journey had been a few minutes slower, we may have been lucky enough to see the Magic Kingdom firework display out on the lake!
Derek and I had an incredible day exploring Disney World resorts. We set out around 11:30 am, kept plugging along until nearly 9:00 pm, and we didn’t even get to all the resorts! Resort hopping was a great way for us to add a little Disney magic to our day while also traveling to far off places, experiencing authentic cuisines, and acclimating ourselves with the local transportation and amenities. We would love to hear about your stay at the Disney resorts! Which hotel are you in love with and what do you love about it? Let us know in the comments below.