A Different Disney Vacation Experience

Chuck and Lori's Travel Blog - Chuck, Lori and daughter Catie on Disney Boardwalk
Chuck, Lori, and daughter Catie on the Disney Boardwalk

A wonderful aspect of travel is that, sometimes, things don’t work out as planned and you wind up discovering something else that is totally wonderful. Now, as we’ve said before, we’ve been to Disney World many dozens of times. When you live 7 or 8 hours away from the center of the family vacation universe (as we have all our lives) and you have children, it’s natural to find yourself in the Magic Kingdom marveling at how little has changed in the 4 months since the last time you were there. But, believe us, there are many people who have been a lot more than we have. This all makes it that much more wonderful to find there is a new Disney experience to discover.

The first weekend of April the two women in my life wanted to get some sun: no woman wants to be pasty-pale for their upcoming son and brother’s (respectively) wedding. A scheduling snafu amidst the last month of wedding preparation confusion left us without the original plan of visiting family in Gulfport. Naturally we wondered what other beaches we could visit, but in the midst of spring break, hotel rates in Panama City, Myrtle Beach, and the like were not favorable for a last second fun-in-the-sun trip. But then the next morning it occurred to us: our daughter (who works for Disney) could get us a good rate at one of the hotels, preferably one with a nice pool. A beach would have been great, but a nice pool would be almost as good. Within hours our new plans were made, and three days later we were making the drive from Atlanta to Disney World.

So here’s the wonderful new Disney vacation discovery we made: you can go to Disney World and have a wonderful time without ever setting foot in a park.

The Blue Pool at Disney's Art of Animation Resort
The Blue Pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort

Staying in a “budget” Disney hotel (the Art of Animation Resort) Catie’s “cast member” discount was only marginally better than what you can get by other means like AAA, so anyone could experience Disney this way, which is namely to stay in a nice hotel, with nice vacation-like surroundings, and lounge by a nice pool with frozen drinks in hand. Which is exactly what we did. Admittedly, one of the 2 days we were there we went to Typhoon Lagoon, one of the two Disney water parks, but we could have enjoyed both our days sitting by the “Blue Pool” at our resort.

Besides simply enjoying the pool at your Disney hotel, there are enough cost-free sites to see in Disney World to make for (at least) a great long weekend like we had. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Downtown Disney – many years ago it was called the “Village”–we hear it’s soon to have another name–it’s full of shopping and dining opportunities. It’s the home of Bongo’s Cuban Cafe, one of our favorite restaurants in Disney World, where we ate our last night of this trip.
  2. Magic Kingdom Hotel Visits – the Contemporary Resort is iconic and the Polynesian and Grand Floridian are sites to see by themselves. You can have a drink, dinner, or simply an ice cream cone in any of the three, then hop on a monorail and check out the other two. This trip, we had dinner at Catie’s favorite restaurant, Kona Cafe at the Polynesian.
  3. Beach & Yacht Club – They’re across the lake from Disney’s Boardwalk, but they deserve their own mention. Disney considers them 2 separate resorts, and they have separate front desks and lobbies, but these similarly-themed hotels feel more like 1 big resort. There’s a beautiful landscaped pool between them, and also between them is one of our favorite Disney restaurants, Beaches and Cream. Enjoy a burger and an ice cream sundae here, but make reservations: twice now we’ve not been able to get in. They do indeed take reservations now (they didn’t used to).
  4. Disney’s Boardwalk – Lined with the Boardwalk hotel, restaurants, shops, and things to do as varied as dancing, watching street performers, playing carny games, or getting your face painted, the Boardwalk is always an interesting stroll. Be sure to check out the Wyland gallery. You can also hop on a boat and make the circuit between the Epcot stop, the Beach & Yacht Clubs, the Swan and Dolphin resorts, and back to the Boardwalk.
Bongo's Cuban Cafe, Disney World
Catie at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe
So, tans achieved, we had a great time. And as many times as we’ve been to Disney World, and despite me regularly saying I can “take or leave” Disney World, it’s still worth it if they make our “babies” smile.

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