by Jackie Perrin
Steps away from Epcot’s International Gateway and a short stroll to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn offers easy access to Orlando theme park magic, by way of Atlantic City.
With just 371 rooms, the Deluxe AAA Four Diamond resort, which debuted in 1996, is the smallest among Walt Disney World’s onsite hotel accommodations. However, its central location lends an open door to an extensive 1930’s seaside scene, complete with a mini-Midway, mimes, magicians and one of the greatest varieties of drinking and dining options you’ll find at any Disney property.
In fair weather, families flock to the resort’s Luna Park Pool, featuring a clown coaster slide, but when the mercury dips, there’s still plenty of action to be found on the BoardWalk. Guests can rent a surrey bike and take a trip around Crescent Lake, interact with live entertainers, sing-along with dueling pianists at Jellyrolls and visit a variety of shops, eateries and even an upscale art gallery.
More formal than the neighboring Beach Club Resort, but still family-friendly, the BoardWalk Inn offers family guests attractive amenities like an all-day family activity center and a tot-friendly playground, plus spacious accommodations, all freshly renovated in 2014.
Our Editor Loves
- Pool with clown coaster slide
- Community Hall family activity center
- Mimes, magicians and vibrant nightlife scene
- All Inclusive Rates
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
At the top of the luxury ladder, at least by Disney standards, and a bit more formal than accommodations at the neighboring Beach Club Resort, rooms at Disney's BoardWalk Inn feature upgraded beds, linens and amenities, all at an upgraded price.
Standard rooms sleep four to five and have two queen beds or a king bed ($25 surcharge), and most have a balcony. Some rooms have a junior size daybed (sometimes called a "child bed"), as well -- this small sleeper measures 35 inches by 65 inches and is meant to accommodate a child between 3 and 9 years of age.
A new lightened design scheme includes wallpaper, bed skirts and draperies in retro stripes, complemented by monogrammed accent pillows, framed prints of historic boardwalk scenes and several Hidden Mickey's.
Besides a flat-screen TV, alarm clock with iPod docking station, complimentary Wi-Fi and a combination desk/dining table, family-friendly features include a Pack 'N Play, a coffee maker situated on a high dresser out of the reach of small children and an armoire with a kid-accessible storage shelf that's ideal for stashing toys or snacks. A mini-fridge is housed in a low-lying, non-locking cabinet -- this may be an issue if you're traveling with little ones. Microwaves and bedrails are available upon request.
If you want to see water, plan to pay around $85 more per night for a preferred view standard room. For an extra $155 to $200 per night, you can upgrade to a deluxe view Concierge Level room, which will gain you 30 percent more space and a sleeper sofa, as well as plush robes, a DVD player with complimentary rentals, a view of Crescent Lake and the BoardWalk and Concierge Level privileges.
Besides four daily food and beverage presentations and an excellent view of nightly Illuminations fireworks at the private Innkeepers Club lounge, Concierge Level guests enjoy perks like pre-trip itinerary planning service and complimentary access to weekly wine tastings at the Flying Fish CafÃ©.
Parents who don't want to be prisoners of the dark after the kids crash for the night have a number of space-stretching options. If you have the extra cash, you can book connecting rooms or spring for a Concierge Level suite, which accommodates four to nine and has separate living and sleeping areas. Of course, you could always check-in to the BoardWalk Villas next door -- these home-away-from-home Disney Vacation Club accommodations offer flexible room arrangements and direct BoardWalk access, plus some additional family-friendly features like a washer and dryer and a full kitchen in each unit.
If you're traveling with an infant and no additional children and want to stick with the standard room, you can gain some privacy by placing your child's crib in the bathroom vanity area, which is separated from the rest of the room by a dividing wall.
With regard to room location, Garden View rooms mean peace and quiet after lights out time, while BoardWalk View rooms come with a good chance of viewing the nightly Illuminations fireworks show, and an even greater possibility of noise from nighttime activity below. There's really no easy way to access the BoardWalk from the Inn if you're pushing a stroller, as you'll need to take two elevators to reach the BoardWalk level.
I wanted to love this place. I really did. We had been looking forward to our stay for quite some time. We are frequent Disney guests, and we love to try out new resorts -- especially ones in the Deluxe category. Boardwalk had always intrigued us, so we decided to try it out for a quick, one night getaway. I'm really glad that it was just one night. We encountered problems here that were unprecedented at any hotel we've ever stayed in, especially any Disney resort. We have stayed in several of Disney Deluxe resorts, including Polynesian, Beach Club, and Wilderness Lodge. Soon, we will be staying at the Grand Floridian when we use our complimentary night that was given to us for our terrible experience at the Boardwalk. We have also stayed multiple times at Disney's moderate properties (mostly Port Orleans Riverside) and at a couple of Budget category resorts: All Star Sports and All Star Movies. We have had EXCELLENT experiences at every one of these properties. It's this basis for comparison that makes me feel justified to leave a negative review about Boardwalk, which was one disappointment after another. For starters, we always like to arrive at our resort early (before check-in) and just leave our bags at the front desk, and hit the pool. We have done this no less than 10-12 times at Disney resorts, and our room has always been ready for us prior to check-in. Literally 100% of the times we have stayed at Disney, until now. Our room was not ready early this time. Not a big deal until we passed the check in time of 4pm, and got almost to 5pm. It was then that I went to the front desk to check on the status. They told me that our room still wasn't ready, but that they could put us in a different room that was ready now. The room that they were suggesting, was not a villa (which is what we paid for), but it had a better view. We were eager to get to the room because we had dinner reservations that evening and needed to shower, so we took it. I will say the room was very nice, and suited us just fine. It's just that that the check in process was longer and less smooth than any other Disney property we had stayed. Secondly, since we spent all day at the pool, we became very familiar with it, and spent a good bit of money there. Spending time at the Disney resort's great pools is a big part of why we book where we book. We always order lunch and have never been disappointed, until now. Seriously, I should have taken a picture of my lunch. It was so bad. I ordered a chicken bao bun, which was $12 and consisted of three big buns, stuffed with a bunch of cabbage, and each had one had a single tiny chicken nugget inside. They were the size of a small chick-fil-a nugget. My husband was served a white hot dog. It was gross. The whole thing wasn't good, but at this point I was still on a mission to love this place, so we just dealt with it. A couple more points about the pool: The bar selection was much less impressive than other surrounding resorts such as Beach Club. The best pool bar we've experienced so far overall is Muddy Rivers at Port Orleans Riverside. Leaping Libations (Boardwalk's Pool Bar) just doesn't compare to other poolside restaurants/bars that we've been. On top of that, at other Deluxe resorts, there is poolside wait staff. Not at this one. I just think that should always be the norm at a Disney Deluxe. People pay $400+ a night to stay in these places. It also doesn't escape my attention that this is the ONLY Deluxe that doesn't have a restaurant within the hotel. There are a couple of restaurants on the actual Boardwalk, but not in the hotel. Also, the restaurants on the Boardwalk are not good. ESPN is the best one, but it's still not great. The last and most significant unfortunate incident happened when we were heading to bed. My son got into his bed, felt something under his legs, and when I pulled back the covers, there was a sucked on, old piece of green candy stuck to the sheets!!! Before I say more, I am very understanding that mistakes happen, and sometimes things get overlooked, but in this case, I can't think of what mistake could have possibly occurred. What I believe happened was that the housekeeping staff ran out of time to get the beds changed from the previous guests, and just made the decision to NOT change the beds. Upon closer inspection of the sheets, I could tell that someone else had been in them the night before. It goes without saying that this is completely unacceptable. I was so shocked and horrified. It made me wonder how many times I have slept in a dirty bed at Disney. How many housekeepers are just making up dirty beds? We are loyal Disney customers and have never had a complaint. Ever. My husband didn't want to call housekeeping because it was late, our little one was already asleep, and we wanted to go to bed because we had an early day the next day at the Magic Kingdom. I insisted that we call. Again, I have never had to call housekeeping at Disney before. Housekeeping arrived with a manager, and brought supplies to completely change the bed. It was then that the housekeeping manager asked us what he could do to rectify this situation. Up to this point, asking for something had not even occurred to us, and we were thrown by the question. We are not the types of people who try to get things for free. Since I was caught off guard, I told him that I wanted the housekeeper who "cleaned" our room to be spoken with, and I also wanted the bed changed. The housekeeping manager told us that he wanted to give us 3 Fast Passes for the Magic Kingdom the next day. After more discussion about how the candy had gotten in the sheets, he also said that he wanted to give us a $50 resort credit. We thanked him, they made the bed, and then they left. We went to bed, but I laid there all night, bothered by the incident. Not only did I not sleep, but I started to reflect on the whole thing, and got angry that I didn't speak up more. Three Fast Passes??? $50 credit??? That didn't come close to covering what we spent at the pool bar, and our lunch was terrible. While the Fast Passes were nice to have, they didn't cost the resort anything. After some thinking, I realized that this was not a fair offer. We had paid $400 to stay for one night in this resort, and it was awful. When we got home, I decided to write an email to management. In my email, I said that I thought we should have been immediately offered for our night to comped OR received an invitation to come back and give them another chance. In my opinion, I should not have had to ask for this. I think that it should have been policy in an instance such as this, to immediately offer it. I received a very quick response, by way of phone call. The manager I spoke with, Rafael Catig, offered us a complimentary night at any Disney Resort to make up for our troubles. I am glad that this was finally offered. I am not glad that I had to push for it. My husband and I are going to use this free night at the Grand Floridian for a little mini getaway in July. It's not lost on me that Disney will make money off of us in this whole deal. We will return and have a free stay, but I have already made dining reservations for two restaurants and we will undoubtedly buy drinks at the GF pool bar. It's hardly going to be a free trip for us. Disney wins. Bottom line....We should have had that abysmal stay at Boardwalk comped. The whole thing. Taking care of our bill would have been nothing to them, but it would have meant a lot to us. As it is, it still doesn't rest well with me that we had to pay for that stay at Boardwalk. Disney needs to take care of their loyal guests, or they won't be loyal anymore.
My family and I are huge Disney people, so we tend to go relatively often, but we stayed at the Boardwalk Inn for the first time in March and had a great experience. We stayed on the Club Level, or as they call it The Innkeepers Club, and it was our favorite experience in a Disney Resort. All of the Cast Members were so friendly and willing to help in any way possible. The dining options that came with the Club Level were also truly fantastic as well. Plus, we enjoyed the beautiful location of the resort and the ability to walk to two of theme parks within a few minutes. If you can get a good deal at this resort, I think it is totally worth it.
Luna Park Pool Complex
A 200-foot rollercoaster-style slide (aptly dubbed the "Keister Coaster") is the centerpiece of the Coney Island-themed Luna Park Pool complex. The slippery ride twists and dips before spitting you out of a clown's mouth -- be sure to bring a camera to capture the comedy. Poolside activities include Carnivals, Dance Parties, Bingo and Name That Tune Contests, and parents are encouraged to join in on the fun. Unlike some other Deluxe and Moderate Disney resorts, this pool doesn't offer zero entry for toddlers, but in a back corner, you'll find a 1-foot deep pool that's suitable for little ones. Lifeguards and slide hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Kid-friendly Movies Under the Stars are screened at 9 p.m. nightly.
Nearby, the Luna Park Crazy Play Area (open 24 hours) features play structures for both toddlers and older kids. For those seeking calm, there are two "Quiet Pools" on property. Lifeguards are on duty at the main pool only, and you can borrow life jackets at this location, as well as at Community Hall. Complimentary towels are provided at all pools. Swim diapers are required for non-potty trained children and can be purchased at Dundy's Sundries or Screen Door General Store.
Disney's BoardWalk District
By day, a panoramic view of Disney's BoardWalk is picture-postcard worthy, but at night, the area really shines, with illuminated shops and eateries, live mimes, musicians and magicians and a mini-Midway featuring carnival snacks and old-fashioned games of chance. The merrymaking includes live entertainers (generally from 6:30 to 10 p.m.), Midway games (4 to 11 p.m.), hair wrap kiosk (6 to 10 p.m.), and pin trading cart (4 to 10:30 p.m.).
Surrey Bike Rentals
On the boardwalk, borrow a four-wheel canopy bike and take a quick trip around Crescent Lake. You'll have to beep your horn and pedal fast, in order to return before the clock expires. Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; $20 to $25 for 30 minutes.
Rent bikes and take a trip along the BoardWalk, or borrow a boat and cruise Crescent Lake. Half-hour boat rental options range from Sea Raycers ($32) to Sun Trackers and Boston Whalers ($45 each), and bike rentals are $9 per hour or $18 per day. Training wheels and baby seats are also available (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
Albatross Treasure Cruise
Recommended for ages 3 to 12, but probably most appreciated by kids 5 to 10, the two-hour nautical scavenger hunt departs 9:30 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with stops at "Ports of Call" along Crescent Lake and Epcot. The $36-per-child fee includes a snack and some loot. Call 407-939-7529 for reservations.
A hidden gem, this spacious fun zone for families is located adjacent to the BoardWalk Villas area Quiet Pool and features old-fashioned games like Ping Pong, air-hockey and foosball (tournaments weekly), plus PlayStation II consoles, Wii, an art corner and a play area for pre-schoolers and toddlers. You check out movies, books, board games and tennis racquets for free, and for a fee, you can borrow bikes, paint your own pottery, or create a custom necklace or umbrella (9 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
Side Show Games Arcade
Located near the Luna Park Pool, this small arcade features games from retro to modern (7 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
The BellVue Lounge
The intimate lobby area is a gathering spot for breakfast and evening fare, featuring an outdoor balcony overlooking Crescent Lake. Breakfast: 6:30 to 11 a.m.; Bar: 5 p.m. to midnight.
What kid wouldn't love a personal Mickey Cake for dessert? Via an open kitchen, guests gain a window to bread-making magic. Sweets and sandwiches are served from breakfast through dinner. Waits can be long -- divide and conquer if you can (6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.).
Grab a slice or order a whole pie at this quick-service spot. Hours are 12 noon to midnight.
Big River Grille & Brewing Works
This is a casual lunch through late-night restaurant offering handcrafted beer and a pub-style menu; BoardWalk patio seating is available (11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; bar open until midnight).
Tons of TV's, sports memorabilia and an onsite arcade keep the kids occupied while everyone enjoys American fare at this casual table service eatery open from lunch through late night. A merchandise shop stocks ESPN, team and college logo wear. ESPN Club is open 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., with the arcade open 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Flying Fish Cafe
This dinner spot serves up seafood, steaks and fresh specialties in an intimate dining room with an open kitchen. There's a dress code and stroller parking is outdoors. Choices for children include Mickey-shaped pasta, baked fish and for dessert, a paint-your-own edible Mickey chocolate puzzle or a Mickey chocolate "cauldron" with fruit and cake dippers. This may not be suitable for small kids.
Leaping Horse Libations Pool Bar
The limited menu includes frozen drinks and sandwiches from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Saltwater taffy, chocolates and hand-dipped ice cream to make the kids scream are served here. Kids' cones are an affordable $2. Seasonal hours: 1 to 11 p.m.
The room service menu features wholesome kids' meal choices like grilled chicken breast with whole grain pasta, veggies and fresh fruit. Craving pizza? You can save 30 percent on a whole pie by forgoing room service and getting it to go from the BoardWalk Pizza Window instead.
For around $8 to $18, depending on length of stay, you can purchase a Disney mug, good for unlimited refills on coffee, tea and soft drinks at BoardWalk Bakery, Leaping Horse Libations, Seashore Sweets and BoardWalk Pizza Window.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
For families, the reason to stay here is kid-friendly conveniences. Besides the ability to travel to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios by foot or boat (and boats are enclosed, so no need to collapse your stroller -- which is a huge benefit in itself), family visitors enjoy all-day access to Community Hall, where there are a multitude of diversions for toddlers to teens.
Kids of all ages will enjoy the Inn's many decorative touches, like antique penny flip film arcade machines, a miniature carousel and a model rollercoaster, and a super-sized comfy couch that makes for a great family photo-op.
Overnight guests enjoy a number of special perks, like early-entry and late-stay theme park privileges (Extra Magic Hours), free onsite transportation, free parking, the ability to make FASTPASS+ reservations 60 days in advance and the opportunity to participate in a Disney Dining Plan with a Magic Your Way Package. Additional family-friendly privileges include online room check-in (up to 10 days in advance), resort airline check-in and airport transportation service via Disney's Magical Express.
Muscles and Bustles Health Club offers some of the latest in exercise equipment, as well as massages (by appointment). An attendant is on duty 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and access is available 24 hours with a venue activated resort key card or Magic Band.
Wi-Fi is complimentary throughout the property and guestrooms.
Guests can utilize the Sandcastle Club, the childcare center located at the Beach Club Resort nearby (ages 3 to 12; open 4:30 to midnight; reservations, 407-939-3463). An alternative, Kids' Nite Out, an independent agency, provides in-room resort childcare. Rates are $16 per hour for the first child, with a four-hour minimum and a $10 caregiver transportation fee.
The Art of Smart Timing
When traveling to Walt Disney World Resort, it's best to avoid peak travel periods. Generally, these times include holidays and the summer months -- in other words, any time schools are out of session. If you do opt to visit in summertime, pack sunscreen, hydrate frequently and, unless you want to squander your souvenir money on ponchos at the parks, don't forget your raingear.
Fortunately for travelers on a budget, the least expensive times to visit Walt Disney World theme parks (Value Season) tend to coordinate with dates when crowds are the lightest. If your kids aren't in school yet, September is a great time to visit. Another prime time is after Thanksgiving through early December, when parks and resorts are decked out in holiday splendor. A visit to the BoardWalk Inn Lobby to see the spectacular Gingerbread Workshop is a longtime guest tradition.
From Orlando International Airport (MCO): Free roundtrip airport transportation via motorcoach is available to guests (advance reservation required; limited hours) via Disney's Magical Express. To reach the resort by car, take the South Exit Road from Orlando International Airport to SR 417 Toll Road (GreeneWay) West and follow signs to Walt Disney World/Disney's BoardWalk Resort. Plan on about $3 in tolls.
You can reach Epcot (five to 10 minutes) and Disney's Hollywood Studios (15 to 20 minutes) via walkway (a stroller is a must), and complimentary daily boat service is provided to and from these parks, as well. Free transportation to and from the Magic Kingdom Park and Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney waterparks and Downtown Disney is provided by bus.
For Mom and Dad
Enjoy a kids-free dinner at Flying Fish Cafe (advance reservations are key). Afterwards, head over to Jellyrolls dueling piano bar for a drink and some side-splitting fun.