by Christine Koubek
The 867-room Grand Floridian Resort opened July 1, 1988 and has been Disney World’s flagship property ever since. The hotel’s red gable roofs, crisp white clapboard siding, Victorian balustrades, and immaculate gardens filled with canary palms and southern magnolias are inspired by the fabled Florida beach resorts of the 19th century.
It is easy to imagine Audrey Hepburn meandering through the five-story creamy-white main atrium — cup of coffee in gloved-hand — and saying: “nothing bad could ever happen here,” just as she did in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The enormous lobby, with its stained-glass ceiling domes, antique birdcages, and cushy seating areas make for a serene — but not stuffy — place to sit back and relax amidst Disney World’s mayhem.
That contrast between the busy park visiting pace and Grand Floridian’s peace is one of our favorite things about the resort, and what makes it worth dedicating at least an afternoon to all the property has to offer, whether it be lounging poolside at the beautifully landscaped courtyard pool, sipping iced tea near the pianist in the afternoon, or watching the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display from the comfort of your room’s balcony or the marina courtyard.
Other Grand Floridian pluses include standard rooms that are larger than almost all other Disney resorts, highly rated restaurants, Senses Spa (one of only two full-service spas in “the World”) and a location that’s ideal for easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot via monorail or boat. The location is also just under a mile stroll along a waterside path to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, making it easy to access Lilo’s Playhouse and additional dining options that include a Lilo & Stitch character breakfast at Ohana.
Our Editor Loves
- Some of Disney World's best dining
- Elegant, serene, and kid-friendly atmosphere
- Easy access to Magic Kingdom and Epcot
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Game Room
- Kids' Pool
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Grand Floridian's recently renovated (2014) guest rooms are located in the main building and five surrounding ones, all accessed through interior corridors. First floor rooms offer patios and most second through fifth floor rooms offer balconies, with a few exceptions. All rooms also have a small refrigerator, iron, ironing board, room safe, hair dryer, and coffeemaker. Families can request bottle warmers, potty seats, cribs, playards and bed-rails at no extra charge. Rollaway beds are also available, gratis. Bathrooms are stocked with shampoo, conditioner, soaps, and mint foot scrub that feels heavenly on your feet after a day in the parks. Toothpaste and toothbrushes are also available upon request.
There are also Club Level Rooms. These rooms are similar in decor to the resort's standard rooms, however, club level guests receive added perks, such as a flat screen TV with a DVD player and access to a separate concierge staff who help with everything -- pre-arrival itinerary planning, park advice, reservations for character breakfasts, golf times, horseback riding, spa treatments and more. Better still is the food -- especially if you have forever hungry teens. A continental breakfast is served in the Concierge Club lounges (there's one in the Main building and another in Sugarloaf) each morning, as are afternoon snacks (think tea sandwiches, cheeses, veggies and cookies), and sodas, wine, beer, after dinner drinks and desserts in the evening. In addition, you'll find kid-friendly seating areas with mini seats and tables, a flat-screen TV showing Disney classics, and, in the Main building lounge, sweeping views of the resort grounds.
The 448 square-foot standard size rooms are some of the most spacious of the Disney World resorts and can be found throughout the resort and in every category: Garden View (which might also overlook the pool), Lagoon View (Seven Seas Lagoon) and Theme Park View (Magic Kingdom). Most offer two queen beds and a sofa that converts to a twin bed, however, there are some that have a king with a sofa that converts to either a twin or double bed. In addition each has a large dresser, flat-screen TV and desk with a table that pulls out from beneath it. Some also have a chair with an ottoman. Note: Many 5th floor rooms have vaulted ceilings.
Outer Building Deluxe Rooms
Outer Building Deluxe Rooms with Garden View are 574 square feet and have two queen beds. These are good for families who might want extra play space or room for a playard.
Main Building Deluxe King Rooms
Main Building Deluxe King Rooms with Club Access are 623-square-feet octagon-shaped rooms located in the main building's turrets. Each room has a king bed, windows on five sides, a wet bar, desk, soaking tub, crystal chandelier, sofa that converts to a twin bed and walk-in closet with built-in shelves. These spacious rooms are great for couples or families traveling with one child.
The Grand Floridian's 25 suites (which accommodate between two and eight people and include Club Lounge access) come in all shapes and sizes and range from a 633-square-foot one-bedroom suite (with two queen beds and a queen-sized sleeper sofa) to the 2,200-square-foot Grand Suite that has five balconies, vaulted ceilings, and a hardwood-floor foyer. The suites are in the process of refurbishment and will debut with new theming and features in late-2015.
Note: A building preference can be noted, although not guaranteed, when you make your reservation. The Main and Sugarloaf buildings' Club Level rooms all have easy access to restaurants and shops. The Big Pine Key building has a variety of room types and is close to both pools.
We have stayed at the many times at the Contemporary, Polynesian, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, and even one of the moderate resorts. Each resort has pros and cons and we love some much better than others. I’ve always wondered if the Grand Floridian was worth the extra expense and now I know that it’s worth that and then some. We loved everything about it. The location is amazing—we even walked to the TTC a couple of times and it was a lovely stroll through the Polynesian. The layout of the resort and the outbuildings are very easy to navigate. The buildings have large, quick elevators and the hallways aren’t as long and winding as other resorts. There is a 24 hour quick service restaurant (that serves hot food for all 24 hours! This is huge!), and the staff was incredibly warm. Mousekeeping was the best we’ve had at any of the resorts. If I was forced to find a flaw, I would say that the edges of the wallpaper were peeling in the otherwise immaculate room, and there was not a sharps container in the lobby women’s restroom (I did have security help me locate one in the companion restroom right next to the women’s room, however, and I had a small one in the room). In no way did these two minor flaws detract from how amazing the stay was. It was an amazing stay and we can’t wait to return.
We stayed here for two nights this past weekend and it was absolutely lovely. The club level service is exceptional. They are very nice to everyone and make you feel at home. We had an emergency and we had to leave early but they helped us get a taxi and check out quickly. The food was very good every day, but it may not fill someone who is used to eating more food at meals. Our rooms were cleaned daily and turned down every night. Overall the service at the sugar loaf club level is great!
The Beach Pool, located near the beach and the Villas building, is most kids' favorite due to the 181-foot-long waterslide that curves down a faux mountain and slides under a walking bridge before emptying into the pool. In addition to the slide, the pool area is home to a variety of activities each afternoon (1 to 5 p.m.) that include relays, Hula Hoop games, trivia and arts and crafts. The newly added "Disney Junior Pool Party" offers music and games inspired by favorite Disney Junior shows, from a game of Sofia Says to Doc McStuffins Trivia and sing-alongs. Pool depths range from gradual entry to 4 feet, 3 inches. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult. Pool hours and lifeguard availability change seasonally. The monthly Recreation Calendar (given at check-in) lists pool hours and activity times.
Even though The Courtyard Pool is the resort's largest, it is also one of the quietest and most beautifully landscaped, surrounded by garden beds full of blooms and a burbling fountain. The new gradual entry side of the pool has small sprays for little kids, and there is an oversized kid-friendly whirlpool spa. There's also a Ping-Pong table tucked on the far side of the pool deck. Depths reach 4 feet, 11 inches, however, there are several 2-foot-deep areas for little swimmers.
"Alice in Wonderland" Water Play Area
Located near the Beach Pool, this mini-waterpark has two short waterslides, water spouts, and, the best part, teacups and a large Mad Hatter's hat that pours water on waders below.
Note: Swim diapers are required for children who aren't toilet trained; they are available at Sandy Cove Gifts. Cabanas are available for full- and half-day rentals.
Formerly the Mouseketeer Club, this former kids' club area reopened as an arcade in 2013. The space is filled with classic games like Donkey Kong and Star Wars, plus air-hockey and the "Claw," the arcade game made popular by "Toy Story"; this one is full of plush Disney characters for the claw to attempt to grab. Open 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.
Wonderland Tea Party
Held at 1900 Park Fare, this kids-only hour of games, stories, crafts, "tea" (a.k.a apple juice) and cupcake decorating, is for pint-sized partiers ages 4 to 12. Disney characters from "Alice in Wonderland" are part of the fun. The event is typically offered Monday through Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. Advance reservations are recommended; the cost is $49 per child, plus tax.
Movies Under the Stars
Disney movies (rated G or PG) are shown each night at 9 p.m. near the beach. Check the Recreation Calendar to confirm the time and show listings.
Pirate Adventure Cruise
Kids board the pirate ship at the Grand Floridian Marina, then visit "ports of call" along Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon to follow clues and discover treasure. Voyages run Monday through Saturday, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., and include a snack and drink. The Pirate Adventure Cruise is geared toward potty-trained kids ages 4 to 12.
Captain's Shipyard Marina
Here, you can rent a Boston Whaler 170 Montauk ($45 per half hour for six guests), a 21-foot SunTracker family pontoon boat ($45 per half hour for up to eight guests) or a Sea Raycer mini powerboat ($32 per half hour or $45 per hour). If you want to splurge, there's the Grand 1, 52-foot Sea Ray Sedan yacht, which can accommodate up to 18 guests. Prices start at $745 per hour and include a captain and deckhand.
You can also book a captained pontoon cruise. The SunTracker family pontoon boat ($299 for up to 8 guests) or a 25-foot that accommodates up to 10 guests ($349) includes snacks and soft drinks. Additional private dining is available for an extra fee. These cruises run morning, afternoon and evening. Prices vary based on time. Evening cruises allow you to drop anchor and watch the Magic Kingdom Fireworks show. Visit the concierge desk or the marina for reservations.
A fenced basketball/sport court, and a cabinet stocked with balls, is located next door to the spa and barbecue grill area.
Located in the same building as the fitness center, this full-service spa offers massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and other perks, such as a back or scalp facial. Kids ages 4 to 12 have their own spa menu that includes a 25-minute manicure or pedicure. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. The spa is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Located on the lobby's first floor, Sandy Cove Gifts and Sundries is the place to stock up on milk, bread, fruit, drinks, snacks and other basics, as well as medicine, suntan lotion, stamps and resort logo items. Also on the first floor, Summer Lace sells ladies' designer clothing, including swimwear, casual shoes, jewelry, makeup, hair accessories and more.
Upstairs, close to the monorail, is M. Mouse Mercantile, the place for Disney-themed games (think Disney versions of Life, Monopoly and more), costumes, toys, pin-trading and children's clothing. Around the atrium from M. Mouse is Commander Porter's, home to men's golf shirts, cigars, watches, casual shoes and designer labels, including Vineyard Vines. Lastly, don't miss the colorful, olfactory overload available at Basin White. This bath and body store is chock full of "bath bombs," scrubs, and fun transparent soaps with images inside of everything, from goldfish to flip-flops to turtles.
The Grand Floridian has one of the widest selections of dining options of the Disney resorts, offering everything from a casual cafe to a AAA five-diamond restaurant. Better still, the resort is only a ten to fifteen minute stroll along a lakeside path to the Polynesian Village Resort where you can find Kona coffee and other island-fare specialties. See the Polynesian Village Resort review for restaurant specific information.
Beach Pool Bar & Grill
Located close to the Villas, this outdoor bar and grill is housed in a large white gazebo with tables scattered poolside. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., kid-friendly menu items (for ages 9 and under) include burgers and pizza, plus "Mickey Check Meals." These meals, available at most Disney eateries, include choices that limit calories and meet nutrition guidelines for saturated fat, sodium and sugar. Options include grilled chicken breast with honey-wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, carrot sticks and grapes.
The adult menu includes salads, sandwiches, and the Florida EscabÃ¨che, a shrimp and scallops dish served with multi-colored chips. The gazebo bar serves frozen drinks, wine, beer and a popular Black Cherry Lemonade made from Grey Goose Cherry Noir Vodka and lemonade. The location is great for a poolside lunch, or a casual dinner with views of the nightly Electrical Water Pageant on Seven Seas Lagoon.
Courtyard Pool Bar
Located next to the resort's largest pool, this bar area has TVs, specialty cocktails, beer, wine, sangria and a slightly smaller menu of snacks and lunch items than the Beach Pool Bar & Grill.
Grand Floridian Cafe
Overlooking the rose gardens and the courtyard pool, this casually elegant (and moderately priced) restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast choices include Minnie's Grand Cake (pancakes) and a decadent Lobster Eggs Benedict. For lunch, there are salads, soups, sandwiches and two burger choices you don't see on most menus: Falafel and Surf and Turf. Some of the same selections are available for dinner, plus pasta, chicken and steak entrees. Mickey Check Meals are available here as well, with salmon and chicken choices.
Beverages favorites include a Godiva chocolate martini, and, for kids, a fun Tinker Bell and Friends, or Buzz Lightyear Punch, served in a souvenir cup with a glowing Tinker Bell or Buzz Lightyear clip-on light.
1900 Park Fare
This is Grand Floridian's home for buffet meals and character dining with some of Disney's oldest and most beloved characters. The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast buffet includes custom-made omelets, mini pancakes, Mickey-shaped waffles, carved ham, bakery items, fruits and more. While specific character appearances are not guaranteed, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Tigger and Winnie the Pooh regularly appear to visit tables and converse with guests.
Albeit a bigger hit with girls, Cinderella's Happily Ever After Buffet Dinner takes its inspiration from kingdoms around the globe and is hosted by Cinderella, Prince Charming and others from this classic fable. Buffet choices include seafood, salad, pasta, and beef dishes, as well as kid-friendly favorites like pizza and macaroni and cheese.
While the characters are each buffet's main feature, the room's old fashioned theme-park atmosphere is something to behold, too, with carousel sculptures that include horses and a galloping green seahorse, plus a beautiful late-1800's Limonaire French band organ.
Gasparilla Island Grill
Located on the back side of the main building, facing the marina, Gasparilla's is Grand Floridian's 24-hour, quick-service restaurant. Hot breakfast is served until 11 a.m. and made-to-order grill items are available until 11:30 p.m. Sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, soups, salads, grab-and-go items, desserts, beer and wine are available, too. The courtyard seating area out front offers great views of Magic Kingdom's fireworks each night (typically at 10 pm).
Garden View Tea Room
Located on the main building's first floor, afternoon tea is served daily between 2 and 5 p.m. The tea service features international teas, a selection of petite sandwiches, scones, and pastries (some shaped liked tiny swans) and other sweet treats. Music begins at 3 p.m. each day, featuring either a piano player or live band.
The Perfectly Princess Tea Party is held here on select days at 10:30 a.m. for children and at least one adult. Young princesses and princes can join in sing-alongs and dances, and listen to the story of a magical rose from Aurora's garden. Little girls often dress as their favorite Disney Princess to feast on heart-shaped PB&J sandwiches, ham and cheese sandwiches, grapes and Princess Cake. Adult fare includes a selection of cheeses, tea sandwiches and more. Parting gifts are the big hit though. Princesses receive an 18-inch My Disney Girl doll dressed in a Princess Aurora gown, a tiara, and silver princess bracelet. Young princes receive a sword and shield, plus a plush Disney bear.
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Afternoon Tea is a la carte. Prices vary depending on selected tea service. Advance reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit.
Wrought-iron railings that resemble vineyard grapevines and old world furnishings set the mood in Grand Floridian's largest restaurant. You can request (not guaranteed) a table overlooking the courtyard, or one with views of the bustling open-air kitchen.
Fresh, seasonal ingredients influence the frequently changing menu, which might include sautÃ©ed shrimp, braised veal shank, pan-roasted chicken, or oak-grilled filet of beef. Leave room for the warm chocolate-banana torte. Kids' menus are available. Reservations are recommended.
This octagon-shaped, open-beamed restaurant located at the edge of Seven Seas Lagoon specializes in fresh seafood. Steamed Maine lobster, Coriander and Shichimi-spiced Seared Ahi Tuna, and pan-seared Georges Bank Day Boat Scallops are a few of the delicious specialties. Steaks and chicken with gnocchi are also available.
Kids Mickey Check Meals choices include oven-roasted shrimp and pasta with house-made tomato sauce. This restaurant typically books up faster than Citricos, so reservations are highly recommended, especially if you want a seating time that coincides with viewing the nightly water pageant (usually 9:15 p.m.) or fireworks (closer to 10) -- complete with the soundtrack for each piped in. Dress code is business casual; slacks, jeans, or nice shorts and collared shirts are required for men. Women typically wear dresses, skirts, capris, or dress shorts with a sweater or blouse.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Independent childcare provider Kid's Nite Out offers one-to-one babysitting in resort rooms and villas. Most sitters do arts and crafts, read and play games with kids ages 6 months to 12 years.
All guests receive a birthday or an "I'm celebrating!" button if they are celebrating a birthday or special occasion. Also, while not a welcome amenity, cast members occasionally surprise kids with activity books and crayons.
The fitness center is part of Grand Floridian's Spa. The facility has a full circuit of Life Fitness equipment, treadmills, stationary bikes and free weights, and is open to both Grand Floridian and Polynesian resort guests 24 hours a day.
Self-service laundry rooms are on the second floor of the main building and the ground floor of all other guest buildings except Sugarloaf Key. Guests in Sugarloaf can use the laundry facilities in the neighboring Conch Key building. It's open 24 hours.
Parking is free onsite.
Check-in is at 3 p.m. and check-out is at 11 a.m.
The Art of Smart Timing
January to mid-February, late July to October, and post-Thanksgiving through mid-December are typically when you'll find the best pricing, as well as smaller crowds and shorter waits for rides and restaurants. There are discounts available for active and retired military members, as well as certain geographic resident discounts at various times of year.
Disney's complimentary Disney's Magical Express service allows you to check your bags at your hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at Orlando International Airport and take Disney's comfortable motor coaches to the resort (while you watch classic Disney short flicks and test your Disney trivia knowledge). Once you arrive, your bags "magically" appear, albeit a while after check-in.
The service must be booked in advance and is not available with all airlines. If your airline is not a program participant, you can still take the complimentary bus; just claim your bags in baggage claim, then head to Disney's Magical Express airport desk for your bus assignment. Note: Return service pickup is typically three hours prior to flight time.
For those renting a car, the resort is 24 miles from Orlando International Airport.
It's easy to get around from Grand Floridian's monorail station, which is accessible from the main building's second floor. The monorail (no fee) travels on a one-way loop from Grand Floridian to Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, the Ticket and Transportation Center (for Epcot connection), and Polynesian Village Resort. In addition, bus service to all parks is available in front of the hotel, and a complimentary boat service to Magic Kingdom departs from the dock near Narcoossee's.
For Mom and Dad
Listen to live jazz and sip a Manhattan at Mizener Lounge, located on Grand Floridian's second floor, behind the bandstand. After cocktails -- or instead of them -- don't miss the opportunity to have a date night at Victoria & Albert's. The vibe at Victoria & Albert's is Victorian elegance complete with candlelight, a harpist, a selection of 700 fine wines and impeccable service. The menu changes daily and might include truffles from Italy, beef from Japan, poulet rouge from North Carolina and oysters from northern Florida. Reservations for the 50-seat restaurant can be made up to 180 days in advance.