What to Do at Disney’s Boardwalk – An Underrated Piece of the Magic
Disney’s Boardwalk resort is one of those unique “hidden in plain site” places on Disney property that are getting more and more difficult to find. I’m even somewhat hesitant to write this article in order to keep it a “hidden gem” for as along as possible, but at the same time it’s inevitably going to become more popular as the Skyliner project draws more and more guests to the International Gateway rear entrance to Epcot.
For years the Boardwalk resort and Crescent lake have been our escape from Epcot. Sometime the crowds are heavy or we need to escape the heat for a short while, the Boardwalk was and is the ideal “escape” in the perfect location. For some reason or another, the resort doesn’t feel quite as crowded as other Disney resort locations and for that very reason it’s a place that you can go and find a tucked away seating area, a comfortable chair on the balcony of the main lobby, or even the perfect grassy spot for kids to run around while the adults enjoy the sights and sounds of the boardwalk experience.
So, why is this spot so underrated? Simply put, so many guests are so enthralled with the Magic Kingdom resort area (and rightly so) that they tend to overlook the Epcot resort area simply because they don’t quite realize how incredible it really is. Additionally, very few guests realize that the Boardwalk is less that a 10 minute walk from the back entrance of Epcot. If you’re one of those guests or have been hesitant to take the time out of your park days to head to the Boardwalk one night, consider giving it a shot because it may exceed your wildest expectations.
Grab A Late Night Snack
The Boardwalk and snacks just go hand in hand. Grab a pretzel, a funnel cake, some fried ice cream, or even a bakery treat from the Boardwalk Bakery and the surrounding food stands. Late at night you’ll find a vast variety of live, family friendly, entertainment which develop the perfect “dinner with a show.” (Please tell me I’m not the only one that calls a slice of pizza or even a Mickey shaped pretzel “dinner” at Disney from time to time…) If you’re looking for a few more snack or dessert options, be sure to check out the Screendoor General Door to find a full array of fresh baked snacks behind a large glass counter.
Enjoy the Details
If you take the time to walk into the lobby, you’re instantly surrounded by a bit of real life history. From the scale model Illions Carousel (which comes to life each hour), or the Lucy the Elephant Scale Model, to the creepy chairs tucked away by the fireplace, the Boardwalk harkens back to the days of old school Boardwalks readily overlooked in today’s fast paced world. The little details make the experience and truly take a nice resort and turn it into a surprisingly and vastly memorable experience that will exceed your wildest expectations.
Catch a Sunset
Enjoying a sunset at the Boardwalk has become a must do for me on nearly every trip to Orlando. There’s no way to describe it, but at the same time as you sit there on the wooden planks of the boardwalk, and as the glowing lights start to light up the night, there’s a surprising calming effect that unfolds around you. The night life and music from Jelly Rolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall aren’t quite playing songs, and for a brief few moments the sky opens up with those classic Florida sunsets.
I know it sounds strange but there really is just something about this portion of Walt Disney World that sets the stage for the most incredible sunsets you’ll ever experience. From the reflections off of the water to the subtle sounds of the boats moving across Crescent Lake to the colored building setting the backdrop for the sky above, it’s simply impressive in the grandest of ways.
As an added bonus, it’s an escape from the crowds of the parks, a great place to relax and recharge for a night in the parks, or the perfect spot to enjoy after a dinner at one of the many incredible offerings in the Epcot resort area.
Enjoy a Movie On the Village Green
Enjoying a movie with your kids or even with other adults at a Disney World deluxe resort is one of those memories that will stick with you for years. Most nights, the resorts will set up an outdoor movie screen, set up a viewing area and create a one of a kind movie under the stars for guests of all ages. Of course, the movie tends to be a kid focused movie, but who doesn’t love a classic Disney movie?
The schedule for the event at each resort does vary from time to time, but you don’t necessarily have to be staying at the resort to visit and enjoy the experience. The Boardwalk resort is perhaps the best place on property to enjoy the nighttime movie as a non-resort guest. The viewing location is typically right in the middle of the Village Green grassy area and the cast make it obvious that anyone hanging out on the Boardwalk is welcome to wander over and enjoy the movie. It’s not out of the ordinary to see families sitting on blankets or sitting on the fairly comfortable artificial turf enjoying the atmosphere and a classic film.
Enjoy the Night Life
Nightlife is likely the only thing on this list that pops into the mind of most resort guests when the Boardwalk is first mentioned. Honestly, the nightlife is quite interesting and enjoyable, but it’s far from what the Boardwalk is all about. JellyRolls is the true, long time, “go-to” nighttime entertainment venue at Walt Disney World. The entertainers at this legendary piano bar are truly incredible and many of them have been sharing music and unique compilations with guests for years on end.
As Disney Springs continues to grow and develop, the nightlife has certainly developed along the way as well. While that has put JellyRolls and the other Boardwalk nightlife on the metaphorical “back burner,” it’s still well worth looking into if you’re looking for something to do long after the parks close for the night.
Similar to the movie offering listed above, if you’re willing to walk a short distance around Crescent Lake to the beaches of the Yacht and Beach Club, you’ll find a nighttime campfire for roasting marshmallows at select times. The schedule does vary so be sure to ask at the resort for the time for that particular day.
Once again, roasting marshmallows at a Disney resort is the perfect way to disconnect from the fast paced days in the parks. In a similar way, gathering around a campfire with other families is just one of those things that takes you back to simpler times and simpler forms of entertainment. I’m reminded almost daily how lucky I am to have grown up in a time period right before technology really took over our lives. Kids today and adults alike are constantly surrounded by tech. I’m the first to admit that I love technological advancements and the “next big thing,” but at the same time getting away from it all is a huge blessing at times.
In my opinion, that’s the huge benefit of this simple experience. Gather around a fire with friends or family and you may be suprised at how much your kids enjoy it and more importantly how such a simple experience can help you disconnect from the fast paced world that we experience day in and day out.
Relax In The Lobby
At this point in the list you may be noticing a trend on our list. Everything about the Boardwalk resort area encourages a slower pace and a softer presence of entertainment when compared to the parks. It’s different in a near perfect way and offers just enough to keep you entertained for a few hours while offering up a quiet spot to enjoy.
As you journey inside the resort itself, the lobby offers comfortable seating, brilliant decor, and even a few tucked away gems of Disney’s past. Just off the side of the lobby, near the restroom, you can find a piece of Disney history hiding in plain site from the retired Penny Arcade that once held a prominent place on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. The hidden gem decoration appears at first to be a simple decoration. However, if you take the time to look carefully you’ll discover the antique Mutoscope is still in functioning order and set so that any guest can walk right up and interact with the vintage machine. A Mutoscope is comparable to those little flip books you’ve likely seen at hobby stores or made yourself at some point in time. However, a Mutoscope often plays a classic cartoon as a a viewer pears into the viewfinder and turns a small crank on the side of the machine. It’s not a thrilling experiencing but for the nostalgic of the group it’s well worth taking a few brief moments out of your day to go and see for yourself.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!