by: guide4wdw – Collin
Our Ideal Disney World Resort Hopping Day! 9 Resort Visits in One Day!
If you’re a Disney parks fan or even simply a casual traveler to Walt Disney World, you’ve likely heard of the term “resort hopping.” In essence, resort hopping is = going to resorts other that your home resort to visit, shop, dine, and ultimately explore a little piece of Disney that each resort offers in new and unique ways. It’s a great way to expand your horizons at WDW and an even better way to find resorts to stay at during your next trip or new places to dine that you never would have considered.
However, at this point in the article, I feel somewhat obligated to mention that this is not a list of ways to work the system and visit other resort pools and the many other practices that Disney heavily frowns upon. Instead, this is a list of ways to explore the unique dining, hidden gems, gift shops, and unique theming of resorts, and it’s actually something Disney tends to encourage rather that the alternative. Leave the pools, guest rooms, and guest exclusive areas of the resorts to the guests staying at the resorts, but be sure to explore the theming and intricate details of these expertly designed resort common areas.
Rather that repeating much of what we’ve shared in other articles, today we’re sharing what a typical resort hopping day looks like for us and how it is extremely possible and quite stress free to visit 9 resorts or more in one day outside of the parks.
It’s been a growing trend among our family to take the time out of each vacation to set aside one day (on week long trips) to step away from the parks to explore the resorts in more and more depth. Not only does it save a few dollars in the overall budget, but it also tends to be one of our most enjoyable days of the trip time and time again.
Characteristically, a resort hopping day for us will begin at Wilderness Lodge’s Whispering Canyon for breakfast. It’s not unusual for us to be staying at the resort or its accompanying Boulder Ridge Villas, but even if you choose another resort, Wilderness Lodge is typically only a few minute Uber ride away (we shared a few tips on that service here). The breakfast is great and we even did a full review of it after the fact due to our multiple visits and even went as far as to call it a “hidden gem” breakfast on Disney property. If you know us, you know that is about as high of a rating as we could give any Disney dining location. It truly is one of the best values on property.
Circling back to Uber, the service does play a role in our resort hopping plans but only a very slight role. In the past, I’ve been a critic of the service for various reasons but with the ever changing nature of the parking situation at Disney parks and resorts, it’s often easier to use Uber/Lyft/Minnie Vans and provided Disney transportation that trying to drive from place to place. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and ultimately is worth the money, especially if you use one of the referral codes both Uber and Lyft provided us with which will get you and us a discount on your ride(s).
(Works anywhere in the country.)
However, while Lyft and Uber are always quite convenient, don’t overlook Disney transportation and that’s ultimately how we get from place to place during the day as we move from resort to resort. Getting to the first resort of the day tends to be the problem when resort hopping. If you go to a resort for breakfast, it can be quite tricky to get to your destination without an Uber or Lyft. Typically we would catch a bus to the closest park from our home resort for the week and then catch a bus at the parks bus stop to the resort destination of our choice. Breakfast tends to be a tough timeframe for doing this because the parks aren’t always open early enough to get to your breakfast reservation by that particular route. As a result, ride sharing services due come into play.
Once breakfast is over, consider taking a walk around Wilderness Lodge. The resort offers some of the most picturesque views on property. From the main lobby to the tucked away fireplaces, quiet overlooks, and tucked away spots, every where you turn there’s something unique to see and uncover in the vast details of the resort’s story. Additionally, the resort’s gift shop ‘Mercantile” is home to some of the more unique resort specific merchandise. If you really want to uncover some of the more overlooked details, make the short walk outside and down the covered path to the Boulder Ridge Villa lobby. It’s a tucked away spot but one of the greatest tributes to Walt Disney’s past you’ll find at Walt Disney World hiding in plain site. Look for the Carolwood Room sign and you know you’re in the right place. If you’re into Disney history, it will likely exceed your expectations.
Once you wrap up your visit to Wilderness Lodge, head out to the boat dock to make your way to the next destination that always makes it on our list, the Contemporary.
To get to the Contemporary you’ll want to catch the resort loop boat. It’s a short trip, completely free, and gets you there in about 10-15 minutes (sometimes less). Simply use the signs at the dock and ask your captain to verify they are headed to your desired destination. The views from the boat are spectacular, and while the photo below was taken at sunset, picturesque views can be found throughout the year nearly every day!
The Contemporary Resort
The Contemporary is rather unique in that most of your entertainment and dining is no where near the lobby. Instead, as you arrive at the fourth floor, by means of elevators, staircases, and escalators, the atrium unfolds and showcases one of the more impressive buildings that can be found on Disney property. The wow factor for the contemporary isn’t in the lobby like Wilderness Lodge, but rather this grand atrium that constantly wows guests at first sight.
In the main grand concourse itself you’ll find unique shopping and dining including Chef Mickey’s (a decent buffet offering – somewhat overpriced), The Contempo Cafe, the Fantasia gift shop, and Bayview Gifts. Each offer something unique and around the holidays you’ll find festive displays all around. As a partially unique part of the experience, consider stepping out onto the large balcony overlooking Magic Kingdom in the distance. It’s a spectacular view and perhaps one of the little overlooked “hidden gems” of the experience that many resort guests and visitors miss entirely.
Once you’ve had your fix of the Contemporary, hop on the monorail and ride two stops over to the Polynesian Village resort.
The Polynesian Village
The Polynesian is always a guest favorite resort that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a tropical hideaway perched on the sand with Cinderellas Castle off in the distance. The views are stunning, the smells put you in the story, and the sounds of the tropical music and subtle chatter of guests drifting in and out of the lobby make for an excellent multi-sensory experience.
Inside the resort you’ll find four incredible dining options. The pinnacle of all the dining is the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show which brings a Polynesian Luau to the heart of central Florida. The experience is pricey ($66-$78 for adults) and only offered on select dates and select times. However, it is perhaps the most unique dining option for a day outside of the parks.
Other dining options include Ohana (the family favorite meal for most guests), Kona, and Captain Cooks. Each have their strengths and weaknesses but each are well worth experiencing at least once and the vast array of options accommodate many different price points.
The Polynesian also offers two uniquely themed gift shops with resort specific merchandise that is well worth checking out. Last but certainly not least, grab a Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai and walk down to the beaches for a stroll in the sand to complete the Polynesian experience.
The Grand Floridian
When it’s all said and done, make your way back up to the monorail, ride one stop and explore all the Grand Floridian has to offer. Without repeating what’s already been mentioned above, the Grand Floridian offer it’s own array of wonderful dining and gift shops, but also has an array of high end merchandise in select stores ranging from Vineyard Vines to Lilly Pulitzer apparel and many others.
The Grand Floridian is particularly wonderful around the holidays with Christmas music being played by a live band or piano and decor that looks like something out of a Hallmark movie complete with a larger that life gingerbread house that is always a pleasure to see in person.
As perhaps the greatest benefit of this resort hopping strategy, you can jump on the monorail one last time and head to Magic Kingdom. Without entering the park you can leave the monorail, head to the bus stop, and board a bus to your desired destination. One of my personal favorite spots to go at this point on our resort hopping days is Port Orleans French Quarter. The bus ride is only about 10 minutes long and once you arrive, having completed the other resorts on our list, it typically turns out to be around lunch time and Floatworks at French Quarter is a near perfect quick service lunch option. Once again, French Quarter offers a unique shopping experience and the theming really is one of the best resort themes anywhere on property regardless of resort tier.
Disney Springs or Crescent Lake
From that point, you have two great options. First, you could continue your day by heading over to Disney Springs for the night via a boat provided by the resort just steps from the lobby, or you can continue on your way to other resorts! Our next resort pick tends to be the Crescent Lake resorts and Epcot resort area including the Yacht and Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin, and Boardwalk resorts. It is fairly difficult to get to these resorts from French Quarter but, as mentioned before, you can always hail an Uber or head to a park using the resorts busses and then switch busses to get to your end destination.
In my opinion there is no better first stop that the Yacht Club. The little intricate details of the lobby and external resort grounds are wonderful to explore. As an added bonus, the spacious and comfortable lobby is a great place to relax and escape from the hustle and bustle of your Disney vacation. If you have a bit of extra time, a quick 10-15 minute walk along the lakes edge and through the Swan and Dolphin will lead you right over to Fantasia miniature golf. It’s a great way to spend some time with family, it’s fairly budget friendly, and it is truly unlike any miniature golf you’ve played before. When you’re finished, consider stopping by the Fountain’s walk up window on the bottom floor of the Dolphin for some of the best ice cream on property!
If it’s late enough in the day at this point, consider eating at Cape May Cafe. The tucked away seafood buffet dinner is one that we failed to eat at for years on end. It does require a reservation most of the time but reservations tend to be plentiful. The meal is incredible and is housed in Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s not necessarily the most budget friendly offering (more on that in our Cape May Cafe informational post), but it is truly one of my favorite meals anywhere on property and is one of the best kept WDW dining secrets.
At the end of the night, after your meal, consider making the short walk over to Disney’s Boardwalk resort to enjoy the glistening lights of the real boardwalk experience on the edge of Crescent Lake, potentially a movie on the village green, or even some live entertainment by incredibly talented street performers. The sights, the sounds, and the overall environment is well worth your time. As day turns into night and the nightly performance of Illuminations takes to the sky at Epcot nearby, the view from the boardwalk (while partially obstructed) is one of the most picturesque views you’ll find anywhere on property. The reflections off of the water create a show stopping experience for guests and it’s something you won’t want to miss.
At the end of the night hail an Uber and head back to your home resort for the week and you may very well have experienced a fun filled day with very little expense and uncovered hundreds of things you never would have gotten the chance to explore on a typical Disney vacation! Enjoy every moment, try something new, and you’ll never be disappointed with resort hopping! Use our plan or create your own plan with resorts you’ve always wanted to visit. This post only scratches the surface of all there is to see and do, but we hope that this at least gives you the motivation to try this vastly important part of our Disney vacations.
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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