Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Boardwalk Inn & Villas Review


 We recently had a chance to stay at Disney's Boardwalk Villas, which is the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) side of Disney's Boardwalk Inn.  In this post, we'll share some thoughts about this deluxe resort, most notably how it compares to a couple of other ones where we've stayed in recent years.  

The Boardwalk (as I'll refer to it from here on in this post - too many names for what amounts to the same thing) is a resort on Crescent Lake.  It shares the lake with the Yacht Club and Beach Club, as well as being in proximity to the Swan and Dolphin.  That makes this area rather unique, as you can easily see and visit multiple resorts in a small area.  I wouldn't say that all of these resorts blend together (certainly not the Swan and Dolphin!) but many of the things I have to say about Boardwalk will apply to Beach and Yacht Club as well, given their close proximity to each other.

We were fortunate enough to get a boardwalk view room, which is the "best" class of room at this resort.  I have nothing against a view of the gardens, though I tend to avoid pool views at any resort, as it isn't all that interesting to me and is often filled with noise until late in the evening.  In any case, we stayed in a "deluxe studio" as Disney calls it, and there are only 30 of those in Boardwalk Villas.

We specifically wanted a boardwalk view because it not only overlooks Crescent Lake (which is lovely) and the other two resorts, but it has a view into Epcot, specifically of Spaceship Earth, which can be seen from a distance.  It's the equivalent of getting theme park view at the Polynesian, but less expensive.  Speaking of which, we once again stayed here by renting DVC points, something I would highly recommend if you want to stay in deluxe resorts for far less than rack rate.  I didn't say they were cheap, but certainly cheapER.

The view was one of the absolute standouts of this resort.  I hesitate to put that first, since as I said, there aren't many boardwalk view studios available.  But this was what we had in mind, and it definitely delivered.  I spent part of each morning and evening out on the balcony, soaking in some of the atmosphere and getting a thrill at seeing Spaceship Earth just a short walk away.

And speaking of that, this is the biggest area where this resort excelled - proximity to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  The Crescent Lake resorts all share this trait, so if this is important to you, feel free to book a room at any of these three.  Epcot is closer (and technically, the walk from Beach Club is shorter) but the walk to Hollywood Studios really isn't all that bad either.  Once you get to the tennis courts that are still part of the Boardwalk, you can see the Tower of Terror in the distance, so it really seems like you're not that far away.

We took advantage of the walkability here many times over the course of our trip.  It really is the quickest and simplest way to get to these parks, which means that you don't have to rely on Disney transportation for half of your park days (assuming you visit them equally, which I know isn't always true.  But if your trip is very Epcot heavy, Boardwalk is a great place to be).  Keep in mind that you will enter Epcot from the World Showcase entrance, not the main entrance by Spaceship Earth.  This is great for rope dropping Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, though I found myself missing the walk out the front of the park after Luminous, and getting to see the lights on Spaceship Earth.

If you don't want to do that much walking, however, there are still good and valid transportation methods to get to both of these parks.  The most convenient is the Friendship boats, whose dock is right on the boardwalk.  One boat takes you to Epcot and the other takes you to Hollywood Studios (after making stops and the Yacht/Beach club and the Swan/Dolphin).  If you're not feeling up to the longer walk to Studios, but don't want to wait for the boat to make all of the stops, I'd recommend walking to the Swan and Dolphin dock, which is the last stop before the park.  It's a shorter walk, and is kind of a "best of both worlds" situation in this case.

There's also the Disney Skyliner.  The closest station is the one at Epcot, so you'd still have to walk there if you wanted to take the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios.  You also have to change gondolas at the Caribbean Beach Resort as it doesn't go to the other park directly.  This is the longest way to get to Hollywood Studios, but if you want to experience a "ride" before you even get to the parks, this can be a fun way to do it. We actually did this once, though the first time we tried it, the Skyliner stopped working right when we arrived at the Epcot station.  Again, your feet are more reliable in most cases.  

And for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom (as well as Disney Springs), there's the traditional Disney bus service.  The bus stop is right outside the front of the resort and was never super crowded when we were there, even as we prepared for rope drop.  This reminds me of another interesting aspect of this resort - you can go out the lobby in both directions and get to different areas of the resort.  If you need the bus (or want the Hollywood Studios walking path), you go out the front, and if you want to walk to Epcot or take the boat, you go out the back onto the boardwalk itself.

There are multiple restaurants here, including the Italian Trattoria al Forno (perhaps a review is coming? Everything we had was quite good) and the Flying Fish seafood restaurant.  There is also Boardwalk Ice Cream, which replaced the old Ample Hills Creamery a few years ago.  The ice cream there is good (as most ice cream is) but in my experience, there is almost always a long line, especially later in the night, and the workers there were not the quickest I've ever seen.  Let's leave it at that.

Boardwalk also has multiple places that could be classified as "nightlife", with the Abracadabar, Jellyrolls (a piano bar) and the Atlantic Dance Hall.  We didn't frequent any of these places, so I can't give you a rundown of whether they're any good.  But it does lead me to one of the negative aspects of this resort - it's always busy, notably at night.

Now, you might say that you consider this a positive, and if so, don't let me dissuade you from staying here.  But for me personally, after spending many hours in the brutal Florida sun and being among large crowds of people, what I want from my resort more than anything is quiet and relaxation.  You won't often find that here - the music from the Dance Hall is audible on the boardwalk, and there is often entertainment set up that gathers a crowd, such as dancers or magicians.  Again, I have nothing against this kind of thing, but the resort definitely has a more "adult" vibe (despite the many children watching the entertainment) and that's not what I'm looking for at Disney (or often anywhere, but that's a "me" problem).

On our first night (well, really early morning), we also heard noises from outside that turned out to be the runDisney Springtime Surprise event going right past our balcony.  Anyone doing those races is obviously in better shape than me, but being woken by the race noises was not the way I wanted to start a busy day.  This was obviously specific to the time period we stayed, but keep this in mind and check the schedule if you're worried about something similar.


The other negative I found was regarding the layout of the hotel.  If you look at a map of the property, this should be obvious, but it still took me by surprise.  I'm used to these resorts being spread among different buildings (both Polynesian and Grand Floridian are like this).  But Boardwalk is all connected into one main building (with two sides, one for the Inn and one for the Villas).  

In an of itself, this wouldn't be a problem.  But I found it baffling that there was only one elevator bank for the Villas (and one for the Inn, though I never really went to that side).  It's near the lobby, which is helpful, but depending on where your room is, you can have a long walk once you're inside.  Our room was approximately halfway between the lobby and the end of the building, but it seemed much longer when having to make that walk.

I actually had hoped to get a room at the far end of the resort, away from the lobby, but unbeknownst to me, that section (the Crest of the Wave on the outside) was undergoing renovation while we were there, so that was obviously out.  But I had wanted that room, assuming I could exit our building at the far end, putting us closer to the walkway for Hollywood Studios.  Instead, we had to walk back through the lobby every time. 

There was a stairway at the far end of the building (near The Attic, a room that seemed to be only for private events) but it looked far more like an emergency exit than any kind of legitimate one, and was dubbed "creepy" but our children).  If we had actually had a room at that end of the resort, that would have been my go to exit, even with the creep factor.  But since our room was essentially halfway between the lobby and that exit stairway, there was really no point.  There were other similar stairways throughout the resort, but none looked inviting or easy to get in and out of.

Contrast that to the Grand Floridian.  The villas there have their own building and mini-lobby.  And we would usually leave that building by the back entrance, not even going through the main part of the building.  There was a nice covered walkway towards the rest of the resort, and the only time we actually needed to use the lobby was when we were going towards the monorail station.  At the Boardwalk, we had to pass through the lobby constantly, and while it smelled quite nice, it just seemed unnecessary in this type of resort.

I realized I haven't even talked about the room itself.  It is what I expected from a deluxe studio.  One thing we liked was having the fifth sleeper in the room (it allowed my daughter to sleep there, which she loves, while my son took the pull out couch bed, and my wife and I shared the normal bed).  It never really felt cramped in there with the four of us.  The bathroom was not spectacular, but it was fine for what we needed.  In fact, the nicest bathroom we've had was at the Polynesian, because it had one shower and one tub, in separate rooms.  Of course, that luxury came at the expense of extra living space, which wasn't an issue with the Boardwalk.  I would prefer the extra space, all things being equal.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay at the Boardwalk.  We're trying to stay at different resorts to get a feel for all of the different options available.  The general vibe here was not our favorite, and if we were going to stay at a resort we've stayed at previously, it would be one of the others mentioned above instead of the Boardwalk for sure.  But you can't beat the proximity to not one, but two parks, which makes it a great option if that's the most important thing to you.

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