When the Grand Floridian Resort opened in 1988 as the first new resort at Walt Disney World since 1971, it ushered in an era of massive expansion. Since then, dozens of new resorts have been added, from the budget-friendly Surfside Inn and Suites to the chic Riviera Resort. But no matter how many new hotels get introduced to the mix, many people still consider the Grand Floridian Resort to be the crème de la crème of Disney resorts. It's certainly the most expensive, with each room costing upwards of $600 per night. With its chandeliers and soaring ceilings, cage elevator, and resident pianist, it's also the most opulent (although this being Disney, you're more likely to see a gang of kids being chased around the lobby by Pluto than you are a grand dame in furs and pearls, even if the setting suggests the opposite). But is it really as good as the hype (and the cost) suggests? Or is it past its prime, living on former glories rather than keeping up with the times? Here are some reasons why the Grand Floridian is still tops... and a couple of reasons why you might be better off spending the night elsewhere.
Location, Location, Location
Obviously, the quality of the accommodation is one of the top priorities when you're booking a hotel, but equally important is the location. Fortunately, the Grand Floridian doesn't disappoint. As disneyaddicts.com points out, the Grand Floridian has one of the best locations in all of Walt Disney World Resort. It's not as close to the gates of the Magic Kingdom as Bay Lake Tower or the Contemporary Resort (which are both around 0.5 miles away), but considering it's only 0.7 miles away (which should take you around 10-15 minutes to walk via the paved walkway), the difference is too little to quibble over. It also has the distinct advantage of being one of only three resorts to sit directly on the monorail line, which will not only get you to the Magic Kingdom in a flash, but also makes getting to Epcot and the Hollywood Studios a breeze.
Big, Luxurious Rooms
If you like a lot of space to spread out in, you'll love the Grand Floridian Resort. The standard rooms are the largest of any at Walt Disney World, boasting around 440 square feet. As travelingmom.com notes, space isn't the only thing you'll get during your stay. Regardless of whether you choose a standard room or a club-level room, you'll receive a turndown service, which includes chocolates on the guest room pillows, every night. Currently, it's the only resort to offer the service, illustrating the extra level of personal attention that a stay at the Grand Floridian Resort comes with. The bad news? All that luxury comes at a cost. As disneydining.com says, Disney is expensive enough as it is. Deluxe resorts are even more expensive. The Grand Floridian Resort takes things next level. Although you might be able to pick up a bargain during a sale, it's not uncommon for standard rooms to go for between $600 -$700 per night. If you want a room with a theme park view, expect to pay around $800 - $1000. Club-level rooms will set you back at least $1000. Whichever way you look at it, that's a good chunk of change.
Vacations are the perfect time to forget the diet and indulge in some good eats. While you might have to shell out for a stay at the Grand Floridian, foodies won't be disappointed at what they get in return. As you'd expect from one of Disney's grandest resorts, the food options are a step above the food hall-only type of options you'll get at the value resorts. Along with the typical quick-serve options and room and bar service, you'll also be treated to a smorgasbord of some of the best restaurants at Disney, including The Grand Floridian Café (perfect for a quick bite), 1900 Park Fare (ideal for breakfasting with some of your favorite characters), The Garden View Tea Room (the most charming place around for an English Afternoon Tea), Citricos (a seafood lover’s paradise with gorgeous waterfront views), and, of course, the AAA Five Diamond Award-winning Victoria and Albert's, a place where jackets are obligatory, kids under 10 are turned away, and where the food, wine, and atmosphere are all fit for royalty.
Amenities by the Boatload
Even if you don't step foot outside of the Grand Floridian for your entire vacation, you'll still come away with some magical memories. While some of Disney's budget resorts offer accommodation but very little else, the Grand Floridian offers enough amenities and activities to keep guests entertained from dusk to dawn. Along with enjoying the spa, the pools, and the state-of-the-art health club, there's also the chance to book a specialty cruise, relax in a poolside cabana, enjoy the nightly Electrical Water Pageant on the beach, or pack the kids off on a scavenger hunt around the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Old Fashioned Grandeur
There's no denying that the Grand Floridian is beautiful. As thepointsguy.com points out, there's also no denying that it's holding up exceptionally well for its age, with its white paint and red roof exterior exuding the same timeless appeal as beachside resorts like the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego that likely inspired it. But for all its ornate splendor, some people might think it's long overdue a makeover. The last time the rooms were refreshed was in 2015 - not too long ago, admittedly, but in the years since, numerous other resorts have sprung up that offer plenty of elegance, but with a more contemporary spirit. It's still immaculate, but if your taste runs to modern elegance rather than heavy curtains, imposing furniture, and patterned carpeting, you might find it just a little old-fashioned.
The Grand Floridian unquestionably holds a coveted status at Disney, and for very good reason. In terms of location, amenities, and old-world grandeur, it's hard to beat. Its refined ambiance provides a delightful contrast to the hustle and bustle of the parks, making it a top-notch option for adults who want to combine the thrills and spills of Disney with a hefty dollop of luxury and finesse. But as to whether it's still king of the resorts (or worth the huge room rates) is really a matter of personal preference. For those who prefer a more informal ambiance, contemporary furnishings, and a smaller price tag, there are better options to consider. For those who like refinement, luxury, chocolates on their pillows, and music in the air, it's still the perfect choice.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson