Disney’s BoardWalk Inn: An Introduction
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is a 378-room resort on Crescent Lake in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Inn is within walking distance of Epcot Center, and of course, it’s right on Disney’s BoardWalk.
During the 80s and 90s, Walt Disney World built several large, luxurious themed resorts as their parks and attractions expanded. They wanted to give guests more options and the ability to feel like they had a full-service vacation experience.
The BoardWalk Inn was part of the nostalgia-themed resort trend of that era. Hotels like the Grand Floridian and the Yacht Club were bringing back vintage looks and classic service that made them stand out from other resorts in Orlando.
Deluxe Resort: What Does It Mean?
The Inn is classified as a Disney Deluxe Resort, so it has specific amenities that fall under that category. Many people aren’t sure about the various hotel classifications and how they apply to Disney hotels, so the idea of a “Deluxe” hotel doesn’t mean anything to them other than carrying connotations of luxury. But what does the term really mean for a Walt Disney World hotel?
A Deluxe Resort gets that classification due in part to location. Usually, deluxe resorts are located near many desirable Disney attractions and often have more options for transportation directly from the hotel to the parks.
This convenience aspect is a big selling point for people looking to book a Disney vacation. We’ll talk more about the BoardWalk Inn’s location and transportation options in the next section.
Several other characteristics give a hotel a Deluxe classification; these include larger standard rooms, desirable views, access to things like gyms and spas, more on-site dining options, resort activities, and much more.
Hotel Overview: What Was the Inspiration?
In the early 1900s, resort towns like Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Coney Island, NY, were thriving and served as peaceful seaside getaways for people from bustling cities like New York and Washington, DC.
The Coney Island aesthetic is one that has fascinated artists, designers, and architects for many years. While Coney Island was more of a daytime getaway than a full-on resort, it offered tasty food, daring rides, and cool ocean air, which was a delight for people used to hot, crowded cities. Many of the rides and exhibits in Coney Island featured stunning art, drawing on the Art Deco movement, neoclassical inspirations, and more.
Meanwhile, gambling was king in Atlantic City, and seedy hotels abounded, but the better hotels in these towns looked like well-appointed mansions. They were meeting places where influential business owners, politicians, and others rubbed elbows.
Both these towns featured their own BoardWalks, where visitors would congregate to stroll, shop, and enjoy all kinds of entertainment, from magic shows to singers, jugglers, and fire-eaters. The mood was wild and free, and the possibilities were endless.
When Walt Disney World engineers built the BoardWalk Resort in 1996, they wanted to capture a specific ambiance reminiscent of this time and location. This Mid-Atlantic style is different from the Grand Floridian’s southern elegance and the New England luxury of the Yacht Club. The style is retro with some luxurious touches, but it still has a particular element of playfulness that comes from the BoardWalk culture.
Building and Grounds
The building looks a lot like a huge mansion. It’s mainly white but has reddish accents that add to the whimsical vibe of the hotel. The front entrance features nautical and lighthouse elements and has the hotel’s name displayed across the front arch. At nighttime, the entrance lights up with a warm, cozy glow.
One of the features of the Boardwalk Inn is that it extends out over a portion of the Boardwalk itself so that some of the hotel rooms are situated over the shops and restaurants of the Boardwalk. This touch makes guests feel like they’re part of the seaside resort magic.
The hotel is surrounded by beautifully landscaped courtyards and gardens, perfect for taking after-dinner walks if you don’t feel like facing the noise of the BoardWalk.
Unlike other spots in Disney World that are covered in palm trees and other identifiable Floridian vegetation, the BoardWalk features trees, bushes, and flowers that could easily be from further up the coast. It’s all part of the presentation.
One drawback of this property is that guests may have to do a lot of walking to get to and from their rooms due to its lengthy size. This is a pretty common issue with Disney properties because they tend to build out rather than up. They do this to prevent obstructed views of the parks.
The lobby area of the BoardWalk Inn boasts a bright, open look with sandy-peach-colored walls and white accents. Still, the vintage opulent vibe comes through in the heavy, ornate bronze mirrors and sculptures featured throughout the space.
One of the most notable features of the BoardWalk Inn’s lobby is the Hippocampus Electrolier chandelier. This 3,000-pound piece of artwork features 22-karat gold, glass, and Austrian crystal. At first glance, it’s hard to tell what type of creature is depicted in this one-of-a-kind sculpture/chandelier.
Still, some research will reveal that the hippocampus is a Greek mythological creature with a horse’s head and a fish’s tail – basically a mermaid horse! An electrolier is a vintage term for an electrical-powered chandelier.
The lobby also has many exciting homages to antique carnival rides on display—for example, an exquisite scale reproduction of an Atlantic City carousel directly underneath the hippocampus electrolier. The attention to detail in this piece is fantastic, which is why it’s displayed in a way to be one of the first things guests see when they walk into the hotel.
The first thing to know about the BoardWalk Inn’s rooms is that there’s an Inn side and a Villa side. The Inn side offers standard Disney Deluxe rooms, amenities, and services, while the Villa side offers studios and 1 or 2-bedroom villas with some enhanced amenities. The Villas are available only to Disney’s Vacation Club members, which is their timeshare program.
Let’s take a look at some of the amenities found in most standard rooms:
- Two queen-sized beds
- Spacious bathrooms
- Coffee maker
- Hair dryer
- Mini fridge
Most standard rooms feature two queen beds, although some selected rooms have one king bed instead. The rooms offer all the usual amenities you’d generally find in a nice hotel. Coffee maker, hair dryer, mini fridge, iron and ironing board, free wifi, etc. All the basics!
Aesthetically, the rooms are very pleasing. They’re decorated with muted pastels that remind us of saltwater taffy. The beds are big and fluffy, and some of the rooms have four-poster beds that make the style of the early 1900s come alive. Unlike many Disney resorts that use laminate flooring in most of their rooms, the rooms at the BoardWalk Inn feature soft, thick wall-to-wall carpeting.
The rooms have nice, spacious bathrooms with soaker tubs/shower combos and his and her vanity sinks. The neutral-colored walls are complemented by wooden accents and splashes of blue that go well with the nautical theme.
You have three view choices at the BoardWalk Inn: Standard, Water, and Garden. The standard view may give you a view of the parking lot or of Epcot, depending on which room you’re in, so book early and make your preferences known.
While it may seem like it would be loud and intrusive to stay at a hotel that’s part of such a busy tourist attraction, many guests who reviewed the rooms say that their stay was surprisingly peaceful.
The Villas at the BoardWalk Inn has similar amenities to the standard rooms, but of course, the Villas are apartment-style living quarters with full kitchens, bigger baths, and private bedrooms.
The decor in the Villas is also different, featuring more vintage-looking flourishes like four-poster beds, classic pinstripe wallpaper, and more ornate decor. The bathrooms in the Villas are gorgeous with soaker tubs, separate large showers, his and hers sinks, and vanity lighting.
All the Villas and some of the standard hotel rooms have balconies. In the hotel, some rooms have regular windows or patios.
The bottom line is that the rooms in the BoardWalk Inn are generally pretty nice. Some guests complain that the pictures of the hotel’s rooms they see online are of the Villas and that they were disappointed when seeing the more down-to-earth standard rooms. It’s important to do your research and understand the types of rooms available to you before you book!
Location: What Is Nearby?
In some hotels in and around the Disney area, it can be a hike to get from your location to the park. A long walk can be a drag, especially when you have kids, strollers, and bags to carry along with you. You may need to take several modes of transportation, depending on what part of the park you want to get to, and it can take some time.
You don’t have to worry about this at the BoardWalk Inn; it is a very convenient hotel in terms of proximity to the parks. If you’re on foot, you can get to Hollywood Studios in about 15 minutes and to the International Entrance of Epcot Center in around 5 minutes.
If you’d rather take a more fun and scenic route to Epcot, you can hop on one of Disney’s watercraft that will take you from the BoardWalk to Epcot in about 30 minutes. The boat makes some stops, so it isn’t as quick as walking or driving, but you will get to take in the lovely sights of Disney’s waterways and the impressive resorts along their shores.
A trip to the Magic Kingdom is an easy excursion as well. You can use Disney’s monorail service to go from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, or, if you’d prefer, you can catch one of Disney World’s convenient buses directly from the BoardWalk to the Magic Kingdom. Either way, it’s a fairly straightforward trip.
Aside from its proximity to the park, the BoardWalk Inn is close to – you guessed it – The BoardWalk! Disney’s BoardWalk area is relatively small compared to an actual beach BoardWalk, but it does a great job creating the vibe of a real seaside vacation spot.
There’s food, music, street performers, arcade games, and other classic entertainment. It’s a great place to take a nice evening stroll and watch the sunset too.
What Will Kids Love About the BoardWalk Inn?
If you’re staying at the BoardWalk Inn with kids, there’s plenty to do other than Disney’s amusement parks themselves. You can take them for a stroll to the BoardWalk to see street performers, play at the arcade, or indulge in some yummy treats from one of the many food vendors. The property has three pools, water slides, and a lovely playground.
The BoardWalk Inn is one of the Walt Disney World resorts that offer complementary campfire activities. Your family can gather around a crackling fire, roast marshmallows, tell stories and enjoy the sights and sounds of the night.
What Will Adults Love About the BoardWalk Inn?
The BoardWalk Inn is a great hotel for adults, particularly older adults. Its old-fashioned aesthetic and quiet charm brings to mind vacation spots of yesteryear, and while it’s definitely child-friendly, it isn’t geared specifically to children.
Grown-ups will love the well-cared-for grounds around the hotel and the many modes of transportation to get from the resort to Disney World theme parks. Epcot, Disney’s best park for adults, is within walking distance from the resort. You can enjoy various cultural experiences, fine food, and scientific exhibits in one wonderful place.
Back at the resort, take advantage of the BoardWalk! Relax by the “Quiet Pool,” a swimming area with no super loud noises, slides, or horseplay. Visit the AbracadaBAR for wine glass painting classes, followed by a relaxed Happy Hour. Enjoy a romantic movie night at the Movies Under The Stars night events.
For guests who enjoy cycling, Surry Bikes are available near the back entrance of the BoardWalk Inn. These vintage-style bikes have four wheels and are equipped with a sun shade, so it’s perfect for those who want to enjoy the scenery without being overwhelmed by the sun’s heat. They’re big enough to accommodate adults and kids together, but it’s just as much fun with two adults alone.
You can also chill out in the restaurant’s on-site bar, the Belle Vue Lounge. This unique lounge features crafted cocktails, and other libations served in a classy vintage 1930s setting. You can listen to old-time radio shows or admire the views from the windows. It’s an overall lovely experience.
BoardWalk Inn Dining Options
The BoardWalk Inn doesn’t have any on-site restaurants per se; however, the property is right on the BoardWalk, technically part of the BoardWalk, so dozens of dining options are only steps away from your door.
The Big River Grille
The Big River Grille offers pub-style food in a casual environment. You can grab bar favorites like nachos, chicken fingers, cheese poppers, and more as you watch the on-site brewers make beer – and for the kids, root beer- right before your eyes.
The Flying Fish
Looking for something a little more classy? The Flying Fish has you covered. This high-end eatery serves delicious seafood dishes like Verlasso Salmon, Potato-Wrapped Red Snapper, and Lobster Bisque. The restaurant is lavishly decorated in a 1930s art-deco ocean theme that’s based on a vintage Atlantic City rollercoaster.
BoardWalk To-Go Cart
Need something quick while you’re out and about? Then stop in at the BoardWalk To-Go Cart! This cute little kiosk serves up an array of fast and fried treats that will satisfy your snack cravings. Hot dogs, fried mac and cheese, french fries, and more are served piping hot and fresh all day at this convenient location.
Trattoria Al Forno
While the BoardWalk area is known for its classic American food choices, don’t overlook this top-notch Italian dining experience. Many of this restaurant’s sauces and pasta are prepared in-house, and their selection of Italian wines is also impressive. Give it a try!
In addition to the dining establishments directly on the BoardWalk, you can find many more tempting restaurants if you venture a short distance away. For example, some BoardWalk guests looking for a more varied dining experience will visit some of the restaurants at the Swan or Dolphin hotels. These two hotels are owned and operated by Marriott and are integrated well into the Disney family.
The Swan is the more expensive option of the two and has a good selection of high-rated dining choices, but the Dolphin also offers some excellent food. It’s not uncommon for guests at the BoardWalk and other nearby hotels to stop by for a meal at the Swan and Dolphin.
You can choose from the tasty Japanese flavors of Kimono, the creative seafood cuisine of Todd English’s Blue Zoo, or a perfectly cooked steak at Shula’s. There are too many more options to list here, but it suffices to say you have quite the selection.
The BoardWalk Inn: Final Thoughts:
The BoardWalk Inn has many positive points to offer a vacationer. Its antique charm, comfortable accommodations, proximity to Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and nearby dining options make this a favorable location for singles, couples, and families.
If you enjoy a laid-back, seaside vibe and vintage-inspired decor, this hotel would be a great place to spend your Walt Disney World Vacation.