You don’t have to be a Disney expert to know that the week between Christmas and New Year’s is the most crowded of the whole year. Yet it constantly surprises me seeing how many people seem shocked that on days when parks can close at capacity, getting a last-minute dining reservation (or heaven forbid, a walk-up!) is difficult or impossible. Not a year goes by that I don’t hear someone complaining about restaurants with no availability. (The winner this year goes to an exasperated father who, in a raised voice, announced to no one in particular how magical it was that Mickey Mouse had decided that his whole family was going to starve for Christmas.)
With no firm plans to visit the parks, but lovely weather and a desire to get out and walk around, it seemed like the perfect time to revisit our Progressive Dinner – this time around Crescent Lake.
Crescent Lake, the resort area in between the back of Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios contains several resorts: Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk, and, off on a side inlet, the Swan and Dolphin hotels. While our Monorail Loop resort dinner did require taking the monorail (or, theoretically, a boat) to get from some resorts to others, the entire Crescent Lake loop can be walked, or it can be navigated by using the Friendship boats. With temperatures in the upper 70s and low humidity (and a need to burn some calories), walking was our mode of transportation. We parked at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and took the walking path over to the Yacht Club.
Although there are five hotels compared to the Monorail Loop’s three, making a progressive dinner to hit all five would be difficult. There are no counter service restaurants at the Yacht Club, and while there are technically two at the Beach Club, the assortment of food wasn’t as appealing to us as the Monorail Loop ones.
Because the Yacht and Beach Club share a lot of facilities (the pool, their boat launch, and their bus service), we grouped them together as one resort. Likewise, due to the lack of counter service options at the Swan, we grouped the Swan and Dolphin together. Here’s how our meal played out.
Appetizers: Yacht Club and Beach Club.
While you can theoretically grab a sandwich to split at Hurricane Hanna’s or at the Beach Club Marketplace as an appetizer, your best options for appetizers are found at the lounges. For ambiance, I love the Crew’s Cup Lounge at the Yacht Club. With booths along the side of the lounge, it is very comfortable to come in for a light snack. At 4 PM on the Sunday after Christmas, the place was almost empty. Truth told, the menu is so amazing that we could have eaten a whole meal there and been quite satisfied. The three of us (myself, husband, and four-year-old daughter) split an order of Buttermilk-fried rock shrimp and House-cut truffle fries. Make sure you eat the slaw that comes with the fried shrimp – it is basically a creamy coleslaw with cucumbers and tart apples, and it is incredibly good. It was a bit warm to walk from the Studios to the Yacht Club, so we went with some iced tea, but your standard bar menu is available there. If you’re looking for a good assortment of potent potables, however, you’ll want to wait a few stops. Similar menus with good appetizer options are available at the Ale and Compass (Yacht Club) or at Martha’s Vineyard (Beach Club).
Alternate: Main Course at the Yacht Club and Beach Club.
Hurricane Hanna’s or Beach Club Marketplace offer sandwiches that can make a suitable main course, but I’d still recommend the bar/lounges at these resorts. For a real splurge, try the Taste of Cape May over at Martha’s Vineyard (snow crab, clams, mussels, potatoes, and corn on the cob in a Sambuca broth).
Alternate: Dessert at the Yacht Club and Beach Club.
The first option that comes to mind is grabbing some sort of ice cream concoction from the Beaches and Cream walk-up window, and it is a good one. But if you aren’t feeling the need for ice cream, you can get most of the items found at the BoardWalk Bakery at the Beach Club Marketplace. Another, more hidden, option is to ask the different lounges what desserts they have to offer. They don’t always appear on the menu, but the servers are more than willing to help. For example, on our day at the Crew’s Cup, they had different flavors of gelato, a chocolate hazelnut ganache cake, and a key lime cheesecake.
Main Course: BoardWalk.
While the Yacht Club and Beach Club have limited options for a quick bite, the BoardWalk has many options available. If you are looking for sandwiches, BoardWalk Bakery is the best option. Down at Leaping Horse Libations, you have similar food, but generally with shorter lines if the Bakery is crowded. And if you’re looking for something from the fried food group, BoardWalk to Go has you covered.
We actually weren’t all that hungry, thanks to the amazing appetizer at the Yacht Club, so our “main course” was just a slice of pizza from the BoardWalk Pizza Window. It hit the spot, and dining on the BoardWalk while the sunset filled the skies is its own slice of paradise.
Alternate: Appetizer at BoardWalk.
If your idea of a good appetizer is anything that comes in a fried coating, the BoardWalk has you covered. The biggest selection of appetizer-like foods is at BoardWalk to Go, but you can also grab a soft pretzel from BoardWalk Joe’s or even a funnel cake. Who said appetizers had to be savory?
Alternate: Dessert at BoardWalk.
It probably goes without saying, but if your dessert course brings you here, the BoardWalk Bakery is a great choice, with cupcakes, brownies, pastries, and more. If you are still craving an ice cream finish to your meal, for a different assortment of pre-packaged baked goods, or if you just want a hunk of fudge to finish the meal, check out the selections at Seashore Sweets.
Dessert Course: Swan and Dolphin.
I’ll let you all in on a little secret — the more time I spend visiting the Swan and Dolphin hotels, the more they become my favorite resort hotels to visit on property. This is especially true when it comes to dining options. And although a majority of the dining at the Swan and Dolphin is in their sit-down restaurants, it is still possible to find progressive dinner options. We debated about doing a walk-up at bluezoo for dessert, as they have not only impressive desserts, but a kids’ dessert that is the most unique one anywhere at Disney (a chocolate “boat” filled with vanilla ice cream, sailing on a sea made of blue jello, with a chocolate island surrounded by hazelnut “sand” — it is a work of art). In the end, the siren’s song of The Fountain caught our attention. The Fountain has a sit-down restaurant area, but also has a small ice cream to-go counter off to the side. If it can be made with ice cream, they probably have it. For years, I have heard people sing the praises of the PB&J shake, and since I figured that my daughter wasn’t going to eat all of her vanilla soft-serve, my husband and I would split the shake. If we didn’t like it, no big loss. For some reason, the idea of a peanut butter and (strawberry) jelly shake just didn’t sound appealing to me all these years. Well, call me a believer. The combination of richness and a hint of sweetness — yes, it is life-changing. (And yes, we ate the whole thing.)
Alternate: Appetizer at Swan and Dolphin.
Although not a counter service restaurant, if sushi is up your alley, there is nothing wrong with stopping by Kimonos to grab a couple rolls for an appetizer course. (And the sushi there is my favorite on Disney property.) For standard appetizer options, you’ll want to grab a table at The Fountain. The onion rings and the pretzel bites are our personal favorites. Other options are available at the Cabana Bar at the Dolphin.
Alternate: Main Course at Swan and Dolphin.
The lounge area at bluezoo provides some wonderful seafood main course selections. For a wider range of foods, either grab a burger from The Fountain (or my favorite, the lamb gyro) or swing back to Picabu for everything from tacos to lasagna. If you just want a quick sandwich, you can also try the Splash Terrace bar at the Swan.
Extra Credit: Drinks at the Swan and Dolphin.
Most bars at Walt Disney World have their standard bar menu, and possibly a couple specialty drinks of the house. The bars at the Swan and Dolphin, however, have an amazing assortment of potent potables. But for the fact that I was stuffed from the PB&J shake dessert course (and still needed to walk back to the Studios), I could have easily found a half dozen drinks to choose from. Top on my list to try are the Havana Raspberryslide (Rum, Chambord, Raspberries, and Vanilla Ice Cream) at the Dolphin and the Deconstructed Piña Colada or the Ginger Raspberry Mojito at the Swan. And if you’re looking for something that isn’t quite so sweet, the menus there have you covered.
All in all, doing a progressive dinner at Crescent Lake was logistically easier because of the ability to walk from resort to resort, but felt like it took a lot more planning. It also was a meal where your best bet is to go with someone that you feel comfortable splitting a course here or there. By splitting two appetizers and two desserts for the three of us, plus three slices of pizza, our bill came to around $59, or $20 per person, which is quite a bargain for the quality of dinner that we had. In addition, we didn’t need any sort of reservations and had no wait at all during the busiest weekend of the year. The Progressive Dinner plan offers a great way to sample different food, see different sights, and not have to worry about figuring out reservations in advance. And just maybe you can justify that extra bit of dessert by going for another lap around the lake, too. With so many options to choose from, I can say with certainty that Mickey doesn’t want you to starve for Christmas…or any other time of year.