With the recent release of the 2016 Epcot Food and Wine Festival menus, I can’t help but think about my upcoming trip. The 60 day FastPass+ window is approaching quickly, and as an avid proponent of planning ahead, I’m ashamed to admit that I still haven’t fully decided on a hotel!
It’s one of the biggest dilemmas I face when planning any trip to Walt Disney World. It’s especially hard for me during the fall when visiting Epcot’s World Showcase is top priority thanks to the mouthwatering samplings at Food and Wine Festival. I’ve narrowed it down to the Epcot resort area to make walking to Epcot a breeze, but that still leaves me with five wonderful choices – Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Dolphin, Swan, and Yacht Club.
Not one to take the resort decision lightly, I’ve carefully mapped out a comparison to help me (and hopefully some of you) pick the right Epcot resort for any Walt Disney World vacation.
All five resorts fall into the deluxe category at Disney, and with that designation comes elaborate theming. However, because Swan and Dolphin are the only two that are not owned by Disney, some may find them to be lacking that special Disney touch.
- Beach Club – It’s a New England-style resort hotel that is painted blue with white trim and adorned with typical beach décor. Think seashells and sand dollars.
- Boardwalk Inn – Modeled after a turn-of-the-century Atlantic coast boardwalk, the rooms actually sit behind a façade of neon lighted shops and restaurants along a wooden boardwalk.
- Dolphin – Words escape me when it comes to the theming of both the Swan and Dolphin, and if you’ve ever seen it for yourself, you can probably understand. Disney describes it as “deluxe accommodations inspired by Florida itself, Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel juxtaposes modern architectural silhouettes alongside Renaissance flourishes—most notably, the twin stylized dolphin statues gracing its rooftop.” Now, I’m not sure what they think a dolphin is, but based on their designs, I would say that a dolphin is some combination between a goldfish and carp.
- Swan – Though very similar the Dolphin in theme and design, the Swan is outfitted with two Swans atop the building instead. At least these two actually resemble swans.
- Yacht Club – Considered to be slightly more formal than its sister resort, Beach Club, this resort is designed to charm like a New England-style yacht club. From the outside, you can differentiate the Yacht Club from the Beach Club by the paint color. The light blue of the Beach Club transitions to a subtle grey for the Yacht Club. On the inside, you’ll find a nautical theme complete with model ships and other sailing paraphernalia.
As deluxe resorts, most rooms will have at a minimum two queen-size beds, a bathroom, a changing area just outside the bathroom, at least one sink, and amenities like a television, coffee maker, and mini-fridge.
- Beach Club – Beach Club is scheduled for refurbishment through late 2016 for updates to guest rooms as well as public areas like the lobby. Decorated in mostly blue, green, and white, the rooms currently feature a simple white bed spread with a blue piece of seashell patterned fabric running across the bottom. Continuing the beach theme into the bathroom, the white shower curtain is decorated with blue bubbles and a sand colored tile surrounds the shower. Rooms average 381 square feet in size.
- Boardwalk Inn – Having undergone a renovation recently, Boardwalk Inn rooms feel new and luxurious. Bedding was updated to a sleek white comforter with a strip of colorful fabric along the bottom, and the bathroom features modern tile with a subtle boardwalk themed shower curtain. Averaging around 371 square feet, rooms are slightly larger than the Swan and Dolphin and a touch smaller than the Yacht and Beach Club rooms.
- Swan and Dolphin – Undergoing a multi-year renovation to the guest rooms, the Swan and Dolphin updated rooms feature blue carpeting, white bedspreads, and grey accents to create a modern and relaxing atmosphere. Rooms average 360 square feet.
- Yacht Club – Decorated in mostly blue and white, Yacht Club rooms sport the same white bed spread as the other resorts with a strip of blue fabric along the foot of the bed that features sailing rope. Marble tile surrounds the shower on three sides and a blue shower curtain with a sail boat print finishes off the fourth side. Rooms average 381 square feet.
Each resort features a main pool in addition to at least one quiet pool. Since the quiet pools are usually a basic rectangular concrete pool, let’s talk about the main pools.
- Yacht and Beach Club – The Yacht and Beach Club share an elaborately themed swimming complex known as Stormalong Bay. Consisting of a lazy river, a whirlpool area, a shipwreck complete with two water slides, and a sand bottom, it is widely considered to be the best swimming pool at any of the Disney resorts.
- Boardwalk Inn – While the pool is modeled after a boardwalk amusement park, many kids (and some adults) find the giant clown face featured at the base of the roller coaster themed water slide to be a bit scary, creepy, weird, or all of the above.
- Swan and Dolphin – Relaxation seems to be the key here with the main pool, Grotto Pool, showcasing a beautiful waterfall that cascades over a rock ledge to create a hidden cave. The main pool also features a water slide, kiddie area, and hot tub similar to the other deluxe resorts.
For further details about each of the pools, Erin wrote fantastic summary that highlights the amenities at each one. Though a few years old at this point, the information about any of the Epcot resort hotels should still be accurate.
With one caveat (Magical Express), transportation is similar across the Epcot area resorts, especially because they typically share buses and boats. Therefore, I’ll focus on walkability to the two nearby resorts – Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
- Beach Club – Though some rooms are practically in Epcot, many of the rooms closer to the lobby require a longer walk to Epcot. Also, thanks to Crescent Lake which sits between the Beach Club and Boardwalk Inn, this is one of the longer walks towards Hollywood Studios. If you’re walking to Hollywood Studios from a room closer to Epcot, walk towards the Boardwalk Inn and cut through the pool area to shave some time off of your commute (assuming you survive the clown encounter).
- Boardwalk Inn – Location, Location, Location! The Boardwalk Inn sits directly between Epcot and Hollywood Studios providing a fairly easy to walk to both parks.
- Dolphin – The furthest from both parks, the Dolphin sits securely in last place for walkability. However, do not let that deter you too much as it is still a very pleasant walk to either park. It is important to note that this resort does not participate in the Magical Express shuttle service to and from the Orlando International Airport.
- Swan – Sitting on the opposite side of Epcot across Crescent Lake, the Swan is situated a little further from Epcot than the three Disney owned resorts. It is also further from Hollywood Studios than the Boardwalk Inn and many of the Yacht Club rooms. Keep in mind that like its sister resort, the Swan does not participate in the Magical Express shuttle to and from the Orlando International Airport.
- Yacht Club – Perched next to the Beach Club along Crescent Lake, these rooms are both further from Epcot and still quite a walk away from Hollywood Studios without the available shortcut through the Boardwalk Inn pool area that some of the Beach Club rooms have.
While I’ll discuss some of the best views here, be sure to use the TouringPlans Room Views for each Disney owned resort to compare the views and even fax a room request. While Disney does their best to honor room requests, they aren’t guaranteed.
- Beach Club – Views include standard view (typically landscaping or parking lots), garden view (landscaping or trees), lagoon or pool view (anything with even a slight view of water). For the best views, you could request a room overlooking Crescent Lake or one of the standard view rooms that looks out over towards Epcot.
- Boardwalk Inn – With only two room categories, your choice here will be between water view (pool, Crescent Lake or canal) and standard view (landscaping or parking lots). Due to the noise on the Boardwalk, I actually try to request a standard view room with a view of Epcot whenever I stay here. Watching Illuminations from your balcony is quite the experience.
- Dolphin – Due to the size and layout of both the Swan and the Dolphin, views can vary greatly from one room or floor to another. The prime views here will be those facing either the Grotto pool or the Boardwalk Inn.
- Swan – Similar to its sister resort, views at the Swan range from a parking lot view to an Epcot view. Requesting an east-facing upper level room with a balcony (for an additional fee) affords you the luxury of looking out over the canal, the Boardwalk, and even Epcot.
- Yacht Club – Just like the Beach Club, the resort has three room categories, and the rooms with the best view will be those overlooking Crescent Lake or facing Epcot.
The 2016 pricing for all five resorts merely reinforces that these are considered Disney’s deluxe accommodations.
- Yacht and Beach Club – The Yacht and Beach Club are typically the most expensive of the Epcot area resorts with nightly rates ranging from $671 to $2,444.
- Boardwalk Inn – Priced between $345 and $2,905 per night, this is one of the least expensive deluxe resorts and will usually be priced lower than both the Yacht and Beach Club for the same room category.
- Swan and Dolphin – Room rates for both the Swan and Dolphin run from $274 to $564. Though these two offer the lowest nightly rate, it’s important to be on the lookout for additional fees. Unlike the others, which are Disney owned, the Swan and Dolphin charge a $25 resort fee and another $18 per day for self-parking.
So which one should I pick? Which one would you pick? Aside from exploring all of the Food and Wine Festival marketplaces, one of my big priorities for this upcoming trip is spending time by the pool. Perhaps that means I hear Yacht or Beach Club calling my name.