Category Archives: Disney Resorts

Trattoria al Forno Dinner Review

Trattoria al Forno is located on Disney’s Boardwalk outside of Epcot’s International Gateway. Also known as the exit between the U.K. and France pavilions.

Disney's Boardwalk

This restaurant replaced Cat Kora’s Kouzzina 2 years ago. Another lesser known restaurant that consistently has excellent food and service. This was our second visit, we visited last year as well.

Trattoria al Forno

Trattoria al Forno

We started with ordering drinks, water for the boys, a Peach Bellini for me and an Italian beer for my husband. Next, we shared an appetizer of Fried Calamari – with Balsamic Agrodolce $11.99. I normally don’t eat more than a bit or two of calamari, not a big fan, but this was very good and I had more than I normally would.

Trattoria al Forno

For entrees I chose the Seasonal Risotto $18.99. I cannot remember everything that was in it, but it was very tasty. The rice was not over-cooked and the sauce was not overpowering.

Trattoria al Forno

Hubby chose the Braised Short Rib Bologonese – with smoked bacon, tagliatelle, and roasted mushrooms $21.99. He was a bit jealous of my short ribs last night at Captain’s Grille. These were just as wonderful, I had a taste. I did not get a picture, but click the dish name and it will bring you to a photo of the dish from All Ears.

The kids are too old for the kid’s menu and Matthew has very much looking forward to the Giant Meatball he had last year. He talked about it for months leading up to the trip asking if we could go eat there again.  It was changed a bit from last year, but he had the Polpetta Gigante – beef meatball, spinach ricotta canneloni and Sunday Gravy $19.99. It was not quite as big, but still pretty large. Spinach and ricotta not being items he would normally eat, but he wanted that giant meatball and ordered it anyways. He said he didn’t even notice the taste of the spinach although you could clearly see it and he liked the ricotta cheese.

Trattoria al Forno

Eric chose a pizza of course, it was quite large, but he finished off the entire pie by himself, including the crust, saying it was very good pizza.

Trattoria al Forno

Service was great and we were seated within minutes of arriving despite being early for our reservation. It was busy, but not completely full and with the open kitchen, it makes for a fun lively atmosphere even though it’s more formal than most.

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This is another one of my favorite restaurants on Disney property.

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Captains Grille Dinner Review

Captain’s Grille is one of the most under-rated restaurants at Disney World in my opinion. Having had breakfast here twice, both excellent, we decided to try it for a “date” dinner one night on our recent trip.

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We arrived without a reservation on a rainy evening and were seating immediately. Our waitress was wonderful, she took our drink order and went over all the specials and then returned to answer any questions we had and make recommendations on things we were considering.

For an appetizer, I had the House-made Potato-Cheese Gnocchi – toasted walnut breadcrumbs, julienne pears and truffle butter $9. It was excellent. I am used to homemade, by my father and mother, gnocchi and they can be difficult to get right. These were perfect. Not too soft, but not hard either. A very nice texture. Hubby had the New England Clam Chowder – creamy chowder with clams, potatoes, and vegetables $8. I didn’t get a picture. He said it was very good though.

Captains Grille

Hubby chose beer and I chose a lovely glass of Riesling.

Next was the entrees. Hubby went for the crab legs as this is something he rarely gets to eat. Snow Crab Legs – New Potatoes and Corn on the Cob $31. They are a lot of work, but he enjoyed them.

Captains Grille

I chose Tagliatelle Pasta – braised short ribs, fennel, cipollini onions, veal jus, shaved parmesan, and seasoned greens $23. The braised short ribs were a menu item on their own as well and came recommended, but after a week of very little pasta when we eat it quite often at home, I was craving a little. The waitress did say they use the same braised ribs in this dish so it was a good choice. This was so good. The ribs were like butter, so soft and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente.  There was a good amount of short ribs in this dish, they are mostly covered by the pasta in the picture.

Captains Grille

We did not indulge in dessert as we were quite full with all this food, the portions are  just right.

The atmosphere in this restaurant, located just off Disney’s Yacht Club Resort lobby is upscale , but not overly so. Still casual enough to feel comfortable with kids and there were several tables of families as well as couples and a few small groups when we were there.

This was one of my favorite meals at Disney World, ever!

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas Review

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, along with the Beach Club Villas are located in the Epcot Resorts area. Along with the Boardwalk  Resort and Villas and the non-Disney owned Swan and Dolphin. These resorts surround Crescent Lake and are walking distance to Epcot’s International Gateway and a slightly longer walk to Hollywood Studios. Boats are also available to take guests to these parks and from one side of Crescent Lake to the other.

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Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club & Villas share the undisputed best pool in all the “world,” Disney World that is. Stormalong Bay is a 3 acre water playground with the longest slide on property, built into a pirate ship! Additional slides, hot tubs, sand bottom and a lazy river round out this aquatic playground.

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The Villas are in a building behind the main Beach Club building. They have their own lobby with a concierge available to check in with and anything else until 4pm each day. After 4pm, check in is in the main Beach Club lobby. Access to the Villas is through the Beach Club Solarium or doors just by the back entrance to the Marketplace. This path is covered. The Villas have a community room and drawing room with pool table, tv, books, little reading nooks. As well as their own quiet pool.  Villas guests have access to all the amenities at the Yacht and Beach Club.

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The Beach Club Villas are just in the final minutes of a complete refurbishing. A new modern, light, airy feel really brings out the beachy theme with browns an blues and whites.

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With the one and two bedroom villas, you will have a full kitchen and a washer/dryer making life on vacation so much easier.When booking through Disney paying cash, guests receive normal daily housekeeping services. The Villas are a Disney Vacation Club property and if renting points, staying on points, housekeeping is every 4th day.

These villas speak for themselves. Take a look….

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas offer studios, 1 and 2 bedroom villas over 6 floors. With all that Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club have to offer steps away, it’s a great choice for families that need a little more space to stretch out.

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Welcome Home!

 

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Refurbishments 2016

Disney World is constantly making improvements to its parks and resorts, it’s a never-ending process.

Here is what is happening in the coming year.

Magic Kingdom

Splash Mountain
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Liberty Square Riverboat
Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Mad Tea Party
Jan. 10 – 14, 2016
Jan. 18 – Feb. 11, 2016
Jan. 18 – 22, 2016
Jan. 25 – Feb. 3, 2016
Feb. 22 – 26, 2016

EPCOT

Re-Imagination of Maelstrom
Soarin’
Oct. 15, 2014 – Apr. 30, 2016
Jan. 4, 2016 – Summer 2016

Hollywood Studios

Pizza Planet Jan. 11 – Late 2016

Animal Kingdom

Maharajah Jungle Trek
Kali River Rapids
Flights of Wonder
Jan. 4 – 21, 2016
Jan. 4 – Feb. 11, 2016
Jan. 25 – Mar. 17, 2016

Typoon Lagoon

Annual Refurbishment Jan. 4 – Mar. 12, 2016

Blizzard Beach

Annual Refurbishment Oct. 4, 2015 – Jan. 3, 2016

Resort Hotels

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Bay Cove Pool Feb. 1 – March 18, 2016
Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
Surfboard Bay Pool Jan. 25 – 28, 2016
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
Jambo House Soft Goods Rehab Jan. 1 – May 20, 2016
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
Schoolyard Sprayground Jan. 3 – Mar. 11, 2016
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Soft Goods Rehab Jan. 22 – Aug. 17, 2016
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Exterior Repair and Painting Aug. 17, 2015 – May 5, 2016
Flying Fish Restaurant Feb. 1 – Sep. 30, 2016
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
Guest Villa Renovations Through Spring 2016
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Old Port Royale – Path of Travel Impacts
Guests in some parts of Martinique and Trinidad North may experience some contruction noise.
Jan. 3 – Feb. 28, 2016
Jamaica Pool Jan. 6 – 8, 2016
Martinique Quiet Pool Jan. 11 – 13, 2016
Fuentes del Morro Pool Jan. 13 – 16, 2016
Trinidad North Quiet Pool Jan. 27 – 29, 2016
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Courtyard Pool Jan. 16 – 19, 2016
Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort
Pool Slide Feb. 1 – 17, 2016
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Sandcastle Pool Jan. 4 – 6, 2016
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
General Construction
During this time, Guests will observe construction taking place and certain pathways and buildings may be unavailable.
Through Spring 2016
East Pool
Closed for enhancement. Guests may see or hear work in progress.
Now – Spring 2016
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Ol’ Man Island Pool Jan. 11 – Feb. 29, 2016
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Grandstand Pool Jan. 20 – 22, 2016
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge & Villas
General Resort Refurbishments
Due to multiple resort refurbishment projects, Guests will notice construction work in various areas. Noise may be overheard while this work is being completed, but construction will not begin until after 9 a.m. Certain pathways, including the nature trail, will be unavailable. The Hidden Springs leisure pool area (the leisure pool at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), resort beach, playground, Marina and Recreation fire pit will be unavailable.
Through 2017
Cub’s Den (Children’s Activity Center) – unavailable Jan. 3, 2016 – Through 2017
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Stormalong Bay Slide Jan. 11 – 15, 2016

 

Wilderness Lodge Pool

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge recently refurbished their main pool. The pool and slide didn’t change, but they did revamp the children’s pool area. and added a fence around the entire area. The children’s pool was removed completely and a new Splash Pad put in.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb
Lifeguards always vigilant at Disney pools.

These Splash Pads are a big hit with the kids and lots of fun. Although there is a 48 inch height limit, there were kids playing on it that were over that height. Sprayers, buckets of water dumping out, slides…it’s lots of fun!

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

There is also a hot tub between the Splash Pad and main pool as well as the Trout Pass Bar.

Magical Travels with Barb

There is a second pool, the quiet pool over by the villas with an additional hot tub, but this pool will be torn out and a completely new pool area will be replacing it with the addition of the DVC cabins. It’s scheduled to close in just a month’s time.

Wilderness Lodge Villas Review

We recently returned from another fabulous family Disney vacation, this time making our home base a 1 bedroom villa at the Wilderness Lodge.

Magical Travels with Barb
Main lobby at Wilderness Lodge

The villas are housed in a separate building right beside the lodge and accessed by a covered walkway where western music guides you to the villas own majestic, if on a somewhat smaller scale, lobby. Check-in occurs in the main lodge, there is no check-in desk in the villas lobby.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb
Villas Lobby

Magical Travels with Barb

The villas have  been refurbished since we last stayed in one and are lighter and more airy than before. The dark kitchen cabinets are now white, carpet is now wood flooring and overall the villas are brighter.

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb
Master bedroom with window pocket door into the bathroom

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

The 1 and 2 bedroom villas offer a full kitchen and stackable washer/dryer making life very convenient indeed for keeping up with laundry and having breakfast and even lunch if you wanted to in your villas.   A pull out queen sofa makes up the main room along with the kitchen and entry way. Then a split bathroom with jetted tub and separate shower and a king size bed in the bedroom make up the rest. The 1 bedroom villa features two balconies. We were on the 5th floor, the top floor so our villas had vaulted ceilings and our balcony had a solid wall.

When booking the resort directly with Disney, just as you would a regular room, mousekeeping is daily. When booking on DVC points, it’s every 4th day. Detergent was provided daily for the dishwasher and laundry.

Magical Travels with Barb
view from our balcony on 5th floor. Facing main lodge and we could see just a hint of the quiet pool through the trees. Straight ahead we could see the very high fireworks from Magic Kingdom’s Wishes.

We took advantage of grocery delivery options to have staples delivered for breakfast and of course, beverages. The Mercantile in the Lodge does have a nice selection of food items and essentials, but you’ll save money by ordering in advance. We use Garden Grocer and have had great success with them.

Magical Travels with Barb
First aid and essentials

Magical Travels with Barb

Magical Travels with Barb

Other than the health club, which is located in the Villas lobby, all other resort amenities, restaurants, etc… are located in the Lodge.  Signature restaurant Artist’s Point, the fun and playful Whispering Canyon and the counter service Roaring Forks. The quiet pool is just steps outside and a short walk around to the main pool, pool  bar, beach, marina with boat rentals and the boat dock for the ferry to the Magic Kingdom or Fort Wilderness and the Contemporary. The Wilderness Lodge is a fairly compact resort in comparison to some of the sprawling resorts Disney offers, so nothing is really too far away.

Port Orleans French Quarter

Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts are two of the most popular moderate resorts.

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter is the smaller of the two sister resorts and designed in a New Orleans Bourbon Street style.

Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

Rooms

There are 1008 rooms at French Quarter. Options include Standard (parking lot view, although lots of trees mitigate this), Garden View, Pool View and River View. Rooms offer 2 queen beds or a limited King bed option.

One of my favorite sites for information on the Port Orleans Resorts, it’s all-encompassing!

Dining

French Quarter has a large Quick Service food court, Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory offering breakfast, lunch and dinner options as well as the immensely popular beignets! Poolside snack bar and pizza delivery service also available.

Recreation

Scat Cat’s Lounge offers entertainment 4 nights a week. Swimming in Doubloon Lagoon with the Sea Serpent slide and poolside activities are always fun. Movies under the Stars nightly, Cajun Campfire, playground,  and an Arcade.

Many more special activities like Horse-drawn carriage rides, fishing, surrey bike rentals, Pirate Adventure cruise for kids is available next door at Riverside. There is a walking path between the 2 resorts and boat transportation as well. Pool hopping is allowed between the two sister resorts as well.

Transportation

Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside share bus transportation to all parks. French Quarter is picked up and dropped off first. Water Launch is also available to Downtown Disney via a 15 minute ride down the Sassagoula River offering more dining choices.

Port Orleans French Quarter is an amazingly well themed resort, one of the smaller of all Disney resorts in-keeping with the quaint New Orleans charm.  This was the resort my husband and I stayed at on our honeymoon and we really enjoyed it.

 

Wilderness Lodge

Disney’s Wilderness lodge is themed after the Pacific Northwest, the beauty and majesty of the great outdoors abounds! The lobby of this hotel is spectacular and worth a visit just to see it.

Rooms

This rather small and compact resort has 725 rooms and 181 Villas in the adjacent Villas at the Wilderness Lodge Disney Vacation Club property. Which incidentally, has it’s own lovely lobby dedicated to Walt Disney’s love of trains. Rooms range from the standard 2 queen bed configuration, but also offer a bunk bed option and a few king-bedded rooms. The Old Faithful Club is the Club Level offered at the Wilderness Lodge with it’s concierge lounge, continental breakfast, midday snacks and evening wine, hors d’oeuvres, cordials and desserts.

1 bedroom villa at Villas Wilderness Lodge

Dining

Many visit the Wilderness Lodge for one of the very popular restaurants on properties, Whispering Canyon Cafe. This restaurant offers a fun playful atmosphere and comfort BBQ style food. Kids can play, run around on wooden horses and see the mayhem ensue when someone asks for ketchup!

The Wilderness Lodge also offers a Signature Dining venue . I consider Artist Point to be one of the most underrated restaurants in the World. Few know about this rustic yet elegant choice offering American cuisine with Pacific Northwest flavors.

Roaring Forks quick-service is located right inside the hotel, not far from the pool area with indoor and outdoor seating.  A pool bar outside with seating and a cozy lounge near Artist Point round out the options.

Recreation

The Resort offers two heated swimming pools, one by the Villas and the main pool with a slide by the Lodge overlooking Bay Lake. There is a children’s pool, whirlpool, beach for sunbathing, marina with watercraft for rental, arcade, playground, health club and movies under the stars. Another fun feature, bike rentals and access to the trail to Fort Wilderness. Don’t miss the hourly erupting Geyser!

Geyser

The Wilderness Lodge also offers a children’s club so parent’s can get a night out, Cub’s Den is located right by the doors leading to the covered walkway to the Villas.

Transportation

The Wilderness Lodge is a just a stone’s throw from the Magic Kingdom and accessible via Water Launch. Boats go between the Lodge and Magic Kingdom as well as a separate boat to Fort Wilderness and the Contemporary Resort. A large and smaller boat alternate, on the larger boats, strollers do not need to be folded up. All other parks as well as Magic Kingdom are reached by bus.

Boat Dock at Wilderness Lodge

The Wilderness Lodge is a spectacular resort on the lower level of Disney Deluxe Resorts making it a perfect choice for easy “off the monorail” access to Magic Kingdom. It’s in the heart of the Magic Kingdom resorts, but still completely away from it all.

Contemporary Resort

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is the “face” of Disney Resorts. The first resort to open and the sight of it is what most people associate with Disney resorts.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort offers some unique features that make it an excellent choice for families. While lacking in an over-the-top theme that many of the other resorts have, the resort is modern, fresh and fun!

Rooms

The Contemporary offers 655 rooms between the main Tower with either Theme Park or Bay Lake views and the Garden Wing. Rooms are exactly the same in either building, but note that in the Garden Wing, 1st floor rooms have a patio, but second floor rooms do not have a balcony. Garden Wing rooms are often a better bargain and a much quieter location just a short few minutes walk to the Tower. Club Level is offered via their Atrium Club or Tower Club. Club level offers concierge service, lounge with continental breakfast, midday snacks and evening wine, hor d’oeuvres, cordials and desserts.

View from 7th floor Theme Park view room
view from a Garden Wing room facing the pool

Recreation

Two heated pools with a slide, whirlpools, water feature, poolside cabanas available for rental overlook Bay Lake. A beach for sunbathing and viewing the evening Water Parade, tennis, health club, arcade, and a marina with watercraft rentals. Activities at the resort include movies under the stars and poolside fun in the afternoon led by Cast Members.

slide

Dining

DIsney’s Contemporary Resort offers one of the best signature dining establishments on site. The California Grill  is located high atop the hotel with it’s own private terrace for viewing the nightly  fireworks show, Wishes at Magic Kingdom.

Downstairs, the Wave serves breakfast, lunch and dinner while on the 4th floor concourse Chef Mickey’s offers your favorite characters for a buffet breakfast, lunch or dinner. Also on the 4th floor concourse, the Contempo Cafe is a quick-service with plenty of seating, dine while watching the monorail come and go. A poolside bar and grill serves up snacks and meals and beverages.

Transportation/Location

LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION!

That’s right, the location of this resort is a major benefit of staying here. It’s walking distance to the Magic Kingdom park. A short 7-10 minute stroll along a pathway brings you to the front gates of the Magic Kingdom. Nothing beats walking home after the fireworks while everyone else is scrambling for the buses and boats.

Another super benefit…the Monorail goes right through the hotel’s main concourse. It’s a sight to see and entertainment in itself. Hop on the Monorail (resort line) to get to the Ticket & Transportation Center where you can switch to the Epcot Express. Or stay on and visit the other Deluxe resorts on the Resort Line. Stops at the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian Resort and then the Magic Kingdom Park before arriving back at the Contemporary. Buses will take you to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom as well as Downtown Disney. The Contemporary boat launch offers service to the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness as well.

The location and convenience of the Contemporary is perfect for families, especially those traveling with young children and using strollers. The walkway and the monorail eliminate the need to wake a sleeping child, and we all know  kids needs all the sleep they can get after a day in the parks. When we stayed here, the walkway was our favorite feature, because it was so easy and convenient we stayed for fireworks and spent more evenings at Magic Kingdom than we would have otherwise.

Have you stayed at the Contemporary? What did you prefer, the walkway to Magic Kingdom or the Monorail being right there?

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

One of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts is the Yacht and Beach Club, two distinct hotels that share some recreational facilities.

The Yacht Club is a circa 1870’s mid-Atlantic themed hotel. Think Jersey Shore, Atlantic City or even New England.

Yacht Club lobby

Rooms
Standard rooms are comfortable and offer all the amenities. All Yacht Club rooms have a balcony, 2 queen or 1 king bed, many with an additional daybed. View options include Standard, Garden or Water. Club Level is offered at the Regatta Club with concierge service and a lounge serving continental breakfast, midday snacks and evening wine, finger foods, cordials and dessert.

Standard Room

Recreation
The centerpiece of the hotel is the shared pool. Except, it can barely be called a simple pool. Arguably the best pool on-site, Stormalong Bay, as it’s called is a three acre aquatic playground for young and young at heart. A pirate ship water slide, sand-bottom zero entry pool, lazy river with tubes (which are free to use), whirlpools and plenty of space to lounge. At night you can see some of the higher fireworks from Illuminations right from the pool.

Floating in the lazy river

The hotel offers the Sandcastle Club for the kids if parents want a night out alone. A lovely white sand beach for movies on the beach nightly. There is a quiet pool with a whirlpool and tennis courts as well.

Stormalong Bay

Dining
The Yacht Club features several dining options. Top tier dining at one of Disney’s Signature restaurants, Yachtsman Steakhouse is right in the hotel. A more casual Captain’s Grille serves Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. The lobby lounge, Crew’s Cup, offers coffee and some pastries in the mornings for a quick bite. The Ale and Compass Lounge offers lite fare in the afternoons and evenings.

Lobster Omelet at Captain’s Grille

Venture outside to Beaches & Cream Soda Shop for ice cream and burgers for lunch or dinner, overlooking Stormalong Bay. Of course, poolside dining and adult beverages are available for lunch and dinner at Hurricane Hanna’s, where kid’s meals come in a bucket with a shovel for playing in the sand later!

Additional close by options are restaurants inside the adjacent Beach Club Resort including their Marketplace for quick service meals and grab and go items. Or a stroll around the lake to the Boardwalk where there are more restaurant and quick service options. Or if you have Park Hopper, a must if you are staying in this resort location, you can hop into World Showcase at Epcot for dinner in the country of your choice or even grab breakfast in France in the mornings!

View of Boardwalk

Transportation
This location is optimal! A short 5 minute stroll brings you into the International Gateway at Epcot. This is located by the United Kingdom pavilion. A slightly longer walk, about 20 minutes, will take you to Hollywood Studios. Friendship Boats are also available for traveling to and from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Buses to Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom as well as Downtown Disney, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon pick up just outside the lobby of the hotel.

These photos are from our last family vacation to Disney World where we called the Yacht Club Resort home. My boys loved the pool and often chose the pool over more park time. We loved the convenience of getting to Epcot and Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom bus was quick.

What’s your favorite Walt Disney World Resort? Where do you want to stay next?