Walt Disney World Holiday Resort Tour
Every fall the deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World undergo a bit of a transformation. The holiday decorations are unpacked and set up for guests to enjoy from mid-November through the start of the new year a favorite activity for those that enjoy trips over to WDW is a tour of those resorts.
There are many paths to take to view the eight deluxe resorts that we include in our tour so use this as a guide to create your own and maybe it’ll become an annual tradition like it has become for my family.
First you’ve got to have a “base of operations” and in this case it means finding a place to park. Now the rules for parking at a resort typically are that you either have to be staying at the resort or you must have dining reservations at the resort. If you have either when you head over, you’re all set. If not, you can ask the security guard if you may park so that your family can see the decorations inside the resort (do NOT mention that you’re going to go see ALL of the other deluxe resorts!), but if they say no, then you’ve struck out. To solve this you can park at Downtown Disney (or Disney Springs to those that have conformed to the new name) and use the buses to start your trip. That’s where we will begin from for this tour.
Now, where to go first?
Second, you’ve got to decide which resort to start at, where you want to finish and how you’re going to get back to your vehicle for the ride home. This is totally up to you but for this tour we will start with a bus ride to the Wilderness Lodge.
The tour begins.
Once you get to the lodge, you can leave the bust stop and head over to the Vacation Club building because the lobby of that is decorated too. After you finish up there, walk back to the main building and the lobby is really going to blow you away. If you time it right and it’s not crowded, take some time to sit and enjoy the atmosphere as you gaze around at all of the garland and of course the gigantic tree. Once you get your fill of holiday cheer, head out to the boat dock for the next stop which will be the Contemporary Resort.
Now you’ve braved the journey across Bay Lake and it’s time to walk into the Contemporary so head up the escalator to the level where Chef Mickey’s is. You’ve find a gingerbread display along with some special holiday treats to purchase. The Contemporary’s big Christmas tree is actually outside in front of the resort and you can walk out to it if you wish. For the next stop you’ll need to hop on the resort monorail for a ride over to the Polynesian Resort.
When you enter the Polynesian you’ll be on the second level and at one time they used to have some cool gingerbread displays made by the culinary staff at the resort but those days are no more. The lobby is decorated but it’s not as grand as the other Magic Kingdom resorts so you don’t need to hang out too long unless you simply want to explore the resort (which is quite fun to do). Now you have two options to get to the next stop. #1- Take the resort monorail to the Grand Floridian. #2- Walk over to it. If the weather is nice, then a stroll along the Seven Seas Lagoon can’t be beat but if you’re in a hurry, by all means take the monorail.
The Grand Floridian not only has a huge Christmas tree in the lobby, lots of garland lining the rails upstairs and holiday favorites being played on the grand piano downstairs or by the band upstairs, it also has a real gingerbread house where you can purchase a wide assortment of treats from cast members. The famous gingerbread shingles can be found here but that’s just the beginning. You’ll want to spend some time soaking in the holiday cheer here but the grand lobby can be pretty packed. And when you’re done, head upstairs to the monorail station for a ride over to the entrance to Magic Kingdom because you’re going to take a bus over to Disney’s Boardwalk Resort for the next stop.
Once you get to Boardwalk, the lobby is once again where you’re going to want to go. They often have treats to buy in addition to the display that is set up but you won’t be hanging out too long before you take the walk over to Beach Club. At the Beach Club lobby you’ll find a gingerbread carousel and part of the fun is finding the hidden Mickeys the cast members have placed on it. Next you’ll walk over to the Yacht Club where you’ll see a village set up in the lobby and then it’s time to head out to the boat dock for a ride over to Hollywood Studios (as a former cast member there, it is very difficult to not call it MGM) where you’ll catch a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Once again the lobby is where the majority of the decorations are but at AKL you can also go out back to see if any of the local inhabitants of the Savannah are around. If it’s still daylight, the lighting in the lobby in front of the Christmas tree is perfect to get a family picture. And once you finish here, you’ll catch a bus back to Downtown Disney where you can spend as much time as you would like wandering around enjoying the decorations there.
What to bring.
If you take the tour in its entirety, you’re going to be on property for several hours and possibly half a day depending on how much time you spend at each resort. That means you’re going to get thirty and you’re most likely going to need to eat. The good thing is that you can bring a water bottle with you and each resort has water fountains to refill your water bottles as needed. As far as food goes, there are several options at each resort from quick service to casual dining to fine dining. And then at the end of your tour you will be back at Downtown Disney where there are literally dozens of options for you to choose from if you’re tummy is growling.
We’ll see you again real soon.
That’s the basic tour and you’ll find what works best for you and adjust the next one so it suits your needs. It’s something fun for the entire family and if you know someone that loves Disney but they can’t get into the parks, take them on the tour with you and they’ll feel like they ran around a park all day plus if they have small children, a ride on the monorail, the boats AND the buses are often times enough of a thrill that they’ll feel like they actually did enjoy some rides!
This tour is something that my wife and I have done every year since we worked there in the mid-90’s, our children have grown up going each year and it’s something that even though they are much older, they still ask to do every single year. And chances are, yours will too!