Disclosure: I attended an expenses paid media trip with Walt Disney World at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas. However, all opinions are my own.
You don’t have to look far to find things to do at Walt Disney World. However, what about those days where you don’t have a park ticket? Or what about those people that want to have fun without leaving their resort? The answer you are looking for is a visit and/or stay at Disney’s Boardwalk. In the past couple of years, a lot of changes have come to this little corner of the “world”, and as someone who loves to just chill at the resort, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
The entire Boardwalk is filled with activities for the family, foodie, couple, or girls night. Let’s start on one end and head down to the other, but first I think it’s important to understand the “history” of the Boardwalk. This fun area is reminiscent of the grand hotels of the early 1900’s along the Jersey shore. Around the lobby and in the restaurants you will find artifacts from this time period, transporting you through time to a slower pace of life where carnival games could be heard at night, and you could even watch horse jumping (into the water!) by day.
If you have ever heard of Sonora Webster Carver and her diving horses (Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken anyone?) then you will love this fun fact I learned: The structure that sits atop the ESPN Club at the far end of the Boardwalk is the same size as the water tank that Sonora and her horses dove into back in the early 1930’s. I had no idea! I just thought it was part of the décor of the ESPN club. But like many hidden things at Walt Disney World, it stands for something greater, and I love it. At the ESPN Club you will find 100 screens and a 10 x 10 projection screen in which to watch your favorite sports team, along with a menu to match. I may or may not have spent many a Saturday night or Sunday afternoon here making new friends (and taunting new rivals, of course) all in good Disney fun.
Moving on down the Boardwalk you will come across Ample Hills Creamery. Be sure to stop in for a sample…which will then turn into a scoop (or two!) of this delicious dessert. There are sixteen signature ice cream flavors, one is even made just for the Boardwalk. Speaking of sweet treats, the aroma of the decedent pastries at the Boardwalk Bakery will have you dropping in to see what’s baking even if it wasn’t part of your plan. This is where guests of the Inn and Villas can refill their resort refillable mugs, grab breakfast, coffee, and light snacks during the day. Keep in mind there is no indoor seating, however there are plenty of tables and chairs right outside.
Trattoria al Forno boasts a lot of real estate on the Boardwalk, and it is well deserved. This relaxing eatery inspired by the farms in the Italian countryside, serves wood fired pizzas, house made pastas, and a 100% Italian wine list. During breakfast hours, the restaurant is transformed into a fun family gathering place. You can meet Rapunzel, Flynn Ryder, Ariel, and Prince Eric while you dine. Note that this is the ONLY place on Disney property where you can meet these two princes! This experience fills up fast, so be sure to make dining reservations early.
Recently opened next to Trattoria al Forno is somewhere I finally got to check out, the Abracadabar (say that ten times fast!) This quirky bar has drinks that do magic tricks, and wall posters that disappear in the blink of an eye. Legend has it that this spot was once the local hangout of famous touring magicians and boardwalk illusionists. Apparently at night after their shows, they would meet at the lounge and swap tips and tricks with each other. One day, they all vanished while at the bar, but their magic remains, so pay attention to the details!
The drinks also happen to be very good. Keep in mind this isn’t a large bar, so get there early!
Capping off this side of the Boardwalk is an old favorite with a fresh new look: The Flying Fish Café. I was very impressed with the remodel, as it has more of a sophisticated flair with the blues, greys, and ocean vibe. The menu is also top notch, with items you won’t see at many places on property. The service was great too, and it’s fun to take a peek at the open kitchen while you are relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere. There is even enough space for 12 guests at the “chef’s counter” directly in front of the kitchen. Flying Fish is a signature dining experience, which counts as two credits on the Disney Dining Plan.
Moving across the lush lawn and past the surrey bike rentals <—one day I will do this, you will find more than 9000 square feet of shopping opportunities that range from exquisite pieces of art to Mickey ears to groceries. This is also where package pickup is for resort guests, and where you can get a bottle of wine for your room!
Big River Grill and Brewing Works is next door and features handcrafted specialty beers. It has some nice outdoor seating so you can enjoy the sights and sounds of the Boardwalk, too.
At night, the Boardwalk comes alive with plenty of entertainment opportunities. Not only are there carnival games and magicians up and down the Boardwalk, but there are two great places to hang out: Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall.
Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar where the audience picks the music, and lots of singing along with ensue. (I may or may not know from experience.) Pick from the specialty drink menu or order your favorite beer, while snacking on baskets of popcorn instead of peanuts. The pianists are quick witted and are sure to keep you laughing all night at this 21 and up location after 7:00 (Please note the $12 cover charge.) The Atlantic Dance hall is steps away next door, and is just what it sounds like. A great place to dance the night away (if you are 21+) and have a drink with friends.
In addition to all of these amazing places, there are other hidden relaxing spots, fun drink stands, and boat transportation to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT. No longer should you wonder what there is to do outside of the theme parks, but it’s a matter of “what will you choose to do with so many options!” While I highly recommending staying at this resort (for many reasons, but that’s for another post!) the great thing is you can enjoy the Boardwalk without being a guest of the hotel, and without having a park ticket.
An attraction all in itself, the beautiful Boardwalk sits tucked away on the shores of Crescent Lake waiting for you to come and experience it. Go for a visit, you won’t be disappointed. When you do, be sure to take a deep breathe as you step back in time. Welcome to your vacation.
QOTD: What is your favorite thing to Do on the Boardwalk?