Walt Disney World in Style
By guest writer Cara Goldsbury
The stunning lobby of
Disney's flagship resort, The Grand Floridian.
Although this hotel
wins Cara Goldsbury's recommendation as most luxurious
resort, there are several other close contenders, discussed
and described in her book,
Guide to Walt Disney World.
Is your image of Walt Disney
World one of sleeping in motel-style accommodations and dining
on hamburgers as you roam the theme parks?
Well, it's time to change that
picture. Instead of a chain motel, how about an African-style
lodge or a resort with the sophisticated ambience of an
exclusive yacht club?
Instead of chicken fingers, how
about Potato Wrapped Florida Red Snapper with a Creamy Leek
Fondue, Basil-Crusted Rack of Lamb with a Ragout of Spinach,
Shitakes, and White Beans, or Grilled Buffalo Top Sirloin with
Sweet Potato Hazelnut Gratin and Sweet Onion Jam?
No question about it, Walt
Disney World offers an abundance of amazing themed resorts and
superb restaurants that are perfect for the sophisticated
traveler. Here are some of the best experiences to indulge in
while touring Mickey Mouse land :
Most Luxurious Resort
Disney's flagship resort,
The Grand Floridian, with its red-gabled roofs and Victorian
elegance, draws inspiration from the grand Florida seaside
"palace hotels" of 19th-century America's Gilded Age. Just a
short monorail ride to the Magic Kingdom, it spreads along the
shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, offering spectacular views of
Cinderella's Castle and the Wishes fireworks display. You'll
also be treated to some of Disney's very best restaurants along
with two sophisticated pools, a crescent white sand beach, a
full-service health club and spa, tennis courts, and
Most Atmospheric Resort
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Lodge is a stunningly faithful celebration of African
wildlife, culture, cuisine, and art. Here the atmosphere
literally pulsates with the beat of drums throughout 33 acres of
glorious savanna filled with hundreds of roaming exotic animals.
The lodge's 5-story, thatch roof lobby is a wonder with its
massive overhead chandeliers formed by resplendent Masai shields
overlooking safari chic seating. Don't even consider a room
without a savanna view, well worth every penny for its front row
view of the wildlife. The resort boasts an 11,000 square foot
pool overlooking the savanna, a full service spa and fitness
center, and one of Disney's loveliest restaurants, Jiko, serving
international food with an African flair.
Best Resort For Romance
Resort's lush grounds and white sand beaches with views of
Cinderella's castle are a dream come true. Tangerine and
mahogany tinted longhouses are scattered throughout this
luxuriant property where ducks and ibis roam the dense
vegetation and thick, grassy lawns. Meandering pathways lined
with volcanic rock are tiki torch-lit at dusk, and soft Hawaiian
melodies set the mood for memorable nights. Come nightfall, pick
a hammock on one of three beaches for a spectacular vista of the
Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Best Resort For Nature Lovers
I challenge you to keep your
jaw from dropping on your first encounter with the awesome
eight-story lobby at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. Sheer
walls of ponderosa pine logs, an 82-foot fireplace, and
authentic Pacific Northwest totem poles overlook rugged stone
and hardwood floors topped with Native American rugs, teepee
chandeliers, and a bevy of "park ranger" staff who roam the
lodge attending to guests. Outside is a breathtaking scene of
roaring waterfalls, rushing creeks, towering pines, and a
boulder-lined, hot springs-style swimming pool, one of Disney's
best. On the shores of Bay Lake, Wilderness Lodge's very own
geyser is surrounded by a steaming expanse of geothermal
activity and erupts hourly from early morning until late night.
Best Resort Pool
Stormalong Bay at
Disney's Yacht and Beach Club offers three acres of winding,
watery delight. Here you'll find sandy bottom pools, a giant
"shipwreck" waterslide, a tidal whirlpool, bubbling hot tubs, a
kiddie pool with its own slide near the beach, and enough
waterway to float lazily in inner tubes to your heart's content.
Best Resort Restaurant
The California Grill
is a definite highlight for any connoisseur of cutting-edge
cuisine. The modern decor and constant bustle of excited diners
only adds to its drop-dead setting on the 15th floor of Disney's
Contemporary Resort. Its broad windows present an unbeatable
panorama of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon and on
many nights picture-perfect views of the Wishes fireworks show.
From pristinely fresh sushi to the exceptional New American
Cuisine to sensational desserts and the outstanding California
wine list, this place has it all. The open show kitchen is a
treat, and the cocktail lounge has some of the best views in the
house. And don't be discouraged if the coveted window seats are
all taken. Head out to the adjoining observation platform during
the fireworks presentation where you'll get a bird's-eye view of
Most Romantic Restaurant
Victoria and Albert's
at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort offers fine dining in a
elegant setting combined with flawless service. Honored with a
AAA Five-Diamond Award for the 3rd year in a row (the only such
restaurant in Orlando), diners feast on six sumptuous, prix-fixe
courses served on Royal Doulton china with crystal glasses to
the strains of the enchanting sound of harp music. Those seeking
a special evening should book the 6-person Chef's Table set in a
candlelit alcove in the kitchen, perfect for an up-close,
behind-the-scenes look at Disney's top chef in action.
Best Theme Park Restaurant
Epcot's Bistro de Paris
is a charming Belle epoque dining room with an air of
exclusivity. Here you'll find gilded mirrors, crimson
banquettes, and billowy white drapes that frame windows
overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon. Servers with delicious
French accents roll out sensational dishes and stylishly plate
them tableside. Fresh ingredients are prepared simply in
tantalizing sauces, and the all-French wine list is a pleasure.
Afterwards, order a dessert of crepes prepared and flamed at
your table while lingering over cordials and coffee in
anticipation of the Illuminations spectacle.
Most Exotic Restaurant
The Animal Kingdom Lodge's
premier dining room is Jiko (Swahili for "cooking
place"), one of the most seductive spaces yet at a Disney hotel.
Floor to ceiling windows look out on a boulder-strewn creek. The
soft, contemporary lighting, fantastically shaped in the guise
of bird wings, hangs from a rich, blue ceiling creating the
feeling of open space. Giant, twin clay ovens draw the eye to
the open kitchen where an eclectic blend of creations prepared
with African spices and ingredients are turned out in attractive
presentations. Accompany your meal with a selection from the all
South African wine list, the largest in North America.
In short, Walt Disney World
is not just for kids! It's a world of fantastic resorts and
innovative dining just waiting to be explored. You may never
even make it to the parks.
Cara Goldsbury is the
The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney
World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer,
available at 800-247-6553,
Amazon.com, or your local bookstore. For more
information visit her online at
1 Feb 2004
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to
Cara Goldsbury as original writer.