Have you ever thought about Resort hopping at Walt Disney World? Or are you not even sure what it is…? Some Guests “Resort hop” by simply checking out lobbies, shops, and restaurants at Disney Resorts other than their own, while others plan their vacations with split stays, meaning they have accommodations booked at two or more Resorts.
There is a lot to know when it comes to Resort hopping, including the most efficient ways to see several Disney Resorts without losing too much time from the theme parks, how split stays actually work, and what the rules are for what you can and cannot do at Resorts you are not booked at.
How to Get to Disney Resorts for the Day
I believe when most people say they plan to Resort hop, this is what they mean. And, in this case, if you have ever had a meal at a different Disney Resort, then you’ve basically already done this.
The best Resorts to “hop” to, in my opinion, are the ones along the Magic Kingdom monorail loop (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort) because it is so easy to get to each Resort with the monorail.
While not on the monorail loop, Resort launches from the Magic Kingdom make it easy to visit Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (which is home to popular restaurants like Whispering Canyon Cafe) and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, which you could be stopping at anyway if you’ve booked a reservation for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
Other easy Resorts to visit would include all of the EPCOT Area Resorts, as they can be walked to around Crescent Lake. These include Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, including the new Swan Reserve. Still, there are several other Resorts that can be incredibly easy to get to via Disney’s complimentary transportation that you shouldn’t miss.
The Disney Skyliner, the newest form of transportation at Walt Disney World, has stops at EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, and Art of Animation Resort. (The latter also means that if you are staying at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, you could walk to Art of Animation to pick up the Skyliner.)
I know buses aren’t the most exciting way to get around Disney World, and while some Guests absolutely loathe them, I’m generally unphased as they are infinitely better than public transportation I’ve taken fairly often. If you don’t mind a very, very short bus ride from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Animal Kingdom Lodge is only about five minutes away. Even if you’re planning to drive, it’s probably easier to park at the theme park and hop on a bus to the Lodge rather than moving your car.
We can’t forget the Resorts near Disney Springs, too. I LOVE cruising the waters by Disney Springs via Amphicar from The BOATHOUSE, but this isn’t always cost effective. Thankfully, there is a free alternative that offers a relaxing boat ride and transportation to more Disney Resorts. The Resort launches at Disney Springs make stops at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West Resort, and Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts. Even if you just use the boat ride as a way to relax, it’s a fun way to spend some time, but if you’re anything like me you probably can’t pass up beignets at Port Orleans or a fried chicken dinner at Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West.
Restaurants & Entertainment
Now that we’ve gone over just how easy it is to Resort hop, let’s get into the reasons to do it! Most Disney Guests plan to spend time at other Resorts to try new restaurants or take in some entertainment offerings specific to each Resort. This is by no means and exhaustive list (perhaps that will be another post?!) but some of my go-to restaurants, bars, and entertainment at Disney Resorts include:
- Grand Floridian Cafe at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: I don’t know if this spot is as underrated as it used to be, but this is my favorite brunch spot at Disney World. Think chicken and Mickey waffles, vanilla-scented French Toast, delicious frozen cocktails, mimosas, sangria, and more, in a really cute spot at Disney’s flagship Resort.
- ‘Ohana & Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: ‘Ohana is Disney World’s ultimate all-you-can-eat dining experience with breakfast offerings alongside favorite characters and dinner featuring chicken wings, steak, shrimp, dumplings, salad, and its famous for a reason noodles and bread pudding. Kona Cafe is a more casual alternative located right next store serving sushi, sandwiches, noodles, and more, and while the menu has changed dramatically over the years, this is still one of my favorite Disney restaurants (so much so that I named one of my cats after this place….)
- Jellyrolls at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn: Disney’s nightlife scene has quieted down since the days of Pleasure Island, and while you can still find live music (mostly at Disney Springs), Jellyrolls remains one of my favorite spots. This dueling piano bar on the BoardWalk is always entertaining and includes 32-oz drink specials.
- Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground: Since the Spirit of Aloha dinner show is now permanently closed, the only dinner show at Disney World, and one of the longest-running dinner shows in the country is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. The performance is entertaining for the whole family, and the all-you-care-to-enjoy meal comes with fried chicken, ribs, a lineup of delicious sides, and unlimited beer or wine for the 21+ crowd.
Other Activities at Disney Resorts
There is a lot to see and do at Disney Resorts outside of restaurants. Along with just taking in the details of how each Resort is designed, these are some of my favorite things to do…
- Fireworks viewing: You can see fireworks from several locations around the Magic Kingdom Area Resorts, notably the beaches at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian, and the balcony of California Grill at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The best place to see EPCOT’s fireworks from a Resort is Topolino’s Terrace at the Rivieria Resort. Note: There may be times when certain fireworks viewing areas are limited to Guests staying at these Resorts, such as 4th of July or New Year’s Eve.
- Hidden Mickeys: It’s always fun to search for Hidden Mickeys at Disney World, and the easiest way to do this without a Park ticket is to explore the Resorts. Animal Kingdom Lodge even has a Hidden Mickey scavenger hunt sheet that you can pick up from the front desk.
- Pin trading: Another fun activity that does not need to be limited to the theme parks is pin trading. If you are a pin collector, you can always purchase new pins and trade with Cast Members at shops and other locations around the Resorts.
- Holiday decorations: The winter holiday season is when decorations at the Resorts truly shine with floor to ceiling Christmas trees and other decor gracing most lobbies, and incredible gingerbread displays like the full-sized gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian. An underrated holiday to Resort hop during is Easter, where some Resorts showcase handmade chocolate Easter eggs.
- Movies Under the Stars: Disney movies are shown nightly outside at the Resorts. It is probably easier to just do this at the Resort you’re staying at, but it may work out to catch a movie elsewhere before or after dinner.
- Animals: While the ultimate vacation would include a stay at a savanna-view room, you can wander several areas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and see animals without booking a stay.
What is not allowed while Resort hopping?
The biggest no-no here is using pools at other Resorts (with very few exceptions such as certain Disney Vacation Club properties or if your own Resort’s pool is under refurbishment.) Pools are one amenity that are strictly for use of Guests staying at each Resort, and sometimes Cast Members will actually check to make sure Guests are registered at Resort pools. (I also personally don’t know how this is worth the time….I get it for waterslides if your Resort doesn’t have one, but really I would just rather be near my hotel room anyway to shower after the pool.)
Select other amenities are specific to Guests at each Resort as well, like use of fitness centers, or fireworks viewing areas on holidays. And while not specific to Guest at the Resort, you might find some dining locations inaccessible without a reservation, (like California Grill for instance, you could only visit the balcony there if you actually eat at the restaurant. Though you can come back for the fireworks to watch them on the balcony if you’ve dined there earlier in the evening.)
What about split stays?
Split stays are so much easier than you may think if you haven’t tried it yet. To plan a split stay at Disney World, simply book your reservations for where you’d like to stay, noting a check-out day at one Resort will be the same as check-in date at another.
When you’re ready to swap Resorts, head to bell services in the morning of your check-out to hand off your luggage and tell the Cast Members that you are switching to a different Resort. They’ll have your luggage moved to your new Resort, and you can head right to the theme parks without spending any additional time on the process.
Split stays are a great way to splurge on a more expensive Resort for part of your stay, and I promise it is not much of a process as all so it’s something I highly recommend!
Have any questions I didn’t cover here? Leave them in the comments and I’ll start planning my next post on Resort hopping.