Che Bello: The Perfect Staycation at Disney’s Riviera Resort
We just returned home from another Disney World vacation, and before the post-Disney blues set in, I must share why this 48-hour trip was one of the best we’ve ever taken!
But first, let me give you some context. My husband and I are in our early 30s with no kids or pets and flexible work schedules, and we moved to Florida about a year ago from the Midwest. My exact words to him when looking for jobs to relocate was, “Get me as close to Disney World as you possibly can.” Before moving, we visited the parks or went on a Disney cruise about once a year for the past seven years. It may not be a surprise then that once we moved, we acquired Florida Resident Disney Pixie Dust Annual Passes before we even got our driver’s licenses!
Now that we frequently enter the parks, we booked this trip knowing we wanted a relaxing vacation. Disney World trips can have a go-go-go pace, but they can also be slow and rejuvenating. We also celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary and wanted it to be special. I perused the Dedicated Reservations for Rent page on David’s Vacation Club Rentals website and found my dream resort available for about half of its regular price – Disney’s Riviera Resort!
From the moment I first stepped foot in the Riviera, it became my favorite. The smell, the gift shop, the cinnamon-almond cold brew, the library, the artwork, and Topolino’s Terrace all quickly captured my heart before I even stepped foot in a room! As soon as I saw the room tours online with Peter Pan and Aristocats touches within, I knew I needed to stay there. We’ve stayed at many resorts on the property – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Swan Hotel, Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside, Pop Century, and Disney’s Old Key West – but this one is different. It is distinctly Walt, or at least what I imagine his vacation home would be like.
Since we wanted more of a slow-paced getaway, it became a staycation! DVC resorts are perfect for this for a few reasons:
- The rooms are equipped with microwaves, plates, cutlery, and adequate storage space for several days worth of luggage.
- Each DVC room has a patio or balcony perfect for a morning cup of Joffrey’s coffee.
- The lobby and amenities are designed with repeat guests in mind and, therefore, have a calm feel; even the Cast Members have a more relaxed demeanor, suggesting we are just part of the family.
These are true not just of the Riviera but of all DVC resorts, which makes them ideal for a staycation.
Some people may think visiting Disney World without stepping foot in the parks is a waste of time and money. Yet, for us, it’s another way to experience Disney magic and the pristine level of customer service Disney offers while not having to ice our feet at the end of each day! A few of our favorite activities outside of the parks are:
- Riding the Disney transportation – Monorail, Skyliner, boats, and buses – to various resorts, exploring the grounds, and seeing what makes each one unique
- Shopping and enjoying live music at Disney Springs
- Enjoying nightly campfires, art classes, and lawn games the resorts have to offer
Did I mention each of the above activities is free? Well, the shopping is only free if it’s window shopping, but we like to do that, too! If you have never done a no-parks Disney World trip, I strongly encourage it at least once. There is certainly enough to fill your days outside the parks.
Plus, the money saved by not purchasing park tickets can be reallocated for other worthwhile expenses such as souvenirs, tickets to Cirque du Soleil, or better dining experiences! I could write a whole article just on Disney food; for now, I’ll share our favorite bites from this trip.
The Riviera has enough excellent food that if it were the only Disney food I ate for the rest of my life, I would be satisfied. Bar Riva is technically a pool bar, but it is nothing like a traditional pool bar, even by Disney standards. The baked brie was full of toasted garlic flavor with fresh, ripe tomatoes and perfectly crispy crostini. The bartenders also excelled at my two favorite poolside drinks – a classic Mickey Mouse Margarita or an Aperol Spritz.
Inside the resort at Primo Piatto, you can find plenty of delicious options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They are also open until 11 p.m. to satisfy those late-night cravings. My favorite sweet snack was the Riviera Signature Cookie, full of chocolate, oats, walnuts, pistachios, and dried cherries. Topped with flaky sea salt, it is the perfect blend of flavors and textures. The Disney parks blog posted a recipe for the cookies this summer; trust me, they rival Gideon’s for the best on property!
Pair that cookie with an iced coffee from Le Petit Cafe, *chef’s kiss* YUM! Their Riviera Resort Blend cold brew comes in three options: regular, almond, or cinnamon, and the latter two are topped with honey-almond whipped cream. My trick is to ask them for half cinnamon and half almond, the best of both worlds. A variety of spirits and liqueurs are also available for those who want to spike it up a bit.
And no food tour of the Riviera would be complete without Topolino’s Terrace. This is a signature dining experience with the characters dressed in their European best and a focus on artistry. We’ve eaten breakfast and dinner there, but our favorite spot is at the high-top tables by the bar. You usually don’t need a reservation for these, especially if you get there early. If your main priorities are food, drink, ambiance, and the view, the bar is just as good (if not better) than the regular dining room. It was the perfect setting for our anniversary meal.
Between the exquisite food, staying at my dream resort, and the security of booking with David’s, this was one of our favorite Disney trips ever. It was a relaxing way to celebrate our anniversary and experience the magic of Disney without hitting 10,000 steps each day. No waiting in lines, just sipping prosecco to the tune of “When You Wish Upon a Star” jazz mix.
If you have never considered a no-parks Disney trip, I recommend booking one at the Riviera or another DVC resort. It is a completely different style of Disney World vacation that can’t be fully understood without experiencing it. As previously mentioned, you can use the money you saved from not buying tickets for meals or souvenirs, or even for a bigger, better room! After all, you’ll be spending more time in the room without park tickets, so it may be worth the splurge. David’s team can work with you on finding the best room for your stay, and they have plenty of resources to make the rest of your trip superb as well. This is the third time we’ve booked using David’s, and it won’t be the last.
About the Author: Hannah Rowen Fry
Hannah Rowen Fry is a writer and speaker passionate about inviting readers to slow down, choose simplicity, and experience greater joy in the present moment. Hannah lives in Florida with her husband Matt and spends most of her free time on the beach, at Disney World, and listening to Taylor Swift. Her Disney favorites are:
- Park: Animal Kingdom
- Restaurant: Wine Bar George
- Ride: Frozen Ever After