Disney’s Boardwalk Resort debuted in 1996 and was the first resort built to be both a DVC resort as well as a deluxe “regular” hotel (known as Boardwalk Inn).
Prior to this resort opening, the only DVC resort was at Disney’s Old Key West. Entering from the front, you can find the Villas portion to the left, and the standard hotel rooms are to the right. There is a huge main lobby; this is the place to check-in for both resorts.
When you arrive and enter the lobby, be prepared to be impressed. It really is gorgeous. Beautiful chandeliers hang from the ceiling, giving the room a feeling of elegance. And yet it is not “snobby” at all, as the decorations are all very cozy.
All Disney resorts are themed; BWV is themed on old seaside amusement parks in Atlantic City, NJ, and Coney Island in Brooklyn, NY. You will see paintings of early 1900’s amusement parks; old-time penny arcade movie machines; a miniature horse carousel. (The carousel is stationary most of the time, but randomly it starts up and starts to go around and make music just like a real merry go round). Fun Fact: There is a hidden mickey on the rump of the white horse with the brown spots.
Additionally, the lobby is home to a small replica of an Elephant shaped hotel that actually existed at one time in Atlantic City, gorgeous horse paintings over the registration area and some chairs with faces on them that some find a little creepy (I think they are cool).
There are comfortable overstuffed chairs and couches available to read, relax, or talk with family and friends. There is also a small merchandise shop just off of the lobby called Dundy’s Sundries. The merchandise available is limited and tends to change, but most of the time, this is the place to find Disney Vacation Club merch. You can also find stamps, aspirin, needles and thread, toothbrushes here—little necessities that you might have forgotten.
Boardwalk uses buses to take you to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach. To get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Epcot, you have two choices—a “Friendship” Boat (a fairly large boat that holds quite a number of guests), or you can walk. The walk to Epcot is under ten minutes, and the walk to Hollywood Studios is about 15 minutes, depending on your pace.
The boat to Epcot takes about the same time as walking. One of the bonuses of staying at Boardwalk is entering Epcot through the International Gateway. This entrance is less crowded than the main entrance to the park.
The boat to Disney’s Hollywood Studios takes about twice as long as walking. This is due to the fact that the boat stops at Disney’s Beach Club Villas and then at the Swan/Dolphin resorts on the way. Each time the boat docks/unloads/loads, it takes time. Personally, I enjoy walking and the path to Hollywood Studios; it’s one of my favorite walks in all of WDW. There are rarely other guests who opt to walk; you may well have the path to yourself. It is a peaceful and relaxing stroll from BWV to DHS, often with views of wildlife (rabbits, lizards, water birds) on the way.
If you’re hungry there are a number of restaurants to choose from in the area, although none are inside the resort, you must walk out to the Boardwalk to find them. Yet, there is a lounge inside the resort. The Belle Vue Lounge is lovely, lots of places to sit, a large selection of adult beverages, and they offer free board games to play. There is a balcony that can only be reached by exiting a door connected to the lounge, and you can choose to enjoy your beverage outside with views of the lake and Boardwalk if you so desire.
For a real meal, as mentioned in the last paragraph, head outside to the Boardwalk. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, I’d recommend making Advanced Dining Reservations so you won’t be disappointed.
Full-service options include Big River Grille and Brewing Works (they brew their own beer here!), ESPN Club (sports playing on a number of televisions while you dine on American fare), Flying Fish (the most upscale option, serving delicious fish dishes), and Trattoria al Forno which normally offers a Princess Breakfast daily featuring Rapunzel, Flynn Rider, Ariel, and Prince Eric. *Currently as WDW reopens Character Dining options have been paused, yet we look forward to when they return in the future.
For quick service, there are a number of food kiosks on the Boardwalk, selling a variety of different items. These include fries, sandwiches, pizza, funnel cakes, and more. There is an Ice Cream Parlor, called Ample Hills Creamery, which serves many delicious treats. There are no tables inside, it’s only “to go,” but there are many tables located outside the Ice Cream Parlor just outside on the Boardwalk, a number of which are in the shade.
There is a Pizza Window connected to the eatery I mentioned earlier, Trattoria Al Forno. You can access the window from the Boardwalk, no need to enter the restaurant.
A favorite choice of many guests is the Boardwalk Bakery.
It has expanded over the years, and in addition to dozens of tasty desserts, the bakery also stocks a number of sandwich items, both hot and cold. The name of the proprietor is proudly displayed on the front window: Hue G. Krazont (say it out loud, it’s a pun). When you stay at BWV, you’re also steps away from Disney’s Beach Club Villas, Yacht Club, Swan and Dolphin Resorts. These resorts all have their own restaurants and exponentially increase your options for dining in the area. And there is one more option for eating at Boardwalk,- a do it yourself area! There is a barbecue section complete with a picnic table by the quiet pool.
There are a number of fun things to do right on the Boardwalk. These include a pin cart, face painter, caricature artist, hair wrapping, and a self-service booth where you can pose and make custom postcards. There are also a number of shops to browse and/or buy merchandise. The Screen Door General Store is the place to shop if you’re looking for food to cook in the room, bread, milk, frozen items, or snacks such as chips or pretzels. Additionally, a few years ago, the Screen Door opened a counter with a large variety of goodies: Jelly and Caramel Apples; fudge; slurpies; brownies; and much more can be found here.
Located by BWV’s quiet pool, the Community Hall is a free place to play video games, foosball, ping pong, coloring, and other activities for both children and adults.
You can also borrow DVDs to watch in your villa at no cost.
Standard bike rentals are available here (for a fee). But if you’re in the mood to bike with the whole family, head back to the central area of the Boardwalk. Here you will find surrey bikes to rent (again, for a fee) that hold up to 6 people to pedal.
Additionally, the bikes all have a front basket area that seats up to two small children, depending on their size, and there is a cool bell to ring to let folks know you’re on your way, which is easily reached by any kiddos in the front.
There are two pools at BWV. There is a quiet pool near the Community Hall, which has no lifeguard and no slide. It is heated, and there is a hot tub.
The main pool does have an awesome slide; you exit the slide through the HUGE mouth of a clown. Folks who have a fear of clowns are not fond of this aspect. The main pool has a pool bar where they serve a variety of beverages, with many frozen options. This pool also has a water play area for the youngsters.
There is also a second quiet pool on the Boardwalk Inn side of the resorts and guests staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas can use any of the three pools throughout the resort.
In the evening there is free entertainment on the Boardwalk. It runs from about 7-10 PM. There is a variety of magicians, jugglers, and acrobats who each perform 3 or 4 times per night. TIP: If the weather is bad, check inside the BWV lobby. Often the entertainers can be found here during inclement weather. There are also midway games on the Boardwalk where you can win a prize. These games have a fee, as does a small video arcade that is located near the pool area.
Additionally, in the evening, you can enjoy “dueling pianos” at Jellyrolls’ piano bar, where you can request songs and sing along with the other patrons; there is a cover fee of $12, but once inside there is no drink minimum. If you’d rather dance than sing, next door to the piano bar is the Atlantic Dance Hall. Both Jellyrolls and Atlantic Dance are open very late, generally until 2AM.
Jellyrolls is open every evening; Atlantic Dance is not always open, so be sure to check with a Cast Member if you want to visit the Dance hall. Both Atlantic Dance and Jellyrolls are limited to guests 21 and over.
If you’re looking to work out or get a massage, Boardwalk Villas has Muscles and Bustles Health Club, located on the first floor of the resort. There is a fee for a massage, but there is no charge to use the exercise equipment.
If you’re looking for water fun, you just have to walk a short distance around the lake to the Beach Club, where you will find Sea Racers (small motorboats), that can be rented to boat around Crescent Lake, the body of water that is found in the area. You can drive the boats all around the Boardwalk area as well as almost all the way to Hollywood Studios. For both the bikes and the boats, inquire about discount rates for DVC members, Annual Passholders, and Disney Visa cardholders. These discounts vary from year to year (sometimes season to season) and place to place.
If you enjoy looking at beautiful paintings, Wyland Gallery is chock full of them and is located on the Boardwalk.
If you want some exercise, you can walk or run around Crescent Lake (the body of water that you see from the Boardwalk area), it’s a beautiful stroll/run.
Start anywhere you choose around the lake, and if you continue, you will go in a complete circle, ending up where you started (and, of course, you can stop off anywhere along the way). During your run/walk, you will pass all the stores and restaurants I mentioned, Jellyrolls, Atlantic Dance Hall, and the Swan, Dolphin, and Beach Club Resorts, as well the boat marina.
Oh, and you can get married on the Boardwalk! There is a very pretty gazebo area that juts out into the lake called Seabreeze Point, where they hold weddings.
You’re also able to see three different fireworks shows from the Boardwalk at night. To see a GREAT view of Epcot fireworks, head towards the bridge that connects the Boardwalk to Epcot. Standing on that bridge, you’ll be able to see and hear most of the show. If you stand near the Boardwalk Bakery and look across the water, Magic Kingdom fireworks can be seen in the distance. If you look to your left across the water, you will be able to see the fireworks from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Times for these shows vary, so be sure to check with a Cast Member and are subject to when fireworks return after the initial reopening of WDW.
You don’t have to be staying at Disney’s Boardwalk Villas to enjoy all there is to do in the Boardwalk area. If you have dinner reservations at any of the restaurants there, you will be allowed to park at the resort at no cost. They also offer valet parking for a fee. Another option is to take the boat or walk over from Epcot or Hollywood Studios. The Boardwalk is great at any time of day, but if possible, I would suggest an evening visit when things are really hopping. Have fun!!