If all that The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa had going for itself was a great location, it would be plenty. That the resort also offers the comforts of home and a peaceful oasis within the extraordinary entertainment complex that is Walt Disney World; well, that’s just magical.
In the week before The Villas opened to the public, I had a chance to stay in one of the one-bedroom units as part of a media visit to get to know Disney’s Golden Oak luxury residential resort community, located a five-mile drive to the east. Traveling without my family, I found the tranquility of the spacious accommodations at The Villas positively decadent.
The setting itself is serene: I couldn’t get enough of the lakeside balcony view. Although the daily turndown service that deposited a stack of chocolates and folded towels in the shape of Mickey ears also left drapes tightly drawn, I pulled back the curtains every evening so as not to miss dramatic sunsets and sunrises over the tropical Seven Seas Lagoon.
Within the one-bedroom villa, which easily accommodates up to five guests (larger units sleep up to 12,) I had plenty of room to spread out and relax. During breaks in our tour schedule, I alternated between working at a bedroom desk, stretching out to read on the living room couch, or taking a bath in the freestanding air jet bathtub. Chocolate bonbons and Sea Salt popcorn may or may not have been involved.
Location, Location, Location
Because that was the least of my indulgences, I made it a point to check out the fitness center next door at Senses, a Disney Spa at the Grand Floridian Resort. Although I never got around to using the state-of-the-art machines, I worked off calories on the surrounding jogging trail and multiple pools. I also hopped on the monorail to explore the theme parks.
That the Grand Floridian was just one stop from the Magic Kingdom on the monorail was especially welcome after a late night outing to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
I loved how easy it was to get around from the Grand Floridian. Disney’s free Magical Express airport shuttle deposits you and your luggage at your villa, no waiting for baggage required. Once there, you can catch the complimentary monorail or water taxi routes to connect to the rest of Disney World.
And when I was beat from too much fun, it was good to know that I didn’t have to leave the resort to find a variety of dining options — from the 5-Diamond Victoria & Albert’s Restaurant to the more casual Gasparilla Island Grill, where a design-your-own-salad station offered a healthy alternative to the usual burger and fries. You can even stock the fridge with essentials at Sandy Cove Gifts & Sundries (ice cream is essential, right?)
Comforts of Home
Although I had the villa to myself for most of my visit, I had no qualms inviting my sister and her partner for an overnight stay. With two separate rooms and a pullout sofa bed, in addition to the eat-in kitchen and full bathroom with separate tub and walk-in shower, there was no problem fitting them in.
Clever use of space and furniture — drawers, cabinets, and even storage ottomans — ensure that even with a full house, there’s no need to trip over travel gear. I especially liked being able to stow away my luggage in the walk in closet.
Families traveling with young children will also appreciate the washer/dryer, dishwasher, vacuum and broom (which came in handy for picking up popcorn spills.) Thoughtful amenities include a high chair, Graco pack & play, and a pull-down Trundle bed inscribed with nostalgic nursery rhymes.
I was happy to see that fast and free Wi-Fi service was easily available throughout the resort. And while that should be standard fare in luxury accommodations, other items such flat panel TVs in both the bedroom and living room as well as a mirror TV in the bathroom was a welcome extravagance.
But the most interesting innovation was the Magic Band, a wristband that acts as a room key, park ticket, credit card, and a bunch of other digital tools when linked with the My Disney Experience app. Although Disney is still phasing in this futuristic gadget, I enjoyed testing what it could do.
Best of all was being able to charge a Skinnygirl® Coconut Mojito at the Beaches Pool Bar with a flick of the wrist, followed by jumping in to savor the drink poolside. Pure bliss!
Many thanks to Disney Golden Oak for hosting my stay.
Sandra Foyt shares offbeat escapes in the Northeast on GetawayMavens.com and enriching family travel on AlbanyKid.com. Originally from the Virgin Islands, now based in New York, Sandra has an uncanny ability to spot sweet treats.