As I’m sure any seasoned Disney fan knows, there are plenty of things you can do at WDW where you don’t necessarily need to spend money, or at least, plenty of Disney themed things you can do without an entry ticket. Visiting the hotels is big one of these, but there are several others too such as Celebration, Disney’s own town, which I’ll post about at some point, and the one I’m talking about today: Disney’s BoardWalk.
We’ve been going to WDW since 1997, the year after Disney’s BoardWalk actually opened, but it was only 2011 when we made our first visit to it. Described as a timeless promenade that’s home to various unique restaurants, hotels, shops and evening entertainment, it is reminiscent of old-time New England coastal resorts.
Many believe the BoardWalk to be part of Disney Springs (once Downtown Disney) so miss out on it, thinking they’ve experienced it already, but in fact it’s a completely separate place located between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, very close to Epcot if you take a look at the map:
Top Tip! Disney's BoardWalk is less than a 5 minute walk to the Epcot's International Gateway - a secret back-entrance to Epcot!
The BoardWalk itself is 1/4 mile long. Guests can rent “Surrey bikes” to traverse the length of it in a classic old time style, or you can wander it at will. Entrance is completely free and there is parking on site, although parking is limited and you may need to use Disney transportation to get there.
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
The BoardWalk Inn is the iconic turn of the century style accommodation at the entrance to the BoardWalk. While I haven’t ever stayed there, I’ve taken the occasion to wander through it. While all the Disney hotels are awesome, I think this one is very near top of my list to stay in.
First up, the lobby is striking – it’s home to the Hippocampus Electrolier chandelier (see below), paintings of each of the Disney Castles, and a miniature carousel. You really just have to see it!
There’s also the Luna Park Pool – carnival themed and reminiscent of the 1920s, yes please! Also home to the 200 foot long Keister Coaster waterslide, you don’t even need to visit the water parks!
On our first visit in 2011, Cat Cora’s Kouzzina restaurant was open, and I’m still mourning its closure for one very important reason – this Fisherman’s Stew:
Possibly the best thing I’ve ever tasted! I was reluctant to try it as I used to be very fussy with food, but I was persuaded and am so glad I chose it. In fact, I think this very dish awakened a love of seafood in me – just one more thing I have Disney to thank for!
As I mentioned though, this restaurant closed recently, but there are plenty of other options that still exist:
- Ample Hills Creamery – a classic and quirky ice cream parlour.
- Big River Grille & Brewing Works – a microbrewery home to Disney’s own brewmaster and American pub grub.
- ESPN Club – perfect dining for sports fans.
- Flying Fish Cafe – for seafood and steak in a relaxed environment.
- Trattoria al Forno – casual Italian dining.
If you want something quick, I can personally highly recommend the Pizza Window and the To-Go Cart that we visited last time instead of a proper restaurant while we soaked up the atmosphere outside. There’s also a Funnel Cake cart (you have to try these if you never have!), the BoardWalk Bakery and Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas too.
The length of the BoardWalk is dotted with street performers and entertainers handpicked by Disney, so you know they’re going to be good, from magic acts and musicians to midway games for kids (and adults!). They usually perform outside the Flying Fish or General Store, but if the weather is adverse, they will often move inside to the BoardWalk Inn.
For “grown ups” visiting Disney, you’ll also find:
- Jellyrolls – a lively piano bar with famed “Duelling Pianos”.
- Atlantic Dance Hall – an art deco ballroom styled nightclub.
And as you can see, the BoardWalk makes for some stunning photo opportunities in the sunset! It’s yet another Disney location that’s so perfectly themed and tweaked to perfection that you don’t even need a reason to be there other than to soak up the atmosphere.
Have you visited Disney’s BoardWalk?