Short stay, great experience: Disney's BoardWalk Villas hotel review
When planning your Disney vacation, there are a lot of factors to consider when booking lodging. Disney resorts are rarely the most budget-friendly option and it's nearly impossible to use points to offset the cost of your stay, but there are benefits to staying on the property.
But even once you decide that you want to stay at a Disney resort, there are still so many options.
If you're a fan of Epcot at Disney World, BoardWalk Villas is definitely worth considering. My stay may not have been long, but I really enjoyed my time at the resort during my recent trip to Disney World.
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Disney's BoardWalk Villas is classified as a Deluxe Villa Resort, so it's definitely not a budget option for a trip to the parks.
I resort-hopped throughout my recent trip to Disney World, so I only stayed one night at BoardWalk Villas. That one-night stay cost $518 plus tax — $582.75 total — for a deluxe studio.
BoardWalk Villas also offers one- and two-bedroom villas if your family needs a bit more space.
I used Mouse Counselors to book my larger trip, which made coordinating things — from my resort stays to my park tickets and dining reservations — a breeze.
BoardWalk Villas is a Disney Vacation Club resort, so members can use Vacation Points to book their stay. Non-members can also rent Vacation Points to potentially save money on your booking compared to booking the old-fashioned way.
Related: How to save money by renting Disney Vacation Club points
One of the major benefits of staying at a Disney resort is the proximity to the parks. There are a few different areas that cluster resort properties together, and BoardWalk Villas is part of the Epcot Resort Area.
In the same area, you'll find Disney's Yacht Club Resort, Disney's Beach Club Resort and Swan and Dolphin. BoardWalk Villas also shares a property with BoardWalk Inn (which offers standard hotel rooms instead of villas).
BoardWalk Villas is only a five-to-10-minute walk to Epcot, which makes it a super convenient spot for those looking to make the most of Epcot's Food & Wine Festival this year. You can also use the ferry system and Skyliner to get to either Epcot or Hollywood Studios.
You can use the Disney bus system to get to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Disney Springs.
The BoardWalk itself is also home to a number of restaurants and shops, and you are a quick commute from the other Epcot Resort Area properties if you fancy some resort-hopping during your stay.
Check-in was simple and easy, though nothing special.
I had a rental car, and I self-parked. It's a bit of a trek from the parking lots up to the lobby area (especially in the July heat), but I was able to drop off my luggage with a cast member upon arrival before I parked. My luggage was then delivered to my room within about 30 to 45 minutes of arrival.
Standard check-in was at 4 p.m. The My Disney Experience app allows you to request an earlier check-in time, but there's no guarantee your room will be ready early. Mine, for example, was not.
The cast member working the check-in desk was incredibly helpful. For those who have Disney MagicBands, you can skip the lobby altogether and head straight to your room. But since I didn't have a MagicBand, I got a standard key from the front desk.
The My Disney Experience app does have an feature to unlock the door (similar to World of Hyatt's keyless option through its app), but I couldn't get it to work reliably at either of the resorts I stayed at during my trip.
My room was located on the bottom floor (the main resort entrance and lobby are located on the second floor). It was a deluxe studio villa with a standard view overlooking the pool area.
The room had a flat-screen TV, a small sitting area where you could eat or work, a couch area, a wardrobe, kitchenette and patio area. Behind the small sitting area is a Murphy bed.
The kitchenette area had a coffee maker, minifridge, sink, microwave, double toaster and a small ice holder.
The patio area right off the room opened up to the pool area, which was quite busy. The chairs were small and not especially comfortable, but I didn't spend any time outside relaxing, anyway.
I would have preferred more privacy, but the curtains did their job and the noise level was never bad. My room was conveniently located near the elevators, so a room that was closer to the action outside was the trade-off there.
The bathroom was clean and spacious, though not particularly luxurious. My room featured an accessible shower for those who needed a no-barrier entry.
Overall, the room was comfortable and conveniently located. I didn't spend a lot of time in the room aside from sleeping, but the bed was comfortable. After two days of nonstop Disney fun trying to visit all four parks, it was a welcome crash pad to get a good night's sleep.
If you're staying at a Disney resort, you're probably not especially concerned with whether the property offers a five-star spa or a lineup of daily on-property activities. The main draws of most Disney resorts are their proximity to the parks, free transportation and the customer service available to help with your Disney vacation.
BoardWalk Villas does give you access to Disney's transportation systems, which makes getting to the parks easier (and cheaper) than when you stay at a non-Disney hotel for your trip. As I mentioned earlier, you are a quick walk to Epcot, a Skyliner or ferry ride from Hollywood Studios and a bus ride away from the other parks.
The resort has a family-friendly pool complex that's carnival-themed — complete with a waterslide and kiddie pool.
(There are also two smaller "leisure" pools with hot tubs located on the resort grounds that usually attract mostly adults and offer a quieter atmosphere.)
Older kids will enjoy the arcade area. You can purchase arcade cards and load them with "Play Points" for the games. It's an easier system than some traditional arcades that require keeping up with tokens or using quarters.
If the miles you're walking around the parks aren't enough of a workout, there is also a gym available for guests.
I was pleasantly surprised with the Muscles and Bustles gym. It was spacious and offered everything from weight machines, stationary bikes and treadmills to free weights and areas where you could get in an ab workout or yoga routine.
Related: Universal etiquette tips for anyone who exercises while traveling
And of course, for those staying at the BoardWalk Villas, the BoardWalk itself is a great amenity located right outside your door. You can take a leisurely stroll along the water, dip into shops, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere before walking over to Epcot for the fireworks show.
Food and beverage
Trattoria al Forno is BoardWalk Inn and Villas' on-property Italian restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner. Entrees cost anywhere from $15 to $35 for adults, so it's certainly not the most budget-friendly option.
Though currently unavailable, the restaurant does have a Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast that features characters from two popular Disney movies — "Tangled" and "The Little Mermaid." If you're considering a Disney vacation for down the line, there's a chance that character dining will come back. Just note that Disney has yet to announce a reopening date for the character portion of the dining experience.
Related: Best Disney character meals you've never heard of
If you're in need of a midday drink or snack while at the pool, you can visit Leaping Horse Libations, a carousel-themed bar that sells sandwiches, salads and snacks, plus a selection of both alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.
The Belle Vue Lounge serves coffee and pastries in the morning and cocktails in the evening. I never checked out the lounge's options — there was just too much to see, eat and drink at the parks and on the BoardWalk for me to make time for it.
BoardWalk dining options
Though not technically on the BoardWalk Villas property, you have the entire BoardWalk just steps away.
I'd originally planned on heading to Epcot for dinner the night I was staying at BoardWalk Villas, but a rainstorm rolled in. I didn't have an umbrella or poncho (I know, rookie Disney mistake), and a trek over to Epcot in the pouring rain to eat inside while dripping wet was the last thing I wanted after a long day at the parks. Instead, I canceled my reservation and had dinner at Big River Grille & Brewing Works.
I had Cajun pasta and a cocktail, and it was a filling and delicious meal — the perfect, relaxing end to a long day exploring Hollywood Studios and Epcot.
Other BoardWalk restaurants and bars include:
- BoardWalk Bakery — Stop here for a breakfast sandwich on your way to Epcot, or anytime for a sweet treat.
- Pizza Window — You can order a slice or an entire pizza at this literal window before relaxing in one of the patio seats on the BoardWalk.
- AbracadaBar — This unique lounge is a great spot for cocktails after a long day.
- BoardWalk Joe's Marvelous Margaritas — This quick-service Mexican drink bar serves a few snack options (nachos and pretzels), but the main draw is the selection of margaritas. If you've ever wanted an alcoholic Dole Whip, this is the spot to get it.
- Flying Fish — For a fancier sit-down spot, you can try Flying Fish for a seafood fix.
- Funnel Cake Cart and The To-Go Cart — These BoardWalk food carts serve quick eats for on-the-go families.
- ESPN Club — This restaurant has almost 100 monitors set up around the space televising 30 different sports channels. If you're hoping to take a break from the parks to relax with a beer and a football game, head here on a game day this fall.
Related: The best restaurants at Disney World in 2021
As expected at a deluxe Disney resort, the service is excellent. Cast members are friendly and say hi when you pass, and the customer service is spot on.
As I mentioned earlier, I ended up canceling a dining reservation at Epcot's La Hacienda de San Angel because it was pouring rain and walking over without an umbrella or poncho would have been a disaster. I was unable to cancel via the My Disney Experience app, and when I tried to call I was put on hold.
But the concierge working that night was able to cancel my reservation, waive the last-minute cancellation fee and give me a list of options for places to check out on the BoardWalk without having to get drenched in the rain. It had been a long day at the end of a long week, and I could have hugged her at the relief I felt after she helped me out (though I resisted — we're still in the middle of a pandemic, after all).
I was only there one night, so I don't have anything to report on the housekeeping service. But my room was in pristine condition when I got there.
I didn't spend much time in my room, opting to explore the BoardWalk and spend more time at the parks. But what time I did spend at BoardWalk Villas was excellent. The room was clean and comfortable, the service was great and the property is conveniently located close to Epcot, Hollywood Studios and other Epcot Resort Area properties.
Of course, it is an expensive property — my room was over $500 per night just for a studio with a standard view. If you know you won't be spending much time at the resort itself, you may want to check out more budget-friendly options.
However, if you do want to splurge, BoardWalk Villas is a solid Disney resort with an amazing location.