Walt Disney World is renowned for its magical theme parks. But did you know that there’s much more to discover even without entering the parks?
In this guide, we propose a tour lasting approximately half a day, completely inside the “Disney bubble”. This will allow you to make the most of a visit to Walt Disney World by using their free transportation system and enjoying delicious meals at Disney hotel restaurants.
Best payment methods for Walt Disney World
The best ways to pay expenses on the Walt Disney World site are to :
Disney gift cards are available at Metro, Super C, Couche-Tard, Dollarama, Maxi and WalMart. The trick is to buy them with a credit card that earns 5 points or 5% cash back at the grocery store. The much-loved American Express Cobalt® Card or the cash-back BMO Cashback® World Elite®** Mastercard offer the best value.
Read more about our Disney gift card strategy here.
Secondly, a credit card without conversion fees avoids paying the 2.5% fee imposed by the bank for each payment made in foreign currency. They’re rare in Canada, but with a Scotiabank Visa Infinite* Passport® card, for example, you get 0%!
The route starts around mid-afternoon at Disney Springs, where car parking is free for the rest of the day.
Located between the Orange and Lime parking lots, right next to the Coca Cola store, is the heart of Disney’s free bus service. Most bus routes start here and return here.
Which makes it the ideal place to start our tour inside the Disney bubble.
As soon as you approach the various bus platforms, there’s a sign clearly indicating all the possible destinations and the right platform to take the chosen bus. You can’t go wrong.
Most buses run every 20 minutes. We take the bus to ” Wilderness Lodge ” on platform #7.
Disney's Wilderness Lodge Hotel
The bus leaves us in front of the hotel’s main entrance. Inspired by the Pacific Northwest and the grand national park lodges of the early 20th century,Wilderness Lodge Resort offers a rustic yet luxurious atmosphere.
Immediately upon entering the hotel, one notices its imposing lobby with a huge fireplace, one of the hotel’s highlights.
It’s massive and impressive, made of stacked stones, and offers a welcoming warmth and atmosphere. The fireplace extends from floor to ceiling in the main hall, creating a spectacular focal point. Guests can gather by the fireplace to relax, read a book or enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.
Another distinctive feature of the hotel is the bubbling hot spring. Also located in the main hall, this spring gives the impression of water gushing out of the earth and flowing in a small stream towards the outside.
Outside the hotel, we follow a small path along the creek to the dock on the shore of Bay Lake. This is where you take the river shuttle to Magic Kingdom.
The trip on board will be short… just 10 minutes. We sail across Bay Lake and through a narrow channel to Seven Seas Lagoon, finally docking at the pier opposite the entrance to Magic Kingdom.
Instead of entering the park, we walk and branch off to the monorail station and take the next one into the station. Our destination is the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The journey is a breeze.
Aperitif at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa lobby is a grand and opulent space, exuding turn-of-the-century Victorian elegance and charm. As soon as we enter the lobby, we’re greeted by a breathtaking atrium with an imposing ceiling adorned with chandeliers.
We take a few moments to listen to a pianist playing classical tunes, make a few purchases in the soap store and arrive at the Citricos restaurant bar to enjoy a few mocktails. No reservation is necessary.
Our favorite mocktail is the Purple Penguin. Mocktail prices range from US$7 to US$9.
If you prefer an even spicier experience, head next door to the Enchanted Rose bar. Here, your cocktail is prepared right at your table, with explanations of the special significance of each ingredient. All told, of course, in the form of a fantastic story, you guessed it… Disney-style!
Our dinner reservation at Steakhouse 71 is approaching. And for that, it’s time to take the monorail from the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa to theContemporary Resort.
Dinner at Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel
Here, the monorail enters Disney’s Contemporary Resort in an impressive atrium. We descend to the first floor and arrive at Steakhouse 71. It’s very busy, and even with a reservation made several weeks in advance, we’re asked to wait several minutes.
We chose this restaurant because, value for money, it’s the best steak joint in the Disney bubble.
Inspired by the classic steakhouse experience, it pays homage to the year 1971, which marked the opening of both the Contemporary Resort hotel and Magic Kingdom park. The dining room walls feature vintage artwork and photographs that pay homage to the early days of Walt Disney World. This touch of nostalgia reminded me of my first visits to this park in the early 1980s, when I was a little boy with my parents.
We were almost tempted by the 15-layer chocolate cake (just like the hotel), but tonight our dessert awaits us in another hotel.
Once dinner is over, we’re back on the monorail, this time heading for Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Dessert and fireworks at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
The monorail leaves us outside in front of the hotel. From the moment you step inside, the lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a captivating, immersive space that transports guests to a tropical paradise.
The lobby features a lush, vibrant tropical theme, with luxuriant plants, palms, fountains, rocks and colorful flowers. The atmosphere is lulled by the soothing sounds of island music, creating a relaxing and welcoming ambience.
This hotel’s little secret is an ice cream kiosk called Pineapple Lanai, located just outside by the pool. That’s where we’re headed, and for dessert, it’ll be a true Disney classic.
Pineapple Lanai ‘s Dole Whip frozen dessert has become an iconic Disney treat that has gained great popularity among visitors. Dole Whip is a pineapple-flavored whipped cream-based frozen dessert from Dole Food.
It’s on the hotel beach, enjoying our Dole Whip, that we finish this tour of some of Walt Disney World’s most beautiful hotels. Chairs on the beach and loudspeakers let you enjoy the music and fireworks launched from the Magic Kingdom, just across the Seven Seas Lagoon from us.
For the return trip to Disney Springs, we simply take a bus from the main entrance of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
We didn’t feel up to it anymore, but if you do this tour and still have some energy left, you can make the evening longer by taking one last walk through the pedestrian walkways and stores of Disney Springs before going back to your car.