Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Blue Loop. Today we are sharing our grown ups guide to Disney.
Who says Walt Disney World is just for kids?! Certainly nobody around here, but you already know that.
One of our favorite places to spend time as adults is in the Epcot Resort area, specifically at the Beach & Yacht Club resorts, and along the Boardwalk. This area was designed by architect Robert Stern, and is modeled after turn-of-the-century seaside towns in the MidAtlantic. As we learned during the (highly-recommend) Ballyhoo Tour, Disney’s boardwalk is equally reminiscent of Atlantic City (where the rich would play at that time in history) and Coney Island (fun for everyone). Whether your idea of the ideal date includes an upscale, romantic restaurant, live music, cheering on your favorite team in the local sports bar, games of skill, or some combination therein, the Boardwalk area has you covered!
Whether you’re looking for great steak or seafood, a lovely atmosphere, an extensive drink menu, or top-notch service (found everywhere, really), there are several wonderful table-servicing dining options in the Boardwalk area.
Flying Fish Cafe is a perennial favorite among guests – and of Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger. They serve delicious seafood and steak options in a festive but upscale atmosphere. Chef’s Tasting Wine Dinners are offered throughout the year, adding to an already unique dining experience. PLEASE NOTE: Flying Fish Cae is one of a handful of restaurants on Disney property that asks guests to adhere to a dress code. Men may wear khakis, slacks, jeans, or dress shorts and collared shirts. Sports coats are optional. Women may wear capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans, or dress shorts. Not permitted are tank tops, swimsuits, swimsuit cover ups, hats for gentlemen, torn clothing, and t-shirts with graphics. The Flying Fish Cafe is currently closed for refurbishment, but is expected to reopen in early Fall 2016.
Trattoria al Forno offers Italian staples in a moderately casual table-service restaurant. One of Trattoria’s claims to fame is that their menu is 100% Italian, including more than two dozen wines – all from wine regions in Italy. We have found that large families are welcome and have plenty of room, but there are also smaller tables tucked away that are perfect for a date.
Big River Grille & Brewing Works often receives inconsistent reviews (some mediocre, though rarely truly negative), but we have eaten there twice and had really wonderful experiences both times. The inside is family-friendly but looks classy and inviting with fun lighting and architectural features. The outdoor seating area provides a great view of the people strolling by on the Boardwalk. As the name suggests, you can also enjoy handcrafted drinks and microbrews from the only working brewpub at Walt Disney World.
ESPN Club is your place if you’re looking for a boatload of televisions (even in bathrooms, so you don’t miss a minute of your favorite team!), video games at your table, and – very often – a radio show broadcast right from the restaurant. You’ll find some arcade games, sports memorabilia, and lots of fun, but not a lot of quiet and candlelight.
Boardwalk Joe’s Marvelous Margaritas, The To-Go Cart (featuring hot dogs, chicken fingers, fries, puled pork sandwiches, and more), and the Boardwalk Pizza Window offer great casual, on-the-go dining. When we stay in the Epcot resort area, one of favorite dinner experiences is grabbing a pizza from the window, and some desserts from the Boardwalk Bakery. We find a table on Crescent Lake and take in the atmosphere from one of the most special places on Walt Disney World property. Oh – and dinner for 5 with leftovers costs less than $30, which is pretty much a miracle on such a vacation!
But what should we DO?
Eating food is a quintessential part of most dates; even Giselle (of Andalasia) and Buddy the Elf (of the North Pole) learn that after just a day or two in New York City. But of course a good date doesn’t stop there!
Our very favorite thing to do on the Boardwalk is spend the evening at Jelly Rolls. Named for legendary jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton, this dueling piano bar is easily the best we’ve ever seen anywhere. Excellent musicians take requests throughout the night, and fill the spaces between songs with great chemistry and humor. Note: You must be 21 to visit Jellyrolls, and will still pay a cover of $12 (as of March 2016). Seats fill up quickly. There is no hot food served, though you’ll usually find snacks such as popcorn and/or pretzels. Singing along is highly encouraged, and practically required – especially if you’re there with me.
Atlantic Dance Hall is another entertainment venue option when you’re enjoying an evening on the Boardwalk. This is a lively night club that plays songs and music videos from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s. The Dance Hall serves guests 21 and up, but does not require a cover.
In between dinner and music (of the singalong or dancing variety), take a stroll along the Atlantic City inspired Boardwalk. Every night you’ll find a variety of buskers, performing tricks from juggling and magic to stilt walking and comedy. They always draw a small crowd, so you probably won’t miss them when they’re out and about! You can also try your hand at a few classic midway games, that are (perhaps surprisingly) not too overpriced! If an arcade is more your speed, you’ll find one next to the ESPN Club.
Walk the loop around Crescent Lake from the Boardwalk to the Beach & Yacht Club Resorts and all the way back around. If you’re feeling really ambitious or intrigued, take additional paths to the Swan and Dolphin, or the Boardwalk Villas section of the Boardwalk Resort. If you still have more time and energy, make your way from Epcot’s International Gateway to Disney’s Hollywood Studios – just because you can. One bonus about the walk around the Epcot Resort Area is the possibility of getting a sundae from Beaches & Cream. Unfortunately the restaurant requires advanced reservations for all seating now, including the bar, but you can get much of the ice cream menu to go from the takeout door!
While you’re over at the Beach Club, talk a walk on the beach, sit and dig your toes in the sand, or catch a sunset from one of the benches. This is easily one of the most serene places you’ll ever find just a few minutes outside of a Disney theme park
Prefer riding to walking? Rent a Surrey bike (or regular bicycles). I’d like to say these are super romantic – and I’m sure they can be. However, occasionally you’ll also have families come barreling down the boardwalk in one that sort of ruins the atmosphere. They’re still super fun, just maybe not quite as romantic an evening option. My suggestion if you’d like to rent a surrey would be to do it as late in the night as the rental shop and your schedule will allow.
Alternatively, you could take a ride on the Friendship boats, which travel from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, The Boardwalk Inn, and Epcot’s International Gateway. Sometimes a serene boat ride can be as much entertainment as it is transportation.
Along the Boardwalk you will also find some nicely-themed shops that add to the ambiance, but you won’t find many one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities. The most unique shop of note is the Wyland Galleries, featuring art from renowned artist Wyland and others. That is, of course, unless you want to go to the Disney Vacation Club model presentation and take home THAT kind of souvenir.
As the night winds down, enjoy the fireworks from Epcot’s Illuminations. You’ll miss the bulk of the nighttime spectacular since it takes place on the World Showcase Lagoon inside the park, but a couple of times about 8 minutes apart, you’ll be treated to blasts and music high enough to view from the Boardwalk area. If you want a better view and a super romantic gesture, consider booking an Illuminations Cruise or a Celebration Cruise.
What if we don’t ever really do traditional “dates”?
Maybe you’ve already tried the Surrey Bike and eaten some delicious ice cream, but the bustling nightlife of the Boardwalk isn’t really your scene. Just inside the Boardwalk Inn you’ll find some hidden gems, locations where you can sit in peace and quiet and enjoy the company of your date with a calmer vibe. Check out the Hippocampus Electrolier, the antique, miniature Illions Carousel, the Flip Flap Railway, and Lucy the Elephant. Throughout the exquisite lobby you’ll find unique decorations, most of which have placards explaining the rich history and culture represented. Just off the lobby, The Belle Vue Lounge offers board games, radio, and an otherwise lovely adult atmosphere in which to unwind.
If instead you’re looking for more active opportunities, checkout Bayside Marina near the Yacht Club resort. There you can rent water mice, pontoon boats, fishing boats, and Sea Raycers, or take a guided excursion.
The Boardwalk Area is open to the public, not just guests of the resorts or visitors with dining reservations. It’s easiest to get there by car, where parking is free for Disney guests and can be validated for locals who are dining or shopping there. If you don’t have a car, you can take Resort busses to The Boardwalk Inn (or the Beach Club, Yacht Club, etc) from theme parks and Disney Springs or, as mentioned, you can take a short walk to the area if you’re starting near Epcot or Hollywood Studios.
Finally, don’t forget – if you’re traveling with kids, there are still ways to take advantage of a kid-free date night. Kids Nite Out babysitting services come highly recommended by brands we trust as well as individuals who have used them. Disney Kids Clubs are offered for a fee at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Simba’s Clubhouse), The WDW Swan & Dolphin (Camp Dolphin), Disney’s Polynesian Resort (Lilo’s Playhouse), the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts (Sandcastle Club), and the Wilderness Ldoge and Villas (Cub’s Den). You can find all kinds of detailed information on childcare options at Walt Disney World here.
Share this with your friends (or, you know, the one you’d like to join you on such a date!)… then join the discussion below!
Have you traveled to Walt Disney World sans kids? What’s your favorite date night option when you’re there with your significant other and no little ones?!
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Blue | Grown Ups Guide to Disney Loop:
- 1st Stop – Magical Memories with the Mouse | No Kids! Enjoying the Adults Only Areas of Disney Cruise Line
- 2nd Stop – The Delightful Life | Date Night on Disney’s Boardwalk
- 3rd Stop – Rolling with the Magic | Top 5 Bars & Lounges at WDW
- 4th Stop – Bibbidi Bobbidi Booze | Meeting Disney Characters As A ‘Grown Up’