As a seasoned Disney-a-holic, I thought I'd share some tips you might find handy about our hotel specifically and about the World as a whole. If you can sneak some time away to sitesee, great, if not, there's still some interesting stuff right in our hotel.
Ok, to start... The Dolphin and Swan Resorts. This is where the conference is taking place. From what I've heard, you may be staying in either resort, but all the conference activities will be in the Dolphin. There's a short covered walkway connecting the two.
Facts to know - check in is at 3PM and checkout is at 11AM. The rate you pay includes a $10 'resort charge' that will provide access to the fitness center, unlimited high-speed internet in the rooms, up to 60 minutes free local, toll free and credit card access calls, 2 bottles of water daily, and 20 minutes of domestic long distance per day. I'm not sure if the internet is wireless or what the availability is in common areas.
There's a fabulous 3 acre pool complex with white sand beaches, waterslides and swan boats. There's also the Mandara spa if you need a little pampering.
In the two hotels are several restaurants. Some require reservations and you'd do well to get them in advance. Unlike a lot of conference hotels, its hard to crash a Disney restaurant with a large party.
At the Swan:
- Il Mulino New York Trattoria (Italian, reservations required)
- Kimono's (Sushi Bar & Karaoke, reservations required)
- Garden Grove (Casual Buffet, with Characters at breakfast)
- Splash Grill and Deli (Hamburgers, etc.)
At the Dolphin:
- Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant (seafood, reservations required)
- Shula's Steak House (steak, reservations required)
- Picabu (cafeteria/convenience store)
- The Fountain (50's diner)
- Fresh Mediterranean Market (breakfast and lunch pick up)
Nearby are also the Yacht/Beach Club and Boardwalk resorts. The Boardwalk features an Atlantic City style area with more restaurants and shopping. You can also catch one of the buses to Downtown Disney. A shopping and dining Mecca, you can buy nearly anything you could possibly want, Disney related, without having to step foot in a park.
In addition to resorts, the Swan and Dolphin are situated between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Both are within walking distance and you can also ride the boat launch across the lagoon. The closest entrance for Epcot takes you in the secret backdoor of the park, landing you smack in between the UK and France - perfect to pick up a pastry and a pint. Once you get inside Epcot, the dining options are limitless - Italian, German, Moroccan, Japanese, Mexican, Chinese... of course, this will require you to have park tickets, so let's talk about that, too.
Online tickets were available at a discount for a limited time online. Since conference is so close, these are no longer available. You can, however, call 407-566-5600 and order them over the phone. They will be available for will call at any park or ticketing area. You'll need the code off your hotel room confirmation to order, but you'll receive a 10% discount and also be able to purchase "After 2" or "After 4" tickets you can't get anywhere else. Spur of the moment, you can simply buy tickets at any park entrance, and I believe at the Dolphin resort as well. Here's the prices, hold your breath:
Magic Your Way Tickets (1 park per day)
- 1 day pass - $79
- 2 day pass - $156
- 3 day pass - $219
Park Hopper Tickets (allows you to go in and out of as many parks as you choose, per day)
- 1 day pass - $131
- 2 day pass - $208
- 3 day pass - $271
As a guest in one of the Disney resorts, you'll also be eligible for Extra Magic Hours. These vary by day, but typically one park will open 1 hour early or close 3 hours late each day exclusively for resort guests. Plan your days accordingly. I'm pretty sure midnight at Magic Kingdom will be a lot more comfortable than noon.
Magic Kingdom - the classic. If you want to relive your childhood, this is the place. See Cinderella's Castle, ride the teacups and the recently revamped Space Mountain, eat ice cream shaped like Mickey's head and get a hug from a real life Prince Charming. Other points of interest include Pirates of the Carribbean including an animatronic Johnny Depp and the Main Street Electrical Parade on loan from Disneyland for just this summer.
Epcot - the foodie paradise. I've never really been able to figure out Epcot. The front is this space age place with technological learning experiences and heart pounding rides like Test Track and Soarin'. Then, in the back is a whirlwhind world tour. Do they go together? Not really. Do I care? Nope. Epcot is all about the food for me. I can grab a pint of cider in the UK, a pan chocolat in France, stroll through watching street performers, buy authentic goodies from all over the planet, then kick back and watch awesome fireworks with a margarita and a soft, German pretzel. Love it.
Hollywood Studios - the thriller. Hollywood Studios, formerly MGM Studios, has stuff for both little and big kids. There's shows like Indiana Jones and rides like the very cool Toy Storia Mania, which are good for anyone. Then it also has the only inversion coaster - the Rock n Roller Coaster with Aerosmith Music. It has the Tower of Terror, with a 13 floor drop at the end. Fantasmic is a great show, although it isn't offered every night, so check the schedule so you aren't disappointed.
Animal Kingdom - the change of pace. Animal Kingdom is the biggest park of the four, so be prepared to walk. At the same time, a lot of it is shaded and surrounded by plants, so its a touch more comfortable than some of the other parks. It also has a slower pace. I don't know why, but I never feel the need to rush through AK. There's a myriad of animals and exciting rides like Expedition Everest - a coaster that actually goes backwards at one point, and Dinosaur, which I can't remember because I had a panicking six year old in my lap the whole time, but seemed cool. The Safari Ride is not to be missed as is The Festival of the Lion King, hands down one of the best shows in any of the parks.
If you're wanting to eat at any of the parks, do some research in advance. As I mentioned, there's plenty of places to grab a burger but if you want to eat in a sit down restaurant, you'll need advance dining reservations, which can be done online.
Although not technically a Disney hotel, the Swan and Dolphin are included in the Park Transportation System. As I mentioned, HWS and Epcot are within walking distance, but if you want to get to Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom or one of the other resorts, you'll need to get on the bus. Each bus is well marked with one of the parks. To get to another resort, you'll have to take the bus to the Transportation Center/Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom bus doesn't actually to go the park itself. It goes to the Transportation Center where you catch the Monorail to the park entrance. This is the main hub and from here, you can grab a bus to any of the parks or resorts.
If you want to get off property or visit another park like Universal Studios, you'll have to grab a cab.
Got any Disney questions I didn't cover? Ask! Instigator or I will probably be able to answer any questions you've got.