By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.





Category — q. Reviews

Review: The Pool Complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

THE POOL COMPLEX AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Bonnet Creek Resort is an enclave with four—soon to be five—hotels surrounded by Disney World but not on Disney property. Earlier in 2019, guests staying at two of these hotels—the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando—gained access to the two most prized Disney World perks, access to FastPass+ booking 60 days before arrival, and eligibility to use Extra Magic Hours.

I began my coverage of these with a photo tour of a standard room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.  This page continues my review of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, focusing on its astonishing pool.


The pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek lies between the main accommodations tower and the Waldorf Astoria golf course.

The distinguishing feature of the complex is a lazy river that sometimes is separate and sometimes flows into and then out of two larger pools, one best for adults and the other for kids.

Much of the lazy river has the traditional form of such waterways…

…but in other areas it widens out into more of a mini-pool.

It flows into a larger pool area which is best for adults as it has the bar, and no zero-entry area.

It is however plenty attractive to kids, as in this the area you will find the pool slide. The slide is a bit bare bones, but a rare amenity among non-Disney EMH/FP+ at 60 eligible hotels.

Next in this area is the bar…

…where you can find lunch and drinks. On the menu are appetizers, wraps, burgers, deserts, and such.

The lazy river then exits this area…

…with cabanas behind it.

It then makes its way into the second larger pool area, this one with a zero entry. You can see on the left part of one of the two hot tubs here, one on either side of the zero entry pool.

Here’s the full view of that hot tub…

…and the other hot tub here.

One side of the zero-entry pool…

…and the other side.

While there are pool chairs everywhere around the pool complex, the most concentrated masses of chairs are near the zero-entry pool. Introverts can find less populated corners.

You’ll also find pool games…

…water toys for rent…

…and a baby pool.

All in, the pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is nearly as fine a pool complex as you will find among the non-Disney hotels that are eligible for EMH and FastPass+ at 60 days.  Only that at the Four Seasons is clearly better, while those at the Swan, the Dolphin and three of the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels–the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista, and Wyndham Lake Buena Vista–are comparable.

(Reviews of all of these Disney World hotels begin here.)

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, can book your Disney World vacation at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek –or at any other Disney World hotel!  Contact here using the form below.

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May 13, 2019   No Comments

Photo Tour of A Standard Room at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

PHOTO TOUR OF A TWO QUEEN STANDARD ROOM AT THE HILTON ORLANDO BONNET CREEK

The Bonnet Creek Resort is an enclave with four—soon to be five—hotels surrounded by Disney World but not on Disney property.

Located adjacent to Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Pop Century Resorts in the area circled in the image, you’ll find in the Bonnet Creek Resort a Wyndham, Wyndham Grand, Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, and soon, a JW Marriott.

Earlier in 2019, guests staying at two of these hotels—the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria Orlando—gained access to the two most prized Disney World perks, access to FastPass+ booking 60 days before arrival, and eligibility to use Extra Magic Hours.

Because of this, I’m starting to cover these two hotels, with a review of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek based on my March stay kicking off now, and with a review of the Waldorf Astoria to come after my May stay there.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek has several room types in its mid-rise tower, including rooms with two queens, room with one king, and multiple suite types. Bookable categories include “Disney View,” “Disney Fireworks View,” and “High Floor” rooms.

The Disney view rooms look towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot; rooms without specified views look out over a nature preserve; I’m not sure what “High Floor”  precisely means, but recreational marijuana is not yet legal in Florida.

This photo tour is of an upper floor, perhaps high, two queen room with a Disney view.

At the entry, the bath and closet are on one side.

The bath is  spacious, but has no extra help for family travels–it has room for double sinks but offers just a single sink, and is not divided.

Bath toiletries.

The tub/shower combo.

Back out in the entry hall, the small but likely adequate closet is right next to the door to the bath.

Deeper in the room on one side you’ll find two queen beds and an easy chair.

The bed side from the back.

A closer view of one of the beds.

Between the beds you’ll find this bedside table, with what appears to be two drawers.

The lower item is in fact a drawer, with plenty of room for your important books.

Above it, what looks like a drawer front flips away to reveal this safe.

My book is 6″ by 9″–showing how large this safe is.

The last item of note on this side is this easy chair, with a small table on one side and lamp on the other.

The other side of the room has a mini-fridge, dresser, and desk.

The TV side from the back of the room.

The mini-fridge is below the coffee service.

Inside the mini-fridge.

The dresser has a 54″ TV above and three drawers below.

The drawers are good sized.

The desk includes a rolling table which I’ve pulled out a bit that adds flexibility for actions ranging from typing to playing games with the kids–although seats are limited.

I can’t comment on how well the fireworks show up, as I was not in my room during any of them–that will be for another stay.

But here’s the view from my room, with the astonishing pool (a full review of the pool complex at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek is here) below, the golf course beyond, and in the distance you’ll note the Tower of Terror and the Dolphin.  Lenses make these seem further away than in fact they are.

At about 370 square feet (some sources claim these rooms have 414 square feet, mine was not even close to that) these spacious Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek rooms are comparable in size to the middle range of Disney deluxe resorts.

But with no balconies, no real concessions to larger families in the bath layout, and limited (but not bad) seating, they don’t have a lot to recommend them.  Couples, or families of three, should do just fine in these rooms.

And frankly, the color scheme and decor (how did you like that easy chair?) are at best uninteresting. Another Hilton property at Disney World that also has access to the two key perks, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, has better accommodations, with balconies and divided baths.

The amenities you will find in the rest of the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek (other than the buses) are delightful, and competitive with any other non-Disney hotel with these two key perks except the Four Seasons, and for some families will overcome the limits of the rooms. I have a post up about the pools at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek here, and will write more about the other amenities soon.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can book your Disney World vacation at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek –or at any other Disney World hotel!  Contact here using the form below.

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April 28, 2019   No Comments

The Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels For First Time Visitors to Disney World

THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS FOR FIRST TIME FAMILY VISITORS

Since this site began—more than a decade ago—I have always presented first time visitors to Walt Disney World clear choices based on specific criteria, recommending the best, and ranking the rest.

My intent is to simplify planning, and to cut through the clutter, the wishy-washy-ness, and the interminable lists of pros and cons that all too often get provided.

Until recently, the seven hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area–owned by third parties, but on Disney World property– had been on my “why bother” list so far as detailed coverage and reviews go, as they did not offer enough distinct benefits on the positive side to make up for their missing perks and sometimes so-so amenities, even though they often have very competitive prices.

However, the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels now have access—at least through December 31, 2019—to the two most valuable perks available at an Orlando hotel, FastPass+ booking at 60 days and Extra Magic Hours, so they are not nearly as dismissible as before.

Once this access was announced, I stayed in each of these again (I’d stayed in many before), and because at several hotels I needed to stay in room variants, and one room type got refurbed after my initial stay, over the last nine months I’ve stayed in twelve different rooms at the seven Disney Springs Resort Area hotels.

The rankings of them that come out of these stays are below (detailed reviews of each with floor plans, photos and extensive descriptions begin at the links in the rankings), and after the rankings you’ll find other comparative material, so that you can learn a little more about these hotels

For ranking purposes I’ve divided the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels into higher and lower priced offerings. The Wyndham shows up twice, as it has two room types with two very different price points.

RANKING OF HIGHER-PRICED DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

  1. The Hilton Buena Vista Palace
  2. The Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista
  3. The Wyndham Lake Buena Vista (tower rooms)
  4. The B Resort & Spa

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace pretty easily leads this list, with the best rooms and best pool complex. It is also tied with the Hilton and Wyndham for being closest to Disney Springs, and is—by a bit—the closest drive to the parks (if you travel via Disney Vacation Club Way). It is in the top three for dining as well.

RANKING OF LOWER-PRICED DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

  1. The Wyndham Garden Lake Buena Vista (if you can fit into its full beds)
  2. Holiday Inn Orlando
  3. Doubletree Suites by Hilton Orlando
  4. Best Western Lake Buena Vista (probably best avoided by most during construction)

The Wyndham has two types of rooms at starkly different price points, so the Wyndham as a complex shows up on both lists. Garden rooms at the Wyndham offer four star amenities (they share in all Wyndham amenities) at a three star price, so, as long as you can fit into their full beds, they are an easy choice for the first rank. If you need queen beds, the Holiday Inn is the best lower-priced choice that offers queen beds—you will lose the divided bath and the Wyndham’s much better pool, but gain—besides the queens—a balcony.

Note that both higher and lower priced hotels commonly show up with deals. I’ve seen in particular nice deals go by for the B Resort & Spa, and for the Holiday Inn.  Deals can affect the relative ranking of these hotels.

Probably a more important question is whether you should book any of these rooms at all. I have always advocated that first-time visitors stay in Disney owned rooms, mostly because of the perks they offer, but also for their look and feel—in my book, we call this “the Disney Bubble.”

The extension in 2018 of FastPass+ booking rights at 60 days and Extra Magic Hour access to these hotels makes these hotels much more viable options, but they still suffer from comparatively weak transportation, multiple extra fees (especially resort fees, except at the Doubletree Suites which honorably does not charge them), so-so locations, less interesting architecture with no visual theming, and are palpably “outside the Disney bubble.”

That said, I can think of four great reasons for staying in them—and you, dear reader, may have more; if so, pop them into the comment form at the bottom of this page!

  • You are paying for your stay with points—especially Hilton Honors points. The Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Hilton are great choices, especially when free!
  • Your preferred Disney-owned moderate or value resort is sold out, and you don’t like—or can’t find—Disney-owned alternatives
  • You need more space than a value resort offers, and so are willing to investigate lower-priced Disney Springs hotels to get a similarly priced room with more space
  • You want something a bit more like a Disney deluxe, but don’t see the value of paying two to three times more to get one.

This last is the toughest case, as the distinguishing features of the Disney deluxes, like balconies, easier access to at least one theme park, fun transportation options, great adult dining, and great kid dining (yes, I know about the exceptions) simply are not generally present among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels.

(Reviews that say “X Disney Springs Resort Area hotel is comparable to a Disney deluxe” were written either by someone with slender experience, or by someone who was comped. I’ve stayed in more than 160 different Disney World-owned rooms, suites, cabins, studios, villas, and campsites, and have paid for every experience I report about out of my own pocket. As a result, I can tell you with conviction that the top three higher priced Disney Springs Resort Area hotels have amenities largely between those of a Disney moderate and a Disney deluxe–the B Resort is a little lower on the scale, because of its so-so pool.)

But on the other hand, is the Grand Floridian really worth two and half times more per night than the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, the Hilton, or tower rooms at the Wyndham?

My advice on this value question would be to stay at a Disney-owned resort trip on your first stay, and then look carefully at my detailed reviews of the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels before choosing it for a later trip based on value for money compared to a Disney deluxe.

KID APPEAL AMONG THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

Kid appeal, as defined on this site, is principally visual, and about how the execution of a resort’s architecture and decoration—especially its theming—captures the imagination of younger visitors.

By this standard, no Disney Springs Resort Area hotel has much kid appeal. Using less strong standards, the best are the Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Wyndham.

Most of the exterior architecture here ranges from forgettable to brutish, with the best being the Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Best Western, and the worst the Hilton and the Doubletree Suites.

Interior–B Resort & Spa

There’s no distinctively kid-appealing interiors, either, other than perhaps the B Resort & Spa, which has playful and colorful decorating choices.

Where there’s not much kid appeal to otherwise distinguish hotels, pools and character meals can help a bit. The most kid-friendly pools among Disney Springs Resort Area hotels are those at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Wyndham, with the Hilton a close third.

You’ll find character meals at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Hilton, and Wyndham.

So these three are the hotels with the strongest kid appeal.

CONVENIENCE AMONG THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

Convenience on this site means relative transportation ease in carrying out its itineraries.

For those using the Disney Springs Resort Area bus system, there’s not much to distinguish the hotels, but those on the northern route—the Best Western, Wyndham, and Hilton Buena Vista Palace—have a minor advantage from having just three hotel bus stops, rather than the four you’ll find on the southern route.

For those driving to the parks, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is closer to the theme parks than the rest, and the Wyndham and Hilton are nearly as close. The Best Western and Doubletree Suites are the furthest.

So on convenience, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Wyndham and Hilton are best.

ROOM QUALITY AMONG THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

All the standard rooms among the Disney Springs Resort Area are sound, and larger than all Disney-owned standard value and moderate resort rooms. All except Garden building rooms at the Wyndham offer queen beds. For families, the best rooms will have divided baths, balconies, and seating beyond a simple desk chair.

Floor Plan–Buena Vista Palace Tower Room

Among all the major standard room options among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, only the Hilton Buena Vista Palace offers all three. In fact, standard rooms at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace are the only rooms that offer both balconies and divided baths (the hundred or so Lanai building rooms at the B Resort & Spa do as well, but tower rooms there offer neither).

Standard rooms with divided baths are available at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, the Hilton, in Garden building rooms at the Wyndham (but not Wyndham tower rooms) and Lanai building rooms at the B Resort & Spa (but not tower rooms). Particularly awkward on this front are undivided baths in larger five and six person rooms filled to their capacity at the Doubletree Suites, Best Western, and B Resort & Spa.

Standard rooms with balconies are available at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, Holiday Inn, and Best Western. Standard tower rooms at the B Resort & Spa appear when you enter them to have small balconies, but in fact these are locked off and inaccessible. The smaller number of Lanai rooms at the B have balconies or patios, but half are ten feet from the parking lot.

Standard rooms with seating other than a desk chair are available at these hotels all but the Holiday Inn—although at the Holiday Inn, you can bring in the balcony chairs. Wyndham tower and many B Resort & Spa rooms offer not chairs, but ottomans.

Hilton Buena Vista Palace offers the best standard rooms.

DINING AT THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

I rank Disney Springs Resort Area hotels higher on dining for families based on extended hours in their grab and go offerings, substantial food menus in their pool bars, sound table service offerings, and—to a lesser extent—character meals.

Based on this, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace and the Wyndham stand out, and the Hilton is a near third. None of the other Disney Springs Resort Area hotels is even close.

Based purely on the quality and range of options for dinner for adults, the top three would be the Hilton, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, and the B Resort & Spa. That said, the best approach for table service dinner for adults at a Disney Springs Resort Area hotel is to head to one of the great options in Disney Springs itself, not to eat at the hotel.

THE POOLS AT THE DISNEY SPRINGS RESORT AREA HOTELS

The best family pool offerings are at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace (with its lazy river pool and kid’s pool with a splash area and zero entry) and at the Wyndham with its distinctive kids play area.

Kids Play Area--The Wyndham

Kids Play Area–The Wyndham

The Hilton has the next best pool complex, and the worst pool is at the Best Western.

Note that Kelly, the long time travel agent partner of this site, can book you a room in any Disney World hotel.  Contact her using the form below!

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February 5, 2019   No Comments

Review: The B Resort & Spa in the Disney Springs Resort Area

THE B RESORT & SPA

Guests at the B Resort & Spa, like those at the other six hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area, became eligible for FastPass+ at 60 days and Extra Magic Hours—the two most valued Disney World perks—in 2018, eligibility that will extend at least until 12/31/2019.

The extension of these perks to these hotels, owned by third parties but located on the far southeast corner of Disney property, made them much more interesting options for Disney World visitors.

The B Resort & Spa offer multiple room types in two different accommodations buildings, a mid-rise tower where the majority of rooms are found, and a two story option known as the “Lanai” building.

The best features of the B Resort & Spa are its fun and colorful decorating and design choices, especially in the lobby area, and the quality of its staff.

Uniquely among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, it offers a spa. Amenities otherwise are more than adequate, but not distinctive.

Weaknesses include the absence of balconies and of divided baths in tower rooms, and poor storage in all rooms. For a Disney Springs Resort Area hotel, the B Resort & Spa offers relatively high prices, and doesn’t quite have the comparative amenity level–especially in its pool complex–to justify them. It shares with all the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels weak park transportation.

I’ve stayed at the B Resort & Spa three times, most recently in September, and my full review has five pages:

ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE B RESORT & SPA

The B Resort & Spa in the Disney Springs Resort Area has several room types in two buildings–the main tower and the Lanai building. Rooms with a king bed, a king and a set of bunk beds, two queens, and two queens with a fold-out couch are available–as well as suites.

The floor plan is of a typical B Resort & Spa tower room, with two queens and a small couch that folds out into a single bed. There’s small set of drawers in the wardrobe across from the couch–my Lanai room had no drawers at all. Each room has several other storage options–particularly cubby-style storage.

The bed side of B Resort & Spa tower room.

The bath is not divided, has no tub, and includes a glass enclosure to its large shower.  This makes it the opposite of family friendly.

A photo tour of a two queen tower room at the B Resort & Spa is here.

The one hundred or so Lanai building rooms are more usable, offering both divided baths…

…and, in about a quarter of them, pool-side patios. Another quarter have balconies overlooking the pool. The other half of Lanai rooms offer balconies or patios just ten feet from parking–I saw no one using these on my stays, so either my timing was off, the view kept people inside, or the spaces are locked off, as they are in tower rooms.

A photo tour of a two queen Lanai building room at the B Resort & Spa is here.

DINING AT THE B RESORT & SPA

The principal dining venue at the B Resort & Spa is the American Kitchen Bar & Grill.

The American Kitchen serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s a fine option.

It includes a bar, and there’s another bar–not always open on my visits–at the pool. Snacks, drinks, and grab and go items are available in a shop between the lobby and the pool.

The B Resort & Spa also has a Disney gift shop offering souvenirs, park tickets, and such.

There’s more on dining and the other amenities at the B Resort & Spa here.

THE POOL AT THE B RESORT & SPA

The B Resort & Spa’s pool is average among the Disney Springs Resort Area pools–better than those at the Best Western and Doubletree Suites, but not with as many amenities or as much kid appeal as those at the Hilton, Wyndham, or Hilton Buena Vista Palace.

It includes a traditional pool with a zero-entry section and water jets that kids can play in, and a small hot tub.

For more on the pool at the B Resort & Spa, see this.

THEME PARK TRANSPORTATION AT THE B RESORT & SPA

The B Resort & Spa, according to its marketing materials, “allows you to revel in the excitement of the theme parks, found just outside our doors.” In fact, the nearest theme park as the crow flies is two and a half miles away, with no walking paths, so you will need transportation.

The B Resort & Spa participates in a transportation program sponsored by all the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. One group of buses serves the Hilton, Holiday Inn, B Resort & Spa, and Doubletree Suites, Palace, and another the other three hotels here.

Buses run about every thirty minutes, each serving two parks–so, for example, to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may have travel to the Magic Kingdom first.  Moreover, unlike the buses from Disney-owned resorts, Magic Kingdom buses drop off at the Transportation and Ticket Center, not the park itself, necessitating another transit, via monorail or ferry, to get to that park.

In addition to the theme park buses, buses to and from Disney Springs run through the evening.

On the important dimensions–frequency, and the time it takes to get to and return from the parks–the transportation system at the Disney Springs Resort Area is much worse than that at the Disney-owned resorts, but better than that at most off-site hotels.

Having your own car or a rental is a much better option. Self-parking at the B Resort & Spa is $22/night and valet parking is $28/night. Parking at the theme parks is $25/day.

For more on transportation at the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, see this.

PRICING AT THE B RESORT & SPA

Pricing at the Disney Springs Resort Hotels is much less visible than that at the Disney-owned resorts, and multiple prices for the same room e.g. for non-refundable stays, stays by folk with AAA, etc. are common.  Discounts and deals are also common, and these hotels commonly show up on the various hotel deal sites.

Pricing for most of them is also obscured by mandatory “resort fees.”  Resort fees are a mandatory extra cost added every night of your stay, whether you like or not. I personally find mandatory resort fees a misleading and unethical practice.  A fee that is mandatory, and charged each night, should simply be rolled into the nightly room price.

The B Resort & Spa resort fee is (after tax) $33.75 per night–among the three highest Disney Springs Resort Area fees.

Prices at the B Resort & Spa (before any discounts you might find, but including resort fees and taxes) are generally among the highest of the seven Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, and are typically comparable to those for a Disney-owned moderate resort.

For those looking for a colorful and playful decor and generally sound amenities, other than perhaps the pool, the B Resort & Spa can be a reasonable option for couples, offering amenities somewhere between those of a Disney moderate and a Disney deluxe at a price commonly closer to that of a Disney moderate. For families, it is not quite as attractive for the price as several other Disney Springs Resort Area hotels.

The long-time travel agent partner of this site, Kelly, can book you into the B Resort & Spa or any other Disney World accommodations. Contact her using the form below!

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PHOTO TOUR OF A TOWER ROOM AT THE B RESORT & SPA

This review continues here.

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February 3, 2019   No Comments

Review: The Hilton Buena Vista Palace in the Disney Springs Resort Area

THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

Guests at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, like those at the other six hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area, became eligible for FastPass+ at 60 days and Extra Magic Hours—the two most valued Disney World perks—in 2018, eligibility that will extend at least until 12/31/2019.

The extension of these perks to these hotels, owned by third parties but located on the far southeast corner of Disney property, made them much more interesting options for Disney World visitors.

(Note that there’s three Hilton-flagged properties among the seven Disney Springs Resort Area hotels– the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, and also the Hilton Orlando, and the Doubletree Suites by Hilton.)

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace offer rooms with a king bed, or with two queen beds, in two different accommodations buildings, a mid-ride set of towers and a low rise known as the “Island” building.

The best features of the Hilton Buena Vista Palace are its family-friendly baths, balconies, nearness to Disney Springs, and the broad range of strong amenities it offers. More specifically, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is alone among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels in offering both balconies and divided baths in its standard rooms, has the best pool complex among these hotels, and has dining about as good as any of them.

Weaknesses include noise levels in Island building rooms, and, for Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, relatively high prices. It shares with all the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels weak park transportation.

I’ve stayed at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace twice, most recently in November, and my full review has five pages:

ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace offers several room types in two principal groups of buildings–one the main tower, with multiple levels, and another a lower and somewhat distant accommodations building called the Island.

Rooms with a king bed and rooms with two queens are available, most with balconies.  When booking, you can select your building (tower or Island), beds, and also choose your view. The Hilton Buena Vista Palace is a significant convention hotel, and as in all such hotels, multiple suite options are also available, especially in the Island building.

Tower rooms offer one king or two queen beds, a divided bath, a balcony, and an easy chair. This combination makes them more livable and better appointed than any other Disney Springs Resort Area hotel.

The bed side of Hilton Buena Vista Palace two queen tower room.

The divided bath includes a sink and closet area off the main entry hall, and then beyond them a full bath with another sink. This makes the room much more family-friendly than many other Disney Springs Resort Area options.  Among standard rooms in the rest, you’ll find divided baths only in the Hilton Orlando and in Wyndham Garden rooms.

Above is the balcony, the image taken on not the loveliest day.  Among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, you’ll find balconies in standard rooms elsewhere only at the Holiday Inn and Best Western.

A photo tour of a two queen tower room at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is here.

Island building rooms with two queens offer the same room amenities in a slightly different room layout. They are more distant from most of the Hilton Buena Vista Palace’s guest amenities other than the pool and walkway to Disney Springs, and are also a bit noisy.

A photo tour of a two queen Island building room at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is here.

DINING AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

The principal dining venue at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is the Letterpress, on the lowest hotel level.

Letterpress serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also hosts character meals Sunday mornings. I’ve found it to be the most consistently good restaurant among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, but some will prefer the broader selection of options at the Hilton Orlando.

There’s bars both indoors and by the pool, with the pool serving an extensive dining menu as well, and snacks, drinks, and grab and go items are available in a shop near Letterpress that is open 24 hours some days and until 2a on other days.

There’s also a Disney gift shop offering souvenirs, park tickets, and such on this same level.

There’s more on dining and the other amenities at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace here.

THE POOLS AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace pool complex is the best among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels.

It includes a traditional pool, a lazy river pool, and a in a lobe off of the lazy river pool, a kids wading pool with water play features.  You’ll also find a hot tub, an extensive play area, and as noted above, a pool bar and grill.

For more on the pools at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, see this.

THEME PARK TRANSPORTATION AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace participates in a transportation program sponsored by all the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels. One group of buses serves the Best Western, the Wyndham, and the Hilton Buena Vista Palace, and another the other four hotels here.

Buses run about every thirty minutes, each serving two parks–so, for example, to get to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you may have travel to the Magic Kingdom first.  Moreover, unlike the buses from Disney-owned resorts, Magic Kingdom buses drop off at the Transportation and Ticket Center, not the park itself, necessitating another transit, via monorail or ferry, to get to that park.

In addition to the theme park buses, buses to and from Disney Springs run through the evening.

On the important dimensions–frequency, and the time it takes to get to and return from the parks–the transportation system at the Disney Springs Resort Area is much worse than that at the Disney-owned resorts, but better than that at most off-site hotels.

Having your own car or a rental is a much better option. Self-parking at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is $20/night and valet parking is $28/night. Parking at the theme parks is $25/day.

For more on transportation at the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, see this.

PRICING AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

Pricing at the Disney Springs Resort Hotels is much less visible than that at the Disney-owned resorts, and multiple prices for the same room e.g. for non-refundable stays, stays by folk with AAA, etc. are common.  Discounts and deals are also common, and these hotels commonly show up on the various hotel deal sites.

Pricing for most of them is also obscured by mandatory “resort fees.”  Resort fees are a mandatory extra cost added every night of your stay, whether you like or not. I personally find mandatory resort fees a misleading and unethical practice.  A fee that is mandatory, and charged each night, should simply be rolled into the nightly room price.

The Hilton Buena Vista Palace resort fee is (after tax) $39.38 per night–tied with the Hilton Orlando as the highest among the Disney Springs Resort Area fees.

Prices at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace (before any discounts you might find, but including resort fees and taxes) are generally among the highest of the seven Disney Springs Resort Area hotels, and are typically comparable to those for a Disney-owned moderate resort.

For families looking for queen beds, a divided bath, a balcony, good dining, a great pool complex, and other strong amenities, the Hilton Buena Vista Palace can be a reasonable option, offering amenities somewhere between those of a Disney moderate and a Disney deluxe at a price commonly closer to that of a Disney moderate. Overall, it is the best choice among the Disney Springs Resort Area hotels.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can book your Disney World vacation at the Hilton Buena Vista Palace–or at any other Disney World hotel!  Contact here using the form below.

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PHOTO TOUR OF A TOWER ROOM AT THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

This review continues here.

MORE ON THE HILTON BUENA VISTA PALACE

OTHER KEY PAGES FOR WHERE TO STAY AT DISNEY WORLD

 

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January 30, 2019   No Comments

Review: The 2019 Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts arrived in 2017 and has expanded the days of the week it is available in the two years it has returned since then, with the 2019 Festival of the Arts now featuring a full seven day program–including the Broadway singers.

The Festival combines

  • Great, albeit pricey, dining
  • Dozens of kiosks with art to view and buy
  • Interactive opportunities to paint, be photographed into great art, and play with silly living statues
  • Seminars and other sessions
  • Music–some casual, some distinctive presentations from the Disney on Broadway team

Disney calls it a mix of “visual, culinary and performing arts inspired by cultures from all around the world…a global masterpiece.”

That’s a stretch, but with better food than past Food and Wine festivals, and better visual appeal than past Flower and Garden festivals, it is, by far, my favorite among all the Epcot festivals, and I highly recommend it for returning visitors.

First-timers will enjoy it as well, but will find that it adds crowds to Epcot’s World Showcase, especially on weekends and evenings.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS DINING

Dining opportunities are particularly concentrated at the entrance to the World Showcase, but are also found in the Odyssey Festival Showplace (between Test Track and Mexico—the Showplace is the centerpiece of the Festival) and scattered through the rest of World Showcase. In 2019 you’ll even find them in Future World–for example, “Taste Track” near Test Track.

The Festival of the Arts offers the best dining of any Epcot Festival. Waits can be longer than at other festivals as much food is prepared while you wait, and prices are also high. The value for money is also commonly high (by Disney World standards…), and with many $7+ items available for a snack credit, the festival provides the single best argument in years for you to buy the Disney Dining Plan.

In prior years among other delights I had a chance to try the Charcuterie Palette from the Masterpiece Kitchen…

…and the deconstructed Reuben from Deconstructed Dish.

This year I focused more on food, and joined some of my imaginary internet friends on a walk around half of World Showcase, where collectively we bought, photographed, and tasted everything that was new this year (they continued, but I was too sunburned to go on…).

Offerings we sampled included the Creme de Brie and Dariole de Saumon from L’art de la Cuisine in France…

…Lobster chips and a Glazed Pork Belly Bloody Mary from the Refreshment Port on the Showcase entrance Canada side…

…(a less arty shot of the lobster chips)…

…a Lemon Blood Orange Tart and Chocolate Peanut Butter and Pretzel Crunch from Decadent Delights, in the same area as the Refreshment Port…

…a Vanilla, Rose Water, and Pistachio Panna Cotta from Masterpiece Kitchen in Canada…

…a Sushi Donut from Takumi Table in Japan…

…a Salted Caramel Funnel Cake, a special offering for the Festival from the funnel cake stand by the American Adventure–as far as I am concerned, the hit of the festival…

…and more items from the by American Adventure, from the Artist’s Table–Beef Wellington, the Symphony in Chocolate flight, and the Chocolate and Beer pairing flight

All were terrific on one dimension or another, with differences more about your individual tastes (I am more of a beer and funnel cake guy than a sushi guy).

Detailed reviews and more specific recommendations of the best dining of the Festival of the Arts are on co-author Josh’s site easyWDW.com.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS SHOWS AND GALLERIES

Art, fittingly, is everywhere at the Festival of the Arts. Seminars–some at an extra price–are in the lead building of the Festival, the Odyssey Festival Showplace.

All over World Showcase are tented kiosks offering mostly Disney-related art to browse through and buy:

 

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS INTERACTIVE OPPORTUNITIES

There’s lots of opportunities for simple play.

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In front of the Future World stage you can find living statues that will mess with you and your kids (check the Times Guide for showings)…

There’s an opportunity to play with a paint-by numbers canvas on the way to Canada…

…and scattered through World Showcase are opportunities for you to join famous works.

More of these.

There’s also some Figment thingy that I paid no attention to, but is a bit of a variant on the Kidcot concept—buy a map and stickers, find Figment-themed picture frames and Figment within them, add the appropriate sticker to the map, and turn the map in for a prize.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS SEMINARS AND SESSIONS

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Also in the Odyssey Festival Center is The Animation Academy, an animation drawing class, where you learn to draw a Disney character under the tutelage of a real animator.

Some have reported that all will end up with a great drawing, but irl your results will vary.

Winnie the Pooh

My Winnie the Pooh from 2017 is above…

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS MUSIC

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Music at the Festival includes both performances at the Future World stage (see your Times Guide for show times)…

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…and a more interesting set of brief Broadway concerts in the evenings at the American Gardens Theater, at 5.30, 6.45 and 8p–as of 2019, these concerts happen every night.

Presented by the Disney on Broadway team, the concerts showcase songs from Disney Broadway productions sung by Broadway stars.

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I saw in 2017 Kerry Butler (who was Belle in Beauty and the Beast) and Kevin Massey (Tarzan) singing songs from Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and The Little Mermaid.

As you can probably tell, I love this Festival!

 

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January 28, 2019   No Comments