Introvert’s Guide to Orlando IV: Magic Kingdom Resorts

Unlike the Magic Kingdom Park, the resorts connected to it by the monorail enjoy a lot more quiet areas for you to break away from the crowds. There are three Magic Kingdom Resorts connected to the park via the monorail: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort (both dating back to the WDW property opening in 1971) and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, which opened in 1988. There is a fourth resort that’s technically in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area and can be reached from the park by boat–Disney’s Wilderness Lodge–however because it is not connected via monorail, it is not quite as convenient to reach. Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is nearby as well, but I’d sooner swim in a Florida lake than go camping again, so you’re on your own for advice on that property.

General Guidance

The Polynesian and Grand Floridian both have central buildings where you can find the monorail/bus station, restaurants, merchandise shops, and front desk/concierge. The Grand Floridian has a five-floor Disney Vacation Club (DVC) building near the main hotel building, separated by a themed pool. The Polynesian just added DVC facilities (Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bunglaows) as stilt buildings out in Seven Seas Lagoon in the past year. The Contemporary has a 14-story central tower building with a three-story wing on one end and a high-rise Disney Vacation Club property–Bay Lake Tower–connected by sidewalk or fourth-floor covered walking bridge on the other.

All three of the MK “monorail resorts” are considered in Disney’s deluxe category due to their amenities, room sizes, services, and convenience to the park. That means you’ll be paying a whole lot more for your stay when you go there ($289/night and up). The Grand Floridian is the most expensive resort on the WDW property.

The campuses of all three resorts are large, pleasant, and big enough that quiet places to walk can be easily found. The main building lobbies can be relatively quiet, too, as long as you’re there when it’s not check-in or checkout time (roughly 9-11 a.m. and 2-5 p.m.). If you’re a night owl, the areas are always open and comfy furniture can be found easily. I’ll get into each resort’s features in a bit. Each of the MK resorts has its own beach. However, due to a recent alligator attack–the first in 45 years, I hasten to add–they now have rope-net fences at the water’s edge to keep humans on one side and critters on the other.

As my friend Sean put it, truthfully, the quietest place you’ll find in the resorts is your own hotel room, so if you’re staying in a Magic Kingdom resort, you’re set when it comes to finding a place to take a break.

Transportation

The Contemporary has a walking path to the Magic Kingdom main gate so you can avoid the monorail if you so choose. There is also a walking path connecting the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), the Polynesian, Disney’s Wedding Pavilion, and the Grand Floridian. This is useful if you enjoy walking and want to get to the Epcot monorail. In general, the Resort monorail line, which runs clockwise around Seven Seas Lagoon, has shorter lines than the Magic Kingdom monorail. The tradeoff is that the resort monorail stops at Magic Kingdom, TTC, and every resort on the line. The MK monorail stops only at Magic Kingdom and TTC.

There is also a ferry boat that runs from TTC to Magic Kingdom directly. The lines can be shorter during the day (after the park has already opened), but you end up waiting longer for the boats to go back and forth. They’re ferries, not hydrofoils. There are also resort “steamer”-type launches that run from MK to the Poly and Grand (notice my cast member lingo is starting to kick in here) as well as somewhat larger boats that run from MK to the Contemporary, Fort Wilderness, and the Wilderness Lodge.

I probably should’ve noted this when I was discussing Magic Kingdom Park, but the system is rigged against you if you want to take a mid-day nap and you’re not staying at a Magic Kingdom resort/hotel. If you’re taking the buses anywhere, you’re looking at 30-40 minutes to get somewhere: 15-20 minutes (average) to wait for a bus and 15-20 minutes to get to your destination. If you’re using your own car, you’ve got to wait for the monorail/ferry/boat, ride said conveyance, and then get to your car to drive back to your hotel. Factor in that sort of time if you’re going to and from the park more than once in the day.

Now for some detailed introvert time at each resort…

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort/Villas/Bungalows

The Poly is the only MK Resort with a quiet pool. And by quiet, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have kids there, but you will not have a Recreation cast member on a megaphone trying to get people involved in trivia games and the like. It also has a snack bar and adult-beverage bar.

There is also an outside seating area with a couple of grills in the courtyard between the Pago Pago and Moorea buildings. As long as no one is setting up to use the grill for a picnic, you’re set.

For something different, weather permitting, you can rent one-person speed boats or an eight-person pontoon boat, which I’m pretty certain someone else pilots.

The Poly campus is pretty spread out, so you can walk in and around the buildings and beach, from the TTC to the Wedding Pavilion without encountering a whole lot of people as long as you avoid the main building.

If you want to grab a sweet snack, the Pineapple Lanai just behind the Great Ceremonial House (i.e., main building) has some soft-serve ice cream (vanilla, pineapple, or a swirl). My sister and I have grabbed a shot of Myers’ Rum from the pool bar (main pool or quiet pool) and then brought that over to pour into our soft serve. Just sayin’.

Speaking of adult beverages, the Tambu Lounge, the saloon attached to ‘Ohana (the main restaurant) is nice and quiet from early afternoon until around 4:30 p.m. ‘Ohana starts seating at 3:30, but things don’t really start getting loud (cast members calling groups to their tables) until a bit later. The outside part of Trader Sam’s is pretty sedate, though they do have a guy playing ukelele and singing Polynesian songs once the saloon is open (around 4:30-5). The inside part of Trader Sam’s is…um, not relaxing for an introvert. Cast member singing, lots of “atmosphere,” show/schtick tied to specific, attention-getting drinks, and restaurant fixtures that light up and make noise. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I like the lobby at the Poly. I liked it better when they had a big, frickin’ volcano and waterfall in the middle of it (gave the place some character), but the ground and second floors are nice and cool in the summer and pretty sedate when there aren’t a lot of people hustling about–again, usually between noon and 3 or after 7 p.m.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Like the Poly, the Grand Floridian has a pretty spacious campus, though much of it is centered around the main building or the main pool and there aren’t a lot of waterside paths to walk around. However, the individual buildings are quiet and well air conditioned. The main lobby is worth a visit just to look up and say “wow.”

Remember that part about there not being a quiet pool? That’s the case at the Grand. If you want to sit outside somewhere and not listen to Trivia Game X, your best bet is the patio outside the quick-service restaurant, Gasparilla Grill. There are also a couple of nice benches down the sidewalk from Gasparilla across from the marina. They’re shaded and a good place to collect your thoughts.

I mentioned the lobby before, but a couple other things: the atrium space is so large, it absorbs a lot of sound. Also, from around 3 to 10 p.m. the people in the lobby are treated to either a cast member playing beautifully on a massive grand piano or a ragtime band that is situated on the second-floor balcony opposite from the entrance. Both forms of entertainment are worth hearing. You can tip the piano player, and he will take requests. There’s also a decent saloon behind the band stand on the second floor: Mizner’s Lounge. It’s open in the afternoon and usually stays pretty sedate. They have TVs there, but they won’t turn them up for your favorite sports game because the band is playing. Fair warning.

Some of the restaurants at the Grand are actually your best bet for finding relative quiet. Like the Epcot resorts, this is simply because they’re so expensive families don’t want to waste the money taking their kids there. The Grand also has the most restaurants and saloons of any single property, except perhaps the BoardWalk. Victoria & Albert’s, the penultimate Victorian-style upscale dining experience, is also the most expensive food and beverage on property. I’ve been there but never eaten there. My dad and bonus mom have been there a few times. They tell me it’s nice, but you do have to make some pretense at dressing up (in a Florida sort of way). Here’s what the Disney Food Blog says:

The official dress code for these restaurants states:

“Men: Khakis, slacks, jeans, dress shorts, collared shirts. Sport coats are optional.
Ladies: Capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, dress shorts.
Not permitted in dining room: Tank tops, swimwear, hats for gentleman, cut offs, or torn clothing. While T-shirts are now allowed, the policy remains that T-shirts with offensive language or graphics are not acceptable.”

Two other restaurants at the Grand fit under this dress code: Narcoossee’s and Citrico’s. Both restaurants have excellent views–Citrico’s of the main pool and courtyard, Narcoossee’s of Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon and pretty decent food. Of the two, I prefer Narcoossee’s, for the food, view, and the atmosphere.

And of course the Grand has one feature that is practically wired for introverts: the Spa. It features a variety of massages, facials, mani/pedi services, as well as saunas. It’s expensive. It’s worth it.

Oh, and speaking of the Spa, there’s an outside seating area with a couple grills next to it. Just another place to chill…assuming no one’s grilling…or if you want to be the one grilling.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

I like this resort the best of the Magic Kingdom Resorts because I’m a science fiction geek, though the Grand comes in a close second. That said, I’m a tad afraid of heights, so the open-air hallways of the main building might be something to think about if you share that affliction. The place is known for having the monorail go right through the building and for having a mural by Pablo Picasso adorning the central column of the concourse (for fun, try to find the five-legged ram, which Picasso added, I’ve been told, because nothing is perfect–Disney was not amused).

In addition to the monorail station, most of the restaurants and merchandise stores are on the fourth floor, so that’s where most of the action/noise is. One place I’ve found that is usually relatively person-free, if not necessarily quiet, is the video game arcade. Same at the Grand Floridian. They get a little busier before dinner time, when parents are looking for ways to keep the kids distracted until their reservation comes up.

One of the nicer saloons on property is in The Wave off the Contemporary’s first-floor lobby. It’s not always quiet, but there are a couple of side rooms off the bar, and the turnover at the bar is pretty fast, as people are usually there to have a drink until their table is ready. If you’re so inclined, try the “Bacon and Eggs” appetizer. Trust me.

Though it’s been years since I ate there, the California Grill on the 14th floor has a fantastic aesthetic and view over Seven Seas Lagoon for watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks. I think the balcony is still open to restaurant guests during dining hours, but I wouldn’t swear to it. That’s a great view, and might be worth paying a lot for very small, artsy portions and California wines.

The Contemporary and the Grand both have convention centers attached. If there isn’t a convention going on during your visit, you can walk through said convention center and enjoy the cool, the quiet, and the aesthetics.

Another quiet area outside is the walking/sitting area between the hotel tower and the Bay Lake Tower. They’ve got benches, lounge chairs, and a fire pit there, which probably gets more traffic in the evening but is quiet during the day.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Okay, as I said before, the Lodge is not connected to the monorail, which almost places it outside this entry. However, it is reachable by boat, as I noted above. And quite frankly, if you’re not staying there, the Lodge is worth taking a side trip to see anyway. It’s gorgeous. Lots of big timber in a multi-story lobby atrium with an artificial river course that starts with an bubbling spring inside the lobby and proceeds through the outside courtyard, connects (theoretically) to the pool area, and then eventually settles down into Bay Lake. interior aesthetics are American Old West: lots of dark colors, Native American artifacts and patterns in the carpets, comfy leather chairs, and a massive stone fireplace and chimney.

Like the Grand Floridian, the Lodge’s lobby space is so big that it tends to absorb a lot of the ambient noise, including the front desk and the main family restaurant, Whispering Canyon. There are seating areas on the second floor, both indoor and outdoor, that allow you to get above the noise and read with few disturbances beyond the occasional other guests in the area.

The quietest place for eating is Artist Point, which is a quite good restaurant with views of the Lodge’s courtyard and waterfall. It’s on the expensive side and so relatively child-free. The quietest place for having an adult beverage is the Territory Lounge, which is probably the place on Disney property that most matches the description “saloon.” Lots of heavy wood, cowboy and Western landscape paintings on the walls, and a couple of massive TVs for watching sports events. When there aren’t games on the place is pretty quiet. It can get crowded otherwise.

Wilderness Lodge has added a DVC section as well (The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge), which has similar aesthetics and is also quieter than the hotel side.

If you’re walking around the Villas, you might find a map to the walking path that leads you to Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. I took the path once–it’s maybe a mile or so–before finding the Fort Wilderness bus stop. If you don’t need the bus stop, walk along the path until you see buildings and then head back. The paved path moves mostly through cypress forest, so you won’t get burned too badly in the Florida sun. However, there aren’t a lot of benches or other things to see. This is just a quiet path to get from one place to another with very few other distractions.

I’ll take requests, so if there are parts of Orlando you’d like me to cover next, let me know.

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