So, you’re planning a trip to Disney World, and you’ve narrowed it down between two of the most ICONIC Disney resorts in existence (you lucky, lucky person!).
But how do you choose between Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort? Well, let’s dive into the deets to see which one is right for you!
Choosing between the Polynesian Village and the BoardWalk, is like choosing a favorite child, a favorite Disney cupcake, or between a Dole Whip or a Mickey Pretzel — there’s enough love to go around! But just like cupcakes and classic Disney snacks (and maybe your kids, too… only you know your family dynamic…😂), there’s a certain flavor that might just hit the spot for what you’re looking for.
There’s no doubt that Disney vacations are expensive, and no one wants buyer’s remorse when it comes to what can usually be the most EXPENSIVE part of your Disney trip. We’re approaching this chaos-agent of a decision with as much logic as possible, so we’re breaking it down into five categories:
- Common Ground
We’re putting each resort through these paces to see where they stand and which one may be speaking to you for your Disney trip.
Before we start down the rabbit hole into the Wonderland of their differences, let’s review the similarities of these resorts. These resorts are both Disney Deluxe Resorts, so they will be at a similar price point, with similar room sizes, and the same perks. They both have close proximity to the Disney Parks, and even within walking distance! And both offer Disney Vacation Club Villas as additional accommodations.
For the Polynesian Village, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $662 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $5,492 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
For the BoardWalk Inn, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $597 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $4,455 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
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Just like our ol’ Friend, Chandler Bing, would say, “Could these resorts BE any more different?” Both the Poly and the BoardWalk are Deluxe resorts and offer the poshest of Disney’s accommodations and perks, but that doesn’t mean they look the same!
The Polynesian celebrates tiki culture, and offers a nostalgic image of Pacific island vacations, but isn’t necessarily a literal representation of those environments. It’s filled with dark woods, tribal symbols, and tropical flowers. The Polynesian is one of Walt Disney World’s opening day hotels, it has a rich history, and a large following among Disney fans. It really does embrace its name of “village” as its layout is comprised of 11 longhouses plus the over-the-water Bora Bora Bungalows, which branch out from the Great Ceremonial House.
All of the rooms have recently been renovated and updated with a Moana-inspired theme, and Kona Cafe, a table service restaurant in the Great Ceremonial House, has also recently reopened with a new look and refreshed menu. So even though this beauty is 50 years old, she’s gotten some TLC and looks better than ever!
But with renovations and updates comes construction, like over at the old Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show location, which is currently an active construction zone as it will be the site for a new DVC tower. Though it shares the same white sand beaches as the Grand Floridian, the island vibe here just makes them pop. Sunsets on the Poly beach are just superior to the other Disney World “beaches”.
Welcome to the charming turn-of-the-century Atlantic boardwalk themed resort, aptly named BoardWalk Inn (so sometimes Disney creativity pales in comparison to a straightforward resort naming).
The BoardWalk brings in vibrant colors of a carnival without feeling like you’re staying in a circus.
So, you won’t find oversized Disney character decors that you might find at the more festive Value Resorts, but this turn-of-the-century New England esplanade does have some vibrancy and fun that makes it a great retreat from the parks. In essence, the BoardWalk balances the fun of the theme with the luxury of a deluxe resort. The rooms last received a bit of a touch up and spruce back in 2016 and with the ongoing construction and other resort renovations may see some TLC, soon.
The BoardWalk Inn has been updating and renovating many of the common areas like the dining options on the actual boardwalk, like the rebranding of the BoardWalk Deli (formerly the BoardWalk Bakery), and the soon to open Cake Bake Shop. Inside the BoardWalk lobby, the fan-favorite Belle Vue Lounge reopened with new furnishings, that received some humdrum remarks from loyal guests for loosing its charm and looking like it was furnished by Wayfair.. And Carousel Coffee recently opened serving up pastries, Joffrey’s Coffee, but a rather subdued vibe for joint named after a bright and vivacious carnival attraction.
We hope the room updates and renovations keep with the classic Disney charm we’ve come to love and aren’t watered down to look like other standard hotels.
This is a difficult decision because both of these resorts have so much charm and appeal. Do you want you want to feel like you just stepped off an exotic beach into a tropical bungalow? Or are you looking for a New England seaside escape? Want step out of your room and sink your toes in the sand? Or step out of your room onto a lively boardwalk filled with games, food, and live entertainment? Do you want your retreat to slow you down and chill you out? Or get you movin’, tappin’ your toes, and stuffin’ your gob? Both solid options, but only one will fit the vibe you want on your vacation.
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Pools, splash pads, hot tubs, and lounge chairs, vacation just doesn’t feel completed without spending some time by the pool. Which of these resorts is the aquatic champion of water lounging? Only one way to find out…
The Polynesian’s whole vibe is stepping into a tropical oasis, so the pool game is strong with this one!
There are two pools at the Polynesian: the Lava Pool and the Oasis Pool. However, the Lava Pool is the showstopper here — because it’s a volcano! Ok, not a for-real volcano, obvi, but it has a waterslide from the top of the volcano’s peak, which is pretty epic.
Even if you’re not looking to swoosh down a volcano waterslide, the lounge area at these pools and the pool bars (which definitely enhance the atmosphere), the Barefoot Pool Bar, and the Oasis Bar & Grill. And Capt. Cook’s and Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace are also so close they could be considered pool area enhancements, too.
There are lots of drink options and plenty of food options for your day by the pool. You can even try a DFB Dole Whip drink hack that became a permanent menu item on the Barefoot Pool Bar menu!
The BoardWalk Inn has three pool, the main pool called Luna Park, and two “leisure” pools for folks that are looking for more chill than thrill for their watery adventure.
The Luna Park pool used to be the home of the nightmare-fuel clown water slide that lit up a night and may have caused an entire generation to need therapy. Luckily for you fine folks, you get to enjoy the renovated model of the Keister Coaster pool slide. Where the trauma-inducing clown was replaced with a fun mural of Mickey, Minnie and gang enjoy a pool adventure with you on this 200-foot long slide.
This fun pool is 184,217 gallons (yep, we here at DFB painstakenly measured each ounce for full accuracy just for YOU — we care that much) and is just step away from the fun of the boardwalk where you can easily grab a quick ice cream or margarita and then jump right back in the pool.
Both have two pools, and both have pool bars, lounge chairs, and splash areas. Are you looking for adventure on a super cute water slide? Or something a bit more casual and with that island vibe? Seeking the pure wow factor with the Volcano and the proximity to Dole Whips? Or are you craving a walk down memory lane with childhood snack favorites nearby and festive carnival music?
There’s no real loser in this category if you’ve found relaxation and joy, but our heart leans towards the Polynesian, because a pool in that close proximity to Dole Whip might just be a little slice of heaven!
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Because we are Disney FOOD Blog, we take food seriously. Very. Seriously. And we love it all. We love the cheap, comfort of plastic cheese, and we love the high-brow sophistication of a wine flight or a multi-course pre-fixe meal. We don’t discriminate; we are a lover of all foods. Since food is SO important, let’s see who these resorts stack up against each other in the restaurant category.
Polynesian Village has ten (10!) dining options, including lounges and pool bars (because those count!)!
Barefoot Pool Bar is the perfect place to grab a specialty cocktail to enjoy while lounging by the Lava Pool. Oasis Pool Bar & Grill serves up Polynesian-themed food and specialty cocktails to guests enjoying the Oasis Pool.
Captain Cook’s is a quick-service location, popular for being the place you can grab Tonga Toast for breakfast in the morning, and Island-inspired dishes like the Pulled Pork Nachos and Thai Coconut Meatballs for lunch and dinner.
The recently renovated and reopened Kona Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a casual setting. The sweet Tonga Toast makes breakfast at Kona is a guest favorite. Kona Island conveniently sits right off the second-floor monorail entrance. In the morning, this location serves Kona coffee and pastries, while at night, it becomes a sushi bar with cocktails.
‘Ohana has an oak wood fire pit that flavors the grilled meats served at an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal each evening. In the morning, Lilo and Stitch entertain guests during an Island-style character breakfast. Hawaiian side dishes complement each meal. Tambu Lounge is a relaxing bar where you can enjoy a drink prior to your dinner at ‘Ohana or Kona Cafe. The Lapu Lapu (a rum concoction served in a pineapple) is its claim to fame.
Pineapple Lanai is where you can find the famous Dole Whip! This is a Polynesian Village Resort claim to fame, as it was the first Disney World Resort where Dole Whip was served outside of the parks. The Polynesian remains the only Resort with its own spot dedicated to the treat.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a unique tiki bar located in the Great Ceremonial House, complete with an interactive room (elements react based on the ordering of certain drinks) and wacky hijinks from your servers, the Skippers! Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace is the more relaxed (but still entertaining) outdoor counterpart to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
Learn more about the Polynesian Village Resorts Restaurants here!
If you were impressed with the Polynesian’s 10 dining locations, look out, because the BoardWalk has 16!
AbracadaBar, according to the story, you can still feel the magic in the air at this former secret haunt of boardwalk magicians and entertainers… a group that mysteriously vanished over 70 years ago. Guests can experience their lingering magic in the sights, sounds, and even tastes (through the signature “Curious Cocktails”) in this enchanted lounge!
Atlantic Dance Hall is another bar on the BoardWalk. Looking for a place to get your groove on? Boogie down to music from the 80s through today at Atlantic Dance Hall! You can request your favorite music videos, and dance along as they play on the large screens above. Shake your groove thang, and get your dance on with a group of friends! Please note that Atlantic Dance Hall is limited to guests 21 and older and typically open Thursday through Sunday nights from 8PM to 1AM.
The Belle Vue Lounge is what many call a “rare find” at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. Modeled after a 1930s sitting room, it has nice touches like board games and working radios playing shows from eras past. Tucked right off the main lobby, this lounge is a great place to relax and enjoy a drink after a long day at the parks, or even to take a quick snooze in a comfy chair to recharge in late afternoon. Guests can also stop here for coffee or pastries in the morning.
Head to a real brewing factory at Big River Grille & Brewing Works! Here you can sample many different kinds of beers, along with great burgers, steaks, nachos, and more. The floor-to-ceiling glass walls in the Big River Grille & Brewing Works restaurant provide a glimpse into the beer-making process. Watch while an on-site brew master crafts the establishment’s beers. Or sit outside and enjoy the BoardWalk atmosphere and water views.
Step back in time to a seaside boardwalk village on Crescent Lake where turn-of-the-century charm meets savory eats and sweet treats at the BoardWalk Deli. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are offered, and guests enjoy items like house-baked bagels, an “overstuffed warm pastrami Reuben” or a hand-piped cannoli. In Disney’s words, the menu takes us on “a road trip of classic sweet and savory flavors from New York to the Jersey Shore,” and you can check it out here.
Craving a cool treat while strolling along the Disney World BoardWalk? Then stop by BoardWalk Ice Cream! This ice cream to-go store scoops up simple sundaes and cones made with Edy’s brand ice cream. The treats here are said to be inspired by the beloved Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at the nearby Beach Club Resort.
BoardWalk Joe’s is a stand on Disney World’s BoardWalk that is known for ONE thing: “Marvelous Margaritas!” For a relatively small kiosk, there is a surprising variety of flavorful margaritas available — and sometimes you’ll happen upon a seasonal concoction! A selection of snacks such as pretzels and roasted nuts is also available. Non-alcoholic smoothies (including one made with Dole Whip!) are also on offer.
Stop by the Pizza Window on Disney World’s BoardWalk for a piping hot pizza pie! One of those most relaxing and fun things to do at Disney World is stroll along the Disney BoardWalk, taking in all the sights and smells around Crescent Lake. With 9,000 square feet of entertainment, shops, and restaurants, there are several options for a quick bite to eat. Why not grab some fresh pizza from the BoardWalk Pizza Window? They serve up whole pizza pies and pizza by the slice (and Sangria to go with it, for of-age guests, along with fountain drinks). Grab one of the cafe tables outside or stroll while you eat.
If you happen to be walking down Disney World’s BoardWalk and you’re in the mood for a quick snack, be sure to stop at the BoardWalk To Go kiosk. At the kiosk you’ll find baskets of deep fried treats including fried mac and cheese bites and corn dogs. You can even grab a meal combo built around a hot dog, cheeseburger, or pulled pork sandwich.
The Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers is coming to Disney World’s BoardWalk in 2023! This new Table Service restaurant will serve items for brunch, lunch, and dinner featuring both sweet and savory menus. Afternoon tea service will be offered as well! Disney notes that the new eatery will present a “whimsical atmosphere that complements the magic of the idyllic charm of Disney’s BoardWalk that guests know and love.” And guess what? Guest will also be able to pop in for a quick treat by grabbing something to-go from the bakery case!
You can find Carousel Coffee at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. This spot is located right off the Resort’s lobby, making it a perfectly convenient spot for your pick-me-up cup! Coffee, tea, and pastries (including options by Joffrey’s Coffee) are on offer. Keep an eye out for seasonal drinks and unique options like a Dark Cherry Mocha Frozen Blended Coffee (which Disney shares is a flavor staple of “coffee shops, family-owned delis, and ice cream parlors along the shores” in keeping with the BoardWalk’s vintage seaside theme). As far as the eats, you can grab classic snacks such as the Vintage Mickey & Minnie Sugar Cookie, Banana Bread, Croissants, Muffins, NJ Crumb Cake, Bagels, and a Mickey Brownie up for grabs.
Flying Fish is a signature restaurant that serves gourmet seafood to guests on Disney World’s BoardWalk. Many tout both the sea and land dishes here. (The Char-Crusted New York Strip is a favorite among landlubbers.) The location — complete with a lovely glass school of fish “swimming” above the main dining room — has an emphasized focus on seasonal, sustainable fare.
You’ll find a truly classic carnival treat on Disney World’s BoardWalk: Funnel Cake! The Funnel Cake Stand also serves the rather unexpected offering of Fried Ice Cream. Enjoy your “Tasty Sensations” (as the sign says) while you stroll or pull up a bench on the BoardWalk while watching the people go by! PLEASE NOTE: The BoardWalk Funnel Cake is currently closed. We will keep you updated when a reopening is announced!
Do you love music from the 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s? Do you love dueling piano improv? Then Jellyrolls Dueling Piano Bar is the place for you! The raucous bar on Disney’s BoardWalk brings you non-stop dueling pianos and a drink special each night (the “Jellyroll of the Day”). So be thinking of your favorite Billy Joel, Mariah Carey or Elton John song to request! There is a cover charge of $18.00 to enter Jellyrolls, which is typically open nightly from 7PM to 1:45AM. Doors open at 7PM, and entertainment starts at 8PM — it helps to be early to grab a seat!
Welcome to Leaping Horse Libations at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn! Out at the Luna Park Pool, its given name) at this Deluxe Resort, you’ll find a poolside bar with all the basics you need for an afternoon in the sun — cold drinks, snacks, and even a few lunch items to get you through your Florida sun-and-pool afternoon! Look for fun carnival-themed drinks like the Tilt-A-Whirl and The Roller Coaster Meltdown served along with the standard Disney pool bar menu.
You’ll find Trattoria al Forno on Disney World’s BoardWalk. This eatery serves dinner daily and is an “original Italian restaurant.” The dinner menu features regional specialties with classic preparations. Many of the ingredients are crafted in-house including hand-crafted mozzarella and handmade cavatelli. Trattoria al Forno also features seasonal risotto and serves only Italian wines.
So many amazing places to eat, how can you choose? Or you don’t have to, just systematically eat your way through the BoardWalk!
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It’s so hard to designate a clear winner for food — because we love it all! If you and your family love some more “unique” food, and options that vary away from the traditional comfort food of fried chicken, steak, seafood, burgers, and chicken nuggets, then the Polynesian might be your jam! All of its menus are influenced by island flavors, and though not bizarre or untraditional, you’ll definitely find some creative takes on your familiar favorites.
The BoardWalk Inn really embraces the casual vibe of its carnival setting with nostaglic, approachable snack foods like pizza, sandwiches and ice cream to craft beers and fine Italian fare! One thing is for sure, you won’t go hungry at the BoardWalk!
EVERYTHING to Eat at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Do these resorts offer anything different when it comes to transportation? Let’s see!!
Polynesian Village is on the Monorail loop. It’s the first stop after the Transportation & Ticketing Center (TTC) on the way to the Magic Kingdom. If Magic Kingdom is your destination, there is also a boat option to sail across Seven Seas Lagoon to the front steps of the Magic Kingdom. You can also get your steps in by strolling the walkway over to Magic Kingdom, but it’s not for the faint of heart as it is about a 20-25 minute walk.
If Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs is your destination, then you can board one of Disney’s busses to transport you over to these parks.
But if EPCOT is your park for the day, here is where the difference sets in. Because the Poly is so close to the Transportation & Ticketing Center, if you don’t mind a brief 5-10 minute walk, you can waltz over to the TTC and board a Monorail to whiz you off to EPCOT. This may give the Poly the edge over the Grand Floridian as it does provide relatively easy access to that EPCOT Monorail loop.
The BoardWalk Inn is considered an “EPCOT-area” resort. It sits on Crescent Lake, across the lake from Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts. This resort is situated in between TWO Disney parks, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. Yep, that’s right, you can walk or enjoy a relaxing boat ride on a Friendship Cruise boat to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
If Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, or Disney Springs is your destination, then you can board one of Disney’s buses to transport you over to these parks.
And as if walkways, boats, and buses weren’t enough options for you, BoardWalk guests are also within walking distance of the EPCOT Skyliner station. This means you have easy access to the other Skyliner resorts if you want to go exploring other resorts or just have a relaxing cruise through the sky.
These neighboring resorts are pretty much a tie when it comes to transportation. They both have pretty quick access to TWO Disney parks, and have the options of busses, boats, and even direct walkways to help you get around.
The Polynesian is right on the Monorail loop, and the BoardWalk Inn gives you access to the Skyliner, so they both have some unique offerings as well. It might just boil down to which parks do you plan to spend more time in, Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom?
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So, who is the ultimate winner in the Polynesian vs. BoardWalk battle? We hate to say it, but it depends! The Polynesian may seem like a clear choice because of its theming and popularity with Disney fans. If the BoardWalk seemed like the clear choice to you, it is a great hotel, it has an awesome pool, tons of dining spots, and is just a quick walk from EPCOT’s World Showcase. It’s up to you and your group to decide what makes the most sense for you using all that we talked about above.
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Polynesian Village vs. Contemporary Resort Guide for Disney World in 2023
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What do you think? Is Polynesian Village or BoardWalk Inn Resort better? Let us know in the comments!
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