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!).
Choosing between the Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian, 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 the same resort layout with a central lobby building and outer buildings with rooms, and they are both considered Monorail Resorts, offering the same transportation to Magic Kingdom and the other resorts. 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 Grand Floridian, that means that for the cheapest room at the cheapest time to visit, you can expect to pay around $780 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts), and it goes up to $5,502 per night (not accounting for any tax or current discounts) for the most expensive rooms at the most expensive time to visit.
Just like our ol’ Friend, Chandler Bing, would say, “Could these resorts BE any more different?” Both the Poly and the Grand Flo 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”.
Cross the threshold of Disney World’s flagship resort into the Victorian age of high tea, dressing for dinner, and gloved-hands with pinkies-out. The lobby and restaurants are grandiose and luxurious, almost to the point of making guests reflect on imposter syndrome rather than a welcoming presence. The meticulous grounds and pristine white buildings with their brilliant red-tiled roofs definitely provide that grand allure you’d expect from a flagship resort.
And the lobby delivers on that jaw-dropping “oh wow” moment (especially around the holidays), but it seems like Disney blew the budget on the common areas, and then tightened the purse strings on the room sitch. There are some very nice, and perfectly adequate furnishings, but the rooms themselves just don’t scream lavish.
The Grand Floridian standard rooms haven’t seen the TLC that the Contemporary and Polynesian rooms have. So, there’s hope out there that the Grand Floridian rooms will be up soon for the next room renovation, but in the meantime, the Grand Floridian rooms don’t quite deliver for the price tag assigned to them.
This could boil down to your preference. Are you looking for a casual, island theme and feeling welcome to wander through the lobby in bathing suits and flip-flops? Or do you want something a bit more glamorous, luxurious, and sophisticated? Both resorts deliver beautifully on their themes, but when it comes down to rooms, the Polynesian has the edge with having the most recently updated rooms.
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 Grand Floridian is not to be outdone in the pool category; it hosts two pools as well: the Beach Pool and the Courtyard Pool. And though both pools are pretty, the most memorable experience might be at the Mad Hatter splash pad.
And because it’s the Grand Floridian and sophisticated luxury is this resorts brand, there are plenty of poolside lounge chairs and cabanas available to rent for the day as you relax by the pool and nosh on some peeled-grapes and sip on some sweet tea, like we’re sure Victorian-age vacationers did back in the day.
Both have two pools, and both have pool bars, lounge chairs, and splash areas. Again, it might boil down to just what your style is. Do you want something a bit on the classier, sophisticated side? Or something a bit more casual and with that island vibe? For the pure wow factor with the Volcano and the proximity to Dole Whips, our vote goes for the pools at the Poly.
There’s no real loser in this category if you’ve found relaxation and joy, but our heart leans towards the Poly!
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.
Grand Floridian is home to two Signature dining restaurants, Citricos and Narcoossee’s. Citricos is an upscale restaurant serving American dishes with Mediterranean influences. Reserve the Chef’s Domain for a private table and specially prepared menu. Narcoossee’s, another Signature Dining restaurant, specializes in seafood. This beautiful, Victorian-inspired building sits ashore on the Seven Seas Lagoon, offering dramatic views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Enchanted Rose Bar and Lounge is inspired by the live-action Beauty and the Beast film. Guests can indulge in gourmet bites and crafted cocktails while enjoying any one of the four themed rooms.
Garden View Tea Room hasn’t yet reopened, but when it does, it offers Afternoon Tea with delicious finger sandwiches, pastries, cheese, and fruit. The beautiful view, elegant atmosphere, and fine china make this an exquisite experience.
Gasparilla Island Grill is a counter service restaurant with a standard food court menu, and it is open for guests 24-hours a day. Dine outdoors overlooking the Marina (with a view of Cinderella Castle) when the weather permits.
The more casual Table Service options at the Grand Floridian are 1900 Park Fare and Grand Floridian Cafe. 1900 Park Fare, when it reopens, provides popular character dining experiences! At breakfast, guests are entertained by Mary Poppins and friends while the young and young-at-heart feast on Mickey waffles. Dinner is a more stately affair hosted by Cinderella and Prince Charming. Grand Floridian Cafe serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an airy, casual setting. You’ll find American fare being served at your table overlooking the hotel’s elegant courtyard.
Victoria and Albert’s is a AAA Five Diamond Award winner offering an exclusive dining experience. This Signature Dining restaurant pampers guests with personalized menus, dedicated servers, and long-stemmed roses.
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 Grand Floridian really dances that line nicely with Gasparilla Island Grill and Grand Floridian Cafe, offering some comfort food like fried chicken, burgers, and chicken nuggets, and on the OPPOSITE end of that spectrum, Victoria & Albert’s that provides one of the most unique and sophisticated dining experiences in all of Florida!
Do these neighboring 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 its 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 Grand Floridian is also on the Monorail loop. It’s the second stop after the Polynesian 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. Though this resort is closer to the Magic Kingdom than the Polynesian, that walk is still about 15-20 minutes.
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.
If EPCOT is your park for the day, the easiest option is to board a Disney bus and head over. If you want to take the Monorail, you can but you’d have to walk through the Polynesian resort, over to the Transportation & Ticketing Center to catch that Monorail, resulting in a 15-20 minute walk, and that doesn’t include waiting for the monorail.
These neighboring resorts are pretty much a tie when it comes to transportation. The Grand Floridian is closer to the Magic Kingdom if you want to use the walking trail (but there’s also a monorail and a boat to get you there, too). And the Polynesian is closer to the Transportation & Ticket Center, which gives it closer access to the EPCOT Monorail loop.
If you don’t plan to walk anywhere, then there is no difference between these resorts at all. If you don’t mind a bit of a stroll, then the Polynesian has a bit of an edge giving some closer access to that EPCOT Monorail loop.
So, who is the ultimate winner in the Polynesian vs. Grand Floridian 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 Grand Floridian seemed like the clear choice to you, it is a great hotel, but it doesn’t have the same energy, food, or pools that the Polynesian does. 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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What do you think? Is Polynesian Village or Grand Floridian Resort better? Let us know in the comments!
The post Polynesian Village vs. Grand Floridian Resort Guide for Disney World in 2023 first appeared on the disney food blog.