If you’re hoping to experience Walt Disney World without the hefty price tag of a ticket or resort stay, we’re going to let you in on a little secret. The Disney Boardwalk is FREE. Yep, that’s right. Free. While part of the Disney complex and on Disney property you can still drive there and visit. Here’s is everything you need to know to have a Free Disney Day at the Boardwalk Resorts. No park ticket required. Disney Magic included.
All About the Disney Boardwalk
If you’re new to the Disney Boardwalk then check out our Quick Guide to the Disney Boardwalk. This will give you the rundown of activities, restaurants and everything you need to know. Of course if you ready to die into the Disney Boardwalk Hotel options, and resorts to visit in this Atlantic seaside themed area of Disney, then lets jump in!
Disney Boardwalk Parking
Believe or not there is an overflow lot that lets you park at the Disney Boardwalk. However, it’s not always open. And you of course can also visit any of the resorts with a dining reservation. We’ll go through the restaurants at each resort just in case you go that route. If staying at another Disney resort and just want to spend the day at the Boardwalk Resorts then you have even more ways to get yourself to this area of Walt Disney World.
- Park in the Boardwalk overflow lot
- Park at any Boardwalk Resort with a dining reservation
- Take the Disney Skyliner Gondola system to the Boardwalk’s Epcot International Gateway Stop.
- Take the Bus from Disney Springs Parking Lot to any of the Boardwalk Resorts.
- Take the Bus from any Disney Park to The Beach Club, Yacht Club, or Boardwalk Inn.
What are the Disney Boardwalk Resorts?
The Disney Boardwalk Resorts sit on a part of Disney property right outside of Epcot, connected by a boardwalk that surrounds Crescent Lake. This area houses some of the best Disney Resorts within Walking Distance of the Parks. If at Epcot, you can get access to this area by going into the World Showcase, and walking down the path between France and England. This is called the International Gateway and leads you to the Boardwalk, the resorts and to a hidden path that can get you to Hollywood Studios. Here are all the Disney Boardwalk Resorts to experience.
Why Visit The Disney Boardwalk Resorts?
Visiting the Disney Resorts is one of our favorite things to do and a great way to see everything Disney has to offer. The Boardwalk Resorts combine a New England, old school Atlantic City vibe that really makes you feel like you’re on a vacation at the seaside. A resort trip gets you access to restaurants, gift shops, grounds, and a hotel theme that you may not find anywhere else. Been to the Grand Floridian lately? Just walking in that place makes you feel like you’re transported to a different time.
If you’re up for more than just exploring resorts, you can take in a bunch of activities too:
- Free Boardwalk entertainment, available throughout the day and evening, includes musicians, jugglers, magicians and games.
- Shopping is everywhere here. With a large Disney gift shop connected across several storefronts there is plenty to browse.
- Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar perfect for a fun date or adult family night.
- Atlantic Dance Hall is a club featuring music from the 70’s-present where you can dance the night away.
- Surrey Bike Rental allows you to rent a bike so you can explore in style.
- Fantasia Garden’s Mini Golf, near the Swan Hotel is a great place to spend an afternoon with the kids.
- Carnival Game stands along the midway allow for throwback games that win you prizes.
While we love the activities, sometimes we just like to explore and maybe grab a bit every now and then. So, here’s the lineup of Boardwalk Resorts and the restaurants within.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
The Beach Club combines classic beachy charm with this amazing light and fun atmosphere. If you’ve never been to the Beach Club, it’s time you go. The lobby gets filled with this aromatic aloe and cucumber scent that just screams “beach”. There are large deck chairs available for lounging on the front porch, and cucumber and lemon water are always available inside. If you’re looking for a cute gift shop, you can find resort-specific merchandise here along with all your favorite anchor and beach apparel. We also sometimes find cute cupcakes in the gift shop here, so be on the lookout.
Cape May Cafe: Cape May is a casual dining experience in a seaside-like atmosphere. You can get all three meals of the day here but be aware it is a seafood-heavy buffet dining experience. Check out the menu.
Beaches and Cream Soda Shop: Beaches and Cream is one of those hidden gem restaurants that only the locals seem to know about. Hidden behind the pool at the Yacht Club this ice cream shop serves your typical burgers and fries lunch, and shakes and has a to-go option too. Check out the menu.
Hurricane Hanna’s Waterside Bar and Grill: This is a fine option for a quick lunch on the go. As a quick-service restaurant, you can grab salads, sandwiches, and fries here. With views of the boardwalk. Check out the menu.
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
Consider the Yacht Club the sophisticated older sibling to the Beach Club. The restaurants are fancier, the rocking chair porch wider, the exterior a little bit grayer, aka seasoned. A Classic Yacht feeling Yacht Club makes you feel slightly more grown-up. We love this for the classy marketplace and gift shop with all things elegant yacht lifestyle. There are a few notable restaurants here as well if you want to pop in for a drink or appetizer. And of course, you can always just lounge about in the lobby!
Crew’s Cup Lounge: This place has a slightly more budget-friendly and kid-friendly atmosphere as a table service lounge and mock-tails to boot! You can grab rib sliders, cheese dip, and a “yacht dog”! Check out the menu to pick your favorites ahead of time.
Yachtsman’s Steakhouse: Considered THE place to get a good steak at Walt Disney World, be prepared to pay a little more. This is your typical steak and fish-type table service restaurant. Not really a vegetarian option here. That said there are delectable sides, desserts, and drinks to add a little flair to your surf and turf meal. Choose your favorites on the menu.
Ale and Compass: This is by far the poshest new bar we’ve found. The Lounge of Ale and Compass has an excellent atmosphere with gorgeous blue decor, consider this your grown-up escape. If you long for days gone past where you could sit in a velvet chair in front of a servant-cleaned fireplace and sip your favorite scotch, then you’ve found heaven. The menu is budget-friendly with options in the lowest price bracket of 14.99-34.99. You can grab salads, flat breads and heartier dishes too. Read our review of Ale and Compass.
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort
We recently stayed at the Boardwalk Inn and were blown away by how nice it is! Larger rooms, beautiful theme, evening entertainment, and yoga on the lawn in the mornings. Check out our whole Boardwalk Inn Review.
Belle Vue Lounge: Perfect for a quick breakfast, this little lounge is tucked on the second floor of the Boardwalk Inn. Complete with chess game tables, board games and a radio show in the background. You can grab breakfast sandwiches and coffee in the morning and drinks in the evening.
The Boardwalk Inn lays claim by proximity to almost all of the restaurants on this side of the Boardwalk. Here, you can find a complete list of restaurants at Boardwalk Inn accessible from the boardwalk itself, not from inside the resort.
Trattoria al Forno: If you need a Disney character fix, but aren’t going to Disney, you can grab a reservation for the Bon Voyage Breakfast to meet Ariel, Rapunzel, Prince Eric, and Flynn Ryder. We also love the regular breakfast, as it’s one of the best Disney breakfasts at Walt Disney World.
Pizza Window: This pizza is by far some of the best we’ve had at Disney. It’s a large pie with tons of flavor at an OK cost. Note: You will not get eh same pizza at Trattoria al Forno if you go inside as those are mostly small flatbread/wood-fired pizzas. For the best stuff, in a to-go box, order from the Pizza Window and enjoy it on the boardwalk.
Boardwalk Deli: This little deli offers up breakfast and coffee, deli sandwiches and desserts. Head to the Boardwalk Deli for an easy morning if you start your day on the boardwalk early. Or take a break here for lunch. Seating on the BoardWalk next to the water is the best!
Walt Disney World Swan Hotel
The Swan is accessible off the path near Yacht Club. One of the more elegant hotels, the Swan is perfect, and sometimes cheap if you’re looking to stay on the boardwalk but don’t want to pay the high prices. If you’re visiting and exploring the boardwalk, the Swan is near the Fantasia Mini-Golf Course, and has walkways to peruse and restaurants that get you off the beaten path.
Garden Grove: This restaurant is in a New York City Central Park garden setting and offers a buffet-style budget-friendly meal, complete with characters. The buffet menu focuses mostly on seafood, but there are other options offered as individual dishes as well like chicken and steak. Note: Garden Grove doesn’t take the Disney Dining Plan or accept magic bands as payment.
il Mulino: Another of Disney’s many Italian restaurants il Mulino offers traditional Italian fare; think complex pasta dishes, risotto, meats and cheeses. This place is a little pricier than most but you can also grab the family-style option here to sample a bit of everything. Check out the menu here.
Kimonos: Classic Sushi, voted the best in Orlando, is the main feature here. At less than 35 bucks a place if sushi is your preference you can get it both cooked and raw here. Take a look at the menu.
Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
The Dolphin Hotel has fast become one of our go-to hotels for last-minute Disney Vacation. As we can usually find rooms on hotels.com for cheaper than anything else, there are a few places here that are worth a look! Including artist galleries, fountains in the lounge, a smoothie bar, and more.
Rosa Mexicana: ” Take your senses on a culinary adventure to Mexico! Indulge in classic Mexican fare, as well as elevated cuisine that showcases the bold flavors of Mexico—but uniquely reimagined. Each delectable dish is crafted with care to celebrate Mexican heritage—and honor the culinary techniques, global explorations and inspirations of Chef Josefina Howard, who founded the original Rosa Mexicano restaurant in New York City in 1984.” Check out the Rosa Mexicana Menu.
Todd English Blue Zoo Lounge: For an extra grown-up bar experience, check out this very classy watering hole. Award-winning, this restaurant features coastal cuisine. While kids are allowed, if you need a break from the little ones, they can head to Camp Dolphin during your dining experience.
Shula’s Steak House: Another of Walt Disney World’s award-winning restaurants, Shula’s is your basic steak house with surf, turf and a few chicken dishes. Much pricier with steak over 100 bucks, you’re going to want to check the menu first if you decide to make your free day on the Disney Boardwalk a little more expensive.
Fuel: Complete with handcrafted coffees, bakery goods, and snacks this little market shop is a great place to stop for breakfast or lunch. Or even if you just need a little something to sip as you meander through the boardwalk.
For a complete list check out all the Swan and Dolphin Restaurants.
Disney Boardwalk Resort Day
Hopefully, this has given you a good rundown of what you can experience on the Disney Boardwalk without a park ticket. We love exploring the resorts just as much as the parks and the dining options are sometimes better than you’ll find anywhere. We also did a roundup of a Free Disney Day at the Monorail Resorts as well, so be sure to check out that post if you’re hoping to get in some Disney time!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.