We have a secret when eating at Walt Disney World. Hidden in the lower level of the Dolphin Hotel in the Boardwalk resort area is the Picabu Taqueria. Looking like a snack bar – fast food venue the Taqueria custom builds some of the best tacos you’ll find anywhere. Featuring grilled skirt steak, fresh fish, pork carnitas and Adobo chicken with a large selection of add-ins in either hard or soft taco shells. Three large tacos for around $10.00 and well worth every penny. They also offer Burritos and Bowls. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Open for both lunch and dinner you do have to seek this place out. The Dolphin is easily reached from the Boardwalk area and is only a short walk from the second entrance at Epcot or a walk down a canal from Disney Studios. Come in the main doors at the lower level of the hotel and take the hall to the left.
If you are a guest at a Disney resort you will have to bring cash or a credit card as the Swan and Dolphin are not part of the Magic Band system.
Before you plan a trip to “The World” it might be helpful to understand the transportation systems. The basic drive in and spend a day at a park is pretty straight forward. Get inside The World and follow the signs to the selected park. Pay about $20, park and take the transports to the park entrance. Beyond that the options are many.
Magic Kingdom Transportation Center
First each resort has its own parking and usually when we visit, after check-in, that’s where the car stays. If you are staying at one of the resorts near the Magic Kingdom (The Contemporary, The Polynesian, The Grand Floridian) you are on the monorail loop that stops at each resort and the Magic Kingdom entrance along with the “transportation center”. You also have New York style ferries that travel back and forth from the transportation center to the Magic Kingdom entrance. There are also smaller boats from each of these three resorts that sail across Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom entrance. Each resort also has a bus stop with service to each of the parks and Disney Springs running about every 15 to 20 minutes. There is also the option of switching monorails at the station and going over to the main Epcot entrance. Also in the Magic Kingdom neighborhood are the Wilderness Lodge and the Fort Wilderness campground, that along with busses also have boats over to the Magic Kingdom entrance.
There are a few resorts that have regular boat service to Disney Springs. They include Saratoga Springs, Port Orleans & Riverside. Saratoga Springs is also close enough to Disney Springs for a nice walk along the trails around the lake.
There is boat service in the Boardwalk area with stops at Boardwalk, Swan & Dolphin, Beach Club and Yacht Club resorts with short trips to the Disney Studios Park and Epcot. There are also sidewalks that will take you from these hotels to The Disney Studios Park and Epcot.
The remainder of the resorts rely on the bus system to get around. Regarding the bus system, you can take a bus from almost all hotels to the six parks (2 water parks) and Disney Springs but you cannot take a bus from one resort to another unless they share the same route. To go from one resort to another you will have to go to a park bus stop or Disney Springs and switch to a bus going to the other resort. Another word of caution, normally, if you are a resort guest you can drive to other resorts and park. Unfortunately in busy periods they will restrict parking to only guests of that resort so you may get turned away.
It has recently been announced that Walt Disney World will be starting a dedicated taxi service soon to provide rides between any location inside the “World” for a flat fee (one report says $29).
A great number of families have a trip to Disney World as part of their future plans. If this is you, here are a few pointers on accommodations.
First, the “World” is more than four theme parks. There is Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney) with more shops and restaurants than you can count. There are two water parks, a sports complex and an entertainment area associated with the Boardwalk Hotel. In addition a number of the on property hotels are worth a visit like The Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Grand Floridian. There are also dinner shows at the Wilderness Camp Grounds and the Polynesian Village as well as Cirque de Soleil, and Disney Quest at Disney Springs *Note: Disney Quest is now closed. It is supposed to be replaced with “NBA Experience”).
Throughout the Disney property there is a wide range of accommodations at various price points. Like most resort areas, the pricing varies by season and there are numerous specials and packages available. Average room rates at Disney properties are around $250 to $300 with economy rooms being in the $100 to $150 range. The premium resorts without specials run $450 and up per night. Even though listed on the reservation site, many of the units are not readily available because they are part of the Disney Vacation Club system.
The economy range includes the “All-Star” hotels and are priced near what you are used to paying for travel around the U.S. You can save a considerable amount by selecting a motel “off property”. The huge supply usually keeps prices remarkably low compared to Disney hotels and hotels in general. The biggest disadvantage to staying “off property” is the cost of parking at the parks (now $20 a day) and missing access to the Disney transportation system. Staying at a Disney World resort lets you park free at the hotels and provides the ability to travel around the “World” as you wish until very late at night. Also, if you are booking a resort off property be aware that many hotels apply a daily resort fee on top of the room rate (usually $12 to $20) that may not be quoted as part of the room rate.
Going up a bit in cost is Port Orleans, Riverside, Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach, each with its own theme and character. In a similar price range, or maybe a bit higher, are two hotels not actually operated by Disney in the Boardwalk area. They are the Swan and the Dolphin and come with almost as many perks (no magic bands).
At the higher end in resorts are the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where animals roam past your balcony, The Boardwalk with its entertainment area and Wilderness Lodge near The Magic Kingdom. Even higher in price are two of the original hotels with monorail stations at their door, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. The crown jewel of Disney World is the Grand Floridian also on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop.
In addition to the Disney operated hotels, there are three areas inside the “World” which feature hotels. They include the Buena Vista area near Disney Springs, the Bonnet Creek area which includes the Waldorf Astoria Golf Club and the exclusive Golden Oaks neighborhood with its Four Seasons Resort. In these areas bus service, if available, is limited.
The transportation system and being close to all there is to offer are two of the main reasons for staying “on property” but the Magic Band system is also a consideration. These bands are connected to your vacation account so you can enter the parks, select FastPass rides, open your hotel door, access your dining plan and charge at many gift shops and restaurants.
Following is a complete list of hotels and features:
Disney’s All-Star Resorts (each with its own matching theme)
Pop Century Resort
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge (set on an African savannah with live animals).
Disney’s Art of Animation Resort (family suites only)
Boardwalk area with restaurants, entertainment venues, roaming entertainers, access to Epcot and Disney Studios
Disney’s Beach Club Resort & Villas
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
The Swan & Dolphin
Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
Seven Seas Lagoon area (access to Magic Kingdom, view nightly fireworks)
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (boat service to Magic Kingdom)
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney’s Old Key West Resort
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside (boat service to Disney Springs)
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (near Disney Springs)
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort (boat service to Magic Kingdom).
If you are booking a Disney hotel and are going to visit the parks, it is strongly recommended that you purchase the tickets, set up an account at My Disney Experience website and begin to reserve FastPass for rides.