All of the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World have reopened, but things are definitely not normal yet. Some resorts currently have more amenities available than others. For example, at Jambo House only the villas and pool are open. The pool bar is only occasionally available, and The Mara made a limited appearance during the holidays. Then there is the Polynesian, which is undergoing refurbishment. With the ongoing construction around the Great Ceremonial House, one of its major perks (monorail access) is unavailable. If you’re concerned about staying at a DVC resort without being able to get the full experience, here are my top DVC resort picks based upon available amenities, including restaurants, shops, activities, and transportation options other than the bus.
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
If dining is a priority, Bay Lake Tower may be your best bet at the moment. Here you have a wide range of eateries. For quick service, there is Contemporary Grounds for the coffee lovers and Contempo Cafe for a variety of entrees and snacks. The Contemporary has the most table service restaurants open right now, including Chef Mickey’s, The Wave…of American Flavors, and California Grill. Although Chef Mickey’s reopened for breakfast as an all-you-care-to-eat dining experience in lieu of the traditional buffet, Mickey and friends have returned. As for The Wave, what can I say other than get the bacon and eggs appetizer and the 7-layer cake from Top of the World Lounge! The Wave also offers food to go through My Disney Experience, so this is a convenient option if you prefer to take food back to your villa to eat. California Grill is currently only serving dinner. Despite the lack of fireworks views, California Grill is still a solid special occasion restaurant. Also, the fan favorite Sonoma goat cheese ravioli recently returned to the menu. If you’re into bars and lounges, there are a few different options at Bay Lake: Cove Bar, Outer Rim, and The Wave Lounge.
Beyond dining options, Bay Lake Tower has great access to the Magic Kingdom, both via the monorail or the walkway. If you’re skittish about being too close to other parties, being able to walk about 5-10 minutes to the park is a great perk.
For resort days, Bay Lake Tower offers the community hall, cabana rentals, and fishing excursions. Compared to other resorts, the Contemporary has a fair amount of shops open too with Bayview Gifts, Fantasia Market, and the Market Place all reopened. While you won’t be able to see any fireworks at night, you now have the return of the nostalgic favorite, the Electrical Water Pageant, which is visible from the Contemporary at around 10pm each evening.
Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The Grand Floridian is another good choice for many of the same reasons as Bay Lake Tower. It too has a good variety of dining options. For quick service, you have Gasparilla Island Grill for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Grand Floridian Cafe offers a more casual table service experience for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (the lobster ‘Thermidor’ burger is calling my name), and Narcoosee’s offers a seafood signature dining experience. There are plenty of bars and lounges as well with Beaches Pool Bar & Grill, Courtyard Pool Bar, and of course the Beauty & the Beast themed lounge, Enchanted Rose.
Like Bay Lake Tower, the Grand Floridian is along the monorail loop, and it now has its own walkway to the Magic Kingdom too. The new walkway will get you from the Grand Floridian to the Magic Kingdom in about 10-15 minutes depending on how quickly you walk. You can find the entrance to the new walkway if you go past Gasparilla Island Grill. If neither of these transportation options float your boat, then maybe the ferry to Magic Kingdom will.
The Grand Floridian probably has the most shops open at the moment with Basin White, Curiouser Clothiers, M. Mouse Mercantile, and Sandy Cove Gifts and Sundries. The resort doesn’t offer any unique activities, but it does offer cabana rentals for those days when you just want to relax by the pool. I’m still heartbroken that the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra is no longer playing in the lobby, but I was happy to hear that the pianist has returned. Something about the beautiful live music in the lobby adds to the grandeur and peaceful ambiance of the resort. As with Bay Lake Tower, you can view the Electrical Water Pageant as it passes by the Grand Floridian at around 9pm each night.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
All of Riviera’s restaurants are open. You have quick service options at Primo Piatto, Bar Riva (the pool bar), and Le Petit Cafe, which always has a nice selection of pastries. Then of course you have Topolino’s Terrace, one of the few options for character dining with its modified Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends and arguably one of the best restaurants on property. For dinner, I highly recommend you get the ricotta appetizer and/or gnocchi appetizer and the filet.
For transportation, Riviera offers the Skyliner to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. In my experience, the Skyliner has been a very quick and convenient mode of transportation, and I have come to appreciate it even more during the pandemic. With the current safety precautions in place, cast members are only seating one travel party per Skyliner car, so you get your own private ride in the sky. The Skyliner also has good ventilation, which may put you at greater ease.
For other activities typically found in a community hall like games and crafts, the Eventi room is open. For shopping, La Boutique is a great place to visit. It may not be the largest store, but it always seems to have unique DVC merchandise that I don’t often find at other resort souvenir shops, such as the DVC Minnie ears or the DVC holiday tumbler and ornament. There is also a kiosk where you can purchase some of the Disney artwork that is displayed throughout the resort.
If you are planning a trip in the near future, have the available amenities influenced your resort choices? If so, where do you prefer to stay?