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The Grand Floridian Hotel
The Grand Floridian is a wonderful display of the splendor of the old grand style Victorian hotels that were built after the railroad made Florida accessible. This style of hotel was built when Florida became the place to go in the winter of the mid to late 1800’s. You do not have to be a guest at one of the Disney hotels to visit and have a look around. In fact Disney encourage visitors as they are sure you stop for a meal or maybe spend some money on other items. There are often special events on in the hotels depending on the time of year. A visit during the Christmas period is always worth the time to see how the hotel has been decorated.
All the main hotels have a free self parking area within a reasonable walking distance of the main entrance. You can even drop off your party at the main entrance before you go and park. When you arrive at the main parking plaza just tell them you are visiting a hotel and they will direct you to the hotel access road and not charge you a parking fee.
The Grand Floridian has spacious verandas, wicker rockers and ceiling fans, with red shingled, gabled roofs and intricate latticework. This stately resort was designed to be the Disney flagship in Florida and offers elegance and charm to all who visit it. Victorian architecture is in abundance with the towers, dormers, cupolas, exposed gable trusses and band-sawed gingerbread. This style even extends to the monorail stop, which is designed to resemble a Victorian train station. The dramatic lobby opens out to a full 5 stories in height and is capped with brilliant stained glass domes. Sparkling chandeliers, an aviary, potted palm trees and a grand piano providing live music, add to the lavish ambiance. An open-cage elevator operates to transport guests to the second floor shops and restaurants, other than the Disney gift shop you may find the other designer shops a little expensive. However this is more than just a lobby area as at night a small band plays on a stage at the second floor level while you can sit in one of the many easy chairs and enjoy a drink while you plan which restaurant you want to eat in.
The hotel provides five restaurants, four within the main building and a fifth which is built out onto the lake in its own self contained section. These restaurants range from the causal up to the truly grand, and at this upper end Disney have won many awards for both style and quality. In fact the complete description of all these restaurants will be the subject of another article.
If you go to the hotel during the day there are a few things that you can do after you have looked around. A walk around to the boat dock gives a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom. Here you can hire anything from a mini speed boat for a single person up to a pontoon boat that will take your complete party. When you return why not pick up a snack from the Grill takeaway and go for a stroll along the fine sandy beach that has been laid by the main hotel building. If you walk along this beach you will see a small private island built just off the resort. The causeway across to this island takes you to the Fairy Tale Wedding Pavilion. It is here with its picturesque views of Cinderella’s Castle that many couples exchange their marital vows. If you can time your visit to coincide with a wedding then it can be a very interesting experience. Disney offer many different styles of service but many of the couples stay at the hotel before the service. They are then picked up from the side entrance by the beach in a Cinderella style coach pulled by small white ponies, and some even have Mickey and Minnie in attendance both dressed in white to match the occasion.
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