Staying off property…again…?

wyndham6

Photo credit for all photos: Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

 

UPDATE: We returned to this resort later in the year and stayed in the “garden” wing of this resort, vs. the tower that we wrote about in this post. It was a horrible experience and we ended up moving to a WDW resort. So, we can no longer recommend a stay at this hotel!

 

As you probably know by now, we almost always stay at a WDW resort mostly because we don’t like to leave “the bubble.” Being immersed in the magic 24 hours a day is what we thrive on and at one time was all we ever knew. We’ve started expanding our horizons , and this past week I had the opportunity to try another off property resort. A few months ago, my husband mentioned he had a conference at the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista, located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard next to Disney Springs. When he told me the dates and location I told him I was “in” immediately. While he listened and learned about earthquakes I could play in the parks on my own! We also extended our stay an extra night so we wouldn’t have to drive back to Jacksonville on a Friday evening in rush hour traffic. As an added perk, his company paid for our first two hotel nights as well as mileage and his meals. Score!

wyndham1

From the moment we pulled up I got such a good vibe. Valet parking and self parking are the same reasonable rate ($8), so we used valet as we knew we wouldn’t be driving until we left. It was really convenient being able to unload and not worry about parking the car. Check in was a breeze and we were treated with excellent service. We had a room in the main tower on the 17th floor and it was nice and clean and very quiet.

wyndham3

The entire place was really relaxing and calming. I made use of their fitness center twice and was impressed at the machines and the cleanliness, as well as towels and water that is offered.

wyndham4

I took advantage of the hotel bus system once and it wasn’t bad. They depart on the hour and half hour so it was nice to know when to be down for the bus. From pick up to walking into the Magic Kingdom it took me 45 minutes total. For return from the parks, I didn’t write down the locations of where they pick up, so instead I took a bus to Saratoga Springs and walked from there. From the bus stop to my room it was 15 minutes (though I admit I’m a power walker). I did not try any of their restaurants, but it is worth noting they have a 24 hour quick service option located in the hotel lobby.

wyndham5

My favorite amenity was the proximity to Disney Springs. As mentioned before, if you aren’t staying near the Springs, it’s quite a headache driving or taking a bus to the area. The traffic is usually bad as the roads going into the area get jammed up, especially in the evenings. All 3 nights we simply walked over and were there within 5 minutes since the hotel is literally located next to a pedestrian bridge. It was great being able to really take our time at Disney Springs without being rushed. We also took a few boat rides to the different Disney resorts for fun (Port Orleans Riverside and Old Key West).

If the price was right and I wanted to spend some time at Disney Springs, I would certainly stay here again. It may not be fully submerged in the Disney magic, but it’s definitely close enough for me!

wyndham2

 

Dining at Captain’s Grille

 

IMG_3651

Because we tend to plan our trips last minute, we often don’t get the chance to dine at the signature restaurants that require booking 6 months in advance. This gives us the opportunity to dine at the resort restaurants that don’t tend to fill up way in advance. There are some really great dining options at Walt Disney World resorts, including one of my new favorites, The Captain’s Grille, at the Yacht Club Resort. We discovered this restaurant last summer when we stayed at the Yacht Club. During busier times you definitely need an advanced dining reservation (even for breakfast), but it is a restaurant you can typically book same-day.

The atmosphere is casual with nautical theming. It feels like you are dining on a ship. Most of the times we have dined there it has been quiet, which I appreciate.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The menu offers surf and turf, with vegetarian options. The food does not disappoint. As with all Disney restaurants, they are eager to assist with any dietary modifications. Here are some pictures of the delicious meals we have enjoyed at Captain’s Grille:

image1

Cabernet-braised short rib with corn risotto

image2

New york strip with creme fraiche whipped potatoes

captains grille

Lemon ricotta ravioli with peas and asparagus

captains grille 2

Rosemary brined pork tenderloin with brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes

While we don’t have any pictures, we also enjoyed eating breakfast here as well. I reccommend you check out Captain’s Grille if you are looking for a casual, tasty, easy to book alternative to something like the Yachtsman Steakhouse. As an added bonus, you can park at the resort and walk over to Epcot after dinner.

Beyond Neverland-Watching Illuminations Outside of Epcot

Our recent trip to WDW included a non-park “Beyond Neverland” day.  We had heard that you could see part of Epcot’s Illuminations, if you stood on the bridge that connects the Boardwalk Resort to the International Gateway, the back entrance to Epcot in World Showcase.  That evening, after Mama Darling and Emily returned from Morimoto Asia we all took a leisurely stroll around the Epcot resorts.  Around 9:00, we made our way to the aforementioned bridge and noticed a huge crowd!  We weren’t expecting to see much, as a lot of Illuminations is centered around lower level pyrotechnics and lasers, but we could see all the fireworks that shoot off into the air.  We also could hear the music coming from Epcot, which was an unexpected surprise.

Here’s a brief video of our view:

We did notice that because the higher fireworks go off and then there is a lull in the action (when the lower level parts are happening) about half of the people left the area before the grand finale.  So they missed the best part of the show! Now this isn’t something we would go out of our way to do, like viewing Wishes from outside of the Magic Kingdom (where you can see and hear the whole show), but since we were staying in the area it was fun to experience.  The Boardwalk area in general is a nice place to explore in the evening.  As a mini bonus, we could see the higher fireworks from Fantasmic while we were in our room at the Dolphin. Maybe someday we’ll splurge for one of the Epcot view rooms on the upper level of the Dolphin and enjoy Illuminations from our balcony. We can dream, right?