Anyone who has visited the Magic Kingdom has ridden the express monorail from the parking lot to the theme park’s front gate. It’s the first ride to mesmerize kids as they get to look out the window and see Cinderella’s castle and Space Mountain draw closer and closer. Guests on the monorail also pass by three resorts on their travels both to and from the Magic Kingdom. In fact, there’s an entire monorail line dedicated to those hotels, making a stop at each resort before stopping at the theme park gates, and any guest can disembark the monorail to explore these three resorts.
The Contemporary Resort is practically an extension of TomorrowLand, one of the many themed lands of the Magic Kingdom. Built in the 70s as a vision of the future, it now stands as a brilliant piece of retro-futurism architecture. The biggest draw for non-guests of the hotel is the character dining offered at the resort’s signature restaurant, Chef Mickey’s. Guests can enjoy a lively, all-you-care-to-eat buffet with Disney Friends such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. As the monorail whizzes by, these Disney Characters mingle with Guests for photos and autographs and periodically lead diners in song and dance. It’s a popular dining spot, so you’ll need a reservation, but the American Cuisine that’s served is as magical as the dinner guests.
The Polynesian Resort sits directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom, and is themed after the pacific islands that lent it their name. The tropical décor is a delight to experience, and a stroll around the lobby is a magical time. Dole Whips are an iconic Disney treat; soft serve pineapple ice cream that cools the entire body on a hot day. Outside of the long line at Aloha Isle in Adventureland, the only other place in Walt Disney World that serves the frozen treat is the Pineapple Lanai located right outside the back entrance of the Polynesian’s lobby. Or, if you’re ready for a full mean, there’s an exclusive character breakfast at O’Hana, which is one of the rare spots to meet Lilo and Stitch. Reservations are also required.
Finally, the Grand Floridian is a ritzy throwback to the early 20th century, with a lobby that’s, well, grand. Filled with unique shops, it also is sometimes visited by Cinderella and Prince Charming, who come from the nearby 1900 Park Faire. In the evenings, a pianist plays classic Disney tunes on a grand piano, and it’s not uncommon for guests to take up a partner and perform a little waltz or two. Also, you can head out to the beach area at night to watch the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle in the park, and also be treated to the Electrical Water Pageant, colorful floats towed through the Seven Seas Lagoon.
All in all, you can spend an entire day exploring the three resorts. They are all uniquely magical experiences, especially during the holiday season where they get festive makeovers, including a full size gingerbread house in the Grand Floridian that sells gingerbread. And you can visit each of them from the resort monorail line without paying theme park admission.