Grand Floridian Resort Reimagining News
Construction continues at Grand Floridian Resort, with more work to building exteriors and (presumably) interiors. In this post, we’ll share photos and thoughts on the impact to guests with stays here between now and 2023. We’ll also address the reimagining of rooms, restaurants, lobby, and more. (Updated December 16, 2022.)
Right now, the official announcement from Walt Disney World is that “Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is undergoing refurbishment. Guests will be able to see and hear construction during daytime hours. Most Resort hotel amenities will remain available. Please allow for additional travel time.”
This started back in March, and the assumption at the time was that notice the project pertained to the Disney Vacation Club overhaul of the Big Pine Key building of hotel rooms at Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. This building reopened over the summer and the new rooms have debuted–see Grand New Rooms at Walt Disney World’s Flagship Resort for a look inside. However, work has continued.
December 16, 2022 Update: Walt Disney World has since confirmed much of what’s discussed below in this post as ‘rumor,’ which is that the lobby and guest rooms are being reimagined. This wasn’t really a ‘rumor’ in the traditional sense of the term before, as it was published in the official Disney Vacation Club magazine, but it’s the first official confirmation we’ve seen from the company outside of that. Here’s what Walt Disney World has now shared about the Grand Floridian overhaul:
2023 will also be a momentous year for Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa as it celebrates its 35th anniversary on July 1! The resort has been receiving some grand touches that weave familiar storybook charm into the Victorian elegance of this flagship resort. Guest rooms are currently being updated as we speak with more to come as the beloved Grand Floridian ushers in its third decade of magic. The ongoing renovation will also include an upcoming refurbishment of the lobby, which will maintain the classic theming you know and love with some fresh new enhancements.
The story doesn’t end there, as you can dine underneath the lovely London sky at Citricos, inspired by “Mary Poppins Returns” … and maybe bookend your evening with a shimmering sip at Enchanted Rose Lounge, inspired by “Beauty and the Beast.” And our beloved Victoria & Albert’s – the culinary crown jewel of Walt Disney World Resort and AAA Five Diamond Award winner – reopened its doors this year to rave reviews featuring a renovated interior.
All of this was already known based both on circumstantial ‘evidence’ and similar statements in the aforementioned DVC Files magazine. However, it’s good to see separate confirmation, even if it is exceedingly light on details. Here’s hoping that Imagineering releases some actual concept art and a construction timeline for when the lobby will be impacted.
Knowing when the whole project will wrap up in 2023 (or will it be 2024?) would also be nice. This could be a relatively minor initiative that swaps out furniture and furnishings overnight and has zero impact on guests, or it could be a major project that largely takes the lobby out of commission. It could be the kind of thing that makes guests want to avoid the Grand Floridian, or a total non-factor. There’s no way of knowing until Disney provides actual, substantive details.
At the time of our last in-person photo update, most of Boca Chica was covered by scaffolding, with construction walls erected around the perimeter of the building. As of December 2022, the exterior of Boca Chica is now finished and crews have moved on to the buildings around the marina.
In watching construction, it’s pretty obvious that a few things are occurring. The roof is being replaced in sections; this is overdue and makes a night and day difference. Additionally, there’s repainting and repairs to the building and its lattice work.
Finally, the stairwells are being rebuilt. This also occurred with Big Pine Key, and the results are relatively underwhelming–the new stairwells have an almost temporary feel. We always use these stairwells instead of elevators, and the old ones didn’t have any visible issues.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they didn’t need to be replaced for whatever reason. I’m no construction expert and I highly doubt Disney would’ve undertaken this (at best) lateral if it was unnecessary. (On that note, I would love to hear from someone who is a construction expert and might understand the why of this.)
Thus far, nothing else has been officially announced or revealed with regard to the interiors of the buildings.
However, it’s pretty obvious that remodeling is occurring. During a recent stay in the new Disney Vacation Club rooms at the Grand Floridian, we inquired about this at the resort, and were told that the hotel side is getting the same rooms as the DVC side.
Normally, we’d take these word of mouth reports with a grain of salt as on-the-ground rumors aren’t exactly the most credible.
In this case, we also saw a staging area set up while using the walkway to Magic Kingdom (no photos because, even though it’s in guest view, it’s technically backstage–I’m not breaking any rules for a construction update). There were also carts zooming around throughout the day, and a couple carried large boxes marked “Ethan Allen.” I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen roofing materials at our local Ethan Allen store.
Here are a few more photos to give you an idea of what the construction is like:
We stayed in the Big Pine Key building, in a room directly facing the construction where work was actively occurring throughout our stay. Sitting on the balcony, I could see welding on the stairwell, which was oddly transfixing. I wouldn’t necessarily call that an “enhancement” but I did prefer it to the alternative of looking at the pool. That’s just me, though.
Otherwise, there wasn’t much of a construction impact. So long as this work continues building by building–and I assume that’s the plan–the Grand Floridian doesn’t feel or sound like a construction zone. Sure, there are construction workers coming and going (particularly along the path leading past Gasparilla Island Grill), but there are always maintenance workers, landscaping, housekeeping, etc. That’s par for the course, and necessary to service the hotel and keep the grounds looking nice.
There are times when I’ve felt like there’s too much noise or visual blight due to hotel construction at Walt Disney World. That’s not my take here; I would not hesitate to book another stay at the Grand Floridian during this project. (Well, I would since we’re out of points for the year, but that has nothing to do with construction!)
As always, your mileage may vary. If you’ll be spending a lot of time in the room during daytime hours or are sensitive to noise, consider making a room request away from wherever the work is occurring during your vacation.
Anyway, it seems like an open secret that the Grand Floridian is replacing its standard hotel rooms (pictured above) with something in the style of the resort studios.
We are incredibly pleased by this news (or rumor, depending upon how you look at it). For years, we’ve been complaining that the rooms are not commensurate with the prices. I’d go as far as to say that the Grand Floridian regular guest rooms are among the dullest at Walt Disney World. You’d be hard-pressed to distinguish them from a mid-range Hilton or Marriott.
Above is a look at the Resort Studio.
To me, it’s a night and day difference–easily the biggest before/after improvement of any hotel room at Walt Disney World in the last decade. This reimagining brought with it greater usability, attention to details, luxurious finishings, thematic flourishes, and a range of other details. Whether you’re assessing from a function or form perspective, these are a marked improvement.
I’d go a step further than that, and say the Resort Studios are the best rooms from an objective perspective–or at least in contention for that. I personally prefer a handful of other rooms, but there’s no denying the quality of these.
It makes complete sense that Walt Disney World is replicating this style on the hotel side of Grand Floridian, as the team behind these rooms absolutely crushed it. This will be a huge improvement, with guests no longer questioning (to the same degree) how this room cost $800 or more.
Additionally, Narcoossee’s–the waterfront restaurant at Grand Floridian–is now closed. Narcoossee’s is expected to reopen in 2023 as an enhanced dining experience. In the meantime, Citricos is now open seven days a week.
Specifics of this reimagining also have not been officially announced, but the length of the project alone suggests we’re going to see significant changes. Probably greater in scope than the largely-cosmetic updates at Citricos, and potentially entailing layout changes to the dining room and kitchen. While we loved the ambiance and style of Narcoossee’s, we’re willing to withhold judgment as the Citricos reimagining turned out nicely. (Although I think there was less downside risk there; Citricos needed a new look, Narcoossee’s does not.)
Beyond this, it’s rumored that Grand Floridian will receive a substantial overhaul in 2023 with “Enchanted Gardens” as the unifying visual style. (That’s the term used by the Disney Files magazine for DVC members. I haven’t seen “Enchanted Gardens” used anywhere else when describing the reimagining, but there’s presumably a basis for it somewhere.)
This could encompass the lobby, restaurants, and other amenities. An overhaul of the lobby seems like an inevitability at this point. Although I don’t think that’s necessary (do the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary first!), I do think this style could be used as the basis for a refresh.
That’s probably going to get me excoriated among Walt Disney World purists. As a realist, I think this style is pretty much the best-case scenario when accounting for tastes of modern guests and the price point of the Grand Floridian. While WDW diehards might love the lobby and overall aesthetic, I’d hazard a guess that the hotel does not comport with the expectations of the first-timers or casual guests who actually book it.
With that said, my hope is that Imagineering can marry the visual style of the new rooms with the opulence and grandiosity of the main lobby. It should not become an Ethan Allen showroom, but with a higher ceiling. Modernized doesn’t need to mean dull and devoid of character. There is a way to have the best of both worlds, a lobby that’s both well-themed and luxurious. It’s a tough balance to strike, but hopefully it can be accomplished, if that’s what Walt Disney World opts to do.
If Walt Disney World does opt to overhaul the lobby of the Grand Floridian, one thing is certain: we must protect the masterpiece monkey and bunny paintings at all costs.
I’m not one for petitions, but if someone were to start one to get these puppies added to some historic register of culturally significant works of art, I’d sign it. Perhaps the Grand Floridian should even be added to the National Register of Historic Places as home to these priceless treasures. They’re arguably why it’s called the Grand, and is the flagship resort at Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, we’re very pleased that it appears the Grand Floridian is finally getting guest rooms that are worthy of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. It’s not totally clear why Walt Disney World hasn’t announced this, or released major details about a new lobby, restaurants, and rooms?
Regardless, it’s a near-certainty that the guest rooms on the hotel side are being reimagined in a style that’s identical or very similar to the resort studios that just debuted in the new Big Pine Key DVC building. Given the pace of construction thus far and the fact that this is occurring on a building-by-building basis, it’s likely that this project will last well into 2023.
In the end, that was the purpose of this post–to give you a heads up about ongoing construction at the Grand Floridian in case you have a stay booked this Christmas or anytime in 2023. Hopefully the photos and commentary give you an idea of what to expect. While I don’t plan on making standalone Grand Floridian construction updates a regular thing, you can follow our Walt Disney World Resort Refurbishment Tracker for future updates.
We’re cautiously optimistic about the end result. The Grand Floridian is arguably the most well-rounded Seven Seas Lagoon Resort, with fewer drawbacks than the Contemporary or Polynesian. The rooms are the most glaring weakness, and those will soon be resolved in an exceptional way. So long as common spaces and restaurants aren’t screwed up too much, the Grand Floridian will emerge from this as a better option than before, and a resort truly deserving of the flagship distinction.
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What do you think of the rooms at the Grand Floridian? What about the new DVC resort studio rooms v. existing hotel rooms? Are you a Grand Floridian fan? Excited for a potential overhaul to Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, or worried it’ll lose its personality and richly-themed spaces in the process? Have you stayed at the Grand Floridian since that glorious walkway debuted? Did you use it or the monorail? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
We stayed in Boca Chica in November in a lagoon view room. We were told we were the first to stay in the new room. Similar look but different layout than the dvc rooms . I have photos if you’re interested Tom. Now feels more on par to the Riviera level of detail and styling. A great improvement!
We are looking to book a big family trip in early October of 2023 and stay at the Grand Floridian do you think the bulk of the construction will be done by then? We dont want to drop that kind of money if the grounds and lobby are tore up.
Thanks for this update. It’s time for a big renno for this hotel. I stayed at the villas in 2020, which were so comfortable. But, my bf and I much preferred the vitality and architecture of the main resort area; that is until we peeked inside a window and saw the hideous guest rooms. That silver mirror over the day bed — YIKES! Talking to some people in the beauty and the beast bar, we were not alone in this feeling. We both said that we would’ve requested a move to a different hotel if that’s what we paid for.
I really like the 80’s-glitzy vibe that the hotel had (Narcoosee’s included), but understand that it’s anything but modern. New carpet in the main building is needed, but the marble floors are pretty new and keep that pink hue which cools you down from the heat. It’s an old-timey hotel, it’s meticulous to get the right feeling. Looks like they’re working to preserve some of it.
Bring back the band!
I can’t find info on when the 1BR and 2BR villas are being refurbished in the style of Resoet Studios. Can anyone confirm?
I was told a couple of months ago by an Ethan Allen designer in Orlando that they are furnishing the new GF rooms. It’s about time! And looking forward to Narcoosees reimagining too.
I’m hoping the “Enchanted Gardens” theme means they’ll be bringing more plants into the lobby! I feel like a lush, conservatory-style interior blends well with a Victorian theme. Also keeping my fingers crossed that the tea room reopens at some point. I know it’s overpriced for the food/service, but it is also one of the experiences that is becoming more and more rare at Disney–it makes you really feel transported to somewhere else.
Isn’t “Enchanted Gardens” the name of the Disney Cruise Line dining room that combines the Victorian/Edwardian white stylings of the Grand Floridian with, um, the Victorian/Edwardian green stylings of various metalwork on Main Street?
I’m not sure I understand what an updated lobby would look like from Tom’s description, so I don’t know whether or not I agree. As long as they don’t make it as “dank” looking as the Hotel Del, and rearrange things if they’re not bringing back The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, I assume I’ll be okay without anything too radical. (After all, there’s nothing that says that a BoardWalk Inn has to be themed to the back of an antique store in Cape May where nothing has moved in over 50 years!)
Yep. Enchanted Garden is also a restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel, which is their version of Grand Floridian: https://www.disneytouristblog.com/enchanted-garden-restaurant-review/
What news is there concerning th Garden View Tea Room? Permanently “Temporarily Unavailable “ page?
Thanks Tom. Looks beautiful. Any idea when the Boardwalk Villas will be updated?
We checked into the conch key building at grand Floridian last week . The view was horrible and it was so loud! Full fledged active construction site right outside our window . We immediately asked to be moved to the sugar loaf building overlooking the marina and that was a great room . Once we were moved the construction did not effect us at all but beware of conch key building – I would have been so unhappy staying in that room the entire time .
This was exactly our experience in Conch Key at the end of August! It was awful and we could not be moved until the next day. I can’t believe they are selling those rooms at full price!
Just out of curiosity- we are headed there this weekend. Have the Sugar Loaf rooms been renovated- or any of the outer buildings? And is Sugar Loaf still club level? Thx!
This was my first time staying in the Sugar Loaf building . I did not see any Club Level Lounge while I was there . Our room was on the second floor overlooking the marina – it was not a renovated room.
Tom, I’m curious about the prohibition of certain “backstage” photos…not that I care about seeing pics of a renovation staging area but I’ve never heard of a rule against taking photos from regular guest areas. Even moreso because you often seem to go to great lengths to find clever angles for peeks above and around construction walls. Just curious as to what other types of things you see (generally speaking) that you’re not allowed to show/tell your readers due to “rules” like this. (And while you’re usually pretty transparent about how the blog sausage is made, I’m still looking forward to a behind-the-scenes “day in the life of a Disney blogger” post someday!)
It’s just erring on the side of caution–perhaps too much. Some things are plainly visible from normal guest view, whereas others are visible but with a bit more effort or ingenuity. I will do the former but not the latter.
For example, it’s commonly the case that there are holes or cracks in construction walls that offer a clear view of what’s happening behind them. I would not photograph through those, as I think that’s circumventing the intended purpose of the walls. However, I have no issue standing back and taking a photo replicating what a guest could see when walking through the area like normal.
This might seem like a meaningless distinction, but it’s the line that I draw.
“I’m still looking forward to a behind-the-scenes “day in the life of a Disney blogger” post someday!”
There isn’t really an average day. Sometimes, I spend several consecutive days in the parks doing the legwork necessary for future content. Other times, I’m in front of the computer writing for several consecutive days. Lately, we’ve been bouncing between the coasts, which has meant a lot of going from one extreme to the other–long days in the parks followed by long days at the computer.
Thanks Tom! I will say that having been backstage myself (when performing at Epcot and MK in high school), while very cool in some respects, was one of the worst things that could have happened to me as a Disney fan….I didn’t come back to the parks for ~20 years because I couldn’t shake the sense of the more “magical” guest-centric areas feeling like a facade (which, of course, they are…but I lost the ability to suspend my disbelief). I’ve since come back into the fold as a parent seeing the parks through my kids’ eyes. But despite my own burning curiosity my advice is usually to avoid looking where you’re not supposed to look…for your own good!
“ I’m not breaking any rules for a construction update”
Just curious- is that a self imposed restriction?
As a contractor, if I had to guess… if the stairwells aren’t being updated due to aesthetics, I’d say they’re probably being upgraded to meet code. Fire resistance rating, perhaps – everything that I see there is non-combustible, and it looks like they’ve applied spray insulation at the top floor which is unusual for conditioned spaces.
“Fire resistance rating, perhaps…”
That would definitely make sense. Thanks for sharing–appreciate the informed feedback!
I am a licensed fire protection engineer. There are numerous possible reasons related to building/fire code compliance that Disney decided replacing the stairs was the overall best (most cost-effective while not compromising safety) option. Tom, if you could get some 360 or wide-angle pictures of the stair interiors of the completed building and one of the awaiting-construction buildings, I could probably figure it out. I think Andrew is on to something and knowing how Disney approaches safety, there is probably an interesting (at least to me) story behind this. Back in the 1960s when these buildings were designed, Disney was specifying fire protection systems/features that were above and beyond what generally went into buildings back then. Now if one of those systems/features turned into a maintenance nightmare, but is not code-mandated, Disney could be required to bring the entire building up to current code in order to remove an existing system/feature that was part of the original approved design.
Thanks for this update, Tom! It will be one of our family member’s first GF stay in a few months and I was a bit concerned about the ongoing construction but it sounds like they’re handling it way better than what happened at Animal Kingdom a couple of years ago.
And, Disney, if you’re reading this: if you decide the Monkey and the Bunny don’t make the remodeling cut, you really should gift them to Tom and Sarah for all the good work they’ve done on behalf of your guests. I’m thinking a special ceremony should be in the works.
“And, Disney, if you’re reading this: if you decide the Monkey and the Bunny don’t make the remodeling cut, you really should gift them to Tom and Sarah for all the good work they’ve done on behalf of your guests. I’m thinking a special ceremony should be in the works.”
Disney, if you’re reading this, please give the monkey and bunny masterpieces to *just me.* If given to us both, I fear they’ll become the sole possession of Goodwill!
I would consider staying at the GF if Wilderness Lodge and Animal Kingdom both burned down at the same time.
Lol – same!
While I do appreciate all of Tom’s updates, the GF is just not my bag, baby.
We stay every year in December at The Grand. If you look at the studios there is something missing that we use all the time. Beyond the second bed between the bed and the window there is a work station. I set up all my chargers and computer there. This seems to be missing in the studio photo.
There is a work station opposite the bathroom which has a large mirror above it. Double duty as a desk and a vanity. Photo is available in the villa room slideshow on WDW website.
Staying here in early December in a 1-Bedroom Villa. Do you know which building those are in?
Derek, the villas are in the two fully dedicated DVC buildings closest to the Poly and the GF wedding venue area. We love them as it’s one of our home resorts. They have all been recently updated so your timing is perfect. They are fully booked through much of 2022 so if you don’t need your room, we will gladly take it!