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A Brief History of Disney’s Grand Floridian

January 5, 2023

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is Walt Disney World’s flagship resort. It can be hard to imagine Disney World without it.  However, the Grand Floridian is not one of the original Walt Disney World resorts.  Formerly named Disney’s Grand Floridian Beach Resort, the resort opened on June 28, 1988, nearly 17 years after Disney World opened.  Let’s dive into the history of this popular resort, shall we?

The Location

The Grand Floridian along the Seven Seas Lagoon (Photo Credit: Disney Tourist Blog)

As far back as the 1960s, Disney planned to build resorts along the Seven Seas Lagoon, including on the 40 acres on the northwest shore between the Polynesian Resort and the Magic Kingdom where the Grand Floridian now sits today.  However, Disney originally planned to build an Asian-themed resort on this plot of land. The Thai-inspired resort would have had 600 rooms, including suites with royal Thai decor.  For a variety of reasons, such as the 1973 Oil Crisis that led to a tourism downturn, the plans for the Asian resort never came to fruition, and the land sat empty until the 1980s. 

The Design Concept

Grand Floridian Lobby (Photo Credit: Disney Tourist Blog)

By the early 1980s, plans shifted to a new concept: the Grand Floridian.  The resort was a joint effort between the architect firm Wimberly Whisenand Allison Tong & Goo (WWATG) and the Disney Development Co.  WWATG had previously designed hotels for Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. It also designed the original plans for the Asian-themed resort.  

Influenced by turn-of-the-century Victorian architecture, the Grand Floridian’s design took inspiration from a few different resorts. These included the Hotel Del Coronado in California, the Mount Washington Resort in New Hampshire, The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, and the Belleview Biltmore in Florida.  Even Mizner’s Lounge was a nod to the architect credited for classic Palm Beach architecture in the 1920s.

Intradesign, an interior design firm, brought the resort’s theme to life through the many iconic details that we see today like the marble floors, stained glass domes, chandeliers, and birdcage elevator in the main building.  A historically accurate depiction of Victorian style would have been too formal for Disney guests. Instead, designers focused on a more playful vision of beachfront hotels. This was achieved with light colors while still incorporating textures and patterns like floral designs and latticework from the Victorian era.

The Addition of DVC Villas

Resort Studio at the Grand Floridian

At the 2011 DVC Condo Association Meeting, it was announced that the Grand Floridian would expand to include a new building with 147 villas and studios.  Completed in 2013, the DVC building shares the Victorian theming of the hotel side. It also has a subtle Mary Poppins theme, which is reflected in details such as the penguin fountain in the lobby.  

In 2022, DVC expanded at the Grand Floridian through the conversion of the Big Pine Key building from hotel rooms to about 200 DVC Resort Studios.  This new style of DVC accommodation features two queen-size beds and a beverage center in lieu of a kitchenette.  Similar to the villas in the original DVC building, the beautiful studios have a subtle Mary Poppins Returns theme.

Article Source: Huff Post

If you’re looking to stay at the beautiful Grand Floridian, contact the DVC Rental Store!  Check out some of the great deals on confirmed reservations, or inquire about renting points for a future stay. 

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