Thursday, June 28, 2012

Today in WDW History: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa Opens

24 years ago today (June 28, 1988) Walt Disney World opened the doors to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.  The Grand Floridian is a AAA Four Diamond Award–winning, Victorian themed luxury hotel and spa located on the picturesque shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Disney's flagship 867 room resort is just a quick Monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom Park.

The hotel was inspired by the Victorian era beach resorts built along Florida's east coast during the late 19th and early 20th century.  The exterior is modeled after the Mount Washington Resort in Bretton Woods, NH and Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, CA, with red gabled roofs and white walls.

The Grand Floridian shares the shores of the man-made Seven Seas Lagoon with Disney's Polynesian Resort and the Magic Kingdom.  As you can see in this photo, taken in the summer of 1987, the Kingdom in the background along with the Monorail tracks running along the resort towards the entrance of the park.  The hotel occupies land that had been earmarked for an Asian themed resort during the initial development of Walt Disney World Resort in the late 1960s.

Walt Disney originally wanted the resorts to mirror the 'lands' of the Magic Kingdom.  Such as the Polynesian resort which reflects Adventureland, the Contemporary Resort echoing Tomorrowland, and The Grand Floridian having the look and feel of Main Street USA.

Originally named Grand Floridian Beach Resort, the resort was renamed in July 1997 after the addition of the health club and spa in 1996.

In 2007, all the guestrooms were redecorated and flat panel televisions were added.  The lobby has gone under a major transformation since its beginning. Italian marble was put in to replace dated tiles. There are even some mosaics of Disney characters near common places such as the main entrance, monorail station, and elevators with new carpet installed in May 2010.  During evening hours, a band plays on the second floor balcony for about 3 hours alternating with a pianist.

The resort offers two pools, a jacuzzi, and a white sand beach.  The marina contains various watercraft rentals, including fishing excursions and a yacht.  Other recreational activities include tennis programs, a mile-long jogging trail, health club, and preferred access to the Walt Disney World golf courses.  The full service spa offers massages, therapies, and other treatments.  The Monorail System, water taxis, and buses provide access to other Walt Disney World areas and attractions.

The resort will be expanding to include an 147 villas as part of Disney Vacation Club, further adding to the Victorian elegance for which Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is known.  The new wing, featuring the DVC villas will be located on the southern tip of the property, as well as a new parking lot for Disney's Wedding Pavilion and Grand Floridian Health Club.  This makes The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa the second Vacation Club property on a monorail resort, following Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort which opened in 2009.  Beginning on September 19th, the Grand Floridian's Spa will be closed for 18 months due to this expansion.  It is estimated to open in late 2013.

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