One of the wonderful things about Walt Disney World is the individual resorts, which all have unique theming. One could have a great vacation "on property" without ever setting foot in the parks!
One of the most beautiful resorts is the Polynesian Resort. I haven't stayed there yet, but I've visited it on every trip. It's definitely on my "wish list" for a future stay.
Another view of the Poly:
One of Disney World's special traditions is the Electrical Water Pageant, which dates from 1971. Every night the pageant circles the resorts ringing Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake near the Magic Kingdom. On past trips I've viewed the Pageant from the Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary Resort; this trip I saw it for the first time from the beach at the Polynesian. The Pageant consists of floats which are reminiscent of Disneyland's Main Street Electrical Parade -- the Pageant is said to have been the inspiration for the Parade -- and the floats' actions are set to a jaunty musical score.
Below, the sea dragon, a turtle, and octopus (click to enlarge):
Like everything else, the Pageant has made YouTube if you'd like to take a peek. The Pageant is one of those little "extras" that makes a visit to Disney World so memorable.
One evening we watched Wishes, the Magic Kingdom's fireworks show, from the beach at the Polynesian. The soundtrack for Wishes is piped onto the grounds of the Poly, which makes it a perfect relaxed and uncrowded spot to see the show. (If you're lucky, you can even claim a hammock as a viewing spot.) The combination of the fireworks reflecting on Seven Seas Lagoon and the tiki torches lighting the grounds of the Poly produces a truly magical atmosphere. I think this might have been my favorite part of the trip.
One morning we went to eat breakfast at the Coronado Springs Resort, since I'd never been there before. Coronado Springs has a U.S. Southwest/Mexican desert theme, including a Pyramid slide in its swimming pool.
Festive Pepper Market, the resort's "quick service" food court:
The awe-inspiring Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts (see subject link). It's difficult to photograph the huge, stories-high lobby -- first-time guests generally walk in, look up, and gasp in awe. Stirring music from classic Western scores such as THE BIG COUNTRY, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN plays in the lobby 24 hours a day.
This spring bubbles in the lobby and trickles through the wall into Silver Creek, over waterfalls, and into the pool:
There's a geyser on the grounds, too. :)
Just one of the lodge's beautiful details:
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is another completely original resort, transporting guests to Africa. If you stroll behind the lodge, you just might spot a giraffe.
There's an eye-catching bridge suspended from the lobby ceiling:
The Contemporary Resort is one of my favorites. The Monorail runs right through the building, with a station on the fourth floor. The fourth floor is also home to Mary Blair's Grand Canyon murals and the model of the Tower of the Four Winds from the New York World's Fair:
For more on the Tower of the Four Winds, see this post.
The Contemporary is also home to one of Walt Disney World's most beloved restaurants, Chef Mickey's. Eating at this buffet, with the monorail whizzing past in the background, is a wonderful Disney tradition which isn't to be missed.
Previously: Coming Soon and Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa.
Coming soon: the parks!
Update: Walt Disney World: Disney's Hollywood Studios; Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom; Walt Disney World: Epcot; Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom.