Take a Stroll Along Disney’s Boardwalk by Day and Night

| July 27, 2009

Did you ever wonder what there is to do along Disney’s Boardwalk?  I’m not talking about the restaurants and clubs, but whether you can make a day out of the carnival atmosphere along the Boardwalk.  I had a beautiful, sunny day in Orlando without a cloud in the sky, and I decided to take a stroll down the Boardwalk to experience what there is to see and do.  Come along with me on my walking tour.

It was around 1:00p on a Friday afternoon, and I had no plans to go to a park.  I was staying at the Swan, so I walked over the bridge and entered underneath the large archway that reads Disney’s Boardwalk – just in case you forget where you are and confuse it with Atlantic City or something.  The first thing you see off to your left is the Atlantic Dance Hall and to the right is Jellyrolls Night Club – home of the Dueling Pianos.  The seagulls swirl around calling from overhead hoping to get some droppings of bread or French fries.

It’s a relaxing stroll, and not very crowded at all.  The Atlantic Dance Hall’s doors are open Tuesday – Saturday at 9pm.  Jellyrolls has live entertainment nightly at 7pm.  So if you’re planning on whiling away the afternoon hours at either of these places you’re going to have a long wait.  However, it is a peaceful walk along the Boardwalk, and there’s light jazz music playing in the background reminiscent of the Jazz Age era of the 1920’s or 30’s.  Across the waterway you can see Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, and you can see the pirate shipwreck at the Stormalong Bay pool.

One place open in the early afternoon for lunch is the Big River Grille and Brewing Works.  People are eating outside, and inside is a bar with big screen TVs hanging from the walls (if you wanted to catch a sporting event).  The Big River Grille is a lively place; you can see the large copper brew kettles used for brewing the beer and it’s a good place to get something to eat.  However, I would not think of it as a destination to spend your entire afternoon – there’s no entertainment found here.

There are some Midway style Carnival games on the Boardwalk such as a basketball hoop toss, but they are closed for the afternoon.  It looks as if the Boardwalk doesn’t really open until the evening.  There is a large gift shop with various names above the entry doors (Screen Door General Store, Character Carnival, Dundy’s Sundries, Thimbles and Threads, etc.), but all the stores are connected on the inside.  The store has all the usual souvenirs and items you would see in any gift shop in any other hotel or Downtown Disney. There are some snack food items, if you want to grab a snack and munch your way along the Boardwalk.  After you pass the gift shop, you can wander towards the entrance of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn.  There is one other store along this path the Wyland Galleries – where you can find higher end Disney inspired (as well as non Disney) art.

Next, you come to the entrance of the Luna Park pool complex of the Boardwalk Inn.  This is the pool with the freaky, frightening clown that periodically spits children out into the pool [the clown’s mouth is the end of the slide for the pool].  There are rocking chairs set up next to the pool if you wanted to sit and people watch for the afternoon.  There is also a bar next to the pool, Leaping Horse Libations, open and serving drinks.  So if you wanted to spend your day sitting by the pool people watching and having a cocktail, you could certainly while away an afternoon that way.

Heading back out onto the Boardwalk from the Luna Park pool, the first restaurant you come to is the Flying Fish Café.  The Flying Fish is not open for lunch, only dinner starting at 5:30 pm.  So again, this would not be an option if you wanted to come in the afternoon to the Boardwalk.  There is a very nice candy store called Seashore Sweets open at 1:00p.  They have a lot of different jelly beans, Goofy sour candy, chocolate covered Rice Krispy treats, chocolate covered pretzels, cookies, ice cream, pastries, cupcakes, and brownies.  This is a great place to come and get a snack for your stroll down the Boardwalk.  Seashore Sweets opens onto Spoodles, which closes on August 2nd for the new Cat Cora restaurant Kouzzina opening in the fall.

Back out on the Boardwalk, you pass a pizza parlor window open from noon until midnight, and next up is the Boardwalk Bakery.  The aromas wafting out of the bakery smell absolutely delicious.  The bakery opens early in the morning and has fresh sandwiches and cakes, and the smells in the building are just incredible.  There are some cute Mickey shaped cakes, and this would be a nice option for lunch.

Our last stop on the Boardwalk is the ESPN Club.  You can enter by the shop that has a few video games and sports items for sale such as: football and baseball t-shirts, helmets, basketballs, and gear with the logos of any sports team you can imagine.  You can walk right from the shop into the bar area of the ESPN Club, and there are a fair number of people in the bar.  Dozens and dozens of TVs are located in the ESPN Club to allow you to watch whatever sporting event you desire.  At this point at 1:00p on a Friday afternoon, it is not very crowded at all in the club.

So that’s it for our daytime tour of the Boardwalk.  I have to say if you are planning on spending the afternoon here you are going to be sorely disappointed.  If you have an afternoon that you don’t want to spend in the parks, you might be better off heading to Downtown Disney.  There is not a lot open in the afternoon on the Boardwalk.  It seems the Boardwalk is definitely more of an evening destination.

Night life on the Boardwalk
It is now 8:00p on the same day, and I’m back at the Boardwalk.  This afternoon the place was pretty dead.  So I thought I would come back to see what the evening nightlife is like.  The Jellyrolls piano bar is now open, but the Atlantic Dance Hall night club does not open until 9:00 pm.  There is now a line of people waiting to get into the Big River Grille and Brewing Company.  The Midway Carnival games are open.  Nobody is playing them, but they are indeed open.  There are some stuffed animals you can win in games priced $3-$5 a play.

A little further down the Boardwalk is a busker, the Amazing Carlo, who has set up his cart.  “Carlo” performs some sword balancing tricks to entertain the crowd.  I have to say the atmosphere at the Boardwalk is still rather subdued.  I can’t say it is really “hopping” at all.  There is a funnel cake factory, hair wrap station, caricature artists, and Friendship Boats taking guests back and forth to EPCoT and beyond.  There is a line of people waiting to get into the Flying Fish Café.  All and all I would say, yes, there are a couple of more things open in the evening not open during the day.  However, I’m not sure I would make the Boardwalk a special destination to come.  Sure, if there is a specific restaurant you want to go to for dinner, or if you want to go to Jellyrolls for the dueling pianos, then by all means come down to the Boardwalk.  But if you are solely looking to be entertained by the buskers and Midway style games, I don’t think there is going to be enough there to keep you entertained for an entire evening on your vacation.

So that’s my opinion.  What do you all think?  Leave a comment below, I’d love to read your perspective regarding the Boardwalk.


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  • lucky978

    We always love spending an evening at the Boardwalk with all the street entertainers, etc. Do you think they have cut back on them? Doesn’t seem like there were too many out when you were there. We also like to rent a 4 person bike and tour around the lake.

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  • Cyrano

    Shows the difference the weather makes as our visit to the Boardwalk was not as colourful :)

  • shmedly123

    We went to the Boardwalk while staying at the BC in March 08 and loved it. My daughters were 2.5 and 4.5 at the time and it was nice to just stroll around the lake and relax. In my opinion it is definitely worth it especially at night.

    Although, I have to agree with David that if you are looking to be entertained constantly then you will be disappointed. We used the Boardwalk as more of a way to unwind and relax after a long park day. I highly recommend it if you are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle but still have some of that Disney experience.

  • trivial

    I absolutely loved staying at the BoardWalk, but I’m not sure I would make the trip to see the actual boardwalk if I were staying somewhere else (not to seek out entertainment, at least). It’s a nice, atmospheric location for a leisurely stroll or a snack, though.

  • http://joyfullycrafted.com tfakler

    Well I have to say I just had this same discussion with my husband. We had a group of 11 and we had just eaten at the Floridian and were so full. We just got off the transportation at Magic Kingdom. We wanted to walk around a little before heading back to our resort. My husband suggested going to the boardwalk. I resisted a little saying there is nothing there but we all had a nice time. We saw two shows (comedian and magician) on the boardwalk and walked through the store. So would I make a night of it probably not but looking to take a stroll definitely yes.

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