Off the Beaten Path at BoardWalk Inn’s Garden Cottages

When discussing Club Level options at Disney World, BoardWalk Inn (BWI) tends to be a really popular choice among those with a lot of CL experience under their belts for several reasons. First and foremost, the EPCOT resorts are beloved by many. Second, the Innkeeper’s Club lounge offerings at BWI are consistently some of the best at WDW. Third, the view of the boardwalk, particularly from the club rooms, is pretty great if that’s what you’re after. Lesser-known, however, are the somewhat-elusive Garden Cottages BWI has tucked away around the inner courtyard, hidden behind little white picket fences and framed with cute french doors. Not everyone knows they’re even there. If you’re standing on the balcony of the club lounge and look straight down, you’ll likely remain unaware that these rooms are right below you. Located on the first floor and only accessible from the outside (there’s no interior corridor for them), the Garden Cottages are a nice choice if you’re in the mood for some seclusion but still want to be steps away from EPCOT and the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk area.

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Check out the birdhouses. That’s where the room numbers are.

The Garden Cottages are adorable, in case you couldn’t already tell. There are several of them, so odds are you’ll be able to book one without too much difficulty unless you’re heading to WDW at a peak time, and they’re bookable on the website. They boast two storeys, a front porch and garden area (hence the name), and half of them have an upper balcony off the bedroom on the second floor as well. Most importantly, all the cottages are Club Level rooms, thus you have full access to the lounge, nightly turndown services, and the upgraded toiletries.

But here’s the catch.. or rather, if you’re the target demographic for this blog, the huge, enormous plus: these rooms allow a maximum capacity of TWO.

No, you can’t drag grandma/the kids/weird cousin Joey along to camp out on the sleeper couch, even though these cottage rooms have loads of extra room and could feasibly accommodate well more than two people in them. We heard a couple Cast Members during our time at BWI referring to these rooms as “honeymoon cottages,” so you get the idea. We personally loved this, since so many WDW resort rooms seem targeted toward the “cram as many people as we possibly can before we violate fire safety codes and get into a fistfight over who can take the next shower” crowd nowadays. It was all couples while we were there. What this means is that these rooms are unusually quiet and peaceful compared to the sometimes chaotic nature of the regular BWI rooms, particularly if they’re facing the Boardwalk itself. Those get a bit noisy. You could book a Garden Cottage and feel like you’re on a calm, leisurely couples getaway, then hop on a friendship boat over to EPCOT and binge-ride Spaceship Earth before enjoying a nice glass of champagne in the Club Lounge and calling it a day. It’s our kind of Disney vacation.

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Even the most rousing game of Marco Polo in the pool over there isn’t gonna ruin the relaxation potential on this balcony.

The room itself is more like a suite. It features a downstairs living room with a desk, couch, big TV, a wet bar with microwave/coffee maker/all that stuff, and a half bathroom. Stairs lead up to the second level, which is the bedroom and main bathroom. All the Garden Cottages have king beds. The windows are huge and let in a lot of light during the day, yet at night it’s plenty dark and cozy when you want to get some sleep. There’s a large garden tub in the bathroom, plus a full shower and twin sinks.

Take a look:

The Disney touches in these rooms are pretty great, too.

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Minnie hanging out on the lamp.
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My favourite part: Mickey and Minnie joyriding in an old-timey car. Ever noticed that Minnie’s eyes are closed? That seems like a major driving hazard, but who am I to judge?

Overall, the relative solitude that the Garden Cottages offer is well worth the price of the rooms, but it’s important to note before you rush off to book that the solitude comes with a few trade-offs.

  1. The Innkeeper’s Club lounge is located on the third floor of the resort. The Garden Cottage rooms are on the first floor, and as mentioned above, have no interior corridors. They open up to the outside. To get to the rest of the resort, you need to go outside, walk down the sidewalk for a little bit, and go back inside to the first floor elevator lobby. To get to the club lounge, you’ll take the elevator to the third floor and trek down the extremely labyrinthine hallway corridors quite a ways to finally reach the concierge desk and the lounge proper. This is one of the biggest downsides, in our opinion, to the BWI as a whole: the hallways. are. SO. long. Even if you’re staying in a regular club room on the third floor, you’ll more than likely have a hike ahead of you if you want to dash down to the lounge and grab a drink. Be ready to walk. For those in the Garden Cottages, however, this means it’s really not that huge of a detriment to have to head up the elevator and snake down the maze of hallways to get to the club lounge since everyone else is having to do virtually the same thing, minus the elevator ride. It’s something to keep in mind, though.
  2. The walk to the elevator lobby itself isn’t laborious or anything, but I noticed immediately that the path to the building goes straight through a designated smoking area, so if you’re like us and are extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke, you’ll need to be prepared to hold your nose.
  3. In our experience, housekeeping was hit-or-miss in the Garden Cottages. Some of the surfaces in the room were dusty and remained so throughout the duration of our stay. The housekeepers came around 11AM each morning, and they were very insistent about getting into our room. Since the only entrance to the cottage room is downstairs, and the bedroom/bathroom are upstairs, it’s not always easy to hear a knock at the door, thus more than once we were getting ready to go out for the day upstairs and the housekeeper would unceremoniously barge right on in after the first knock. Be alert. They were usually friendly, though, so there’s that.
  4. A “secret staircase” of sorts leads directly up to the hallway nearest the club lounge that’s fairly close to the Garden Cottages. I’d read about this staircase on Disboards prior to us heading to BWI for the first time, so when we got there we sought it out. It’s a fire exit, basically. Three flights of plain, industrial-looking fire stairs that takes you out of the fantastic theming of the resort. Yes, it cuts down on the time you’d spend walking to the first floor elevator lobby and going up the elevator, but we didn’t feel it was worth using in the grand scheme of things.
  5. Taking food or drink back to your room from the lounge is basically pointless in the Garden Cottages. You’ll want to eat and drink in the lounge area. Even a slow drinker would have their glass of wine finished off with little trouble during the walk back to their room. Either that, or you risk spilling it and wearing it the rest of the day. No wine deserves such a fate, especially complimentary CL wine.

Lastly, what about the Innkeeper’s Club itself? We liked it, but we didn’t love it. We would stay again, although we aren’t rushing back.

The food offerings were fantastic. A chef from the Flying Fish comes up on certain nights and prepares fresh items for the evening service, and there was a bloody mary bar on the weekends for breakfast. They had the most impressive breakfast options of all the CL stays we’ve enjoyed. Items were replenished fairly quickly. Dessert options at night rotated regularly and weren’t boring. You could tell they were putting a lot of effort into making their food offerings high quality and plentiful.

Concierge staff were friendly for the most part, but not overly helpful at times. Some seemed like they didn’t want to be there, while others were super nice and wanted to get to know guests. They did a great job of keeping the lounge clean and neat. The food service staff were extremely efficient. We never had a glass of wine or champagne get too low before they were offering us more. With as many guests they have at one time (this is a huge club level floor, plus the cottages), the level of attentiveness was surprising.

The biggest disappointment for us about the Innkeeper’s Club was the lounge itself. It’s way too smallYou could fit two of the BWI lounge areas into the one at Yacht Club, yet they have relatively the same number of guest rooms. You could tell the staff tried to make some more room by placing the morning coffee serving area outside the lounge doors, which was a smart idea, but unfortunately led to them getting distracted by what was going on inside the lounge itself and letting the coffee server sit empty for far too long. The Nespresso machine and tea area was in the little hallway just inside the lounge doors, facing the door that led to the cast member kitchen. This created even more chaos. If the lounge were larger and better laid out, the cast members would be able to much more efficiently manage things and it would undoubtedly be less stressful on them overall.

The lounge felt cramped most of the time. At breakfast it got chaotic when it was even half full, let alone when more than three or four people were lining up for food or coffee. There’s a balcony off the back of the lounge where you can see some of Illuminations over the tree line. It’s the same view as some of the Garden Cottages have, just a few floors higher.

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Looking into the upstairs bedroom from the balcony. The Club Lounge is two floors overhead.

We enjoyed our stay in the Garden Cottages, we really did. Yes, there are some downsides, but the good far outweighs the bad here. Keeping these rooms as a 2-person maximum capacity ensures that they’re both 1) usually available to book, even on short notice, and 2) are super quiet and have a unique ambiance that you just won’t find anywhere else on property. If you’re looking for some quiet time with plenty of room to spread out and relax, without having to give up all the great perks of staying Club Level, this is your best bet.

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What’s not to love?