Travel Tuesday: Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Hotel Review (Walt Disney World)

A couple of weeks ago, I shared a look at my Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventure. But, before that unique (and pricey) experience, my wife and I spent three nights in more conventional accommodations, booking a stay at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace. Located in the Disney Springs Area of Walt Disney World, the Palace appears to be a popular pick for families visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. But was our visit as cheerful? Let’s get into my review and experience.

Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace Hotel Review

How I booked

Before booking my visit to the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace, I wasn’t 100% sure where I wanted to stay. All I knew was that I wanted to be fairly close to Disney Springs. In fact, what lead me to this property was the fact that I had Hilton Honors points to cash in. More specifically, despite listing at $400 a night, I was able to book for the same 50,000 a night price that other nearby properties sporting a lower cash total would cost. So, for 150,000 points, I booked our three-night stay.

Of note, there is a $35 (plus tax) daily resort fee. As I learned only after departing and looking at my folio, Hilton waives resort fees for rewards bookings! So, in addition to my 50,000 points per night, I only needed to pay for the $22 a night plus tax in parking along with any other incidentals.

Parking

One of the downsides of the Hilton Buena Vista Palace is that they do charge for parking. On the bright side, the price isn’t too outrageous, coming in at $22 per night during our stay. Considering that I’ve paid far more than this in the past, this fee wasn’t a dealbreaker but it’s still an added expense to consider.

The room

While I originally booked whatever the cheapest room category was, upon check-in, we were informed that we’d been upgraded to a Disney Springs view room. As you can see from my featured image above, this turned out to be a beautiful view of the pool area, fountain, and, yes, Disney Springs (note the Rainforest Cafe volcano that’s visible and occasionally shoots fire). Thus, if I had to do it again and the price difference wasn’t too drastic, I’d definitely try to book a room on this side of the building.

Turning to the room itself, while I liked the room’s size and decor, it was pretty clear that, under the remodelings and refurbishments, the property had some age behind it (actually, that part was pretty clear from the world’s slowest-closing elevator doors we encountered on our way up to the room). That age is perhaps most prominent in the bathroom. While it was larger than the one we had at the Hilton Palmer House in Chicago, it wasn’t exactly large. To its credit, though, the water pressure was outstanding and didn’t smell too much like Florida — yes, this is a real thing.

One of my favorite aspects of this room was the artwork. Above the beds were a series of images depicting the moon phases, with each moon shaded a different color. Similarly, I thought the room’s decor was unique without being too flashy, striking a nice, cozy balance.

Speaking of cozy, I found the bed to be perfectly comfortable, providing three solid nights of sleep. That said, one morning we could hear our neighbors talking pretty clearly. Seeing as I was half asleep, it’s hard to say for sure if they were really speaking loudly or whether the sound bleed was that bad. However, if I had to guess, I think they must have been in the hallway as we only heard sound coming from that area during the rest of our stay. Luckily for me, I had my Sleepbuds to pop in while my wife says she managed to get back to sleep in spite of the annoyance.

Heading back outside, I really liked this tiny balcony, complete with two padded wicker chairs. While a small table we could place our coffee on would have been even better, the view more than made up for it. Lastly, while we’re talking coffee, there was a coffee maker in the room, with complimentary selections provided. If you’re looking for more than that, then head down to the next section where we’ll talk about dining.

Dining and dining credit

One of the pandemic era changes that Hilton made was to replace its free breakfast perk for Hilton Honors Elites with a daily dining credit. The value of this credit depends on the property brand and location but, in our case, it worked out to $15 per person per day (up to 2 people). While some people were disappointed by this change, I’m actually a huge fan — and my Buena Vista Palace experience highlights exactly why.

First, I was happy to discover that, while this daily credit doesn’t roll over from day to day, you can choose to use it either on your day of arrival or your day of departure. Seeing as we arrived fresh from our 16 hour drive famished, this was welcome news as it meant we could go get some free food right away. For that, we headed to the grab-and-go market Citrus 26. With $30 to spend, we ended up getting a pepperoni pizza to share, a bottle of soda, a beer, a bottle of water, and a candy bar for a grand total of… $30.04. Win.

The next day, we opted to try the pool bar Shades before they closed in the early evening. Granted, our selections of a double cheeseburger and acai bowl did top $30 this time (especially when the tip was added), but we ended up spending about $10 for two sizable and delicious meals. This brings us to our last day when, after spending the day with friends, we realized we still had our credit to use. With that, it was back to Citrus 26, where we treated ourselves to dessert and stocked up on snacks to use up the rest of our credit.

I should also mention that there are more dining venues than the two we visited. For dinner, there’s Sunnies and, for breakfast, Letterpress is apparently the place to head if you don’t want grab-and-go. There’s also a bar in the lobby if you want a drink.

Personally, while free breakfast is a fine perk, the ability to buy lunch or dinner instead is a huge upgrade. Plus, while past Hiltons I’ve stayed at since this change was enacted have had similar markets, this Citrus 26 location was huge, with a much larger selection of prepared foods, ice creams, and packaged items. Thus, if you are a Hilton Honors Elite or end up with property credit, you should have no trouble spending it easily and practically during your stay.

Walking to Disney Springs

As I noted at the top, one of the main reasons I booked the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace was due to its proximity to Disney Springs. In this aspect, it did not disappoint. After a short walk on property and a few steps on the sidewalk, you’ll find a skybridge that will take you right to the shopping and dining district. In total, from the Hilton lobby to the Disney Springs checkpoint, it’s less than a 10-minute walk.

This proved amazingly convenient for us as Disney Springs is a great place for us to meet up with friends. Plus, we have a few favorite quick-service dining spots throughout, such as Chicken Guy, Earl of Sandwich, and Gideon’s Bakery. There are also two Starbucks for your enjoyment.

All in all, I don’t think I could have done much better in terms of choosing a place close to Springs and would absolutely consider staying there again if I had the same intentions.

Walt Disney World transportation

Believe it or not, when people visit Walt Disney World, they might actually want to head to the theme parks and not just the shopping district! Luckily for them, the Buena Vista Palace provides regular transportation to Disney’s theme parks. What’s more, as a Good Neighbor Hotel, guests are eligible for special perks such as early theme park entry (on select days at select parks). To be honest, since we didn’t head to the parks from Hilton, I can’t exactly speak to how often this transportation was provided, but they did have helpful signs up with info about the shuttle service. Perhaps we’ll have a chance to experience it first-hand on a future stay.

Other amenities

Lastly, while we didn’t make use of all the amenities offered by the property, I feel I should at least mention them. For one, the Palace is home to a gorgeous looking pool that also features a lazy river. There’s also a fitness room, which looked pretty well-stocked. Yet, my favorite amenity has to be the DVD rental program. That’s right — when you check in, you’ll be given a card that can then be used at the rental kiosks found on the property. Guests can check out as many different films as they want but can only have one disc out at a time. In the advent of streaming, is this perk a bit outdated? Sure… but I still think it’s awesome. Plus, from looking at the kiosks, the titles featured were quite up to date. To me, this sounds like a perfect way to spend a lazy night in after a day in the hot Florida sun, so I hope it’s something Hilton keeps around.

Final Thoughts on the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace

Overall, my wife and I greatly enjoyed our stay at the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace. Between our great view, easy walk to Disney Springs, and variety of ways to use dining credit, it hit all the right notes for us. At the same time, my opinion of the property might be a bit different had I booked in cash instead of points. With my stay quoting a price of more than $400 a night, I definitely would have been disappointed if we had to shell out that much — not to mention the fact that that excludes resort fees and parking. On that note, however, I think that the high price had more to do with our timing as 1) it was Spring Break and 2) there was a benefit gala happening the night of our arrival, with many attendees appearing to be staying at the hotel. Sure enough, looking up dummy dates for September, the Palace can be booked for a much more reasonable $200 a night.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to be near Disney but not completely be inside the Disney bubble, I think the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace could be a great choice at the right price. While the hotel is aging, it does seem as though Hilton is trying to take good care of it and treating it as the asset that it is. Hopefully, if you have the chance to check it out for yourself, you’ll feel the same way.

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Also published on Medium.

Author

Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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