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Disney resort expansion centers on friendship of Dali and Walt Disney

Disney World recently opened the Gran Destino Tower, an expansion of the Coronado Springs convention center that highlights the friendship between Walt Disney and surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. [Walt Disney World]
Published Jul. 18

ORLANDO — Flamenco dancers, Mickey Mouse and a shower of confetti kicked off the dedication of the Gran Destino Tower, an expansion of Coronado Springs resort that pays tribute to the friendship of Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney.

The reboot of the original Coronado Springs convention center creates a moderately priced resort tricked out on a grand scale.

The Gran Destino Tower, which opened to the public earlier this month, has a Spanish style that takes its theme from the seven-minute film Destino, started by Dalí and Walt Disney in the 1940s and left unfinished. It was later discovered and released in 2003 under the guidance of Roy E. Disney, Walt's nephew.

"A lot of people don't know about the collaboration of Salvador Dalí and Walt Disney on the film Destino," said Cinde Meade, interior designer of the hotel project. "So, to introduce them, a lot of details from the film are woven into the interior and exterior of the resort."

The high-end details set the new complex apart from other moderately priced resorts and could provide competition for Disney's deluxe resorts.

At 545 rooms, the Gran Destino Tower brings the total of rooms at Coronodo Springs to 2,385. All are new or newly renovated. Available rooms range from standard with two queen beds to a 750-square-foot deluxe suite with access to the private Chronus Club. Off-season rates for rooms in the Gran Destino Tower start at $202 a night.

The renovations include two new restaurants and two bars, all in keeping with the Spanish theme.

Giant Spanish tile pillars fill the Gran Destino's lobby, flanked by a long running mural of Walt and Mickey beside another mural of Dahlia, the female star in the Destino love story. A breathtaking stained glass bar, with a giant hidden Mickey, fills the lower-level lobby.

The best references to the film are in the 16th-floor Dahlia Lounge, Meade said. The lounge with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and an outdoor patio offers a great view of Animal Kingdom, Blizzard Beach and Hollywood Studios. It also houses a collection of photos featuring Walt Disney and Salvador Dalí together.

"If you look at the ceiling, you see Dahlia's flowing hair in the wind," said Michael Scheifler, who is proprietor for the Gran Destino Tower restaurants and responsible for Dahlia Lounge. "We have the movie showing on two screens so you can watch it. Then, if you look around the room, you see in a mural that Dahlia's head is a dandelion and the spores are flying away. The chandeliers are dandelions floating."

Across the hall is Toledo Tapas, Steak and Seafood with stained glass ceilings, live olive trees, three private dining areas and views of both sunrise and sunset.

Another new dining option is the Three Bridges Bar and Grill at Villa Del Lago, where the theme is world unity.

"Our restaurant is inspired by the authors, musicians and travelers who are looking for a place to rest, eat and drink as they were looking for the lost cities of gold. Our menu is inspired by all those flavors from all those travelers and where they come from around the world," said chef Anthony Benacquisto.

Situated in the center of the lake at Coronado Springs, Three Bridges serves up three signature sangrias, along with snack-sized dishes including churros, crispy chicken biscuit sliders, shrimp corn dogs and curry lentil hummus.

The Gran Destino Tower also ups Disney's high-tech hotel game. An interactive TV greets guests by name, transmits their vacation photo package to the screen from the MagicBands on their wrists and can stream from their personal devices. At the elevator, a computer tablet lets guests tap their floor and takes them directly there, no waiting for other guests. Every seat in the lobby has a USB port next to it for recharging devices.

But an old-school game is also afoot. The resort is loaded with "hidden Mickeys," the subtle mouse-ear designs slyly woven into fabrics, furniture, carpets, wallpaper, metalwork and decor, providing a fun pastime for families.

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