A family vacation to Walt Disney World is so many wonderful things and a lot of guests plan their entire visit around the parks. You spent a lot of money on your trip and you want to enjoy as much as you can while you’re there, makes sense. That doesn’t mean you can’t build in a day off or at least a half day off from the parks. I highly recommend it. It gives everyone a chance to re energize. Even if you sleep in and hit the pool, that will still give you a break from walking around the parks all day.
Everyone is different though, maybe you’d prefer to rest and just stay at the resort all day. Or you have young kids and keeping them cooped up in a hotel room is no one’s idea of fun so you still need to venture out. Below is a list of places to go and things to do outside of the parks at Walt Disney World Resort. There is sure to be something for everyone to choose from and for everyone’s budget, (some things are free while others cost additional).
1. Visit your resorts pool – This is always my first recommendation. You don’t have to pay anything since you receive access just by staying at the resort and I know my kids could spend hours at the pool. There are some cool things to check out too; the Big Blue Pool at Art of Animation plays music under the water, many have slides and they are all themed to match the resort.
2. Check out your resort’s activity calendar. Each resort hosts activities, arts and crafts and games right there in the lobby or at one of the pools. You can even find trivia nights or stop by and see Yee-Ha Bob at Port Orleans Riverside.
3. Check the calendar for the Movies Under the Stars schedule. At no additional charge you can watch a Disney movie outside on certain nights. Some resorts even have campfires beforehand or other activities. If your feeling adventurous head to Fort Wilderness for Chip’n Dale’s Campfire Sing Along prior to the movie.
4. Dine at another resort. You don’t need to be staying at that resort to enjoy their bars and restaurants.
Put on your best and head to the California Grill at the top of the Contemporary or dine along the water at Narcoosee’s at the Grand Floridian and see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from a new point of view. Head to Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge for a good laugh (and tell your neighbor to ask for ketchup!)
There are many popular character buffets at the deluxe resorts too; Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary, breakfast at 'Ohana at the Polynesian, Bon Voyage Breakfast with Ariel and Rapunzel at the Boardwalk, meet Mary Poppins or Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian or Storybook Dining at Wilderness Lodge to name a few.
5. Book tickets to a dinner show. The Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue is at Fort Wilderness and the Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian. Both include dinner, unlimited beer, wine or sangria and entertainment for all ages.
6. Visit Disney Springs for shopping, entertainment and a great meal
Raglan Road – Try the Its Not Bleedin’ Chowder! And Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding then stay for the live music and dancing.
Polite Pig – BBQ quick service with a variety of beers on tap
D-Luxe Burger – quick service location servicing gourmet-style burgers and artisanal milkshakes
T-Rex – run by the same people that created the Rainforest Café, be transported to when dinosaurs roamed the earth in this interactive restaurant. Plus they have a Build a Bear store located inside so you can take your own dino home.
Earl of Sandwich – enjoy soups, salads and of course sandwiches
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop – ice cream, coffee, chocolate! Something for everyone.
NBA Experience opening in August – find out what it’s like to be in an NBA pro with 13 unique experiences. (Opens in August, Additional $)
Amphicar Water Taxi Tour – take a guided tour in a vintage Amphicar or Italian Water Taxi. (Additional $)
The Void Virtual Reality – an immersive virtual reality experience currently featuring Ralph Breaks the Internet and Star Wars. (Additional $)
Splitsville Luxury Lanes - take in bowling, billiards and live entertainment at this 50,000 square foot faciility. (Additional $)
Aerophile balloon flight – fly up to 400 feet in the air in this hand painted helium balloon and enjoy the views of the Walt Disney World Resort. (Additional $)
7. Visit a water park. If you upgrade to Park Hopper Plus you’ll receive access to Disney’s water parks, golf course and miniature golf courses for the same number of days on your ticket. For example if you got the 4 day park hopper plus ticket you’ll get 4 entries into these ‘plus’ locations.
Blizzard Beach – a snow covered water park with attractions for every age; a lazy river, vertical slide and a chair lift to make you feel like your at a ski resort!
Typhoon Lagoon – the shipwrecked theme park hosts H2O glow nights during the summer, surf lessons, a wave pool and more attractions for the whole family.
8. Play mini golf at either Winter Summerland or Fantasia Gardens. (Additional $)
Take a bus to Blizzard Beach from your Disney resort hotel, then get into the holiday spirit at Winter Summerland which is located near the entrance of the waterpark. Take a bus to Hollywood Studios and you can walk to Fantasia Gardens and Fairways for a more challenging course. The walk is about a half mile so make sure you’re prepared. Or call the Disney Minnie Van Service which is operated by Lyft to get to any location on property. (Additional $)
9. Play a round of golf at one of Disney’s 4 world-class courses; the Palm, Magnolia, Oak Trail or Lake Buena Vista. (Additional $)
10. Explore your resort or another
Recreational activities: Moderate or deluxe resorts have bike rentals, catch and release fishing, walking trails, boat rentals and more (Some activities cost additional $)
Some resorts have fun arcades!
Decor and Theming:
All Stars, Art of Animation and Pop Century have plenty of character
Take in nature at the deluxe and moderate resorts and feel as if you’ve been transported back in time or to another part of the world.
Visit the horses at the Fort Wilderness stables.
At Animal Kingdom Lodge you can watch animals graze like you’re in the Savannah
Sign up your young adventurers for either a kid only Pirate Adventure cruise or Captain Hook’s Pirate Crew at either Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club or Caribbean Beach Resorts. (Additional $)
Sign up aspiring mermaids for the Mermaid School at either Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach or the Yacht and Beach Club resorts. (Additional $)
Go parasailing or water skiing at the Contemporary. (Additional $)
Schedule some relaxing adult only time at one of Disney’s many spas. (Additional $)
Explore Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and catch a game at the ESPN club.
Catch a sporting event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. (Additional $)
There is so much to see and do at Walt Disney World, which is why you always need to go back for more and use a vacation specialist to help you maximize your time! Ready to live out your next adventure?
Melissa Lenox is a Vacation Specialist with Coasters & Castles Travel. She is a former entertainment cast member, loves Star Wars, Chip 'n Dale, dining at Walt Disney World and planning trips for others! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org