Floating cars, hula lessons, sing-a-longs, classes for budding artists, and even golf with Santa. There is just as much to see and do outside of Disney World parks as there is inside. Take a break from the ride lines and discover Disney beyond the Magic Kingdom. Here are 17 of our favorite things to do outside of Disney World parks.
17 Things to Do Outside Disney World Parks
1. Ride in a Floating Car.
While enjoying an excellent meal at the Boathouse at Disney Springs, I looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows and did a double take. Was that really a floating CAR? The answer is yes!
In addition to enjoying superb steaks, chops, and seafood for dinner, you can also book a pre-dining, guided tour aboard an Amphicar – a car that drives on land and floats on water.
2. Golf with Santa.
While Disney has some amazing 18-hole golf courses, if you need something that everyone in the family can enjoy, try the Winter Summerland mini-golf course located near Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. It's one of the ‘coolest' things to do outside the Disney theme parks. There are two courses. One is, you guessed it, summer, while the other is winter. In both, Santa and his elves are on vacation leaving little rhymes along the way.
TravelingMom Tip: There are enough different colors of balls that even large groups can have their own color.
3. Sing-a-long with Yehaa Bob.
If you ever find yourself singing Frozen in the shower, or Be Our Guest in the van before carpool, don’t miss Yehaa Bob Jackson at the Roost at Port Orleans Riverside on Wednesday nights. In addition to songs you know by heart, you’ll love his wacky act and superb piano playing skills.
4. Take a Carriage Ride at Port Orleans
Romance is in the air! Take a ride in an authentic horse-drawn carriage at either Port Orleans-Riverside or Fort Wilderness resort. Guests can even take “holiday” themed “sleigh” rides during the month of December. Each carriage fits up to four adults or two adults and three children.
5. Learn to Draw at the Art of Animation.
Ever dream of becoming a Disney animator? Then take one of the free learn to draw classes offered at the Art of Animation Resort. You don’t have to be a resort guest to participate and there is no pre-registration. They offer the classes several times a day, so check with the front desk for specific times.
Traveling Mom Tip: Although this activity is geared toward kids, “kids at heart” are welcome too.
6. Learn to Hula Dance.
Hawaii comes to you at the popular Polynesian Resort. Take complimentary hula lessons in the lobby from Auntie Kaui, a veteran hula instructor who learned the dance as a girl in Hawaii. Classes are weekdays in the afternoon and Saturday in the morning.
7. Resort Hop (especially during the holidays).
“Resort hopping” is a common phrase known among Disney fans. It basically just means moving between resorts to see the sights. This is especially fun during the holidays.
During the Christmas season, guests will find giant gingerbread displays shaped like a house or even a carousel!
In springtime, the Easter season sees the resorts display their famous chocolate eggs. Beautiful chocolate eggs are sculpted, painted and ornately decorated by the talented pastry teams at each resort.
If nothing else, resort hopping is a fun excuse to embark on Disney's “highway in the sky” monorail system and give those tired feet a break!
8. Eat Everything including the Kitchen Sink.
It has 28 ingredients total. Five different kinds of ice cream. Seven different kinds of sweet sauces. Eight tablespoons of various toppings. And not one cherry, but an entire half cup of cherries on top.
It’s the legendary Kitchen Sink dessert at Beaches and Cream, the ice cream parlor at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. That is my kind of dessert.
9. Catch a Movie Under the Stars
Guests at Walt Disney World resort hotels can view complimentary movies under the stars, weather permitting. This activity is a great way to wind down from an eventful day in the parks or by the pool.
10. Swim in Your Resort Pool
Speaking of swimming, another great aspect of being a resort guest is use of the pool areas. Whether you are staying value or deluxe, there's nothing like a dip in a cool pool to refresh your tired legs.
Additionally, some hotels like the Contemporary and Port Orleans-French Quarter now include splash pads for little ones at no extra charge!
11. Become a Pirate.
If your kids can’t get enough of pirates, Disney is a great place to go.
Stay in a pirate themed room complete with ship themed beds at the Caribbean Beach Resort or send the kids on a pirate cruise adventure “around the World.”
Choose from two adventures that leave either from the Caribbean Cay at Caribbean Beach Resort or the Bayside Marina at Disney's Yacht Club and Disney's Beach Club resorts.
If that isn’t enough, take the whole family on the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage sailing out of the Contemporary. Pirates, dessert, & fireworks. Trifecta.
12. Watch a Light Parade.
One of my favorite parades at Disney is the Main Street Electric Light Parade in the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, this parade is no longer at the park. However, you can see a version of it outside the parks. The Electrical Water Pageant is a floating light parade that takes place nightly on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
It is easily viewed from many of the Magic Kingdom Resort beaches.
13. Pose for a Family Photo.
It’s not always easy to wrangle the entire crew for a photo when more exciting attractions beckon inside the parks.
Now, you can get your family photo at the new PhotoPass Studio at Disney Springs. Have a professional PhotoPass photographer take your picture and include the entire family. You can choose a standard or fun virtual backdrop.
If you have purchased a Memory Maker package, the digital photos are included in your Memory Maker.
14. Dine with the Characters.
You don't have to be in the theme parks to visit with the characters. Several Disney Resorts have character meals where you can meet and visit with your favorite pals.
In fact, the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista at Disney Springs is a certified Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotel, and it also offers a character breakfast.
The Wyndham character breakfast is a good alternative to pricier character meals. They have a very extensive buffet that includes the ubiquitous Mickey waffles, as well as a pretty hefty, made-from-scratch omelet and a wide variety of fresh fruit.
15. Make S'more with Chip and Dale
Bring your own kit from home or purchase one at the Chuckwagon Snack Bar at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort. After the sing-a-long with Chip and Dale, cozy up with a blanket for a movie under the stars. This free activity is perfect for all ages.
16. Build with LEGOs at Disney Springs
A perfect activity for busy little ones, the LEGO store at Disney Springs offers free play with LEGOs right out in front of their store. My girls could spend hours there if I let them!
17. Be Active and Adventurous
Active guests have so many incredible options to choose from. Jet skis, parasailing, and world renown golf courses are just a few of the exciting activities you can participate in outside Disney parks.
Looking for a free way to be active? Check out the New Balance running trails at almost every resort on the property. Some courses are as short at 0.6 miles, while other challenging routes can be up to 4 miles in length!
What is your favorite thing to do outside of Disney World parks ? Share with us in comments below.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of a post originally written by Sue Rodman.