There are so many things to do at Walt Disney World that you’ll never be able it do them all. Even still, Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman always encourages friends to have a day or two – or at least an afternoon – to check out all there is to do outside the parks. Today she shares six of her family’s favorite ways to maximize those non-park days.
When my sister and brother-in-law recently visited Walt Disney World with me (for what was essentially his first visit), I couldn’t help but take a little pride in the parks as they discovered all there is to see and do. And yet, part of me wanted to say in my best infomercial voice, “But wait, there’s more!”
I wondered how I could possibly make them understand that just outside their view of Epcot’s International Gateway stood the Boardwalk entertainment area? That Disney Springs is not just as cool as my sister always found Downtown Disney, but that they’ve gone and made it even more incredible? That two of the biggest baseball fans I know should come back next year for a Spring Training game or two at Disney’s Wide World of Sports? That no, really, my family hasn’t even scratched the surface of all there is to do, even though we’ve been dozens of times?
How to Make the Most of your Non-Park Days at Walt Disney World
Have a mini-staycation at your hotel
If you’re staying on property – at any “level” of hotel from Value to Deluxe or Home Away from Home – there are countless ways to spend your time. We have said over and over again that we need to book a Walt Disney World vacation sometime where we don’t even set foot in the parks!
Each of the resorts has at least one themed pool, and most have additional pools. While our favorite is easily Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, an argument could be made to visit any of the pools on property.
There are also shopping opportunities, nightly outdoor movies, pool parties, and several other activities throughout the day during your stay.
TravelingMom Tip: Ask for an activities schedule when you check into your Disney hotel, or from guest services at any time.
Explore the other resorts
Once you’ve spent time your own resort, don’t forget that you can visit the other Walt Disney World hotels, too. This is especially fun to do during the holidays; every resort is decorated, and the deluxe resorts go all out (in their own uniquely themed fashion) with decorations unlike any I’ve seen elsewhere.
Some resorts such as the Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, and Saratoga Springs (with its proximity to Disney Springs) offer additional shopping and dining venues, live entertainment, golf, and more. You can even view lots of animals on the savannas at Animal Kingdom Lodge, from a number of places open to the public!
Enjoy Live Entertainment
Speaking of live entertainment, you can find some almost every night of the week. Many of the resort hotels have entertainment – a pianist or orchestra in the lobby of the Grand Floridian, Yeeha Bob at Port Orleans Riverside, etc. You’ll find dueling pianos at Jellyrolls on the Boardwalk, and a number of live acts throughout the entirety of Disney Springs.
Get some exercise
As if walking 30,000 steps in the parks isn’t enough, there are ways to get exercise during your time outside the parks. If you’re a golfer, Walt Disney World is home to some of the most well-known golf courses in the country, including stops on the PGA tour. If you aren’t, maybe one of the two mini golf courses are more your speed!
You can also go bowling at Splitsville, or take a walk/run on the New Balance trails found at each of the hotels.
Watch other people get exercise
Disney’s Wide World of Sports is home to the Atlanta Braves Spring Training facility, but even when it is not baseball’s preseason, there are high school and college sports, cheerleading competitions, and dozens of other events to watch or take part in.
Visit Disney Springs
We have always enjoyed visiting Downtown Disney during our vacations. Once we visited the Anaheim version though, we found “ours” a little lackluster. It seemed to be missing the vibrant (but family-friendly) night scene, opportunities for play, and general atmosphere of Disneyland’s incarnation.
Not so anymore. With the transformation to Disney Springs over the past few years, this place is absolutely stunning. A new backstory provides more continuity to the theming, and the added “neighborhoods” they have built are beautiful.
Whether you shop till you drop, eat until someone has to roll you out of one of dozens of delicious restaurants, build with legos, people watch, go up in a hot air balloon, or do any combination of the things available, Disney Springs is a destination on its own that definitely requires at least a day to take in!
Have you ever “taken the day off” during your Walt Disney World vacation, or are you on the go from dawn to dusk? What’s your favorite thing to do outside of the four parks?