Everyone knows that Walt Disney World is theme park central, with four fabulous parks drawing millions to Lake Buena Vista, but many don’t realize that you can actually have an incredible Walt Disney World vacation and never actually set foot inside any of the theme parks!
Part of the reason families return to Disney World year after year is there is so much to see and do that one vacation is never enough. Here are ten of our favorite things to do at Disney World without park tickets.
10. Head to Disney Springs
Our top 10 things to do at Disney World without theme park tickets begins in Disney Springs. It’s a massive shopping and entertainment district filled with unique shopping venues, fun dining options, a movie theater, and plenty of activities to keep your kids entertained.
If bowling is more of your thing, then spend a few hours bowling in style at Splitsville, an alley filled with luxury lanes which will make your neighborhood alley look like chopped liver. Want to get a bird’s-eye view? Head up into the Characters in Flight hot air balloon to take it all in.
9. Go on a Resort Scavenger Hunt
At many of the on-property Walt Disney World Resorts, you can ask the front desk for a scavenger hunt map. It’s a fun way to get the kiddos on a mission for a small reward. My favorite part of this experience is that in addition to having fun, you’ll also learn about your resort. Each has so much to offer that you may be surprised what you didn’t know.
8. Check Out BoardWalk’s Street Performers
Thursday-Saturday evenings are the times to hit Disney’s Boardwalk to catch a performance from a performance troupes. Jugglers, balancing acts, and live music from amazingly-talented street musicians give the nights a fun feel.
7. Send the Kids on a Pirate Adventure
Children aged 4-12 can embark on four different kids-only pirate adventures which take place on Disney World waterways. Each child is given a pirate bandanna to help set the mood before they set forth on a morning sail to ports of call (aka: resort marinas), listen to pirate tales, and follow clues to the pirate chest full of booty. Each adventure focuses on a different story. Adventurers meet at the marinas of various Disney resort hotels such as the Port Orleans and Yacht Club Resorts.
6. Explore Disney’s Themed Resort Hotels
It’s easy to spend hours touring the 25 hotels on Walt Disney World property, daydreaming about future stays along the way. Many have special experiences to offer hotel occupants and visitors alike.
Head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to watch animals grazing on the savanna. At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, take free hula lessons and watch Magic Kingdom fireworks with your toes in the perfect Disney sand.
Rent surrey bikes and pedal around the grounds of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, head to Art of Animation Resort to watch real Disney animators at work, or ride a shuttle boat and get lost in the Deep South grandeur of Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. As you can see, the opportunities abound.
5. Play Golf
Love to golf? Disney World is home to three great 18-hole courses, Disney’s Palm, Disney’s Magnolia, and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista. Young golfers and newbies to the sport will enjoy the nine-hole Oak Trail course at the Grand Floridian Resort. Putting purists can mini golf their way through two different 18-hole courses, one of them quite challenging, at Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course.
4. Get Out on the Water
Water occupies a significant portion of Disney World’s geography and much of it is open for play. Boats, from pontoons to powerboats and sail boats, can be rented at multiple locations throughout the resort. Human powered vessels, like kayaks and canoes can be rented as well. Fishing excursions can also be booked for those looking to catch a fish in Disney’s well-stocked waters.
3. Visit a Disney World Water Park
It gets hot in central Florida and there is no better place to cool off than at one of Disney World’s water parks. At Typhoon Lagoon guests can ride all sorts of water slides, snorkel in a simulated reef filled with tropical fish, and even learn to surf in the wave pool.
Blizzard Beach, which looks like a ski resort that has melted into a water park, has plenty of thrilling water slides to keep your dare devils happy all day long, as well as the Thin Ice Training Course, where obstacle course meets Disneyfied watery fun.
2. Enjoy a Special Meal
There are several special dining experiences to be found outside the theme parks. Character dining can be found at several Walt Disney World hotels. Little princesses enjoy the Wonderland Tea Party in the Grand Floridian.
If you are looking for a taste of the islands without leaving Disney property, check out the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort where an all-you-can-eat Polynesian feast is enhanced with hula, fire dancing, and plenty of Polynesian-inspired fun. Not to be missed is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at the Wilderness Resort, a long running and notoriously cheesy dinner show which includes family style barbecue, unlimited drinks, and plenty of fun.
Read our complete guide to Walt Disney World Character Dining.
1. Visit Fort Wilderness
Nestled inside a 750-acre cypress and pine forest, Fort Wilderness is much more than just a campground. Activities at the resort include horseback riding, a petting zoo, archery, canoes, kayaks, bike rentals, and wagon rides.
The nightly Chip & Dale Campfire Singalong is free to attend and the perfect place to cozy up by the fire, roast marshmallows, and enjoy a classic Disney flick after a long day of touring the parks. And, don’t forget, you can now take Segway Tours!
Lead image by: Flickr/jepellgen