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Walt Disney World is a vacation destination in and of itself. It is so much more than rides and characters. Believe it or not, Disney World is about the same size as San Francisco! It includes four theme parks, two water parks, 25+ hotels, a shopping and dining district and lots more. To get the most out of your vacation, spend some time outside of the parks. But, what should you do during these breaks? Here is a list of things to do outside the parks at Disney World. Please note: some of these experiences are free, while others are available at an additional cost. Also, some of them have age restrictions and/or require advance reservations.
See a Movie
- Take a break from the heat and rest your feet while you watch a movie at the AMC theater at Disney Springs.
- Most of the Disney resorts show movies on the lawn almost every night.
Have a Tea Party
Kids ages 4-12 can join Alice and friends at an afternoon tea party with apple juice, cupcakes, and crafts at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian.
- At Animal Kingdom Lodge, walk out onto the savannah viewing area to watch the giraffes, zebras, and other animals.
- For a truly immersive treat, take a starlight safari at Animal Kingdom Lodge using night vision goggles.
- Adults can see some horses and maybe other native wildlife on the 2 hour Segway tour during the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Fort Wilderness.
- Get up close to some friends from the savannah and get insights into the art, culture, and food of Africa on the Sense of Africa tour at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Relax Around the Campfire
- Sit and enjoy some quality family time and s’mores by the campfire at most of the moderate and deluxe resorts. These resorts usually have nightly campfires.
- Join Chip and Dale for their campfire sing-along and s’mores at Fort Wilderness.
Become a Pirate
- Kids between the ages of 4-12 can become pirates when they take a 2 hour kids’ only Pirate Adventure Cruise where they can hunt for treasure.
- Alternatively, kids can join Captain Hook’s Pirate Crew where they will learn to talk like a pirate, sing pirate songs, go sailing, and have a pirate’s feast.
One of our favorite things to do outside the parks is have a good meal. Some of the best restaurants at Disney World are located in the resorts and Disney Springs. You don’t have to be staying at a particular resort to enjoy the restaurants there.
Have a blast bowling with your family at Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Disney Springs.
Take a Carriage Ride
- Take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage at either Fort Wilderness or Port Orleans-Riverside Resort.
- Larger groups can enjoy a horse-drawn wagon ride at Fort Wilderness.
Disney World includes more than 25 hotels and resorts. And each one of them has a unique theme, ranging from the larger-than-life cartoon characters at All-Stars Movie Resort to the sophisticated elegance of the Grand Floridian Resort. Use some of your nonpark time to explore the resorts and appreciate all the details. Please note, however, that, generally speaking, you are only allowed to swim at the hotel where you are staying.
Spend some time outside of the parks bonding with friends or family on the links at one of Disney World’s four golf courses: Lake Buena Vista Golf Course, Magnolia Golf Course, Oak Trail Golf Course, and Palm Golf Course.
Splash around at a Water Park
Disney World has two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both of these have a full slate of water slides and pools, including a lazy river and wave pool. Additionally, at Typhoon Lagoon, you can take surfing lessons.
Go for a Swim
All the Disney resorts have highly themed pools. Some of them have water slides. This helps swimming rank high on most kids’ list of things to do outside the parks. It’s also a great way to beat the heat in the middle of the day.
Go Horseback Riding
- Guests age 9 and up can head over to Fort Wilderness and go horseback riding. These excursions are 45 minutes in length.
- Guests who are at least 2 years old and under 80 pounds can ride a pony at Fort Wilderness.
If you are looking for a unique activity outside of the parks, venture over to Fort Wilderness and take an archery lesson.
- Head over to Port Orleans-Riverside to fish off the dock. This is a fun option, even for little kids because you can rent fishing equipment for as little as thirty minutes.
- For more serious fishing, take a guided fishing excursion on a boat for either 2 or 4 hours. Fishing excursions are available at several Disney resorts.
Visit a Spa
One of the most relaxing things to do outside the parks is to visit one of several spas scattered around Walt Disney World. You can find them in the Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Saratoga Springs, and Coronado Springs.
Take a Bike Ride
- You can rent a 2, 4, or 6 person surrey bike to take for a ride from any of the following resorts: Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, Boardwalk, Old Key West, or Saratoga Springs.
- If you would rather rent a regular bike, you can get adult and kids’ bikes from Caribbean Beach, Old Key West, Port Orleans Riverside, Port Orleans French Quarter, or Saratoga Springs.
Whether you love to shop or are just looking for some souvenirs to take home, you can’t go to Disney World without spending some time shopping. Fortunately, you can do this outside the parks. There are tons of both Disney and non-Disney stores at Disney Springs. You can also find some unique shops in some of the resorts.
Play Sand Volleyball
Have some fun playing sand volleyball at Caribbean Beach, Contemporary Resort, Coronado Springs, Old Key West, Polynesian Resort, Fort Wilderness, Yacht Club, or Beach Club.
- Take a break outside of the parks and play some tennis at any of these resorts: Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Inn, Old Key West, Fort Wilderness, Saratoga Springs, Yacht Club, or Beach Club.
- If you want to play tennis, but don’t know how, take lessons at Contemporary Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Saratoga Springs, Boardwalk Inn, Yacht Club, or Beach Club.
Play Mini Golf
For a fun activity for the whole family, try playing miniature golf. Disney World has two different locations: Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens. Each one has two different courses to play. We have played both courses at Winter Summerland and loved them.
Enjoy a Dinner Show
- Attend the Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Resort, which combines an all-you-can-eat feast with traditional Polynesian entertainment in an outdoor theater.
- Head over to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue where you can enjoy slapstick comedy, country and western singing and dancing, and an all-you-can-eat meal of old fashioned country food.
- Rent a canoe or kayak at Fort Wilderness.
- If you prefer a motorized boat, you can rent a Sea Raycer for 2 people, a Boston Whaler Montauk for up to 6 people, or a Sun Tracker Pontoon for up to 10 people at several Disney resorts.
- For a memorable experience, consider taking a specialty cruise, such as a fireworks cruise.
Watch a Game
- If you have a sports lover in the family who just can’t miss the big game, grab a table at the ESPN Club at the Boardwalk Inn. For a special experience, check out the VIP Experience.
- At certain times of the year, you can catch a game or other sporting event live at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
- If you are 21 or over and want a night out without the kids, head over to Atlantic Dance Hall at the Boardwalk Resort to dance the night away.
- If you want to dance with your kids, check out your resort activities for any dance parties that may be happening, or just start your own!
Watch the Electrical Water Pageant
To experience a classic hidden gem, walk out towards the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Contemporary Resort, Fort Wilderness, or Wilderness Lodge around 9:00 pm to watch the Electrical Water Pageant. This little nightly water parade has light-up floats and some favorite Disney music.
Enjoy Some Hoops
- At the NBA Experience in Disney Springs, you can test your skills, get behind-the-scenes peeks, and brush up on your basketball knowledge. This experience opens August 12, 2019.
- You can also play basketball at any of the following resorts: Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian, Contemporary Resort, Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, or Fort Wilderness.
Catch Some Live Entertainment
Many of the resorts feature live entertainment at various times which fit perfectly into the theme of the resort. Disney Springs also has several options for live entertainment. The entertainment options include:
- The Grand Floridian Lobby Pianist
- The Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
- Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar at Boardwalk
- Marketplace Stage at Disney Springs
- Latin music at Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs
- Irish music and cloggers at Raglan Road in Disney Springs
- Yee-Haw Bob at the River Roost Lounge at Port Orleans-Riverside
- House of Blues in Disney Springs
- Scat Cat Club in Port Orleans-French Quarter
While the four theme parks of Walt Disney World get the bulk of people’s time and attention, there are tons of things to do outside of the parks. The above list should give you lots of ideas of things to do during your nonpark time. See Disney’s website for additional details on any of the above items that you are interested in. For help planning your trip, see my step-by-step guide and why you should stay on property. For more under-the-radar things to do, see our hidden gems. Happy travels!