While Disney World is known for its fantastic theme parks, there’s a lot more to do besides ride roller-coasters and attend dance performances. Save some money on tickets with these activities you can enjoy outside of the parks.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Most people flock there to see their favorite Disney characters, ride Space Mountain, and eat Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels.
Disney World is actually comprised of six theme parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Typhoon Lagoon, and Blizzard Beach. The first four are traditional theme parks, while the final two are water parks.
Of course, there are tons of things to do in the parks, but there’s also a plethora of fun to be had outside the turnstiles. The Walt Disney World resort takes up 40 square miles, which is roughly the same size as the city of San Francisco. That’s a lot of room!
So, save some money on park tickets by checking out some of these activities instead.
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There are dozens of different resorts located on Disney World property, and each is themed and features its own special décor, restaurants, and shops.
Anyone is allowed to look around the resorts, and it would take you days to view them all. Check out the larger-than-life statues of your favorite Disney characters at the Art of Animation Resort, step into the “Pacific Northwest” at the Wilderness Lodge, or just ogle the luxury of the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
While just walking around will probably be entertaining enough for adults, kids might need a goal for the day to keep them focused. One fun activity you can do with the entire family is hunt for the hidden Mickeys around the resort. Representations of the famous mouse have been subtly placed all over Disney World by designers.
For example, on Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride, three plates on the dining room table in the banquet scene form the classic three-circle shape of Mickey’s head. There are hundreds of Hidden Mickeys in Disney World, including some at every resort. This book can help you and your kids find them all in the hotels you visit.
If you want to do a little prep reading before your trip to impress your family, check out this book. It’s full of interesting information about the history and theming of the resorts.
It’s $14 for each adult and $12 per child to play, which is quite affordable for a Disney-themed activity. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours and enjoy the Florida weather. Disney world also has three full-sized golf courses if that’s more your style.
Animal Kingdom Lodge is a resort located right next to Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. The most coveted rooms are those with a “savannah-view” because you can watch the animals from the comfort of your balcony.
Whether you’re staying at the hotel or not, everyone is welcome to view the savannah animals for free from the hotel grounds. You can hang out on one of their viewing platforms and chat with an animal conservationist about the different species.
You can also sign up for a kid-friendly program to learn more about African animals and ecosystems. Enrich your child’s experience by preordering this book on African animals.
Disney World is just as much a food destination as it is a theme park. There are over 200 restaurants on the property that are all outside of the parks. While some are your basic burgers and fries establishments, others are definitely worth a visit.
Some notable eateries include the following:
- T-REX: This dinosaur-themed restaurant is run by the same company that owns the Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom.
- ‘Ohana: This fan-favorite serves Polynesian food and offers meet-and-greets with Disney characters Lilo and Stitch
- Sanaa: This African restaurant offers views of the animals in Animal Kingdom’s safari section so you can watch them while you eat.
Disney World has more than creative kid-themed dining options, though. If you want something more upscale, check out the following options:
- Jaleo by José Andrés: Authentic Spanish cuisine.
- California Grill: Fine dining with a seasonal menu.
- Morimoto Asia: If you’re in the mood for Pan-Asian, this restaurant is run by frequent Iron Chef America winner, Chef Masaharu Morimoto.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Lodge is home to Tri-Circle-D Ranch, where the horses of Disney (used in parades and some shows) are kept. The ranch has many different breeds of horses, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons. and quarter horses. They also have Shetland ponies that are perfect for young ones to ride.
Pony rides for young children are available, as well as horseback riding through the Orlando “wilderness.” Wagon, carriage, and sleigh rides are also available to help you enjoy the resort’s beautiful scenery. Your kids can also learn about how to care for horses and what it’s like to run a ranch.
Get your child excited for the experience by getting them a hat and bandana set to wear to the ranch.
Disney’s BoardWalk is a quarter-mile promenade of dining, shopping, and live entertainment. It’s located between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and also houses Disney’s BoardWalk Resort.
You’ll find over 10 places to eat on the BoardWalk, whether you want burgers or pizza, or funnel cake and ice cream. Flying Fish is a fine-dining restaurant in the area that’s popular for its mouth-watering seafood dishes.
The Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast, found at Trattoria al Forno, is a popular character breakfast where you can meet Flynn Rider, Rapunzel, and other Disney royalty.
When you’re done eating, enjoy playing midway games, watching live entertainment, or just strolling along the water’s edge in the evening.
Disney Springs is a massive dining and shopping center with over 100 stores and over 60 places to eat.
In terms of shopping, you’ll find everything from well-known brands and specialty art shops, to a Christmas store that’s open every day of the year. Restaurants include snack bars, dessert shops, food trucks, novelty eateries, and fine dining.
Disney Springs also has a movie theater, bowling alley, hot air balloon rides, Cirque du Soleil performances, and much more. Plan to spend at least one full afternoon here, but the truth is, if you want to see and do everything, it could easily take an entire day.
While it’s certainly worth visiting Disney World’s theme parks at least once, for return visitors or those on a tighter budget, it might be better to enjoy some activities outside the parks. Another way you can save some cash is by staying off-site.