Walt Disney World in Orlando is a super magical place to visit. But did you know there is a lot of fun to be had outside the parks? You could easily spend several days just hanging out, enjoying resorts, eating, playing games, eating, shopping, and did I mention eating?? Here are my top 10 things to do at Disney World without going into the parks!
Eat at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Restaurant
This iconic farm-to-table restaurant at Disney Springs is a can’t-miss when in the Orlando area. With menu items like Church Lady Deviled Eggs and drinks like Apple Pie A La Mode (it tastes like real apple pie), it’s as entertaining as it is delicious.
World of Disney
Also located at Disney Springs, this isn’t just any Disney store, this is a Disney store on steroids! There are so many sections of the store, you could spend all day here. Find everything from Minnie Ears to games, puzzles, clothes, jewelry, and home goods. This is NOT to be missed! Two of my other favorite stores at Disney Springs are Marketplace Co-op and Disney Style.
Eat at Resort Restaurants
There are tons of restaurants in the greater Disney World area (in fact there are over 200 places to eat on Disney property), and there is something for everyone. You do not have to be staying at a resort to eat there! Feeling like a meal with a Hawaiian flair? Try Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort. Want to see the fireworks at Magic Kingdom (when they return) while you eat dinner? Enjoy them while dining at California Grill at the top of the Contemporary Resort. Want to see Mickey and Minnie? Try character dining at Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera, Disney’s newest resort. Reservations are strongly recommended for table service restaurants (you’ll need to sign up for a Disney account and make them up to 60 days in advance).
Resort Hop on the Monorail
Take a free bus from Disney Springs to a resort that is on the monorail line (The Contemporary, Grand Floridian, or Polynesian Resort). Walk the grounds, grab a snack at a quick-service (aka counter service) restaurant, and then hop back on the monorail and move on to the next resort!
Note: The monorail station at the Polynesian is currently under construction. It is set to reopen in July.
Eat a Dole Whip
This iconic Disney World snack is delicious and a must-try! Essentially a soft-serve pineapple dessert (the classic version is dairy and gluten-free), it was invented by Dole Food Company in 1984. It first became a Disneyland staple, then made its way across the country to Disney World. There are many variations of it (including some with rum) and can be found outside the parks at Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Resort or at Disney Springs at Marketplace Snacks.
What’s more fun than mini golf? Minnie golf at Disney World (see what I did there?). There are two golf courses to choose from: The first is Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, themed like the movie Fantasia. If you want mini golf, but at a more serious level (in addition to a regular-style mini-golf course), Fantasia Gardens has a course that “resembles a traditional golf course built on a miniature scale, this course emphasizes skill over chance.” Reservations could be helpful, though you can also just walk up.
Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course (one side is themed like summer and the other like winter, both with Santa involved) is also on Disney property but is currently closed.
There are discounts for annual passholders — and you can receive a free round of mini golf as a magical extra when you book with a travel agent like me who specializes in all things Disney!
While we are talking sports, be sure to check out Footgolf! It’s golf but with a soccer ball and oversized holes on the greens. What will they think of next? Reservations recommended.
Are you a runner? You don’t need a park ticket to participate in the Run Disney events! They start early in the morning and you get to see the sunrise while you run/jog/walk through Epcot and/or Magic Kingdom. There are many fun character meet ‘n’ greets along the way, as well. My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed our 5K a couple of years ago! Disney is great at building excitement leading up to race weekends. They begin with a giant expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Try Out a New Activity at Fort Wilderness
Looking to commune with nature? Ride on over to Tri-Circle-D Ranch and experience horseback or pony riding, a Segway tour, or even take a 75-minute archery session!
Do a Resort-Only Stay
This may sound odd, but hear me out. Disney resorts offer many activities and amenities that can keep families busy all.day.long. Unique dining experiences, poolside games and activities (not to mention many pools have great slides), Movies Under the Stars, bike rentals, marshmallow roasting, scavenger hunts, the list is endless. Take a few days to just relax and enjoy each other, just a couple of hours away from home.
Beaches ‘n’ Cream Soda Shop: Try and finish the Kitchen Sink Sundae, I dare ya!
Drawn to Life, Cirque du Soleil: Coming soon to Disney Springs, this will be a show that can’t be missed!
NBA Experience at Disney Springs: Currently closed due to COVID, this venue will continue its reputation as a “slam dunk of fun for all ages” when it reopens.
Fancy McDonald’s: Check out the environmentally friendly fast food location on Disney property!
What are your favorite non-park activities to do at Disney World?