You’ve got time to kill on your arrival or departure day. You’re taking a chill day mid-vacation. You’ve got a park-phobic in your party. Whatever the reason, there may be times when you’re at Walt Disney World, but can’t, or don’t want to, venture into a theme park. Here’s a handy list of 125 ways to keep busy and have fun without heading into the parks.
Before I get going, let me say that one oft-mentioned reason for avoiding the theme parks is to save money. I mean, going into the park means a big outlay of funds for admission, right? Well, yes, if you’re going into the parks, you will need a ticket, but you should be aware that spending a day in the park may actually end up cheaper than looking for fun elsewhere. For example, the price difference between an 8-day park ticket and a 9-day park ticket could be as little as $7 per adult, depending on your travel dates. Even simple activities like mini-golf ($14 per adult at Winter Summerland) or a trip to the movies ($14 per adult evening ticket at AMC Disney Springs) will cost more than that. The math is less clear with a shorter stay, and you still may want or need to avoid the parks for sanity purposes, but you should sit down and do the math to make sure that a non-park day makes financial sense for you.
And now on to the list of Activities Outside the Orlando Area Theme Parks:
1. Design your own pizza at Blaze Pizza at Disney Springs.
2. Create a candle at the Co-op Marketplace at Disney Springs.
3. Create a candle at the Basin shop at the Grand Floridian resort.
5. Watch the Happily Ever After Magic Kingdom fireworks from our favorite spot outside the park.
6. Indulge in some decadent pastries at Amorette’s.
7. Sleep in. You’re on vacation!
8. Explore the holiday decorations at the resorts.
9. Arrange a family photo shoot.
10. Swim in your resort pool.
11. Taste ALL the tapas at Jaleo.
12. Get a personalized ornament for your tree at the Disney Springs Days of Christmas shop.
13. Shop for fashion. So many stores at Disney Springs!
14. Bowl a few frames at Splitsville.
15. Go to a hoedown dinner at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue.
16. Rent a canoe at Fort Wilderness.
17. Create a custom phone case at the Disney Springs Marketplace Co-op.
18. Get your face painted at Disney Springs.
19. Visit one of the Disney merchandise outlet shops.
20. Play a round of golf, 9 or 18 holes. Call 407-WDW-GOLF for more information.
21. Shoot some hoops at the NBA Experience.
22. Support the Rebellion at the Void.
23. Rent a bike. Many resorts have bikes available for rental. There are child and adult sizes of regular bikes as well as group-size surrey bikes.
24. See a movie.
25. Ride the monorail.
26. Learn some circus skills.
27. Run a marathon.
28. Dine with Characters. Several character meals are located outside the theme parks. Try Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary (breakfast and dinner), ‘Ohana at the Polynesian (breakfast), Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club (breakfast), 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian (breakfast and dinner), or others.
29. Visit the horses and watch the blacksmith at Fort Wilderness.
30. Watch an outdoor movie at your resort.
31. Get your child a makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. There are locations at Disney Springs and the Grand Floridian that don’t require park admission.
32. Go for a run. Many of the Disney resorts have lovely jogging trails nearby. Inquire at your hotel’s concierge desk.
33. Go on a shopping spree at the Disney Springs World of Disney store. They stock all the latest Disney merchandise.
34. Visit the Orlando area outlet malls for non-Disney brands.
35. Have drink and sing along with the gang at Jellyrolls piano bar.
36. Watch the big game at the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk.
37. Take a paddleboard lesson.
38. Take a balloon ride at Disney Springs.
39. Play miniature golf. There are two courses on site, Winter Summerland and Fantasia Gardens, accessible via Disney’s free transportation system.
40. Stroll around the Boardwalk and watch the free evening entertainment: magicians, musicians, jugglers, etc.
41. Volunteer at Give Kids the World. This wonderful organization provides cost-free vacations for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It an awe-inspiring place.
42. Take a tour of Fort Wilderness on horseback.
43. Send the kids on a pirate adventure. Boat trips for children depart from the Yacht Club, Port Orleans Riverside, Caribbean Beach Resort, and the Grand Floridian. Call 407-WDW-PLAY for more information.
44. Take a day trip to Kennedy Space Center, a bit over an hour away in Port Canaveral.
45. Play tennis. Courts are available at Saratoga Springs, Yacht Club, Fort Wilderness, Contemporary, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk, and Old Key West.
46. Karaoke, baby. Kimonos bar at the Swan features karaoke in the evenings.
47. Check out the animals at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Evening visitors can borrow night-vision goggles to view the savannah.
48. Rent a cabana, available at most deluxe resorts. Have your own poolside oasis with comfy chairs, a tv, fresh towels, and the service of an attendant.
49. Visit a trampoline park.
50. Learn cake decorating.
51. Create a plush animal at the Build-A-Dino store at the T-Rex Cafe.
52. Play some pinball in your resort arcade.
53. Take an archery lesson.
54. Hang out at a playground.
55. Attend the free Chip & Dale Campfire Singalong at Fort Wilderness.
56. Watch some live competition at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
57. Watch Irish Step Dancing. Music and dancing are part of the entertainment at Raglan Road.
58. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride at Fort Wilderness or Port Orleans.
59. Go fishing. For bass tours, call 407-WDW-BASS. Pole rentals are available at Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans.
60. Take a pony ride.
61. Have tea. The Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian offers an oh-so-civilized afternoon tea service. For the younger set, try the Wonderland Tea Party or My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party.
62. Ride a carousel. The mini carousel at Disney Springs is the perfect place for little ones to get their first play on the ponies. There’s a tiny train ride too.
63. Rent a boat. Several WDW resorts have marinas where you can rent everything from a two-person self-piloted SeaRaycer on up to a yacht with a captain for a dozen friends.
64. Dine with an Imagineer. Get up close and personal with a real Disney Imagineer during a meal at Citrico’s.
65. Shoot some pool. There are free tables located just outside the Turf Club Bar and Grill at Saratoga Springs.
66. Watch the Electrical Water Pageant. This free boat parade passes by the Magic Kingdom and area resorts every evening, weather permitting.
67. Listen to some light opera at Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel.
68. Build a sand castle. There are sandy beach areas at the many of the Disney resorts. While you can’t swim in the water, the sand is perfect for digging and sculpting.
69. Hit the beach. Real live beach areas (you know, with the ocean) are about an hour away from the parks.
70. Get a makeover. The Sephora at Disney Springs will be the place for all things beautification, and on the off chance that they don’t have what you need, the nearby MAC Cosmetics surely will.
71. Take a Segway tour of Fort Wilderness.
72. Have the best meal of your life. Victoria & Albert’s. ’nuff said.
73. Snack your way through dinner at the Disney Springs food trucks.
74. Make your own treat at Goofy’s Candy Company at Disney Springs. Choose cookies, apples, pretzels, or marshmallows. Dip them in caramel, white chocolate, or milk chocolate. Cover them with nuts, sprinkles, cookie crumbs, or more chocolate. Yes!
75. Get in Tiki mode at Trader Sam’s.
76. Get a cupcake from a vending machine at Sprinkles.
77. Pretend you’re on the islands at Margaritaville.
79. Get a manicure at the Senses Salon at the Grand Floridian.
81. Check out all the weird at the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.
82. Explore artifacts and the music of Bob Marley.
83. Make a trade. Stop by your resort’s gift shop or the pin trading station at Disney Springs. You can tweak your collection by swapping pins with the cast members or other guests.
84. Hunt for Hidden Mickeys at your resort.
85. Crash a wedding. I’m not encouraging you to pull a Vince Vaughn, but if you station yourself near Disney’s Wedding Pavillion for a while, you’re bound to see some wedding parties and blushing brides heading to their nuptials. Always charming.
86. Get a Hair Wrap.
87. Break your way out of an escape room.
88. Sample dozens of sodas at the Coca-Cola Store.
89. Have a meal with live entertainment at The Edison.
90. Simulate a skydiving experience at iFly Orlando.
91. Get into the groove for some dancing at Universal City Walk.
92. Show off your moves at Atlantic Dance Hall.
93. Watch some live entertainment at Stargazers Lounge.
94. Watch some magic at AbracadaBar.
95. See the entire area from above on Icon Park Orlando.
96. Make your own crayon at the Crayola Experience.
97. Visit the Pick A Pearl booth at the Beach Club resort or Disney Springs.
98. Learn surfing at Typhoon Lagoon.
99. Play volleyball at your resort’s court.
100. Get a massage at the Dolphin’s Mandara Spa.
101. Taste some old fashioned ice cream at Ample Hills.
102. Listen to some jazz. A jazz and Dixie band performs nightly at the Grand Floridian, for free.
103. See some theater at the Dr. Phillips Center.
104. Have your portrait cut in silhouette at Disney Springs.
105. Watch a brewmaster in action at the Big River Grille.
106. Go for a river cruise — in an automobile. The Boathouse offers an amphicar experience where you can tour the Disney Springs waterways in rare style.
107. Get some culture at the Orlando Museum of Art.
108. Create a masterpiece at the Disney Springs LEGO store.
109. Get some coffee. Starbucks has made its way into the Disney universe. There are two outposts at Disney Springs. The one in the West Side area often features special blends.
110. Go to church. If services are important to you, your resort concierge can help you find a nearby congregation that meets your needs. Many local churches welcome visitors.
111. Read a trashy novel. We won’t judge.
112. Toss a ball or Frisbee. Most of the Disney resorts have open areas suitable for active play. Be careful not to disturb other guests, but feel free to let the kiddos burn off some steam on the grass or the beach. Many resort gift shops have balls available for purchase.
113. Get inked. The Hart and Huntington Studio at Universal City Walk can adorn you with a permanent souvenir of your vacation.
114. Make a friend. Disney guests and cast members come from every state and all over the world. Strike up a conversation at the pool, bar, or spa. You never know who you’ll meet.
115. Get some exercise advice. Even if you’re not participating in a race, you’re welcome to visit the Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex during any race weekend. Shop for shoes, get some great exercise gear, or talk with experts about creating your own plan for fitness world domination.
116. Meet Santa. Find him greeting guests at Disney Springs in November and December.
117. Do your laundry. No it’s not exciting, but sometimes you do need to take care of chores. Every WDW resort hotel has guest laundry facilities available. And let’s face it, it is more fun to wait for your whites to dry when you’re sitting poolside than it is when you’re in your kitchen.
118. Rent a swan boat in Lake Eola Park.
119. Pretend you’re royalty at Medieval Times.
120. Pose with your favorite celebrities (in wax) at Madame Tussauds.
121. Get your mind expanded at Blue Man Group.
122. Eat some perfect Southern Fried Chicken at Art Smith’s Homecomin’.
123. Try some gluten-free treats at Erin McKenna’s Bakery.
124. Indulge a sushi craving at Morimoto Asia.
125. Book your next trip. Disney typically offers discounts to repeat visitors if they book their next vacation during their current vacation. Look for an offer sheet in your room (they’re often in the welcome folder on the table or desk), or if you don’t see one, speak to your resort concierge about a “Bounce Back” discount.
So what have I missed? Is there something that YOU always do when you’re spending a day away from the parks? Let us know in the comments below.