It can be easy sometimes to forget just how much there is to do outside of Disney World’s four theme parks and two water parks. With so much contained within the parks, it might not even cross some guests’ minds that you could actually spend a whole Disney World vacation without ever going to the parks. Although I personally wouldn’t suggest skipping the parks entirely, you could do it and still have a great vacation. Maybe it’s the last day of your vacation or maybe you just want to explore the property a little to see what else Disney has to offer. With that in mind, here are just a few of the many things to see and do without ever having to pay for a park admission ticket.
Disney World wouldn’t be much of a resort destination without golf. With three courses (four if you include the onsite Four Seasons course) and one nine-hole walking course, there’s a wide variety of play options for fans of the sport. Even if you think you’re terrible at golf or you’ve never tried before, this is a good place to start. Resort courses are notoriously less punishing than most courses (people don’t need a stroke on vacation) and even if you do play horribly, at least you’re still in Disney so you can’t be that upset. If the full-fledged sport still seems like too much of an undertaking, Disney also offers two thematically different mini golf courses. Fantasia Gardens (located near the Boardwalk) is themed after its namesake film and even features a more traditional putting green course for those who want to just work on their short game. Winter Summerland Miniature Golf is located at Blizzard Beach and has two courses themed after winter and summer. For those concerned about having to purchase a water park ticket to play here, no need to worry. The mini golf course may be located at Blizzard Beach but it’s actually outside of the Blizzard Beach entrance.
You can rent boats at multiple on property resorts but if you want all that Disney has to offer as far as watersports go, check out Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre at Contemporary Resort. There’s a wide variety of activities available for rental depending on how adventurous you’re feeling that day. You can rent a two-person boat and make your way around Seven Seas Lagoon and Lake Buena Vista or you can even go wakeboarding. Or if you’re really evil, tell your friend you’re going to go tubing and then at the last second change the reservation to parasailing. I’m sure they won’t mind.
This one’s pretty simple. Always wondered what the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge is really like but don’t want to pay deluxe resort prices to stay there? Just go visit. While there aren’t resort to resort busses at Disney World, just take the bus to the park that’s closest to the resort you want to visit then hop on their bus at the park. You can do this for pool hopping too but over the years they’ve gotten pretty strict about only allowing guests of that particular resort to swim in the more popular pools like Stormalong Bay at Beach Club. I would definitely recommend resort hopping even more if you’re visiting during the holidays to see the decorations.
I think a lot of people skip Downtown because they assume it’s just a place to shop but that’s just one aspect of it. (Ed. – I’ve seem the crowds at Downtown Disney – I don’t think ANYONE is skipping it.) If you love going to the movies, the AMC theater at Downtown Disney is really nice. The seats are comfortable and if you want more than just popcorn or candy, they offer dine in theaters where you can have servers take your drink or food orders at any point during the movie. If bowling is your thing, Splitsville is fairly new and is definitely not your stereotypical bowling alley. If you like video games – both new and classic, hit up Disney Quest. You can go see La Nouba at Cirque du Soleil if you’re into that kind of thing, and if parasailing didn’t scare you off heights already, you can even go up in a hot air balloon. This is all before the planned revitalization/rebranding into Disney Springs that is currently underway so expect even more reasons to go here in the near future. TouringPlans recommends taking Disney transportation to Downtown Disney as parking and traffic during the construction can be daunting.
For many guests visiting the restaurants are as big a part of the fun as experiencing the attractions, and Disney has plenty of options at a range of price points (Ed. – yes, from somewhat expensive to really expensive) . Whether it’s at the Boardwalk, Downtown Disney or any number of Disney resorts, the best restaurants at Walt Disney World are nearly always found outside the parks. While I could write a whole article on the best places to eat and drink, you’ll definitely be able to find most any kind of food that you might be craving. Personally, I’d do dinner at California Grill during the Magic Kingdom fireworks then hop over to Downtown Disney to drink the rest of the night at Raglan Road, which is by far the best bar on Disney World property.
I know I didn’t come close to naming all there is to see and do at Disney World outside of the parks but these are just some of my personal favorites. I’d love to hear some of your favorites though. Leave a comment and thanks for reading.