15 Things to Do at Walt Disney World:: Without Going to a Park

15 Things to Do at Walt Disney World - Without Going to a Park

It’s a fact of life for us budget-conscious Walt Disney World fans that our Florida Resident Seasonal (now Silver) Passes come with one big drawback: blockout dates.

We’re lucky to live here in Disney’s extended backyard. For much of the year, our weekends are chock-full of FastPass+ selections, dining reservations, character photos and repeating “Por favor manténgase alejado de las puertas!”  But when I see June approaching on the calendar, I begin to feel Disney depression setting in. Twelve weeks of no Disney. Sixty-seven days without the magic. It’s a long, hot summer, Disneyphiles.

Ah, but all is not lost. You can still get your Disney fix this summer without setting foot in a theme park. Get ready for a weekend (or week) of non-park Disney fun. And please keep your arms, legs, feet and hands inside the blog post at all times.

Things to Do at Disney When You’re Parkless

1. Splurge on a Deluxe Resort hotel. I know, I said we were budget-conscious. Normally, there’s no way we can justify staying in a high-end Deluxe category Resort hotel when all we’re doing is sleeping there. A long summer weekend without parks is a perfect time to treat yourself to the best Disney has to offer. Plus, Disney will often run a promotion giving Florida residents up to 35% off a summer stay.

Grand lobby of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Step off the monorail and step into this grand lobby…and say “aaahhhh…”


2. Stay in a family suite at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. Alternatively, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is a great option for larger families. The suites sleep six, and you’ll find separate living and dining areas, a bedroom (with a door!), a kitchenette complete with microwave, sink, coffeemaker and small refrigerator, and two – count ’em – TWO bathrooms. Worth the price of admission right there! And the kids will love the over-the-top theming after their favorite Disney movies. You can also check out other options in the Value category, including Disney’s All-Star Sports, Movies and Music Resorts. My son loves to run simulated plays with his dad on the giant football field courtyard at All-Star Sports.

Cars Courtyard at Disney's Art of Animation Resort

You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into Radiator Springs at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.


3. Dine with Disney pals. Have breakfast with an alien, brunch with a mouse or dinner with a princess. A character meal is a perfect way to get a prized photo without venturing into the parks. (Disney Mom Tip: book your character meal for breakfast instead of dinner and save a little money.)

Chef Mickey's inside Disney's Contemporary Resort

Meet the “Fab Five” – Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto – at Chef Mickey’s!


4. Take in a dinner show. I love Hoop-De-Doo Revue, the foot-stompin’, hand-clappin’ hoedown at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. The food is fantastic, beer and wine are included, and on our last visit, our son even got to play a part in the show!

Onstage at Disney's Hoop-De-Doo Revue

My kid doing his best cowboy character in the Hoop-De-Doo Revue.


5. Ask for ketchup or conquer the Kitchen Sink. Some dining experiences are adventures all their own. Visit Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and see what happens when you ask for ketchup. Or, hit the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at Disney’s Beach Club Resort and order the Kitchen Sink Sundae – if you dare.

Fun at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

When you tell the server at Whispering Canyon Cafe that you want yet another drink refill.


6. Have a Dole Whip or a Mickey Bar. These two treats are so beloved by Disney fans, their images are available on magnets, T-shirts, pins and more. But did you know you can get them outside the theme parks? Visit Pineapple Lanai at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for a Dole Whip, and find the Mickey Premium Bars in most Resort hotel food courts.

Pineapple Lanai at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Look for Pineapple Lanai on the outside patio at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to get your Dole Whip fix.


7. Ride the Highway in the Sky. Wherever we end up staying at Walt Disney World, I always have to make my way to the Magic Kingdom Resort Area to do the “monorail loop,” visiting the gorgeous Deluxe Resort hotels on the line. Stop for snacks, do a little shopping, have a beverage, or just enjoy the ambience of some of Disney’s most beautiful hotels.

Monorail in the Grand Concourse at Disney's Contemporary Resort

The monorail is an attraction in itself. Glide through the sky and visit the amazing Deluxe resorts!


8. Go parasailing on Bay Lake. Parasailing at Walt Disney World? Yep, and a lot more! Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre at Disney’s Contemporary Resort marina will hook you up with a thrill ride you won’t get inside the parks.

9. Chill by the pool. Stretch out on a lounge chair or enjoy some beverages at the bar while the kids play poolside games led by Resort Cast Members. Not a bad way to spend the day.

Kids' splash area at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

Pull up a lounge chair and relax while the kids splash around.


10. Be a “weekend warrior.” Take in a game at the ESPN Club on Disney’s Boardwalk. Or, make your own ESPN highlight on one of Walt Disney World’s golf courses, serve up a game of tennis, or try a few frames of bowling at the unique Splitsville Luxury Lanes. If the miniature version is more your game, hit the Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland mini golf courses.

11. Horse around at Fort Wilderness. Boat or bus over to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch to see where the horses that are featured in the parades and shows in the parks live. There are also wagon rides, horse-drawn carriages, trail rides, and pony rides for the kids.

Pony ride at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

Mosey on over to the Fort and let the little ones take a pony ride.


12. Tool around the Walt Disney World waterways. You can rent a boat at Deluxe Resort hotels or the Fort Wilderness campground and see the Magic Kingdom and the surrounding Resorts from a whole new perspective.

Disney's Magic Kingdom Park from a boat on Seven Seas Lagoon

Float your own boat and get some amazing views of the Magic Kingdom.


13. Explore the jogging trails. Many Resort hotels have mapped trails for guests who want to keep to their fitness routine while on vacation. Even if you’re not a runner, it’s fun to follow the trails and see the Resort grounds.

Sign along the jogging trail at Disney's Pop Century Resort

The jogging trail at Disney’s Pop Century Resort is dotted with fun facts.


14. Make a withdrawal at the Cupcake ATM. After years of construction, Disney Springs has finally come to life with tons of new shopping, dining and entertainment choices. One of the coolest is the Cupcake ATM at Sprinkles. Yes, really.

15. See the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Giraffes, zebras and more wake with the sun on this Resort hotel’s gorgeous savanna. Stop by to say hello, and strike up a chat with a Cast Member to learn about the magnificent creatures who call this amazing place home. While you’re there, head to the Mara food court and pick up a zebra dome.

Disney friends, we’ve only scratched the surface of all the great things to do at Walt Disney World without parks. Hopefully, these ideas will get us started as we try to beat the Summer Blockout Blues. Now that I think of it, Christmas blockout is only seven months away.

Tell me some of your favorite non-park things to do at Disney so we can plan for it together!

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9 Responses to 15 Things to Do at Walt Disney World:: Without Going to a Park

  1. Rachel June 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    These are amazing tips! There is so much more to discover than the Theme Parks at Walt Disney World!

    • Kathy K
      Kathy K June 3, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks, Rachel! You’re right, there’s a wealth of things to do, even without stepping into the parks!

  2. Big Poppa June 3, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    Kathy, these tips are amazing. What about things to do for adults? We’ve been before but if we are not in the mood for the parks are their more adult areas? Thanks!

  3. Big Poppa June 3, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    Kathy, these tips are amazing. What about things to do for adults? We’ve been before but if we are not in the mood for the parks are there more adult areas? Thanks!

    • Kathy K
      Kathy K June 3, 2016 at 4:43 pm #

      Hi Poppa! There’s plenty for us “big kids,” too! Check out some of the new drinking and dining establishments at Disney Springs, take in a showing of La Nouba by Circque du Soleil, stop by the popular Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, have a spa day at Senses at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa… wow! I may need to do another post!

  4. Wild Orchid June 3, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    So much to do at Walt Disney World Resort! My husband and I LOVED parasailing high above Bay Lake and seeing the Magic Kingdom from the sky! Great tips that I’m hoping to try in August.

    • Kathy K
      Kathy K June 3, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

      I haven’t had the courage to try parasailing yet, but it sure looks fun! Maybe one of these days. Hope you have a blast!

  5. Leighanne June 5, 2016 at 12:24 am #

    Thank you for all these awesome tips! May I ask which hotel has the shipwreck pool, in the photo above? My 2 and 5 year old sons would absolutely love it!

    • Kathy K
      Kathy K June 5, 2016 at 7:49 am #

      You’re so welcome, Leighanne! We’re just back from our last park day of the summer, so we’ll be taking advantage of some of these non-park fun ideas very soon, too.

      The shipwreck in that photo is the kids’ splash area at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, one of my absolute favorite Disney hotels. The pic of my little guy on the sandy beach was taken there, too. Lots of fun for the little ones at this resort.

      Hope you get a chance to check it out soon!