Disney Beyond the Parks: What to do on Non-Park Days

April 18, 2021



When you're planning a Disney trip, it's tempting to jam-pack every waking moment of your trip with park time. There's simply so much to see & do within the parks, but it's just impossible to check off every item from your Disney trip to-do list. There's also an entire world (literally) beyond just the Disney parks. From Disney Springs to resorts and everything in between, there are some absolute must-do's that don't even require a park ticket!


I was recently in Orlando (no one is surprised) visiting some friends (shoutout to the Citrus Twins!) and I got to spend majority of my trip exploring Orlando & Winter Garden (more on that coming soon). But of course, being the Disney-obsessed person I am, I couldn't be that close to Disney and not do something Disney-related. But with my friends' annual passes blocked out, the parks were just not an option, so we ended up doing Disney Springs & some resort hopping to scratch that Disney itch. I got a lot of questions on my Instagram about things to do beyond the parks, so it gave me an idea for today's post. So I'm compiling some of my top suggestions for must-do's outside of the 4 WDW parks!



R e s o r t   H o p p i n g

While resort hopping might be a little bit trickier these days, it's still 100% possible! If you want to visit one of the Disney resorts that requires driving to, you will need to either book a dining reservation at one of the resort restaurants or mobile order something in order to be allowed to park at the resort. If you're there to go to one of the bars/lounges or just to walk around & sightsee, you can mobile order something small & cheap, like a coffee or my personal favorite, a Mickey rice krispie treat. Just show your ADR or mobile order on your phone to security upon arrival & they'll wave you through!




The resorts are full of things to see and do, and its for this reason that I could literally spend an entire day (or two!) just touring the various resorts. With the monorail running between Contemporary & the Grand Floridian (the Polynesian station is still closed, so you'll have to walk from the TTA or one of the other monorail loop resorts to tour Poly) and the Skyliner running among Riviera, Art of Animation, Pop Century & Carribbean Beach, resort hopping has never been easier! From any of those resorts, you can always hop on a bus to Disney Springs & transfer there to another resort as well.


Here are just a few of my suggestions for what to see & do at the specific Disney resorts!

Grand Floridian

  • Grand Floridian Cafe (our go-to breakfast spot!)
  • Basin store
  • Garden View Tea Room (once it reopens!)
  • Enchanted Rose Bar
  • Wander the lobby & take photos of the floor (yes, the floor!)
  • Spa day! (The manicures are pretty reasonable and you get access to the posh relaxation lounge!)









Polynesian

  • Lunch at Captain Cook's (GET. THE. COCONUT. MEATBALLS!!!)
  • To-go coffee from Kona Cafe (mobile order!)
  • Drinks at Trader Sam's (once it reopens. Be sure to get there early so you can sit inside - that's where all the magic happens!)
  • Grab a dole whip from Pineapple Lanai & watch the electric water pageant from the beach (or just go hang out on the beach. It's super chill.)
  • Wander the lobby (probably my favorite lobby in all of WDW)




Contemporary

  • California Grill (even though the fireworks aren't happening right now, CA Grill is still worth it. The food is amazing and the views are spectacular!)
  • Photo ops in the lobby (there's a really cute neon Mickey wall!)




Riviera

  • Topolino's Terrace (I hear the character breakfast is better than Chef Mickey's but I couldnt get a reservation. We somehow scored a dinner reservation though & the food is some of the best I have ever had! Get the rigatoni!)
  • Le Petit Cafe (grab a coffee & french pastry to go & wander around!)
  • Mosaic murals in the courtyard
  • Ride the skyliner!



Animal Kingdom Lodge

  • Sanaa bread service (A must do! Get a table by the window so you can watch the animals. You can check out my full review here!)
  • Grab a cocktail & watch the animals on the savanna!




Boardwalk

  • Walk around/shop/eat - think of the Boardwalk area as a super mini-Disney Springs :) (The piano bar Jellyrolls is totally worth it for a night - once they reopen!)




D i s n e y   S p r i n g s

This is a no-brainer. Everyone knows how much Disney Springs has to offer but in my opinion there are some things that you just have to try when you're there, no matter how long the wait might be (*cough*Gideon's*cough*). Disney Springs can get pretty packed out with locals on the weekends, so I would suggest avoiding Friday night - Sunday and opt for a weekday morning or afternoon instead. It will be a lot less crowded and you're wait times to get in to stores (yes, stores. Thanks, covid) will be a lot less.


You'll find this cute photo op inside the Disney Style store at Disney Springs


1. Gideon's Bakehouse

Absolutely do not sleep on Gideon's Bakehouse! Before I tried it, I didn't get the hype. Who waits three hours for cookies? Me, apparently. Just kidding - the wait when we were there wasn't quite that bad (it was around 45 minutes), but it's not uncommon to stumble upon the line for Gideon's snaking deep into Disney Springs. I'd say anything an hour or less is worth the wait in line (unless they are doing a virtual queue - then just sign up & go shop elsewhere until you're return time is called). The cookies are massive, so one is plenty to share, but the real star in my opinion is the peanut butter cold brew; and this is coming from a girl who isn't a huge peanut butter fan! Oh my god, I'm still dreaming about that coffee to this day, and I can't wait until I'm back to get my hands on another!






2. Wine Bar George

I love this place for so many reasons but the Dole Whip froscato is pretty near the top of that list. Wine Bar George is an awesome place to grab a drink, some fancy apps, and just chill/people watch (ask for a seat on the balcony upstairs if you want some primo views of Disney Springs). I have also had their brunch and it's *che'fs kiss* - if you want a more in depth review of Wine Bar George, check out this review I did here.






3. World of Disney

If there's one store I have to hit up every single time I'm at Disney Springs, it's the World of Disney store. It's huge and offers a lot of the same merch you'd find in the parks. There is usually a line to get in, since it is the largest store at Disney Springs, but it moves very quickly - so don't be discouraged if it looks rather long!




T a k e    A    R i d e

One of my favorite free & non-park things to do is to ride the monorail & the Skyliner. If you have littles, they will essentially see this as just another attraction (because, well, it is!). The monorail is excellent for doing a progressive dinner with stops for appetizers, dinner, and dessert at different resorts, or if you're more of a drinker, it's great for doing a monorail crawl along the loop (*be aware Polynesian's monorail station is still closed).




The Skyliner is another awesome option. You can pick up the Skyliner at Riviera, Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation or Pop Century. I suggest planning a dining reservation at one of those resorts and then you can explore the resort before/after your meal, and go for a nice ride on the Skyliner after. It's a very convenient way to resort hop as well!


P l a n    A    P o o l    D a y

One thing I love working into any Disney trip is quality pool time. To me, taking a break mid-day and going back to the resort pool to chill and have a cocktail or poolside lunch (or unwind in the hottub if it's during the cooler times), is the perfect way to spend some vacation time. Disney pools are some the best pools and are something you should absolutely take advantage of.


And the best part? This option works whether you're staying on property or not! No - you can't sneak into a Disney resort pool, but even if you're not a Disney resort guest (or even an off-property hotel guest), you can still make use of a beautiful hotel pool! If you're local or just staying somewhere where the pool leaves a lot to be desired, check out Resortpass.com! Resortpass has partnered with numerous hotels all across the U.S. so that you can take a little daycation. Rates range from $25 all the way to "sky's the limit" (think cabanas, luxury spa packages, etc.) and with a resort pass, you get access to all the same pool amenities as a hotel guest would.


These are only some of the options you have for non-park days. There's still a ton you could do - both within Walt Disney World as well as venturing out into Orlando and its surrounding areas (Winter Garden is adorable and a must-do! More coming on that soon)! I hope some of these choices piqued your interest and that you have a magical vacation!

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