You are spending 7 days at Walt Disney World but only purchased 4 or 5 days of park passes – what to do with the remaining days – or a day in the middle of your trip to take a break from the parks? There really is lots to do on Walt Disney World property without ever stepping foot inside a park. Sometimes we just need a break from the hectic! Best of all – some are even FREE!
Relax at Your Resort
My favorite, simple and free option – spend a day at your resort. Enjoy a little later breakfast after most of the resort residents head to the parks for the day. Take a leisurely walk around your resort before heading to the pool for the day. Chill out. Keep your feet up. Cool off in the water. Have lunch around the pool. We all need at least one day to really relax. Head back to your room in late afternoon to change and have a quick and easy dinner at your resort followed by a movie on the lawn (which most Disney resorts offer). An early night to bed after a relaxing day will have you up and ready to go the next day!
Many of us stay at the same few resorts over and over again and never get to see what some of Disney’s other resorts are like. Many of the other resorts have free entertainment happening that can be lots of fun (i.e. Yeha Bob at Port Orleans Riverside, see the animals outside at Animal Kingdom Lodge or some of the shenanigans going on at the Boardwalk) and still others, like the Art of Animation, offer some great photo opportunities with over-sized character statues scattered around.
Take a hop on the monorail and go between the resorts serviced by that mode of transportation. Roam around every nook and cranny of the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary and the Polynesian. If you want to spend a few dollars, enjoy a drink or a snack at each resort.
Head to Disney’s Fort Wildness and Campground
There is so much to do at “the fort” that is free or has a minimal fee and will easily fill up a day away from the parks.
Visit Tri-Circle D Ranch (home of the draft horses used to pull the trolleys down Main Street at the Magic Kingdom). There are quite a few different horses to see and pony rides for very small children from 10 am to 5 pm for $5. There is FREE day parking at the fort if you have a car and you can get from the day guest parking to the farm area by special buses that run only in the fort.
You can watch the blacksmith make horseshoes and affix them to horses’ hooves, and discover the Dragon Calliope – the horse-drawn musical instrument that Walt Disney purchased for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park in the 1950’s. Animal lovers of all ages will delight in the variety of breeds that live at Tri-Circle-D Ranch, including Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons and quarter horses, plus Shetland ponies
Sing around the campfire with Chip and Dale – The campfire program at the fort is open to all Walt Disney World resort guests. It is held every evening at 7:00 pm in fall and winter and 8:00 pm in spring and summer. The Chip ‘n Dale sing-a-long campfire starts with a sing-a-long and marshmallow roasting. You are welcome to bring your own food or buy it from the Chuckwagon snack stand which also sells S’more kits that will fee 4. Chip and Dale do a meet and greet and sign autographs. The sing-a-long is followed by a Disney movie on a large outdoor screen. No reservations necessary – and – FREE to all Disney resort guests!
Take an old-fashioned, horse-drawn wagon ride on a scenic tour through Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, wagon rides depart daily at 6:00 PM and 8:30 PM (weather permitting) from the front of Pioneer Hall. These 25-minute wagon rides cost $8 for Guests ages 10 and up, and $5 for Guests 3 to 9 years of age.
For a cost, you can take a Segway tour or do some horseback riding around the fort property too!
You can visit two butterfly gardens on property. There may be more than two but I only know of these. You can find out if there are more by calling the Disney Gardening Hotline at (407) 938-3900. These little patches of land are planted to create a habitat that attracts butterflies. At the Contemporary Resort, the garden is located on the left side as you walk out the back of the lobby towards the pool and lake. At Fort Wilderness there is a garden outside the Outpost.
Take a Playground Tour with the Little Ones!
Kids 2 to 12 years of age will love Walt Disney World Resort playgrounds, adjacent to many Resort hotels. Watch them run free in immersive environments featuring soft and textured surfaces, swings, tunnels and slides designed for interaction. Walt Disney World Resort playgrounds can be found at the following locations:
- Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney’s Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
- Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
You don’t have to be inside a park to do your pin trading. Cast Members throughout Disney property – at resorts, shops and Disney Springs – have trade-able pins. Disney Pin Traders at Disney Springs is probably the best trading location on property. There is also a legendary pin trader (King Pin) that takes up a spot in Animal Kingdom Lodge hosting trade events, usually during the week.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a huge sports facility. There is no parking fee. ESPN Wide World of Sports serves many purposes. Pre-season training for the Atlanta Braves takes place here, and it is host to many athletic competitions including the Amateur Athletic Union Championship Events. You can find a schedule HERE to see if there will be any sporting events during your visit. Admission fees vary depending on the event.
Play Mini Golf
Perfect for families and beginner golfers, the Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course invites you to join the reverie as you aim through twirling obstacles, cross fanciful fountains and discover musical surprises. Beware of the broomsticks, ready to douse golfers who pass below!
Resembling a traditional golf course built on a miniature scale, this course emphasizes skill over chance. Sand traps, bunkers, water hazards and sloping greens make the Fantasia Fairways Miniature Golf Course an exciting challenge, where par-3 and par-5 holes range in length from 63 to 109 feet long.
Adult (age 10 and up) cost $14 and children (age 3 to 9) cost $12.
Bowling at Splitsville at Disney Springs
Splitsville offers so much, you can visit without ever picking up a bowling ball! But a friendly game will also be a great way to spend an afternoon or evening. Spread out on two floors with 30 bowling lanes, a restaurant and five bars, you’ll definitely enjoy your time.
- 30 Bowling Lanes
- Upscale Food, with 2 sushi bars
- Outdoor Patio Dining
- Billiards Tables
- Live Music
Explore Disney Springs
I personally enjoy roaming around Disney Springs, stopping for a snack or a cocktail when I feel like it. Window shopping, sitting on a bench or when I’m lucky, be going by when one of the many live entertainment shows (Free) are going on. There is lots to do that costs $$ – like shop, take a ride in an amphicar or a hot air balloon – but there really isn’t any reason to spend lots of money since there is so much to see and do for free.
So there you have it – some of the things I like to do at Walt Disney World without ever stepping foot in a park. What do you like to do outside the parks?