Have you ever considered looking beyond the theme parks at Walt Disney World in hopes of exploring alternate activities and endeavors? It may be more tempting now than ever before given the way things are these days. You have all-around price increases, those still-missing benefits and perks you once relied on in the past, and all the newer headaches, like the need for making an Advance Park Reservation in addition to purchasing a Disney Park ticket. All that, plus the myriad of other frustrations to contend with can be enough to send even the most adamant of Disney fans on a quest to pursue other possibilities outside of visiting the Parks. Fortunately, Disney delivers in this category as well, with so many fun things to get into, all independent of the four major theme parks. Here are 10 such suggestions for fun things you can do without a Disney World ticket or reservation.
10. Visit the Water Parks
Did you know that Disney World’s two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, are separate venues from the four main theme parks? That means you purchase a separate admission independently in order to attend either (when both are in operation). No primary theme park tickets are required, nor do you have to make a reservation to visit a Disney World Water Park.
9. Take A Boat Ride
There are plenty of boating opportunities at Walt Disney World Resort. And with the exception of the Liberty Square Riverboat at Magic Kingdom Park, all boating options are pretty much outside of Park limits. This even includes water taxis and friendship boats.
Disney Marinas are home to several different boating rental options. Whether you’re looking to privately book a pontoon, go on a guided fishing excursion, or even arrange for a unique specialty cruise, you can get in plenty of boating time without ever needing a Disney World Park ticket.
8. Head to Disney’s BoardWalk Promenade
The scene at Disney’s quarter-mile BoardWalk Promenade, which is a broader extension of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort, is a vast social hub, laden with dining and entertainment galore! You can get caught up on doing so much here, from grabbing a bite to eat, clubbing with throwback beats at Atlantic Dance Hall, listening to the dueling pianos at Jellyrolls, or finding amusement among several ongoing street entertainments at any given time. And best of all, you don’t even need a ticket or a reservation.
7. Spend a Day at Disney Springs
One of the best alternatives to Disney Parks, and one that is arguably second in popularity, is that highly desirable detour known as Disney Springs. Disney Springs triples as a massive shopping megaplex, collaborative dining destination, and entertainment district all in one. And you can easily spend the entire day here. What’s more, there are just so many activities and exciting attractions to check out. From interactive in-store experiences like those at the LEGO Store to bowling at Splitsville, catching a movie at AMC Theaters to ascending in a tethered balloon for an aerial view like no other, there is no shortage of the fun things you can get into at Disney Springs. Also, take note of the many different venues where you can catch live entertainment here as well. Some open acts are free to drop in on while others are included in dining and bar experiences. There’s also the wonderful stage show Drawn to Life presented by Cirque de Soleil to consider.
6. Enjoy Live Musical Entertainment
Speaking of entertainment, there are just so many awesome places throughout Disney World where you can catch live music and performances outside of the Parks. As previously mentioned, both Disney’s BoardWalk Promenade and Disney Springs have plenty to boast about in this category, but there are also many great opportunities to enjoy onsite at various Disney World Resorts in addition. Both Disney’s Port Orleans—French Quarter and Port Orleans—Riverside feature scheduled entertainment on select nights. Offerings include live Jazz at Scat Cat’s Club Lounge on weekends and the fun piano stylings of Yehaa Bob Jackson at River Roost Lounge. You can also enjoy some classical piano serenades over at the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridan Resort & Spa.
5. Delight in Fun-Themed Dining
Anyone who is familiar with Disney dining knows that elaborate theming and immersive experiences in direct correlation to a given venue’s motif are to be expected. And the good news is that not all of these experiences are housed within the limits of Disney Parks. Both Disney Resorts as well as neighboring Disney Springs are host to several standout dining experiences worth taking note of. You have the fun vaudeville dinner show Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue offered nightly over at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, for instance, as well as numerous Character Dining opportunities, like Storybook Dining at Artist Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, and so many others. You can have a most unique experience to dine with up close and personal with unrivaled views of wild animals in Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or perhaps an elaborate signature experience with all the works is more your thing, like the opportunities awaiting you at Victoria & Albert’s over at Disney’s Grand Floridan. And again, remember Disney Springs is practically a mecca for unique dining experiences to take delight in as well.
4. Go Golfing
Whether you’re a serious golfer or just someone who really enjoys a good game of mini golf now and then, you will find both opportunities available to you at Walt Disney World Resort, outside of the Parks. That’s right, Disney is home to four PGA Champion Golf Courses—Disney’s Magnolia, Disney’s Palm, Disney’s Oak Trail, and Lake Buena Vista. As far as mini golfing goes, there are two unique opportunities. First, there’s Fantasia Gardens & Miniature Golf within the EPCOT Resort Area. Then, there’s Winter Summerland Miniature Golf next to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. None of these experiences require obtaining a theme park ticket, although all come at an additional cost.
3. Have a Spa Day
While some Disney Guests undoubtedly come prepped for the hustle and bustle of the Parks, others opt for an approach that’s more focused on relaxation and rejuvenation. And for these folks, hitting the spa is definitely in order. The great news is that there are many different professional spa services to choose from all around various Disney Resort hotels, no less. In fact, you don’t even have to be a Guest at a given Resort to utilize their award-winning stellar services. Click here to learn about all the current spa services and offerings you can enjoy at Disney World.
2. Explore Tri-Circle-D Ranch
One of Disney’s most versatile Resorts is Fort Wilderness. With a focus on camping, Guests here have the option to choose to stay at either the campsites directly or in one of the independent-standing cabins. And as you would expect from any outdoorsy venue, there are numerous onsite recreations to take delight in. But one of their number one standout features is Tri-Circle-D Ranch.
As the permanent home to Disney World’s horses, there’s just so much to see, do, and enjoy at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. From touring the ranch and getting some perspective, to making new equine friends, other activities include pony rides for children, trail rides for all ages, and even scenic carriage rides. Tri-Circle-D Ranch is a truly remarkable attraction away from Disney Parks.
1. Enjoy Your Resort
Nothing beats those good old onsite recreations to take to at your very own Disney Resort. Sure, it may be true that most come to Disney World seeking out grander pursuits well beyond their hotels, but it’s also true that many vacationers in general escape to getaways centered around a destination resort specifically. And Disney World can certainly serve that purpose if you want it to. That’s right, you really could stay at a Disney Resort accommodation and forego visiting the Parks altogether, given the onsite amenities and recreations each one boasts. And with the exception of forbidden pool and jacuzzi hopping, in most instances, you are entirely free to enjoy the amenities at other Disney Resorts, in the event that you are seeking out a particular pursuit not featured at the location you are staying at.
There are just so many fun endeavors to take delight in at Walt Disney World well beyond the limits of the Parks. And I hope these wonderful examples have inspired you to explore all the extra opportunities awaiting you on your next Disney World vacation and discover even more magic and memory-making in the process.