HALF DAY AT DISNEY
Five itineraries to help you enjoy the magic on your arrival or departure day
You've arrived at Disney World! Woohoo!
…now what? You probably only have part of a day on your arrival (and departure) days, but you're still going to want to enjoy every possible moment of the magic. There's no flopping on the bed watching television in your hotel room for you!
But what if you don't want to use a full park day ticket? No worries. This is Disney, after all, the entertainment Mecca. We've pulled together some sample itineraries to give you some ideas on how to spend those vacation "bookend" days:
The perfect way to start (or wrap up) your Disney shopping is to head to Downtown Disney. Check off everyone on your souvenir list—or pick up that special something for yourself. Catch all the fun at the LEGO shop, or get lost in The World of Disney.
Once you've worked up an appetite, grab a sandwich at the Earl of Sandwich, or sit down and enjoy a full meal at the Rainforest Café, amid the vines, sights, and sounds of the rainforest.
If you're still up for some adventure, go to Cap'n Jack's Marina to rent a canopy or pontoon boat to cruise around for a while, enjoying the view from the water.
Goofy's Candy Company—like the mix-and-match, design-your-own treat. Pair a krispy treat with dark chocolate, crushed Butterfingers, and white chocolate drizzle, marshmallows with white chocolate and crushed Oreo crumbs, or whatever you can dream up. Yum!
If you're lucky enough to be camping at Fort Wilderness already, you probably know how you're going to spend your half-days—staying right where you are and enjoying the fun!
But if you're staying at another resort or off-site, you're still welcome to come to Disney's fabulous campground. Park in the front lot and hop a bus into the campground to enjoy some of the amenities.
Rent a bike or canoe to explore the resort. (Watch out for the armadillos!) Or, rent a boat or sign up for the horseback trail rides. When you're good and hungry, head to Trail's End for some down-home grub (or grab a Giddy Up & Go, a take-out meal that's rumored to be the best in the World).
If you're visiting in the evening, the must-see event is Chip 'n Dale's Campfire Sing-a-long. First, grab some sticks and make yourself s'mores until you can't squeeze in another. Or, buy some popcorn, pizza, hot dogs, or other snacks at the Chuckwagon. Then, belt out some familiar tunes with the rest of the gang, and wait for Chip and Dale to come out and say howdy. After that, settle in for the movie on the outdoor screen.
Electric Water Pageantfloats right past the Fort Wilderness beach every night, so be sure to catch this sparkly, lighted parade of floats before you head out.
Head over toward Epcot to explore the Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club resorts. If you're visiting in the evening, your first stop should be Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. Got a good-sized crowd with you (or maybe you're just feeling extra-hungry)? Ask for the Kitchen Sink—and plenty of spoons to share.
After you've had your ice cream fix, stroll around the grounds of the Yacht and Beach Club. Check out Stormalong Bay—although you can only swim if you're a guest, it's worth taking a peek!
Then, cross over the bridge to the Boardwalk. Rent a surrey bike and pedal your way around the Crescent Lake, stopping to watch the live entertainment.
The adults in your party can dance the night away or enjoy the lively music scene at Jellyroll and the Atlantic Dance Hall, or pop in to the ESPN bar to catch a game on one of the many televisions.
And if you're visiting in the morning? Don't miss the Boardwalk Bakery. Pick out a pastry fresh from their oven, and enjoy it at the tables out by the lake.
Disney's West Side is a great half day, evening hot spot. Even if you thought you were tired from traveling, you might find you're having so much fun you play well into the night.
If you've got avid gamers on your hands, DisneyQuest is a must. Five floors of high-tech fun await you. Paddle a raft through a jungle, build (and then ride!) a roller coaster, enjoy old pinball favorites, record your own music…it's a video-lover's dream.
After you've gotten your fill of beeping and joysticks, catch the Cirque du Soleil. You'll be dazzled by the feats and sights of the live performances.
Feel like just relaxing? AMC Pleasure Island 24 Theaters offers all the latest releases in comfy stadium seating.
For part of your day, grab a towel and just head to your resort pool. No matter which resort you're staying at, Disney's fantastic theming makes every pool something special.
Afterward, dry off and do a little resort hopping. If you park at a monorail resort, you can climb aboard the monorail and take a tour through the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary resorts. Hop off whenever you like and explore the theming, or grab a bite to eat at the resort restaurants.
If you're visiting in the evening, you can catch the fireworks over at the Magic Kingdom right from the beach at the Polynesian and Grand Floridian. Then, wait for the Electric Water Pageant to float on by.
Don't forget—morning and evening are perfect photo-taking times, before the sun climbs too high and gives you harsh lighting conditions. Take advantage of the timing to snap some lasting memories of your Disney vacation.
Kathleen M. Reilly is the author of WALT DISNEY WORLD EXTREME VACATION GUIDE FOR KIDS and is polkadotsuitcase on the DISboards.
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Last trip we got there in the middle of the day and had reservations for dinner at O'hana that night. We took our time exploring the other resorts on the monorail and boat. At the Polynesian we got to enjoy the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the restaurant with music piped in. Dinner was awesome! This was a great way to start our vacation.
That?s really sherwd! Good to see the logic set out so well.
All the suggestions are wonderful. I would only say. RELAX. Take it all in and go slow. That way all the wonder that is Disney is absorbed and enjoyed and a vacation really is taken instead of a frantic trip
| Sheila Moran
I wish we could stay long enough to do all these things but I have one more idea get a in park bus to the french quarter.then ride the free boat to downtown disney.This will start your vacation with happy children,and adults!
Since its more than likely you paid for a day anyway and go to the parks and stay until the last possible moment. Or if you happen to go during the christmas season hop to different hotels. the decorations are awesome or go to Fort Wilderness Campground, people decorate their campers, quite a sight to see.
Don't forget to check your resort's itinerary for the day. They often have lots of fun activities planned throughout the day, including movies & craft projects for the kids!
| Ron G.
Love the article, but did everyone forget if you have a four day ticket or more adding an extra only costs $3-4, so it's not like your wasting bunches of money to spend a few hours in one of the parks. I do love finding fun thing to do outside the parks, but I go to WDW for the parks.
Dont forget about the "goofy golf"! There are 2 locations on property and it makes for a fun couple of hours!
Start your own traditions! For example, we like to start our vacation by visiting Magic Kingdom and having the photo pass photographers take our pictures in front of the Castle. We eat dinner once during our vacation at Cinderella's Royal Table, usually in the middle of our trip. Then on our last morning there, we enjoy a hearty buffet breakfast at the Crystal Palace and go on our favorite ride one last time before flying home to NJ.
Great suggestions! We usually grab dinner at Epcot and see Illuminations our first night. We stay long enough at WDW that an extra day on our passes is just a few dollars - well worth the price to grab some extra park time!
While you're at Fort Wilderness, visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch where they stable the horses used to pull the trolleys on Main Street. One stall has been converted to a Horse Museum, with photos of many of the horses that were featured in Disney movies. You can also see the white ponies that pull Cinderella's Carriage.
| Loreen C. Gorzelany
How about hotel hopping using the monorail. Good way to see more of Disney on the monorail and the hotels are beautiful.
These are all great ideas! A common half-day itinerary for us on our last day is having breakfast at Chef Mickey's in the Contemporary Resort, and then doing some shopping at Downtown Disney.
| Dawn B
Excellent suggestions. The last time we went (2006) we went to Downtown. We're planning on doing that again in December but may do one of the others instead.
| Ronald Barnard
Great set of half day suggestions. Some of my party will arrive before me and those suggestions will help a lot. I wish that Disney did have an after 5pm discount so we could enjoy an evening in one of the parks, like Epcot. It is such a great place to stroll around the countries as the sun goes down. We will try most of your suggestions at the end of this month. Thanks
Great suggestions. I would add another... Tour the Animal Kingdom Lodge to view (for free) the animals on the Savanna. There are several viewing areas, some good places to grab food, and a nice gift shop.
| Dawn Smith
Great article. Being an avid Disney traveler, I have tried all of your suggestions and highly recommend them to others. Thanks for bringing me the Disney spirit while I wait for my next trip!
| Abby Balque
Ride the monorails and the boats when you get their. Before you leave, relax and remember your trip. A time to say goodbye. A.
Hi! Although we've done many of the things listed here, it still gave us many things to think about for our next trip down! Thx!