How to Have a Blast at Walt Disney World Outside the Parks


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Walt Disney World has four distinctly-themed main parks that create an immeasurable amount of magic every day for millions of people. There’s so much magic, in fact, that many seem to forget about all of the other things they can do at the Walt Disney World Resort! Between dining, outdoor activities, shopping, entertainment, and water parks, one could spend quite a while on the property without ever stepping foot inside the parks. Now, of course, who would ever want to do that? In case you did though, or if you just need an idea for your “off day”, here’s a list of just a few of the activities you could enjoy.

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Disney Springs

With the exception of the water parks, Disney Springs encompasses every one of the other options I mentioned above. This 120-acre area has four different “neighborhoods,” and guests can find almost anything they could imagine.

One of the most exciting things there is the Characters in Flight hot air balloon, which takes guests 400 feet into the air for a view that encompasses the entirety of the Disney resort. Disney Springs is also home to the World of Disney, the world’s largest Disney merchandise store. Other notable places include a House of Blues, a LEGO store (some of the art is shown above), a bowling alley, a movie theater, a Coca-cola store, a Rainforest Cafe, a Ghirardelli store, and a Disney exclusive Cirque du Soleil show. (La Nouba is the only one that has ever run here, but it played its last show at the end of last year. Disney is currently helping to develop a new show for the area.)

There are also a plethora of dining options that shouldn’t be missed. Many of the eateries are completely unique (although you will find some familiar names) as well as fully themed, and guests can choose anything from quick service meals, to food trucks, to full table service experiences. Most of the table service restaurants have live music in the evenings as well. All in all, Disney Springs is home to more than 150 shops, eateries, and activities. It would take days just to see everything there was to offer!



Character Dining/ Dinner Shows

Think all the best character meals and dining experiences are in the parks? Think again! There are a variety of character dining options spread throughout the resort hotels.

Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is one of the most popular, and offers characters at each meal. 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian has characters for breakfast and dinner. There are several others in a handful of other resorts that offer character interaction for breakfast only. Just like character dining within the parks, guests can see a wide range of Disney favorites at these meals including Mickey and his friends, princesses, Stitch, and even some rare characters like Lady Tremaine and the evil stepsisters.

As for dinner shows, Disney World has three that are currently running, and all of them are outside the parks! Mickey’s Backyard BBQ and the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue both operate at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and are hugely popular with guests. Both events really encompass the “dinner and a show” atmosphere, with live music and other entertainment, not to mention all-you-can-eat American-style food. The Backyard BBQ also gives you a chance to rub shoulders with Mickey and Minnie. If guests want a dinner show that’s more tropical than country, they can choose the Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian. Another all-you-can-eat offering, this show takes the form of a luau, Disney style, complete with hula dancing and a fire performer! The food is a little more exotic, but still basic enough to satisfy most eaters.

Outdoor Activities

Whether your love is for biking, boating, swimming, horseback riding, jet skiing, archery, fishing, golf, or pretty much any other outdoor sport, the likelihood is high that you can find it at Disney World! Many of the resorts that sit on bodies of water offer jet skis and small craft rentals, either with a captain or to be driven on your own.

The Fort Wilderness Resort provides many outdoor activities that are more rustic. Guests can even participate in outdoor events that are less labor intensive, like carriage rides and campfires. (While there is a long list of resorts that do a nightly campfire, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long at Fort Wilderness is always a blast!) There are plenty of golf courses that cater to all skill levels, including two of the miniature variety. As with most things at Disney, prices vary depending on the activity, but some of them are actually free. For most of the activities, you don’t have to be a guest of that particular resort to participate, but that does not apply to the pools.



There is so much information I could include under this heading that I’ve had to leave it kind of sparse, but Walt Disney World’s website has a very comprehensive list, including prices.

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Water Parks

Disney has two water parks, and much like their main parks, they are well themed and well kept. Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are 66 and 56 acres, respectively, and are known to fill up fast! During the summer, both are open everyday, while one or the other is typically closed during the winter months for upkeep. Both may be closed in the instance of extreme cold.

Both water parks have extensive areas for kids, and Blizzard Beach is home to the country’s highest and fastest flume ride, Summit Plummet. It features a 12-story drop straight down and is more than twice as high as the tallest slide at Typhoon Lagoon. Guests can purchase tickets to either water park separately, or add them onto their Magic Your Way tickets with the park hopper plus option.

Themed Bars

This one is just for the grown-ups! Disney World is home to many, many bars and lounges, and like everything else there, they all have a theme and a story.



Between Disney Springs and the resorts, you can drink in a revamped industrial warehouse (The Edison); an intimate island escape, complete with angry Tiki gods (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto); the retirement spot of Indiana Jones’s pilot (Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar); or a former magician’s lounge (the AbracadaBAR). And that’s just to name a few! Even the bars without such elaborate back stories are worth a visit to see the décor and just appreciate the atmosphere. Many of them offer signature drinks you may not see elsewhere. (The more fully themed ones have souvenir glasses as well, if that’s your pleasure!) Guests could spend plenty of time, and money, visiting this more adult side of the World.

So, there’s a pretty good list of stuff to do, and truthfully, I didn’t even scrape the surface of activities available! Hopefully if anyone needed any ideas, this was a good starting point. What are some favorite things to do outside the parks that I didn’t mention?



*The information contained in this article represents the opinion of the author, and not necessarily the opinion of the DIS.


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