Think that Walt Disney World is all about the theme parks and water parks? Think again! As a child my family and I spent whole vacations at Walt Disney World where we never went to the park once. So, what did we do? Read on as I share our fun memories with you.
It’s just a huge shopping mall right? No, it’s not. There are all sorts of entertainment options to be had at Disney Springs. From bowling to movies, to live music to hot air balloon rides, there is a ton to do at Disney Springs. The best part is that the experiences are actually nicer than what most of us have back home. For instance, the bowling is done on super nice, new, very clean lanes with state of the art score tracking technology. The movie theater is an AMC dine in movie theater, so you can eat as you watch your movie. There are also tons of restaurants, coffee shops, bars and bakeries to keep you sated. Finally, yes, there is shopping, lots of it, and it’s actually mostly non-Disney merchandise. From a Lego store to a contemporary art store featuring everything but Disney art to a store dedicated to flip flops, you can find all sorts of awesome things here you may not find back home. There is also a huge Disney store so you can do that too.
Yes, you can rent a boat at Walt Disney World and yes it’s fun. There are actually a few options for boat rentals, from pontoon boats to little two seater speed boats. One of the best memories I have of Walt Disney World is riding in a pontoon boat my family rented. My dad was driving and ever the fun loving joker, he was talking and cracking jokes and not really paying much attention to where he was going. Well, we ran into the rocks in shallow water and got stuck. As we waited for the Disney coastguard to come save us we had a ton of fun ripping into my dad for crashing the boat in three feet of water. Even though my father has passed on, we still talk about this to this day. If you want to do something similar, all be it without the damage deposit/fee, you can safely cruise the waterways of Walt Disney world and park your boat at different docks. Departing one resort and having lunch at another. You can even do fishing excursions, however, these are with a special guide and cost more than a simple boat rental. The boats are fairly inexpensive to rent and they are serious laid back fun. As a side note here, there is wildlife in the lakes, as we were tragically reminded of just a short while ago. If you rent a boat, be smart, stay out of the water and don’t feed the animals.
Many resorts will rent bikes for you to enjoy. The best are the 2 or 4 people bikes at the Boardwalk. I remember one summer my sister, her friend and I rented one of these for a few hours. We were peddling and the younger girls got tired and stopped peddling on our way up a hill. As the big sister I was left huffing it and peddling all of us up the hill. Ah the joys of childhood and siblings. Still, if you can ensure the majority of your party participates this is a fun activity and a great way to burn off all the great food you’re likely enjoying. The Boardwalk also has some fun carnival games to play once you’re done on your bike.
While this may sound boring at first, the resorts at Walt Disney World each have their own unique charm. Every trip to Walt Disney World my family and I go to the Grand Floridian Resort one afternoon to listen to the pianist and the big band orchestra play. It used to be that there were servers who brought you beverages to sip while you listened but now you can grab one from the little store near the lobby and enjoy the beverage that way. While the Grand Floridan was our favorite, we also enjoyed spending time at the Polynesian, the Yacht and Beach Club, Port Orleans French Quarter… the list goes on. They all have their own unique charm. One of our other favorite activities at the resorts was going to Animal Kingdom Lodge and seeing all the unique African artifacts they had on display as well as learning about Africa and the animals from the cast members there. They are almost all from Africa and are at Disney World on a special cultural program. Such a cool experience you don’t have every day. During the holidays this is even more enjoyable as the hotels decorate for the season and it’s fantastic to see what they do.
Mini and regular Golf
Walt Disney World has some excellent golf courses, both for those who can really play or those, who like me, can barely hit the ball. If you’re an avid golfer you will not be disappointed, or so I hear. Personally I enjoyed driving the golf cart more than the golf, but that was just me. The mini golf, now that I participated in a bit more. If you have a Disney World Vacation Package you get the Mini Golf for free so that’s an extra bonus.
Many Disney World Deluxe resorts have some excellent tennis courts and you can even take lessons with pros. There is gear to rent as well in case you didn’t feel like lugging yours along on the plane. Or, if like most people, you didn’t think about it till you got there and realized tennis was an option. Growing up we did this a few times and the employees were great with kids (code word patient) and while my serve still isn’t very good, I’m at least more accurate because of them. If you aren’t taking a lesson and you have your own gear the court is free which is another great reason to enjoy the game.
Pool and Arcade time
These go hand in hand in our family. When it’s hot and sunny out you go to the pool and swim/sunbathe. Once you’re sunburned and prune wrinkled to your hearts content, you go inside to play in the arcade. As kids we spent hours in the arcade with my dad. It’s where we learned to shoot pool and where I developed a serious addiction to Pin Ball. I remember the terminator machine was my favorite one trip and I played it at least 5 times a day. Arcade time actually worked like this. My family would go to the Contemporary resort, dad would get a set amount of quarters and him and my mom would sit on one of the sofas on the 2nd/3rd floor. They’d bring books to read and the kids would do all they could to make the allotted quarters last. It’s a time my family remembers fondly and it was a lot cheaper than a park ticket. While we preferred the arcade at the Contemporary, times have changed and now many resorts have excellent arcades.
Bonus Adult Exclusive: Bar Hopping
As an adult I’ve learned that Disney World has some excellent drinking options. Sure it’s costly, but no more so than going out in any major city. London might actually be more expensive. There are two well documented bar crawls at Walt Disney World (outside of the epic Epcot bar crawl). One is the monorail bar crawl, which, as you guessed, sees you hitting up all the bars in the monorail resort. The other is the Crescent Lake Bar Crawl (Epcot resorts). The latter one requires a lot more walking, so don’t wear your fancy heels and short skirts. Both have their benefits and both are tons of adult fun. That said, try and keep it together, you’re in Disney World, it’s a family place.
This is just a portion of what you can do at Walt Disney World without going to the theme parks. I haven’t mentioned the spa or the gyms or the walking tails or the dinner shows. There is a ton to do at Walt Disney World outside the parks so I encourage you to leave a day or two in your itinerary to explore this amazing, fun filled mega resort. You may find that the parks aren’t the most fun you have on your next trip to Walt Disney World.