I loved Disney. Orlando is magnificent. But the little bubble of magic you walk around in all day whilst there often needs an afternoon off.
Gathered here are my top 5 things to do outside of the Disney World parks.
1. Watch Magic Kingdom Fireworks for FREE from the Beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
It’s easy to enjoy the magic of the fireworks without park admission as anyone can visit the Disney World resort hotels. Even without staying at that property.
TIP: At the Polynesian enter through the lobby and exit the rear of the building passing the pool. The beach will be directly in front of you. We arrived 1.5hrs ahead and watched the electrical water pageant first. An empty beach meant we easily located a free lounger with a perfect view.
We enjoyed a dole whip from a window outside the back of the building and watched the fireworks from the same spot on the beach. It was a fabulous night.
Magic Kingdom Fireworks start around 9pm by which time the beach had attracted a crowd (we counted approx 75 people) so it’s worth getting there early and making a night of it.
You can find up to date show times here.
2. Resort Hop and catch a Disney Movie Under The Stars
Travelling from one resort to another to explore the interior, gardens, beaches, bars and restaurants is a great way to fill time in the afternoons between park hoping.
For an interesting break grab a coffee and view the animals from the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or for an upscale environment the Grand Floridian Hotel offers sophisticated surroundings.
Resort hoping is a great FREE thing to do on Disney property and you really don’t need to pay a penny as you can use Disney Transportation.
Tip: Around 8pm every evening Disney resorts also show a free Disney Movie Under the Stars, either around the pool area or on the resorts beach. See the current movie timetable here.
3. Discovery Cove
Be still my beating heart. Discovery cove is PARADISE. Well my idea of it.
Located near Sea world, admission comes in on the pricey side; around £127 per person or around £170 per person with a 30 minute Dolphin swim. Prices do, however, include all food and drink consumed on the day.
Also included is complimentary use of all snorkel equipment, wet suits and vests.
TIP: The cove operates from 9am-5pm but you can get ahead of the crowds by checking in and eating breakfast from 7.15am
With no rides, Discovery Cove is a Tropical Paradise away from the craziness of Disney. Park admission is limited to only 1500 guests per day so you really notice the extra space and time.
The Grand Reef and the Fresh Water Oasis give you the chance to snorkel in shallow waters at your own pace alongside tropical fish and rays. Whilst the Wind Away River is an area filled with small waterfalls to relax without fish swimming around you.
In the Explorer’s Aviary you can feed tropical birds and wander through the rain forest type surroundings.
Throughout the day there are plenty of chances to grab a drink in the restaurant or relax on a sun lounger by the beach.
Our day here was one of my favorites from our trip and I would recommend the visit 100%.
We also experienced the dolphin swim (7/10) and sea venture (10/10). The latter should seriously not be missed.
(That’s me on the right!)
4. Water Parks
Disney World has 2 Water Parks housing copious amounts of fun without setting foot in a Theme Park.
Typhoon Lagoon has EVERYTHING. Body slides, Raft slides and a lazy river. The lagoon is also home to the only water coaster raft ride I’ve ever seen, The Crush ‘n’ gusher. The ‘water slide’ uses powerful jets to push your double raft uphill rather than a constant downwards slide.
TIP: The new Crush ‘n’gusher is tucked away in the park to the right of the entrance. It’s an area often missed by visitors as it remained quiet. We met lots of guests surprised that they hadn’t noticed the new addition before.
With waves reaching 6 foot, the park also holds the title for the largest wave machine in North America.
We only visited the Lagoon as Disney’s Blizzard Beach was closed due to refurbishment.
5. Ride a Disney Boat
The Disney World hotel resorts provide transportation ferries as well as their famous buses. You can hop on any of these ferries for FREE and take in the surrounding scenery along the route.
In The Magic Kingdom area, a boat that circles between the Magic Kingdom, Polynesian and Grand Floridian. A second route circles between the Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.
Another ferry connects Epcot with Disney’s Hollywood Studios making stops at the Yacht and Beach Club, Swan and Dolphin, and Boardwalk resorts.
And if you’re in the Disney Springs area, try the ferry to the Saratoga Springs and Port Orleans resorts.
For a thrilling experience try an Amphicar ride at the Boathouse restaurant in Disney Springs. The Boathouse has a beautiful dock over the water and for $120 you can take a 20 minute ride in a vintage amphicar (a car that’s also a boat!) which drives straight off the dry dock directly into the water.
Although a little pricey, the Boathouse is the only place in the world that you can take a captains guided tour in one of these rare cars.
TIP: Eat lunch at the Boathouse and take your receipt to the ship’s store before 3pm to receive $25 off your ride.
Do you have a favorite thing to do outside of the Disney world parks? Let me know in the comments.
Planning a trip to Disney World? Take a look at my guide to planning your trip