1) Signature dining
Some of the best signature dining restaurants are actually located outside of the theme parks. On top of having an excellent dining experience, signature restaurants located at the resorts can be helpful if you either have a day where you do not visit the parks, or do not purchase park hopper tickets. Many of the deluxe resorts have signature dining options, which also makes it easy to get away from the parks for a bit without going too far away. Some of my favorite signature restaurants are Citricos at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and the Yachtsman Steakhouse, at the Yacht Club Resort.
2) Dinner shows
Dinner shows are offered at two Walt Disney World Resorts: the Polynesian Village Resort features the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, and Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is home to the Hoop De Doo Musical Revue. Dinner shows are typically either family style or buffets, and often include drinks (sometimes alcoholic beverages such as pitchers of beer or sangria) and desserts.
3) Drawing class
Many Disney fans were saddened to learn about the closure of the Animation Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While most of the attractions within the complex are no longer available in any form to guests, it is helpful to know that you can still participate in the drawing class at one of the resorts. Disney’s Art of Animation Resort is also home to a drawing class that is very similar to the one that was previously offered in the park.
4) Resort tours
Tours of the resorts, or certain areas of resorts are sometimes offered primarily at deluxe resorts. Check at the front desk of the resort when you arrive to see if any such tours are being offered at that time. Animal Kingdom Lodge has a unique set of tours as well, my favorite being the tour of Boma, which teaches guests about how the restaurant was designed based on specific African influences. You can also tour the resorts on your own, an activity which can be even more fun during the holidays when all of the resorts are decorated.
5) Jellyrolls/Atlantic Dance Hall/Abracadabar
Located at the Boardwalk Inn, Jellyrolls, Atlantic Dance Hall, and Abracadabar are great places guests can go for late night entertainment for the 21+ crowd. Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar, the Atlantic Dance Hall is a swing dance club, and Abracadar is a great lounge with a magician’s touch in theming and drinks. All three offering excellent entertainment outside of the parks.
6) Views of the fireworks
There are multiple resorts that offer views of the fireworks, my favorite is from the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. Fireworks from Hollywood Studios and Epcot can also be seen (albeit with an obstructed view) from many of the resorts near the parks.
7) Character dining
You don’t need to be inside a theme park to dine with some of your favorite characters—there are plenty of character dining locations around the Walt Disney World Resort. If you’re looking to see the characters without using a park ticket, look no further than the closest set of Disney resorts. Many deluxe resorts offer character dining experiences, all of which include amazing food, ambiance, and the convenience of being right outside your favorite theme parks.
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The Walt Disney World Resorts offer a wide variety of recreational options including everything from watersports, to golf, and horseback riding. Guests can even parasail over Bay Lake from the Contemporary Resort, and rent surrey bikes from the Boardwalk Inn. Each resort also plays a different Disney movie each night, for Movies Under the Stars, in which guests are able to relax outdoors watching some of their favorite films.
Each Disney resort is home to unique shopping opportunities themed to the specific storyline of the resort. For higher end merchandise, visit the Grand Floridian Resort. Nautical items can be purchased from the Yacht and Beach Club, as well as Caribbean Beach Resort, and authentic African goods, visit Animal Kingdom Lodge. In addition to the unique items, the resorts do carry some of the merchandise that you would find in the parks, meaning that some of the basic Disney souvenirs will also be available at your resort.
For a more luxurious, and kid-free experience on a Walt Disney World vacation, consider spending some time at one of the spas or salons located at a Disney resort. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, along with Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa get my pick for the best spa experiences, however you can view all of the available options on the official Senses Spa website.