Planning Your Resort Day at Walt Disney World

Why would anyone choose to spend a day in Walt Disney World and NOT go to a theme park?  While this idea may seem sacrilegious to many, don’t discount it quite yet.  Disney’s theme parks are fantastic, but there’s also an astonishing array of awesomeness to be found outside the theme parks, but still on Disney property.  So, the next time you’re in the most magical place on earth, plan a resort day, and explore all the wonders Disney has to offer outside of the parks.


1. When

There’s never a wrong time for a resort day, in our books!  If you’re visiting Walt Disney World during a holiday (Christmas day, July 4th, etc.), and don’t have your heart set on being in a park that day, this is a great time for a resort day because you’ll escape the holiday crowds.  Or you can plan a resort day in the middle of your stay to allow you to recharge and get ready for the second half of your vacation.  We also love to plan a resort day for our last day in WDW, so we can soak up that last bit of sun by the pool and head home completely relaxed!

2. Meals

Make sure you don’t book any reservations for restaurants inside the parks on your resort day, if you want to save money by not paying for park tickets that day.  You can start your day at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort by meeting Lilo, Stitch and other Disney characters at ‘Ohana for breakfast.  Take a walk on the wild side at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa for lunch, where you can experience African cuisine while watching animals on the savanna.  And for dinner, we recommend heading to Disney’s Yacht Club Resort to try some of the legendary steaks at Yachtsman Steakhouse!  There are countless fantastic dining options waiting for you at Disney resorts.

3. Pool

All Disney resorts come complete with fantastic pools.  So while you won’t be able to make a splash in a pool without being a guest at that resort (which means you do have to be staying at Disney’s Yacht or Beach Club Resorts to take advantage of the incomparable Stormalong Bay), it’s well worth devoting some time to relax poolside, enjoy a waterslide, and splash around to your heart’s content.  Keep in mind that many resorts offer various smaller leisure pools that are often just as picturesque as the main pool, but without the crowds!


4. Disney Springs

Don’t forget Disney Springs when planning your day outside of Disney’s theme parks!  You can easily while away an entire day here alone.  Whether you want to dine with dinosaurs or take a ride in an amphi-car, try your hand at bowling or catch a movie, shop til you drop or check out the latest and greatest entertainment and clubs, it’s worth planning some time at Disney Springs!

5. Shopping and Spas

This option may not work so well if you have impatient little ones in tow, but if at all possible, try to fit in a bit of shopping and maybe even a spa treatment during your resort day.  There are gift shops at each resort, and they often carry merchandise specific to that resort.  We like to check out the merchandise at every resort we stop at, even if we’re just passing through for dinner.  If you’re looking for some serious pampering, several Disney resorts offer full-service spas with massage treatments, facials and body treatments, and there are plenty of other places outside of the parks where you can enjoy manicures, pedicures, men’s or women’s hairstyling, and even a makeover!

6. Special Activities

Regardless of what Disney resort you’re staying at, there are lots of activities you can take part in without leaving your home-away-from-home.  Many of these are completely free, such as movies under the stars, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, chilling in a gorgeous (and wonderfully scented) lobby, checking out animals on the savanna (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) and taking an art class (at Disney’s Art of Animation).  But there are also plenty of activities to experience that you’ll pay extra for, but may just be worth it.  Hop on a horse or try your hand at archery at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, take a carriage ride along the river at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort, or, if you’re lucky enough to stay at a resort on the water, you may even be able to rent a boat or go fishing.

7. Resort Hop

Even if you’re staying at a deluxe resort and have enough to occupy you for an entire resort day, it’s always fun to go resort hopping and explore the fun awaiting you at other Disney resorts.  Of course, you can plan a meal or do some shopping at other resorts, but there’s plenty of free fun, too!  Take a stroll along the Sassagoula River as you check out Disney’s Port Orleans Resort: Riverside and French Quarter.  Feel the island vibe as you enjoy the evening Torch-Lighting Ceremony at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  Or visit your favorite animals on the savannah at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Use the monorail, ferries or bus system (or walk, if you’re exploring the Boardwalk resorts) to get to each resort.

8. Fireworks

However you choose to spend the rest of your resort day, it’s a great idea to conclude the day with fireworks.  But how can you do this outside of the parks?  Luckily, there are several spots that are great for viewing the fireworks that don’t require a park ticket!  You can try to snag a window seat at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks as you eat, or head to the observation deck on the fourth floor to see them for free.  Grab a spot on the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for prime fireworks viewing, or head to the beach a Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.  To see the fireworks at Hollywood Studios, you’ll want to head to the hotels along Disney’s Boardwalk.  This is the perfect way to end your resort day at Walt Disney World!

About Stacy Milford

Stacy has lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and travels whenever humanly possible. Passionate about music theatre, dessert, and adventure in the great wide somewhere, she visits Walt Disney World every year, usually during Halloween! Stacy currently divides her time between writing and teaching English as a second language to children in China, and is pretty sure growing up is over-rated.