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You’ve saved, you’ve planned, you’ve counted the days until your trip to Disney World. Now here’s our advice to you: Stay out of the Parks.
Not entirely, mind you. After all, that’s why you’re there. But it’s called Disney WORLD, after all, not Disney Nook, or Disney Cubbyhole, and there’s a lot more to the World than just the theme parks. Kids may initially balk at any time not spent on Test Track, but they will find that there’s a lot more to Disney than just the rides.
First off, the entrance fees to the parks are, let’s face it, high. Yes, it’s certainly worth it, and yes, there’s a ton of fabulous stuff to do, but still, if you go every day of your vacation, especially if you’re there for a longish period of time, it gets pretty pricey.
And even if you’re prepared with all the great Touring Plans info and the stalwart nature of a battle general, it can be tiring and even somewhat stressful.
So give you and your kids a day off. See what else there is to do. You’ll all be refreshed and renewed when you enter the Parks again, and in between, you’ll probably find that you’ve had a fabulous time. So join the rallying cry—Time for a lark! Stay out of the Park!
Hang Out at Your Hotel…
Many families use their hotel as a pit stop, merely to rest and refuel, and depending on where you stay, that may be all you want. But lots of the hotels offer so much fabulous stuff; it’s kind of a shame to miss it. Activities (for kids and adults) swimming, games, pin trading, hidden Mickeys, great shops–there’s a ton to do, and some of it won’t be found unless you have the time. Kids are always asking for more swimming–give it to them! Let them hang out and have lunch at the pool and meet other kids. See what your hotel offers that the others don’t, do some research when you check in, and ask the staff for suggestions. It’s incredibly relaxing to wake up and know you don’t have to rush out the door. It’s almost—gasp–like being on vacation. Don’t just make the activities something you do in between frantically trying to get somewhere else. Plan some quiet activities, like sketching or updating a journal. My daughter now asks which will be our pool/shopping day when we go down to Disney.
…Or Visit Another One
We talked for years about having a meal at another hotel, but let’s face it, in a lot of cases, the trip there and back can be pretty long–not exactly what you want after a tiring day. So why not take a half day to explore that hotel? Book a lunch, see if there’s a fun way to get there (some of the resorts can be accessed by boat, for instance.) It’s often really enjoyable to check out another resort, both for future reference (that’s how we found our favorite hotel) and just to explore. The shops are different, the arcade games may be different, the layout is new. Some places like The Grand Floridian or the Animal Kingdom Lodge can almost be counted as attractions in and of themselves. We love having lunch at Gasparilla Games and Grill at the Grand Floridian; playing some video games; and exploring the shops.
Plan a Non-Parks Meal
Lots of fabulous meals are to be had outside of the Parks. Plan a long lunch at another hotel or Downtown Disney. When you don’t have to fit your meal in around your day at Epcot, you can be more flexible with times and spend a longer time eating and enjoying the meal. Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers an amazing buffet. It’s difficult to access without a car, however; and even with a car, it’s what my grandmother would have called a schlep from many hotels and Park locations. If that’s your afternoon/evening, however, then it becomes a pleasure, rather than a chore. Eat, view the animals, and enjoy the fantastic lobby.
Go to Downtown Disney
It doesn’t just have to be about buying, either. (Although it’s a great time to get a lot of your shopping done, especially for gifts, without the time constraint you may feel in the Magic Kingdom while your son is hopping up and down and asking if you are going to be late for the Country Bear Jamboree while you are trying to decide if you have bought enough Goofy chocolates for your second AND third cousins. Just saying) There’s a lot to see and do, from the Lego creations near the Lego store to the merry-go-round to the enormous hot air balloon. (You don’t have to go up in it. You can stand there whimpering, like some of us, be reassured that your feet are on the ground, and still enjoy watching it.) Have a silhouette of your daughter done; listen to some music; have an ice cream cone, go into stores you’ve never been in. (It’s a vacation, people! Learn to relax! Remember strolling? Stroll!)
Play Miniature Golf
Perhaps you are saying, “Miniature Golf? Really? At Disney World? When I could be waiting in line for Dumbo?”
Really. The two courses (Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland) have fabulous theming and are actually quite challenging, and the prices are less than those of the Parks. The courses don’t tend to be wildly crowded, either. Golfers looking for something extra can try the Fantasia Fairways, which are designed more like a real golf course. It’s also fun because it’s interactive and something you can really do together as a family.
Ride the Monorail or the Boats
We once spent an entire afternoon making a loop between the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian, and the Magic Kingdom by boat. We didn’t go INTO the Magic Kingdom, mind you–we just rode there. My kids thought the boat rides were as good as any entertainment, and the idea that they could just keep riding them thrilled them to no end. Especially if your hotel isn’t on the monorail, riding it just for sheer pleasure can be a huge treat for kids. Get off at the Ticket and Transportation Center and walk over to the Polynesian, or spend some time at the shops in the Contemporary.
Go (Gasp!) Off the Property
Hit the outlets; take in the sights of Orlando. My kids were amazed to discover that Orlando proper was actually more than just a baggage carousel at the airport.
Do you have suggestions for non-park activities? Let us know!