Disney World is all about thrilling entertainment, but there are many things to do at Disney World besides the parks. Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the parks can get overwhelming, and you need a day to unwind. Or, perhaps you want to add another day to your vacation, without the cost of park tickets.
To remedy these things, we’ve put together this epic list of things to do at Disney World besides the parks.
Things to Do Besides the Parks: Ride the Skyliner
The Skyliner is Disney World’s newest transportation method implemented inside the resort. The Skyliner is made up of giant gondolas that transport guests above the ground from select resorts to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
The Skyliner has stations at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Pop Century and Art of Animation Resort.
Why is the Skyliner on our list of things to do at Disney World besides the parks? The Skyliner offers great views of Disney World, as well as the opportunity to visit and explore a few of the Disney resorts. By some accounts, the Skyliner travels at speeds of 11 miles per hour, but you’ll feel like you’re going faster as you whiz past trees and watch cars crawling beneath you when you pass some of Disney’s roadways.
One of the most thrilling aspects of the Skyliner ride is watching the parks and resorts come closer into view as you descend toward the stations. It’s a new way to see Disney and something you really need to experience at least once. However, you could easily spend the day Skyliner hopping and taking in the sights and dining at different hotels.
Many people utilize the Skyliner as a way to hit different bars at the resorts along the line, and make a bar hopping adventure out of it.
Mini Golf the Disney Way
Disney World is praised for its golf courses, but for us non golfers, the mini courses give us a chance to get in on the action without the pressure of competitive play.
When it comes to things to do at Disney World besides the parks, the two mini golf courses can provide a day of Instagram worthy fun, with lower crowds than you’ll find in the parks.
The Winter Summerland Mini Golf Course has two 18-hole mini courses, one themed to summer, and one to winter. This course is said to be a retreat built by Santa for his elves to enjoy in the off season.
Guests have the option to play on the summer or winter course, or both. Both courses have interactive elements that respond when guests hit golf balls through them. For example, on one hole, a fire pit blasts out steam when the ball travels through it, and in another hole, a snowman squirts guests with water when the ball enters the hole.
We tried both courses at the Winter Summerland, and we personally prefer the winter one.
The other mini golf course on Disney World property is the Fantasia Gardens. This course also contains two 18 hole courses, with a backdrop of the Tower of Terror.
Unlike the Winter Summerland, the Fantasia Gardens focuses on skill rather than chance. It is a shrunken down full golf course. This means instead of whimsical obstacles to hit your ball through, it plays more like a real golf course.
Things to do at Disney World Besides the Parks: Roadside Fun
When Disney World first opened, there was only one park, and a small handful of resorts. Due to this, many roadside attractions, restaurants, and exhibits popped up around the Disney property. Today, many of these are gone, or changed, but some still exist.
Along Highway 192, you’ll be transported to an older time, before Disney dominated the area. We often find this trip down memory lane a fun thing to do at Disney World besides the parks.
For some discounted Disney shopping, you’ll find many places offering Disney merch in this stretch. While most do not offer official Disney merch, they can still be fun to peruse.
For official Disney parks merch at a steep discount, try the Disney character Warehouse Outlets. Here, official Disney parks merch goes for up to 80% off retail price. Even some of the pricier items can be found here, such as items from Dooney & Bourke and Loungefly.
Rent A Power Boat: Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks
Pontoon boats can be rented at Bay Lake Tower, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian, and Disney’s Yacht Club.
Pontoon rentals are $45 per half hour and can seat up to ten guests. Rentals are offered on a first come first serve basis, and boat drivers must be at least 18 years of age with a valid drivers license.
Guests can cruise around Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon.
Rent a Kayak or Canoe
Not interested in piloting a powered boat, but still looking for some water themed things to do at Disney World besides the parks? Try a canoe or Kayak!
These can be rented at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, and cost $13 per hour for canoes and kayaks. Rentals are first come first serve, and are available from 9 am to 5 pm daily.
Ride the Highway in the Sky
No, not that highway in the sky, the original one! The Disney monorail, the original highway in the sky is a fun thing to do at Disney World outside the parks.
The monorail offers amazing views of the Magic Kingdom resorts, and the opportunity to get off and explore them.
All of the Magic Kingdom resorts have delicious dining options, as well as places to enjoy a drink for a bit of monorail bar hopping.
For an added view, hop on the EPCOT monorail and enjoy a tour through the park as the monorail loops around Spaceship Earth.
Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks: Resort Hopping
We’ve mentioned using the monorail and the Skyliner to resort hop, but why is resort hopping so fun?
Resort hopping is way more fun than it sounds. It’s a chance to explore resorts you haven’t gotten to stay in yet, and see what they have to offer, shop at smaller boutique stores and enjoy new sights.
While you’re there, see the pools, waterslides, and stop by the restaurants for a bite to eat. For example, we don’t often stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge due to cost and distance from the parks, but our favorite restaurant is there.
Boma is arguably the best buffet experience inside all of Walt Disney World. If you’re looking for things to do at Disney World besides the parks, hop on a bus to the Animal Kingdom Lodge for dining, and animal watching.
Travel the Disney Waterways: Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks
Disney World’s internal transportation includes buses, monorails, the Skyliner, and boats. The boats traverse Bay Lake, Seven Seas Lagoon and Crescent Lake around the EPCOT resorts.
Riding the boats is a fun and relaxing thing to do at Disney World besides the parks. Cruising across the lagoons in the open air boats offers the smells of the water and the sights of Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios.
Sailing along on the boats is another way to resort hop and experience other restaurants.
All of the Magic Kingdom resorts have boats that transport guests to and from the hotels to Magic Kingdom. These resorts include: The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, The Contemporary, Bay Lake Towers, Fort Wilderness Campground, and Wilderness Lodge.
The EPCOT resorts with boat transportation are the Beach and Yacht Club, the Boardwalk Inn, and Swan and Dolphin.
Things to do at Disney World Besides the Parks: Fireworks Cruise
Looking for things to do at Disney World besides the parks? Consider a fireworks cruise. Watching Magic Kingdom fireworks is a magical experience, but an awfully crowded one.
Guests line up a couple hours in advance to score a good fireworks view in front of the castle, or spend extra money for fireworks dining packages.
All of this can be avoided if you opt for the prestigious Fireworks Cruise.
The cruises depart from the Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Fort Wilderness, and Wilderness Lodge marinas to view the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Departures for EPCOT fireworks take place from the Beach and Yacht Club.
Each cruise provides stunning views with onboard audio synched to the shows. In essence, it’s the same as watching the fireworks from inside the parks, without the crowds and with a better view.
If you’re not up to piloting the boat, no worries. Each cruise comes with your own personal captain to each craft and share little Disney secrets along the way. Best of all, snacks and soft drinks are included.
Visit the Disney Horses
For things to do at Disney World besides the parks, head to Tri Circle D Ranch. Here, all of the Disney World horses live and rest.
Have you ever wanted to see the Headless Horseman’s horse, or Merida’s noble steed? What about Cinderella’s ponies, or the Main Street carriage horses?
All of these horses live at Tri Circle D and are available for guests to visit. Over 90 horses call this ranch home, and they all receive top notch care.
Spend some time exploring and be sure to ask any of the cast members all about the horses.
Enjoy Florida’s Nature by Horseback
For more fun at the Tri-Circle-D ranch, take a pony ride or a trail ride. Trail rides are available for advanced reservation for guests over 9 years old and over 48” tall.
Trail rides are 45 minutes and suitable for beginner riders. If you decide trail riding is one of the perfect things to do at Disney World besides parks, be sure to wear closed toed shoes and long pants.
Guests over 250 pounds are not permitted on trail rides for the health of the animals.
Take in a World Class Golf Course: Things to do at Disney World Besides the Parks
As mentioned above, Disney is known for its world class golf courses. Disney has two 18 hole golf courses: Disney’s Palm Golf Course, and Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course. Additionally, there is one 14 hole golf course: Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course, and a 9 hole course: Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course.
Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course
When it comes to things to do at Disney World besides the park, the Magnolia Golf Course is the perfect course for the biggest gulfing enthusiasts.
This is the longest of all of the Disney World courses, and is newly renovated. Currently, in April 2023, the course only has 14 holes, but will be debuting as a full 18 hole course later this year.
This course is located at the Shades of Green Resort.
Disney’s Palm Golf Course
The Palm Golf Course was completely redone in 2013 by Arnold Palmer Golf Management and emphasizes the natural beauty of the area. Then next, the course was awarded the Renovation of the Year in the resort course category by Golf Inc. Magazine.
This course features challenging play with water hazards, bunkers and more for newbies and experienced golfers alike.
This course is located at the Shades of Green Resort.
Disney’s Lake Buena Vista Golf Course
The Lake Buena Vista Course is a traditional country club course with the Saratoga Springs resort in the backdrop. This course has held the PGA tour, and is certified by Audubon International as a Cooperative Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Lake Buena Vista Golf Course is one of the most challenging courses at Disney World.
Things to do at Disney World besides the Parks: Footgolf?!
If regular golfing is not your thing, maybe you should add footgolf to your list of things to do at Disney World besides the parks. What is footgolf?
Footgolf combines both golf and soccer for a new sport that’s fun for all ages. Disney states Footgolf is “a sport that combines the patient precision of golf with the athletic coordination of soccer.”
The 9 hole Disney footgolf course is located at the Oak Trail Golf Course at the Shades of Green resort.
For more horse themed things to do at Disney World besides the parks, Disney offers carriage rides at Port Orleans Riverside and at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.
- Carriage rides at Fort Wilderness are a 25 minute experience around the scenic trails of the resort.
- Carriage rides at Port Orleans also last 25 minutes and take guests around the pathways of Port Orleans and the onsite marina.
The carriages can hold 4 adults or 2 adults and three children. Each carriage ride is $55.
Take a Pool Day
This one may sound obvious, but a pool day is a great thing to do at Disney World besides the parks. A Disney vacation can often mean rushing to and from the parks, waking up early, and trying to fit in as many rides as possible.
In this hustle and bustle, you may forget to slow down and enjoy the stunning pools Disney resorts have to offer.
A pool day is the perfect way to save on ticket costs, catch up on sleep, and relax. Disney resorts often offer waterslides, poolside activities, and poolside restaurants.
Disney Spa Relaxation
Another thing to do at Disney World besides the parks is to enjoy some of the spa services offered at some Disney resort hotels.
The Grand Floridian Spa is a full service spa and health club. It offers massages, body wraps, haircuts, manicures, pedicures, facials and more.
The Mandara Spa at the Disney World Dolphin Hotel offers massages, body wraps, facials, and aromatherapy. Additionally, the salon has services such as manicures, pedicures, haircuts and styling, and services for men.
Disney’s premier DVC resort, Saratoga Springs, also offers a full-service spa. According to Disney, Senses is reminiscent of the legendary mineral springs popular in upstate New York around the turn of the last century. It’s a chance to indulge while sharing a bit of history.
Things to do at Disney World besides the Parks: Shopping
Disney Springs is the ultimate daytime shopping center, with added night at life. Disney Spring has shopping for everyone from Disney themed items, to Legos, and high end luxury shopping. You could easily spend all day inside Disney Springs shopping and dining.
However, you don’t have to miss out on the thrills of the parks either. The Aero30 takes guests up to 400 into the sky, offering unparalleled views of the surrounding Saratoga Springs resort and the parks in the distance. For a unique experience you won’t easily forget, take an amphicar ride and literally drive a vintage automobile right into the water.
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Take in the Night Life
If drinking around the World Showcase is too crowded and pricey for you, head to Disney Springs instead. Disney Springs offers nighttime activities for adults.
Here, you can dine at one of the many highly rated restaurants, slow down at a bar, or even enjoy the bowling alley.
Ride an Old-Time Surrey Bike
If you’ve never heard of surrey bike, you probably aren’t alone. This quadricycle is a pedal-powered carriage reminiscent in style to an early automobile. Each surrey bike carries up to 6 passengers ad can be rented at many Disney Resorts, including the Beach/Yacht Club and Saratoga Springs.
While we haven’t tried one yet on our own, when we see people riding one, they’re always laughing.
Visit the Disney World Swan Resort for a Swan Boat Ride
Not many people realize it, even those staying at the hotel, but you can rent a swan boat at Disney’s Swan resort, Dolphin Resort or Swan Reserve. This resort property, while not owned by Disney, is located on Disney property, near the Beach and Yacht Club. In fact, it’s in walking distance to EPCOT.
To rent a swan boat and circle around the nearby waterways, you’ll need to be a guest at one of the Marriott-owned properties listed in the paragraph above.
Dine with Disney Characters
One of the best way to get your family upfront and personal with Disney characters is to book a character dining experience—and you won’t even have to enter a park to do it.
Many of Disney’s hotels offer character dining, allowing you to book and advanced dining reservation without holding a theme park ticket. You’ll find Mickey and pals at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, while Minnie and Daisy dominate at Cape May Café over at the Beach Club.
Other resorts offering character dining include Disney’s Polynesian Village, offering dining with Lilo and Stitch; Disney’s Wilderness Lodge where Snow White’s forest is recreated, and Disney’s Riviera Resort at Topolino’s Terrace.
Explore Your Resort’s Offerings
While many guests seek the insider experience of staying at a Disney World resort, it’s common to overlook the hotel itself as a source of things to do at Disney World beyond the parks. In reality, Disney World resorts offer a host of activities throughout the day. While most free activities are geared toward children, you’ll also find that some resorts offer adult-tours and other events, as well as special fee-based activities. Be sure to check with the front desk for a schedule when you check in.
Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks: Share in Walt Disney’s Love of Trains
If you’re a train enthusiast like Walt Disney was, you might enjoy a visit to the Boulder Ridge Villas. Here, you’ll find a display of train memorabilia as well as pictures of Walt with some of his own specimens. The highlight is the Carolwood Pacific, a 1/8 scale model of a steam railroad Walt Disney built himself.
While you’re there, take a walk around the resort and mosey over to the nearby Wilderness Lodge. We’ve heard that there is always a rollicking good time at the Whispering Canyon Café, with barbecue skillets being served up family style.
Dig Into the Kitchen Sink
If you haven’t stayed at Disney’s Beach Club resort, you might not know about Beaches and Cream, a old-style restaurant now loosely themed to evoke the nostalgia of an old soda shop. However, this restaurant has a cult following and one of the reasons is the Kitchen Sink.
No, we aren’t talking about the back washroom where dishes are scrubbed and sanitized. The Kitchen Sink is an ice cream sundae featuring 8 scoops of ice cream smothered in every topping the restaurant has. It’s such a big deal that just ordering one elicits sirens and a parade of cast members, as well as cheering from fellow diners.
If you decide to dig into the Kitchen Sink for yourself, we recommend sharing it with a group and also securing and advanced dining reservation for Beaches and Cream.
Learn to Shoot a Bow and Arrow
Merida better watch out as Disney guests line up to take aim at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Here, experienced archery guides teach children ages 7 and up how to load their compound bow and take aim. Each lesson lasts 75 minutes and includes target practice.
Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks: See Safari Animals without Entering Animal Kingdom Park
While the Kilimanjaro Safari ride in Animal Kingdom Park is one of the most popular animal-themed experiences in all of Disney World, there is a way to see many of the same creatures without the cost of a park ticket. Just head over to Animal Kingdom Lodge and stroll through the elaborate lobby to the outside area at the back of the hotel.
Here, you’ll find walkways and viewing areas that overlook the lodge savanna. While guests of the resort pay a premium for rooms that overlook this animal-filled oasis, you can do so at your leisure, while enjoying things outside Disney World parks.
See Disney Classics Come to Life in Glass
Back at Disney Springs, the Arribas Brothers Crystal Arts shop presents a full-range of Disney treasures depicted in glass. But aside from shopping for your favorite character, you can see how these unique crystal creations are created.
Daily glass blowing demonstrations are presented for guests to experience the magic of creation and watch one of these treasures come to life.
Enjoy a Soda Flight: Things to Do at Disney World Besides the Parks
If you’ve ever wanted to experience different soda pop from around the world, you have two opportunities at Disney World. One is located in EPCOT at Club Cool, but if you’re looking for things to do at Disney World outside the parks, head over to Disney Springs and Coca Cola store.
Visit the rooftop bar for fun views of the area as well as a soda flight with various flavors from different localities.
Challenge Doc or Dopey and Mine Some Gems
If you haven’t picked up on it yet, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort offers a number of things to do outside the parks. In addition to archery and other experiences already mentioned, you can mine for your own gemstones.
Three different mining experiences are offered, which means you’ll be given a different size bag of dirt and the opportunity to extract more gems. Guests then pour the material they purchased through a sorting screen, just like the miners of old, and extract the precious materials left behind.
Rent a Golf Cart and Enjoy Nature
Back at Fort Wilderness Resort, you can rent a golf cart and head out to tour the tree-lined paths the resort offers. You never know what nature you might experience or the sights you might see, but it’s a great opportunity to feel the breeze on your face and soak in some quiet outside of the parks.