The rides, the costumes, the hugs, the signatures, the photographs, the fireworks, the overwhelming sense of awe and wonder: You can be 5 or 65 and the magic of Disney will still hit you no matter how many times you’ve been.
Disney World and its many attractions only grow and expand over time, so it can be hard to keep up! There’s so much to do, and there’s usually only a small window of time to do it in.
We’re here to help. We recommend carving out some time to enjoy the parks, but the parks are only part of the fun (and potential relaxation)! There’s so much more at Disney World just waiting to be discovered.
Disney experts recommend these six activities that will maximize the quality of your trip. Read on to learn how to reinvent your Disney trip in ways unexpected!
1. Shop Until You Drop
“I always recommend people plan for a little downtime to visit Disney Springs. Whether you’re into one-of-a-kind Disney souvenirs or something a little more extravagant, there really is something for everyone, including your dog,” Tarah Chieffi of Always Making Magic told us.
And she’s right, Disney Springs is a must-visit if your dream vacation involves shopping a day away! If you end up going, you’ll find a shop for young and old. Fashionistas will want to peruse stores like Coach, Kate Spade, and Anthropologie. If you’re out and about with the little ones, Disney Springs also has a Star Wars store with trinkets worth cherishing forever.
Disney Springs is well-known for World of Disney, which houses every Disney-themed souvenir you can imagine. If you’re traveling during the holiday season, visit the Christmas store that celebrates the most wonderful time of the year, year-round! Of course, there are plenty of things to do at Disney World around Christmas time, so the Christmas store can be just one stop of many.
Go, shop for yourself, shop for your friends and family, and even shop for your furry friend if you have one back home! There are also 60 unique dining options in Disney Springs if you’re more in the mood to grab a bite or do some people watching.
2. Plan Some Rest And Relaxation At A Spa
You can spend weeks at Disney and still not explore the parks in their entirety. Instead of focusing all your energy on seeing and doing as much as possible, Guy Novik, CEO of Orlando Villa Holidays, has another suggestion.
“In all the excitement of visiting the big parks and attractions at Disney World, it’s easy to forget why we usually take a holiday — to take a break from our normal lives and relax. This is why I think it’s a good idea to visit the resort’s spas while you’re here, as doing so gives you the time to chill out and enjoy a soothing massage during what is often quite a busy holiday,” he said. He thinks Mandara Spa is the best spot to unwind.
He told us Mandara, located in Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Hotel, is a “Balinese-themed spa which is more focused on R and R and stress-busting than many of the resort’s other spas and health clubs, which are slightly more fitness-centric than this one. Here, as well as massages, you’ll be able to indulge in high-quality facials, manicures and pedicures, and a number of special spa treatments in a peaceful setting.”
If you’re more interested in exercising, Olympiad Fitness Center and Muscles and Bustles Health Club are other suggestions Guy has for the traveler looking for a break from the crowds.
3. Hop From Resort To Resort
Resort hopping is a common pastime for seasoned Disney travelers and is highly recommended because it lets folks see a little bit of a lot!
“What’s great about Disney is you don’t have to stay at some of the resorts to access the restaurants, bars, and gift shops within them. This is a great way to escape the crowds but still be close enough to return for the nighttime magic,” Jonathan Mendoza of Fueled told us. One of his top recommendations? The fireworks shows, of course.
You can hop from resort to resort via free shuttles that make going to and fro a breeze.
Magical Vacation Planner Katelyn Stephens recommended resort hopping — and checking out the Contemporary Resort for a fancy dinner at the California Grill and Grand Floridian Resort for an afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room.
“Resorts offer delicious dining and fun activities that you may never experience, and resort hopping is a fantastic way to see it all! This is completely free and a fun way to see and dine at places you would never consider,” Victoria Yore of Disney Trippers said.
If you have some money to spare, you can take your resort hopping experience to the next level by renting a boat.
“You can hire boats for 2 to 10 guests from several locations on Disney property. You can head out on the Seven Seas Lagoon and take control of your adventure! When divided with a larger group, the cost is reasonable and it’s a really fun activity for all ages. From the Seven Seas Lagoon, you’ll even be able to see Cinderella’s castle,” Joanne Archer from Expert Home Tips told us.
Free or not free, seeing the resorts beyond your own accommodations can be a blast for the whole crew!
4. Get To Know The Romantic Side Of Disney (And Spot Some Wildlife)
Katelyn suggests adding some romance to your Disney experience by indulging in a side of Disney many families with children don’t think about when planning their visits.
“Disney World has long been a popular honeymoon destination and there a plenty of romantic experiences for couples! Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and look for wildlife, or enjoy the beautiful live oaks and Southern charm at the French Quarter Resort.” How charming does that sound?
Whether your’re traveling with a partner, solo, or in a group, experiencing Disney’s wildlife is an adventure worth seeking out. Tarah suggests Animal Kingdom Lodge as a great place to do this.
“Animal Kingdom Lodge is breathtaking and you can step right outside and see zebra, giraffes, gazelles, a variety of birds, and more. It’s so much fun to walk around and see who you can spot!”
5. Be Dazzled By Live Entertainment
Enjoying live entertainment is another excellent way to celebrate your Disney vacation.
Victoria recommends the House of Blues in Disney Springs. After a long day of shopping, kick back and enjoy some live music. House of Blues is frequented by adults, so if you’re on a trip that’s kiddo-free, hang with peers at House of Blues!
If you are traveling with kiddos, there is tons of live entertainment to choose from.
“The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness or the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at the Polynesian Resort are a fun and relaxing way to spend the evening after visiting the parks. You’ll get more than enough food to refuel after a long day of walking, and there is even a little crowd participation if you are up for it,” Tarah told us.
The kids will love the entertainment, and they might even be able to join in the fun on stage!
6. Watch A Flick Under The Stars
If you’re staying in any Disney Resort, you’ll have access to a truly splendid evening experience at Disney Fort Wilderness.
Once night falls, roast some marshmallows with Chip ’n’ Dale during their Campfire Sing-A-Long, which is followed by a movie at the campground cinema. Victoria and Joanne can’t recommend this activity enough!
As you gather around the campfire and swap stories, trust you’ll make friends along the way, or kindle an even deeper connection with your loved ones.
If you’re interested in camping at Disney World’s Fort Wilderness, don’t miss these 11 expert tips.
Disney World is gigantic, and if you’re not prepared, you might miss out on some pretty incredible things. To experience it to its fullest, we suggest doing your research and making plenty of time for off-the-beaten-path and outside-the-parks experiences!
We have the scoop on nine mistakes people make when they go to Disney World, some of which might catch you by surprise.