On every trip I plan to take a few days off from the theme parks to relax and regroup. Of course you can spend that time at one of Disney’s many spas but I would guess that if you are traveling as a family that may not be an option. Here are some ideas of free or low cost things to do.
- Enjoy your resort – I know that is obvious but sometimes you don’t take the time to do that. Find out what your resort has to offer. Some have campfires, outdoor movies, pool games in the afternoon, tours of the resort including hidden mickey’s, playgrounds, walking paths, bike rentals, and boat rentals to name a few. Just ask at the front desk. You paid to be there so enjoy it.
- Visit the other resorts – Every resort has its own theme and they can be very elaborate. The kids might enjoying visiting the Animal Kingdom Lodge and seeing the animals. You can walk the Boardwalk, especially in the evening when some performers come out. Take a look around at a resort you may want to try next time. You are free to walk around and visit any resort but the pools are only for guests of that resort.
- Go “monorailing”, ride the skyliners, or boating – “Monorailing” (It may be a word we made up) is our favorite activity on the day we arrive. We usually take Disney transportation to MK. We board the monorail and get off at the 3 hotels it stops at (Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Contemporary Resort) and walk around. You can just ride the monorail around a few times if you want. It is a beautiful view of the Magic Kingdom. A complete trip is about 15 minutes. Then we get off at the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center). We switch monorails to the EPCOT monorail. Another nice view and a lot of fun. When we are done with that we get off and walk to the EPCOT buses and board a bus back to our resort. If you have real little ones it might not be as much fun but its a nice way to get a look around on your first day or a day off. You can do similar things with the boats. Go to the Magic Kingdom. Board one of the resort boats (Don’t go to the big Ferry Boat. That will only take you back to the TTC) You can ride around on some free boat rides and check out some resorts while your out there. If you do it at night you may get a nice view of the fireworks. Depending on what boat you board you can get to the Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, or Contemporary. Again it might not be as fun for little ones but can be a fun free activity. Now you can also check out the skyliners. If you are not at a skyliner resort then you can take your resort bus to Hollywood Studios. From there you can take the skyliner to the hub. At the hub you can switch to the Epcot skyliner or take the skyliner to Pop Century/Art of Animation. The Epcot skyliner will drop you off outside the International Gateway of Epcot. Its a great spot to walk around the Yacht & Beach Club and Board Walk Resort. From there you can take the boat over to Hollywood Studios to get a bus back to your resort.
- Visit Fort Wilderness – The easiest way to get there is go to Magic Kingdom and take the boat to “Fort Wilderness” (be sure you take the right boat). It will drop you off near Pioneer Hall. You may forget you are even near a theme park. Fort Wilderness is Disney’s first and only campground. I have fond memories of camping there for many years as a child. You can catch the cheapest breakfast buffet on the property at Trails’s End Restaurant. The food is nothing fancy but its usually quiet and not overly crowded. You can use a table service credit here too but it might be best to save that for a more expensive meal. Outside on the porch are rockers and some kids toys. Next to the restaurant is a nice play ground too. On the other side is the old petting zoo. Now they have a few animals there (only for viewing) and the kids can go on a pony ride for $5 each. A parent leads the pony so you can take a nice, long, slow pony ride. My kids enjoyed the time with the ponies. It is next to the horse barn where they keep all the horses for Disney World. There is a blacksmith shop which is interesting to look at and you might even catch them shoeing horses. There is a sing-a-long with Chip and Dale every night followed by a movie under the stars by the Meadow Trading Post. Call your front desk to find out what movies are playing. (movie and sing-along are free and open to all resort guests)
- Miniature Golf – There are a few miniature golf courses. They are near Blizzard Beach and can be a lot of fun.
- Visit Disney Springs – Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) is shopping central. There are some nice restaurants and my favorite ice cream stop Ghirardelli’s. You can eat both inside and out. They have a pretty big menu but they are not on the dining plan. Their chocolate ice cream is worth paying for though. They have a few rides there that you pay per ride (a carousel and train). They are also boat rentals here (if you wanted to do that but your resort doesn’t have it) and a free boat that goes to Port Orleans, Saratoga Springs, and Old Key West. Also check out 5 best things to do at Disney Springs.
- Hunt for Hidden Mickey’s -A hidden Mickey is when you see the 3 circles that make Mickey’s face and 2 ears cleverly hidden in a wall, railing, carpet, etc. They started out being the way an imagineer would sign their work. They have become a tradition and can be fun to find. If you start looking you will see them everywhere. If you are interested in more information about hidden Mickey’s check out this book.
It can be nice to leave a few days open to mill around without a set schedule and lots of things to do. Enjoy your pool and relax…you are on vacation after all.