Disney World Without the Parks

Not a park, but still magical!

Why would one visit Walt Disney World and not go into the parks?  Well, I can think of many reasons.  Maybe they arrived later in the day and didn’t want to ‘waste’ a park day.  Or they are visiting Orlando for work and have always wanted to see Disney, but don’t have the time or money to commit to a one day ticket.   Or they’ve just been to Disney World many times (lucky them) and want to do something different.

See?  Lots of reasons.

The good news is that there are so many things to do in Disney World outside of the parks that one could easily spend an entire day–or more–just visiting the resorts and other entertainment areas in the Walt Disney World Resort.  And so, for your reading pleasure, here’s my idea of the perfect non-park Disney day, written in awkward second person point of view…

You wake up early.  Don’t complain–you’re in Disney World.  That’s what you do.  You have a lovely breakfast at your resort.  Ideally you are staying at The Boardwalk Inn so you can have breakfast at Kouzzina.  But if not, that’s ok.  You can also grab a counter service cupcake almost anywhere.  And really, who doesn’t want to eat cupcakes for breakfast?

The savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge

After breakfast, you have two great options.  Option #1:  You visit Wilderness Lodge and take the 9 am lobby tour.  After, walk the grounds and enjoy ‘nature’–in quotes because there’s nothing natural about a forest like that in central Florida.

Option #2: You make your way to Animal Kingdom Lodge.  You spend a half hour or so viewing the animals on the savanna and talking to the very knowledgeable cast members that staff the overlook area.  You might end up staying for more than a half hour, but that’s ok.  That’s why you got up early! (You’re welcome.)

You now make your way to The Magic Kingdom.  But wait!  Don’t go through that turnstile!  Remember, this is a non-park day.  You’ll want to walk past the entrance and get on the monorail, because you are doing a monorail resort tour.  This is a very popular way to spend part of a day, and having done it I can understand why.  The monorail resorts are a calm, cool respite from the parks, and really are attractions in and of themselves.

Feel free to do the resort tour in any order you prefer, but personally I like to start with The Contemporary and work my way around.  Why?  Because that way, by the time I get to the second stop, I’m ready for lunch–and I like to dine at the Polynesian.  At the Contemporary, check out the mural–and look for the five-legged goat.  Take a walk across the skywalk and check out the amazing views in both directions.  If it is late enough in the day, consider grabbing a drink at the bar in The Wave.  Remember, you’re on vacation.  So 11:00 in the morning is late enough!

Continue on to the Polynesian, where you can stroll a white-sand beach, take in some island-themed art, and have a lovely table service lunch at Kona Cafe (I suggest the pulled pork tacos) or a counter service lunch at Captain Cooks (I suggest the pulled pork nachos).  (Can you tell that I really like pulled pork?)

Curried coconut and shrimp bisque at Kona Cafe, complete with not-so-hidden Mickey

Your last stop (or first stop or second stop, depending upon the order you choose) will be the Grand Floridian.  The main thing one should do here is stand and stare, amazed at the beauty of the building itself.  When you enter from the monorail station you will find yourself already on the second floor–which is the best way to enter the Grand Floridian, in my opinion.  You will be greeted with a beautiful view of the lobby and the towering ceiling.  Truly, the Grand Floridian is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen in this country (second only to the Library of Congress.  Seriously, the Library of Congress is amazing.  If you’ve never been there, just trust me).  There are also several very classy shops to enjoy, another lovely beach, and dozens of overstuffed chairs available for those of us that need a mid-day rest (ask Melissa Sue–that would be me).

If you still have energy at this point (and you should–after all, you’re in Disney World) find your way to Port Orleans.  This shouldn’t be difficult, even if you are using Disney transportation–the monorail will drop you off at the Magic Kingdom and you can board a bus for Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter.  Once there, grab a fresh bag of beignets (a donut-like pastry) at the food court in Port Orleans French Quarter.  This is merely a pre-dinner snack, however, because after your visit to the Disney version of the Big Easy, you will board a riverboat bound for Downtown Disney.  End your day browsing shops and enjoy a meal at one of the many Downtown Disney restaurants.  My husband also recommends a pint of Strongbow from the outside bar at Raglan Road–preferably enjoyed whilst relaxing at one of the umbrella topped tables.

So there you have it–a jam-packed day full of Disney magic, minus the parks.  Didn’t think it was possible?  Think again.  Truly, there’s so much more to Disney World than meets the ears.


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