Wondering what to do outside of the parks with your free day at Walt Disney World? You could relax around the pool, decompressing after a long day in Magic Kingdom. Or, you could have a day jam-packed with fun and the multitude of other entertainment beyond the theme parks in the Vacation Kingdom of the World.
In this DTB (“Daily Trip Blueprint”) post, we take a look at how you can fill that free day from morning until night, exploring parts of Walt Disney World you might not otherwise see. Unlike our other 1-Day Disney Parks Itineraries, in this DTB we have a “choose your own adventure” element as some of the options here may not appeal to everyone, so we have an alternative path, Adventure B. This path is geared more towards families, but when you don’t see it as an option, it’s because the recommendation is the same for all. (Except Trader Sam’s…that’s for adult playtime after the kiddies are in bed.)
While this DTB will work year round, if you’re visiting during Christmas season, I highly recommend following our Self-Guided Yuletide Tour of Walt Disney World plan instead of this one. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Christmas at Walt Disney World for additional ideas to fill out the day if you want more to do.
It’s also worth noting that you could literally fill a week or more enjoying the non-park side of things at Walt Disney World. There’s a lot to do in the parks, but it’s much easier to narrow each of the parks–even the Magic Kingdom and Epcot–down to a single day. If this full day schedule is too ambitious for your “relaxation day,” feel free to cut elements and slow things down. Even with the full day, a lot of possibilities have to be cut, so I’m hoping those of you Walt Disney World veterans who read the blog make additional suggestions in the comments to help the first-timers out.
Alright, let’s get started with our day…
Trail Start for Breakfast – Our tour begins here, on this haunted trail. Well, I’m not sure Trail’s End is actually haunted, but it’s where I recommend starting for breakfast, with a 7 am reservation (no sleeping in on this “relaxation” day!). Not only is breakfast at Trail’s End cheap, delicious, and quiet, but an early morning stroll in Fort Wilderness will have you saying to yourself, “I’m at Walt Disney World?!” The overgrown woods, the morning light illuminating the Spanish Moss, and the secluded, underdeveloped nature of it all makes it feel unlike anywhere else at Walt Disney World. I often say Fort Wilderness is one of the overlooked gems at Walt Disney World, and this is a great chance to take it in. Next, take a boat to Wilderness Lodge…
Adventure B: Breakfast at Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. This is a character breakfast, so it might be a better option for those with kids.
Wonders of Wilderness Lodge – In our Free Things at Walt Disney World post, we cover some of the free tours at Walt Disney World. One such tour is the Wonders of Wilderness Lodge tour, which is held at 9 am Wednesday through Saturday. The tour covers everything from Walt Disney’s love of trains to the materials used in building Wilderness Lodge to its backstory and inspiration from Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park, among other National Park Lodges. As this review accurately states, the content on this free tour rivals many of the paid tours.
Adventure B: Swan-shaped paddleboat rental at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts, spending an hour on the water.
Head to the Springs – This blog used to rag on Downtown Disney as being a waste of time. As the transformation to Disney Springs has been taking shape, this is no longer the case. The new shopping and entertainment district–even with construction walls–has a great vibe to it, and there are some interesting stores and entertainment options. Plan to spend 2-3 hours here, doing whatever interests you. I would not recommend DisneyQuest (closing in early 2016), unless you have free admission to it.
Savanna Fun – Much like Fort Wilderness, Animal Kingdom Lodge is another out-of-the-way place many Walt Disney World guests never visit. This is a shame, as I consider it the best and thematically-richest of all the resorts. Don’t worry (were you getting worried?), we are going to spend a decent amount of time there. Start by heading to Sanaa in Kidani Village, which is another of my hidden dining gems at Walt Disney World (request a window table) for a late, light lunch (or do The Mara counter service in Jambo House if you really aren’t hungry). This can be a culinary adventure, but there are safe options for picky eaters in your party.
After this, head to Jambo House for more fun. You can start by heading out behind the building to the trails that allow you an up close view of the savanna. Here, there are Cast Members who are incredibly knowledgeable, and can teach you about the animals and life on the savanna (some nice “edutainment,” so you don’t feel as guilty about pulling the kids out of school for the week! 😉 ). After this, at 4 pm, head to the Boma restaurant podium. No, we aren’t going to eat again already! This is for another free tour, this one the Culinary Tour of Animal Kingdom Lodge. This is a 30-minute tour covers the art and culinary inspirations of Boma and Jiko (plus free samples!), and is fascinating even if you aren’t a foodie.
Adventure B: Play a round of miniature golf at Winter Summerland, located near Blizzard Beach water park.
Transportation Fun – Once finished at Animal Kingdom Lodge, catch a bus to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From there, catch a boat to the BoardWalk to enjoy a pleasant afternoon (perhaps sunset, depending upon the time of year) stroll there, perhaps stopping to split a snack at Boardwalk Bakery (one of the best bakeries at Walt Disney World) if you’re at all hungry. Walk around the full loop that goes past Yacht & Beach Club and the Swan & Dolphin, and then take the walking path back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios (or take a boat). From the Studios, catch a bus to the Magic Kingdom and then take a monorail to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Walt Disney World transportation is a means of getting from point A to point B, but if you slow down and enjoy it, boat and monorail transportation can be attractions unto themselves.
Adventure B: Take a bus directly to the Magic Kingdom, then a boat to Wilderness Lodge.
Polynesian Dinner Delights – There are a lot of great places to eat dinner at the Magic Kingdom area resorts, but I’m going to suggest dining at either ‘Ohana or Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort because of the way it sets up the rest of the evening. Both of these restaurants are delicious, family-friendly places. If you want something more romantic, try Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge or The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, both of which I consider hidden gems. After dinner, you can enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant from the Poly.
Adventure B: Head to Wilderness Lodge for a hijinks-filled meal at Whispering Canyon Cafe, and then head to Fort Wilderness for the free Chip ‘N Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long.
Free-irworks – There is no better way to end a day at Walt Disney World than with fireworks. Fortunately, with fireworks being so high in the sky, it’s pretty easy to watch them for free. The beach of the Polynesian offers a nice view, and the new Sunset Pointe is another good spot, but my favorite location for watching and photographing the Magic Kingdom fireworks is at the Ticket & Transportation Center, to the right of the ferry dock. This is a short walk from the Poly.
Nightcap – Since you’re only a stone’s throw away from the #2 bar in all of the worldwide Disney Parks, it would be a crime not to go to it, right?! (Yes, yes it would be.) From here, take the walking trail back to the Poly, which makes for a delightful nighttime stroll. Once there, end your night with drinks and kitschy fun at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
After this, stumble back to your room and you’ve just completed quite the jam-packed “rest day” outside of the Walt Disney World parks!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. OurWhat to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it.
For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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What do you like to do outside of the parks at Walt Disney World? Do you typically plan a “rest day” outside of the parks? Anything on this plan you’d change? If you have any thoughts or questions, please post them in the comments!