What are the 10 best things to do at Disney World besides the parks?
Be careful what articles you’re reading on this topic! Many of the activities that you used to be free or open to the public are no longer available in 2021. This article is up to date, and current as of September 2021.
Since I’ve lived in Orlando for nearly my entire life, I have a lot of experience visiting Disney World and the surrounding areas. In addition to the the 4 Disney World theme parks, there are so many other things to love at the Walt Disney World property. Your choices of what to enjoy at Disney World may depend on whether you are staying at a Disney hotel or not. But don’t worry! You have lots of options no matter where you find yourself in Orlando.
The Quick List Current as of September 2021
- Ride the Skyliner
- Dining at Disney Springs
- Shopping at Disney Springs
- Watch a movie at Disney Springs
- Bowling at Splitsville
- Mini golf at Disney World
- Play a round of golf
- Rent a boat
- Go fishing in Disney lakes
- Character dining at a Disney hotel
1. Ride the Skyliner
There are a lot of articles out there that will recommend the Disney Skyliners as a free thing to do at Disney World. And while it’s true that there is no cost to ride the Skyliners, it’s not true that it’s open to everyone.
Why Can’t I Ride the Skyliner for Free?
Most articles will recommend parking at a Disney hotel and then taking a ride on the Skyliner. However, ever since the shutdown of 2020, parking is very strict at Disney hotels. If you don’t have a dining reservation or a hotel stay booked, you shouldn’t count on being able to park there. Since the Skyliner goes through several Disney resorts, you have options of where to dine in order to ride the Skyliner.
What Hotels are on the Skyliner Route?
- Caribbean Beach Resort
- Pop Century
- Art of Animation
- Epcot (at the back of the Park by the World Showcase entrance)
- Hollywood Studios
- Riviera Resort
All of these hotels have many dining options. Most require advance reservations. So be sure to check the My Disney Experience App in order to book your dining reservation. And then enjoy a beautiful ride on the Disney Skyliners! No Disney ticket required.
2. Dine at Disney Springs
I get a lot of questions about Disney Springs. Is it free? Yes! Is there free parking? Yes! It’s a huge entertainment complex that includes lots of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. There’s even live entertainment at certain times!
There are over 60 dining locations to choose from at Disney Springs! Here are some of my favorites:
Again, be sure to check the My Disney Experience site or app to book your dining reservations!
3. Shopping at Disney Springs
Now on to shopping at Disney Springs! There are 100 different places to shop at Disney Springs, including one of the biggest Disney stores in the world. You can find unique Disney merchandise, exclusive releases, and gifts for everyone on your list. In addition to Disney gifts, you can find unique items from many different shops.
4. Catch a Movie at Disney Springs
Did you know you can park for free at Disney Springs and catch a movie? The AMC Dine-In Theater at Disney Springs is open again! However, the full in movie dining experience is still suspended. However, you can order food and it will be brought to you. This is a beautiful theater will all of the new releases. Catch the latest movie on the big screen, all without a Disney ticket!
5. Things to do at Disney World Besides Parks? Go Bowling!
In addition to dining, shopping, and catching a movie at Disney Springs, you can also go bowling at Splitsville. Right in the heart of Disney Springs is a luxury 50,000 square feet space for bowling and dining. This is a great way to spend a rainy day or a day off from the theme parks at Disney World. We love going to Splitsville for special events, birthdays, date nights, and just a great family day. This is one of the great things to do at Disney World besides the parks.
6. Mini Golf at Disney World
Did you know there are three miniature golf courses at Disney World? When you don’t have a theme park ticket, or when you’re spending a day outside of the Parks, this is a great choice! Here are the two different courses available at Walt Disney World:
Fantasia Gardens & Fairways Miniature Golf– these are two different courses at the same location!
Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course at Blizzard Beach- this is my favorite mini golf course at Disney! It’s located at Blizzard Beach. But don’t worry; you don’t need a Blizzard Beach ticket in order to play golf.
7. Play a Round of Golf
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can also play golf at a 18 hole fairway. There are four different golf courses at Walt Disney World. And there’s also a wonderful website where you can book a tee time easily. In fact, if you’re a Disney local, you can join the Walt Disney World Golf Player’s club. With this membership, you can have exclusive access to instruction, tee times, and merchandise. And if you’re just visiting Orlando, this is a memorable experience on how to spend a day outside of the theme parks.
8. Rent a Boat
As of September 2021, this is an experience that’s open to Disney World visitors. But on the Disney World website, there is a caution about peak times being open only to those with dining reservations or hotel guests. So you may want to also book a dining reservation in order to be sure that you can park at the Disney hotel.
With that being said, you can rent a motorized boat at the Grand Floridian Hotel and several other locations! You can also rent a canoe or kayak at Fort Wilderness! What a unique opportunity and a different way to explore the Walt Disney World property. The Sun Tracker® Pontoon boats seats up to 10 Guests for $45 per half-hour. These are smooth and spacious, the perfect choice for larger parties. Drivers must be at least 18 years of age.
9. Go Fishing
Did you know you can go on a guided fishing excursion at Walt Disney World? In fact, your family had the opportunity to experience this during a stay at the Wilderness Lodge. It was such a fun and unique experience! As someone who has grown up at Disney World, this was something new that even I had never experienced.
All fishing at Disney World is catch and release. And you can also fish from the dock at Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort.
All Walt Disney World Resort fishing excursions include:
- An experienced guide
- Rod and reel
- Artificial and/or live bait (NITRO boats will not offer live bait.)
- Non-alcoholic beverages only (Guests may not bring alcoholic beverages aboard.)
10. Character Dining at a Disney Hotel
In many of these options for non theme park days, I’ve mentioned making dining reservations. But this can certainly be an event all in itself. There’s so many amazing restaurants at Disney hotels. And if you’re looking for character dining, there are two options at a Disney hotel.
Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Chef Mickey’s is one of the hottest and most difficult reservations to get at Disney World! So if you know you’ll be in the Orlando area and are looking for character dining, book this as far in advance as possible.
Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort
When you’re looking for character dining, Topolino’s Terrace is a wonderful opportunity! It’s a brand new dining location and absolutely beautiful. Be sure to book this in advance as well. Breakfast only features Mickey and friends.