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Aydin’s Top 5 Walt Disney World Resorts For Non Park Days

Walt Disney World Resorts for non park days

When planning a Walt Disney World vacation, it’s important to include some downtime in your itinerary. Most first-time guests don’t realize just how much walking there will be, and how taking a day off from the parks will lead to everyone having a better time overall. Or maybe you’re arriving early or departing late due to your travel arrangements and are looking for something fun to do, without using a park ticket. Did you know that you’re welcome to visit and explore different Walt Disney World resort hotels during your vacation, even if you’re not staying there? Whether you’re looking to take a break in the middle of your trip, or for some fun activities during your arrival and/or departure days, here are my Top 5 Resorts For Non-Park Days.

Stormalong Bay Walt Disney World

One of the best pools on Disney Property. Only resort guests are permitted to use the pool.

Disney’s Yacht Club & Beach Club Resorts

Spend some time relaxing by Stormalong Bay, the largest, and in my opinion, the BEST pool on Disney property. Explore the EPCOT Resort Area, including the BoardWalk and taking a ride on the Skyliner gondolas. So much to eat here! Wonderful casual dining options like the ever-popular Beaches & Cream Soda Shop, character breakfast or seafood dinner at Cape May Café, or an upscale Signature Dining experience at Yachtsman Steakhouse. After dinner, walk to the International Gateway entrance to EPCOT, where you can see the nightly fireworks show – the view isn’t as good as from inside the park, but it’s a great, ticket-free way to end your day.  

Here’s 5 reasons to stay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and why Disney’s Beach Club Resort is awesome.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Resort at Walt Disney World

This resort offers a huge amount on onsite activities throughout the day, including resort tours, scavenger hunts, poolside games, nighttime storytelling by the fire and even nocturnal animal viewing with night vision goggles. Meet and get to know the friendly cast members, many of whom are on exchange programs from Africa! One of the best resorts for dining, with tons of options, including wonderful quick-service options, casual table-service such as fan-favourite Sanaa and the buffet at Boma, or an unforgettable Signature Dining experience at Jiko.

Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts

Port Orleans French Quarter

My favourite Disney Moderate Resorts for a day off! The Riverside location has an enormous pool, tons of activities and a great arcade. The French Quarter property is quiet and relaxing, and very well themed. You’re encouraged to explore both resorts, and they’re located just a few minutes apart. The food here is excellent – I especially love the Cajun and Creole options served in the food courts, such as the Shrimp & Grits, Jambalaya, Gumbo and Beignets. And you’re just a short boat ride away from Disney Springs, which would be a great way to end your day.

 

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Polynesian Village Resort

Even if you’re not eating at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, it’s a great place for an evening stroll

One of the original Walt Disney World resort hotels, “The Poly” is one of the most immersively themed resorts to this day! It really captures the retro tiki culture vibe in the colours they use, the background music and other design elements. Grab a Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai and head over to the lovely pool area for some rest. In the evening, don’t miss the nightly torch lighting ceremony. Have a wonderful meal at ‘Ohana (reservations highly recommended) or Kona Café, a real hidden gem. You can even attend a Hawaiian Luau in the evening. If you’re willing to wait, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a real MUST-DO here – an enchanted tiki bar, where magical things happen depending on what you order. At night, watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach.

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Considered by many to be Walt Disney World’s flagship resort, this beautiful Victorian-style property is a great place to spend the day! Lots of lovely grounds to explore, including a massive main building and an amazing pool. A huge variety of dining options here, including quick-service, character dining, casual table-service and several Signature Dining locations, including Victoria & Alberts, recipient of the illustrious AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Awards. In the evening you can listen to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra perform live. Take a ride around the monorail at night, which allows you to explore two other Disney Deluxe Resorts. Cap off your day by watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach.

Those are my 5 favourites, but there are so many different, wonderful Disney resort hotels for you to explore. Which resorts are your favourites for spending days off from the parks?  Please share your recommendations in the comments.

If you’re looking for date night ideas – you can find my recommendations here

Aydin is a lifelong fan of Disney films and theme parks. When he’s not telling you about his last visit to Walt Disney World, he’s busy planning his next one. He and his wife love taking annual trips together from Toronto, often centered around culinary experiences.

Aydin uses his passion and expertise to help his clients create their happiest memories. He would love to curate a personalized vacation experience for you!

Contact Aydin at Aydin@PureMagicVacations.ca

Top 5 Date Night Activities at Walt Disney World

Donald and Daisy Date Night

Did you know that Walt Disney World is the world’s #1 honeymoon destination? I had my honeymoon at Walt Disney World in 2010, and we had so much fun, we’ve returned every year since! And because we don’t have kids, I’ve become a bit of an expert in planning adults-only trips.

One of my favourite things to do is to help my clients plan special Date Nights together, whether they’re going on a romantic adults-only vacation, or leaving the kids with the grandparents or onsite babysitting services for the night. There are an almost-endless number of options for your special evening out with your sweetheart, but these are my five favourite Date Night activities.

 1  An Evening On The BoardWalk

Disney’s BoardWalk is one of my favourite places to spend an evening with my sweetheart! Just like with Disney Springs, you don’t need a park ticket to visit the BoardWalk. There are tons of great bars and lounges, romantic ambiance, live entertainment, carnival-style games, and a huge area to explore together.

Disney's Boardwalk Resort At Night

Disney’s Boardwalk is one of my favourite places at night!

Before your meal, stop for a pre-dinner cocktail at Abracadabar, a magic-themed cocktail bar, full of fun little details.

Boardwalk Abracadabar Inside

The AbracadaBAR is a fun place to stop in for a drink!

My favourite dining location is Flying Fish. We have been here several times, and we’ve always had incredible meals! The menu is modern, inventive and exciting, with an emphasis on seafood, although they have lots of non-seafood options as well. The appetizers here are especially delicious, and if you’d like to share them, the kitchen is great at splitting them up between two plates! Dessert here is also great, but consider going a few doors down to Ample Hills Creamery instead, for some incredible, homemade ice cream. Split the Ice Cream Flight, where you get to choose 6 flavours to taste – I highly recommend the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.

Disney's Yacht Club

The Yacht Club Resort is a short walk from the Boardwalk

Alternate dining recommendation: Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, just a few steps from the BoardWalk.

 2  The Monorail Tour

This is one of my favourite Date Night activities! Head over to the Magic Kingdom and hop on the monorail – you can visit all three of the incredible Disney Deluxe Resorts on the monorail loop. Get off at each resort and do some exploring.

A must-do is visiting Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. There will likely be a bit of a wait to get a seat inside, but it’s worth it! Take a pager and they’ll call you when your table is ready. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that when you order certain drinks, magical stuff happens in the bar.

California Grill

The view from California Grill can’t be beat!

For dinner, the ultimate Date Night dining experience is going to California Grill. The food, service and atmosphere are among the very best that Disney has to offer. The restaurant is located at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, and offers incredible views of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom, both from your seat, as well as from their own private viewing platforms. Try to book your reservation so you’re there during the fireworks, but if you can’t, hold on to your receipt, and you’re welcome return, to watch them from the viewing platforms! Another option is to watch the fireworks from a number of locations throughout the monorail resorts, such as on the beach in front of the Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian Resorts, or the bridge linking the Contemporary Resort’s main tower to Bay Lake Tower.

Alternate dining recommendation: ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

Polynesian Village Resort

Even if you’re not eating at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, it’s a great place for an evening stroll

3  Epcot After Dark

Without question, Epcot is the best park for table-service dining in general, but even more so when you’re planning Date Night! Arrive in the evening and spend plenty of time wandering through the World Showcase pavilions. I especially love Morocco, the UK, China and France at night.

Pixie Dust Fan Amazon Store

Shop my wish list of products!

Head over to Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila, for an authentic cocktail made with imported, top-shelf tequila. This is a very small, intimate spot, and it may be difficult to get a seat. If you don’t want to wait, you can get your drink “to go” from the bar!

Canada Pavillion

Canada is home to Le Cellier, it’s delicious!

For dinner, there are SO many options to choose from but for Date Night, my personal favourite is Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion. The dining room is quiet, with romantic lighting, and the food is delicious! Unlike at many other steakhouses, your steak comes with a side dish, which you are allowed to swap with any other side dish on the menu. There are excellent non-steak options on the menu as well. Try to book your table at around 7pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your meal and find a spot for the fireworks, which usually begin at 9.

After the park closes, if you’re not ready to head back yet, exit through the International Gateway entrance, and you’re just a 5-minute walk from the BoardWalk, where you can have more fun before returning to your hotel.

Alternate dining recommendation: Monsieur Paul in France or San Angel Inn in Mexico.

4  Exploring Animal Kingdom Lodge

Animal Kingdom Lodge is a bit off the beaten path, but there is SO much to do once you get there! There are two resorts to explore – Jambo House and Kidani Village, and they each have their own animal savannah. For this itinerary, I would consider getting there a bit earlier. Look up the sunset time during your travel dates, and aim to arrive at least an hour before then.

Animal Kingdom Lodge

You could spend hours exploring this resort and all it’s details

Begin by walking around the resort, spotting the animals, appreciating the incredible architecture, viewing the authentic African art, and finding all of the hidden nooks and crannies. Have a drink at Victoria Falls Lounge.

Then, have dinner at Jiko – The Cooking Place. This is one of my favourite Disney Signature Dining locations! The menu is adventurous – you can find wild game meats, fresh-baked flatbreads, and authentic African offerings, as well as many non-intimidating dishes. The dining room is beautiful, and your server will do a great job of explaining any menu items that are unfamiliar to you. They have one of the largest South African wine lists outside of Africa!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Relax

Some very comfortable spots to relax and enjoy the resort atmosphere

After dinner, step outside and sit by the gigantic fire pit, or borrow a pair of night vision goggles to see the animals at night.

Alternate dining recommendation: Sanaa in the Kidani Village wing of Animal Kingdom Lodge.

5  Under The Stars At Disney Springs

In the past few years, Disney Springs has become a must-do location for many guests. When it comes to Date Night, there is no lack of wonderful options! Begin by taking some time to walk around the stores – spend time in The Art of Disney, the Christmas shop, the Marketplace Co-Op, and other adult-friendly shopping locations. Stop for a drink at Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, the Indiana Jones-themed lounge – taste the incredibly inventive offerings, and appreciate the little details that surround you. You can also have a great drink at the top of the Coca-Cola Store, or sit and have a drink or a snack at the bars of Paddlefish or The Boathouse, two of my favourite restaurants.

Paddlefish and Boathouse

Both Paddlefish and Boathouse are exceptional choices at Disney Springs

For dinner, you have so many restaurants to choose from, but my favourite is Frontera Cocina. This restaurant is from celebrity chef Rick Bayless, whom many consider to be the Julia Child of Mexican food – he travels throughout Mexico, to learn the most authentic, regional dishes, and introduces them to Americans. This is not your typical Mexican restaurant! There are often special, limited-time menus, showcasing specific Mexican regions like Oaxaca or Mexico City.

After dinner, go for a walk around the newer section of Disney Springs, populated with mostly non-Disney stores. For dessert, stop into Amorette’s Patisserie for a fancy cake for two, or go to Ghirardelli Soda Fountain for one of the best ice cream sundaes you’ve ever had!

Amorettes

If you have a sweet tooth, Amorette’s has exactly what you’re looking for!

Disney Springs’s shops and eateries are open later than most other places on Disney property, so if you’re a night owl, this is the Date Night location for you.

Alternate dining recommendation: Homecomin’ from chef Art Smith

Want a few more recommendations?

I asked the Pure Magic Vacations team for their favourite Date Night restaurants, and here are our top picks:

  1. California Grill
  2. Sanaa
  3. Le Cellier
  4. Yachtsman Steakhouse
  5. The Boathouse
  6. Morimoto Asia
  7. Flying Fish
  8. Jiko
  9. Beaches and Cream
  10. Citricos
  11. ‘Ohana

Disney Springs From Saratoga Springs

The view of Disney Springs from Saratoga Springs Resort

Date Night Tips

  • Book early. If you want to catch the sunset or dine during a popular time, you’ll want to book your table as early as possible.
  • If you’re celebrating something like an anniversary, engagement or birthday, let the restaurant know in advance. Phone Disney’s main dining number (407-WDW-DINE), and have them note your celebration on your reservation.
  • Consider making your Date Night even MORE special with Disney Floral & Gifts, who can deliver a beautiful bouquet or cake to the restaurant, or even better, have a special surprise waiting for your sweetie when you return to your hotel room at night!
  • Choose your clothing wisely. Many of the fancier dining location have dress codes, but if you visit during the hotter months, it can be difficult to choose what to wear. For ladies, it’s easy to pack a comfortable, flowy skirt or dress, or Capri pants. For gentlemen, consider bringing a dressier pair of shorts (such as golf shorts – skip the cargo shorts) and a short-sleeve button-down or polo shirt.
  • Don’t waste too much time on transportation. To get from your own resort to another Disney resort hotel, it can take a long time on Disney transportation. Consider using Uber, Lyft or a Minnie Van instead. These options are quite inexpensive, and when you factor in the value of your time, it’s a very reasonable option.
  • Be careful with the drinks! The bartenders make delicious cocktails, and when you’re in a very hot climate, you’re sometimes a bit dehydrated to begin with. Drink lots of water before, during and after your Date Night.

What Do You Think?

Do any of these Date Night ideas appeal to you? Do you have any favourite Date Night activities that you would like to share?  Leave us a comment below!

Aydin at PMV

Aydin at PMV

Aydin is a lifelong fan of Disney films and theme parks. When he’s not telling you about his last visit to Walt Disney World, he’s busy planning his next one. He and his wife love taking annual trips together from Toronto, often centered around culinary experiences.

Aydin uses his passion and expertise to help his clients create their happiest memories. He would love to curate a personalized vacation experience for you!  Contact him at Aydin@PureMagicVacations.ca