When most people think of Disney World, thoughts of the Castle, Mickey Mouse, fireworks, and sometimes the EPCOT “ball” appear.

However – some of the most visually appealing and exciting things in “the World” happen in the resorts, particularly at the Deluxe resorts not all of us can or want to splurge on.

That said, here’s the most important thing to know: even if you are not staying at the resort or even on Disney property, all of the resorts are open to guests at any time – whether you want to enjoy a meal there, or just take a break and observe the architectural wonder of the lobby (Animal Kingdom Lodge, anyone?).

To help you get started, here are my favorite resorts and just some of the activities you can partake in while visiting them.

As a blogger and kids free adult who visits multiple times per year, I can actually say that I think I now spend more time at the resorts than I do at the parks. And I love the parks!

While those with limited vacation days may not feel they have a ton of time, it is definitely worth considering taking at the least an afternoon break, or after-park evening stop at one of these amazing places.

The Boardwalk

Resort hopping at Disney's Boardwalk

Things to do:

  1.  Rent a surrey bike and bike around Crescent Lake
  2.  Try some of the best ice cream flavors ever invented (Ooey Gooey Butter Cake & PB Wins the Cup are household favorites here).
  3.  Have a classic cocktail in another era at the Belle Vue Lounge
  4.  Rock (or nap) yourself away on the rocking chairs of the patio overlooking the Grand Lawn
  5.  Hit the arcade
  6.  Get nachos and a margarita at the food stands, and relax around Crescent Lake
  7.  Enjoy almost any type of cuisine and ambiance you’d like at one of the many restaurants


Animal Kingdom Lodge

Resort hopping at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Photo courtesy of Flickr

  1.  Sample great wines at the Jiko Lounge
  2.  Take a free culinary tour in the afternoon throughout the restaurants, around 4:15 pm daily (make a call or inquire at the front desk to confirm). Includes free samples 🙂
  3.  Animal observation – head through the main lobby and onto the Savannah!
  4.  So many free activities for kids: cookie decorating, face painting, learning how to play the drums. All open to the public – not just resort guests!
  5.  Eat at three of the continuously highest rated restaurants on property – Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko.


The Polynesian

Resort hopping at Disney's Polynesian

Photo courtesy of Flickr

Things to do:

  1.  Grab tiki drinks (or really, alcoholic beverages in general) at Trader Sam’s and/or the Tambu Lounge. If you haven’t been to Trader Sam’s, it will hands down be one of the most unique bar experiences of your life. It’s well worth a visit, even for the non-drinkers. Kids are cool here until 8 pm.
  2.  Explore the grounds – it’s one of the most beautifully landscaped resorts in the World. Make sure to check out the lush waterfalls outside the lobby, get a view of the pool, and check out the beach area.
  3.  Shop for unique Polynesian themed items – including Disney ones. Some of our favorite items in all of Walt Disney World are at this resort – it’s worth a look!
  4.  Get a Dole Whip outside of the Magic Kingdom – the Pineapple Lanai is special and just at the Polynesian.
  5.  Take a hula class or watch the torch lighting ceremony, both free! Inquire for times at the front desk.
  6.  Splurge within reason and have one of the best meals on property at Ohana. Not to be missed!


Grand Floridian

Resort hopping at Disney's Grand Floridian

Photo courtesy of Flickr 

  1.  Catch live music in the lobby starting around 3 pm – the Grand Floridian Pianist and Grand Floridian Society Orchestra rotate sets, usually late into the evening. They are both incredible!
  2.  Catch the Princess Promenade – while it’s not as official and can’t be found on the Disney website, a Disney princess and prince waltz down the staircase and perform a dance with children ages 3-12. It is so Disney, and so perfectly cute. As of this writing, the time is 3:30 pm each day except Tuesday.
  3.  Have tea at the Garden View Tea Room – there’s a price tag, but we think it’s well worth it. Enjoy tea, scones, pastries, finger sandwiches, and more, in a unique atmosphere.
  4.  Eat – the Grand Floridian has so many amazing unique options. Enjoy a break from theme park counter service fare and grab the Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Pesto from Gasparilla Grill. Prefer a sit-down meal? Hit the Magic Kingdom early and beat those standby lines, then schedule a late brunch at Grand Floridian Cafe and enjoy items such as the Eggs Benedict Flight or Madagascar Vanilla Brioche French Toast.


Wilderness Lodge

Resort hopping at Wilderness Lodge

Photo courtesy of Flickr

  1.  Rent bikes and explore the grounds – make sure to take the trail and head over to Fort Wilderness!
  2.  Search for Hidden Mickeys – there are many hidden at the resort, and cast members at the front desk will gladly hand you a tip sheet to turn it into an official activity.
  3.  Have a beer and fondue at the Territory Lounge. For more adult beverages, make it a bar hop and also hit Geyser Point.
  4.  Take in the lobby – it’s incredible and worthy of at least a 10 to 15-minute tour alone.
  5.  Take a free morning tour – typically starts at 9 am, make sure to confirm with a phone call.

This list is just to help get you started and includes my favorites – it is definitely not inclusive of all the resorts or activities you can see and do in the World.

Make sure to comment with your favorite resorts and activities at Disney!