No park ticket? No problem: 10 things to do at Walt Disney World outside the parks
You can celebrate Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary in person, without ever stepping into Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios.
There are lots of ways to enjoy the Florida resort without a park ticket. Here are 10 of the best.
Enjoy the resorts
Disney Resorts are unlike any other resorts. With elaborate swimming pools, top-notch dining and amazing activities, they have plenty to keep your family busy..
Fort Wilderness Lodge is probably the most unique lodging option on property. You can spend a few hundred dollars (cost depends on time of year) to stay in a cabin, or you can bring your own RV or just a tent — the most affordable option for staying at the Mouse House.
The property is absolutely beautiful, with large trees, walking trails and wildlife like deer, rabbits and even peacocks, scattered around. This resort has somewhat of a cult following with fans who go all out decorating their campsites and cabins.
You can rent a golf cart during your stay to easily cruise around the more than 700-acre grounds or park yourself in a rocking chair with a good book and peaceful scenery.
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Imagine fishing on a private boat with Cinderella’s Castle in the background. It can happen.
You can book a two- or four-hour fishing excursion, complete with boat captain, fishing rods and bait. The catch-and-release excursions take off from one of eight Disney resorts.
Most excursions catch between five and 10 fish. The lakes are stocked with largemouth bass and bluegill, among other species. There’s also an option to fish from the dock at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside.
Grab a bite
There are literally hundreds of dining experiences on Walt Disney World property, everything from delicious grab-and-go desserts like the peanut explosion at Everglazes Donuts & Cold Brew at Disney Springs — to world-class dining, like at Topolino’s Terrace at the top of Disney’s Rivera Resort, when you can enjoy stunning views while dining on escargot or lobster tail.
You could easily start with drinks at one place, like Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, a tiki-themed bar in the Polynesian Resort, then head to California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort or Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian for dinner and a view of Magic Kingdom fireworks. End your night with a sweet treat from Beaches and Cream Soda Shop in Disney’s Beach Club Resort.
There are two mini-golf options on property, and in typical Disney fashion, both are fancifully themed, great options for family fun.
Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf includes two 18-hole courses. As its name implies, it’s based on the Disney classic animated film "Fantasia."
If you’re looking for a little Christmas cheer no matter the time of year, head to Winter Summerland Miniature Golf. It also offers two 18-hole courses.
Take a ride
There are plenty of people who think a ride aboard the monorail is an attraction in itself. The best part is it's free to ride, and you don’t need a park ticket to board. The same is true for the Disney Skyliner and the boats that ferry guests from various resorts to the parks. Take some time riding these different modes of transportation to explore parts of the property you haven’t seen before.
Have a ball
Splitsville Luxury Lanes located at Disney Springs is next-level bowling. The lanes are scattered throughout a big, two-story space, which also has large television screens all over. Your party gets its own lane complete with a server who will bring you food and drinks.
If you’re not into bowling, just grab a table and enjoy a feast. This place doesn’t have your typical bowling alley food. There’s delicious sushi, pizza, burgers and drinks. Splitsville is also a great place to celebrate a birthday or other celebration.
Get a bird's eye view
It’s known as “the balloon,” but it’s actually called the Aerophile. This hand-painted balloon at Disney Springs holds 210,000 cubic-feet of helium and can take you up 400 feet. The ride lasts about 8 minutes, and on clear days, you can see as far as 10 miles away.
The balloon is operated by an Aerophile-certified pilot and does not fly in storms or winds stronger than 22 mph. The cost is $25 for adults (10 and older) and $20 for children ages 3 to 9.
Hit the water
Is it a car? Is it a boat? It’s a vintage amphicar! These rare vehicles —fewer than 400 worldwide — drive on land and then enter the water as a boat.
A trained driver takes you on your roughly 20-minute tour on the waters of Lake Buena Vista in Disney Springs. Each car can hold three or four guests. Tickets can be purchased at the Boathouse Boatique at Disney Springs for $125 per car.
Shop until you drop
Between the resort gift shops, the stores at the Boardwalk and Disney Springs, you can purchase just about any Disney item you can imagine. Whether it’s classic Mickey ears, a Minnie Mouse apron or a Tinkerbell picture frame, you can find that perfect souvenir.
Aside from all the Disney goods, there are a slew of other top-notch shops at Disney Springs, including clothing stores like Anthropologie, UNIQLO and Zara. You'll also find accessories at Kate Spade, Vera Bradley and Pandora. There’s even a store for lefties, the Left-Hand Store.
Make your own DIY magic
Disney Springs has quite a few do-it-yourself experiences that let you leave with unique souvenirs.
Over at the newly-opened M&M store, you can create your own personalized candy-coated chocolate. Pick the color and add what you want — words, pictures, even your own face — to the M&M. While there, be sure to check out the wall of M&Ms, which includes every possible flavor you can think of.
Disney Springs is the only place in the world where you can make your own personalized LEGO Minifigure. This one-of-a-kind experience at the LEGO Store lets you pick everything from the hairstyle to accessories. You can even design your character's shirt.
Over at Bowes Signature Candles in the Marketplace Co-Op, you can create your own candle. The process takes you through all the steps from picking the color and scent to pouring the wax to decorating the glass container.
You could easily spend a whole day just at Disney Springs.
Spitzer can be reached at Michelle@Bymichellespitzer.com or on Instagram @ByMichelleSpitzer.