What to do on days you aren’t at the parks at Disney World

For whatever reason, there might be a day or two in your Walt Disney World vacation where you don’t end up going to a park. Sometimes it’s because you get in late or it’s the day you are checking out, sometimes you purposely schedule a down day to regroup and get your energy back. Having an off day or scheduling some off time is always a great idea. Remember, the point of a Walt Disney World vacation is to enjoy yourself, not feel like you’re at work, meticulously going by a schedule to pack everything in. Here are six great options that you could devote a whole or half day to and work on getting your energy levels back to normal.

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Each Disney World pool is unique.

1.Pool Time
Save for a couple exceptionally cold days in the winter, it’s basically swimming season all year round in Florida. Most kids go absolutely nuts around the pool, and Disney has done a great job of catering towards kids’ interests. More and more splash zones are popping up at Disney pools, and there are some very cool pool area themes depending on what hotel you are staying at. The Yacht and Beach Clubs’ Stormalong bay is very popular, with a sandy bottom lazy river, and shipwreck waterslide, it’s almost like a mini water park. Caribbean Beach’s pirate theme allows you to explore like a pirate on the open seas. And even the value resorts will have larger than life statues to immerse you in the theme. Disney pools have several lifeguards on staff, and there are complimentary lifejackets for the little ones. So grab your refillable drink mug and sunglasses, and relax to the sounds of some of your favorite music (and splashing kids) and soak up some rays and relaxation.

downtown-disney-00-full2. Downtown Disney
Downtown Disney (DTD) is currently undergoing a massive renovation to be reopened as Disney Springs. What you can expect from Disney Springs is even more dining and shopping, mixed with some entertainment. Heading to DTD can take a long time depending on what hotel you are staying at, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get there and back. DTD is a great place if you saw something in the park but forgot to buy it then and are now having buyers remorse. The World of Disney Store will have what you need, but the Disney themed stores don’t end there. You can look for toys, art, candy, and even Christmas Disney themed trinkets. And if eating is your thing, there is something for everyone, from food trucks and grabbing a quick bite, to more formal steak and seafood restaurants. This is a great non-park day stop, especially if your definition of relaxation is retail therapy.

Q4-29 Winter-Summerland June 1999    MRA3. Mini Golf
If you’re looking to do something with your kids, why not try some miniature golf? Disney World has two mini-golf courses, Fantasia Gardens, located by the Dolphin hotel, and Winter Summerland at Blizzard Beach. If you are staying on property and purchased a package, you will probably get a coupon for minigolf in your package info packet. Because it’s a Disney mini golf course, you can expect terrific theming and creative shots to keep the whole family interested.

boardwalk thigs to do

The Boardwalk has places to eat, shop, drink, and relax.

4. The Boardwalk
Some people don’t know that you can visit the boardwalk area even if you are not staying at an Epcot resort (Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club, Swan, and Dolphin.) The Boardwalk has some restaurants, surrey bikes to rent, and street performers throughout the day. Or you could take a stroll all the way around the lagoon to take in the beautiful sites. Almost like a mini Downtown Disney, the boardwalk has everything from hot dog stands to more upscale options. There are even some nightclubs if you’re interested in evening entertainment. If you want to get there and aren’t staying close to Epcot, you can always get on the bus to Hollywood Studios and walk or take the boat over. If you are driving, there is parking across the street.

hoop dee doo things to do

Enjoying the food and dancing at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

5. Dinner Shows
Going to a dinner show is another great option for an off day since you won’t need a park ticket to get to any of them. The Spirit of Aloha show is located at the Polynesian hotel, and both the Hoop Dee Doo Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ are at Fort Wilderness. If you are on the Disney Dining plan, you can use two table service credits for these shows. They are roughly two hours long and pack some good food and entertainment into that time. While you are at Fort Wilderness, you could also have your kid ride a pony, or even go on a horse drawn carriage ride. Plus, alcohol is included which never hurts.

activities at hotel

Your Disney World hotel has more going on than you might even know.

6. Enjoy the activities at your hotel
When you check into your hotel, they should give you an activities sheet of things that are going on around your hotel that week. This might include activities for kids like making a craft or decorating cookies, it might be learning how to make towel animals, it might be movies under the stars or a campfire. Sometimes there will be singers or musicians depending on the time of year or the hotel. When you take some time to really enjoy your hotel, you might not feel as bad about the extra money you decided to spend to upgrade yourself, because suddenly you can see the value that higher-priced resorts offer.

So whether you feel like shopping, eating, or doing something new for your kids, Disney World is much more than just the parks. This is just a small list of extras to experience on your vacation. If you’re looking for even more, make sure to contact me. There is truly something for every interest, ability, and age. When you stop and take some time to slow down and relax, you will probably find everything more enjoyable (your own family included.)

Why Disney World Resorts Are The Best (Series)…Deluxe Resorts Part 2

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Friendship boats to get to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Let’s continue on down that deluxe resort road, down the road to Epcot (and Animal Kingdom). The next batch of deluxe resorts continue to wow us with their theming, amenities, and park proximity. Characterized as the Epcot resorts are the Beach Club, Yacht Club and the Boardwalk Inn. These three resorts surround Crescent Lake. Then in a world of its own is the Animal Kingdom Lodge, located in close proximity to the Animal Kingdom. Each one of these resorts has something great to bring to the table.

The Beach Club/Yacht Club
These two resorts are like brother and sister. They are actually attached and share without question, Disney’s best pool, Stormalong Bay. Both hotels have very similar layouts and share the theme of being by the ocean. The theme of the Beach Club is turn of the century New England seashore. The Yacht has more of a boating, nautical feel. Some people say that the Yacht Club has a slightly more adult feel to it, but just like every resort on property, families of all ages are welcome, and shorts and Mickey shirts are the norm. These resorts share buses too, but you will have a nice relaxing covered bus stop to wait at.

Walkway to Epcot

Walkway to Epcot

Proximity
By far, the best perk of these hotel is the proximity to Epcot. In case you didn’t know, Epcot actually has two entrances, the main one by the monorail and spaceship earth, and one called the international gateway, located between England and France. You can only get to this entrance from the Epcot Resorts. The walk from the Beach Club to Epcot it literally 5-10 minutes depending on your pace. The Yacht club might be an extra 5 minutes since it’s situated on the farther end. This comes in handy if you want to drink your way around the countries, stay late at the International Food and Wine Festival, or want to make a quick getaway after Illuminations. Both hotels also line Crescent lake, the waterway that connects Epcot to the resorts and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. You can definitely walk to Hollywood Studios from the Beach and Yacht Club, but it will probably take you 20-30 minutes. If that seems like too much, hop on one of the Friendship boats. Yacht and Beach club share a dock where a boat will pick you up and take you to your final destination. FYI, the boat makes a few stops and can take a while. The order of the stops is Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach, Boardwalk, Epcot, then reverse order. So remember, even though it seems close, I wouldn’t try to cut it too close with Fastpasses or dining reservations.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Stormalong Bay pool is awesome.

Pool
Let’s hop back to the pool situation. Stormalong Bay is a huge, sand bottom pool complete with lazy river, waterfalls, coves, bridges, kids sections, hot tubs, and water slide. This pool was becoming so popular, everyone wanted to go. Now it is for hotel guests only, and cast members will check you magic bands to make sure you are a resort guest. Also FYI, one of the only complaints I’ve heard about this pool is that the entrance to the water slide is actually outside the pool area, close to Crescent Lake. If you are alone at the pool with a young child, it might be difficult to constantly keep an eye on them. However not to worry, there are always tons of lifeguards everywhere.

Refill your mug by the pool

Refill your mug by the pool

Dining
Staying in the Epcot Resort areas opens up your dining options because you are in short distance of Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, Yacht/Beach club, and the Swan/Dolphin. The Yacht club does not have any quick service dining options so you will have to go elsewhere if that is what you are looking for. And that brings me to a money saving recommendation if you are debating buying the Rapid Refillable Mugs. I would not buy them if I was staying at the Yacht club because there is no where to refill them. All the refill stations are located at the Beach Club (which has 3). Now they will work at any hotel so if you were staying by the pool all day you could refill them at the poolside grill Hurricane Hanna’s, but if that’s not the case, it’s not convenient for you at all. On the flip side, if you are staying at the Beach Club, I would highly recommend buying the mugs. You can even use them at the Beaches and Cream restaurant. Don’t forget they will also work at the participating Boardwalk refill stations if you are over there.

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Stroll down the Boardwalk

Boardwalk Inn
The Boardwalk Inn captures the feel of a coastal 1920’s seashore boardwalk. Again you have the convenience of walking or boating to Epcot through the international gateway as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It is a slightly closer walk to the studios from the Boardwalk since it’s across the lake from Yacht/Beach. The Boardwalk is a perfect place for families that enjoy more of a nightlife or bustling feel. All of the restaurant’s for this hotel are actually on the boardwalk, so you must go outside to access them. You will have a variety of dining options, from quick service, to casual, to ice cream, to more high end.

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

Rent a surrey bike at the Boardwalk

There is something for everyone. There are also two clubs on the boardwalk, Atlantic Dance Hall and Jellyrolls for some evening entertainment and dancing. You can also rent surrey bikes on the boardwalk and make the Crescent Lake loop. FYI, if you have a fear of clowns, this is not the resort for you. The pool is home to a giant (creepy) waterslide clown.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Creepy clown? You decide.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a room facing the lake because there are also very pretty gardens on the other side of the hotel for you to stroll though. This hotel is the smallest of the deluxe resorts in terms of available rooms so it can fill up fast, especially during the International Food and Wine festival. All the Epcot resorts tend to fill up during this time. Also, during certain times of the year, the Boardwalk might share a bus with the Swan/Dolphin and they usually drop at the Boardwalk last. If you are willing and able, I’d hop off and walk back to the Boardwalk. It’s such a pretty view walking around the lake anyways. If there are any runners reading, the Crescent Lake loop is approximately 1 mile, or the path along the water to Hollywood Studios would make a great out and back.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Enjoy the savanna view at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Animal Kingdom Lodge
Situated close to its Animal Kingdom counterpart, the Animal Kingdom lodge brings the feeling of an African wildlife preserve right to central Florida. Definitely the highlight of this hotel is the savanna views of the animals. There are 3 separate savannas, Sunset, Arusha, and Uzima, and each one offers a different view and some difference in animals. Your room will come with a viewing guide, and there are many cast members that can answer questions about the animals. There are also special sunrise and sunset safari tours you can reserve. This is definitely not cheap, however you will have 3 hours of pretty much a private safari tour. This is another resort that has bunk beds available which could work well for certain parties. FYI, not all rooms face the savanna. This is something you must request when selecting a room category. This hotel has plenty of dining options for the more adventurous and the mundane.

View of the pool.

View of the pool.

The hotel offers one of the largest pools on Disney property but note to adults, there is no quiet pool at the Animal Kingdom lodge. This hotel also has the most rooms out of all the deluxe resorts. I have yet to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge simply because of it’s location. All of the other deluxe resorts allow you to walk, boat, or monorail to a nearby park or two. Animal Kingdom Lodge just seems so out of the way to me that I haven’t been able to commit to transportation only by bus for the price of deluxe. But that is just me, and if animals are your thing and you love the Animal Kingdom, this place should be a perfect fit.

The Epcot resort area is becoming one of my favorite places to stay for the convenience and proximity to two parks. Even getting to the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom does not take that long. A few more FYI’s about all deluxe resorts, all hotels will have different room options, suites, and club level. One of the more annoying things considering the price you pay, not all rooms are guaranteed walk out balconies. You will definitely have a sliding glass door that opens, but there might not be an actual patio with chairs, just a railing. This is something you can request and hope for the best. As always, contact me if you have more questions or want recommendations for your next stay. That concludes the deluxe resorts but there are still plenty more accommodation options on property. Stay tuned for Disney Vacation Club villas.

Sundae Dreamin’ on a Snowy Sunday

It’s the end of March and we just got pounded with snow last night. It’s times like these I like to look to my favorite snowman, Olaf and do what he does, “sometimes I like to close my eyes, and imagine what it’d be like when summer does come.” Although I secretly think it’s never coming, a girl can dream. My summers are not complete without weekly ice cream stops (sometimes multiple times per week.) I just can’t get enough of the delicious creamy cold stuff. When I’m eating ice cream, the world slows down and I’m happy (true signs of an emotional eater.) Luckily when you are at Disney World, you can have your favorite flavor all year round. These are my 5 top spots in Disney World to get ice cream.

Beaches and Cream ice cream with sprinkles

Beaches and Cream ice cream with sprinkles

Beaches and Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club

Beaches and Cream serves up some serious ice cream. Located at the Beach Club resort, you can eat your ice cream inside the 50’s style soda shop, sit by the Stormalong Bay pool (with valid magic band), or venture out by the lake and sit on a hammock or walk the path. They also have a to-go walk up counter if you are just interested in ice cream. I am a sucker for

kitchen sink

kitchen sink

sprinkles and think that all ice cream shops should give you unlimited sprinkle refills but regardless, the amount of ice cream in my giant waffle cone was able to satisfy my sprinkle need. If you are feeling courageous, or are traveling with a giant group, consider splitting the “kitchen sink.” They are definitely enormous, and for almost $30, they should be. Beaches and Cream also offers other soda shop classics like banana splits, sundaes, and milkshakes.

plaza ice creamPlaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street at the Magic Kingdom

This is by far the best smelling ice cream parlor on my list. I’m assuming they pump scents into the air to get your tongue salivating faster. This is my go to ice cream spot when I’m at the Magic Kingdom. Sometimes I’ll get it to eat during the parades or fireworks. Sometimes I get it and like to pop a squat on a bench and do some serious people watching. At the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, they have hard ice cream and specialize in sundaes. You also get some additional options for the guest that is trying to watch their waistline with sugar free and fat free options. Sugar and fat free ice cream just sounds like an oxymoron to me but whatever floats your boat.

Hollywood Scoops on Sunset Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Mickey Sprinkles!!

Mickey Sprinkles!!

Everytime I get ice cream here I’m blown away by how much ice cream they give me that’s technically 1 scoop. Hollywood Scoops is located directly across from the Beauty and the Beast Show on Sunset Boulevard. It’s become somewhat of a pre show ritual to get a scoop and head to the show. On super hot days, you will be thankful for your frozen treat. Once upon a time, when I asked for sprinkles, they gave me ones in the shape of Mickey heads. There was something about tiny little Mickey’s all over my ice cream that made it even more delicious. I’m not sure if they still have these magical sprinkles, but it’s worth asking. Hollywood Scoops is also in a great waiting spot if you’ve opted out of doing Tower of Terror and/or Rockin’ Roller Coaster. The time will fly by with your ice cream in hand and piercing screams in the background. They also have sundae options available.

Italian Gelato Kiosk at the Italy Pavilion at Epcot

benvenuto

benvenuto

If you are at Epcot and walking around World Showcase, chances are you might be feeling an urge to suddenly become more cultured. Look no further than the Gelato Kiosk at the Italian Pavilion. The best part is you won’t have to feel guilty about eating it or giving it to your kids because you can rationalize it as cultural experience.Get a single flavor or opt for one of the Gelato Creations. This super creamy ice cream will keep you satisfied on your worldly travels around the lagoon. Delizioso!

Seashore Sweets at the Boardwalk

Enjoy the Boardwalk

Enjoy the Boardwalk

Boardwalks and ice cream seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly…it just works. Seashore Sweets is in the perfect spot to get your ice cream to go and take in the sights and sounds of the Mid Atlantic inspired Boardwalk. Last time I was there I ordered the smallest size kiddie cone (with sprinkles) and it was just enough to satisfy my craving and leave me with the option of second dessert. It can get a bit crowded in there at times, but in my experience, ice cream is worth the wait.

You can never have too much of this stuff.

When a Mickey ice cream bar just won’t do the trick, head to one of these delicious spots to cleanse the pallet, kick back, and enjoy. When you are surrounded by good people at the best location with yummy ice cream, life can’t be beat. Perhaps time will slow down for you as well.