When talking with a client about expectations for their Walt Disney World vacation I always advise them to plan some time to spend at their resort. It is so tempting to want to spend every moment possible in the theme parks, but some of my most memorable moments from vacations have come from the afternoons, evenings, or full days spent at the resort. Whether you are staying at a value resort, a deluxe, or somewhere in between, each Disney resort offers its own style of magic that you don’t want to miss. You are paying for those amenities—take advantage of them. Here are my tips for having a great day at your Walt Disney World resort.
10. Sleep In
Walt Disney World can be exhausting. Early mornings for character breakfasts and park openings, the heat & humidity, walking miles & miles & miles, late nights to see the fireworks. It can catch up with you after a few days. A wise Disney guide once said, a tired guest is a grumpy guest (or something to that effect). Use your Disney resort day to sleep in and get a few extra z’s.
9. Take a Walk
If you are the type of person who just cannot sleep in at Walt Disney World (like yours truly), I highly recommend leaving the rest of your family to sleep and doing on of my favorite activities—exploring your resort at dawn before the rest of the world wakes up. I love my trips around Wilderness Lodge in the morning with the beautiful sunlight and the bunnies hopping around and the ducks in the pool. Strolling around the Boardwalk and Yacht & Beach Clubs before the hustle and bustle with the walkways still damp from overnight cleaning. Watching the sun come up over the Sassagoula at Port Orleans or Old Key West. And especially early morning on the savanna. That little bit of peaceful Disney magic. If you aren’t up that early, you can still take a great walk around your resort during the day. Explore all of the nooks and crannies, the landscaping, the architecture, and all of the amenities there are to offer.
Many resorts offer multiple recreation options, and if your resort is not one of them, take this opportunity to resort hop to one that does! For Deluxe Resorts with a marina you can rent a boat for a private cruise (I recommend the resorts on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon for the Sea Raycers—they go fast!). Several resorts offer bike rentals or surry bike rentals which are a fun way to get around the resort. At Port Orleans you can take a carriage ride in the evening. A few resorts give you the option to book an early morning fishing excursion which can be a lot of fun as the lakes are stocked with large bass. My favorite option for this is from the Yacht Club marina because they usually take you into World Showcase Lagoon before park opening.
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Every resort has a shop, and many of them have merchandise that is specific to that resort or theme. Again, the Deluxe resorts have more options for multiple shops, so it might be worth some resort hopping to see what is offered. Traveling around the Magic Kingdom resorts on the monorail is a lot of fun, and the shops at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary are among the best resort shopping available with multiple stores at each (including specialty shops like Basin at Grand Floridian).
6. Enjoy a meal
Often when we are dining at our resort we are in a hurry—catching a meal before departing for fun in the parks. On your resort day take some time to really enjoy the options your resort offers. If there is a table service restaurant see if you can get a reservation on your resort day. It could be a character meal or maybe just a really nice restaurant. If you only have a food court that can be really fun too. For lunch have everyone get something different to surprise the table & share a sampler. Or plan it out to sample resort specific foods (like the tie dye cheesecake at Pop Century) or tempting menu items around your table. A few resorts offer “secret” menu items too. If you are staying at All Star Movies you can ask for the secret menu at the Roxy counter—it is so much fun!
Each resort offers a lot of activities for children and families, and sometimes things geared more toward adults. When you check in you will be given an activity schedule for the resort, so check out what is happening around the pool—we love to play trivia! My favorite resort for activities is the Animal Kingdom Lodge & Kidani Villas. They offer education & entertaining programs to learn about animals, African culture & art, and conservation, and with each activity you earn a bead. These 2 resorts also offer some adult oriented programs with a culinary tour, and an African art and culture tour of the resort.
While shows are only available at select resorts, if you are staying at one you should try to catch them. There are some “free” shows that fall into this category like torch lighting at the Polynesian or drumming at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Or, you can make a reservation for a dinner show that really gets you into the theme of the resort (or you can visit a resort to take part in the show). At the Polynesian the Luau is a lot of fun with Polynesian themed food and some amazing dancers at the end of the program showcasing dance styles from several Polynesian cultures. And over at Fort Wilderness you don’t want to miss the cheesy fun of the hilarious (& delicious) Hoop Dee Doo Revue.
You will be shocked at how many kids say their favorite part of a Walt Disney World vacation is swimming! And with so many amazing pools at the resorts I can see why. Your moderate and deluxe resorts offer slides at the pools, several resorts have awesome splash play areas, and all of the resort pools have a great theme that make them super fun. Plan some time to take advantage of this resort amenity—some of our most fun memories happened at the pool.
2. Nighttime Entertainment
I love resorts at night, they take on a different character. From the lights of the Boardwalk to the romantic nature of Port Orleans or Coronado Springs. And there are a lot of activities at the resorts once the sun goes down. Most resort offer an evening campfire with marshmallow roast, this is so much fun for the whole family. Then the Movie Under The Stars—a great way to wind down and just relax. Nighttime swimming has become a family favorite for us too—no need to worry about the sunscreen! And a few resorts offer live entertainment, most notably Port Orleans Riverside with the Yee Haa Bob show taking place select nights in the River Roost Lounge. His hilarious family-friendly show is immensely popular, so come early to get a seat.
1. Plan a Resort Day
The top tip for having a great day at your resort is to plan to take one. Don’t let it just be if you have time, make it part of your plan. You are paying to stay at a Disney resort with all of its great theming, wonderful customer service, food options, recreation and other amenities—give yourself time to enjoy it. When making your itinerary or deciding how many days to spend at Walt Disney World dedicate one of those days as an “off” day just to enjoy your resort. Then you can put numbers 2-10 into play.
What are your top recommendations for a great day at a Walt Disney World resort?