Visiting Walt Disney World Resort is a dream come true! The first thing that likely comes to mind for many is a hug from Mickey Mouse, the stunning view of Cinderella Castle, and memorable rides such as Space Mountain. But have you ever spent an entire week at Disney WITHOUT entering any Parks? We did… and here’s how it went.
First Things First
We are Disney regulars. We visit Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park regularly. Our family is Annual Passholders as well as Disney Vacation Club Members.
If this is your first time visiting Walt Disney World, or you only visit the Disney Resort sporadically, we don’t recommend spending a week without the Parks. For the newbies, we always recommend enjoying the attractions and experiences at all four Disney Parks, including a visit to either Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon Water Parks.
Stay at a Disney Resort
It’s pretty impossible to call it a Disney vacation if you’re not staying at a Disney Resort AND not entering the Disney Parks. This is why staying at one of the many Disney Resort Hotels is a must-do.
In fact, we recommend splitting your stay between several Resorts if possible to experience the different Disney-theming of each location. For our week without the Parks, we stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney’s Old Key West Resort.
Pack for Family Fun
Our party consisted of six Guests, including two children. That’s right… we have children and didn’t enter the Parks! Prepare for your no-Park visit by packing some family fun essentials.
First, we were sure to get a room with a small kitchen. This way we could grocery shop (we had groceries delivered to us) and cook or even bake as a family.
Additionally, we brought a bunch of Disney-themed board games from home, such as Disney Clue, Disney Life, Disney Apples to Apples, and Disney Trivia games. Even non-Disney-inspired games made our packing list, including cards, Uno, chess, checkers, and more.
Books, coloring books, playdough, and all the extras are also welcome! Plan to pack the items that maybe you don’t get to enjoy as often at home during the daily rushes of everyday life.
Try the Extras
The very best thing about staying out of the Parks is experiencing all the little extras Walt Disney World Resort has to offer. Disney Guests are often so wrapped up in Park planning that they miss some of the very best experiences on the property.
A no-Park Disney vacation allows time to go horseback riding at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and Campground. While you’re there, enjoy a dinner show at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue.
Rent a boat and cruise around Crescent Lake near EPCOT or The Seven Seas Lagoon outside of Magic Kingdom. Even better, splurge on a fireworks cruise for a unique Disney experience.
Try one of Disney’s putt-putt courses, including Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Miniature Golf and Winter Summerland Miniature Golf.
Take time to do the Skyliner Crawl and Monorail Crawl to check out the many different Disney Resorts and all they have to offer, with bites and sips being tried out at each hotel.
We visited during the holidays and made a point to Resort hop to see all the different Resort Christmas trees and decorations. Plus, visiting the many Resort gingerbread houses is a must-do.
Just Steps from Your Room
Spending most of our time at Disney’s Old Key West, we enjoyed all the Resort had to offer just steps from our room.
Golfing, riding a surrey bike, participating in trivia by the pool, playing shuffleboard, ping pong, volleyball, and tennis, climbing around on the playground, making crafts in the Community Hall, making s’mores around the campfire, and watching the Resort’s Movie Under the Stars are all just part of the no-Park experience.
Still See Characters
That’s right! Just because you’re not visiting the Disney Parks doesn’t mean you can give a good squeeze to Mickey Mouse. Make a character dining reservation at Resort Hotel restaurants such as Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, ‘Ohana’s breakfast at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and Topolino’s Terrace breakfast at Disney’s Riveria Resort.
This way, you’ll be able to enjoy great food but also have a chance to see your favorite Disney characters without stepping foot in a Park.
Dine Around the Property
Some of the very best food at Walt Disney World Resort is not located in the Parks. In fact, some of our favorite restaurants are located at Disney Resorts.
We enjoyed restaurants such as Olivia’s Cafe at Disney’s Old Key West, Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort.
Visit Disney Springs
Feel the need to be among the Disney crowds? Drop by for a visit at Disney Springs to experience endless food, merchandise, and entertainment.
Check out unique experiences that you may not normally slow down for, such as the Aerophile Balloon, bowling at Splitsville, watching a movie at AMC DINE-IN Disney Springs 24, Build-A-Dino at T-Rex Restaurant, or seeing the impressive Drawn to Life presented by Cirque du Soleil.
While staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort, it was an enjoyable experience traveling by boat to and from Disney Springs. No boat transportation? Disney Resort buses take Guests to and from Disney Springs with ease.
One of the trickiest parts about Resort hopping is getting from one Disney Resort to another. Disney Resort Hotels have transportation to and from Disney Resorts and Parks but not typically from one Resort to another.
For example, if staying at Disney’s Old Key West Resort but wanting to dine at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Guests will need to take a bus from Old Key West to Magic Kingdom Park, then ride the Monorail or walk over to Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
There are little tricks to accessing each Resort, but it does take some bus hoping to make it work. Additionally, if you have your own vehicle, you’ll likely need a dining reservation to drive to another Disney Resort to park your car.
For example, during the holiday season, we were not allowed to drive our car from Old Key West to park at Disney’s Polynesian Resort without a dining reservation. Disney does this to cut out those that may be attempting to skip the Disney Park parking lot hassle and to ensure there is plenty of parking spaces for Guests staying at the Resort.
Be sure to look at transportation options prior to visiting any Disney Resort. Cast Members are also readily available to help with transportation questions.
Adventure Outside the Disney Bubble
While we typically prefer to stay within the Disney bubble when visiting Walt Disney World, every now and then, it may be worth adventuring off the property to explore something new.
RELATED: This Orlando Dinner Show Is Worth Leaving Disney Property For
For example, our party visited Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows at ICON Park one evening to experience the dinner and entertainment and had a great time.
The Most Relaxing Disney Vacation
Honestly, there were moments of missing the Park or thinking that maybe we should visit at least for the first part of the morning during our vacation. But, without thinking about Disney Park Pass Reservations, Disney Genie+, bad Guest behavior, or navigating the crowds… this no-Park Disney vacation was the most relaxing we’ve ever had.
If you’re a Disney regular and looking for something new, try to visit Walt Disney World WITHOUT a theme park and see if your family enjoys the experience.