Top 10 Ideas For Your Arrival Day At Walt Disney World

For many of us arrival day is a much anticipated day that was counted down to for months and sometimes years.  There are so many options of things to do to make your arrival day at Walt Disney World special and to kick off your vacation in just the right way.  Your options will depend on when you arrive in Walt Disney World, but we will assume it will be noon or later.

10.  Mini Golf or Bowling

If you don’t want to use a day on your park tickets, but are looking to do something active with Disney flair, Mini Golf at one of Walt Disney World’s courses or bowling at Splitsville might be just the right thing. My family’s favorite is the Winter Summerland mini golf course near Blizzard Beach.

9.  Resort Hopping

The resorts at Walt Disney World, especially the deluxe resorts, are worth a visit even if you aren’t staying there.  You could spend some time on your arrival day hopping around the resorts and just checking them out (it’s never too early to start planning your next trip).  This is really fun to do at Christmas when they are each decorated for the holidays with huge trees and life-size gingerbread creations.  My favorite resort tour is to hop around the Magic Kingdom resorts riding the monorail.  You could even eat as you go—quick service dinner at one, cupcake for dessert at another.

8. Aerophile and/or The VOID

Aerophile (formerly known as Characters in Flight) is an experience at Disney Springs that gives you the lay of the land, literally, before you start visiting the parks. The VOID offers a virtual reality experience like no other. Combine these with other endless Disney Springs options and you will have a fun and unique start to your vacation.

7.  Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue or The Spirit of Aloha

Walt Disney World offers some great dinner shows (Hoop Dee Doo is my favorite), but it can be hard to find a time to schedule them in once you start visiting the parks.  A good option is to do one of these as your very first Disney experience to kick off your vacation on a fun and entertaining note.

6.  Resort Activities

Several of the resorts have their own activity offerings that you can take advantage of if you arrive in Orlando later in the day.  At Port Orleans Riverside or French Quarter you can take a carriage ride around the resort.  At the Boardwalk you can eat then watch the live entertainment or try your hand at some Boardwalk/Carnival style games.  At Animal Kingdom Lodge you can listen to an African story, and then go out the savanna overlook to participate in the night vision animal spotting activity. And remember, just like #9, you don’t have to be staying at that resort to enjoy the activities.

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5.  Visit a Water Park

If you arrive early enough in the day (lunch time or a little after) you may have time to enjoy one of Disney’s water parks.  Generally the crowds will start leaving mid to late afternoon, so after your first couple of hours you will have the run of the place (barring any afternoon thunderstorms).  Visiting a water park gives you a Disney park option that doesn’t deduct a theme park day from your park—you can buy a single visit ticket, or you might have the Waterparks Fun & More option on your tickets.

4.  Shopping!

The best place to do this at Disney is Disney Springs.  No ticket required and you are surrounded by Disney merchandise.  You can go ahead and purchase that t-shirt so you can wear it on your vacation.  And there are SO many good options for dinner at Disney Springs if you want to make an evening of it.

3.  Dine at a Resort

A particularly fun way to kick off your vacation is to start it off with a character meal and you can do that without using a theme park ticket.  The quintessential meal with Mickey takes place at the Contemporary Resort’s Chef Mickey’s restaurant, or if princesses are more your speed there is Cinderella’s Happily Ever After dinner at the Grand Floridian’s 1900 Park Fare.  You can do an entertaining dinner without the characters too—Whispering Canyon Café at Wilderness Lodge and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian offer good food and a lively atmosphere.  Of course if you are looking for a more upscale experience the resorts offer the best options:  California Grill at the Contemporary, Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht & Beach Club, or even Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian.

2.  Swim & Relax

If you have a very active week coming up, or if you have had a long day of travel this may be the best option for you.  Especially with young children, just getting acclimated to your resort and relaxing before a fun vacation is a great way to go on your arrival day.  All of the Disney resorts have wonderful pools with fun theming, and poolside activities for the kids until around dinner time.  You can eat at your food court, or order a pizza to your room (at most resorts).  And don’t forget about the movies under the stars that nearly all of the resorts offer.  Head to bed early so you can get up ready to play the next day

1.  Park Time & Fireworks

It is very hard to resist the call of the theme parks—especially when you are so excited to get your vacation started.  And the way Disney prices their tickets it may only be a few dollars more to add a day to your tickets and go to a park on your arrival day.  Chances are you will not be able to get to the parks early, so you will need to be ready for that going in—just take it slow and easy and soak up the Disney atmosphere (aka Magic).  The FastPass+ system works in your favor because you can go ahead and schedule your attractions for after you arrive in the park in the afternoon or evening.  A lot of people have a traditional first attraction they have to ride on arrival day, or a traditional first restaurant where they have to eat.  If you aren’t too tired from your travels, staying to watch the fireworks will start your vacation off with a bang (pun intended).

What is your Walt Disney World arrival day tradition?

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).