When it comes to a Walt Disney World vacation, many people think that all there is to do is ride attractions at the theme parks. The parks may be the main draw for visitors, but there are so many other exciting things to do at Disney World.
I have lived in Orlando for over 25 years, and I worked for the Walt Disney Company for 12 years. Throughout that time, I have had the opportunity to experience all the Disney magic and the best activities that Walt Disney World has to offer. In this post, I’ll share all the best stuff to do at Disney World.
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions when you make a purchase or hotel reservation through one of our affiliate partners. Note that this site has no affiliation with The Walt Disney Company or its subsidiaries. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
Best Things to Do at Walt Disney World
Ride the Mountains
Take on these classic attractions.
If you love a thrill ride, look no further than the famous roller coaster mountains of Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain (soon to be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure) bring the rush of adrenaline that you’re looking for. Some people also include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as one of the “mountains” since it is a roller coaster with a fun drop.
For thrill-seekers looking to add another mountain to their list, head to Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This is one of the most popular rides on Disney property for a reason.
📚 Related Reading: I put together a one-day Magic Kingdom itinerary that includes all the mountains.
Stay at a Disney Resort Hotel
Make your visit an immersive experience.
There are hundreds of hotels to stay at in Orlando and around Walt Disney World. However, I think the best way to visit Disney is to stay at one of the Disney resorts. There are over 25 Disney resorts to choose from with varying themes and price points.
Staying at one of the Disney resorts allows you to be fully immersed in your Disney World trip. Plus, guests staying at Disney hotels can enter all the parks 30 minutes early. This can be a huge perk if you’re visiting during the busy summer and holiday seasons.
📚 Related Reading: Walt Disney World encompasses 25,000 acres, but my guide about where to stay will help you narrow your choices.
Grab some delicious food, shop ‘til you drop, and enjoy the ambiance.
Disney Springs is a shopping and entertainment district located at the Walt Disney World Resort. Here guests can find both affordable and high-end brands to shop from, several restaurants with world-renowned chefs, and fun activities for all ages.
It is free to park and visit Disney Springs. Buses run from all the Disney resorts to Disney Springs, so it is easy to access.
Disney Water Parks
Swim and splash at the best place to cool off.
Regardless of when your Disney trip is, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll be enjoying hot (or at least warm) Florida weather. Soak up the sunshine while cooling off at Disney’s water parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both water parks have attractions and rides for all ages.
Behind the Scenes Tour
Learn the secrets of Disney and see places few people get to enjoy.
Website | Cost: Varies by tour
If you are looking for a unique experience to take your Disney vacation to the next level, consider booking one of the backstage tours.
Keys to the Kingdom is a popular tour that educates guests about the creation of the Magic Kingdom theme park and Walt Disney’s vision for the Walt Disney World Resort.
At Animal Kingdom, guests can get up close and personal with white rhinos or elephants. My favorite tour is Behind the Seeds where guests can visit the greenhouses at Epcot.
Experience the Holidays
Delight in the holiday cheer all around the resort.
In my opinion, there are few places as magical as the Walt Disney World Resort during the holidays. Florida may not get snow or cold temperatures, but Disney makes up for that with extensive decorations and holiday cheer. All the theme parks are trimmed with holiday decor and there are holiday-exclusive shows and experiences.
If you visit Disney World around the holidays, you must check out the lifesize gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian. Some of the other hotels will have displays also, but none of them come close to the Grand Floridian.
Free & Cheap Things to Do at Walt Disney World
Add a little friendly competition to your vacation.
Miniature golfing is one of the most affordable activities on Disney World property. If you are visiting Disney on a budget, add an afternoon of putt-putt to your itinerary.
Winter Summerland has two whimsical courses designed by Santa Clause for his elves. Fantasia Gardens has a course featuring scenes from the famous movie.
The Fantasia Fairways course is more challenging and is set up like a miniature version of a traditional golf course.
See the Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Observe some of Africa’s coolest creatures.
Kids and animal lovers of all ages love checking in on the African wildlife that calls Animal Kingdom Lodge home. Like a scene out of The Lion King, there are more than 30 species to view on the savannahs.
There are tons of viewing areas, but the best ones are located near the lobbies and the pools. If you’re looking for a place to grab dinner, Sanaa has delicious African cuisine and views of the animals grazing outside.
🛎️ Want more animal viewing? If you book a savannah view room at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can watch the antelope roam all day and night!
Take a Paddle at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Slow down and embrace nature during a relaxing float.
Most Disney vacations include a lot of time walking outdoors in the theme parks. Some people are looking to step away from the crowds and enjoy some quality time in nature. Look no further than canoeing or kayaking at the Fort Wilderness Resort. Rentals are affordable enough that the whole family can get out on the water for a relaxing afternoon.
🛎️ Want more outdoor time? Bring your RV or stay in a cabin at the Fort Wilderness Resort for your Disney vacation. You’ll have easy access to all the activities at the resort.
Movie Under the Stars
Snuggle up as a family while you enjoy a classic Disney movie.
Website | Entrance: free for hotel guests
Walt Disney World hotel guests can enjoy free outdoor movie screenings right at their resorts. The schedules vary, so check with the front desk or recreation cast members for details. One of the best Movie Under the Stars locations is at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. The movie is set up behind the lobby near the water.
Watch the Fireworks
Finish off the day with a booming show (without the cost of park tickets).
Of course, some of the best fireworks viewing locations are inside the theme parks. However, there are several spots around Disney World where you can watch Disney park fireworks without paying for a park ticket.
The best locations include:
- Polynesian Village Resort beach
- 4th floor of the Contemporary Resort
- Dahlia Lounge at Coronado Springs Resort
- Topolino’s Terrace at Riviera Resort
👉 Pro Tip: You may be turned away from parking at most resorts without a room or dining reservation. However, you can take a bus from Disney Springs (free to park) to any of the Disney World hotels.
Things to Do on a Rainy Day at Walt Disney World
Ride Kilimanjaro Safaris
Watch as the animals splash and play in the rain.
If there is one piece of advice that you take from me, it is to go on the safari ride in the rain. (Trust me, I worked at Kilimanjaro Safaris for several years.) The animals tend to show off exciting behaviors in the rain. You might see rhinos running through the mud, elephants swimming, or antelope sparring.
If you don’t mind getting wet, take a walk on Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to see more animals after your safari.
Enjoy the best parts of all the Disney resort hotels.
Disney transportation is all enclosed, so a rainy day is a great time to resort hop around the hotels. Plus, some kids think of the monorail and the Skyliner as thrill rides! Not only can you see the decor and theming of the different resorts, but each one has bars and restaurants to check out. The most popular way to resort hop is to ride the monorail around to all the Magic Kingdom resorts.
Watch the Shows
Sit back and relax while taking in top-notch entertainment.
Website | Cost: Included with park admission
Every theme park has a couple of shows to choose from. Not only are these great attractions to sit down and enjoy some air conditioning, but they are also great places to hide from a rain storm. Many shows feature your favorite Disney characters. Use the My Disney Experience app to easily find shows and show times for each park.
📚 Related Reading: Getting comfortable using the Disney app is just one of my Disney World tips to make your vacation even better!
Recreation at Your Resort
Find fabulous fun steps away from your hotel room.
Rain or shine, the recreation cast members at the Disney hotels will have something fun planned for you! Disney Vacation Club resorts have Community Halls where family-friendly activities take place. Offerings will vary by resort, so check with the front desk for more information.
Things to Do with Kids at Walt Disney World
Saddle up for this hidden gem activity.
Parents know that sometimes the simplest things make the biggest impact on children. You can take your kids on all the best rides and I bet they would still brag about getting to ride a pony at Disney. Children under 80 pounds and 48 inches can ride one of the ponies that live at Fort Wilderness.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
Transform your little ones into princesses and knights.
For a memorable experience for children and parents, head over to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. When visiting the Magic Kingdom, kids can get a makeover fit for a knight or a princess. You can bring your own royal outfit or purchase one at the shop.
👉 Pro Tip: Book an early morning reservation. These makeovers are not cheap and you want it to last as long as possible. And, don’t forget to take tons of photos!
Earn badges through educational and engaging activities.
Wilderness Explorers is a free program where guests can earn badges during their day at Animal Kingdom. Stations are set up around the park with Wilderness Explorer guides to teach you about animals, conservation, and the environment. This is a great activity to keep kids engaged throughout the day and excited to move on to the next area.
📚 Related Reading: Check out my Animal Kingdom Itinerary for all the best activities at the park.
Chow down while interacting with your favorite characters.
Several restaurants around Disney World offer character meals. This means that Disney characters stroll throughout the restaurant and meet with guests during their meals.
Since there isn’t a line of people waiting to meet the characters, they can spend more time with each person for a more memorable experience. My favorite character dining is at Chef Mickey’s with Mickey and his friends.
Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long
Sing along to cowboy tunes while enjoying mouthwatering smores.
If your kids love s’mores, you need to take them to Chip & Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long at Fort Wilderness. You can bring your own s’mores supplies or purchase a kit. Enjoy singing along with the musicians while eating your snacks. The campfire is followed by a movie under the stars.
Conservation Station Petting Zoo
Get up close and personal with the animal kingdom.
For kids who love to get up close and personal with animals, head to the Affection Section petting zoo in Animal Kingdom. To get over to the petting zoo, you’ll take the train from the station in Africa and pass by backstage animal housing. Guests can brush and pet the goats, sheep, and pigs that live at the petting zoo.
Things to Do for Adults at Walt Disney World
Hit the fairways on some of the most magical golf courses.
Disney World is home to four golf courses, located at Saratoga Springs Resort and Shades of Green. Tee times are available throughout the day. Guests staying at some Disney resorts can receive complimentary transportation to the golf courses.
Relax, dance, or sing along with one of the many live entertainment options.
You can find live musicians playing all across Disney World. From the theme parks to the resorts to Disney Springs, there is probably live music playing at any time of day. One of my favorite things to do at Disney World is grab a drink, find a shaded seat, and enjoy the artists playing beautiful music.
Find Specialty Coffee
Stay caffeinated with plenty of brews to choose from.
People love to find unique and delicious coffee drinks. Most of the coffee at Disney World is Starbucks or Joffrey’s, but there are plenty of specialty options to choose from. There is a Starbucks located at each theme park and many hotels have cafes or lounges to get your caffeine kick.
Drink Around the World
Taste delectable drinks from 11 countries.
Whether the Walt Disney Company likes it or not, Epcot is mostly known for drinking around the world. This is when guests visit Epcot’s world showcase and enjoy an alcoholic beverage from each country. Many of the offerings are unique to Epcot and cannot be easily found in American stores and restaurants.
👉 Pro Tip: If you want to make it all the way around the world and still be walking at the end, I recommend drinking plenty of water, eating along the way, and splitting drinks with friends.
Food & Drink at Walt Disney World
Eat Around the World
From small bites to multi-course meals, enjoy a variety of cuisines.
For those who are more interested in eating than drinking around the world, don’t worry. There are endless food options for you to choose from. I recommend sticking to snack items instead of enjoying larger meals. However, if you’re in the mood for a nicer meal, many countries have high-end table-service restaurants to enjoy.
📚 Related Reading: I put together a full Epcot Itinerary so you can enjoy attractions along with your food.
Stir up your favorite drinks.
Looking for a one-of-a-kind experience in a beautiful location? Head over to Sangria University at Three Bridges Bar & Grill at Coronado Springs Resort. This experience teaches guests how to make different sangria flavors (with tastings, of course!). Plus, you can’t beat the views from the overwater restaurant.
EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival
Explore popular dishes from around the world.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival used to take place in the fall, but thanks to its popularity it has expanded to July 27- November 18. In addition to the usual international offerings throughout the World Showcase, several food stands are added throughout the entire park.
Guests can perennial favors, like filet mignon, or try new additions, like a pickle milkshake. The food and drinks are snack sizes and most cost less than $10.
Get a taste of New Orleans in Orlando.
My number one Disney snack is the beignets from Scat Cat’s Club at Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter. The beignets are Mickey-shaped and come with different dipping options. For adults, you can kick up your beignets with a spiked filling. There is also an allergy-friendly option that I can confirm is just as yummy as the regular ones.
👉 Pro Tip: To make your beignets an adventure, park at Disney Springs and take a boat ride to the French Quarter.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
Take an adventure where the drinks and the room play along.
For a fun and whimsical experience, check out Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Village Resort. This lounge is family-friendly until 8 pm and then turns into 21 and up. The Grog Grotto features specialty cocktails and tropical appetizers. Keep an eye on the room, things just might come alive depending on what you order!
👉 Pro Tip: This lounge is walk-up only, so get your name on the waitlist as soon as possible because it usually fills up fast.
Best Things to Splurge on at Walt Disney World
Victoria & Albert’s
Experience the most elegant cuisine that Disney has to offer.
As one of the best restaurants in Orlando, Victoria & Albert’s is on many foodie bucket lists. There are multiple dining experiences to choose from at this high-end restaurant. The tasting menus change regularly based on available ingredients and chef preference. After your meal, enjoy a stroll around the Grand Floridian and catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Enjoy the VIP treatment during your personalized Disney day.
Phone: (407) 560-4033 | Website | Cost: Starting at $450 per hour
If you want to create the most epic day at Disney World, consider booking a VIP tour. You get to choose your adventure on this tour and pick which parks and attractions you visit. Your tour guide will be able to get you to the front of the line and avoid crowds in backstage areas. Otherwise, it would be hard to ride Space Mountain, Star Wars Rise of the Resistance, Expedition Everest, Peter Pan’s Flight, Test Track, and Avatar Flight of Passage all in one day.
Private Surf at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
Hang ten with friends during this personal experience.
Surf’s up! The wave pool at Typhoon Lagoon is one of the most unique places to surf, even in a state known for surfing. Private surf experiences can be booked in the morning or evening on select days. Up to 25 people can enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime occasion of surfing at Disney World.
Capture Your Moment and Memory Maker
Take professional snapshots of your Disney World vacation.
Memory Maker gives you access to all the PhotoPass photos taken during your Disney World vacation, including attraction photos and those taken by photographers throughout the park.
In my opinion, Memory Maker is worth the money to keep all these precious memories. If you want to ensure you get the family photos of your dreams, book a Capture Your Moment session with a private photographer.
Visit the Spa
Get pampered at the most magical place on earth.
After a few days of non-stop fun at the theme parks, it is nice to relax and unwind. Disney World currently has two spas (The Grand Floridian Spa and the Mandara Spa at Swan & Dolphin) for guests to visit. You can expect top-quality Disney service during your treatments.
As you can see, there are more things to do at Disney World than just riding attractions at the park. Let us know in the comments what you plan to do during your next Disney World vacation.
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