Walt Disney World Beyond the Theme Parks

I never get bored of visiting the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort. The Haunted Mansion remains my favorite ride at the Magic Kingdom, you can’t beat the food in Epcot’s World Showcase, the Fastmasmic! show at Hollywood Studios is still awesome, and I love seeing the characters in safari fashions in Animal Kingdom. But when you’ve been to Disney World as many times as I have, it’s fun to seek and enjoy a new experience. There’s a lot more to Disney World than strolling through the four theme parks. Here’s a look at other things you can do.

Disney’s BoardWalk

With its sherbert-colored building facades and striped awnings, Disney’s BoardWalk is reminiscent of old-fashioned coastal cities such as Coney Island and Atlantic City. Built along Crescent Lake, Disney’s BoardWalk contains numerous shops and restaurants, both upscale and right down to funnel cake kiosks and hot dog stands. It’s slow and relaxing in the daylight hours and comes alive after sunset with street performers and live entertainment. For adults over 21, Disney’s BoardWalk offers the Atlantic Dance Hall and the lively piano bar Jellyrolls.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney shouldn’t be missed. Live music, interactive activities, shopping and dining are spread across three sections – the West Side, Pleasure Island, and the Disney Marketplace. Two terrific activities here are seeing La Nouba by Cirque de Soleil, which is fantastic, and catching a live music show at the House of Blues.

Sports & Fitness

Sports fans won’t want to miss the state-of-the-art sports facility ESPN Wide World of Sports. Plan your trip carefully and you could catch the Atlanta Braves spring training or more than 100 world-class golfers at the annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.  And if you’re a hardcore golfer, Walt Disney World Resort offers five golf courses and lessons for those who wish to learn. You can also find jogging trails, fitness centers, bike rentals, fishing, tennis, volleyball, horseback riding, and various watercraft rentals as well as cruises throughout Walt Disney World Resort.

Blizzard Beach &Typhoon Lagoon

Summer in Florida is harsh and walking around the theme parks can be excruciating. Cool off at one of Disney’s water parks. There are also many pools from the large and whimsical to the simple and quiet throughout Disney resorts.

Spas

Walking in the parks all day long especially with kids can leave anyone feeling exhausted. Unwind at one of Disney’s three spas. Massage and spa treatments are available for adults and kids as well as hair and nail services.

Games Galore

As if the theme parks weren’t enough, kids can have fun at the many playgrounds, arcades, and a miniature golf course.

The Great Outdoors

Select resorts offer Movies Under the Stars, movies by the pool or beach. Yes, beach. Well, it’s actually a lake and while swimming is not allowed, Resort hotel guests can enjoy sunbathing and building sandcastles. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers special animal programs that let you get up close and personal with exotic animals and Fort Wilderness offers a trail adventure.

The Resorts

Walt Disney World Resort has 23 on-site themed resort hotels. I wish I could say I’ve seen them all. I haven’t, but I can definitely recommend a visit to the flagship Grand Floridian, the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness, the Animal Kingdom Villas, and the Polynesian, which has a great family restaurant called ‘Ohana and an even better dinner show called the Spirit of Aloha.

Character Dining

There is a wide variety of restaurants throughout Disney World.  Having breakfast, lunch, or dinner with characters is a must. There are several choices from a whimsical experience with the cast of Wonderland, a regal meal or tea party with the Disney princesses, classic fare with Mickey and friends, and more.

Special Tours

Many guests to Disney don’t realize that the four theme parks all offer special tours and experiences. For instance, the Magic Kingdom offers Backstage Magic, a 7-hour behind-the-scenes tour that even includes access to its legendary underground. At Epcot, you can swim with dolphins and scuba-certified guests can go diving at The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion.

Special Events

The theme parks also offer various special events throughout the year including the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival both at Epcot, Star Wars Weekend at Hollywood Studios, the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series, sporting events, and many holiday events.

For more information about these and other things to see and do, visit Walt Disney World Resort online.

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