Planning a WDW vacation that has the perfect balance of park time and chill time is really quite difficult; there is so much to do that you will quickly find that every day is filled, with limited time to just sit back, relax and take in the moment. Remember too, that if your party includes younger guests, they’ll definitely thank you for a few days or evenings where they can just go and splash in the pool, or not have to wait in lines.
You may have already checked out my last post, where I recommended activities that I think are best suited for adults, and now here’s some of my favourite activities for families, and guests of all ages, to enjoy, outside of the Disney Parks.
Rent a Sea Raycer
Such a fun activity for the whole family to take part in! Sea Raycer’s are located at several of the WDW hotel resorts, particularly those resorts that are close to a body of water. SeaRacer’s are 2-seater mini speedboats, that can be rented for between 30 and 60 minutes at a time. This amount of time is perfect for you to explore the water and surroundings of your chosen location. We really enjoy exploring Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon in a Sea Raycer; if you wantto do the same, you can rent a Sea Raycer from Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, Grand Floridian, Contemporary Resort and Polynesian Village. Rental is also available at the Yacht & Beach Club resort, allowing you to explore Crescent Lake.
Need to know: Make sure to take a driving license with you as you will likely need to present it when hiring your Sea Raycer. Guests must wear a life vest at all times, which are provided at your rental location. A waiver is required to be signed when renting. Guests aged 12-17 and of 5ft will be able to drive their own Sea Raycer, but will need a parent/guardian to sign the waiver; guests up to the age of 12 must ride as a passenger, so will need to occupy a Sea Raycer with an adult or older sibling. Be sure to check your WDW Planning package that you will receive around 4-6 weeks before your departure date; enclosed within the pack, you will find a foldable WDW resort map, and on the back are a selection of coupons, one of which may give you discount on rental of a Sea Raycer. Before embarking on your exploration, you will be given a brief tutorial on how to operate your Sea Raycer, and areas of your location that are no-wake zones. You can expect to pay $32 per 30 minutes per Sea Raycer.
Planning idea: Plan a morning at one of the resorts mentioned above where you can hire a Sea Raycer – dine in one of the resort’s restaurants for a late breakfast after a lie-in, then head out to the marina. Or you could hire a Sea Raycer in the afternoon, after a busy morning in one of the Disney Parks after some FastPass reservations; this may give you the chance to make your way to a different hotel and maybe even use a different mode of transport than your resort hotel offers, e.g. the Monorail from Magic Kingdom or Epcot.
Rent a Surrey Bike
Surrey Bike’s are a fun way to explore your own resort or a different Disney resort, and a chance to ride a slightly different type of bike to the one you have at home. Surrey Bike’s are available in 2, 4 or 6 seater’s, but need 2 guests to pedal; one person steers whilst the other is in charge of ringing the bell to alert pedestrians of oncoming traffic. If you are travelling with smaller guests, they will be able to sit in the front basket area of the Surrey Bike. Depending on the size of the resort that you are hiring at, you will get 1 or 2 complete loops of the Bike Trail during your rental. Surrey Bike’s are available to hire at the following resorts: BoardWalk Inn; Wilderness Lodge; Fort Wilderness; Coronado Springs; Saratoga Springs; Old Key West; Port Orleans Riverside; and Caribbean Beach.
Need to know: Price of rental varies according to the size of Surrey Bike you are renting, but expect to pay between $20 and $24 for 30 minutes. Be sure to check your WDW Planning package that you will receive around 4-6 weeks before your departure date; enclosed within the pack, you will find a foldable WDW resort map, and on the back are a selection of coupons, one of which may give you discount on Surrey Bike rental. Guests must be at least 18 years or age to rent a Surrey Bike; make sure to take ID to present when hiring. You will be required to sign a waiver form upon rental. Before you begin your ride, you will be given a brief tutorial, including a guide of the trail you will be following.
Planning idea: Plan a morning at one of the resorts mentioned above where you can hire a Surrey Bike – dine in one of the resort’s restaurants for a late breakfast after a lie-in, then head out to the rental station. Or you could hire a Surrey Bike in the afternoon, after a busy morning in one of the Disney Parks after some FastPass reservations; this may give you the chance to make your way to a different hotel and maybe even use a different mode of transport than your resort hotel offers, e.g. the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios or Epcot.
Don’t think that you have to go out of WDW to play a round of mini-golf – of course, Disney has 3 of its own mini-golf courses for you to try your hand at… Fantasia Gardens and Fairways are located behind the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel; Winter Summerland is located right next to the entrance of Blizzard Beach. Each course has 18 holes, with slightly different theming. Fantasia Gardens, as the name suggests, is based on Fantasia; be sure to read the rhyme before you begin to play each hole as there may be a tip between the lines that’ll help you get that hole-in-one. If Christmas is your thing, then you may prefer a round of mini golf at Winter Summerland; a course designed by Santa Claus himself, you’ll see a fusion of all things summer and Christmas at the same time! If you would prefer more of a challenge, Fairways Miniature Golf will be the course for you – based on a traditional golf course, with bunkers, water hazards and sloping greens.
Need to know: The mini golf courses are usually open until around 10pm, depending on the time of year – be sure to check the WDW Planner that you are given upon check-in for exact times. If you are planning to play a round on the Fairways course, bear in mind that the course usually closes around 1 hour before Fantasia Gardens. If visiting Fantasia Gardens and Fairways, you will want to travel to the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts, via a Disney Park; Winter Summerland can be accessed by the Blizzard Beach route from your hotel. As a resort guest, you will be entitled to 1 free round of mini golf per person, per week; to redeem, one magic band from your party will need to be scanned when checking in at the mini-golf reception.
Planning idea: Mini-golf is great fun anytime of day, so this could work as an evening away from the Parks. Alternatively, if you have entered a Disney Park on your day of arrival, and have the 14-day hopper pass, you will find that your final morning, before heading to the airport, you won’t be able to enter the Disney Parks. This is when we make use of our mini-golf pass and enjoy a round after a late breakfast, and before our last quick-service meal at our Disney resort before collecting the bags from Bell Services and heading to the airport. This allows us to enjoy a round of mini-golf without waiting at each hole for another party to finish (something to bear in mind if you choose to visit one of the mini-golf courses in the evenings, as this is usually the busiest time to visit).
Visit Beaches & Cream Soda Shop
You may have heard of the Kitchen Sink? Well you will find this at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop, located just behind Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club resorts. A fun diner offering a great selection of tempting desserts and milkshakes, as well as entree’s and other beverages to enjoy. It’s certainly a perfect spot to enjoy a full meal or just visit for a delicious dessert. Now if you haven’t heard of the Kitchen Sink, then you’ll be wondering what it is… Based on the phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’, expect a dish in the shape of a sink, filled with every flavour of ice cream and every topping available in the restaurant, and a whole can of whipped cream! Can you rise to the challenge and finish it?
Need to know: The DDP can be used at the restaurant, but certain desserts and milkshakes will be exempt. The Kitchen Sink typically serves 4 but it’s your vacation so whatever size party are able to order it! You may be able to walk in without a reservation, but if you know that you are wanting to visit the restaurant, I would advise securing a reservation so that you aren’t disappointed.
Planning idea: Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is just a short walk away from Epcot’s International Gateway, so a visit could make for a perfect mid-afternoon pre- or post-Epcot visit. This would also give you a great opportunity to explore the Yacht & Beach Club resorts and maybe even the BoardWalk Inn prior to or after your dining experience. Alternatively, you could catch the Friendship Boat and spend an evening in Hollywood Studios after an early dinner and sweet treat.
A Flight of Fancy at Disney Springs
Disney Springs has its very own hot air balloon, hosted by Aerophile – The World Leader in Balloon Flight. Float high above WDW in the world’s largest hand painted helium balloon; ascending 400ft in the sky, you will get breathtaking views of your favourite Disney attractions, and maybe even views of stunning vistas up to 10 miles away, if you visit on a clear day.
Need to know: Ticket prices are $20 for adults (age 10 and older) and $15 for children ages 3-9. Guests over the age of 12 can ride alone, but younger guests must be accompanied by an adult (age 18 and older). Tickets are sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and bought from the entrance to the attraction, located behind Starbucks at Disney Springs. Opening hours are 10am – 10pm, but flights can be affected by weather conditions. Be sure to check your WDW Planning package that you will receive around 4-6 weeks before your departure date; enclosed within the pack, you will find a foldable WDW resort map, and on the back are a selection of coupons, one of which may give you discount on Aerophile flight tickets..
Planning idea: Take a break from the shopping at Disney Springs, have some lunch, and then take a flight. I recommend taking a flight during daylight hours rather than of an evening, as this will make it easier to spot your favourite Disney attractions, especially if you are not familiar with the full layout of WDW.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Located at Fort Wilderness in Pioneer Hall, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue takes places on most, if not all, evenings each week. Get ready for 2 hours of Wild West dancing, singing and comedy; clap along, stomp your feet, sing at the top of your voice, and swing your napkins in the air. You’ll tuck into corn bread, green salad, buckets of fried chicken and BBQ smoked ribs, mashed potato, and baked beans; all before enjoying strawberry shortcake for dessert. Drinks are refilled throughout the night, including sangria for the adults.
Need to know: The DDP can be used at Hoop Dee Doo, but will use 2 dining credits, and entitles you to Category 2 seating which is located towards the back of the venue, on the balcony. If you would prefer to be in Category 1 seating which is located in the main floor area, prices are currently $44 for guests aged 3-9, and $74 for guests aged 10 and older. You will need to arrive at least 30 minutes before show time to check-in. There are at least 2 seatings, if not 3 seatings, per night, so you can select the time that best suits your party.
Planning idea: Secure an earlier reservation, then head to the Fort Wilderness Campfire for Chip ’N’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long (7pm in fall/winter, 8pm in spring/summer) – keep reading to find our more…
Chip ’N’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long
Located at Fort Wilderness, close to the Bike Barn and the Meadow Trading Post, you will find an amphitheatre-set up where Chip ’N’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long takes place. You’ll have time to toast marshmallows and make s’mores at one of two campfires, before taking your seat, ready to welcome your two favourite chipmunks to the stage. Sing or croon along to old-time favourites lead by a guitar-playing cowboy, and even get up and take part in a bit of line dancing. You’ll even get the chance to get a photo with Chip or Dale, depending which side of the theatre you sit.
Need to know: Campfire Sing-a-long takes place every night of the week, so choose the night that fits in with your plans, and get there at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule to get a seat. You may want to get there earlier and purchase some s’mores kits to enjoy your s’mores before the show. If you aren’t familiar with the layout of Fort Wilderness, you will likely arrive by boat from the Magic Kingdom/Wilderness Lodge/Contemporary Resort, or to the main entrance; from either location, you will need to get the internal bus where you can ask your driver for the stop required for the Campfire Sing-a-long. I recommend giving yourself at least an hour to get there and navigate your way round Fort Wilderness.
Planning idea: secure an early dinner reservation in a restaurant at Fort Wilderness or Wilderness Lodge, then explore the shop and grounds of Fort Wilderness before heading to the Sing-a-long.
Whispering Canyon Cafe
In my opinion, Whispering Canyon Cafe is the best restaurant in Wilderness Lodge. Not only does it offer delicious food, but brilliant entertainment too – anything from the cast members making fun of your husband for his socks-and-shoes choice, to the men of the restaurant having to get up and sing ‘I’m a little teapot’ whilst performing the actions, to kids being sung happy birthday but a cast member eating the cupcake they were about to enjoy (don’t worry, it was replaced!), and maybe even a member of your family being put ‘in jail’ for being cheeky or not clearing their plate! The menu has a great choice to select from, but if you want my recommendation, order one of the skillets for the whole family to enjoy from. Choice of skillet will include freshly baked cornbread to start, followed by a full skillet, and don’t be afraid to ask your server for more of your favourites from it; remember to save room for dessert too – choices such as seasonal cobbler to gooey chocolate lava cake make it hard to turn down dessert! Oh and don’t forget to ask for ketchup, even if you don’t plan on using it!
Need to know: I recommend securing a reservation at Whispering Canyon Cafe if you know that it is definitely somewhere you wish to dine – walk-ins are sometimes available, but I’d hate for you to be turned away if they are full. The DDP can be used, and if you decide to go with one of the skillets, you will find that this will be one of your best-value meals. There are vegetarian and vegan options to choose from here, including skillets, as well as gluten-free options and other dietary requirements are catered for too.
Planning idea: Get to Wilderness Lodge a little ahead of your reservation time so that you can explore the beautiful grounds, sit and enjoy the ambience of the grand lobby, and browse the gift shop. Visit the Geyser Bar & Grill for post-dinner drinks, or get the boat back to Magic Kingdom to take advantage of Extra Magic Hours (if offered on the night of your reservation). If you would prefer to stay away from the Parks, you could head to the Polynesian, and watch the fireworks over Magic Kingdom from the beach, or to the Grand Floridian and watch from the marina.
Watch the fireworks from Polynesian Village or Grand Floridian
You may think that you must be in Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks, but in fact, these two resorts offer a great view of the fireworks above Magic Kingdom, and even play the fireworks soundtrack over the speaker system so that you feel like you’re right on Main Street. If you get to your viewing spot early enough, you may also catch the Seven Seas Lagoon Water Pageant; a set of floats that make up a floating parade with electric lights and its very own soundtrack too – a lovely little extra to your chilled evening. Each resort offers a slightly different view and seating area, but both offer a lovely view with a laid back feel, free from the crowds of Main Street USA.
You won’t see too much of Cinderella Castle if you decide to watch the fireworks from the Grand Floridian marina, but this area does offer quite a bit more seating than the Polynesian Beach, and a quiet area without any water traffic. Located just outside of Gasparilla’s, it makes the perfect spot to enjoy a quick-service dinner if you’ve eaten a larger meal in the day, or if you have room for a second dessert after dinner, stop by and grab a Mickey Bar or Cupcake to enjoy whilst watching the fireworks.
The beach at Polynesian Village offers a beautiful viewing spot overlooking Seven Seas Lagoon, as well as a view of Cinderella Castle. Get there early to secure a seat on the few chairs the beach area has to offer, or maybe bring a couple of beach towels or jackets and sit on the sand. Stop by the lobby of the resort first as you may be able to get yourself a lei from a cast member, so you can feel right at home.
Need to know: Get to your viewing location around 30 minutes prior to showtime, to secure a seat or place on the beach. You don’t have to be a resort guest to use these areas.
Planning idea: Book a dinner reservation at a nearby hotel or at ‘Ohana (see adult’s post for more info) for around 7pm, to give you time to enjoy dinner, before heading to the beach or marina to get your spot ready for the fireworks.
Hopefully you’re feeling inspired to do one or two activities away from the Disney Parks after reading above; I’m sure that whichever activities you plan into your trip, will only allow for even more magical memories to be made together!
Have a magical day and see ya real soon!
Post courtesy of @disneytoria