Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What To Do At Disney World When You Don't Have A Park Ticket

My daughter is currently working in Disney World as a part of the Disney College Program.  She is spending five months in the Happiest Place on Earth!  I am so excited for her!  This is an amazing adventure that she will remember forever.  However, I really miss my little girl.  Luckily, I was able to take a road trip with my Mama and Best Friend, Nat, to see her.  My daughter was able to get us in to the parks one day but we were there for three.  What can you do at Disney World when you don't have a park ticket?  A lot!

First of all, if you are staying at a Disney hotel, there is so much to do without even leaving your resort.  You can check out the pool.  Lounging around is a pretty good thing, but if you or your kids are more high-energy, there are pool games and fun activities every afternoon.  Just ask the front desk for a list.

We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter.  The pool has a huge dragon and the water slide comes out of it's mouth!  Really cool!  It also has cute alligator figures playing musical instruments.

Every Disney resort has a great pool and all have different themes.  They usually have a water play area for small kids, too.

Most resorts also offer Movies Under the Stars.  They show Disney Movies (of course) on a big blow up screen outside at night.  Bring a blanket and a snack and have a memorable night with the family.  Best of all, it's free.

Port Orleans French Quarter has a sister resort, Port Orleans Riverside, located next door.  You can go on horse drawn carriage rides through both resorts!  They have beautiful grounds, too.  It's fun to just walk around, take in the details and a few pictures, too.

French Quarter has cobblestone streets, wrought iron fences, fountains and cutesy street signs.  Like this one, Rue D'Bago.  Get it?  Rutabaga!  Too cute!

When we dropped my daughter off to begin her program back in January we stayed at Disney's Pop Century Resort.  It has giant pop icons sprinkled throughout the grounds.

Here's my son with Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head:

We were in the 70s Building, complete with a humongous Big Wheel, foosball table and Mickey Mouse telephone  (I had one of those when I was a kid!):

The 80s building had a giant Rubik's Cube.  There were also signs throughout the resort with fun facts that happened in those decades:

If you aren't staying "on-property" (as Disney calls it), you can get your Disney fix (without going into the parks) by heading to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney.  This is a district filled with shopping, restaurants, clubs, etc.  There are musicians out on the sidewalks, a movie theater, a bowling alley, food trucks, even a Cirque Du Soleil show called La Nouba.  Last time we were there, we watched a hula hoop contest complete with a DJ spinning music.  Best of all, it's free.  You can walk around, people watch, take pictures and not spend a dime.  But, if you are in the mood to shop, this is a great place to do it.  The largest Disney store in the world is here.  World of Disney has anything and everything Disney you could want.  It also has some great photo ops.  Here are a few pics we've taken there over the years.

Speaking of photo ops, Disney Springs is a great place to spend the day or night taking pictures.  It's a beautiful area on the water.  You can take a free water taxi from one end to the other or even rent a boat and drive around yourself.

If you have Lego fans in your house, you must visit the Lego Store.  There is every kind of Lego brick imaginable for sale here.  There is also an area where the kids can play for free.  Don't miss the larger than life statues made entirely of Lego bricks!  Here are a few pics we've taken over the years when we've visited Disney Springs.

When my son was little and obsessed with Lego, I took this pic of him in front of a huge wall full:

Here is a dragon made of Lego bricks:

Here is a compilation of pics I took at Splitsville, the 50s style bowling alley.  We spent a few hours there and had a ball (pun intended).

In case the kids are missing rides, there is a beautiful carousel:

Here's a pic of Goofy's Candy Company and the Rainforest Cafe.  That volcano "erupts" every so often.

Here's the volcano at night:

This is my BFF, Nat, my daughter and my Mama in front of Goofy's Candy Co.

Here are a few of the holiday photo ops:

This is the view from the water taxi we took back to Port Orleans French Quarter:

As you can see, Disney Springs offers a variety of things to do.  It's a great way to spend a day or night when you don't have a park ticket.

I've been to Disney World many times and I've always wanted to go resort hopping.  That is when you spend a day visiting different Disney resorts.  We've never really made time to do it.  However, on this past trip we had a free day and when I suggested it to the girls they were as excited about it as I was.  We started with the monorail resorts.  These are the three resorts on the monorail loop around the Magic Kingdom.  We took the free bus to the Magic Kingdom then boarded the resort monorail.  First stop was the Contemporary resort.  The cool thing about this resort is that the monorail actually goes inside the hotel!

Isn't that cool?  We decided to eat an early lunch here at the Contempo Cafe, which was delicious for a quick service restaurant.  It didn't have your run of the mill hamburgers and chicken fingers.  We had lobster rolls and a turkey BLT with cranberry relish.  Yum!  There is a beautiful mural in the lobby and outstanding views of the Magic Kingdom and Bay Lake.

The Contempo Cafe is next door to Chef Mickey's, a table service restaurant where you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and the gang.  Reservations are recommended but it's a great way to see a lot of characters without waiting in long lines.  They come to your table while you're eating.  You can take pics with them and get their autographs.  To me, that's worth the price.

Here are a few pics of my kids at Chef Mickey's:

There is a balcony you can walk out on and get a pretty amazing view of the Magic Kingdom.  Note:  This is a smoking area,

The next stop on the monorail is the Polynesian resort.  It is beautiful with lush gardens and a gorgeous pool.  A bonus is that you can get a Dole Whip here!  I thought you could only get this delicious pineapple soft serve in the Magic Kingdom, but there is a small shop near the pool that serves them.  We got Dole Whip floats (ice cream in pineapple juice), sat and took in the beautiful view.  We even saw a group getting a hula lesson in the lobby!

The pretty gardens you see as you exit the monorail:

Pics of the lobby:

Another cute photo op:

This is the pool area:

Here is the Dole Whip Float (yum!):

Minnie in her hula skirt:

The next stop on the monorail loop is the Grand Floridian, Disney's signature deluxe resort.  It is absolutely beautiful and evokes turn of the century Victorian Florida.  It is also home to Disney's Wedding Pavilion.

When you first walk in from the monorail, you see this gorgeous chandelier:

I loved all the details.  Look at that ceiling:

We just missed the Princess Promenade (a sign stated it happens every afternoon at 3:30 pm).  Cinderella and her Prince walk around the lobby and all the children can join in.  We saw them leaving.  There was an orchestra playing on the second floor when we walked in!

Here is my Mom enjoying the beautiful grounds:

There is a beach to relax on:

And a great pool with an Alice in Wonderland themed kids play area:

We even saw a Bride and her Bridesmaids posing for wedding photos!  This is a beautiful location for it.

As we were leaving, there was a pianist playing in the lobby.  We recognized songs from Frozen.

I have always wanted to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I love animals and when I heard you could see them from the lobby or even from the balcony in your room, I was hooked.  But, I have never had the chance to stay there so I thought I'd visit it during our resort hop.

As soon as you enter the lobby, you feel as if you've walked in to another country.  There are African art and artifacts everywhere, not to mention the wall of windows that allows a gorgeous view of the savannah.

This is the lobby;

My Mama and Nat checking out the amazing ceiling:

The wall of windows looking out on the animals:

There is a balcony, complete with rocking chairs, overlooking the savannah.  Here is the view we enjoyed:

On the ground floor, we looked out a window go see a tortoise:

Even the benches were interesting:

You can walk outside to get a closer look at the animals.  There were giraffes, zebras, ostriches and more.

Here's Nat, hanging out, up close to the animals.  We also enjoyed speaking with the cast member posted there.  He answered our questions about the animals and shared information about his country.

This is the view of the main building from the savannah:

We also visited the pool.  I didn't take any pics, but it was very lush and shady with lots of plants and trees.  We enjoyed sitting in the shade and having a drink.  That reminds me of another tip I wanted to share.  If you purchase a refillable mug at your resort, you can't refill it in the parks, but you can refill it at any of Disney's resort hotels, not just the one you are staying in.  We brought ours along and refilled it at each resort we visited.

Another way to get your Disney fix, without going into the parks, is a character meal.  I told you about Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary, but there are character meals at many different resorts, with a variety of characters to meet.  Mickey and the gang are at Chef Mickey's and also at the Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club, there's a Lilo and Stitch breakfast at O'Hana at the Polynesian, an Alice and Wonderland Tea Party at the Grand Floridian, just to name a few.  We recently ate dinner at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian.  There, we met Cinderella, her prince, her step mother and sisters, too.  They were all very much in character!  Cinderella's step mother tried to marry her daughters off to my son!  It was hilarious!  The step sisters kept asking my son if he was rich.  They were very flirty and silly.  My son loved it!

Me and my daughter with Cinderella:

Characters meals can be expensive and you can definitely find cheaper alternatives to dinner off property, but you are paying for the magical experience.  If meeting characters is important to your Disney experience, a character meal is a great way to go.

So, I hope I've given you a few ideas of what you can do at Disney World when you don't have a park ticket.  The attractions and shows in the parks are awesome!  But honestly, I enjoyed resort hopping almost as much as a park day.  It was interesting, fun, less crowded and stress-free.  Plus, it helped me decide where I'd like to stay on my next trip.  Now, to convince the hubby...

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