One of the most affordable things to do at Walt Disney World does not involve visiting any of the theme parks. In fact, you could easily save the money on a day’s worth of Disney park tickets by planning a day to go resort-hotel hopping. Visiting the many, and varied Disney World hotels can provide a fascinating view of the Disney attention to detail, as well as keep everyone in your family entertained in the process.
Many people don’t realize that you can do this. We didn’t either, until we were visiting one year over the Christmas holidays, and someone suggested that we visit the Gingerbread House at the Grand Floridian. We weren’t staying there, but hey, I’m all for stopping by the Grand Floridian! So we decided to actually make a morning of it, and booked a character breakfast at 1900 Park Faire while there. It was a great morning and we left feeling as if there was a lot to explore at that lovely resort that we had not had a chance to do that morning….and so we wanted to go back again.
And this is the thing: Each of the Disney resorts are fascinating examples of fun design, great themes, and extreme attention to detail. Yet most people really don’t take the time to “see” everything each resort has to offer. We’re all too busy running off to the parks at the crack of dawn, touring commando-style each day, and literally falling into bed each night, too exhausted to notice much more than if mousekeeping provided us with any new towel animals. If we do take the time to explore the resort, it is usually to find one of three things: the pool, food, and the gift shop.
There is so much more to see at each resort!
Just a few examples:
Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness offer miles of trails to wander through, and if you want to be a bit more adventurous, for a fee you can take a Segway tour. Or a carriage ride. Plus Wilderness Lodge has an incredible lobby with totem poles and, in season, big roaring fireplaces. It’s the perfect place to relax in a rocking chair with a good book for a bit. (Don’t worry if the kids don’t feel like relaxing, because there is always a TV with Disney movies playing nearby.)
Another fantastic place to visit has to be the Animal Kingdom lodge. There is an amazing variety of African artwork and design spread out all through this beautiful hotel. And even more fun, are the storytellers that share African stories and even crafts throughout the day. Plus there are the animals who are wandering on the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s own savannah: there are observation points spread out around the resort that allow you to spend as much time as you like watching. If your kids love animals, they will love this place.
Then there is the Boardwalk, which has, well, a boardwalk. Lots of fun vendors, games, and performers make this a bustling, busy place to spend a few hours. You can also rent a bike or surrey and go across the bridges to the Yacht and Beach Club for another lovely beach, chairs and hammocks.
And these are just a few. I could literally go on and on, there is just so much to see and explore. I know in 12+ visits I still haven’t seen it all. That’s ok it just gives me more reason to go back again.
Now if you want to do this, but are wondering about your children being bored, do not worry about this. There is something “kid friendly” at every resort: it’s Disney after all. You can make it an adventure getting there by taking the monorail or a boat if available. Look for “hidden Mickeys”. Plan a meal: many of the resorts have their own great restaurants, and some even offer character meals. If you want to do it less expensively, the moderates and value resorts have counter service. Or just get a snack. Disney has lots of great snacks.
I do want to address one thing that people do ask about when visiting the resorts and that is “pool hopping”: which means swimming in one of the pools at the resort you are visiting. There are some very strong opinions on the subject of “pool hopping” (which I am not going to get into in this post). Whether you agree with the idea or disagree with the idea, you should know that Disney only permits this in the following situations:
- DVC (Disney Vacation Club) members who are staying at one of the DVC resorts on points may pool hop to any other resort pool EXCEPT: Stormalong Bay at the Yacht and Beach Club, the pool at Beach Club Villas, Bay Cove Pool at Bay Lake Tower (Contemporary), and the pools at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
- Guests of the All Star Resorts may visit any other All Star Resort pool.
- Those staying at Port Orleans-Riverside and Port Orleans-French Quarter may use each other’s pool.
- Pool hopping is not likely to be permitted during any of the busy holidays, and you should always check with the front desk of your resort first.
So unless one of the above applies to you, it is best to assume that visiting any of the Disney resorts does NOT include visiting that resort’s pool.
One last thing to think about: at certain times of the year, visiting the Disney resorts is not only recommended, it is almost mandatory. If you are visiting during the Christmas season, be SURE to make the time to do this. You will not regret it!
OK, your turn! What do you think are the best things to “see” when visiting the Disney resorts?