While many visitors focus on the parks and the rides, there are actually tons of fun and exciting things you can do at Disney World without even stepping foot inside a park.
From indulging in delicious dining experiences to shopping for unique souvenirs, there’s literally something for everyone.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro, you won’t want to miss out on these adventures that are sure to make your Disney vacation even more magical.
So, let’s dive into the world of Disney beyond the parks and explore all the fun and delicious things you can do around the property without ever having to spend hundreds on theme park tickets.
What to do at Disney World without park tickets
Here are some of my favorite things to do in Walt Disney World that doesn’t require purchasing or using a theme park ticket. Now some of these things will cost money, but if the goal is to find things to do without buying a park ticket, you’re for sure in the right place.
1. Go to Disney Springs
There is literally so much stuff to do at Disney World that it could be an article on its own! Normally, for me, if someone is coming to town and I wanted to give them a taste of Disney, my first and usually only stop is always Disney Springs.
Disney Springs is home to countless shopping and dining options, not to mention small touches of Disney Magic. Here are some of my favorite things to do and eat at Disney Springs:
- Go bowling at Splitsville
- Get a cake or cookie from Gideon’s Bakehouse
- Take in the sites from up to 400 fee in the air on the Aerophile
- Try some mac & cheese and fried chicken from Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Kitchen
- Get some fresh sushi or a peking duck from Morimoto Asia
- Scarf down some BBQ at The Polite Pig
- Take the kids to T-Rex Cafe
- Use the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
- Taste some wine from Wine Bar George
- Devour some chicken from Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy
- Go shopping at Uniqlo, Zara, and Lululemon
- Get some souvenirs from World of Disney
- Watch the volcano erupt at Rainforest Cafe
- Go to possible the best restaurant in Disney Springs, The Boathouse
- Grab a cocktail on Paddlefish’s rooftop
- Try some unique ice cream at Salt & Straw
- Watch the Irish performers at Raglan Road while enjoying some bread pudding
- Escape the heat and watch a movie at the AMC Dine-in Theater
- Enjoy some live entertainment at House of Blue
- Take a amphicar tour at Disney’s Boathouse ($125 per car for 20 minutes for up to 3-4 people)
- Try some international Coca Cola products on the Coca Cola Rooftop bar
- Get a Dole Whip
- Grab a cocktail at the Indiana Jones themed bar, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar
- Take the little ones on a ride on the Marketplace Carousel and Train
- Check out the cool LEGO sculptures
- Get a makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
As you can see, there’s so much to do at Disney Springs, not to mention all of the good eats.
2. Go to a Disney Water Park
I’m a huge fan of Disney’s waterparks, especially Typhoon Lagoon.
Currently, there are two waterparks to choose from, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Both are great, but I have to give the edge to Typhoon Lagoon because of their insane wave pool.
Plus, I just prefer the tropical vibes.
3. Visit the Disney Boardwalk
The Disney Boardwalk is a quarter mile promenade of dining, unique shops, and exciting nightlife.
Popular spots include the Atlantic Dance Hall which is a stylish nightclub dishing out hits from the 80s, 90s, 2000s, Jellyrolls which is a dueling piano bar with a ton of audience sing-alongs, Abracadabar which is a bar that takes you back to the golden age of magic, and a couple dining spots like Flying Fish Cafe and Trattoria al Forno.
4. Play Mini-golf at one of the 4 Disney courses
There’s quite a bit of mini golf spots scattered throughout Orlando, but personally, I think the ones at Disney are the best.
The four courses are:
- Fantasia Gardens (the best)
- Fairways (the hardest)
- Winter Summerland (there’s a winter course, and summer course)
If you can only choose one, Fantasia Gardens is highly recommended, but it usually will have the longest wait time.
5. Go Golfing (or even Footgolfing)
Disney World is home to four golf courses – Disney’s Magnolia, Oak Trail, Palm and Lake Buena Vista courses.
These are beautiful, well-kept course with affordable tee times. Plus, Disney’s Oak Trail is a 9 hole walking course that’s kid-friendly. Oak Trail also offers 9-hole foot golf!
6. Explore the Resorts
Some Disney World resorts are attractions of their own. Whether if you’re looking to walk the grounds, dine at their restaurants, shop, or grab a drink, you can find quite a few things sprinkled throughout the resorts.
Some of my favorite things to do at the resorts (which all happen to be free) are:
- Visit the gingerbread homes during Christmas at the Grand Floridian
- Search for Hidden Mickeys
- Catch a free movie under the stars
- Snack on marshmallows at Chip ‘n’ Dales Campfire Sing-A-Long at the Campsite a Disneys’ Fort Wilderness Resort
- Visit Geyser Point Bar and Grill and grab an outdoorsy cocktail
- See the animal on the savanna at Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Explore Disney’s Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
- Ride on the monorail
- Take the Skyliner and resort hop
- Take a boat ride to Disney Springs or the Boardwalk
- Watch the fireworks from the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, or Contemporary rooftop (after dining at California Grill)
There’s a lot more to see, do, eat and drink, but this is just a small taste.
7. Explore all of the amazing dining options spread out around WDW
Whether if you’re looking for a character dining experience like Chef Mickey’s or a Michelin-starred restaurant like Capa, there are so many unique and delicious restaurants across Disney World property, not including Disney Springs.
Some of my favorite spots include:
- Steakhouse 71
- Beaches and Cream
- Yachtsman’s Steakhouse
- ‘Ohana (this is 50/50 after the post-covid updates)
- Todd English’s Bluezoo (I prefer to go here during Magical Dining)
8. Resort Hop on the Disney Skyliner
The Disney Skyliner is such a fun and scenic way to soar through Disney World. I personally recommend that you catch it from Pop Century and ride it to EPCOT. From there you can hop on out and explore the Disney Boardwalk.
Just make sure to get a clear gondola that way you can see everything!
9. Go to Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue
Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is a 2 hour dinner show where you’ll sing along, move your feet, stuff your face at the rustic Pioneer Hall. Between skits, you can chow down on all you can eat fried chicken, smoked bbq ribs, cowboy beans, freshly baked cornbread, mac and cheese, and strawberry shortcake.
Plus, unlimited draft beer, wine, and sangria is available for guests 21 years or older.
I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t really like this show. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t either because it’s quite popular!
10. View the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
When you visit Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’ll be able to see some animals free roaming on the savannah.
It’s just a small scale version of Kilimanjaro Safaris with a limited variety of animals. But if you love giraffes, you’re in luck!
11. Take a Specialty Cruise to watch the fireworks
Take a chartered boat with up to 10 guests and watch either Happily Ever After or EPCOT Forever right on the water.
Each cruise is accompanied by a captain and includes an assortment of snacks and drinks.
The cruise starts at $399 and reservations must be made by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.
12. Visit a Disney Spa
Spending a few hours at a Disney spa and enjoying all of the amenities after your treatment is a great way to unwind, relax, and recharge.
Here are all of the spas located at Disney Resorts:
- The Grand Floridian Spa
- Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
- Ship Shape at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort
- Zahanati at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
You can also find some spa options at non-Disney resorts that are still on Disney World property such as:
- The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
- JW Bonnet Creek Spa
- Waldorf Astoria Spa Orlando
13. Watch Happily Ever After from the Polynesian Village Resort
I personally enjoy grabbing a Dole Whip from Pineapple Lanai and watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks from either the lawn or beach at the resort.
Best of all, they pump in the music so you’ll feel as though you aren’t missing out too much.
14. Watch Drawn to Life by Cirque du Soleil
Drawn to Life is a thrilling spectacle by Cirque du Soleil that is essentially a love letter to the art of Disney animation. If you’re already familiar with the type of shows Cirque du Soleil produces, you’ll absolutely enjoy their collaboration with Disney.
Show tickets start at $85 per person. Drawn to Life performs Wednesday through Sunday with two performances each day.
15. Monorail Bar Crawl
Start at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and go to Enchanted Rose Lounge. Then hop on the monorail and head to the Steakhouse 71 Lounge followed by the California Grill bar. Lastly, jump back on the monorail and head to Tambu Lounge for some grub, and then end the crawl at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
BONUS. See EPCOT from the Monorail
If the goal is to visit a Disney Park without actually buying a ticket, your only option is taking the monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center to EPCOT. This monorail actually goes through the park so you’ll actually be able to see the World Showcase and World Celebration.
I know it sounds super lame, but you’re technical in a park without a ticket for split second lol.
So if you’re looking to add some extra excitement and flavor to your Disney World vacation, don’t overlook the experiences outside of the parks.
Disney Springs offers endless shopping and dining options, and the Cirque du Soleil show, Drawn to Life, is a must-see spectacle.
Plus, the Disney and non-Disney resorts boast some of the best restaurants on the property, with options to satisfy any palate.
And lastly, if you’re a golf enthusiast, Disney World offers some of the most beautifully designed golf courses around, not to mention the iconic Mickey Mouse bunkers.
So whether you’re a foodie, a shopaholic, or a sports enthusiast, there’s something for everyone at Disney World beyond the parks. Don’t miss out on all the fun and delicious adventures that await you on your next Disney vacation.