The Best Day at Disney World (Without a Park Ticket)

by | Jul 10, 2024 | Walt Disney World

Wondering how to do Disney World without park tickets? Here’s your guide to have the best day without needing to enter a park.

Is it possible to have an amazing day at Disney World even if you don’t go to a park?The theme parks at Disney World are of course amazing and an essential part of your visit. But they are expensive, exhausting, and can be stressful, especially if you don’t love massive crowds. 

Well, I have good news for you! It’s absolutely possible to plan a fun-filled day at Disney World without going to the parks! Not only will this give your wallet a bit of a break, but it is a great way to have a more restful day while exploring other resort areas. It also gives you an opportunity to experience all the different types of free Disney transportation.

The Best Day at Disney World Without Park Tickets

Some of you may prefer to spend as little money as possible on an off-park day, while others are looking to splurge. And while some want a non-park day to be super relaxing, people like me still want to cram a ton in. Here are some sample plans to give you an idea of what is possible. 

Morning Plans

Top Breakfast Recommendation: 

If I had to choose the best breakfast experience outside the parks, I would pick Topolino’s Terrace at the Riviera. This character breakfast is very popular, and gives you the opportunity to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. 

The food is also amazing, with my favorite being the wood-fired steak and eggs. The Mickey-shaped waffle dippers are also a hit with kids. As a rooftop restaurant, you will also get beautiful views of the surrounding area.

Due to its popularity, reservations are hard to come by. But don’t fret if you can’t get a reservation for your desired date or time. By using free services like MouseDining.com, I’ve always been able to get a reservation. Even checking the day before or the morning of is a great way to snag a time as people cancel.

Since the Riviera is located along the Skyliner, this is an easy hotel to access if you are also staying at a Skyliner resort. If not, you can order a ride, or you could take a bus from a theme park or Disney Springs.

Topolino’s is pricey however. Adults are $49 per person and children ages 3-9 are $30 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). If you aren’t looking to spend this much on breakfast, here are some other ideas.

Other Breakfast Options:

The breakfast at Ale & Compass, located in the Yacht Club Resort, is a much more affordable option that still offers high quality food. The adult breakfast entrees are $20 or less, but for $25, you can also get the breakfast buffet PLUS any entree. This makes Ale & Compass one of the best values for breakfast at Disney World in my opinion. 

If you’re not a big breakfast eater and/or would prefer to save money for other meals, we also frequently bring bagels and oatmeal from home for a cheap and easy meal in our hotel room.

After Breakfast:

If you decide to eat at either Topolino’s or Ale & Compass, this is a great way to explore the Skyliner or the FriendShip boat routes. After you dine at Ale & Compass, hop on a boat from the Yacht Club and take it to Hollywood Studios where you can hop on the Skyliner. 

From either the Riviera station after Topolino’s or Hollywood Studios, take the Skyliner to Caribbean Beach and then transfer to head to Art of Animation. This is a great resort to walk around at (especially with kids) and see the larger-than-life characters from Cars, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo.

The Skyliner station shared between both Disney's Art of Animation and Disney's Pop Century resorts

Photo by Laurie Sapp

After you tour around Art of Animation, hop on a bus to Disney Springs. You can spend the rest of your morning checking out shops (our favorites are the LEGO store and World of Disney) or grabbing a snack (I highly recommend a donut from Everglazed!)

Afternoon Plans

Top Lunch Recommendation:

A great resort to check out on your day off is Animal Kingdom Lodge. While it is located far away from pretty much everything, it’s worth the visit for the savannah. Here, you can view a variety of live animals, such as zebras, giraffes, cranes, and much, much more! That’s right, you can see all these animals for free just by visiting this hotel. 

If you are going to take the time to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge, you might as well grab a meal here. Luckily, this resort has many amazing restaurants. And for lunch, I recommend Sanaa, which is best known for its Indian-style bread service appetizer that comes with 5 types of bread and 9 delicious sauces.

Not only can you get great food here, but there are plenty of large windows to view the animals on the savannah as you dine!

Other Lunch Options:

Now while Sanaa isn’t the most expensive restaurant, it’s not cheap either, with most appetizers and entrees in the $15-30 range, plus tax and tip. Plus, if you ate at Topolino’s later in the morning, chances are you’re probably not super hungry.

If that’s the case or you want more variety, you can just stay at Disney Springs for lunch! There are so many great restaurants to choose from across all sorts of cuisines and price ranges. 

One of our favorite things to do is get something small from a bunch of quick service places to share. We’ve made a meal out of splitting the spare ribs from Morimoto Asia Street Food, a chicken sandwich from Chicken Guy!, pizza slices from Pizza Ponte, and a taco cone from 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck.

After Lunch:

Here are some fun options for the afternoon after lunch, ranging from adventurous to relaxing:

Disney’s BoardWalk

Now I’m a little biased suggesting this, because the Boardwalk is my favorite spot at Disney World outside of the parks. But it is a great spot to chill, enjoy a snack or drink, and people watch. You can even rent a Surrey bike and pedal around the area.

If you like exploring other hotels, you can check out not only the Boardwalk Inn, but also Yacht & Beach Club, as well as the Swan & Dolphin. To get here, you can take a bus from any park or Disney Springs to the Boardwalk Inn or Yacht & Beach Club, take a boat from outside Hollywood Studios, or take the Skyliner to the EPCOT station.

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds

If you are looking for some of the most unique activities offered at Disney World, head over to Fort Wilderness. This is the campground resort where you can pitch a tent, stay in an RV, or in a cabin. 

Hoop Dee Doo Revue returns to Walt Disney World

Photo by Jeff Chiu

It is also where many fun family activities are available, such as archery, horseback riding, boat rentals, fishing, and more. So if you are looking for an afternoon away from the sensory overload that can be Disney World and enjoy some simpler activities in the outdoors, Fort Wilderness is the place for you.

To get here, you can take a bus from any park or Disney Springs, or a boat from outside Magic Kingdom.

Resort Pool

Of course, the most relaxing option is just staying at your resort and enjoying the pool. Enjoy a drink from the poolside bar or participate in the various activities that are offered by the resort staff!

Evening Plans

Dinner

The evening is a great time to explore the monorail loop because there are several fantastic dinner options available and many spots that provide great views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Top Dinner Recommendation:

The three monorail resorts are the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary. All of these hotels have fantastic dining options. But I’m going to give the top award to ‘Ohana, located in the Polynesian. 

This all-you-can-eat family-style dinner includes rolls, salad, wings, dumplings, noodles, teriyaki beef, shrimp, grilled chicken, stir-fry vegetables, and bread pudding. And yes, it’s all delicious. If you time your dinner reservation right, you can even view the fireworks through the windows!

magic kingdom restort area dining ohana

Photo by Danny Shuster

But of course, it comes at a cost. The current prices are $62 per adult and $40 per child (before tax and gratuity). Despite the total you’ll see on your check, I do believe ‘Ohana is worth experiencing at least once. However, if you already ate at Topolino’s and/or Sanaa earlier in the day, you may not be wanting to spend this much for dinner.

Other Dinner Options:

If you are looking to spend a little less but still enjoy the Polynesian atmosphere and cuisine, Kona Cafe is a great option. 

However, if you are looking for another character dining meal, Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is a buffet that provides views of the monorail passing through the hotel. And at the top of the Contemporary is the fan-favorite California Grill. This signature dining experience is definitely a bucket list meal, but both of these options are also pricey.

For those that want to dine at the Grand Floridian, Citricos and Narcoossee’s also come highly recommended. (I mean, if you want to drop some serious cash, go for Victoria & Albert’s. But my guess is, the vast majority of people aren’t looking to drop almost $300 per guest before tax and tip for dinner.)

After Dinner:

Regardless of which monorail resort you ate dinner at, if the fireworks haven’t started yet, head over to the Polynesian beach. This is my favorite place to watch the fireworks from outside Magic Kingdom. 

Not only do they pump the music in, but you can grab a Dole Whip from the nearby Pineapple Lanai stand and enjoy (in my opinion) the best snack/dessert in all of DIsney World while watching the fireworks.

Pineapple Lanai at polynesian resort

Photo by Rich Ramos

Afterwards, many people are ready to head back to their hotel room. But if you still have energy, there is plenty of nightlife to be enjoyed around Disney World. Hit up one of many hotel bars, or enjoy some dancing and dueling pianos on the Boardwalk. There are also plenty of places to imbibe, catch some live music, or even test your bowling skills at Disney Springs.

So as you can see, there are plenty of things to do outside the parks, which is why I always recommend spending at least one day exploring the other resorts and/or Disney Springs. Whatever your intensity level or budget is, you can create the best day at Disney World without going to the parks!

 

Posts by David Lee

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David is a corporate operations leader by day and a travel writer by night. He is a lifelong Disney fan and a self-proclaimed Dole Whip enthusiast. There's a good chance you'll find him planning the next trip to take his family on, whether it's to Disney World, a National Park, or some remote island halfway across the world. You can follow his other passion (Disney World and travel photography) on Instagram at @smallworlddavid.
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Authored by
David Lee

David is a corporate operations leader by day and a travel writer by night. He is a lifelong Disney fan and a self-proclaimed Dole Whip enthusiast. There's a good chance you'll find him planning the next trip to take his family on, whether it's to Disney World, a National Park, or some remote island halfway across the world. You can follow his other passion (Disney World and travel photography) on Instagram at @smallworlddavid.
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