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Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Top 5 Things To Do At Walt Disney World Outside Of The Parks (on a budget)


by: guide4wdw - Collin

Over the years, we've "done Disney" on a variety of different budgets. From the super tight, save as much money as possible trips to staying at deluxe resorts and club level accommodations. However, no matter what your style of traveling is, saving money on a Disney vacation can make all the difference. So, today we're taking a look at a few things you can do at Disney across property, without spending the extra money for a full park day or additional park day. Of course, these things are great for guests who spend every day in the park as well, but can really turn a day outside of the park into an experience that is just as memorable as a theme park day!   

The Boardwalk Area
The Boardwalk at Walt Disney World is (as I've likely mentioned before) an incredibly overlooked part of the Disney experience and has been a small piece of each and every one of our vacations for many years. The area itself is a great place to wander around. The entire lake is walk-able and in less than 10-15 minutes you can make your way over to Disney's Yacht and Beach Club or even the Swan and Dolphin resorts. At the Dolphin, head over to the Fountain (on the bottom floor of the resort) and try perhaps some of the very best soft serve ice cream you'll find anywhere at or beyond Walt Disney World. There's no "best" way to describe it, but it's incredibly rich and creamy in a way that most soft serve pales in comparison. 

Beyond that particular location, you also have a unique array of one of a kind ice cream flavors on the Boardwalk itself at a location called Ample Hills Creamery. As a fairly recent addition to the property, they're serving up original flavors full of large chunks of toppings in a variety of different cones. Another ice cream location is over at the Yacht and Beach club called Beaches and Cream. As home to the famous "kitchen sink" ice cream sundae, it's a fun filled environment for both a quick dinner and even simply a dessert offering. 

Moving back over to the wooden planks and iconic 'boardwalk" setting, you'll find performers  including: magicians, comedians, and other types of street performers that are incredibly talented while completely free to watch! The performers are typically only out in the night hours, but that's the time when this entire section of the property really shines (quite literally). As the lights of the resort reflect off of the water, a very unique effect is created as the friendship boats stir up ripples in the water and Spaceship Earth glows on the horizon over towards Epcot. It's a truly impressive "display" and one that very few guests have taken the time to go and experience first hand. 

Carolwood Room
The Carolwood Room of Wilderness Lodge has topped many of my recent lists on this site simply because it is so largely overlooked. Personally, I've stayed at the lodge many times and didn't take the time to go visit it until a very recent stay at the resort.The room is rather simple and typically very quite, but goes above and beyond to tell the story of Walt Disney's backyard railroad through "real-life" artifacts, and many reproductions and photographs retelling the backstory of Walt's passion for trains. Without going into to elaborate of details here in this article once again, be sure sure to check out our post, Outstanding Disney History Hiding in Plain Sight: The Carolwood Room. It truly is one of my favorite places on property and one of the simpler (and completely free) ways to get a closer look at the man who started it all and one of his true passions beyond the parks.    

Fantasia Mini Golf
I know what you're thinking, "Really, mini golf at Walt Disney World?" Believe it or not, Disney property is home to some of the most unique mini golf courses you'll ever find. While I've only played two out of the four courses, and particularly the two at the Fantasia Gardens location, I will say it is an outstanding way to spend a few hours outside of the parks. As always, the mini golf is a bit higher than what you would typically pay at other locations, but it does have that Disney touch that is infused into everything the company builds. Both courses are fairly challenging at the Fantasia location, but well worth the cost to play. 

If you head to play around the fireworks times at either Epcot or Hollywood Studios, it's quite neat to see the skies light up around you in the distance. You won't have much of a view of the shows, but there's just something unique about the experience. When you finish up, walk on over to the Dolphin and the Fountain dining location (mentioned above) for awesome ice-cream and some great cheeseburgers if you're looking for a non-reservation required dining option. The walk is fairly short (10 minutes or so) and follows a path through the Swan and Dolphin resort along side their elaborate pool and wonderful outdoor seating and recreation areas.     

The Disney Driving Ranges
One particular thing I've yet to mention in any article to my knowledge are the golf offerings on Disney property. Personally, I love the game of golf (Even though I'm terrible at it!), but very few guests recognize that Disney is home to three of the most prestigious courses in all of Florida. Magnolia, the flagship course, has hosted many top tier events in the golf realm and features an incredible club house. Tee time cost are quite expensive, but if you enjoy golf or just want to go practice for a while, both course locations offer driving ranges for guests of all skill levels at a vastly reduced price. One particular range, situated at the Lake Buena Vista course. beginning on the Saratoga Springs resort property, features a rather clever set up. The driving range requires guests to take a golf cart through the woods a short distance until you end up at a wide open range area with an elaborate water hazard element. Using floating range balls, guests hit at targets in the distance, but as an added bonus you can catch glimpses of Disney Springs right from the hitting bays! It's a beautiful area and a fairly cost effective event to partake in, especially if you have your own golf clubs.   

Spend An Afternoon At The Grand Floridian
This last listing could very well be my favorite portion of this short list. The Grand Floridian is one of the most elaborate resorts on Disney property, but one that takes some time to really dive into and explore first hand. Throughout the main lobby, scattered across two different floors, guests and visitors alike can explore clothing stores, listen to wonderful piano music or even a grand band, shop around for specialty soaps, and even relax on the many covered and slightly hidden lanai-esque outdoor seating areas. Many of the stores feature better known brands such as Vineyard Vines, Vera Bradley, and quite a few others. While many of the brands are known for being quite expensive, you can often tie a unique memory to the item or simply window shop and enjoy the ambience. 

In regards to the seating areas, the Grand Floridian is full of little tucked away nooks and places to simply relax and enjoy the environment. In particular, on the second floor of the resort, along the right hand side of the main lobby area, you'll find a series of doors leading out to a covered outdoor seating area. Throughout the day, you may find one or two other guests enjoying the seating, but typically you'll be the only one out there. Little nooks like this one exist all around the resort's spacious grounds and it really gives you an opportunity to explore. You never know what you may find or who you may meet (Legendary Cast of The Disney Parks: Richard Gerth and His Lasting Impression On Guests) along the way! 

All in all, you see that a great day at Disney can be had without ever stepping foot in a park. It's all a part of the Disney magic and what creates so many memories for guests of all ages year after year. It's something that's incredibly hard to explain effectively in words. Somehow, some way, I can guarantee you'll meet a cast member or a simple experience will occur that will turn a seemingly simple moment into something extraordinary you'll remember or even laugh about for years to come. With Disney, it's usually when you expect it the least when the most amazing memories unfold. I can sit here and write about all of these little budget friendly opportunities for days, but experiencing it for yourself and creating your own memorable moments is something that I could never share in words. There's truly nothing quite like it and it's something you certainly have to see to believe. 

If you don't quite know where to start as a first time guest, or even if you're a returning guest looking to grow an already amazing Disney experience, be sure to check out our friends at Destinations to Travel (clickable link). Just tell them Guide4WDW sent you! Not only are they one of a select group of Authorized Disney Vacation Planners, but this also gives you the opportunity to support the site at no cost to you over Disney's pricing! Their services truly build on an already wonderful Disney vacation experience.

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