If you are a Orlando local who doesn’t have a Disney World park pass, or you’re on black out. Or maybe you’re on vacation but have some days of your trip without a park ticket, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to get that Disney experience without entering the actual parks. Here are some of my favorite Disney things to do, and all of these are outside the actual Disney parks.
1: Have a Classic Disney Breakfast
The Grand Floridian is such a gorgeous resort and if you haven’t had breakfast there put this on your must-do list. Breakfast at The Grand Floridian Cafe has lots of delicious options but I recommend you get the classic Mickey waffle. They even have toppings you can choose to add to your waffle. My favorite was the strawberries, whipped cream and sugar cookie cubes! Is it a sugar overload? Perhaps. But the sugar crash is totally worth it for these Instagram-worthy pics, right?
You don’t have to have reservations at the Grand Floridian Cafe, but it’s a good idea. (Book online or call 407-WDW-DINE.) Thankfully, this isn’t a restaurant that’s super hard to get into. I’ve had no trouble grabbing reservations the day before. Also, since you’re dining there, you can park at the resort and after breakfast you could take a little monorail ride and check out some of the other resorts along the way. Makes for a great Disney filled morning out.
2: Take Fun Pics with Giant Disney Statues
If you haven’t been to Art of Animation yet, then you’re missing a great time at Disney’s most recently built resort. It’s themed after four popular Disney films, Lion King, Cars, The Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo. Each themed area has its own larger than life statues, pools and play areas making for some fantastic photo ops.
In addition, they’re got one of the best food court style eateries, Landscape of Flavors. Here you can find something for everyone; pasta, burgers, stir fry, soup, sandwiches, and a huge bakery selection complete with super cute Disney seasonal cupcakes. You’ll definitely feel like you got your dose of Disney with a trip to Art of Animation, so stop by and explore the resort.
3: Try the Kitchen Sink Challenge
Grab your friends and your appetite and head to Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort for the Kitchen Sink Sundae. This monster of a dessert will be brought to you with much fanfare from the servers who will pronounce that your group is ready to take on the Kitchen Sink Ice Cream Challenge. This challenge is not to be taken lightly. It’s served in a giant “sink” bowl and contains massive amounts of chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, coffee and mint chocolate chip ice cream, completely covered by every topping they have, (including brownies and cake) and one entire can of whipped cream. I mean, you could say it’s everything but the kitchen sink. But. That’s there too. So.
If you know just the crew to bring and conquer this challenge, you’ll probably want to make a reservation in advance at Beaches and Cream. And take time to enjoy the 50’s diner style decor and delicious American food staples like burgers, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
4: Visit the Mysterious AbracadaBAR
This little hidden gem of a bar at Disney’s Boardwalk is a great start to a fun evening out. Themed after the “Golden Age of Magic”, so think Houdini-era decor and style. Rich velvet curtains, dramatic damask wallpaper, and tons of vintage looking magician memorabilia. In fact, since this is Disney, of course there’s a whole back-story.
Because why just create an ordinary bar when you can tell a story and create some real magic.
If you look closely at the details in AbracadaBAR you’ll notice an old newspaper (The Boardwalk Bugle) that tells the story of the Missing Magicians. In 1940 a group of Boardwalk illusionists vanished into thin air in this very spot, right after a performance, never to be heard from again. (queue dramatic music *duh-duh-duuuuuuuh*)
Along the walls you’ll see shadowboxes preserving the magicians items, like an escape jacket, wand collection, and other tools of the trade. You’ll see vintage show posters with the missing magicians. But look closely. On the 13th minute of each hour the posters change and the magicians in them disappear. If you listen closely, you may even hear the applause of their last show still lingering. Have I got you intrigued? That’s just a few of the fun details they have in this little treasure box.
Oh, and they also have drinks. In fact, the “curious concoctions” on the menu will definitely give you some new flavors and combinations to try. Standout cocktails include the Elixir 13 (fans of black licorice flavored Absinthe will dig this one) and Pepper’s Ghost which combines the sweetness of Ciroc Pineapple Vodka with the spiciness of Habanero Lime making a strong and super tasty sweet-spicy flavor.
AbracadaBAR is usually open from 4pm–12am and is a small place so arriving later in the evening may mean waiting for a seat. But it’s worth it. Plan your visit to allow time to enjoy the Boardwalk atmosphere and nightly entertainment. You can even see the Epcot fireworks from this area.
5: Try One of Disney’s Best Desserts
Disney World has some amazing restaurants with incredible food, but some of the best restaurants can be pricey and hard to get reservations for. Every “Top Food” list includes the dessert served at ‘Ohana’s restaurant in the Polynesian Resort; the Pineapple Bread Pudding topped with Banana Foster sauce. But you don’t have to eat at ‘Ohana’s to try it.
At the bar next to ‘Ohana’s, called the Tambu Lounge, you can actually order the famous Bread Pudding dessert right here.
No reservations. And only $5.
Trust me on this. This will be the best 5 bucks you’ve ever spent. I don’t even like Bread Pudding. But this dessert is the most amazing thing ever.
To give it a try stop by Disney’s Polynesian Resort and head upstairs to the bar. You can order it straight from the bartender. Pair it with a drink (Try the Lapu Lapu served in a giant pineapple!) and some tasty Polynesian-style sticky wings for a great little meal. Afterward you can take a little stroll around the resort’s beach front and soak up some of the relaxing vacation vibes.
6: See the Disney Piano Man
Over at Port Orleans Riverside Resort there’s a lounge called River Roost and you can come by and see the legendary “Yee-haa Bob” perform. Bob combines his self claimed “boogie-woogie” piano skills with comedy and sing along to create a unique audience-interactive experience.
It’s hard to describe the pure fun that Bob manages to pack into his shows. Even the most grumpy person would not be able to leave in a good mood. You’ll find the entire lounge on their feet, laughing and singing along during the show.
Rivers Roost is located just off the main lobby and sells an assortment of cocktails, drinks and bar food style snacks. You can stop by after dinner for a family friendly good time. Combine it with a walk along the resort grounds which are situated on the river front and offer a great relaxing vibe. You can even take a boat over to Disney Springs from here.
Find Yee-haa Bob’s show Wednesday-Saturday nights from 8:30-11:45pm. You can check his website for schedule updates and videos.
7: Get a Taste of Mardi Gras
Brace yourself. These are good. I mean really really good. So if you’re watching your carbs or cutting out sugar, best save this one for later. Because once you hear about these, you may decide you need to take a trip over to Port Orleans French Quarter right away.
This resort is themed after New Orleans and here you can get a taste of their famous Beignets. They’re made fresh when you order and served piping hot and topped with powdered sugar. If you’re feeling really indulgent you can even get them topped with ice cream as well.
French Quarter has some of the most beautiful grounds, set along a riverside. After your Beignets you can take a horse and carriage ride here, rent surrey bikes to ride along the river trails, or take a boat ride to Disney Springs. Parking is free to visit Port Orleans, just let the gate guard know that you’re just visiting.
8: Take a Step Back in Time, Great Gatsby Style
The Edison is one of the newest spots at Disney Springs. Themed after a 1020’s Gothic “steam-punk” style, you’ll be blown away by how huge this place is. With seven (yes seven!) separate themed areas, three bars and two stories, Edison has such an immersive feel, you’ll swear you went back in time.
During the day, the Edison provides a playful dining experience that’s completely family friendly. But after 10 pm it transforms into an Adult-only venue focused on craft cocktails and Cabaret entertainment that’s even somewhat risqué (by Disney standards) making this an ideal date night destination.
Every night features a live band, costumed burlesque style dancers, aerialists, contortionists, and other variety entertainment acts. The food is American style with a twist, I loved the Edison Burger and the Cheesecake pop tree for dessert is super cute.
The Edison is located near The Boathouse in The Landing section of Disney Springs. You can park at either garage as it’s centrally located to both. Parking is free. You can make advance reservations at The Edison through Open Table, and they also take walk ups but expect a wait on the weekends.
These are just a few of the fun things you can do around Disney – there is so much to experience! If you haven’t yet, make sure you sign up for my free weekly WDW newsletter. I’ll show you the best things each week so you don’t miss out on any of the best Disney World has to offer.