How to tour Disney World resorts (even if you’re not staying there)

(Article last updated: June 27, 2017)

The 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, and Disney Springs aren't the only things to see at Disney World; there are also a couple of dozen Disney World resorts you might want to spend some time touring during your trip (especially if they are convenient to where you're already planning to be).

Today we have some ideas on how to tour Disney World resorts, including what to do at each one (many activities are even free!), and how to get there using Disney transportation.

If you're staying at 1 of the resorts, you'll have even more things to do than what's listed below, including special tours and poolside activities.

Let's take a look ...

First, some basics

How to get there

In each of the touring ideas below, we've included info on how to get there using Disney World transportation and the WDW Prep Navigator. You can also drive to the resorts and ask for a 3-hour parking pass to check out the resort, or you can pay $25 to valet for the day.

If you plan on driving, it is important to note that during the holidays (or other busy times of the year), the resorts on the monorail may ask anybody without a dining reservation wishing to tour the resort to park at the Transportation and Ticket Center.

What you CAN'T do when you tour Disney World resorts

Most areas of the resorts are available to visit, but you will not be able to go to the pools at the resorts as a non-guest because they require a room key (MagicBand) from people staying at that resort.

Recreation schedules for all resorts

Many of the items listed below have additional details available on the resort recreation schedules, so be sure to check those links for more info on things you can do when you tour Disney World resorts.

Tour 1: The Magic Kingdom Resort Area monorail loop

The Resort Monorail near Magic Kingdom includes stops at The Contemporary, Polynesian, and The Grand Floridian.

How to get there: In general, the easiest way to get there is to go to the Magic Kingdom and then take the Resort Monorail or walk to the Contemporary. For more specific instructions on how to get to any of the resorts on the monorail from anywhere in Disney World, use the WDW Prep Navigator.

It's worth noting that there is now security before boarding the monorail, so you'll need to do that at each stop.

When to visit: At the end of a Magic Kingdom day, as part of an afternoon break, or on arrival/departure day when you don't want to enter a park but would like to keep busy. The holidays at Walt Disney World are an especially popular time of the year to visit the monorail resorts because of the ornate decorations you'll find inside.

Stop 1: The Contemporary

(View the Contemporary recreation schedule)

The first thing you'll notice at The Contemporary is that the monorail goes right through the middle of the building which is fun, especially for kids. The Contemporary Resort is one of the two resorts located on property when Walt Disney World opened in 1971. In addition to the view of the monorail, guests and visitors are also treated to a multi-story mural designed by artist Mary Blair who is famous for her work in Disney's Peter Pan & Alice in Wonderland and is responsible for the unique color and design of the It's a Small World attractions.

It is not by chance that this resort is situated closest to Tomorrowland as its futuristic style serves as an ideal backdrop to the attractions located there.

tour disney world resorts

Once you step off the monorail, you can:

  • Go downstairs to visit the big arcade
  • Head outside on the Bay Lake side to the marina where you can participate in water activities like parasailing, water skiing, wake boarding, and tubing. You can also rent jet skis or have guided tours of Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. The marina is open from 9-5 in the summer and 10-5 in the winter. More info (including prices) can be found at SammyDuvall.com
  • View the Electrical Water Pageant that passes by The Contemporary a few minutes after 10 p.m. each night. You can watch it from the beach on the Bay Lake side.
  • Visit the nightly campfire which takes place on the beach (free)
  • Take part in the Pirate and Pals Fireworks Voyage which departs from The Contemporary (make reservations ahead of time - $72.00 for adults, $43.00 for kids age 3-9)
  • Watch a movie under the stars which is offered nightly (check the recreation schedule to see which movies are being shown each night)
  • View Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach (or make a reservation at California Grill and you'll be able to watch from the observation deck)
  • During the holidays, check out the holiday village made of gingerbread and chocolate that sits near the monorail platform

Stop 2: The Polynesian

(View the Polynesian recreation schedule)

The next stop on the resort monorail is The Polynesian, the other hotel on-property that opened in 1971 along with the Magic Kingdom. The Polynesian Village Resort is laid out with a collection of longhouses and newly constructed over-the-water bungalows which all surround the Great Ceremonial House (which is where you'll find the monorail stop for the resort). Very heavily themed to resemble the South Pacific islands, the Poly is home to several popular restaurants as well as the Spirit of Aloha dinner show.

Be sure to check the Tikiman Pages activity info for more details on the activities listed below and for other helpful info.

polynesian

Some things to do at The Poly:

  • Stop by Tambu Lounge for a Lapu Lapu, a delicious alcoholic drink served in a pineapple, or head to Trader Sam's for one of their surprisingly strong drinks
  • Get a Dole Whip, one of the most popular Disney World snacks, available at Pineapple Lanai (often much easier to get here than the Magic Kingdom location)
  • Visit Lilo's Playhouse to participate in fun activities like arts & crafts, movies, video games and more (some activities may have a small fee associated with it)
  • Take a walk on the beach
  • View the Electrical Water Pageant from the beach which passes by around 9 p.m. each night
  • Watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach
  • Listen to Polynesian storytelling at the Grand Ceremonial House every evening at 8:30 p.m.
  • Watch the torch lighting ceremony in the Grand Ceremonial House Tuesday-Saturday at 6 p.m.
  • Take hula dancing lessons at the activity area (behind the lobby) Monday-Saturday at 3:45 p.m.
  • Join the nightly campfire at the activity area from 6-7 p.m. Marshmallows and s’mores are available for purchase.
  • Watch a movie under the stars (check recreation schedule for which movies are being shown each night)
  • Rent boats or bikes (more info here)
  • Get hair wraps from noon-5 p.m. (cost is $1.50 an inch and accessories cost extra)

Stop 3: The Grand Floridian

(View the Grand Floridian recreation schedule)

Thankfully, you don't have to have a grand budget to enjoy some of the activities at The Grand Floridian. The Grand Floridian is a AAA Four Diamond award winning resort and spa. Much newer than the other 2 resorts on the monorail (it opened in 1988), the Grand Floridian's exterior most closely resembles the Hotel del Coronado located in Coronado, California.

The Grand Floridian oozes Victorian-era style and is home to the adults-only (no children under 10) award-winning Victoria & Albert's restaurant.

grand floridian

Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to piano music that plays in the lobby each day beginning at 3 p.m.
  • Walk on the beach and relax in a hammock or lounge chair for awhile
  • Shop at 1 of the great stores (we like Basin White for their beauty bars)
  • Watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beach
  • Participate in a "magical moment" at 3:30 daily in the lobby where Cinderella and Prince Charming do a waltz in the lobby and kids are free to join in
  • Visit the Wedding Pavilion which is a building located within walking distance
  • Watch the Electrical Water Pageant from the beach (usually comes by The Grand Floridian a bit after 9 p.m.)
  • Get a portrait drawn in the lobby from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. daily (pastels and charcoals available - prices start at $145)
  • Grab a drink at Mizner's Lounge as the orchestra plays Big Band music nearby
  • Rent watercraft (see details and prices here)
  • Watch a movie under the stars (check the recreation schedule to see which movie is being shown each night)
  • During the holidays, see the 16-feet-tall gingerbread house in the lobby (smaller versions are available to purchase)

Tour 2: Visit Ft. Wilderness

(View the Ft. Wilderness recreation schedule)

Opening shortly after the Magic Kingdom in 1971, Ft. Wilderness immerses guests in the natural beauty of Central Florida. True to Disney standards, you'll find that Ft. Wilderness consistently receives high reviews from its guests and is often at the top of "Best Campground" lists.

There's so much to do at Ft. Wilderness (not to be confused with Wilderness Lodge which is a totally separate, but nearby, resort) that we are putting it in a category of its own as you could make a whole day of it.

ftwilderness

Here are some of the things you can do at Ft. Wilderness:

  • Roast marshmallows with Chip and Dale at the campfire near the Meadow Trading Post. Bring your own marshmallows or buy them at Chuck Wagon. Takes place at 7:00 pm in fall and winter and about 8:00 pm in spring and summer. This event is free.
  • Go on a gentle 45-minute horseback ride at Tri-Circle D Livery. These rides are offered several times a day (weather permitting) and cost $46 per person. Riders must be 9-years-old and at least 48 inches tall. There's a maximum weight of 250 pounds per rider.
  • View the Electrical Water Pageant from the beach/marina area around 9:45 p.m. each night
  • Take part in an Archery Experience. Participants must be at least 7-years-old, experience lasts for 90 minutes and costs $45. Offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. Walk-ups are accepted or you can book 180 days in advance by calling 407-939-7529.
  • Watch a blacksmith affix horseshoes to Cinderella's ponies at The Settlement.
  • Ride a pony from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. - for children at least 2 years old, weighing no more than 80 pounds and no taller than 48 inches. Cost is $5 and only cash is accepted.
  • Go on a wagon ride at 6:00pm or 8:30pm from the front of Pioneer Hall. A fireworks wagon ride is available on some evening at 8:30pm for the 9:00pm fireworks at the Magic Kingdom (an audio track is played). The cost is $8 per adult and $5 per child (age 3-9) and availability is on a first come, first serve basis (no reservations available).
  • Take a carriage ride for a 25 minute ride through Ft. Wilderness. Rides take place from 6 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. and cost $45 per carriage. Reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-PLAY.
  • Visit the marina between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. and rent watercraft/boats or call 407-939-2277 to book a fishing excursion

Tour 3: The Epcot-area resorts

The Epcot-area resorts are all located around Crescent Lake and include the Boardwalk area.

How to get there: The Epcot Area resorts are accessible from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. For specific instructions on how to get to any of the Epcot Area resorts from anywhere in Disney World, use the WDW Prep Navigator.

When to visit: At the end of an Epcot or Hollywood Studios day, or on a non-park day

All of these resorts are accessed by walking so you can visit them in any order, but let's just start with The Beach Club (which is the closest to Epcot) & The Yacht Club, which is right next to it.

Stop 1: Beach Club and Yacht Club

(View the Beach & Yacht Club recreation schedule)

The Beach and Yacht Club are sister resorts that are both elegantly themed after the buildings and homes you might find along the east coast. The Yacht Club is known to be the more formal of the two, while the Beach Club has a slightly more laid back feel about it which is reflected in the colors and styling of the indoor and outdoor amenities.

beachclubyachtclub

While The Beach Club and Yacht Club are fabulous places to stay, there isn't a huge amount for non-guests to do here, but there are a few things:

  • Ask somebody at guest services about the Disney trivia scavenger hunt
  • Grab an ice cream at Beaches and Cream
  • Enjoy a campfire and movie on the beach in the evening (check the recreation schedule for details). Marshmallows and sticks are provided but other s'mores ingredients have to be purchased separately.
  • Rent watercraft from Bayside Marina
  • During the holidays, check out lots of Christmas decorations, including a large, edible carousel at The Beach Club and an edible train at The Yacht Club

Stop 2: The Swan and Dolphin

Designed by Michael Graves, these resorts are easily recognizable by the statues that sit on top - one, a 56 foot nautical dolphin and the other a 47 foot swan.  Although the Swan and Dolphin aren't technically Disney resorts, they enjoy some of the same amenities, including being in a prime spot among the Epcot-area resorts.

Here are some things to check out there:

  • Rent a swan paddleboat
  • Walk along the white sand beach
  • Order a Smoking Sangria at bluezoo bar
  • Play miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens which is a 5 minute walk from the Swan/Dolphin

Stop 3: The Boardwalk

(View the Boardwalk recreation schedule)

Designed to draw on memories of the famous boardwalks that graced places like Atlantic City in the 20's, Disney's Boardwalk is a short walk from any of the other Epcot Area resorts.

There's the Boardwalk Inn resort, and then there's the Boardwalk area just outside of it. Most of the recreational activities will be located on the Boardwalk and are open to anybody who happens to be in the area.

boardwalkarea

Some things to do in the Boardwalk area include:

  • Rent a surrey bike to bike all the way around the water in the Epcot-area resorts
  • Enjoy Boardwalk entertainment that often includes midway games, jugglers, and magic shows (usually available in the evenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday)
  • Grab something to eat at the Boardwalk pizza window or the Boardwalk Bakery
  • Cool off with some ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery
  • Visit Jellyrolls dueling piano bar (cover charge applies)
  • During the holidays, go inside The Boardwalk Inn to see an edible, miniature version of Atlantic City, complete with Ferris wheel, carousel, and beach which sits in the lobby alongside other seasonal decorations

Tour 4: Animal Kingdom Lodge

(View the Animal Kingdom Lodge recreation schedule)

Located next to Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge is surrounded by 3 savannas (these are not the same savannas as the ones in Animal Kingdom Park) which are home to over 100 grazing animals including giraffes, zebras and kudu. In addition to the beautiful theming outside, Animal Kingdom Lodge hosts one of the most impressive lobbies of any of the resorts at Walt Disney World.

Not only is this resort one of the most beautiful of all of the Disney World resorts, it also happens to have several things to do if you'd like to make the journey over there to visit it.

animalkingdomlodge

How to get there: You can drive or take a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. For specific instructions on how to get to Animal Kingdom Lodge from anywhere in Disney World, use the WDW Prep Navigator.

When to visit: At the end of an Animal Kingdom day, as part of an afternoon or evening break, or on arrival day when you don't want to enter a park but would like to keep busy

These are the kinds of activities that are often available to anybody visiting the resort (ask for a schedule at the front desk):

  • Watch the flamingo feedings at the flamingo pond
  • Participate in animal tracking at Arusha Rock
  • Enjoy music of the Savanna, wildlife games and cultural safari in the Sunset Lounge
  • View animals in the dark with night vision binoculars
  • Decorate cookies at Boma daily at 1:30 p.m. (and it's free!)
  • Outside at the Arusha Rock (walk through the lobby, toward the savanna), there is nightly African storytelling next to Ogun's Firepit, with storytelling held indoors in the event of inclement weather.
  • During the holidays, check out the big Christmas tree with themed ornaments decorating the lobby

Tour 5: the Port Orleans resorts

Known for their elegant yet laid back style, the Port Orleans resorts are designed and themed to reflect the look of Louisiana with French Quarter mirroring the flair found in its namesake in New Orleans, and Riverside designed to reflect the buildings and boats located in and along the waterways of the Deep South.

Between Riverside and French Quarter, Riverside is the much larger of the 2 and has more amenities, but both have things you might want to check out. Be sure to check out the PortOrleans.org recreation info for more info.

portorleansmap

How to get there: You can drive, catch a bus, or take a boat from Disney Springs to these resorts. For specific instructions on how to get to Port Orleans French Quarter or Port Orleans Riverside from anywhere in Disney World, use the WDW Prep Navigator.

When to visit: If you're already planning some time at Disney Springs, you might tack on a couple extra hours to visit 1 or both of these resorts.

Stop 1: Port Orleans Riverside

(View the Port Orleans Riverside recreation schedule)

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 4.58.19 PM

Here are some of the things to do at Riverside:

  • Take a boat to Disney Springs
  • Book a 25-minute carriage ride for the evening ($45)
  • Stroll along the river
  • Rent a bicycle or surrey bike (more info here)
  • Watch a movie under the stars near building 90
  • Enjoy a Campfire on de’ Bayou campfire near the pool bar at dusk with stories, sing-alongs and marshmallow roasting (marshmallows and sticks are free, other s'mores ingredients should be purchased separately)
  • Go cane pole fishing early in the day (available 7 a.m.-1 p.m., costs $4/person which includes bait)
  • Visit the arcade
  • Get your hair braided at the marina from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily ($2 per inch, beads are extra)
  • Have a caricature drawn in the lobby in the evening ($15-25)

Stop 2: Port Orleans French Quarter

(View the Port Orleans French Quarter recreation schedule)

You can get to French Quarter from Riverside by walking 10-15 minutes (you might consider walking along the river as it's beautiful).

Here's what you can do at French Quarter:

  • Order some beignets in the food court
  • Watch movies under the stars in the open area between buildings 4, 5 and 6
  • Enjoy a Cajun Campfire with roasted marshmallows, storytelling and sing-alongs in the courtyard behind building 6 (marshmallows and sticks provided for free, other s'mores ingredients should be purchased separately)
  • Play in the arcade
  • Have a caricature drawn in the lobby in the evening ($15-25)

The rest of the resorts

The remaining Disney resorts don't have as much to do, but you might want to check out some of these things if you happen to be at 1 of them.

All-Star Resorts and Pop Century (view the recreation schedules: All-Star Movies, All-Star Sports, All-Star Music, Pop Century)
Take pics with the huge icons that are located throughout the 3 All-Star Resorts, visit the food court, or play in the arcade.

Art of Animation (view the recreation schedule)
Enjoy walking around the resort as it's one of the most heavily-themed and newest created, take a free drawing class in the lobby, eat in the food court, rent a surrey bike by the lake, or go to the arcade.

Caribbean Beach Resort (view the recreation schedule)
Walk along the water, relax in a hammock, rent watercraft or bicycles at the marina, eat in the food court, or visit the arcade.

Coronado Springs Resort (view the recreation schedule)
Make an appointment at the hair salon, play in the arcade, have a drink at Rix Lounge, rent watercraft and bicycles/surrey bikes at the marina, work out in the health club, or visit the spa.

Old Key West (view the recreation schedule)
Rent bicycles or surrey bikes, go fishing, watch a movie under the stars, attend a campfire, or visit the community hall for things like foosball, ping-pong, and shuffleboard.

Saratoga Springs Resort (view the recreation schedule)
Rent bicycles or surrey bikes, go fishing, watch a movie under the stars, attend a campfire, play golf, or visit the community hall for things like foosball, ping-pong, and making ceramics.

Wilderness Lodge (view the recreation schedule)
Since Wilderness Lodge is located between the monorail resorts and Ft. Wilderness, you could tack on time here if you're interested in checking it out.

While there, you could:

  • Rent a boat or bike
  • Have a caricature drawn
  • Watch a movie under the stars
  • Grab a drink and appetizers at Geyser Point which provides a relaxing view along the water
  • Go to the arcade
  • Take a guided tour of the resort at 9 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday
  • View the Electrical Water Pageant from the boat dock (usually around 9:30 p.m.)
  • Check out the Lincoln Log table near Whispering Canyon Cafe
  • Watch the 120' geyser go off every hour behind the lodge from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m.
  • Look for hidden Mickeys on the Wilderness Lodge Mickey Hunt
  • During the holidays, check out the 60-feet-tall tree that fills the lobby

Note: there isn't a great view of Magic Kingdom fireworks here.

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Did you learn some new things? Or do you have additional items you'd add to this list of how to tour Disney World resorts? Feel free to share in the comment section.

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Diana Douglas

This is a great guide. I’m reading it sitting in the Grand Floridian lobby where we are looking around prior to the Magic Kingdom fireworks. We parked at Wilderness Lodge and got the boat across, a lovely trip in itself.

Tanesha

I am a Florida resident and have had no problems doing any of these items sense I found the website on last year. I drive to the properties and tell them i want to visit the property show my license and spend the whole day there. This includes swimming and dining with my husband and 6 children.
I have used all accommodations and have also explained to some staff that i just came to visit for the day and they stated that people do it all the time. I’ve used all methods, driving directly to the property, catching the bus and the monorail.
I’m not sure if it’s because I am a Florida resident but I have not had any problems at all. I have been up front and honest.

Lisa

If you are staying at a Disney Resort can you have access to all the hotels amenities? i.e. Staying at Port Orleans but want to use the Polynesian’s Pool?

Nicole

My family is going to Orlando this June and are staying off site. We are only visiting Animal Kingdom, but I want to visit the Polynesian Resort to try a Dole Whip. Can I park at the resort without being a guest? Is there a fee?

Or can I transport there from AK?

Or is there a shuttle from Downtown Disney that will take us to the Polynesian without being a resort guest?

What do you recommend?

Tara Ellerbe

Thank you for this blog! We used it to visit a couple of the resorts. Just a note about The Polynesian in regards to Lilo’s Playplace. We were not able to go in for activities. This is a child’s drop off for parents who want to go out to dinner without kids. There is a flat rate of $55. I didn’t ask whether or not you needed to have a room because I assume you do to use the service. We actually spent about an hour at the resort beach and that was a great way to let the kids burn off some energy. We could see Cinderella’s castle and watch the ferry go in and out. Also, we attended the Princess Promenade at Grand it didn’t start until 4pm. It was a lot of fun to see Cinderella and Prince Charming although it wasn’t shorter than I expected. They didn’t allow photos with them or autographs. The whole experience was less than 5 minutes but my four year old daughter enjoyed it.

Thanks for the great tips. We went to Disney World Orlando in April and it was great. The weather was nice low-mid 80’s. This was right after the spring break period so the crowds were also much less than usual. We took a Uber from I-Drive to the Disney Ticket and Reservation center at Magic Kingdom and it didn’t cost us anything, Free! We used a free ride code which I listed below. Which was great! Our hotel did offer a shuttle bus to the park but we decided to use Uber cause we didn’t was to ride in a late and crowded bus as the shuttle had picked up passengers from adjacent hotels before it reached us.

The driver picked us up within 4 minutes of requesting the car and we got to the Ferry terminal at Magic Kingdom about 15 minutes late. We also took an Uber back from the park to our Hotel at 11PM and the fare was just $7.50 for 4 passengers. The Uber driver was friendly, told us where he would pick us up and we went back to the hotel in a nice, clean, AC cooled car. Wonderful experience and we would definitely use the service again.

Feel free to use my code zakr121ue for a free Uber ride or $15-20 off

We also posted videos from our trip on our Youtube channel, please check it out 🙂
Enjoy!

Lara

I just found this and it’s made me very happy because we cannot afford Disney and that’s all I want for my birthday. If I can stay somewhere cheap and visit the resorts that will give me some Disney without the price. I’ve been wanting to tour the resorts to plan my 50th birthday vacation when Disney turns 50 as well. I’ve seen conflicting things about doing the campfires. Are you sure we won’t get in trouble for joining in roasting marashmallows? I really want to do it but don’t want to get in trouble !

Tracy Griffin

This is great – thank you! I wanted to let you know that the activity calendar for Beach & Yacht Club is going to January vs June (http://image.emails.disneydestinations.com/lib/fe9d15737d66047d71/m/8/PWR1FAKD.pdf)
Thank you for all the great info as usual – I appreciate you!

Andrea

You said that the two Port Orleans resorts used to be one big resort called Dixie Landings. That’s not true – Port Orleans Riverside was called Dixie Landings and Port Orleans French Quarter was simply called Port Orleans. I stayed at what was then Dixie Landings twice and visited what was then Port Orleans on each occasion so I know what I’m talking about.

Karen

We will be staying off site near Universal without a rental car and going to Magic Kingdom for one day next month (February). We would like to end our day at MK with a drink at Trader Sam’s at the Polynesian. How late does the monorail from MK to the Polynesisn run? We were going to stay until the park closes, probably finishing up with souvenir shopping at the Main St USA shops. Just wanted to make sure we don’t miss a ride to Trader Sam’s. And do you think Uber would be the cheapest bet for a ride back to our room from the Polynesian? We’re about 30 minutes away.

S L

obviously your trip has already occurred, but to anyone else reading the comments: The monorail shuts down one hour after park closing. The My Disney Experience app will list closing times for the parks. You can look at days months in advance or double check it day of, and just know that transportation will cease an hour after the listed time.

Trader Sam’s is usually open until 12:30am Sun-Thurs, and 1am Fri-Sat.

Disney hotels actually partner with MEARS buses that will take you to Universal, but if memory serves, you have to schedule them in advance. Which might not be conducive to a night of heavy tiki drinking! But I’ve also used Uber and Lyft with great success. Living in NYC, those car services are more expensive than cabs here, but Ive found them plenty reasonable in Orlando (though there is some weird feud between car services and cab drivers, with cabbies trying to claim Disney as their turf. So go ahead and order the cheap Lyft car, just dont be surprised if a cabbie gives you the evil eye).

Karla

I was told you can not visit the resorts unless you have dining reservations or are staying at that resort, is this accurate? We’re planning on visiting in January 2017 and had hoped to take pictures with the Cars at Art of Animation and look around Animal Kingdom Lodge.

S L

Whoever told you this was likely referring to parking, not visits in general. Some resorts, particularly the Magic Kingdom ones on the monorail have to be strict about their parking. There are plenty of people who try to drive in and park at a resort instead of the ticket/transportation center, and with a finite amount of space, they need it for the guests actually staying there.

I don’t think this is a huge problem with Art of Animation since its not super close to a park, so you could probably park there just fine. And at Animal Kingdom Lodge, you could always tell them you have a reservation at Jiko or Boma. Of course, taking Disney transportation will solve all parking problems!

Cathy

We are staying at art of animation in November and I have reservations for Sanaa in the animal kingdom lodge if we aren’t staying in that resort can we still dine there?

Linda

That isn’t true. You can visit any resort by taking a bus, monorail, or car. We do it all the time. We do stay at one of the resorts but for most of the time don’t have restaurant reservations at any of these hotels. I am a DVC member and have been for 18 years.

Hanna L Garrett

Hi Linda,
Off topic question regarding visiting resorts I am not staying in. What Disney resort do you recommend that is right off the Monorail that I could go to as a non-guest to sit in the hotel lobby/bar area and work on my laptop for a few hours? Im staying at Parc Soleil resort off site but wanted to work closer to the parks so when I am done I can join the rest of the family at Magic Kingdom!

Racquel Quema

Is it free to participate in campfire in the Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge if you’re not staying at that hotel?

Becca

I don’t know how I sm just now stumbling upon this great article!!!! But, we were just there a week ago and we went by the rec guides, and I am seeing photos pop up of all the main characters in patriotic clothing! How did we miss these meet and greets at some of the resorts? We would have loved to have seen at least one! I was hoping you could shed some light for me!! Thanks a bunch!

DMK

I love this post. We wanted to stay at Ft Wilderness but just couldn’t afford it and now I can’t believe it, we can visit!!! We are staying off-site. We would like to spend a full day at Ft Wilderness including viewing the Electrical Water Pageant from the beach/marina area around 9:45 p.m. but how would we get back to Magic Kingdom where our car would be parked? (worried) Would transportation still be running at this time? I’m sorry if this is a silly question. Planning is a bit overwhelming and with a 5&8 yr old in tow, I need to know what I’m doing!!! Thanks again – brilliant post, really informative.

Funny – I never thought of jumping into the swimming pool when visiting disney world. But than again – it’s always good to know all those hints, I think.

Libbi Thomas

Hey, if we are planning to stay off site, what is the best way to get to Ft. Wilderness in order to do the campfire/watch fireworks one night? Could we just drive there in our own car, or should we ride our hotel bus to the TTC and ride the monorail…to where? Is there a stop at the Ft. Wilderness? Also, just to double check, it is free to go to the resort and do the campfire? I am really looking forward to this, and Breakfast at Chef Mickey’s since we won’t be going to any of the parks on this Orlando trip. Thanks!

Mindy

I will be staying off campus soon and would love to take advantage of the activities such as the wagon rides and smores with Chip and Dale at Fort Wilderness however guest services stated that these are only for resort guests. Again, we will not be staying at a Disney resort nor will we be visiting any parks other than the water parks. This is conflicting with everything I can find online. Can you tell me how this works? I have never visited Fort Wilderness so I am unsure of how this is set up to enter without being a resort guest. Thanks in advance!

Libbi Thomas

Awesome! Thanks a lot!

Julie

We will be in Orlando next week for a babymoon and plan to use our free day to check out all the resorts listed above. Would you suggest an order? Like which ones would you do in the morning, afternoon, and night?
Also, since we have all day, would we have enough time to see all of them if we took buses from Downtown Disney to one “tour”, back to DD (or a park) to another “tour”, etc? Or would driving to each tour be quicker?

Karis

This is a great article. By getting to know the resorts maybe one day I can convince my husband to splurge and stay at a WDW Resort :).

Can off-site guests attend movies under the stars and the campfires?

Also on our last night in Orlando we want to finish off our vacation watching MK fireworks but we are not doing any parks that day. Can we go watch them at the Contemporary, Polynesian or Grand Floridian?

S L

Anyone is welcome to take part in those (note: Disney cast members are required to say that they are for “resort guests” if you ask them…because Disney wants to entice people to stay at the resort. But there is no check in happening for movies or campfires).

All three monorail/MK resorts have great viewing spots for the fireworks. I would choose Polynesian, you can grab a lovely spot on the beach, or if you’re lucky get one of the few hammocks or lounge chairs.

If you want to make a real evening of it, do as the author suggests and book a reservation at California Grill around the fireworks time. At 9, everyone leaves there tables and heads to their observation deck to watch the fireworks. They even pipe in all the music. Its wonderful. The restaurant isnt cheap, but its by far the best place to eat in all the resort, with amazing service. I think it is still the only michelin star restaurant in all of Florida. Perfect for a fancy date night

sarah

I did not see the how to get there section under fort wilderness for the chip and Dale campfire. We are staying at art of animation, but really want to do this one night. Thanks so much!!

Mars

If I am renting a house in orlando and want to visit the disney resorts , can we take a bus from Downtown disney and go to the resorts without any problems? or do we need to be staying at a resort to take the buses?

Hi Shannon!
Great article!
Last year we stayed at Disney Port Orleans Riverside Resort and the highlights, apart from the beautiful landscape of the resort itself, were attending to Yehaa Bob and riding the carriage at night.
This year we are staying off-site and were wondering if we will be able to use the Food Court before attending to Bob… And sorry to ask again but do you think we’re really going to be able to ride the carriages without a room key?
Thanks you so much!

Cecilia

Hi Shannon,

If I am just planning to walk around and take a few picture a by the xmas decorations. Can I visit them all in 1 day?

Thank you,

Cecilia

Margaret

We are taking a large group (22) of our kids and grand kids to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ the first night we arrive. We will not have park tickets. (We have 4 day hopper passes for everyone starting the next morning). Can we see Magic Kingdom fireworks from where the BBQ is, or do you have a suggestion? We are staying at Disney All Star Movies resort. Thanks!

Erin

Would we be allowed to eat/drink at a pool bar at a resort we aren’t staying at?

Amanda P.

Are we able to attend the arts and crafts classes at the community houses of resorts we are not staying at? I see there is a fee for them, except cookie decorating at Boma, so I’m hoping its open to all guests.

Alaine

Thanks for this post, I love trying to visit other resorts, the goal is always one new one each trip! This year it’s the yacht club… I am hoping Captain’s Grille is good! I was wondering if they still have horse drawn carriages at Port Orleans? Or maybe you didn’t list them because maybe they are only offered to resort guests?

Stacey

I noticed that you list the wagon rides at Fort Wilderness as being nightly at 7 and 9:30. The Disney website has them listed at 6 and 8:30. We are planning to do this on our arrival night after dinner at Trail’s End. Is it possible that Disney changed the times?

Stacey

Thanks for calling! We have our ADR scheduled for 4:30, so that should work out perfectly.

Addi

Hi there! If you are staying on site at another resort and have a magic band, is it possible to visit another resort’s pool?

Catillac

Crumbs! Resort Guests used to be able to visit other resorts’ pools (at least for Deluxe Resort guests?). Was this an easier thing for WDW to control with the Magic Bands? Any noises about whether this might change in the future?
Not too thrilled about the tighter restrictions. :-/

Nicole Parrent

Hi!! I don’t think I saw the segway tour listed on there for Fort Wilderness. We just did it and it was GREAT! 🙂

Jillian

We have a trip planned for the first week in December and we are hoping to visit a few resorts to see their holiday decorations. Would you recommend visiting the resorts on the Magic Kingdom monorail loop or walking to the Beach Club & Boardwalk? We have a daughter who will be almost 4. Thanks!

Angela from Ohio

On Halloween or Christmas party nights – we take that day to sleep in. Then do a few fun things at our resort. Finally, we head out around 2 pm to see the monorail resorts decorations before heading into magic kingdom.

Another idea I’ve gotten from some of your past touring articles is too book dinner at an Epcot resort on the way back from an Animal Kingdom day since that park closes early

Rose

This is great! We’re not planning on going to any parks our first and last day, plus we wanted a day to take a break in the middle of our vacations. I’m so glad there are so many things to do at the other resorts. This will be our first time visiting and we want to see and do as much as possible.

What a great idea for an article….loved reading all of this info, as the resorts can be so much fun to visit! If you want to do more than just look around (since they’re all so wonderfully themed), this is a fantastic summary of the activities!

Linda

Hi Shannon,

Great article.

I’m just a little confused about where to pick up the resort monorail. When you say to go to the Magic Kingdom … is it actually the Ticket and Transportation Center that we want?

Thanks.

Jennifer Stachler

We have dinner plans one (non-Disney) night at 1900 Park Fair in the Grand Floridian. We want to take the monorail for the experience with the kids. So, if we are staying off-site, plan to drive to MK to take the monorail, how long will it take us to arrive there if it is stop #3?? Our reservation is at 5:40pm and we are driving from the Reunion Resort. Thanks! Love this post, by the way!!!

JB

We just did this today for lunch and from the parking lot (Hook), on the tram, through the resort monorail from the transportation/MK entrance to 1900 Park Place, it took us about 25 minutes on a non-busy day. When you get off at Grand Floridian, the retaurant is downstairs.

Mandy

Can you ask to see an empty standard or DVC room when you visit a resort as part of planning your next vacation?

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