Do the words Free and Disney really go together? Absolutely! I want to tell you about one of my favorite free things to do at Walt Disney World: Resort Hopping.
Resort Hopping is just visiting other Walt Disney World Resorts that you are not staying at during your vacation. The first time I did this was on my honeymoon which was also my first Walt Disney World vacation. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (which I loved!) and I was dying to see all the other deluxe resorts. Especially since it was Christmas time! Ever since then it has been a tradition. We never go to the parks on the first day -we always resort hop! It’s free and fun and we have made some great memories doing so!
Here are my tips!
1. Instead of rushing into the parks when you first arrive (since you probably won’t get a whole days’ worth in the park), take the afternoon/evening to get your bearings and choose some resorts to hop to! This is a fun way to get into the Disney spirit and do some things you might not make time to do when you are running in and out of the parks! Plus, you can take it easy the first day, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up early ready to hit the parks the next day.
2. Enjoy the Electrical Water Pageant from any of the monorail resorts. This unique water parade happens every night around 9pm starting at the Polynesian and moving to the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and finally the Contemporary Resort. Sit on the Beach of the Polynesian or watch from the shore of the Grand Floridian, or the docks at Wilderness Lodge.
3. Take some time to enjoy Disney’s unique transportation options. The bus isn’t always the fastest or most exciting! Take a ride on the monorail, or even a boat ride! The boats are fun and available at many of the resorts! Your Travel Planner should give you information before your vacation on all the modes of transportation available at each park and resort.
4. Enjoy the Magic Kingdom Fireworks show from multiple resort locations. The Polynesian Beach is my favorite.
5. FOOD! (Not free but you gotta eat!, right?) Plan meals throughout your stay at different resorts; that way you get to experience multiple resorts AND eat some really great meals while taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Lunchtime or an early or late dinner are great times to do this. Don’t forget to plan ahead with Advanced Dining Reservations!
Some of my favorite resort restaurants are:
Boma or Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Ohana for dinner at the Polynesian Village Resort
California Grill at the Contemporary Resort
Olivia’s Café at Old Key West Resort
And of course there are multiple options for Character Meals!
In addition to Table Service Meals there are some great Quick Service snacks and meals be sure to check out the Zebra Domes at the Mara at Animal Kingdom, the Grand Graspy burger at Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand Floridian, Dole Whip at the Polynesian, The Hot Smoked Turkey Sandwich at the Contempo Café at the Contemporary, and of course anywhere you can find a cupcake it’s going to be great!
6. Campfires-Many of the resorts have Campfires in the evening with marshmallows and storytelling. Check with the front desk for times and locations.
7. Opportunities for great family pictures. Take photos in Radiator Springs with life size replicas of all your favorite Cars at Art of Animation, step into the movies of the Lion King, Finding Nemo, and the Little Mermaid with Larger than Life sculptures and characters also at the Art of Animation. See African animals up close at Animal Kingdom Lodge, take beach pictures at the Polynesian, or Family Portraits in the garden areas at Grand Floridian, and of course at Christmas time you can get some great pictures in front of the giant themed Christmas trees in each resort…the photo opportunities are endless!
8. Movies under the Stars. Offered at all Disney resorts, take one in at your own resort or hop to another! Outdoor movies on big screens for the whole family to enjoy. Craving a Dole Whip but not heading to Magic Kingdom that day? Grab a Dole Whip from the Poolside Quick Service at the Polynesian Village Resort and enjoy it while you watch the movie under the stars!
9. Shopping! I LOVE shopping at Disney Resorts. The gift shops offer things you cannot find anywhere else. I always find something fun at the Polynesian, Animal Kingdom, and Wilderness Lodge. Did you know you can shop for Vineyard Vines clothing and Basin products inside the Grand Floridian? Be sure to check out the gift shop when you are resort hopping.
10. Christmas Decorations. All of the resorts go all out for Christmas in terms of decor. This is what started my love of Resort Hopping anyway! Be sure to check out the lifesize gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian-it smells delicious!
11. Check out the daily schedule in any resort. Often there are contests, tours, educational and cultural experiences for kids, and lots of free things to do!
12. Visit the Boardwalk. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn has an actual boardwalk! Street performers, bike rentals, a dueling piano bar, sports bar, and ice cream shop. This is a fun place to visit, walk around, and take a break from the parks. Easy walk to/from EPCOT as well!
13. Visit a zoo for free! Who doesn’t like a visit to the zoo? Animal Kingdom Lodge has animals on property all the time. See giraffes, antelope, zebras and more! There are some great, quiet spots to sit out on the decks and just enjoy the peacefulness of the African Savanna.
Are you planning a vacation to Walt Disney World? I’d love to help you plan some fun and memorable experiences in and out of the parks! My services are always free when you book with me!
Aleshia Sokoloski, Travel Planner affiliated with Travel with the Magic
Specializing in Universal Resorts and Disney Vacations including Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line