Walt Disney World property encompasses more than 25,000 acres. And while the number of rides and attractions keeps growing, so does attendance and the cost of admission at the theme parks. But inside a complex twice the size of Manhattan, there are plenty of things to do that don’t require a park ticket at all – and some of those activities are even free. It’s possible to spend a fun-filled week at the resort without stepping foot into a park the entire time. Here are 10 ways to spend a week at Walt Disney World without going to the parks:
1. Explore your resort – and others nearby
Walt Disney World is home to more than 20 hotels on property, and each of them have their own distinctive themes. They also each offer their own unique experiences that are available for anyone who visits – not just their own guests. For example, you can listen to a pianist in the luxurious lobby of the Grand Floridian, view the geyser that erupts every hour on the hour outside of the Wilderness Lodge, and take photos in front of the massive pop culture icons at the All Star or Pop Century resorts. You can see exotic animals at viewing areas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and butterflies at gardens at the Contemporary Resort and Fort Wilderness. Free tours are available at some of the resorts, and even if you’re not staying on property, you can get a three-hour parking pass from a gate attendant for free. If you hit a monorail resort, you have a fast track to visit neighboring resorts, and you can even get an overview of the Magic Kingdom and (with a quick monorail change) Epcot.
2. Head to the Boardwalk
Disney’s Boardwalk is full of activity, but it’s also just a great place to walk around or sit and enjoy the 1940s Cape May or Coney Island atmosphere. It’s also beautifully lit at night. There are often street performers, such as jugglers, fire-eaters and jazz ensembles, that are free to watch. There are also shops and restaurants, as well as vendors selling treats next to the lake. You can play carnival-style games or rent an old-fashioned, fringe-topped surrey, and end your evening at the dueling piano bar Jellyrolls or Atlantic Dance Hall.
3. Don’t discount Downtown Disney
An entire week could probably be spent solely at this destination, which features a dizzying array of shops, restaurants and entertainment. And as the area transforms into Disney Springs, even more options will be available. Right now, some fun, free things to do in the area include listening to live music at House of Blues and Raglan Road and getting your hands on thousands of LEGO blocks at the LEGO Imagination Center.
4. Play ball – or at least watch it
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a must-see for sports fans. The Atlanta Braves train here each spring, and the site also hosts various athletic competitions throughout the year. There are arenas, gyms, a stadium, fields and complexes for track and field and tennis, as well as an ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill, on more than 200 acres. Admission is less than $20 per person, though some events might require higher ticket fees.
5. Take in a show
Options for entertainment are nearly endless outside of the parks. Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, billed as “a boundless and festive journey of the imagination,” is offered nightly at Downtown Disney for about $60 to $140 for adults, while the Spirit of Aloha luau is presented with a tropical feast at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for about $70 for adults. If you’re in the mood for something a little more down-home and country, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness also offers dinner and a show for about the same price as the Spirit of Aloha.