Congratulations! You’ve just arrived in Orlando! Perhaps you flew right into MCO and taken Disney’s Magical Express to your resort hotel. Or, maybe, you saved a bit on airfare and flew into Tampa and drove. Or, it’s possible that you drove all the way down from somewhere in the Southeast — or even further.
No matter what method you used to arrive in Orlando, here you are. And you know what you want more than anything else? Some time to stretch your legs.
Thankfully, you don’t have to do jumping jacks in the hotel room to satisfy this urge. In fact, the Walt Disney World property and surrounding area is full of great places to get out and walk around. Let’s take a look at just a few.
If you were looking for some place to spend an afternoon relaxing, an evening out, or all of the above, Disney Springs is just the perfect spot. With hundreds of shops, dozens of restaurants and snack opportunities, live music, movies, bowling, and tons of room to walk around and explore, Disney Springs is the perfect arrival day activity.
Some spots, like The Edison, Ragland Road, and the Landing stage, offer dancing and music to entertain you into the wee hours of the morning. Others, like Dockside Margaritas and Ghirardelli, give you an awesome guilty pleasure to enjoy while you stroll around the property.
If you’re feeling particularly stir crazy, you can even walk to Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort or take a boat to Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts.
It’s nice to move around a bit after getting stuck in a middle seat, and there is nowhere better than Disney Springs.
The Magic Kingdom Resort Loop
The famed “Monorail Bar Crawl” is perfect for parties of 21-and-older guests, but even if you aren’t looking for libations, the Magic Kingdom Resort Loop is the perfect place to explore on the first night of your Disney vacation.
For one thing, each property offers quite a lot to see on foot. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is an expansive property with tons of open space to see, bars to check out, and restaurants to snack within. Disney’s Contemporary Resort includes the famous Grand Canyon Concourse — full of shops and snacks galore. It also has, high above the Walt Disney World property, the California Grill restaurant and bar. And, closer to sea level, it boasts a wonderful lakeside view and walking area.
And then, of course, there’s Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — complete with bars and snacks and a full-sized beach that is rarely crowded at its outskirts.
If after circling the three resorts you still haven’t stretched your legs enough, fear not — there’s a walking path between the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian that features excellent views of the Magic Kingdom Park. That’s just the thing to get you excited for your vacation.
Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
If you’re looking for something a bit more manageable than Disney Springs in size, Disney’s Boardwalk Resort is the centerpiece of the Crescent Lake entertainment zone — an area comprising the Boardwalk, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and the Swan and Dolphin.
This area includes over a dozen restaurants, midway games, surrey bike rides, shopping, art, and a few arcades. It’s a delightful spot to explore on arrival night, with beautiful lights and colors, hopping music, and incredible ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery or Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.
And, because this area is only really accessible to those using Disney transportation or willing to take an Uber or Lyft, it tends to be a bit less crowded than Disney Springs as well.
The Mall at Millennia
It might seem silly to go all the way to Orlando just to check out a mall, but the Millennia Mall is a delightful shopping area with plenty to explore. Malls are similar wherever you go, so if you’re looking for a uniquely-Floridian experience, this probably isn’t the spot for you.
But, if you’re a mall person — and you know if you are — Millennia Mall is a good one to check out. With a Bloomingdales, an Apple Store, and several other high-end jewelers and fashion brands, it’s definitely more of a high-end mall than anything else. So, as long as you either have money you’re willing to blow or you’re someone who’s exceptionally well-disciplined, it’s a fun place to go window shopping.
And, with a solid food court and plenty of decent chain options nearby, it’s can provide a relatively inexpensive meal to start off your trip.
So long as you arrive after 6:00 PM, self-parking at Universal CityWalk is free. This is something that is definitely worth taking advantage of, because CityWalk — particularly at night — is one of the best spots to check out in the Orlando area.
There’s a ton of shopping, great food, dance clubs, karaoke clubs, and even a movie theater — all there to keep you entertained on arrival night. And, if you really want to walk, there are footpaths and a ferry to the other deluxe resorts, including the Hard Rock Hotel and Portofino Bay Hotel.
CityWalk, unlike Disney Springs, is located right at the entrance to both Universal Parks — which means you can both get a great glimpse at the offerings at either if you’re planning to check them out on your trip. Or, you can even take a picture in front of the iconic Universal Globe.
CityWalk is definitely worth checking out, and the free after-6:00 PM parking makes it a great arrival night activity for those with cars.
Orlando World Marriott
If you really want to do something a bit off the beaten path, the Orlando World Marriott is a massive space that can be a lot of fun to explore.
With several restaurants and snack shops, as well as soaring atriums and outdoor walking spaces, the Orlando World Marriott is as much a resort space as it is a hotel. There’s a ton to see — from the amazing pool area to the hotel’s own hydroponic garden — and while some areas are limited to guests, most of the resort area is totally open for you to explore.
If you’re looking for something expansive and busy to give you a lively first night out, the Orlando World Marriott isn’t quite as solid a choice as Disney Springs or CityWalk. But if you want something slightly lower key, and a bit more relaxing than exciting, it’s a solid option.
No matter what, night one of your vacation is worth coming up with the energy to get out of your hotel. It can be tempting to just call it a night early, but there’s so much to see and do in Orlando, you’ll be glad to set the tone with a fun night out.
And your legs will be just as happy for the opportunity to unkink after a long travel day.