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4. Disney’s resorts (and all they have to offer)

Giraffe on savannah at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge
Image: Disney

In truth, many of Disney’s incredible resort hotels are attractions in and of themselves.

You don’t have to be a guest at Disney’s resorts to enjoy their benefits—with the exception of occasional limits on pool areas, visitors are free to explore and enjoy Disney’s resorts with little restriction.

Some of Disney’s best resorts for resort-hopping are the Magic Kingdom resorts. Each holds individual charms, from the Grand Floridian’s enchanting grounds to relaxing in a deck chair at Disney’s Polynesian to watching Magic Kingdom fireworks from the decks of the Contemporary Resort. Epcot’s resorts are also delightful destinations to explore (the Java Bar at the Walt Disney World Swan remains the best place we’ve found to get a cup of coffee at Walt Disney World). Further away, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is a particularly nice stop with its roaming animals and impressive selection of restaurants.

Another reason to visit Disney resorts: de-stress with a trip to the spa! The most well-known are Disney’s two Senses Spa locations at the Grand Floridian and Saratoga Springs resorts. Both are excellent—unfortunately, neither has reopened fully since closing for the pandemic. The good news is they aren’t the only spas at Walt Disney World—both the Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin and the spa at the Four Seasons Orlando (nestled in Disney’s Golden Oak neighborhood) are currently open for treatments, offering access to relaxing spa facilities throughout the day of your visit.

5. Dining

Couple taking selfie with Minnie Mouse at Topolino's
Image: Disney

Some of the best dining locations at Walt Disney World are actually found outside the parks, mostly at Disney’s resorts and entertainment districts. We already mentioned some of the options at Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk, but those are just the beginning.

Disney’s resorts offer an incredible selection of dining option. Some favorites, including Jiko and Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club, and Grand Floridian’s famous AAA Five Diamond winner, Victoria & Alberts, remain closed following the pandemic. Fortunately, many other excellent resort dining locations have opened up, including Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Narcoosee’s and Citricos at the Grand Floridian, Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, and the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

Disney’s resorts are also a great spot to visit for more casual meals. Kona Grill at Disney’s Polynesian Resort is famous for its breakfast (particularly the Tonga Toast), and the Cape May Café at Disney’s Yacht Club continues to offer incredible seafood dining. Need to catch a bite to eat at odd hours? We recommend visiting Picabu Market at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. This nearly-24-hour eatery is a little challenging to find but offers some of the best counter-service options at any Disney resort including a noteworthy taco and burrito bar.

6. Water recreation

Couple in amphicar at Disney Springs
Image: Disney

Walt Disney World sits on over 25,000 acres of land—much of which is actually made up of conserved Florida wetlands.

Guests can enjoy Disney’s expansive system of waterways through several forms of water recreation. Boat rentals have historically been the most popular means. During normal seasons, guests could rent pontoon boats, Sea Raycers, and Montauks from several Disney resorts to explore Disney’s waterways at your own pace.

At the time of this writing, motorized boat rentals are still limited, but there are other ways to get out on the water. Canoe and kayak rentals are still available from Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, as are “Amphicar” guided tours from the Landing by The Boathouse in Disney Springs. Guests of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin can also rent paddleboats for free as part of their daily resort fee. Guests can also book a catch-and-release fishing excursion with Disney.

7. Golf, golf, golf,

Lake Buena Vista golf course
Image: Disney

If golf is your cup of tea, Walt Disney World will be your new Most Magical Place on Earth—the resort is home to three championship golf courses (all of which were previously part of the PGA tour), as well as a walking course, and three mini-golf courses.

The three main courses are Disney’s Lake Buena Vista course (near Disney Springs), the Disney Palm (near the Shades of Green resort for U.S. Military families), and Disney’s Magnolia (the resort’s longest course). Disney also offers a walking course, Oak Trail. All of Disney’s golf courses have undergone recent renovations and improvements in previous years, resulting in superb playing conditions.

Care for something a little more lighthearted? Disney is also home to three mini-golf courses: Fantasia Gardens and Fairways (near the Walt Disney World Dolphin) and Winter Summerland (near Blizzard Beach and Disney’s All Star Sports resort). While the Fairways course is a little more reserved, the other two courses are whimsically themed with impressive holes and obstacles for guests to navigate. We’ve always enjoyed our visits to Fantasia Gardens, in particular—a fun way to spend an evening away from the parks.

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