Image: Disney

Despite our love for Walt Disney World, it’s fair to say theme parks aren’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea. Indeed, they can be downright stressful places if you aren’t caught up in the throes of the magic.

There are dozens of reasons you might find yourself visiting Walt Disney World despite being someone who just isn’t into the theme park experience. The most common scenario is the family vacation—you’ve agreed to go along with a Disney trip, but it certainly wasn’t your top choice for a relaxing getaway. Maybe you got invited along for an outing with friends or you just didn’t have much of a say in the matter. Likewise, maybe you started off excited about finally visiting the Most Magical Place on Earth, but the crowds, non-stop stimuli, and general clamor of the parks just wears you out.

The nice thing about Walt Disney World is that it really is designed to have something for everyone. If you know where to look, you can find hidden refuges throughout the Most Magical Place on Earth where you can enjoy an experience that doesn’t feel anything like the usual theme park noise.

Not feeling the usual theme park craziness? On your next Disney vacation, take some time to discover these unlikely gems…

1. Take a spa day

Woman gets a massage at Senses Spa
Image: Disney

If there’s a place where a trip to the spa can prove a game-changer for a stressed out adult, it’s Walt Disney World. Fortunately, Disney has not just one but three different spas on-site for tired adults looking to unwind.

Senses Spa, run by Disney, has two locations—one at The Grand Floridian Resort near Magic Kingdom and another at Saratoga Springs Resort near Disney Springs. Currently, only the Grand Floridian location has reopened since the pandemic closures. Both spas are excellent, offering services including massages, facials, specialized treatments, hot tubs, steam rooms, and all-day access to relaxing facilities throughout the day of your visit.

The Mandara Spa at the Walt Disney World Dolphin near Epcot is another great option. Themed after a southeast Asian sanctuary, Mandara offers a more traditional adult spa experience with an impressive range of treatments and packages designed to encourage maximum serenity and relaxation. Because they aren’t owned by Disney, you may find more options for discounts through SpaFinder, Groupon, and credit card rewards than you would with Senses Spa.

The last option is the spa at the Four Seasons Orlando, located in Disney’s Golden Oak neighborhood. If you are looking for maximum luxury in a secluded location that feels worlds away from the parks, this is the place to go. You can expect to enjoy Four Seasons’ world class service, incredible treatments, and access to gorgeous facilities and grounds during your relaxation time.

2. Explore the serene corners of World Showcase

Japanese Garden in Epcot
Image: Flickr, Terry Ballard (license)

Epcot remains the ideal park for Disney guests who aren’t into the traditional theme park experience. Often considered Disney’s most adult park (though that isn’t entirely accurate), Epcot is home to some of Walt Disney World’s best shopping, restaurants, gardens, and festivals.

If you are looking to enjoy a less hectic time at Disney parks, one of the best places to explore is World Showcase—11 pavilions representing an idealized picture of countries from around the world. It remains one of the best places in Walt Disney World to take your time and free explore. While we enjoy the entirety of World Showcase, there are a few spots you definitely will want to linger at if you want to get away from the craziness of the park for a bit.

Our favorite refuges are Epcot’s gardens, located in the pavilions for Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan (up the stairs by Katsura Grill). These expertly curated havens are some of the best places in Walt Disney World to slow down and enjoy a little calm and beauty. The garden at the Canada pavilion is particularly vibrant, and we love the peaceful bonsai garden in Japan.

Some of the pavilions also offer quiet refuges tucked away from the normal bustle of the park. Our favorite is Morocco, a maze of tiled courtyards, marketplaces, and peaceful fountains. This is one of our favorite pavilions to just sit and take a breather. Another great place to explore is the mini-museums located throughout World Showcase, such as those in Norway and Japan.

3. Take a break in the quietest part of each park

Tiger mom and cubs at Maharajah Jungle Trek
Image: Disney

If you’re visiting Walt Disney World with family, you will probably spend extended time in the parks. If you find yourself needing a break but unable to leave the parks entirely, it’s a good idea to know some of the best spots to regather your calm.

Epcot does have several options beyond World Showcase. While it does involve taking a short kids’ ride, the aquarium area of The Seas with Nemo and friends is an excellent place to slow down and watch the dolphins, fish, and manatees. Spaceship Earth is another excellent attraction if you’re looking to unwind for a few minutes. Throughout the parks, you will also find plenty of quiet refuges, such as locations along the World Showcase lagoon waterfront.

If Epcot is one of the easiest parks to find a quiet refuge, Magic Kingdom is definitely the trickiest. As Walt Disney World’s most attraction-packed park, it can initially feel impossible to find anywhere to get a break. Our favorite choice is taking a raft trip over to Tom Sawyer Island. While it may sound counter-intuitive, the island is home to a surprising number of quiet spots, including several porches with seating and rocking chairs. If Tom Sawyer Island is inaccessible due to closures, an alternative is to take a ride on the PeopleMover in Tomorrowland or to visit the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse in Adventureland if it isn’t too busy.

Similar to Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom is another park that makes it surprisingly easy to slow down and take some peaceful time for yourself. The busiest places in the park all surround major attractions, so your best bet is to explore the park’s walking paths. The Discovery Island Trails offer a simple walking experience that isn’t usually packed with people. We particularly enjoy the Maharajah Jungle Trek and Gorilla Falls Trails in Asia and Africa. We especially love finding a seat in the aviaries and watching the birds. Alternatively, if you find yourself in the World of Pandora at night, you may be able to find a quiet corner to take a moment for yourself in an otherworldly setting.

Last, we have Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Your best bet is to visit Star Wars Launch Bay or Walt Disney Presents, a pair of museum-style attractions that offer limited seating in an air-conditioned space. Launch Bay offers more spaces for relaxation but sometimes has limited hours, while Walt Disney Presents is quieter but more compact. At nighttime, we have also found some surprisingly peaceful spots throughout Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.


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