Joan and I have been to the Disney Parks over 50 times and love all of the resorts. Many times we discover new ways to have fun and spend nothing at the resorts. You don’t have to be staying at a Walt Disney World Resort to visit it. Resort Hopping is one of our favorite things to do outside of the parks. Each resort is so unique. They all are FREE and there are no strings attached when you hop from one resort to another. 17 of the items we have listed are relatively unknown and not promoted by Walt Disney Resort Hotels.
(Thank you to Shannon, WDW Prep School for image use)
Be sure to check out the amazing lobbies or fantastic restaurants. You can visit the hotels via bus, boats or Monorail, or even use Uber. If your visit is during the holidays, discover the many special decorations and gingerbread displays. There are nightly campfires and movies at all the resorts.
We encourage you to take a day or two and visit the resorts on a future vacation. Some activities are only available for resort guests, while others are available to anyone resort hopping. We suggest that you take your MagicBand/Key to the World card, as you may need it for identification.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
This is one of our favorites. The expansive lobby is filled with artifacts and bridges spanning the width of the room between the upper floors. Make sure you see the giant ostrich lamps. The hotel has its own recreated African Savannah, so the hotel guests can see gazelles a
nd zebras grazing outside of their rooms. You can see giraffes, and other grazing animals.
African wildlife – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge plays host to more than 30 species, including zebras, giraffes, gazelles, kudu and flamingos. You can see from
the elevated ‘kopje,’ or rock cropping, which allows guests to view the animals from yards away.
Animal Viewing –If you’re a hotel guest, there’s a special nighttime viewing available!
Tell Me A Story – Walk to the rear of the main floor and down the stairs. There is a nightly campfire with a storyteller. When the story is done you can If you miss the story, sit in one of the chairs, enjoy the fire and meet new friends.
Experience Night Vision– Disney Cast Members will be on hand at two viewing locations for 3 hours after dark with night vision glasses for watching the animals in their natural habitats, in the dark.
Resort Restaurants Tours – The restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offer free 30-minute tours. The three restaurants (Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko) offer dishes from African and India. To help folks feel comfortable with trying new tastes and flavors, the restaurants offer pre-dinner tasting tours featuring samples of their dishes. There are pre-dinner tours focus on the culinary selections and architecture with samples of their unusual cuisine. If you are at Sanaa for the tour, meet at the Sanaa podium at 4pm. The tour for Boma and Jiko, will meet at the Jiko podium at 4pm.
Go on Safari: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is not only a beautiful hotel; it’s also a haven for African savanna animals. Head straight through the hotel lobby outside to the Arusha savanna, where cultural guides will answer all of your questions about the giraffe, zebra, ankole cattle, kudu, and other incredible animals you’ll see. Animal Kingdom Lodge also has seated and covered viewing areas throughout the hotel. Bring binoculars if you have them. Tip: Visit early morning or at dusk, when the animals are most active.
Play Games – At the Community Hall at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village, you can play games like foosball, air hockey, pool, ping pong, darts and more. Guests may also make crafts, relax in the TV viewing areas, rent DVDs, join the “rainy day” activities and check out books. Amenities and activities are available to current Animal Kingdom Resort guests. Most are complimentary, while some are available for a fee. Also found in the Community Hall is a complimentary pool table. You will need your MagicBand/Key to the World Card.
Art of Animation Resort
Take a Run/Walk – Jog on the 1.38-mile trail that curves along Hourglass Lake, as you view the colorful courtyards inspired by Walt Disney and Disney/Pixar classics Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid. You can also walk over to the Pop Century Resort.
Take Photos – Finding Nemo, The Lion King, the Little Mermaid, and Cars themed decorations makes for excellent free backdrops for family pictures.
Take a Run/Walk – A 1-mile-long, paved jogging trail connects Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, Disney’s All-Star Music Resort and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort.
Take Some Photos – This is a resort worth walking around with a camera just to get some unusual photos of your family with Disney “characters” that do not involve standing in line at a theme park. Snap photos with Herbie, The Love Bug, puppies from Disney’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and residents of Andy’s Room from Disney’s Toy Story.
Play Sports – Play basketball on a half court near the shuffleboard and tennis courts. If you would like to play tennis, there are two lighted hard courts and water fountains, located in the sports court area. Complimentary equipment can be checked out from the Community Hall on a first-come, first-served basis.
Beach & Yacht Club Villas
Take a Run/Walk – At this location, you have your pick of several jogging paths, including a loop around Crescent Lake. Play on the lit tennis court near Admiral Pool.
Play Some Sports – Enjoy a rousing game of volleyball? There’s a sand court near Tidal Pool, and complimentary volleyballs may be checked out from the Ship Shape Health Club. You’ll need your your MagicBand/Key to the World card. Complimentary tennis balls and racquets for the tennis courts are available.
Holiday Decorations – During the Christmas holidays, visit the “Holiday Village” in the Beach Club resort lobby. The Village is created by Disney Cast Members. See if you can find the miniature train that winds around the “Holiday Village” and then over to the sugar rock mountain.
The Edible Carousel – During the Christmas holiday season, you can see a large, edible spinning Holiday Carousel. It has been there for the past 17 years. Look for the hidden Mickey’s hiding in the carousel’s decorations.
Take a Run/Walk – This 0.75-mile-long path, loops around Lago Dorado. Why not extend your outing with a jogging trail that leads to the Ranchos and Cabanas and reveals an idyllic wetlands area. Take a run or walk along the 0.9-mile path, along the scenic trail that loops around the 22-acre Lago Dorado.
Play a Sport – Join a friendly volleyball match on the white-sand court by the Dig Site pool complex. Volleyballs can be checked out from Siesta’s pool bar by Guests with your MagicBand/Key to the World card.
Let the Kids Play – The Dig Site pool complex has swings and a fantastic kid’s playground for a quick break.
Caribbean Beach Resort
Take a Run/Walk – This 1.4-mile walkway circles Barefoot Bay.
Play a Sport – Join a friendly volleyball match on the beachside court at Barbados Village. Volleyballs may be checked out at the Marina by Guests with your MagicBand/Key to the World card.
Contemporary/ Bay Lake Tower Resorts
Contemporary Hotel- This is one of the oldest hotels at Walt Disney World, and was built using modular construction, meaning the frame of the building was constructed here, while all of the rooms were constructed off site. The Contemporary is one of the Magic Kingdom hotels, built between the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake.
The Contemporary has a large open lobby, with all of the rooms on the upper floors above. The monorail passes through and stops right in the lobby. On the top floor of the hotel, there is a great and very expensive restaurant called the California Grill. Surrounding the restaurant, there are pathways going out onto the roof of the hotel, providing great views of the surrounding area. These stairs wind up the slanted outside walls of the building all the way up to the pathways going across the Contemporary’s roof, even when the California Grill elevators aren’t running.
Take a Run/Walk – Circle Bay Lake Tower and the South Garden Wing on the 0.9-mile, paved jogging path.
Play a Sport – Join in or start a beach volleyball match on the lakeside court. Complimentary volleyballs can be checked out at the Boat Nook Marina with your MagicBand/Key to the World card.
Kids Games – Check the chalkboard in the children’s area in the main lobby for games and crafts offered by the recreation team. Many of the Cast Members will play games and do crafts by the huge floor to ceiling windows. The location is on the other end of the building from Chef Mickeys on the Grand Canyon Concourse level.
Play a Game – Inside the Bay Lake Tower Community Hall, you can play pool, ping-pong, foosball, board games, puzzles, DVDs and rent video games. Equipment for basketball, bocce ball, tennis and shuffleboard can also be checked out here. Guests will need your your MagicBand/Key to the World card.
Gingerbread Holiday Tree – During the Christmas holidays on the Grand Canyon Concourse, there is an enormous gingerbread holiday tree that is decorated with candy canes, ornaments, and presents. Disney Characters drop in here for photos.
Grill Out – Resort guests can utilize the outside BBQ grill for dinners, located on the lower level.
Join me next post for 39 FREE things to do at the Walt Disney World Resorts: Part 2.
- About the author:
- Howie DiBlasi is a retired educator, business owner, author and an Ed Tech consultant. He is a life long Disney fan that began in 1959. He has been blogging about Disney, travel and technology for the past 8 years.
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