What to Do on Your Down Day at Walt Disney World

Written by Jessica Ma'ilo. Posted in Park Wise

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parkwise

Published on January 16, 2014 at 3:01 am with 28 Comments

If you’ve been reading over the last year, you know I’m a fan of taking a day off from the hustle and bustle of the parks during your Disney World trip.  After all, this is a vacation, you should at least have one relaxing day, right?  If you’re like me, though, you can’t spend your whole day lounging in the room when there’s so much to do outside your door.  Here are a few fun activities to try on your down day at Walt Disney World.

1. Explore Your Resort

Spend the morning sunning in a lounger.  Check out the activities being offered in the common areas.  Join in on the afternoon pool party.  Walk around aimlessly taking in the sights, sounds and feel of the Disney hotels in motion.  If your cash is burning a hole in your pocket, peruse the gift shop(s) or patronize the restaurants.  There’s so much to do at each Disney resort that you could easily fill a day.

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Get Resort Wise: Some resorts offer free guided tours of the hotel and grounds.  Check with the concierge or front desk to see if your resort hosts a tour and for the most up-to-date times and days.  These are open to anyone, so if you’re a fan of, say, Wilderness Lodge, you are more than welcome to hop on the tour whether or not you’re a guest of the resort.

2. Visit Downtown Disney

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After sleeping in, head over to Downtown Disney for brunch (or lunch depending on how late you slept) and shopping.  There are a wide variety of restaurants from Cuban to comfort food.  If you’re feeling adventurous, you can grab a bite in the rainforest or surrounded by dinos!  World of Disney is a favorite shopping stop, but there are a plethora of other retailers in the shopping and entertainment district to appease almost any shopper.  As the day goes on, you can usually catch live music or other performances.  Be sure to top off your visit with your free sample at the Ghiradelli.  Who am I kidding?  Go for the sundae.

3. Resort Hopping

We love to visit other resorts for meals, shopping and atmosphere.  Each resort offers its own distinct feel and flavor, so take some time to explore.  Grab a dessert at each of the hotels on the monorail line. Get one of every pressed penny at both Port Orleans resorts. See who can get the most creative pictures using the larger than life icons at the values.  Or just take your time and wander through the grounds.  We could probably spend a week at Disney World just visiting all of the hotels, particularly during the holidays.

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Get Resort Wise: Don’t have your own wheels?  Each resort can be accessed via Disney transportation using a park or Downtown Disney as a transfer point.  Of course, cabs are readily available if you prefer a more direct line.

4. Recreation and Spa

There’s no shortage of recreation opportunities at Walt Disney World.  Consider renting a boat for the afternoon and drift along the lagoon, or rent a couple of Sea Raycers and zoom around (carefully, of course!) with the family.  Water not your thing?  Consider pedaling a surrey bike around Crescent Lake or visit one of Disney’s world class golf courses.  For the ultimate relaxation, book a treatment (or a day) at one of the many lovely spas or salons on property.

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5. An Actual Down Day

Sleep ’til noon, call room service or pizza delivery and nurse your aching feet while reading your travel guide or catching some daytime TV.  If you need to get outside, float around the pool for a while.  If you have a balcony or patio, crack the door a bit and let the ambient music waft in while you lay back and relax.

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Do you take a down day when at Disney?  If so, how do you like to spend it?

 

About Jessica Ma'ilo

Jessica is a special education teacher by day and blogger and Fairy Godmother Travel agent by evening. When not supervising play dates or sleepovers, she can be found creating, sewing or singing. She loves hitting the Disney Parks, and she and her family escape to the World and Land as often as they can. She can be contacted at [email protected], and you can also check out her family blog, Magic, Memories, Mayhem.

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  • amyuilani

    I don’t know if they do this (and if they don’t, they should!), but if there were group wellness classes, like yoga, pilates, or other group exercise, then that would also be a great downtime activity. Yoga especially is a great way to re-center yourself. On my day off, an hour of yoga can really go a long way to helping me decide how to spend the rest of my day – laying by the pool like a lump or getting some active tasks in. Seriously, if they don’t offer such things, they really should. I think it would go a long way with guests, both the everyday and the “I always wanted to try it” folks.

    • Big D

      I’ve never seen that at a Disney resort, but if they do offer it, then it’s probably only a resort that has a spa, which would be either the Grand Floridian, the Saratoga Springs, or the non-Disney Swan & Dolphin.

    • I know that Shades of Green offers yoga and zumba, and possibly meditation, but I’m not aware of any Disney owned and operated resorts that do this, but you’re right! Missing out on a great opportunity!

  • StevenW

    Many resorts, especially that of DVC, have actitivities for their guests. It can range from crafting, painting, games, sports, and social events. Usually materials and food costs are included. It is fun way of using the resort to the best potential. You can take home the craft as a souvenir of your trip.

    • The kids love stopping for the quick crafts, as well as the more involved ones. Some activities are free of charge, while some require a small fee. More information can be found in your recreation guide or via the concierge.

  • SueinSac

    We loved renting a boat at Disney! Highly recommend it for a totally different experience. Get behind the wheel and take yourself wherever you want to go. Get a completely different view of the property. It was great!

    • We’ve done the fireworks cruises but have yet to go out on our own. I guess one of us will have to learn how to drive? sail? pilot? a boat first. ;)

  • Big D

    As far as activities at your resort go, I’d think that the Contemporary & Bay Lake Towers have to be the number one place for that with all of the various water activities that they offer. I like staying in the Boardwalk area, where you can either walk or catch a boat to the Yacht & Beach Club or Swan & Dolphin. One of these days I’d like to stay at the Wilderness Lodge and go horseback riding (maybe a log cabin if it’s just me and a g/f). If you are a spa person then Saratagoa Springs is probably the best Disney resort, but I’d take the spa at the Swan & Dolphin because they have a Mandera Spa, which is supposed to be one of the best in the world.

    • Fort Wilderness has lots of fun campy (no pun intended!) activities! Another great place to spend a day away from the parks!
      I spent a heavenly morning at Mandara at the Dolphin on a “solo” trip. Really enjoyed myself and would do it again in a heartbeat, but I’m also ready to try out Senses, the new offering at the Grand Floridian.

  • EC82

    Twice, I went to WDW and never went to a theme park. That wasn’t my intention! But at both Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Polynesian, there was so much to do — and not just for kids. We also went canoeing, riding the water sprites, and spent a lot of time in the pool. We did go shopping but only at our resort, which had the most “unique” products available at WDW, which is saying something considering that most stores carry the EXACT SAME STUFF. We walked from Polynesian to TTC, took the monorail around to GF and Contemporary, and when we were at DAKL, we walked over to the DVC side. It doesn’t sound like much, but we spent three days each time feeling completely satisfied without ever going in a park!

    • Yes, I could definitely do that! It might be a little harder at the Poly with Magic Kingdom in view, but I could absolutely spend several days relaxing at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

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  • fnord

    If I had a down day in any on site properties in
    Orlando, I would probably go to the magic kingdom, then back to the Portofino, at days end.
    Living in San Antonio, when I want to do Disney, I go to Anaheim.

  • tututiara

    Do you have any tips for a down day for people not staying on Disney Property? :(

    • Stay at a Disney resort. ;)
      You can do all of these activities even if you’re not staying at a Disney resort. Unless you’re bunking at Super 8 or something. Exploring your resort may not be as entertaining in that case.

  • holierthanthoutx

    I wouldn’t call a day at Downtown Disney or any other part of the WDW resort a “down day.” It’s a day you don’t spend in the parks, but there’s nothing “down” about spending part of all of a day exploring resorts or Downtown Disney. There’s so much to see and do at each of those places.

    A “down day” is a day you go to a movie, or just hang out in your room or at the pool.

    Our family doesn’t do “down days,” simply because we’re passholders and we never feel like we have to spend the entire day in the parks. We’ll spend an afternoon resort hopping, or a morning at Downtown Disney, or go to a movie one evening, but we’ll spend at least a couple of hours in one of the parks every day of the trip. Since we make one table-service restaurant reservation for each day of our stay, we usually HAVE to go into a park for that, unless we’re dining somewhere like The Yachtsman, the California Grill or Ohana.

  • janvincent_1313

    Overs the years, I’ve been to WDW many times usually for 8 to 10 days at a time. Here are some things we did over the years.
    1] Drove to St Augustine for the day and took a tour of the old Spanish fort.
    2] Drove to The Cape and took a tour of Nasa and the launch area. [late husband was a Senior Scientist, so that was a given].
    3] Went to Universal for two days.
    4] Stayed by the pool all day at Yacht and Beach! [love the sand pool]
    5] Went to the Tupperware Museum. [yawn]
    6] Went to Disney-Hollywood Studios all day and didn’t ride any attractions, but took pictures of anyone wearing a Disneyland t-shirt.
    7] Went to Celebration and hung out.
    8] Went to a Schlotzsky Convention [with family] and ate sandwich samples all day. [Great free swag]
    9] Went to Universal and got photos with every face character available.
    10] Hung out at the Outlet Mall all day.

    • There are some great non-park ideas there! My gparents do St. Augustine for a couple of days every trip before they meet us at WDW. And I get definitely get on board with the outlet shopping. Well, any shopping for that matter.

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    I’m going to answer this honestly. Before Harry Potter opened at Universal, our “down day” was either at a Disney water park or it was splashing around in resort pool. We used to splurge and stay at a deluxe hotel back then, because we’d always build in a pool day in the middle of the trip as a break from the parks.

    Since Potter opened, though, we’ve changed our habits. Now, we go to Universal for a half day in the middle of the trip and do Potter (with a little time in Jurassic Park every other trip). The rest of Universal doesn’t much interest our family. Maybe when the boys are older they will like the rollercoasters at Universal, but right now we are just all about Harry Potter. We spend most of the day in Hogsmeade then walk around City Walk a little and then we had back to our resort. We stay at moderate resorts now because I just don’t see the point in paying for a deluxe if I’m not going to spend a whole day enjoying the facilities of the resort.

    When the Potter expansion opens, our “down day” from Disney will be spent at Universal doing the two-park ticket. Half a day in each side of Potter. I doubt we’ll go anywhere else in the Universal parks. To us, the Potter stuff will be a park within a park and we’ll have a wonderful time there.

    • You know, our crew has never expressed interest in Universal. Personally, I’d love to go one day because it’s been years since I’ve been. When the kids are more into coasters or get into Harry Potter we’ll make our way over there, I guess. I keep saying I’m going to hit Halloween Horror Nights during one of our fall trips, but it hasn’t happened yet. Haha! This year!

      • BradyNBradleysMom

        Oh, Jessica, the Halloween Horror Nights is too gruesome and gory for my family. I don’t like the bloody version of Halloween. I much prefer the bright colors and sweet fun of Disney’s kind of Halloween…spooky, not bloody. You are braver mom than me to be scaring it up at Universal during Halloween! :)

      • Come do Halloween with the MiceChatters this October Jessica. We’ll do Mickey’s Not So Scary and then Universal’s very scary Halloween Horror Nights!!!

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  • skipper03

    Every time we go, a down day is totally necessary! I’ve actually become a part-time Disney-Only Travel Agent here in West Texas since I was CP 2003 & we vacation at Disney so often… and I always encourage clients to build in a break day. Staying from Sat. to Sat. with the Tues. or Wed. off from the parks.

    For my family – the 3 must do’s this day are:
    1. Sleep in!
    2. Character Dining for brunch/lunch – usually at Grand Floridian or Contemporary with a few free laps on the Monorail. :)
    3. Followed by lots of pool time!

    If we feel like it we’ll hit Downtown Disney that evening too, but given the park pace we have on all other days, it’s SO nice to just enjoy this break day!

    Thanks Jessica – love your articles!

  • CaptainAction

    Between our families days at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, we leave Portofino Resort and go to see a movie at AMC theatre in Universal City Walk.
    We also like to play mini golf at the Sci Fi Mini Golf course at Universal Citywalk.
    If we decide to, we May go to Blizzard Beach or DisneyQuest for a day.