Disney World: Things to do that aren't just rides

Updated: Feb 16

Disney World has been a massive part of my life and has affected me in a million different ways throughout the past years. So, when I found out I’d be spending Summer 2020 working at Universal Studios, I already knew I’d have to save for that Disney annual pass.

No matter how many times you visit, there will always be 100 more things to add to your bucket list. I decided to write a short bucket list to give you guys an idea of some fun things I’m hoping to do this summer and maybe inspire your next trip!

I will be doing a separate list on all the food and drinks I’m hoping to try, so don’t worry too much about the lack of food yet. I will also be writing a bucket list for all things Universal, so look out for both those posts in the future…

Magic Kingdom

Be in the park before opening

This may seem like an impossibility, how can you go in the park before it’s open to the public?

Disney now offer packages that allow guests to visit the parks before opening, giving them more time to ride the rides and explore their surroundings. Having more time, and less people, in Magic Kingdom means much better pictures of the castle too. This package includes breakfast at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and allows you to explore New Fantasyland at your own pleasure. The total cost is $89 per adult and $79 per child. If you would rather save some money for the Disney merch, there is a cheaper alternative. If you book a restaurant reservation early enough, you’ll get a chance to experience an almost empty Main Street while you walk to your meal.


Watch the Dapper Dans perform

The Dapper Dans are a barbershop quartet that can be found on Main Street USA throughout the day. The show lasts around 20 minutes and classic American songs are performed, mixed in with some Disney-esque humor.


Do the Keys to the Kingdom tour

This is the tour I seem to read and hear about the most. The price for the tour is a little pricey at $99, however I do definitely think it’s worth it after hearing so many great reviews. This is an extremely popular tour, so I’d recommend booking well in advance. The tour gives you the chance to learn some awesome tidbits and facts about the park, as well as the amazing opportunity to explore the “utilidors”, the underground tunnel system that is used to transport items and cast members from one place to another in the park. Lunch is included, as well as a keepsake to remember the day!


See the Kiss Goodnight

The Kiss Goodnight is a mini-show that is put on after the park closes every night, wishing the guests leaving a good night. The show includes the castle lighting up, the playing of “When You Wish Upon a Star” and a little speech thanking guests for their visit. The show roughly runs every 20 minutes after closing, although this can change nightly.


Become a Galaxy Defender

If you’ve ever taken a ride on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, you may have noticed the chart at the end of the ride, which lets you allocate a position in the Space Cadet scheme based on your score. The top score gets you the title of Galaxy Defender, a pretty high score to get. I’ve never been very good at this ride, so getting a high enough score would be a miracle!

EPCOT

Go to all the Epcot Festivals

Throughout the year, Epcot holds a few festivals to draw in the crowds, especially in the quieter seasons. In January - February, the Festival of the Arts takes place, while in the Spring the International Flower and Garden Festival takes over. The summer stays festival-free, before both the International Food and Wine Festival and International Festival of the Holidays takes over in the Autumn and Winter, respectively. The festivals usually include the World Showcase being kitted out with booths celebrating the theme, mostly selling food and drink specialities. The festivals get their own exclusive merch, and normally get a mascot in the form of a popular Disney character.


Finish a kidcot project

This is something my family and I have attempted, and sort-of seceded in doing. It’s a really sweet activity that can be enjoyed at any age. Kidcot stations are areas where cast members will share a bit about there home country with you and will give your family the chance to colour and create some free souvenirs. Often sold in a few of the shops in Epcot, guests can purchase little kits that include a passport, stickers and a badge. These kits are a fun way of collecting stamps and drawings from Cast members from the 11 countries represented around World Showcase. You can find the Kidcot locals pretty easily, but if not cast members will be happy to point you in the right directions


Fully explore the World Showcase.

The world showcase is by far my favorite part of Epcot, maybe one of my favourite parts in the whole of WDW. If you don’t know, the World Showcase is comprised of 11 lands, all designed to feel like countries from around the world. These countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom and Canada. They include beautifully designed architecture, stores and restaurants that include some staples of the countries. I love looking at all the different products that you can buy (window shopping is always fun) and eating all the awesome food.


Pick a pearl in Japan

The Japan pavilion includes the very impressive Mitsukoshi Department Store, I could literally spend hours here there’s so much to do and see. One thing I’ve never had the chance to do, but have always wanted to do, is the pick a pearl experience. At the kiosk, you can pick an oyster for the cast member to take your own pearl from. The price to do this is $16, but it does cost extra if you want to turn your pearl into jewellery.


Take the Behind the Seeds Tour

This tour is one of the least-expensive I’ve ever seen at WDW. It’s also another pretty popular one, but does run quite often. The tour takes you “behind the seeds” of the slow moving “Living with the Land”. From what I’ve read and seen, it seems like a pretty interactive tour, that's especially good for families with children. I love “Living with the Land”, so I’d love to get up close and personal with some of the wilder things growing there. The cost of the tour is $25 for adults and $20 for children.

Animal Kingdom

Take the "Wild Africa Trek Tour" ($189-$248)

This tour lets you get a closer (but still safe, don’t worry) view of the amazing animals in the park. Heading off on a rope climb through the enclosures, you’ll get a high view of creatures like hippos, giraffes and crocs. I’ve heard really great things about this tour, but I’ll admit my fear of heights will probably put me off trying this one. Animal Kingdom is my favourite park so this is one tour I would really love to, especially as it includes a gourmet meal. The price of the tour ranges from $189 to $248, so it’s definitely one to save for. I think, however, if you love animals and are looking for something a little adventurous, this is one to try!


Watch DeVine perform

DeVine is a performer who can be pretty hard to spot, thanks to her tree like costuming. It also pretty hard to find any information on where and when she performs, so seeing her is a treat! We’ve spotted her a few times but have never stopped to watch the full show, so this is definitely something I want to try and see in the future.


Become a Wilderness Explorer

This fun activity is sort of similar to the Kidcot projects I mentioned earlier. Go to the Wilderness Explorer booth close to the Tree of Life, and get inducted into the Wilderness Explorers. After that you need to complete the nature-focused activities around the park in order to earn badges. If you have a spare day and are looking for something a bit different to do, this sounds like a fun and cute way to explore Animal Kingdom.


See the tree of life awakening

Every night, the Tree of Life “awakens”, giving guests a beautiful lightshow. The show runs around every 10 mins after it gets dark, so don’t worry about missing it.


See Festival Of The Lion King

This is one show I am desperate to see. Having seen the Lion King tour in the UK, and loving it, I can’t wait to experience a similar experience in Florida. The show is located close to Tusker House restaurant in the park, and lasts around 30 minutes. It shows a few times a day, but you can check out the correct times for your visiting day on the My Disney Experience App.

Hollywood Studios

Dine with an Imagineer

I wasn’t going to include this, as it’s more of a food bucket list item (which is a whole other list), but I just wanted to highlight how great it sounds. For around $60, you’ll dine at Hollywood and Vine and chat to an Imagineer that’s worked or work for Disney. The types of roles these imagineers have vary, so chances are you won’t be dining with the people in charge of designing the new Galaxy's Edge. Still, this is a fun way of trying new food and getting a better insight into the way the parks are run from the people who run them.


Be chosen to participate in the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular

I’ll be honest, I have no idea how this happens. That doesn’t, though, I’m not desperate to be chosen to participate. Getting the chance to sneak behind the scenes of a classic attraction would be so much fun, even if that means probably embarrassing myself in front of those people.


See the nighttime spectacular Fantasmic

Another thing I’ve done before, this show is a classic WDW must-do. The show is cute and super nostalgic, so if you’re looking for some good old Disney magic while in the park, this should be on the top of your to-do list.

Around WDW

See the Electrical Water Pageant near the Magic Kingdom

I got the chance to view this special - almost secret - show while sitting on the beachfront of the Fort Wilderness Resort in 2013. It a real old fashion parade and will give you major 80’s vibes while you sit and listen to the retro music and watch the bright colours. You can view the pageant starting at the Polynesian Resort at 9 pm, before it travels around the seven seas lagoon. You can view it from The Polynesian, Grand Floridian,Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, Contemporary and from the entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Make sure you check the times for the day you want to view the show, as times and locations can change.


Explore all the stores at Disney Springs

Disney Springs has changed a lot over the last few years and expanded extensively. There are so many unique, luxurious and interesting stores to explore. From the world's largest Disney Store to top name brands like Kate Spade, there’s plenty to look at and explore here. You could certainly spent a day just exploring Disney Springs.

Explore the Resorts

This is a must do! If you’re short on time, my recommendation would be to explore the monorail resorts. From the grandeur of the Grand Floridian to the level of detail in the Polynesian, these resorts are the height of Disney luxury. Another favourite of mine is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I love watching tours of the AKL and noticing all the amazing details that the imagineers put into the spectacular resort.


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