- Resort Hopping
So one of the little known things to do at Disney is resort hopping. Much like Disney parks, Disney resorts are unique, tailored to a specific theme, and very interesting to walk around. You do not have to stay at a hotel to visit it and there are plenty of things to keep occupied with while hanging out. And, if you get bored with one, just hop on over to the next. There are around 30 different hotels on Disney property, and there is free transportation available to get from one to the next.
- Walk around Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom may be one of my favorite parks. It is nothing short of beautiful. Yes, there are rides, shows and characters to meet, but honestly, it is possible to just spend the day walking around the different areas of the park. The neat thing about Animal Kingdom is that it has a large focus on conservation efforts (for both animals and the environment) and so it is set up to almost double as a zoo. There are large animal habitats stationed throughout the park and guests are encouraged to watch the animals. There is also a ride (Kilimanjaro Safaris) which takes guests on an actual safari that is set up within the park, which I think is kind of cool.
- Disney Springs
Formerly known as Downtown Disney, this area is completely free to visit, making it the perfect place to hang out for those who do not want to spend all of their money on park tickets. Disney Springs is filled with shops, restaurants and activities for the whole family. It also has live musicians stationed throughout the area, and is open well after most of the parks close.
- World Showcase
Located inside Epcot, the World Showcase is a staple of any Disney visit. This is where many freshly-turned-21-year-olds go to “Drink around the World,” but there is so much more going on than that. There are eleven pavilions set up inside the world showcase, and each one represents a very distinct culture and people. All of the cast members that staff the pavilions are actually from the country it represents, and each pavilion provides wonderful opportunities to sample food from that country. There are also little shows inside a few of the pavilions that are interesting watch like “The Canadian Lumberjacks,” the mariachi band in Mexico and the “Voices of Liberty” in the American Adventure.
- Ride Tower of Terror
This one, I believe, is kind of a given. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is just too notorious of a ride to visit Disney without riding at least once. But notoriety aside, it has a very interested backstory, and seeing the decorations in the lobby and library portions of the queue are also a pretty good reason to ride. They are unique, and some of them are authentic, as in actual pieces of historical furniture. Just in case that is not enough though, it is a fantastic ride that I have honestly never heard someone say they did not like.
- Park Hopping
Much like resort hopping, it is possible to visit more than one park in one day. In fact, for guests with shorter stays, this is what I recommend. Visit each park, ride a ride or two, meet a character or two, and then hop on a bus to another one. If you have time and would like to go back to a park, that is totally alright. Park hopping is very fast-paced and takes a little bit of planning, but it is very fun. For guests going park hopping, I would definitely suggest starting with Animal Kingdom and ending with Magic Kingdom, this is because Animal Kingdom closes earlier and Magic Kingdom closes later than the rest of the parks.
- Meet characters (just not the princesses)
It is no secret that Disney is stock-full of characters, but the lines to meet the princesses can be long, like upwards of an hour. There are plenty of other character meets around the parks with much shorter waits, which means you can meet more characters in the same amount of time. At Magic Kingdom, try finding Alice beside the teacups, or Merida in her garden. Fairy Godmother usually meets by the castle walls in Fantasyland, and Peter Pan meets beside Peter Pan’s Flight. Chip, Dale, Donald, Daisy and sometimes Mickey and Minnie meet in different places in Hollywood Studios. Flik, Tarzan, Russell and Dug meet in Animal Kingdom. There are plenty of characters to go see.
- Dine with Characters
As my roommate, Mykaela says, “character dining is a completely unique experience. Even for Disney.” Character dining tends to be a bit pricier, but it is a guaranteed way to meet a character (or characters) that may not be available anywhere else in the park. For example, I met the Beast while character dining at Be Our Guest. In Hollywood Studios, there is a breakfast buffet where guests can meet Handy Manny, as well as Princess Sofia, Jake the Pirate and Doc McStuffins. The Polynesian Resort welcomes guests to dine with Lilo and Stitch at Ohana’s, and at 1500 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian, guests can meet the cast of Cinderella, including the stepmother and sisters, and Prince Charming.
- Ride all three Mountains at Magic Kingdom
Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain are three very different rides at Magic Kingdom, but three very thrilling ones. It is a “thing” to do (riding all three in succession), but the lines can get a bit lengthy, so I would recommend booking Fast passes for them. Space Mountain in an indoor roller coaster where each guest is in a separate car, completely in the dark. Splash is a slow moving boat ride with large drops and a fun theme. Then there is Big Thunder, the traditional roller coaster, meaning it is outdoors and guests sit two to a car. These three thrill rides are definitely a to-do on any Disney vacation.
Side note: Bonus if you can get on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train too.
- Nighttime Shows
I always feel bad when I see guests leaving the park before it gets dark. Yes, I know some of them are tired or have plans, but it just makes me want to tell them that they are missing the best part. The most magical, incredible thing at Walt Disney World is the nighttime shows. As of now, there are three/four: Discover the Magic and Wishes (which show back-to-back and are often lumped together as one) at Magic Kingdom, Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios and IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot. Each of these shows are beautiful and completely capture the Disney magic. No trip is complete without seeing at least one.