Last year I embarked on an opportunity of a lifetime to partake in the Disney College Program at Disney World in Orlando, FL. From May until December, I worked in the parks making magic for families from all over the world. Thanks to the unlimited access to all four WDW theme parks, I became well educated on all things Walt Disney World. Not to mention, I gained a nice discount at sit-down restaurants and resorts. What I found was that many families focus on doing the popular things like riding Space Mountain instead of enjoying the hidden gems on Disney property. If you’ve simply gone on Space Mountain too many times, this is for you! Here is my list of not-so-obvious family activities at Walt Disney World.
Yes! There is a boardwalk at WDW, and it’s right across from Hollywood Studios. Nestled in the backyard of the Yacht and Beach Club Resort, this outdoor location has everything from the ESPN Club to a piano bar named Jellyrolls. What makes it perfect for the family is its mix of outdoor arcade games, incredible restaurants, and various shops located around the waterway. Whether you rent a bike, catch the big game or dine at the famous Flying Fish Cafe, your family will love this underrated Disney World spot. Did I mention it leads to the back entrance of Epcot?
Rivaling Universal’s City Walk, Downtown Disney is a mashup of shops, gourmet restaurants and outdoor entertainment located across from Typhoon Lagoon. In fact, this place is so big it deserves its own article. From House of Blues to Lego World, Downtown Disney has no shortage of events for the whole family.
Located on the west side of the Downtown Disney strip, Disney Quest is a five level indoor theme park with more arcade games than you can imagine. Among the attractions are a variety of racing games, classic games, and virtual reality experiences like the ability to create your own ride and test it out in a simulator. Once admission is paid, it’s all you can game!
Disclaimer: Although they call it an “indoor theme park”, it won’t be able to entertain for an entire day like the other parks, so make sure you have other things planned on that day as well!
Cirque Du Soleil
Right next to Disney Quest is La Nouba. A circus spectacle put on by Cirque du Soleil that’s created quite a bit of buzz since its coronation a few years ago. I myself have never gone, but it’s been at the top of my to do list ever since I did the program. A good suggestion would be to do Disney Quest and then hop over to Cirque Du Soleil in the same day. The overall price will be around what you pay to get into Magic Kingdom.
Hungry? Be a film-buff at Planet Hollywood! At this restaurant you’ll find a variety of movie props on display and some that hang from the ceiling. The location is actually shaped like a globe (hence the “planet”) with seating on multiple levels for viewing of the whole restaurant. The food is phenomenal and it’s a dining experience you will not want to miss.
In the context of this article, Ohana is a perfect suggestion because it’s the Hawaiian word for family. This exotic restaurant is located in the Polynesian Village Resort, and what makes it so special is its presentation of the food “family-style” to every party. The appetizers are placed in the middle of the table for each family to share before your waiter starts coming around with all you can eat steak, shrimp, and pork on a skewer. If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see the fireworks from Magic Kingdom over the trees. Ohana is constantly ranked in the top 10 restaurants on Disney property, so it’s an absolute must for those looking for something new!
Right across from the Polynesian, Chef Mickey’s is a buffet located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s also a character dining experience, which means that Mickey, Goofy, and other friends will be along to play with the family before the big day in the parks. Chef Mickey’s is particularly good for families with children five years and younger, and it’s a good idea to hop over to Magic Kingdom on the monorail afterwards!
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Yet another Resort activity, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is a restaurant housed at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. At this restaurant, the Pioneer Hall Players gather and dance for a two-hour show while all you can eat fried chicken and BBQ ribs are taken to each table. Fun for the whole family, the Musical Revue is unlike anything on Disney property.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant
In the rush to see all the big shows at Hollywood Studios, families miss out on this hidden treat. Located across from Star Tours is Disney’s Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre. Go back to the days of drive-in movie theatres and hop into your family “car” for one of Disney’s most unique dining experiences. Enjoy watching eerie previews of science fiction flicks from the 50’s and 60’s as you order and wait for lunch or dinner. The milkshakes are to die for, and this dining experience is definitely not one to miss.
Be Our Guest
Situated at Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest has become the hottest restaurant in Disney World. What makes this location unique is its ability to change from a quick service restaurant at lunch to a table service restaurant by dinner. This makes it accessible to families who couldn’t get a dinner reservation and really want to check out the new spot. This restaurant is gorgeous and because of its ease of accessibility, it makes my list.
For the tired Disney fanatic that’s done everything in the parks, here are some refreshing ideas for your next Disney vacation. Stroll around Downtown Disney, play some games at the Boardwalk, or go see a show at the Musical Revue-whatever you choose, these nine suggestions are sure to be fun for the whole family.