How to Have the Disney Experience Without Stepping a Foot in the Parks

If you’re ever in Florida, and you want to experience the Disney magic, but you don’t feel like paying the money to get in the parks, keep reading to find out how to still experience the Disney magic even if you’re not in the parks.

The secret is just two words: resort hopping.

Now what is resort hopping, you may ask? Resort hopping is basically visiting resorts that aren’t your own. So say you’re staying at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, but you want to see other resorts, you have the ability to do that. But even if you’re not staying at a Disney resort, I’m gonna share with you how to visit all the Disney resorts you want, along with sharing some photo op spots as well.

Step #1

First thing to do is to make a dining reservation. Even if you’re not staying at a resort, you’re allowed to make dining reservations. If you’re like me, where you like to see the characters, there are many different restaurants where you can do that. The most popular ones in the resorts are Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian. Chef Mickey’s is a buffet style, while at ‘Ohana, you sit down and order. Both restaurants are very popular, so make sure to make your reservation way ahead of time. However, if you don’t care to dine with the characters, some underrated favorites of mine is the Wave of American Flavors at the Contemporary, and the food court at Art of Animation. The Wave has really good food, for breakfast, it’s buffet style, while lunch and dinner is served to you. I highly recommend going for both, this place is my favorite restaurant to eat at out of all the resorts. And if you happen to go for dinner, I highly recommend the lump crab cakes, they’re so good.

*If you don’t want to make a dining reservation, sometimes you can park for free at the Boardwalk on Disney property, but remember that it ALWAYS helps to have that reservation. And you can always call or check beforehand.

The food court at Art of Animation is pretty good as well, they offer a variety of food, my favorite meal to get there is the waffle bounty platter because it comes with a character waffle, which is SO cute.

Step #2

Now that you made it to a resort, and you had a great meal, you can now take the shuttle buses to and from each resort. If you eat at the Contemporary Resort, you have access to both the monorail AND the shuttles, so that’s a plus. But if you’re not at that resort, then you can take the bus from other resorts to Magic Kingdom, which will give you access to the monorail and all of the buses for the other resorts (you DO NOT need a park ticket to use Magic Kingdom’s transportation). I personally resort hop because some of these resorts have the BEST photo ops, my favorites are the Art of Animation and All Star Movies.

The Art of Animation Resort is a classic, there are so many cool spots for pictures. There are 4 themed sections at this resort: The Lion King, Cars, Little Mermaid, and Finding Nemo. Each of these sections have really good photo ops. A fun fact about the Finding Nemo section is that the swimming pool plays music that you can hear underwater, it’s really cool. Here are some photos that I took at this resort:

This is my favorite!

These are just a few of the many pictures I took at the Art of Animation Resort. All Star Movies is pretty much designed the same way. There are different sections at this one too: Mighty Ducks, 101 Dalmations, Fantasia, Love Bug, and Toy Story. The Fantasia pool is such a sight to see, everything is designed so beautifully. Here are some pictures I took at the All Star Movies Resort:

Andy’s room door^

This concludes the end of my post! When you get the chance to visit the resorts, make sure to explore, there are so many underrated things to see and do at each one. Have fun, and take lots of pictures! If you have any questions, leave them below, I’d love to help you guys out.

58 Comments

  1. 04/25/2020 / 6:47 PM

    These are great suggestions and I love your photos! Do you have any suggestions for how to do something similar at Disneyland for those of us in L.A.?

    • hannahbly
      Author
      04/25/2020 / 6:52 PM

      Thank you! I would love to write an article about Disneyland, I was actually supposed to go a few weeks ago, but the trip was canceled because of quarantine?

  2. 02/13/2020 / 3:03 PM

    Hi Hannah! I’ve never seen the Art of Animation resort, we are headed to FL soon so I will have to check it out! Resort hopping sounds like a fun idea, never thought to do it but have been curious about other resorts!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/13/2020 / 4:19 PM

      Definitely check it out! Art of Animation is my all time favorite resort, the decor there is so cool!

  3. 02/12/2020 / 12:35 PM

    I had no idea you could still book those character dinners if you weren’t visiting a park! I’ve stayed at Pop Century and Art of Animation…I would have loved to have dinner with Cinderella! Maybe next time ๐Ÿ™‚

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 1:23 PM

      Those resort character dining opportunities are such hidden gems! Definitely check some out if you can?

  4. 02/12/2020 / 6:25 AM

    I have a new thing to do when I go to Disney next time now! The resorts are a thing Iโ€™ve never done and I canโ€™t wait to go back and check out your suggestions!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 1:22 PM

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the post?

  5. 02/12/2020 / 5:44 AM

    We love to resort hop! We will often spend at least part of a non-park day doing this!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 1:21 PM

      Yup!! I always set a day aside to resort hop, it’s such a fun chill day?

  6. 02/12/2020 / 3:30 AM

    What a great idea to enjoy Disney without the parks! I have never thought about this idea but am looking forward to doing something like this on my next trip to Orlando. My DVC will be perfect for this.

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 3:34 AM

      I hope you have so much fun!!!?

  7. 02/12/2020 / 1:19 AM

    You bring an awesome thing to do ! Even when I do go and stay on property I still hop around from resort to resort to see diff merch and food options.

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 2:07 AM

      Yes, there are so many cool resorts to discover!!

  8. 02/11/2020 / 10:38 PM

    This is clever. I’ve not been to Florida in years, but the next time we go I think I’m going to try this. I’ve never thought about going resort hopping, I think I like it, lol!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/12/2020 / 2:07 AM

      I’m glad you want to give it a try! Lol, it’s so much fun!

  9. Pauline
    02/11/2020 / 7:02 PM

    What a great idea! We’ve done similar down in at Disneyland in Anaheim (not on purpose though)! We were meeting friends who were traveling from out of town to have dinner at Downtown Disney. We were lucky enough that when we arrived Mickey was walking through (I don’t know where he was coming from or where he was going, LOL) but my kids were ECSTATIC! Just being in the vicinity of Disneyland and walk through the shops after dinner gave us that taste of Disney magic. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 7:22 PM

      Awww! It’s something about disney that just makes everything seem magical?

  10. 02/11/2020 / 6:26 PM

    This is packed with creative ideas. It’s definitely about enjoying the experience, especially in a non-traditional way

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 7:21 PM

      Yes, definitely! I think it’s important that people know that you don’t have to spend all this money for the parks to have fun.

  11. 02/11/2020 / 5:16 PM

    I love resort hopping! Your pics here show me some gems I have yet to discover!! Thank you for sharing your tips and tricks – these will be great for families who are looking for ways to fill their “down time” with Disney!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 7:21 PM

      I’m so happy you enjoyed it!

  12. 02/11/2020 / 4:45 PM

    I love Disney and the resorts are so much fun! We always take a day to explore!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 7:20 PM

      Same, I always set a date aside just for resort hopping!

  13. 02/11/2020 / 4:30 PM

    Love resort hopping! It is amazing how much there is to do at Disney for free!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 7:19 PM

      Yes!! totally agree!

  14. Leah
    02/11/2020 / 3:13 PM

    This was such a cute post! I have never done the Disney thing, and it was neat to see that there are different options as opposed to just spending all your time in one park or something. Great read!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 3:16 PM

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  15. Renee
    02/11/2020 / 3:10 PM

    This is great! We love resort hopping! Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/11/2020 / 3:12 PM

      I think that resort is so pretty?and it’s really cool to see all the different animals!

  16. 02/02/2020 / 12:36 AM

    I always feel like Disney without the park is like Starbucks without a frappe. Yes, it is fun, but you don’t have the whole experience. I like this blog article though. You made me realize that you can still have fun without being among so many people. I don’t know what it is, but as I get older I don’t like being around a bunch of people much anymore.

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/02/2020 / 12:52 AM

      I’m glad you liked the blog! I totally agree about not wanting to be around a bunch of people, the crowds at the parks can be horrendous sometimes.

  17. 02/01/2020 / 1:24 PM

    Wow, that SOOOOO Awesome!!1

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/01/2020 / 1:28 PM

      Thank you!!

  18. 02/01/2020 / 1:07 PM

    Iโ€™ve never been to Disney! Your photos are great!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      02/01/2020 / 1:13 PM

      Thank you! Hopefully you’ll go one day, it’s such a beautiful experience?

  19. Kari
    01/30/2020 / 8:51 PM

    I agree! Resort hopping is super fun! One of my favorite things to do! Having a snack or a beverage at each hotel we go to!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/30/2020 / 10:34 PM

      It’s my goal to visit all the resorts in a day, lol.

  20. 01/29/2020 / 2:52 PM

    This sounds like so much fun! We stayed at Pop Century this past summer. So many great photo ops there too! We drove past Art of Animation. Next time we will stop for pics! Thanks!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/29/2020 / 3:20 PM

      Art of Animation is amazing!! Definitely check it out next time when you have the chance. ?

  21. 01/22/2020 / 4:22 PM

    Wow. I didn’t know about this. I love photo ops and my husband loves crab cakes, so this will be perfect for when we plan our trip this year. Haha!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/22/2020 / 4:55 PM

      Those crab cakes were to DIE for, lol, my mouth is watering as I type this?.

  22. 01/22/2020 / 3:31 PM

    These are great things to do on days when you are flying in or flying out and don’t have time to spend a whole day at the parks!!! Great post!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/22/2020 / 4:01 PM

      Yup, the parks have so much to offer that most people don’t know about. Glad you enjoyed the post!?

  23. 01/20/2020 / 12:21 PM

    Whenever I go to Disney I make a point of parking somewhere like Disney Springs and riding the monorail around. It’s just so joyful and fills me with so many great memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/20/2020 / 2:12 PM

      yes! it’s such a great thing to do on a chill day

  24. 01/19/2020 / 6:33 PM

    Good timing for me! We are going to Florida in May and are deciding if we want to pay to go to Disney World..I didn’t know there were other things we could do! Thanks!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/19/2020 / 6:38 PM

      Yes! I heard about some new parking fees on site, so definitely take advantage of those shuttle buses running around if you can?

    • 02/11/2020 / 2:37 PM

      My husband and I are dying to do a trip like this! We want to stay at Wilderness Lodge and just relax, hop around resorts, and EAT!!!

      • hannahbly
        Author
        02/11/2020 / 3:08 PM

        Yup! It’s the perfect chill day?

  25. 01/19/2020 / 5:06 PM

    My family and I will be going to Disney world next month, these tips are definitely helpful! So happy I found this list!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/19/2020 / 6:09 PM

      That really means a lot to me! So glad you liked it?

  26. 01/19/2020 / 3:19 PM

    Itโ€™s so fun to check out the resorts! You could spend days just going around to all them.

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/19/2020 / 3:29 PM

      I totally agree!

  27. 01/19/2020 / 3:00 PM

    Wow great tip! I have not done anything Disney yet! Thanks for the info!!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/19/2020 / 3:09 PM

      Thank you so much?

  28. 01/19/2020 / 2:52 PM

    I absolutely love exploring Disney resorts looking for photo ops! There is so much to do and see! Thank you for the great ideas!!

    • hannahbly
      Author
      01/19/2020 / 3:09 PM

      Yes! I personally think that the resorts have the best photo ops, lol

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