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Whenever we compare Walt Disney World hotels (especially the Disney deluxe hotels) or talk about ways to save at Walt Disney World, we inevitably mention the "resort day." This might sound like we're telling you just to hang out at the hotel or at best nap by the pool, but actually the resort day at Walt Disney World can be so much more!
What is a resort day?
A resort day is a day spent at a resort. More specifically, at Walt Disney World a resort day is a day that you spend outside of the parks. How much time you spend at your resort is really up to you, as we'll see.
Why should I consider a Disney World resort day?
Two big reasons. First, a resort day can save you money. You get Disney magic with one fewer day on your park tickets. Of course, you could cut that day out of your trip and save even more money, but depending on how your flights are priced or if you're able to use the Citi Prestige 4th night free, that extra night stay might be worth it. Not to mention that taking a resort day in the middle of your trip is just a good way to recharge. That said, a resort day can be more expensive than a park day. That's why this isn't just about the savings...
Second, Walt Disney World is so, so much more than the parks. Just visiting the resorts is a magical way to spend the day. Your own resort pool might be one of the best spots on property (and you might not even know if you're always in the parks). There are world-class restaurants at several resorts. There are three great bar crawls you can do without setting foot in a park. There's even a great mini-golf course within walking distance of several hotels! Especially on days when the Disney World crowd calendars tell you the parks are going to be a nightmare, consider spending your time elsewhere! We did our last resort day on July 4, for example!
How should I spend a Disney World resort day?
There's obviously a lot of flexibility and subjectivity here. But here's just a sample itinerary for a Walt Disney World resort day.
Breakfast at Kona Cafe or Chef Mickey's
Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe is unbeatable, but families might get enjoy the (inexplicably) legendary Chef Mickey's, where the kids will get pictures with the top Disney characters (including Mickey himself) without huge lines!
Hang Out At Your Disney Resort Pool, Lobby, or Club
If you're lucky enough to be at Yacht Club or Beach Club, you'll have access to the best hotel pool in Walt Disney World in Stormalong Bay. All the Disney resorts have good pools, though. If you're not into poolside time, consider hanging out in your lobby (or that of another hotel, if you're adventurous) with a good book or movie.
If you're building a resort day into your plans, now is the perfect time to consider a club level stay. We stayed club level at Animal Kingdom Lodge and loved it. Enjoy some of your resort day by kicking back at the club with some snacks and ambiance!
Lunch at Ale & Compass
Ale & Compass is one of Disney's newest restaurants, at Yacht Club Resort. But along the Boardwalk you've also got ESPN Club or, if you want dessert for lunch, Ample Hills. If you're looking to be a bit more adventurous, consider Sanaa (which we recommend below for dinner) or Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Then, while you're there, spend some time visiting the animals in the savannah.
Mini-Golf at Fantasia Gardens
Yea, there is an awesome mini-golf course at Walt Disney World and no one talks about it enough! It even has two courses! It's tough to get to, but it's also one of the most fun activities you can fit into your Disney World resort day. The easiest way to get here is to walk from the Boardwalk, but you can Uber there, too.
Visit Some New Disney Resorts
Most easily done by walking around the Boardwalk or riding the monorail, a "resort crawl" is a great way to scope out Disney properties you might not otherwise ever see. This is most enjoyable if you have an ulterior motive. Scope out resorts for future stays. Or take some gorgeous photography. Or turn the resort crawl into a bar crawl. Disney hotels are gorgeous, but we don't know that you want to just walk around them.
Pick Your Favorite 4PM Bar
Several bars on Walt Disney World open at 4PM. We'll be at Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, but if you're still along the Boardwalk, AbracadaBar is a fun spot as well.
Dinner at Sanaa
It's a bit out of the way unless you're spending your entire day at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but Sanaa is our favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World. If you're looking for an upscale experience along the monorail, we recommend Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian. Along the Boardwalk? Consider Yachtsman Steakhouse or, for standard (reasonably priced) fare, ESPN Club.
Fireworks from the Polynesian
Finish your Disney World resort day as any Disney day should end, with fireworks! We'll let Emily take this one. As she puts it over at Lattes & Runways:
My parents actually told me about this and to be honest, I wasn’t sold by the idea at first. But I loved it from the moment we got there and have been trying to fit it in ever since! From the beach at the Polynesian, you get a view over the lagoon of Cinderella’s castle. Grab a drink at Tiki Terrace and cozy up on a beach chair. They project the music in sync with the fireworks and it’s a truly delightful way to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks show.
How am I supposed to get everywhere?
First, our Walt Disney World resort day itinerary is obviously just an example. You can shift around activities and substitute other restaurants. For instance, doing Sanaa for lunch and 'Ohana for dinner so you can just spend your entire evening at Polynesian makes a ton of sense.
Resort days are best done from deluxe resorts, no doubt. Those resorts are nearest to the best activities and restaurants, and they have the best pools. You can do a great resort day from a value resort with no problem, but if you're going to go beyond your resort, you'll want to plan to place yourself in a good spot with an Uber then go from there.
Disney transportation has you covered, somewhat. A bus to a park will put you a bus ride/boat ride/walk away from any other resort. A better option, though, is to use Uber. Rides around Disney property should cost under $20 (Uber will estimate the price for you before you request the ride). Don't be silly - plan your day so you only need to use this option once or twice.
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All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered
Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way. If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.
Don't forget to master your Disney World Fastpass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks!
Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.