16 of the most underrated things to do at Disney World

Handout/Getty ImagesThere’s more to see than Cinderella’s castle.
  • You can ride horses or go kayaking at some of Disney’s resorts.
  • Main Street U.S.A. is always fun to explore, but there’s a special treat for guests who visit at night.
  • There are musicals and backstage tours worth seeing, too.

With so many exciting lands, attractions, and dining options, it’s no surprise Disney World is such a popular vacation destination.

Disney World is massive at around 40 square miles, making roughly the size of San Francisco. So there are plenty of things to do, see, and enjoy during your stay that don’t involve waiting on line for rides in the hot Florida sun.

From beach-side movies under the stars to private surfing lessons, here are 16 of the most underrated things to do at Disney World,

Spend a day exploring your own resort or visiting others to see out what they have to offer.

Flickr/JaredDisney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has beautiful features.

Whether you’re staying in a Disney resort hotel or staying elsewhere nearby, Disney resorts are more than just a place to rest your head after a long day at the parks.

Each resort hotel has unique themed lounges, dining options, and shops, so you can soak in a little bit of Disney magic while taking a break from crowds.

“Resort hopping is a great way to take a break from the parks and have a more relaxed Disney vacation,” said Steve Griswold, experienced Disney traveller and trip planner, owner of Pixie Vacations, a Disney trip planning service, and host of Mouse Chat, a Disney podcast.

Griswold recommends exploring Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, which has Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar. He also suggests checking out Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for its stunning lobby and evening entertainment, where guests can enjoy big band sounds while sipping a drink from Mizner’s Lounge.

Griswold especially advises exploring the resorts during the holiday season. “All of the resorts also decorate to the nines for the holidays,” he told INSIDER, noting the festive decor and picture-perfect gingerbread houses that can be found in many of the locations.

Enjoy the myriad of transportation options around parks and resorts.

Jeff Krause/FlickrThe monorail can provide you with great views of the park.

From Disney’s Magical Express, a complimentary shuttle service that takes hotel guests from Orlando International Airport to their resort to the Minnie Van Service, a Minnie Mouse-themed taxi that will take you anywhere you want to go throughout the resort for a fee, there is no shortage of ways to get to your desired destination in style.

If you prefer the relaxation of travelling by water, enjoy rides on a water taxi or ferry boat, which run around the parks, hotels, and Disney Springs. And soon guests can experience Disney’s new Skyliner, a gondola system that will open to guests in fall 2019, according to Disney Parks Blog.

Of course, you can always go for a ride on the monorail even if you’re not staying on the Disney property. It provides great views of the Magic Kingdom and some of the classic deluxe Disney resorts.

Read More:
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Be sure not to overlook each park’s more nostalgic attractions.

Sam Howzit/FlickrThe Country Bear Jamboree is a classic attraction.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom is full of nostalgic attractions that keep the classic spirit of Disney – many of which have existed since the park’s opening day in 1971.

Beloved favourites include Country Bear Jamboree, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover, Swiss Family Treehouse, The Hall of Presidents, Tom Sawyer Island, and Jungle Cruise.

Take some time to enjoy The Land’s offerings in Epcot’s Future World.

Flickr/jeffchristiansenThe Behind the Seeds tour is very informative.

While you’re at Epcot’s The Land Pavillion, don’t miss Living with the Land, a serene and informational ride and tour of the Disney greenhouses and all of its plant-based technology.

Afterward, make an appointment for the Behind the Seeds backstage tour. For an additional fee, guests can visit four greenhouses in Epcot and learn about the future of agriculture, plants, insects, and fish.

Go horseback riding and enjoy a musical dinner show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Katie Rommel-Esham/Wikimedia CommonsYou don’t have to stay at the resort to enjoy some of its amenities.

If you want to enjoy the great outdoors without leaving Disney property, there are no shortage of options at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Guests who are at least nine years old can go horseback riding along wooded trails for a fee and for guests of all ages, there’s the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a vaudeville comedy show and themed dinner. The two-hour show and all-you-can-eat buffet dinner books up fast, so you’ll want to make a reservation in advance, but it’s a rousing good time even if you’re not staying at the resort.

Animal lovers shouldn’t pass up all the opportunities to get up close and personal with wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Paul Brennan/FlickrThe Wild Africa Trek is a private tour option.

Aside from the wildlife that is out and about all over the park, guests can enjoy several guided expeditions (some of which cost extra on top of park admission fees) including the Discovery Island Trails, Gorilla Falls Exploration Trails,Wild Africa Trek, and Up! A Great Bird Adventure.

“If you are looking for something extra special to do at Walt Disney World, one of my favourite tours is the Wild Africa Trek,” said Griswold. As he told INSIDER, “Instead of jumping in a safari jeep and whizzing past the savannah animals, this private tour gets you up close and personal with the animals, where you cross a hanging suspended bridge, feed the hippos, and enjoy a lunch on the savannah with your travel guides.”

Enjoy surfing lessons at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.

Flickr/princessashleyThe lessons are taught by a certified instructor.

Disney World also has two water parks: Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, and both are a great way to cool down.

But it’s Typhoon Lagoon that has something extra special: surf lessons with a certified instructor during early mornings or evenings when the park is closed to resort guests.

Don’t miss all of the entertainment on Main Street U.S.A.

HarshLight/FlickrThere are plenty of characters to see.

Stroll through the many shops lining Main Street U.S.A. and you’ll find more than just Mickey Mouse souvenirs. From a glassblowing studio inside Crystal Arts to a real-life barber shop where guests can get a haircut for an affordable price, there are endless ways to beat the heat and grab a quick break before venturing back out to the park.

Outside, you’ll want to take some time to enjoy the live entertainment and street performers or ride on horse-drawn streetcars and the Main Street Trolley.

Each evening, you can also watch the Magic Kingdom Flag Retreat, a processional raising and lowering of the American flag as a guest veteran is asked to hold the flag.

You might also want to start and end your day on Main Street U.S.A. for special surprises.

Meaghan Kelly/FlickrThere are plenty of twinkling lights at night.

Minutes before park’s opening each day, join your favourite Disney characters for the Let the Magic Begin show, which welcomes guests into the Magic Kingdom for a day of – you guessed it – magic.

If you stick around a bit after the park closes, you might get lucky enough to witness The Kiss Goodnight, a little-known custom that exists only at Magic Kingdom.

Fly high above the parks in a hot air balloon at Disney Springs.

Flickr/indigoskyeYou don’t need to pay park admission fees to enter Disney Springs.

Disney Springs is a world-class shopping and dining destination for anyone visiting the Orlando area who want a bit of Disney magic without paying park admission fees.

For a truly unique experience, buy affordable tickets for Characters in Flight, an aerophile balloon flight that takes guests soaring into the sky, offering up a birds-eye view of the Disney World Resort.

“Finding Nemo: The Musical” takes guests under the sea with immersive theming, puppetry, and music.

Flickr/hykuIt’s an original musical production.

The Disney parks offer plenty by way of live entertainment and musical shows, but this ode to the beloved Pixar classic at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not to be missed.

The 40-minute stage show is exclusive to the parks and it features 14 original songs composed by Tony-winning composer Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who wrote the a cappella musical “Along the Way.”

Most resort hotels offer movies under the stars as the perfect way to cap off your Disney day.

Wikimedia CommonsSome resorts play movies by the pool.

At the end of a long day of touring the parks, enjoy movies under the stars, a complimentary movie screening on Disney resort grounds.

Take time to enjoy Epcot’s World Showcase.

Wikimedia Commons/Michael RiveraThe World Showcase changes year-round.

“Strolling around World Showcase is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening and Epcot has several festivals where they have food and drinks from around the world,” said Griswold, referring to Epcot’s seasonal festival offerings, which give guests a unique opportunity to try cultural favourites and exciting new menu items several times throughout the year.

The themed attractions like Impressions de France, Reflections of China, O Canada!, The American Adventure, and the Gran Fiesta Tour are not to be missed, and you can also take some time to see each country’s shops and live entertainment experiences.

Many Disney fans love to “Pick-A-Pearl” at the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan Pavilion, watch the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats in the China pavilion, and enjoy the Voices of Liberty in the American pavilion.

Disney’s BoardWalk offers a quieter alternative to nightlife than Disney Springs.

Flickr/Rickpilot_2000There are a lot of shops to explore.

If you want to amble through Disney without the frenzy of Disney Springs, don’t overlook Disney’s BoardWalk, a quarter-mile stretch featuring unique shops, dining, and nighttime entertainment, perfect for families and adults alike.

It’s open to the public and offers family-friendly dining and shopping. For the over-21 crowd, check out Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar that’s open nightly, or Atlantic Dance Hall, a stunning nightclub where you can let loose to your favourite songs.

Act as your own skipper by renting a paddle boat, kayak, canoe, or motorised boat.

Wikimedia Commons/Steven PignataroThe area has a lake.

If you’re looking for a little bit of adventure, look no further than Disney’s boat rental services, which let guests get in the driver’s seat and soak up the sights around Disney’s man-made lakes and lagoons.

Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort offers a variety of rentals for motorised boats,kayaks,canoes, and more.

Behind-the-scenes tours offer personalised experiences and give guests a glimpse behind the curtain.

Phil Whitehouse/FlickrYou can explore backstage areas that aren’t typically open to the public.

You can also buy reservations for Disney’s behind-the-scenes tours within the parks. They allow guests to go into backstage areas and meet with cast members. A popular choice is the Backstage Magic tour, a seven-hour journey that gives a glimpse behind the scenes of Epcot and Disney’s Magic Kingdom.


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