When you visit Walt Disney World, it can be tempting to spend all of your time at the Central Florida resort’s four theme parks. If you do that, though, you’ll miss out on all of the exciting activities you can only do at the onsite hotels. Every Disney World hotel holds weekly pool parties and movies under the stars, but there are certain activities that are only available at certain resorts.
Most of these are open to the public (even if you aren’t staying at that particular hotel), but some do require advance reservations. Book your spot early so you don’t miss out on the fun.
As one of the closest hotels to Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort has incomparable views of Cinderella Castle. You may not be able to exactly replicate the expert paint job on the 189-foot-tall castle, but you can paint your own lighted ceramic version at the hotel’s California Grill Restaurant. The “Once Upon a Painting” activity takes place on select days each week and the cost is $30 plus tax. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by visiting the hotel’s Community Hall or by calling (407) 824-1347.
When you stroll the grounds of Disney’s Port Orleans resorts (there are two, French Quarter and Riverside), you feel as if you’ve been transported from sunny Central Florida to the bayous of Louisiana. The lush gardens and gently-rolling Sassagoula river are even more gorgeous when viewed from a peaceful horse-drawn carriage. Carriages leave from the Riverside Levee Marina and each one seats up to four adults or two adults and three small children. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (407) 939-7529.
You can channel your inner Luke Skywalker at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, your inner princess at Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland, and your inner Robin Hood at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The Fort Wilderness Archery Experience is a 75-minute archery lesson designed for guests ages 7 and up. With small class sizes of 10 guests or less, you get plenty of one-on-one attention, nearly guaranteeing you’ll hit that bullseye before the class is over. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by calling (407) 939-7529.
You don’t need a park ticket for Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see zebras, giraffes, and other wildlife roaming the savanna. More than 30 animal species make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge and you can see them right outside the hotel lobby. There, you’ll find meandering walkways that look out over the savanna and its many inhabitants. If you are staying at the resort, there should be a field guide in your room that will help you identify the animals or you can pick one up from the lobby concierge.
The Colors of Coronado Painting Experience is essentially Disney World’s version of a “paint and sip” class. For a fee of $35 per person plus tax, you can attend a master-led painting class and enjoy a snack and beverage while you create your masterpiece. When you head back home, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind souvenir to commemorate your vacation. You must be 12 or older to attend the class. Advance reservations are recommended and can be made by emailing [email protected].
While not technically a Disney World hotel, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando is located on Disney property not far from Magic Kingdom. There’s lots of activities at this luxury Orlando resort, including golf, tennis, sand volleyball, and early morning outdoor yoga classes to help you feel loose, limber, and calm before a day at Disney. Classes are held at the Movement Lawn on select mornings and there are a variety of flows to choose from.
The tree-lined paths and waterfront walkways that weave around Disney’s Old Key West Resort make for a picture-perfect setting for a long, leisurely bike ride. If your own bike doesn’t fit in your suitcase, you can rent a surrey bike at the resort’s Hank’s Rent ‘N Return. For $25, you can rent a surrey bike that seats two or four people. You can also rent a standard two-wheel bicycle for $20 if you’d rather do all the pedaling on your own.
The Electrical Water Pageant has been sailing across the Seven Seas Lagoon since the year Walt Disney World opened in 1975. You can view the pageant from various spots at Disney’s Magic Kingdom resorts, but there is no better spot than the white sandy beaches of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. The beach area has lounge chairs where you can relax and watch the colorful nighttime parade float by, or you can bring a towel and find a spot on the sand. The beach area also has spectacular views of Magic Kingdom. If you time it right, you can watch the nightly fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant away from the crowds.
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are situated on the serene Crescent Lake that connects Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT theme parks. The best way to see the lake and the surrounding sights is by pedaling around on a swan-shaped paddle boat. This activity is only available to resort guests and is included in your daily resort fee.