Tips for Relaxing at Walt Disney World
Even if you are a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, you may find it difficult to unwind when you have nearly 50 square miles with very tempting shopping, dining, rides, food, and recreation to explore. Can you really find relaxation during a theme park vacation?
Just today, I was planning my FastPass+ selections and itinerary for a quick trip that we are taking at the end of August. And guess what? I found myself quickly filling up my Disney days from morning to night. Sigh; I know better.
Some of the most priceless moments that I’ve savored at Disney World are those that were during break times. And so, just as soon as I fill you in on these tips, I’m going to revisit my August plans and make sure I’ve allowed time for relaxation at Walt Disney World.
Leave the Real World Behind
Most of us find it fairly easy to purchase and don Mickey Ears. We’re all pretty good at embracing Mickey-shaped food. And I think WDW newbies and veterans alike have no issue with shrugging off stress while riding our favorite attractions.
Mickey Waffle are always fun and delicious to eat!
But, what about technology? Some of us need it for work (even at Disney!). Some of us love sharing our family moments (and favorite Disney snacks!!) on social media. And now, My Disney Experience and other apps make it actually easier to tour Disney World with the use of our smart gadgets.
Meet Anna and Elsa using the convenience of FastPass+
Still, try to allow some time during your Disney days to unplug. Silence your phone while at the pool with your family. Keep your electronic tools quiet during meals. Try taking an entire morning or evening unplugged. After the initial withdrawal, you’ll find these moments liberating.
Nanea Volcano Pool at Disney’s Polynesian Village.
The Road Less Traveled
While you watch the herd of guests run to their first attraction, linger on your way into the theme park. With your FastPasses pre-selected, go ahead and browse the nooks and crannies on Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. Grab a morning pastry and actually sit at a quiet table while the magic wakes up all around you.
Enjoy a pastry with a magical view early in the morning.
Some of my favorite pathways for calm moments at WDW include:
- Along the boardwalk at the Rivers of America in the Magic Kingdom
- In the back of Fantasyland (near the train track) to Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom
- The trails at Epcot’s Canada pavilion
- The Hyde Park area and maze at Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion
- The quiet nooks and crannies within Epcot’s Morocco pavilion
- The off-the-beaten trail between Animal Kingdom’s Africa and Asia
- The walkway between Disney’s Polynesian Village and Grand Floridian resorts
- The walkway between Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter resorts
- The walkway between Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness
- The walkway from Disney’s Hollywood Studios to the BoardWalk area
A quiet morning in the Magic Kingdom enjoying one of our favorite walkways.
There are always secluded areas at the resorts to settle back and talk about your day.
Chill out at our resort; I love the Beach Club nooks and crannies for quiet respites.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to dine early or late. If you are touring in the busy season, you really want to grab your quick-service lunch meals right at 11AM. This dining strategy not only saves your family from the chaos of long lines but also gives everyone a chance at unwinding in quieter restaurants. Refreshed and refueled, you’ll be back to touring the park while the crowds are at lunch.
We also like the early strategy for table service lunch as well. We were one of the first patrons at Epcot’s Via Napoli in the picture below and while the restaurant filled up quickly, most of our meal was extremely quiet.
Dine early for quiet dining rooms.
At dinner time, dine early or late. Your hotel’s food court will be chaotic after the parks close, especially when closing hours are early in the winter time. Dine before the crowds return to the resort.
Resort dining will be more relaxing before the crowds return after the WDW parks close.
Try late night dining for empty dining rooms — whether you stop by for a full meal, snack, or beverage, quick service dining rooms are usually quiet later at night.
We like to take a breather at Backlot Express in Disney’s Hollywood Studios before this restaurant closes. Watch the park’s Times Guide for official hours as this venue often shuts down before park closing time.
Late night dining in crowd-free restaurants is a great chance to relax while touring.
Be strong. Fill out your itinerary and then check it over for downtime opportunities. If you are repeat guests, would the family benefit more from riding a couple of your not-so-favorite attractions or swimming in the resort’s pool?
Afternoons are awesome at the Dig Site Pool at Coronado Springs Resort.
And doesn’t that apply to newbies too?! If your heart is not set on seeing the afternoon parade, maybe some time playing miniature golf or enjoying another recreational activity would be more memorable for everyone.
Play Twister at Pop Century!
Take Advantage of FastPass+
Picture this: It’s early morning and my family is waiting at the gates prior to the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. When the park opens, my husband “runs” to Toy Story Midway Mania for FastPasses while the rest of our traveling party grabs food at Starring Rolls Cafe (now closed) or meets in front of Tower of Terror. Yep, that’s how we used to tour.
FastPass+ and My Disney Experience (MDE) allow us to pre-plan many of our must do attractions so that we can slow down and enjoy more leisurely family time at WDW. Now, we are more likely to reserve a nice meal at the park, followed by a leisurely stroll over to our FastPass+ attraction.
Early lunch seating at Yak and Yeti in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
This strategy really works well on a day that follows a late night in an Extra Magic Hour park. We can then sleep in a bit, enjoy time at the pool, then head to a park later in the day for a meal and our FastPass+ selections. With a teen, late nights and lazy mornings work very well.
On days that we are at a park for rope drop, we are prepared with FastPass+ for morning attractions before heading back to our hotel or Disney Springs later in the day. By mixing up your itinerary, you’ll definitely discover that relaxation at Wald Disney World is indeed possible.
Plan some time at Disney Springs.
With the Epcot festivals becoming longer each year, more runDisney events being added, and Free Dining offers filling in the gaps, Walt Disney World seems to have three seasons: busy, busier, and busiest.
December 19th crowds at the Magic Kingdom. Watch for holiday season to be super busy.
Okay, there are still a few times per year when crowds are really light. We are still fans of late January, for example.
If you can, avoid holiday school breaks as these usually cause a huge influx of guests. Don’t want crowds? Stay away from actual holidays such as New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve crowds in the Magic Kingdom.
The Rest of the World
“There’s more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than can ever be done. There’s far too much to take in here. More to find than can ever be found.” — The Circle of Life lyrics say it all.
Yes, there is more to do at Walt Disney World than touring the four major parks (Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom).
The resort hotels all offer dining and recreational fun for all ages. Take in a campfire night at your hotel or stop by a different resort for a new experience like a Pirate Cruise. The resorts are usually a refuge during the afternoon hours.
Escaping the parks in the middle of the day equals no bus lines and a relaxing, crowd-free resort.
Disney Springs has some of the best shops and dining choices on property. And don’t forget about the water parks and golf courses. Plus, there are out-of-the-park places to watch the high-flying fireworks if you don’t want to return to a park in the evening.
Taking in the Details
Sometimes all you need is a moment of calm in a busy day. Slow down and take in the details all around you; the creativity of the Imagineers is awe-inspiring. Don’t forget to look up, down, and all around.
When you sit and relax, you’ll notice all kinds of beautiful scenery.
Find a place to sit down and just gaze.
The regal architecture of New Fantasyland.
A walk around your resort in the late morning, afternoon, or late evening is a great time to get pictures and unwind.
An evening stroll around Art of Animation.
Vacationing at Walt Disney World can include relaxing recreation.
Play tennis at Disney’s Yacht Club.
From running to horseback riding, you’ll find a plethora of activities to engage in throughout the resort.
Keep up with your fitness routine on a Disney running trail.
Let’s not underestimate the calming effect of a delicious adult beverage.
Adult Beverages at Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks in the Animal Kingdom.
Find an out-of-the way location later in the day — we like to sit in the back of Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe with a refreshing beverage.
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe is a quiet place in the late afternoon to sip on a beverage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Also, resort lounges are a terrific place to hideaway while sipping on an alcoholic or non-alcoholic refreshment and/or relishing some good bites to eat.
Stop by the Martha’s Vineyard Lounge at Disney’s Beach Club resort.
Of course, if you are on a once in a lifetime trip and your priority is to see and do everything that you possibly can, we completely appreciate that mindset. Even so, try to find small breaks to add some relaxation to your Walt Disney World vacation.
It’s your turn. How do you find relaxation at Walt Disney World? Contact Us, Friend us on Facebook, or comment below to share your Walt Disney World tips.
Planning our Disney vacations always starts with a tough decision: Which Walt Disney World Resorts should we consider?
Since, we’ve stayed at nearly all of the Walt Disney World resorts, we want to help you with this part of your vacation planning. After all, my favorite part of a Disney trip is time spent at the Walt Disney World resorts. I love to shop, dine, relax by the pool with a good book, sip on a Banana Cabana or Pina CoLAVA, and go on walks to take in the resort’s decor. The hotel themes and amenities are an important part of my Disney adventures. Let’s make sure that your family opts for the hotel that suits your budget and other requirements. We’ll start today by exploring some of our preferred hotels at Walt Disney World.
Preferred Walt Disney World Resorts
My husband and son also enjoy staying at the resorts. We’ve selected our preferred Walt Disney World resorts in each budget category — deluxe, moderate, and value. However, we want your family to carefully select the resort that is right for you. For now, let’s explore the resorts that my family finds the most appealing. First up, Michael and I select our favorites, followed by our teen son’s choices.
Deluxe Walt Disney World Resorts
In the deluxe category, guests at Walt Disney World will find examples of exquisite themeing, convenient locations, luxurious rooms, concierge services, a variety of restaurants, and, the less than fun aspect — higher prices.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
The Grand Floridian (GF) is our family’s favorite resort, thus we’ve stayed here for many special occasions. Our honeymoon, 10th anniversary vow renewal, and my birthday are among the celebrations that we’ve opted to spend (probably too much cash!) at this Victorian-style hotel. At first glance, you may get the impression that this isn’t a family resort. However, there are fun activities for kids of all ages! I love the Alice in Wonderland theme at the splash area.
Mad Hatter Splash Area.
Exquisitely appointed with red gabled roofs, it’s reminiscent of Victorian beachside lodging.
Red gabled roofs of Disney’s Grand Floridian
A visit to the lobby to listen to the ethereal music played by the pianist or orchestra is a perfect pastime.
Listen to the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra
Aptly named, the multi-storied lobby is grand. From the marble flooring to the stained glass rooftop’s domes, no matter how many times we see it, we always find this room jaw-dropping. And then, there’s the grand staircase that I absolutely adore (or the caged elevator) that beckons guests up to the second floor where the monorail, plus additional shops, restaurants, and lovely outdoor decks await.
Monorail access to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot (via transfer at the Transportation and Ticket Center), and Disney’s Contemporary and Polynesian Village resorts make this a convenient vacation spot. Plus, there’s the gorgeous marina connecting to Seven Seas Lagoon adding more transportation and recreation options at nearby Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge.
The restaurants live up to the grandness too. Open 24 hours, the quick-service Gasparilla Island Grill is situated with outdoor views of Cinderella’s Castle.
Booth with a view at Gasparilla Island Grill.
Narcoossee’s, with its prime waterfront real estate, is a fabulous place to dine. It serves up the best steak on property as far as Michael is concerned. 😉
Narcoossee’s waterfront restaurant
Rooms are larger than you’ll find at most Disney hotels and they are decorated in luxurious textiles. Views of the inner courtyard, lagoon, and Cinderella’s Castle are all memorable.
All amenities including the spa and pools are easily accessible via lighted garden walkways.
Reserve your room at the Grand Floridian if:
- your budget is deluxe sized
- you’ll be spending a lot of time at the Magic Kingdom
- you want luxury over value
- you love waterside activities (Electrical Water Pageant, marina rentals)
- spa amenities are important
- an assortment of table service dining is high on your list of requirements
- you are night owls and want a 24 hour dining location (Gasparilla Island Grill)
Guest Tip: Take a romantic moonlit walk from the Grand Floridian to Disney’s Wedding Pavilion to the Polynesian Village.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
As guests arrive Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the landscaping immediately pulls them into the exotic theme. Relaxation is nearly guaranteed here since the ambiance lends itself to leaving real world cares at the front entrance.
Entering the lobby at Jambo House, your eyes will need to adjust to the low lighting. The dark woods, intoxicating fireside smells, ambient background music, and cozy furniture are welcoming.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby
A room with a savannah view isn’t necessary but it does make a stay more fun. Imagine standing on your balcony and watching animals grazing.
Savanna view of giraffes grazing
Here, you can explore the large pool area and then venture to the animal viewing areas near Arusha Rock.
Animal Viewing from Arusha Rock area
Other than the villas, rooms are smaller than some other deluxe resorts. We think the resort’s theme more than makes up for the lack of personal space.
Exotic decor in room
Dining at Boma for the bountiful breakfast buffet is one of our favorite meals to savor at WDW. This is where we had our first sip of Frunch.
Breakfast at Boma
We also highly recommend the accommodations at Kidani Village. While further removed from some of the resort’s amenities, it offers a pool area that is divine.
Reserve your room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge if:
- your budget is more deluxe than moderate or value
- you’ll be spending a lot of time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, especially to explore the new Pandora – The World of Avatar
- you want luxury over value
- you love animals
- spa treatments are important
- an assortment of table service dining is high on your list of requirements
- you want to spend time at the pool and prefer shaded lounge chairs
Guest Tip: Ask for a room close to the lobby as the hallways are LONG.
Moderate Walt Disney World Resorts
Moderate resorts are your middle options at Walt Disney World. Not as expensive as the deluxe hotels but not as inexpensive as the value resorts, moderates offer nice amenities such as family-friendly food courts and well-themed rooms. You’ll get queen beds (not the doubles found at most values) too.
Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter
We have stayed here many times because the resort is absolutely charming. While compact, Port Orleans French Quarter boasts a convenient main building with amenities such as registration, lobby area, store, bar, and a recently updated food court, Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory. As you stroll the resort, listen to the uplifting jazzy tunes.
The architecture and design details are amazing. We love the wrought iron fences, soft lit lampposts, beautiful fountains, meandering streets and sidewalks, and serene courtyards. Plus, the alluring walkway between Port Orleans French Quarter and Port Orleans Riverside parallels the Sassagoula River.
While the rooms are not large, they are pleasantly appointed and easily accessible from the parking lots or bus stop after a long day in the parks.
Port Orleans French Quarter Room
Access to Disney Springs via the Sassagoula river boats adds to the endearing ambiance of the resort.
Reserve your room at Port Orleans French if:
- your budget is moderate
- you’ll be spending a lot of time at Disney Springs
- a compact resort with less walking fits your needs
- you like jazz music
- beignets are one of your favorite treats
- quick service dining is enough for your resort meals
- you want parking that may be close to your building
Guest Tip: Take a walk or boat to Port Orleans Riverside for shopping, dinner, or a carriage ride.
Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort
Port Orleans Riverside wasn’t on the top of our list until recently. We had stayed several times in the Alligator Bayou section. While these lodge buildings are quaint, the sprawling walkways were tiresome especially since we always seemed to stay here during rainy days and nights. With no elevators, these buildings were inconvenient for our road trips to Walt Disney World. Maybe we just packed too much stuff. 😉
Mansion section, Magnolia Bend, of Riverside.
This year, we opted for a Royal Guest room and thus, were introduced to the Mansion buildings. Although we still had to navigate in some rain, we fared much better this time. We were finally able to relax and take in the resort’s finer aspects: large food court, quaint bar, cozy pool bar, beautiful landscaping, and large store.
Muddy Rivers Pool Bar.
The real downside here remains the multiple bus stops and often chaotic main depot. However, the Sassagoula Riverboat transportation to Disney Springs is extremely convenient.
Reserve Your Room at Port Orleans Riverside if:
- your budget isn’t deluxe but you are okay spending more than the value prices
- you’ll be spending a lot of time at Disney Springs
- you need to sleep five people in a room (Alligator Bayou rooms accommodate a fifth person with a trundle bed)
- you want a moderate resort with a table service restaurant
- the Royal guest rooms appeal to you
- sharing amenities between the two Port Orleans resorts seems fun
- watching Yehaa Bob Jackson at the River Roost is on your must-do list
Royal Guest Room.
Honorable Mention: Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Note that this resort is currently undergoing renovations.
Update: We’re moving Coronado Springs down a bit due to the ongoing construction. The Club Level building that we once enjoyed has been demolished to make way for the new tower. Rooms are also under renovation. We’ll need to stay here again before recommending it as a top choice in the moderate category.
Our impression prior to construction: The first time we stayed here, we had mixed feelings as Coronado Springs was different (less quiet) than the other moderates. Different? Well, for one, it has a convention center, which attracts business people and large groups. However, once we gave this resort a second chance we were pleased with the amenities it offers.
We liked the concierge/club level (business class) option as it was available at a moderate price, although it wasn’t a necessary upgrade. Cabanas 9B that housed the club level rooms and lounge has now been torn down.
We still like that the resort offers a room service menu for breakfast and dinner. Pepper Market continues to offer delicious quick service food in a lovely setting.
The resort is well-themed in Spanish-Colonial architecture with soothing background music as well.
Exterior of the resort’s main building, El Centro.
While the walk from your room may be lengthy, the lake and surrounding landscaping are beautiful (or were before construction took hold). The rooms with dark woods are transforming too. Renovated rooms have a lighter, sleeker and more modern atmosphere; we can’t wait to try one.
Coronado Springs Room Before Renovation
The Dig Site pool has a great slide, lots of lounge chairs, and even some shade!
Dig Site Pool
Let us know your recent experiences at Disney’s Coronado.
Guest Tip: Spending most of your down time at the pool? Request a room near The Dig Site.
Value Walt Disney World Resorts
What do we love most about the value Walt Disney World resorts? First, the lower costs, and second, the food courts. When we check into a value resort and see our room account balance, we are always amazed by the low bill. These resorts are instantly appealing when you can vacation at Walt Disney World for the fraction of the cost of a deluxe hotel on property. Stay at a value if you won’t be spending much time in your room. While Pop Century is being renovated and adding queen beds to the updated rooms, the other value resorts still have double beds. Note, however, that All-Star Music has a suite option.
Renovated room with queen bed.
Disney’s Pop Century Resort
While we tend to waver between Pop Century, Art of Animation, and All-Star Music, we’re giving Pop Century top billing now due to the renovated rooms. What we like most about them? The queen bed! Check out all the memorabilia and great photo-ops!
Great photo ops at Pop Century!
What else does Pop Century offer? Well, convenient bus service, for starters. Plus, the food court has ample seating and some unique offerings.
Reserve Your Room at Pop Century if:
- a smaller hotel bill is a high priority
- you’ll be spending a lot of time at the parks
- you don’t mind having to take a Disney bus (or you have your own car) to all WDW destinations
- there’s no need for a table service restaurant at your resort
- the new queen bed/trundle bed rooms appeal to you (note: while refurbishments are on-going these rooms are not guaranteed)
- two food courts (including the one at Art of Animation) would be helpful to your dining needs
- a hotel with fun photo ops, themed food, and nostalgic decor sounds fun
Guest Tip: Take a walk around the resort to read the trivia. Plus, head over the bridge to shop or dine at Art of Animation.
Bridge from Pop Century to Art of Animation
Disney’s All-Star Music Resort
As we mentioned above, All-Star Music is one of our favorite value resorts. And we still think a lot of fun can be had here. We really think All-Star Music is a hidden gem.
All-Star Music Pool
The themed areas, background music, charming outdoor lights, and well-groomed landscaping make this resort seem more moderate than value. Well, until you enter the room. Yep, the rooms are still small and motel-like but for an affordable visit to WDW, we think All-Star Music is a pleasing option.
Guest Tip: You can easily walk to the other All-Star resorts (Sports and Movies) from All-Star Music. It’s fun to explore the different shops.
Nic’s Picks of Walt Disney World Resorts
As you’ll see below, Nic’s picks are quite similar to ours but they’re not exact. Here are the top resort choices from a 17-year old teen who has stayed at nearly all of the resorts. He also mentions briefly why he chose each hotel.
Grand Floridian – architecture and atmosphere
Contemporary – walk to Magic Kingdom, monorail, rooms are very nice
Easy walk to the Magic Kingdom
Monorails going through the Contemporary Resort
Contemporary Resort Room
Port Orleans French Quarter – atmosphere, themeing, boat to Disney Springs
Caribbean Beach – food court, Pirate room
Pirate Room Prior to Refurbishment
Pop Century – convenient bus transportation, food court
Epcot Bus at Pop Century
All-Star Music – theme
Swimming Pool All-Star Music Resort
What are your favorite Walt Disney World resorts? Where do you hope to stay on your next (or first!!) WDW visit?