Posts

What to Do on a Non-Park Day at Disney World with a Preschooler

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

No ticket? No problem! There are tons of things to do on a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler from resort hopping, dining and free fun. Preschoolers can be notoriously fickle and many will have a better attitude when allowed free time and play without structure. These ideas for a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler show you exactly what you can do with little ones without having to purchase a Park ticket.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Green Loop. Today we are sharing fun things to do at Disney on non-park days.


11 Things to Do at Disney World with a Preschooler

Being a longtime Disneyland guest if we go to Disney, we always go into the Parks. Outside of the resort hotels and a few shops at Downtown Disney, there isn’t much that’s “Disney” to do if you’re not inside the Parks. However at Walt Disney World there are so many amazing things to do outside of the Parks (and lots of these ideas are totally free!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

I’ve always wanted to pad my visit with several non-park days and I was recently able to do that. My one-year old toddler and my 5-year old preschooler and I were recently at Walt Disney World and we had three non-park days on our visit. This allow us plenty of free time to explore some of the entertainment options outside of the Parks. Keep reading for my tips on how to enjoy a non-park day at Disney World with a preschooler.


1. Transportation is a Ride for Preschoolers

My preschooler couldn’t wait to get on his first Disney World ride and was disappointed when I told him we weren’t going to Magic Kingdom the first two days. He was appeased however when I told him we’d be taking the Monorail, the bus, and several boats that day instead. For preschoolers hopping aboard transportation is a Disney ride. And you won’t need a Park ticket or even need to be a resort guest to ride them.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

The boats from Epcot to the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club and Hollywood Studios are totally free to ride!

2. Resort Hopping

During our visit we were able to visit a total of six different resorts. We chose to stay overnight at three different places (Port Orleans Riverside, Disney’s Caribbean Beach and Beach Club Resort). Then we jumped aboard the Monorail and made stops at the trio of resorts on the loop (Contemporary, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Grand Floridian). Walking through the lobby, wandering the grounds, grabbing a snack inside a quick service restaurant and perusing the gift shops were fun activities for my preschooler.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Be sure to check online as to different activities that take place inside the resorts that anyone can enjoy. After reading an article on the Disney Blog site, I found out that the annual Easter eggs would still be on display in the lobby of the Grand Floridian during our visit.

3. Preschool Fun in Disney Springs

The first night of our stay we hopped on a boat that took us from the Port Orleans Riverside. In just under 15 minutes we were deposited into Disney Springs, a lively outdoor shopping spot with plenty for preschoolers to see and do.

My preschool was enthralled by the splash pad. It was quite late at night but being Florida, it was still pretty warm. I happily let him run through the water and it pretty much made his entire vacation!

Other preschool activities could be taking in a G-rated movie at AMC Theater, The night of our visit there was family-friendly singing and dancing at the Waterview Park amphitheater. Brave preschoolers could take a high ride in the basket of the Characters in Flight helium balloon. If preschoolers just can’t wait for their first ride, the Marketplace area has a train and carousel.

4. Dining at Disney Springs That’s Perfect for Preschoolers

We ate dinner at Blaze Pizza, the perfect VERY quick meal for hungry preschoolers who don’t want to wait. The pizzas cook in just 180 seconds! Blaze had some deliciously unique pizza combinations available but we settled for simple pepperoni for my guy. It was a decent size for the two of us to share along with a green salad.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Other dining locations that preschoolers would love are T-Rex, Earl of Sandwich and Rainforest Cafe. The volcano outside the Rainforest Cafe ignited with shooting flames, something we had to stop and watch. Splitsville would be a great place for a few hours of dining and entertainment so you can eat and bowl a few games.

Ghiradelli ice cream and soda shop was our dessert location that night, with overflowing cones of mint chip. We’d intended to grab cupcakes from Sprinkles but the shop was closed and they were in the process of loading the ATM. There is also very preschool-friendly shaved ice from Florida Snow Company and treats from Erin McKenna’s Bakery.

5. Souvenir Collecting

If you plan on resort hopping, one fun activity that my son enjoyed was collecting pressed pennies. Resorts have themed pennies that you can only collect in that location.

Disney Springs has many great souvenir locations for preschoolers. Souvenir shops that are preschool-perfect here are Build-a-Dino inside T-Rex, The LEGO Store, Once Upon a Toy and the enormous World of Disney (only go in there if you have LOTS of time!)

6. Resort Playgrounds

What do preschoolers love more than playing! Many of the resorts we visited had playgrounds that let little ones burn off steam. My preschooler loved the waterside play area called Caribbean Cay at Caribbean Beach as well as the rustic playground in the woods at Fort Wilderness.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

7. Get in Character

Even if you’re not going to walk through the Castle that day your little princess can still get dolled up. A visit to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique inside Disney Springs allows her to get a magical makeover with make-up and hair styling. With any luck (and no swimming!) her hair will still look stylish the following day.

Another fun option is face painting or hair braiding. Many resorts as well as Disney Springs have this option.

8. Making a Splash at the Resort Pool

Take advantage of the amenities right there at your resort hotel. A day at the pool is one of the best ways for preschoolers to enjoy a non-park day. While parents can grab a drink from the poolside bar, preschoolers can swim and splash to their heart’s delight. There are life jackets available for new swimmers. Some resorts have very cool interactive pools like the water slide at Port Orleans Riverside or the fenced in pirate play area specifically for preschoolers.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

This play area at Caribbean Beach is made for preschoolers.

And nothing beats Stormalong Bay at Beach Club Resort. It’s the ultimate pool experience! My preschooler loved the sand-bottomed zero entry pool and the beach buckets and shovels to build sandcastles. And for brave preschoolers the dramatic water slide that shoots you through a pirate ship will be the talk of the trip!

9. Grab a Bite at a Resort Hotel

One of our favorite things on our non-park days was enjoying some of the dining at the resort hotels. While resort hopping, we enjoyed lunch as Gasparilla Grill inside the Grand Floridian. This quick service location offers freshly prepared dishes along with grab & go items (like this adorable and delicious Minnie Mouse cupcake!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Minnie Mouse cupcake at Gasparilla Grill, Grand Floridian Walt Disney World

The following day we enjoyed lunch at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club Resort. This charming location has such a fun vibe from the kid-friendly food and of course, the sweet treats. My son loved that his hot dog lunch came with the happy ending of a Mickey Mouse ice cream sundae.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

The Mickey Mouse ice cream sundae comes with a kid’s meal at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop.

Dinner at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue was definitely one of our favorite things of the entire trip. We took the boat from Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness and wandered the grounds before dinner. I’m so glad we indulged in this dinner show. Everything from the plentiful and delicious food to the top-notch entertainment was perfectly tailored for everyone in the family. My preschooler loved the loud atmosphere, the strawberry shortcake & being handed a washboard to make loud music!

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Strawberry shortcake at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

10. Indoor Fun for Preschoolers

Inside many of the resort hotel lobbies are artists waiting to draw your child’s portrait. My son had never had a caricature drawn before and it looked like a great souvenir to bring home so I had him sit for one.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

We don’t usually watch television when we’re on vacation but I did let my preschooler watch a bit before bed each night. Disney World has an entire channel devoted to safety. This very fun and informative cartoon series features Timon & Pumba from The Lion King. It was the only thing that my preschooler wanted to watch!

While waiting for our dining reservation we wandered the lobby inside the Beach Club on a hunt for Hidden Mickeys. Preschoolers absolutely love spotting Hidden Mickeys everywhere from the flower arrangements to the carpet design.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Hidden Mickey finding is perfect fun for preschoolers! Here’s one in the Beach Club lobby.

Be sure to check the resort guide for other activities they offer to guests. Many have organized things to do indoors including scavenger hunts.

11. Outdoor Adventures

If your preschooler loves the great outdoors, take ’em to the fishing hole and see if they can catch the big one! There are small places to fish (like this area at Port Orleans Riverside) or larger fishing excursions (like on the Seven Seas Lagoon).

https://youtu.be/TXvOjyZfnRI

Some of the resorts have horse drawn carriages that will take you for a tour of the property. Or rent a bike surrey and everyone can pedal while enjoying the resort.

We’d intended to visit the Campfire at Fort Wilderness however our dinner at Hoop-Dee-Doo let out later than expected and we missed it. Many of the resorts offer this evening activity with the option to purchase and prepare your own s’mores over the flames. At Fort Wilderness Chip & Dale greet guests and there is a cowboy singer (no charge at all to attend this event!)

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Ready to explore Fort Wilderness

While at Fort Wilderness we had the chance to see the horses. My preschooler didn’t want to ride but that option is available if you have a horse lover.

There are dozens of things to do at Disney World with a preschooler. Here's what to do on a non-park day that doesn't require a ticket (and many are free!)

Did you know that Disney World has two mini-golf courses (Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland – read Adventureland Pam’s review on that with the link below). My son really wanted to go miniature golfing during our trip but we just didn’t have enough time. Guess we’ll just have to plan more non-park days on our next Disney World vacation!

For more ways to spend non-park days at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


Here is the map of our Blogorail Green | Things to Do on Non-Park Days at Disney

Disney with Your Preschooler-Insider Tips for a Magical Day

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Disney is perfect for preschoolers!  The colorful parades, yummy treats, everything in Fantasyland and the familiar Disney Junior characters around the park are ideal for preschoolers. On the flip side there is also the possibility of waiting in long lines, new experiences that could make preschoolers nervous, loud noises and strange food that might sour the perfect Disney day. I’ve traveled to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland with my preschooler and it’s always been a fun and exciting adventure! I’ll share my tips on how to make the most of your day.

Here are my top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with Your preschooler!

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Skip School

Pull your kid out of preschool for the day and plan your Disneyland vacation on a weekday. Ideally you should visit when most elementary-aged kids are in school with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday being the best. Avoiding weekends, summer and school holidays will help minimize crowds as well. 

Pack a Preschool Bag

Be sure to take in everything your preschooler will need for the day. My 4-year old likes to wear his own little backpack, filled with necessities. I toss in an extra pair of clothes, a few snacks, sunscreen, hat and sunglasses. If you are staying into the night, grab a few glow in the dark treats (like bracelets or wands) from the dollar store pre-trip for your preschooler to wear. Easier to spot them in the dark and they love the glow, of course!

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Measure Up

Before your visit, measure your preschooler while they’re wearing the shoes they’ll wear on the trip. From here, check their height against the online height restrictions for each ride. Don’t promise a ride on Splash Mountain until you can be sure that your preschooler is tall enough to ride! Here is a list of the Disneyland height requirements.

Follow Their schedule

Is your preschooler accustomed to waking, eating and sleeping at a particular time? You might want to consider sticking to the same schedule, especially if your child is sensitive to change or if pushing back meals and bedtimes make them moody. If you really want them to stay up later for the vacation, plan ahead and start extending their bedtime by 15 minutes every night for the week leading up to the trip.

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Nervous about riding.

Know What they Like (and What They Don’t Like)

Preschoolers are notoriously opinionated (at least mine are!) Ask them ahead of the trip what rides and shows are “must see” and make sure at the very least, that those things happen. Only you know your child’s likes and dislikes. If you know that your kid is terrified of characters, don’t force them to hug one. Same goes for forcing your preschooler onto a ride that they are afraid of. Your preschooler is going to have a rough day if they feel pressured. Check out this post with tips on what to do with nervous kids.

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Preschool Dining is Easy

Jambalaya? Monte Cristo sandwich? Your preschooler may turn up their nose at such nontraditional fare. But even the pickiest preschooler can find great bites at Disney. Most restaurants offer a kids meal with childhood favorites like pizza, corn dogs, chicken nuggets and fries. Look for the Mickey Check Meals for healthier options that include veggies and fruit. Does your preschooler love characters? A character dining experience, like Breakfast with Minnie & Friends at the Plaza Inn can be a memorable way to capture photos and collect signatures.

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Strollers are Still a Good Idea

Even if your preschooler hasn’t ridden in a stroller in years, the miles of walking and the hours of standing in lines will take a toll. Achy feet and tired bodies add up to cranky kids so consider bringing a stroller. Even a small umbrella type is better than nothing. You especially don’t want to be carrying an exhausted preschooler out of the park at the end of the night! Your preschooler might even surprise you and take a mid-day nap.

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Let Them Burn Off Steam

Preschoolers need to MOVE! Find play areas that will allow them freedom to run around a bit. Allow about an hour in your schedule for them to play freely. This might mean taking your preschooler back to the hotel pool for a swim. After some free play, your preschooler will hopefully have more patience for standing in lines.

These are the top tips on how to have a memorable day at Disney with your preschooler!

Follow Their Lead

It can be hard to follow a touring plan with preschoolers so don’t be afraid to ditch the schedule and let your preschooler take the lead. They want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania three times in a row? Go for it! They are enamored with Minnie Mouse? Get back in line for the meet n’ greet and let your preschooler say hello again. When you follow your preschooler’s lead, sometimes some really magical things happen!

Traveling with a baby, toddler or tweens? Be sure to check out these posts as well.

 Babies-PIN  Disneyland with a Toddler - Top 14 Tips for a Happy Day at the Happiest Place on Earth!  PIN-Tweens and Toddlers at Disney

What tips do you have for taking preschoolers to Disney?

signature5

Park Savers logo

I recommend Park Savers for discount Disney tickets that you can purchase in advance (affiliate link)