Doing Disney Without Ever Riding a Ride!: Yes, You Can!

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 04/15/2010

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Touring

If you're planning a visit to Walt Disney World Resort, the chances are that you're planning on enjoying the many rides, shows, parades, and entertainment on offer at the four main theme parks. That's only natural, but once you become a regular visitor to the resort, do you actually need attractions to have a magical Disney vacation? It may sound like a strange thing to say, but not necessarily.

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Touring
The rich theming of Asia at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Attractions now play much less of a role than they used to when we go to Disney. There are just so many other wonderful things to see and do that we've found ourselves skipping rides for entire days at a time or perhaps only going on one or two. Rewind to our first few visits, and like many others, we would have an itinerary for each day we were in a theme park with a list of things that we wanted to ride, but now we have a chance to be a lot more laid back.

I'm sure by this point there are some almost screaming at their computer screens in disbelief. After all, what else is there to do at Disney World, apart from enjoy the various attractions in the parks? The simple answer is that there's a whole world of activities, more than enough to occupy you, however long your vacation is.

Firstly, just because you're not on a ride or at a show doesn't mean you can't be in a theme park. There's so much to appreciate in each of the four parks, outside of the attractions that people dash to, and sadly much of it is too easily missed. How about stopping to read the various inscriptions on the windows along Main Street USA? Or what about exploring the depths of each of the countries in World Showcase? I can guarantee there will be hidden nooks and crannies that even the most experienced of travelers will still manage to uncover.

Another wonderful thing to do sometimes is just to be able to sit down and take in the views. Nowhere is that more the case than at Animal Kingdom, where as well watching people rush through the parks, you can often watch the wildlife at its natural best. Grab a bench along Hollywood Boulevard and take in the atmosphere at the Studios and you may be lucky enough to encounter some of the wonderful "Streetmosphere" characters, as they're called. You can either watch them or choose to interact.

One of our favorite passtimes is getting as many photos of us together as we possibly can, as there's no better way to remember a vacation than through the magic of photography. You'd be surprised how many Photopass photographers you can find once you start looking for them and how many photos you can easily get, without going out of your way.

Outside of the parks, there's a multitude of resorts to explore, all of them open to the public and many of them easily accessible. The Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary are just a monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom, while a boat will take you effortlessly to both Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. Stroll out of Epcot via the International Gateway and the Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, the Swan, and Dolphin are all within easy walking distance or just a boat ride away. Talking of boat rides, you can also grab a boat from Downtown Disney to check out Old Key West, Saratoga Springs and/or Port Orleans (either the French Quarter or Riverside). We've spent many happy hours just wandering around the various resorts, enjoying the wonderful theming at each and happily taking photos of everything we see.

Both inside the parks and at the various resorts is another favorite of ours – Disney dining. It's hard to imagine, outside some of the world's biggest cities, such a concentration of high-quality restaurants, offering such a superb and diverse range of food. From Norwegian to South American, Japanese to African,a or German to Greek cooking, you can find it somewhere on property. The food has become a bit more homogenised at the various restaurants in recent years, which is a shame, but you can still find some truly unique food at many places. If a burger and fries is your worst nightmare, never fear, there's plenty else to keep you going.

There's also a multitude of recreation activities available. If you want to hire a boat, you can. Want to take a Segway off road or just unwind with a massage? That's all possible, as is parasailing, a game of tennis, taking a backstage tour in any of the four parks, or just hanging out by a resort pool. If you think that maybe some of these activities may be a little too boring for the younger members of your party, rest assured, this is Disney and there's always plenty for them to enjoy, from childcare programs to taking a pirate cruise. With so many organised activities, there's nothing to stop you doing something different while your children are out having fun of their own!

But perhaps my favorite passtime of all is just to enjoy our time at Walt Disney World with either family or friends. There's nothing better than the chance to catch up with the people you care about while outside the pressures of daily life. Don't get me wrong, a ride on Test Track, the Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Great Movie Ride or Pirates of the Caribbean still fills me with utter delight to this day, but your vacation doesn't have to be about dashing from one ride to the next. There's so much to enjoy and explore at Walt Disney World. Next time you're down there, why not try out some of the non-attractions there?

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About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!

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Reader Comments:

I totally agree with you I have been to WDW so many times that I can go a whole day without going on an attraction.. In fact not even going into a Park for a day. I love to just tour the Parks enjoying the things that are special at each one. There are so many wonderful things to see. Also I have spend days just Resort hopping and found it very enjoyable. Jackie

     yensid_71973 on April 15, 2010 @ 3:48 pm
Something not mentioned in the article that my husband and I love doing is scavenger hunts around the parks. There is a book out there especially for that. Another fun thing to do is search for Hidden Mickeys. There are literally thousands of them...just a warning can become obsessive! :rofl2: There are hundreds of things you can do other then riding the rides or seeing the attractions; one only has to look around! smiley for :D

     MsQT on April 15, 2010 @ 4:03 pm
I completely agree with the articlefrom Cheryl on Doing Disney without the rides! I love to people watch and there are so many small, seemingly insignificant things that are so much a part of making WDW what it is. There are just so many things that come together to encompass the whole experience that no one should ever just visit to rush from place to place, ride to ride. Slow down and "smell the roses" that makes up the overall personna of Disney.smiley for ;)

     aldj on April 15, 2010 @ 8:50 pm
This was me when I saw the title: smiley for :eek:

maybe one day if I go with my DH without the kiddos!

     debrabrown on April 15, 2010 @ 8:57 pm
I could not agree with you more, Cheryl. If I go on more than three rides on any given day, it is unusual.
One thing that is huge with me and my daughter that you did not mention is the landscaping. Walt Disney World has to be one of the finest botanical gardens in the country, All of the parks and each resort is a treat, and we never go that we don't get some new idea or discover some new plant we want to try. We live in coastal Mississippi, so much of what grows in Orlando will work at home.

     Goldmatinee on April 15, 2010 @ 9:38 pm
We have enjoyed 2 trips to WDW and are lucky enough, this year, to be celebrating Christmas and New Year in WDW. We expect the crowds to be huge and riding a ride might include long waits, so will have lots of opportunities to just sit back and enjoy the atmosphere. Thats the great thing about WDW, magic can be experienced in so many ways.:smirk:

     Jo from Chesterfield, UK on April 16, 2010 @ 2:08 am
I agree, I am asked a frequently - Why do you go to Disney you don't like fast rides.

I tend to hold the bags and take in view around me smiley for :) whilst my family ride and take thousands of pictures smiley for :) I could go anytime and not ride a ride.

Great article by the way.

     Jessmie on April 16, 2010 @ 4:10 am
Yes, Disney can be wonderful without even entering a park. For my husband's 50th birthday I booked a long weekend at our "home" Boardwalk and dinner at Victoria and Albert's. We did not even purchase park tickets, instead we spent all our time visiting all the hotels, shopping in Downtown Disney, eating in different restaurants outside the parks, and playing miniture golf. It was still as magical as going to the parks and more than enough to keep us occupied for a 3 day weekend.

     brant007 on April 16, 2010 @ 9:00 am
We feel the same way.....I have been going to Disney since age 9 (we were there about 3 months after the opening in 1971....and have been there at least twice a year ever since. At this age, we really enjoy just wandering through the parks checking out the architecture and landscaping...and people watching. Attractions are nice and fun, but the feeling you get just walking through the parks is worth the trip.

     rubuck on April 16, 2010 @ 9:20 am
I loved reading this post, we also take time to enjoy Disney in ways that do not include rides and attractions every minute of the day. We find we are more relaxed when we don't go commando. We have enjoyed checking out other resorts, sitting and people watching etc. There are so many things to see that are not rides and shows, if you just take the time to look. One year we combined a beach vacation with 3 days at WDW and believe it or not, we never even went into a park that year! Blasphemy? Not at all, we enjoyed downtown Disney, we enjoyed visiting resorts and really taking time to relax, we ate in resort dining spots trying new eateries, and we even took the DVC tour and bought into DVC at SSR (having since then added on at BLT).

     disneygramma on April 16, 2010 @ 12:06 pm
The last time I was down there with Cheryl and Mark we didn't ride one single ride, but we certainly spent the entire day just going, going, going and enjoying all the Disney could offer us!! It truly is amazing what all you SEE when you just slow down and don't run from ride to ride.

     Wendyismyname on April 16, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

     strtrek on April 17, 2010 @ 6:23 am
Ahhhhh! Awesome article, Cheryl! I have given this idea a lot of thought throughout my Disney planning. This is definitely my goal: to have been to Disney so many times that the rides/attractions become secondary. When we were at DHS last year I tried to do this. We are not quite there yet, but as new DVC members, hopefully this will be the case before too long!smiley for :D

     SallyD on April 17, 2010 @ 4:41 pm
We are annual passholders and... rides are just not for me (an exception or two, OK).
So when you see a tall man standing by himself on the side of a ride... and he has a 1y old kid on his shoulders... THAT IS ME!

     Discountvc on April 21, 2010 @ 4:05 pm
Got back from WDW tonight. a quickie, three night trip. The only attraction I visited while there was Mickey's Philharmagic which we walked right in to (unusual, to say the least). Mostly enjoyed lounging around at the Polynesian Resort, checking out the plantings for the Flower and Garden Festival, and watching my 3 year-old grandson enjoy the train and the monorails.
Highlights were the Butterfly Garden and the Perfume Garden at Epcot.
My son took the grandson on the kiddie rides, and my daughter did two different garden tours, so everyone enjoyed the parks is a different way.

     Goldmatinee on April 22, 2010 @ 12:27 am
I so agree with you! When I was a teenager and my grandparents used to take us to Disney World, we would get tickets and go to the parks but they would stay at the campground or by one of the other resort pools and just peoplewatch. We used to think she was crazy, but now that I am getting older and I think back to our last vacation, I remember needing a vacation from my vacation! LOL!

And you are so right, there is SO much to do that is not rides!


     MCK0009 on April 22, 2010 @ 12:26 pm
I totally agree with having fun and no rides! As a DVC member, we planned a quick trip in August after spending 2-weeks totally immersed in Disney the previous May. We spent a week at the Beach Club and did not set foot in a park! Our 9-yr. old son enjoyed hanging around the pool and taking in other sights during the day and we took advantage of Deluxe Dining by eating at the best restaurants every evening. I would do it again in a minute!smiley for :)

     mrszmann on May 1, 2010 @ 6:40 pm
We just did a trip with my 80 year old parents, and it taught us a lot about enjoying the parks without being concerned about rides. It's not better or worse, just "another" way to enjoy our Walt Disney World experience!

     The Boxing Guru on May 6, 2010 @ 6:56 pm
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Updated 04/15/2010 - Article #451 

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