I hope everyone had a smooth transition into back-to-school season and is enjoying the heck out of a pumpkin spice something right about now! Now that we are in the "off-season" here in theme park world, (HALLELUJAH!), one of the very few negatives is that parks generally start closing earlier. So if you are visiting in off-season, what should you plan on doing to occupy your evenings? Here are five of my favorite ways to spend an evening, outside of the parks!
1. Make Dining An Event
|Amazing Irish Step Dancers at Raglan Road|
Not into the character scene, but want some entertainment while you dine? Whispering Canyon Café at the Wilderness Lodge offers a goofy, interactive experience. The ESPN Club at the BoardWalk is the best place to catch a game. 'Ohana at the Polynesian has a strolling ukulele player, and hula lessons. Rainforest Café and T-Rex at Disney Springs have amazing scenes around you, with animatronics that come to life while you dine. Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village, offers some pretty unusual dinner companions... giraffes and zebras frolicking just outside of the windows.
If live music is more your style, check out House of Blues, Bongos Cuban Cafe, Paradiso 37, and Raglan Road, all at Disney Springs, and all have live musicians onsite. Raglan Road even has Irish Step Dancers!
And even if you aren't looking for "dinner and a show", there are so many fantastic restaurants to choose from, you are sure to find something you will love! The agents here at Kingdom Konsultant Travel are happy to help book whatever dining arrangements you would like!
2. Everybody Do The Monorail Hop!
|The Grand lobby|
I love visiting the resorts on the monorail line, (the Contemporary, Polynesian Village and the Grand Floridian), especially at Christmastime when they are all decked out in their holiday finest. Even if it's not holiday season though, it's fun to see the resorts' different theming, shop in their gift shops, have a cocktail, or check out any live entertainment taking place, like the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra. In fact, many adult Guests have taken to doing a Monorail Pub Crawl, stopping off at the various bars in the monorail resorts.
|A gorgeous view of the BoardWalk at Christmastime|
3. Carriage Rides, Mini-Golf and Campfires (and Movies), Oh My!
Both Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans Riverside host carriage rides through some of their quieter and more scenic areas. It's a nice way to have a romantic date night, or to take the kiddos out to do something quiet and fun. Carriage rides are about $45 and each carriage can hold up to 4 adults, or 2 adults and 3 small children. Reservations are recommended, and can be made through your travel agent.
|Mini-golf at Winter Summerland is a blast!|
Over at Fort Wilderness, you can sit around a campfire with those zany chipmunks, Chip and Dale, and sing-a-long to campfire songs, roast marshmallows, and then enjoy a movie under the stars! But that isn't the only place you can watch an outdoor movie. In fact, most Disney resorts offer "dive-in" movies, on a blow up screen, right next to the pool. It's a cool way to enjoy your favorite Disney films.
4. Stroll the Showplace of the Shore, The Vacation Sensation, Where There's Timeless Fun for Everyone!
|Welcome home to The BoardWalk!|
Once you are well-fed, you can be sporty, and take a run around the almost mile long loop surrounding the lake, (or stroll at a leisurely pace, like I do), or even rent a surrey bike for 2, 4 or 6 Guests. Trust me, they are WAY more challenging than they look, but a whole lot of fun! You'll crack up for years, thinking of Auntie Susan getting out and trying to push your bike up the hill.
Want to have a drink and enjoy some adult-only fun? Jellyrolls is a dueling piano bar that gets Guests raising their glasses and singing along to their favorite tunes. Atlantic Dance Hall hosts a DJ dance party every night, though it's usually not a very busy place. The building is beautiful though, and the balconies have a great view of IllumiNations at Epcot. Atlantic Dance holds a special place in my heart, since I used to frequent this location in the early 2000's during the swing music revival. They used to host nightly dance lessons and then live swing bands. It was the perfect use of that space. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that swing music will come back around again and revive Atlantic Dance. Anyway, if you live to support your favorite team, you'll love catching a game at The ESPN Club, where there are screens everywhere, including in the bathroom stalls. They even host live radio sports shows on some days! And don't forget to check out the brand new Abracadabar, which is a unique and fun bar, with a backstory involving this place being the hangout of old timey magicians and illusionists. Many of the drinks are served with a bit of magic!
If you're looking for something more family friendly, you can stroll the BoardWalk in the hours leading up to IllumiNations, (7-9pm), and catch one of the live performances of magicians and dare devil acts. Then, at 9pm, when it's time for IllumiNations, head down toward Atlantic Dance and stand just outside, to get the best view of the high fireworks from the show.
The BoardWalk is a really fun way to spend a night, and not nearly as busy as Disney Springs.
5. Discover the NEW Disney Springs!
|Shopping options abound|
at Disney Springs!
Unique shopping experiences are all over, including The LEGO Store, Disney Design-A-Tee, Orlando Harley Davidson and United World Soccer. If you need to do some last minute gift shopping, World of Disney is the largest of all of the Disney gift shops, and there isn't much that you can't find there! Plus the whole new Town Center section is full of upscale shopping from stores like Vera Bradley and Tommy Bahama.
Dining options include some of the best restaurants in all of Orlando, like The Boathouse, Wolfgang Puck Café, Fulton's Crab House, Homecoming and Raglan Road. There's all different styles of cuisine and all different types of restaurants to choose from!
|Grab a Canadian snack, eh?|
|Blaze Pizza is quick, delicious and reasonably priced.|
|The kiddos will love eating with the dinos.|
|Awesome views from the Coca-Cola Experience rooftop bar.|
Get one of the best views of Disney property money can buy, at a relatively low cost, when you board Characters in Flight... if you can stomach the height, and the swaying. If you've been to Disney at all in the past 6 years, you have seen the huge red and yellow balloon floating above Disney Springs. A ride in the balloon will give you the chance to view miles and miles in every direction and you can take some really fantastic pictures. If you time it right, you may even catch a view of some fireworks! Flights are, of course, subject to weather conditions.
|Characters in Flight soars over Disney Springs|
Of course, these are only 5 of the many, MANY things you could do. There's always evening spa or salon appointments, resort arcades, swimming in your resort's pool, working out in one of the fitness centers, or just plain hittin' the hay early, so that you can get a nice head start into the parks the next day. (Or to then sleep in late the next morning too. I won't judge.) The point is, parks closing early doesn't mean less fun for you as a Guest. It means a wider array of things to choose from and hopefully getting to experience something new to you. I, for one, am THRILLED that we are in the least busy month of the year. To us locals and Guests that are lucky enough to visit this month, It's the mooost wonderful tiiiime of the yeeeeaaarrrr! Enjoy off-season, folks!
- Jenn aka "Tink"