Do Shopping at Disney Springs, Monorail Resort Hopping, Resort Dining and Dole Whips have you eager to visit Orlando, Florida? If so, here are some quick tips on how to experience Walt Disney World if you’re strapped for cash and can’t justify the cost of a park ticket. Or if you just need a last minute dose of Disney and aren’t big on planning, feel free to drive on over to Disney Springs to start your Free Day living the Disney life.
A Day At Disney Springs
An expansive shopping experience, Disney Springs combines restaurants, shopping, and unique experiences. Here you can find the tethered balloon to see the views of Disney from afar, hop aboard a ferry to get yourself over to Port Orleans French Quarter, experience Cirque de Soleil, or catch the Disney buses to wherever it is you need to go. A giant perk of Disney Springs is that parking is FREE!
This alone can be a full day of Disney fun, so if you’re hoping to cram it into a half day, think again. The walking alone will take up some time, and there are more unique shops here than anywhere so you’ll want to stop in and check everything out. Factor in breakfast, lunch and dinner and you’ll be yawning as you walk past the latest live band performance as the sun sets.
Disney Springs Food
Food is plentiful here. We like Earl of Sandwich for lunch for something quick that doesn’t require a reservation and could definitely suffice for your only meal of the day if you’re low on time. The local favorite is the T-Rex Restaurant and while we did go here for dinner, the meal was nothing to write home about. However, if you like neat immersion dining experiences, american cuisine, fast service and super size portions, then this is the place for you!
Disney Springs Shopping
Disney Springs Shopping is plentiful and it would take us weeks to write up all the amazing shops. Ones you should know about? Alex and Ani has a shop here, complete with all the Disney themed jewelry you could hope for. Uniqlo is two stories and great for basic essentials if you forgot to bring stuff. T-shirts, jeans, socks, umbrellas, backpacks, everything you actually need can be found here. Kate Spade, always an indulgence, sometimes has their Minnie merchandise out and is always one we’ll stop in to just look at all the pretty things. D-Living recently re-opened and has decor that is themed on the current trend. When we were last there, Beauty and Beast was the everywhere, so the entire store was decked out and quite beautiful.
Sprinkles Cupcake ATM
Dessert fanatics, we were thrilled to see that Sprinkles Cupcake shop put in a cupcake ATM. To those who have never seen this in action watch this We Bare Bears clip , the concept is foreign to many, but really its just like a drive up window- but with cupcakes instead of money. The line here is often right out the door, so we love this quick- fastpass version -of cupcake service.
If cupcakes aren’t your thing, Disney Springs has loads of dessert options and you should never underestimate the power of a Ghiradelli milkshake.
How to Get from Disney Springs to Walt Disney World
If you haven’t seen the fleet of WDW buses lining the sidewalk of Disney Springs, you’ll soon see that you can get just about everywhere from here. We suggest the Magic Kingdom bus ( or Uber) to get you to the front gates of Magic Kingdom. Mind you, you won’t be going into the park, just catching the monorail from the station stop. You have to walk past the Magic Kingdom entrance to get there, but for the most part this is the easiest way to get to the Disney Monorail Resorts.
Monorail Resorts at Disney are higher end, house some of the best restaurants and gift shops and are essentially open to the public without a magic band or park ticket. From Magic Kingdom station the Monorail Route is as follows: Stop 1 Contemporary and Bay Lake Towers, Stop 2 The TTC ( Transportation and Ticket Center), Stop 3 The Polynesian Resort and Villas, Stop 4 The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Stop 5 Magic Kingdom ( again).
Monorail Resort Hopping
Stop 1: Contemporary & Bay Lake Towers
The Contemporary is the closest resort to Magic Kingdom. Guests can walk to the main gates of Magic Kingdom in about 15 minutes and have the luxury of not waiting for buses in the evenings.
As a Monorail Resort Hopper there are a few things you can access here without being a guest. The lobby, courtyards, restaurants and shops are all open to the public. This means you can have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, Lunch at Contempo Cafe and if you’re feeling a little fancy, The Wave for dinner.
The shopping here is also quite impressive. A larger gift shop than many resorts boasts a full kitchen section, clothes, Dooney and Bourke bags, and a kids section.
You can also see the Grand Canyon Mural here which covers all four sides of the center column. And if the hustle and bustle of the monorail concourse is not your style you can meander out to Bay Lake to have a lakeside lunch, stop by the bar or watch the electric water parade in Seven Seas Lagoon.
Stop 2: The TTC
So unless you’ve parked your car here, you don’t need to disembark at the TTC. However, if you have decided to buy a park ticket to Epcot then this is where you’ll switch trains.
Stop 3: The Polynesian Resort and Villas
Apart from the gorgeous scenery, island atmosphere and connecting walkway to the Grand Floridian, there’s one big reason people visit the Polynesian.
It’s true. You don’t have to be in the parks to get this magical dessert. The monorail will let you out at the second floor of the Polynesian. If you go downstairs and head outside towards the pool, you’ll see Pineapple Lanai, offering dole whips and dole whip floats.
You can also find Kona Cafe, home of Tonga Toast and Captain Cooks Quick Serve here. But a favorite reason to come here is Ohana. Ohana is a family style restaurant experience complete with music at dinner and Lilo and Stitch at breakfast. Another excellent shopping experience the Polynesian has merchandise you can’t find in other shops around Disney. They also carry the painted “Greetings from Walt Disney World” coconut you can mail to your family (or home).
However, if you’re more into just relaxing and living like a local, grab a dole whip and a beach chair. Any reason to get your feet in the sand is a good one.
Stop 4: Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Next on our Monorail stop is The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Can anyone say super fancy? We love going to the Grand Floridian. A character breakfast with the Evil Stepmother and stepsisters is always delightful at 1900 Park Fare. You can stop for an afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room or meander over to Gasparilla Island Grill for a mocha. The Grand Floridian houses quite a few restaurants, some fancy, some casual so whatever you’re mood they’ll have something you love.
We personally love the shopping at GF. They have lots of DVC merch, beachy Florida wear, and a Disney shop with fancier things than other resorts. So its always a treat to stop.
The Grand Floridian is also covered in Hidden Mickeys and other characters you’re sure to recognize, so look up and down. Be sure to download the hidden mickeys app on your phone for extra fun. It is for a price, but in our experience totally worth it, because you can never, ever find them all!
Stop 5: Magic Kingdom
From here our Monorail Resort Hopping ends. You can take the monorail back to the gates of Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks outside of the park, take the monorail back to the TTC to get back to your car, or grab the Disney Springs bus from Grand Floridian to see the evening shows and live bands. It’s all up to you.
Hopefully this has given you a little glimpse of all the amazing fun you can have without purchasing the 70+ dollar tickets into the park. We’ve been amazed at how many things there are to do at the monorail resorts, and so much yet we haven’t tried. We’re hoping to experience the Monorail Crawl, new this year, and get a closer look at what all the resorts have to offer. We’ll be sure to report back. Ask questions if you got ’em.
TTFN, Melanie, Rochelle & G