Guest Author: Brandi Malloy
Have you ever wondered what to do on a non-ticket day at Disney? Normally on a week long Disney trip, we have tickets for everyday. My husband, 6 year old son and myself like to go, go, go on our Disney trip and get bored with lazy days at the pool. But last July on a beach trip to Daytona Beach, we found ourselves wanting to be amongst the Disney magic after a few lazy beach days. Our last Disney vacation was just a month earlier and we spent 9 wonderful days at Pop Century. We weren’t Disney deprived but we were only an hour from Disney and that was constantly in the back of our minds. So that sounds great, right? We’ll spend a day at Magic Kingdom or Epcot but we only had just enough cash for our beach trip and no room on credit cards for expensive one day tickets.
I have to confess that we are Disney fanatics. We’re obsessed really. I’ve even hooked my little one. He knows more about the parks than most adults. I just can’t be that close to Disney without a visit. So I came up with a plan. We’d go to the resorts, eat lunch, and spend some time around the magic without actually visiting the parks.
We left Daytona Beach around 10 am and arrived in Orlando about an hour later. It’s a straight shot by taking I-95 to I-4. We decided to first visit a store that sells Disney props and collectibles. It’s called Theme Park Connection. We had so much fun going through all the things they have for sale. I bought a New Beginnings Disney Mickey Head Balloon sign for $25 and two old advertisement pictures of Magic Kingdom for $15 a piece. We spent an hour wondering through the warehouse. We then went to the Polynesian to eat lunch. We just told the security guard that we wanted to visit the resort and eat lunch. No big deal. Now if it was July 4 you would not be able to do that without staying at that resort because so many people want to sit at the Poly beach to see the fireworks.
We walked up to Kona to see if they were taking people without reservations. They were! This is a lot easier to do at lunch than dinner but I have lucked up at Kona for dinner without a reservation. Lunch is great there but another option at Poly is Captain Cook’s counter service. But more on Captain Cook’s in a minute. We met a great cast member who managed Kona and he shared information about living in the area, which is our ultimate goal. By relaxing and taking time to chat, you meet so many great people.
Next, it was time to shop. Since we were at the Poly, we started at those shops. There is a small shop upstairs across from Kona that has lots of toys and a little snack/candy area. Downstairs has two shops. The main shop has clothes, hats, a few toys, Poly specific collectibles, etc. They also have these huge Tiki men. We’ve taken pictures of Tyson, our son, on every trip with this one Tiki man that he’s obsessed with. Take the time to look around at the little details. We noticed a few trips ago that there is a funny Tiki man staring in the window in this shop. Tyson thinks that’s so funny. The second shop is an art gallery with mostly Disney themed art. Most are of course of tropical themed environments with Disney characters sprinkled in. If you have little ones, either take turns going in while your spouse watches baby or skip it all together. Swinging arms in this store could have expensive consequences. In other words, it’s tight in there.
We continued our shopping journey by hitching a ride on the monorail and touring/shopping at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian. Each resort has multiple shops that are unique to that resort. You’re not looking at the same stuff over and over, which can get dull when you’ve seen the same toy and said no to your child about the same toy over and over again. Now you will probably see some of the same merchandise in each resorts main shop or toy section but you can avoid them and go to the specialty shops for a change of pace. We grabbed some candy at the Grand Floridian and sat outside to decide what we’d do the rest of the day.
Decisions, Decisions…..Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s back to the Poly we go! We just love that place. So we took the monorail back to the Polynesian and walked to the beach to grab a swing. To our surprise, cast members were letting kids roast marshmallows and a blow up movie screen was being set up. Fun and FREE! Tyson didn’t like the roasted marshmallows so we went to Captain Cook’s for a snack (yes, we love food). The most awesome thing about Captain Cook’s is….wait for it……they have self serve Dole Whips!! My hubby likes to see just how tall he can get his which, and I’m not kidding, has got him a standing ovation on a couple occasions from admiring dads in this small restaurant. I’m a proud wife. So we go back to our swing and people watch while Tyson runs around and wears himself out. The Dream Along with Mickey show was going on at the castle and we could see the fireworks that shoot from the sides of the castle. We could even hear Mickey a couple times. The sunset was gorgeous. It was so pretty and surreal that we were back at my favorite place that it kind of hit me. This really is my happy place. Tyson watched Tangled on the movie screen and fell asleep. We stayed to watch the water pageant and Wishes fireworks. It was a great day. We did spend $55 at Theme Park Connection, plus gas and food but that still doesn’t equal one day tickets for 2 adults and a child. We had such a fun day and I honestly remember more about that day than our 9 day trip the month prior. I hope this helps you have some ideas about what to do on a non-ticket day. There is so much more to explore than the monorail resorts but that’s for another post. See ya real soon!