Friday, August 24, 2012

The Top 5 Must Dos for Outside the Parks

The final Top 5 (for now) is all about going outside of the four Disney parks. Sometimes leaving the parks for a bit of fun is the best way to go.

Downtown Disney is a great location for shopping and has a lively nightlife. My first 3 must dos are all located there. Before I send you exploring, know that when you look at the map, these places will look FAR apart, but the distance isn't actually very large at all. Take the trek, you'll be happy you did!

1. Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop: Not only can you get a free square of chocolate, the soda fountain side has the best sundaes I've ever had! People will tell you to get a sundae in Magic Kingdom or at a deluxe resort, but this is really the best place to go! My sister and I shared a Cable Car Sundae when we were there in 2010, and we can't wait to share another! Part of the fun of this location is watching the other amazing ice creams orders go out to patrons and wondering what those yummy items are.

DStreet from the outside

2. D Street: If you collect Vinylmation, then this is THE PLACE to go. It's a store devoted to Vinylmation and Vinylmation fans. You can find pretty much all the available series here, can trade, and kids can draw their own custom Vinylmation (on paper) at a table made of Vinylmations in the middle of the store. Vinylmation pins, keychains, notepads, pens, pencils, erasers, bags... you name it, they've got it. This location always has (expensive) custom Vinylmations on display as well. Not sure what Vinylmation is? Go here! You'll be hooked!

It feels like everything in this store is made
out of Vinylmation!

3. Shopping in World of Disney: My secret to shopping effectively and quickly (and believe you me, I SHOP when I'm at Disney) is this: I look around in the shops in all of the parks and make a list mentally or in my iPhone as I go. Then I go to World of Disney, the largest Disney Store in the world, and buy all the items off of my list. Almost always I'm able to find the item I'd wanted. The exceptions to this method are things I see in World Showcase shops. Also, one rule of thumb is if you see it and can't live without it, go ahead and buy it then. You might not be able to find it elsewhere. If you can't find the Disney Dooney you want in World of Disney, TrenD just down the way has a larger selection. Keep your cell phone on while you're in here as it's very easy to get separated from your shopping partner(s)!

4. Go Swimming at Your Resort: If you or your kiddos are a bit too old for an afternoon nap, I still recommend you stop to rest in the afternoon. I'm guilty of walking past my crazy awesome resort pool every day and never stopping to swim in it. On the trips where I have taken time for a dip (either afternoon or late evening), it's been quite refreshing. Disney resorts all have multiple pools, and one is always quieter than the others, so you can find the pool that suits you and your family. Since the pools are heated and weather is milder in Florida, we've been able to swim even during Thanksgiving week. The pool is warm, but the walk back to your room won't be, so if it's a cooler season, bring dry clothes to change in the bathrooms by the pool. Don't miss out on this often over-looked treat!

I would have NEVER gotten this amazing shot if I
hadn't been on the Monorail taking a tour. 

5. Monorail Tour: One of the best ways to make sure you enjoy Walt Disney World is to take time to stop and smell the roses. If not, you'll come back from your trip utterly exhausted, and you'll miss out on the little joys around you. I love riding the Monorail partly because it's just a neat way to travel and partly because of the views it gives you. Staying at a Deluxe Disney Resort is a big dream of mine. Hopefully one day it will be a splurge for a special event like a honeymoon, but for now I get my kicks visiting the various deluxe resorts on a Monorail tour. Christmastime is an especially good time to do this since each resort is decorated to the nines, but it can be a relaxing event to add to your trip at any time of the year. Simply board the Resort Monorail and hop off at each resort along the way. Take a walk, explore the gift shops (yes, they have different stuff than the others do), and then hop back on the Monorail. We choose to do this on the way to meals we've scheduled at one of the Deluxe Resorts. Anyone, not just guests, can eat at the Disney Resorts.

This ends the "Top 5 Must Dos" series, for now. As always, what have I missed? Tell me in the comments!


  1. I had an amazing 'gold rush' at Ghirardellis last trip! SO yum!

    If I was to add one thing to the list it would be watching Wishes from the Poly beach OR exploring the Boardwalk at night! Perfect non-parky things t do!

  2. I absolutely agree with Ghirardelli's! It is on our must do list when we are in Downtown Disney. I do the same for shopping, but that is because with my Disney Visa, if Ispend more than $50 (so easy to do), I get 10% off. So, I save almost all my shopping for World of Disney. Our other must do for out of the parks is having lunch at Earl of Sandwich. It is one of the best buys for dining in Walt Disney World (well, if you like sandwiches!).

  3. Saloca - I cannot wait to get another sundae! I've never been over to the Boardwalk but have always wanted to go. I hear the Bakery there is amazing. Listen to me, I sound like all I do at WDW is eat... honestly my family teases me that I snack my way through the parks and then am never hungry for dinner!

    Beth - Yes! The discount! I forgot about it! I'm always like, "did I make it to the 10% off??" and they give me my total of around $200 and look at me like I've lost my head. Hehe.

    Earl of Sandwich is a favorite of mine as well. Have you tried the Wolfgang Puck quick service there? It's on the dining plan, but it feels more full service. We had dinner there Thanksgiving night. My niece or nephew didn't like how their food came out (had some extra stuff on top that they weren't expecting). The man who brought us our food noticed immediately and took it back and brought a new dinner (something completely different) without us even asking. Making me tear up right now. It was just one more magical moment on the trip.