Disney without the rides: Is it worth it?
For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you say ‘Disney World’ is the rides. The commercials are filled with clips of smiling families on roller coasters, there are thousands of ride through videos on youtube. People excitedly tweet what fastpasses they were able to snag for their next Disney trip, and everyone loves to talk about what new rides they can’t wait to see.
But what if you can’t go on any rides?
For some, rides are out of the question, whether that be because of a disability, illness, fear, or disinterest. If that’s the case for you, you’ve probably wondered whether or not going to Disney is even worth it.
Well, if you ask me, I 100% think that it is! The first time I ever went to WDW, I went to Epcot with my best friends. From that one visit, I fell completely in love. I realized that while I’m in a wheelchair and can’t enjoy all the attractions, I can still enjoy the magic just as much as everyone else. I now have an annual pass, and over the years I’ve learned just how easy it is to fill a day while skipping rides entirely.
Here are just a few ways to fill your ride-free Disney day:
Meet the characters
Okay, this one is a little obvious, but c’mon! Meeting characters is easily my favorite thing to do while at the parks. It’s magical, it’s different every time, and you always get a cute picture and a fun story at the end. You could easily fill your day wandering around meeting all the characters. I like to ask the princesses questions about their movie sidekicks. They always come up with silly stories and it’s much more fun to have a conversation than just a hug and a picture.
Find the hidden Mickey’s
There are tons hidden all throughout the parks, and you can make a fun game out of seeing who can find more! Probably not the most exciting part of your day, but still fun and cute.
Come for the special events or holidays
My family lives for Epcot’s Food and Wine/Flower and Garden festivals. Basically, each country has a little kiosk where they serve special foods and drinks specific to that event, plus there are extra countries represented for the duration of the festival like South Korea and Australia! The food varies in portion size, but it’s usually a small snack for around $5 and Epcot just gets 10000x more magical with all that extra food.
If you don’t mind the crowds and can afford the price of an event ticket, come for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party! They have special shows, parades, fireworks, character interactions, decorations, merch, and more for these events. If you get into the holidays as much as I do, it’s definitely something to consider!
Spend more time in Epcot and Animal Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is great, for sure, and you can absolutely fill a day there without rides, but if I’m being honest, I find that Epcot and Animal Kingdom are better suited for skipping rides.
In my opinion, the best part of Epcot is exploring the different countries. They’re all filled with lots of shops, restaurants, shows, and characters. If you’re old enough, you can try drinking your way around the world!
Animal Kingdom has the best shows. The Finding Nemo Musical is super cute and a nice break from the heat and the Festival of the Lion King is absolutely amazing. Like, it’s so good it’d be worth going to the park JUST for Festival of the Lion King. I was so taken by surprise when I saw it and I was beaming the whole way through. It’s an absolute must. It’s a gorgeous park, and there are so many shady areas which are a true gift. Obviously, I have to mention Pandora. I haven’t been there yet, but from everything I’ve seen and heard it’s stunning!
I don’t want to leave out Hollywood Studios. It’s got a decent number of characters to meet and a fair number of shows to see. It’s especially great for Star Wars fans, like my brother – there are a few characters (some in official meet and greets and some that wander around), a show, fireworks, and tons of merch. I put this park last because I feel that with all the construction that’s going on there, it’s a pretty small park and could probably be just a half day adventure.
You can go up to cast members and trade pins with them. If you’re a collector, or just someone looking for another fun way to interact with cast members, you should definitely try it! You might find some really cool rare pins, and even if you don’t, it’s just another small way to add a little magic to your day.
Watch the parades and shows
Disney has the best parades, okay? Just trust me on that. Festival of Fantasy is so much fun and one of my favorite Magic Kingdom things. The floats are gorgeous and massive and all of the costumes are incredible. The music is catchy and will absolutely get stuck in your head. But my favorite is that there’s a ton of character interaction! Make sure you get a good spot early (you can ask a cast member for help if you want) and enjoy!
Each park has different little shows, some out on the streets (like in the countries in Epcot), and some are their own attraction you have to wait in line for (like the country bear jamboree, my true love). Between all four parks, there’s plenty to see throughout your trip! Some are even interactive, like Monster’s Inc Laugh Floor, so they’re a little different each time.
Stay for the Fireworks
Not much to say about this one, guys, just believe me when I say that Disney fireworks are the best fireworks, and they make me weepy. It’s magic, okay? It’s just real true magic and they make my heart so happy.
Save a little extra money for shopping and a table service restaurant
If you can afford it, snag some reservations at a nice restaurant instead of opting for quick service. It’s definitely pretty pricey, but they have some really fun, special restaurants that offer their own unique experiences like the 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios or Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. Just know, you gotta grab them EARLY. I mean like, several months in advance.
There are tons and tons of shops at every park and they’re all filled with the cutest merch. Be prepared to actively talk yourself out of spending money, because you’re probably going to want it all. I suggest having a small bit of cash saved specifically for when you find the perfect souvenir or just like to hoard Disney things, like me. You can’t go wrong with the pins and mugs!
Play an interactive game
Did you know that you can play interactive games for free at the parks? They’re actually pretty fun, too!
– Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure: basically you get a fake cell phone and missions to complete throughout the park. I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun and the best of the interactive games to play.
-Festival/Holiday Scavenger Hunts – usually around the holidays or during their annual festivals there are scavenger hunts you can play. It’s worth noting that these are the exception and aren’t free, but they’re only about $6 – $8, and you get a special prize at the end (usually a pin or a similar small item.)
– Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom: lets you defeat villains with special trading cards. Each time you visit you can pick up a new pack of cards (as long as you’ve progressed in the game since last your last visit.) It’s a really fun game, and it bounces you around quite a bit in the park, so you can spend quite a long time playing! Once you finish, you can play again at a higher difficulty. If nothing else, the cards are fun to collect.
– A Pirate’s Adventure: the missions are supposed to be fun, quick, and simple, and doesn’t love getting another free souvenir?!
– Wilderness Explorers: if you sign up, you become a wilderness explorer just like Russel in the movie Up. As you play, you earn badges throughout your day. I’ve read that it can be a little more time-consuming than people expect, but you can play as much or as little as you want depending on your schedule.
These games would be especially fun if you’re taking a child who is a little bummed about missing out on the rides. It’ll give them something extra to do throughout the day and a few extra souvenirs. I personally think they’re great for any age though, because everyone can be a kid at Disney! Plus, I don’t know about you, but I’m all about anything free.
Go on the hunt for Instagram worthy walls
Have you heard of the purple wall in Magic Kingdom? How about the bubblegum wall in Epcot? No? Okay, this might sound silly, Disney is filled with walls that make super cute backdrops for Instagram photos. While you’re exploring, make sure to keep an eye out for them!
Disney World is a special place because it’s not all about the rides. It’s about all the experiences, big and small, you have throughout the day. I hope these ideas help you on your next trip and be sure to tell Mickey ‘hi’ from me!