Preparing for the Magic: What to Do on Arrival Day at Disney World
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Walt Disney World is not just a destination; it’s an experience. The magic begins from the moment you arrive, and your arrival day sets the tone for your entire vacation. While the parks are the stars of the show, there’s so much more to do and explore beyond the theme parks. Here are a few ideas of things to do on your Disney World arrival day to ensure you have a truly magical and memorable trip.
Check in to Your Disney Resort
Your arrival day at Walt Disney World often starts with checking into your chosen Disney resort. The check-in process is your first encounter with Disney’s legendary hospitality. Arriving at your resort is exciting, and Disney’s Cast Members are there to assist you every step of the way.
Complete your online check-in through the My Disney Experience app before your arrival day. This streamlines the process and can save you time. You can provide your contact information, credit card details, and even request room preferences.
Upon your arrival at the resort, your luggage can be held by the bell services if your room isn’t ready yet, allowing you to start exploring the resort and its surroundings.
If you flew into Orlando International Airport, here are a few transportation options to your Disney resort.
Explore Your Resort
Disney’s resorts are designed to immerse you in a world of magic and comfort. Each resort boasts its unique theme and ambiance, offering a number of amenities and recreational activities. Your arrival day is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with your temporary home away from home.
Take a stroll around your resort’s grounds. Explore the beautifully landscaped gardens, relax by the pool, or indulge in some much-needed relaxation at the spa if your resort offers one. Many Disney resorts have intricate and stunning details in their theming, so don’t rush; take your time to discover hidden gems…or hidden Mickeys.
Dining at Disney resorts can also be a wonderful experience. Whether it’s a character meal, a fine dining restaurant, or a quick-service option, resort dining can often be just as exceptional as dining in the parks. Consider making dining reservations at your resort to enjoy a meal on your first day at Disney World without venturing too far.
Visit Disney Springs
When you’re ready to venture beyond your resort, Disney Springs is a fantastic destination for a relaxed and fun-filled day. Formerly known as Downtown Disney, Disney Springs is an outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex that is entirely free to enter. It provides a fantastic assortment of options for visitors of all ages.
Disney Springs is divided into four distinct neighborhoods: The Landing, Town Center, West Side, and Marketplace. Each offers a unique blend of shops, dining establishments, and entertainment venues. Here are some things you can do at Disney Springs:
Disney Springs Shopping
Explore a variety of retail stores that carry Disney merchandise, from clothing and accessories to toys and collectibles. You’ll find the World of Disney store here, along with some of your other favorite stores like Lilly Pulitzer, Under Armor, Lululemon, Sephora, and more.
Dining at Disney Springs
Disney Springs boasts an incredible selection of dining options, ranging from quick service to fine dining. Whether you’re in the mood for a gourmet burger, international cuisine, or fresh seafood, there’s a restaurant to satisfy every craving. Some of my favorites include Wine Bar George, The Boathouse, and Chicken Guy.
Keep an eye out for street performers and musicians who provide live entertainment throughout Disney Springs. You might stumble upon a talented musician, a captivating magician, or even a dance troupe.
AMC Movie Theater
The AMC Disney Springs 24 with Dine-In Theatres offers a unique movie-watching experience. You can enjoy a meal and a movie simultaneously in a comfortable recliner. This innovative concept redefines the traditional movie night, making it a great option for your arrival day.
Splitsville Luxury Lanes
If you’re a fan of bowling, don’t miss Splitsville, a bowling alley with a restaurant and bar. Splitsville isn’t just your typical bowling alley; it’s a hub of excitement, complete with comfortable seating, state-of-the-art lanes, and a diverse menu that caters to all tastes. It’s a great place for family fun and a change of pace from the theme park activities.
Hot-Air Balloon Ride
Experience Disney Springs from above by taking a ride in the Aerophile hot-air balloon. While the views are remarkable at any time of day, it’s during the golden hours of sunset when the magic truly unfolds. The Aerophile hot-air balloon is a perfect way to conclude your day at Disney Springs, leaving you with memories that will last a lifetime.
Disney Springs is a fantastic place to spend a relaxing day exploring, dining, shopping, and enjoying various forms of entertainment. You don’t need a theme park ticket to experience the magic of Disney here.
Play Mini Golf
If you’re looking for a fun and leisurely activity for your arrival day, consider playing a round of mini golf at one of Disney’s themed courses. Walt Disney World features two mini-golf locations, each with a unique theme.
Located near Disney’s Swan and Dolphin resorts, Fantasia Gardens offers a whimsical and challenging miniature golf experience inspired by Disney’s Fantasia. The course is beautifully landscaped, and the obstacles are themed to classic Disney music and animated scenes.
Situated near Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park, Winter Summerland offers two mini-golf courses, one themed to a Christmas in July vacation and the other to a winter wonderland. It’s a lighthearted and entertaining experience for families.
Mini-golf provides a relaxed and enjoyable alternative to the fast-paced action of the theme parks. It’s suitable for all ages and can be an excellent way to bond with your family and friends.
Walk Along Disney’s BoardWalk
For an evening of classic entertainment and a touch of nostalgia, consider a visit to Disney’s BoardWalk. The BoardWalk is a lively promenade located along Crescent Lake, which is close to Epcot and a short boat ride away from Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This picturesque area evokes the charm of Atlantic City in the early 20th century with its waterfront boardwalk, entertainment, dining, and nightlife options. It’s an excellent place to unwind in the evening and soak up the unique atmosphere.
Enjoy BoardWalk Entertainment
Enjoy the dance hall ambiance at the Atlantic Dance Hall or catch a dueling piano show at Jellyrolls. These venues provide entertainment and a chance to dance the night away. Look for street performers, magicians, jugglers, and musicians along the BoardWalk as well. Their lively acts add to the nostalgic feel of the area.
Grab a Treat from BoardWalk Ice Cream
Satisfy your sweet tooth at BoardWalk Ice Cream, which offers a variety of ice cream flavors, sundaes, and milkshakes. The menu items are inspired by Beaches & Cream, so it’s a quicker way to get one of their sweet treats! Hours vary but it is typically open late afternoon through the evening.
BoardWalk Dining Options
The BoardWalk features several dining establishments that offer a variety of cuisine, from classic American fare to Italian and seafood. Consider making a dining reservation for one of the restaurants to ensure you have a table. Need a quick option? The BoardWalk Pizza Window is a fan favorite!
Rent a Surrey Bike
You can rent a Surrey bike for a unique and fun way to explore the BoardWalk and the surrounding area with your family or friends. These are special bikes that can fit several people. Enjoy the fresh air and have some laughs with your travel party. It’s not just a bike ride; it’s a memory-making journey you’ll be talking about for a long time!
The BoardWalk is a fantastic spot for a leisurely and nostalgic evening. It’s a delightful change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks and offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation and entertainment.
Enjoy the Spa or Other Wellness Activities
Your arrival day at Walt Disney World doesn’t have to be all about exploration and excitement. It’s also an excellent time to unwind and prepare your body and mind for the adventures ahead. Some Disney resorts offer luxurious spa and wellness facilities where you can experience relaxation and rejuvenation.
The Grand Floridian Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort is a delightful option for indulging in wellness treatments. This spa offers a range of services, including massages, facials, body treatments, and salon services. You can choose from various packages designed to pamper you and enhance your well-being. Other options include the Mandara Spa at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin or the spa at the Four Seasons Resort.
A spa visit can help you unwind, ease any travel-related tension, and get you ready to fully enjoy your Walt Disney World vacation. Be sure to book your appointment in advance to secure your preferred treatment time.
Pack Your Park Bag and Get Organized
Before you dive into the magic of Walt Disney World, it’s crucial to have everything well-organized and ensure you’re well-prepared for the adventures ahead. Your arrival day can be a great time to go over your checklist and make sure you have everything you need while getting situated in your resort room.
Ensure Everything is Linked in the My Disney Experience App
Ensure you have your MagicBands and park tickets. Make sure they’re linked to your My Disney Experience app for easy access and convenience. If you’re staying at a Disney resort, your MagicBands will serve as your room key and payment method, so having them ready is essential.
Pack Your Park Bag
Take time to get your Park Bag packed and ready to go for your first day in the parks. Make sure you have all of your essentials! From sunscreen to keep you protected from those sunny rays to sunglasses to protect your eyes, you don’t want to forget any important items. If you’re bringing refillable water bottles, fill them up the night before.
Charge any electronics you’ll need in the parks once you get to your room. Get those portable chargers ready to go – they’re your lifeline for keeping your phone and other items powered up throughout the day. Don’t forget your trusty fan for staying cool in the Florida heat and your MagicBand+ for easy access to the parks, rides, and more. Doing all of this the night before means you can start your Disney adventure without any last-minute worries or panics. It’s all about maximizing your Disney fun!
Grab Drinks and Snacks for Your Room
Have some water and your favorite drinks and snacks available in your room. You can either pick up a few items from the gift shop at your resort or use a grocery delivery service. I would not recommend getting anything that is perishable if you are staying in a standard resort room though, those rooms only have coolers and are not meant to store these types of items. Villas will have full refrigerators.
Unpack Your Suitcase
Unpack and get your clothing and items organized. Lay out your outfits for the next day so it’s one less thing to think about when you’re getting ready in the morning. It’s also helpful to see if there’s anything you forgot while you have some time to get a backup option.
Taking the time to review your packing and organization on your arrival day can set the stage for smooth and stress-free days ahead.
Soak Up Some Quiet Time
Amid the excitement and activity of your arrival day, it’s crucial to schedule some downtime to relax, connect with your travel party, and discuss your plans for the upcoming days. While the magic of Disney World is all around you, sometimes the most memorable moments are the quiet ones spent with loved ones. There’s no need to rush to do anything on your Disney World arrival day.
Whether you’re in your resort room or lounging by the pool, dedicate a portion of your day to relaxation. You can take a nap, read a book, or enjoy a drink by the pool. You can also take some time to discuss your park plans with your travel party and ensure everyone is on the same page. Review your dining plans, Genie+ strategy, and any specific things you want to prioritize.
Other Tips for Your Disney Arrival Day
Here are a few additional tips for making the most of your Disney World arrival day:
- If you’re arriving early in the day, you may be able to check in to your resort early. This will give you more time to enjoy your resort amenities.
- Bell Services can store your luggage for you while you’re checking in. This can free up your time so you can enjoy your arrival day without having to worry about your bags.
- Don’t try to do too much on your arrival day. You’re probably tired from traveling, so it’s important to give yourself time to relax and recharge.
By taking the time to relax and prepare, you ensure that your days in the parks are as smooth and enjoyable as possible. After all, at Walt Disney World, every moment can be a part of the magic, from the very start of your adventure to the very last. So, when you plan your next trip to the most magical place on Earth, remember that the magic begins long before you enter the park gates. Make the most of your arrival day, and your entire Walt Disney World vacation will be even more amazing and memorable.