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Walt Disney World as a Road Trip Pit Stop

Quick visits to Walt Disney World are not uncommon. Sometimes a week-long vacation is not feasible or necessary, and a fast trip gets the job done just fine. But what about really fast? Like, not even a day long? Over the last two weeks, the WDW Radio Blog has featured posts themed around “Getting There is Half the Fun.” But what if “there” isn’t Walt Disney World? Today, I’m sharing how to make Walt Disney World a fun road trip pit stop on the way to another primary destination.

For one reason or another, maybe Orlando isn’t the reason why you are traveling, but you’ll be passing through the area. Perhaps grandma lives in a Sarasota. Maybe the company is taking a business trip to Tampa. You’d love to squeeze in some Disney time if you can, but it’s just not going to be possible to have even one full day in the parks. One would assume that there wouldn’t be anything worth stopping to do at Walt Disney World if you’re not going to stay at least a full day. Right? Wrong! Two main options make the most sense, while a list of other alternatives may require some more heavy lifting on your part.

A Decidedly Disney Meal

Ohana Polynesian Village - DisneyThe first and most magical option is to dine at a character meal at a resort hotel. You’ll get a true dose of Disney without breaking the bank and without taking up a huge portion of your travel agenda. If you really wanted, you could be on and off property in a matter of two hours (though I’d suggest taking it a little slower than that). You don’t need to pay admission – or parking! – to visit a resort hotel, so the only thing you’ll pay for is the meal itself. It really is a delightful treat, and it is the perfect way to balance making some Disney memories but not having time to do a full day in a theme park. Most character breakfasts are around $30, while character dinners are around $45. A full list of character dining can be found on Disney’s official website.

Disney Springs - disneyA Short Shopping Trip

The second most logical option is to enjoy Disney Springs, the newly dubbed successor to Downtown Disney. With so many new tenants and the gorgeous new theming of turn-of-the-century Florida, there’s a lot to experience at Disney Springs. The area also doesn’t charge for admission or parking, making it an economical pit stop if you’re looking for some Disney fun (but maybe not if you plan on buying some goodies!). I only place Disney Springs as second on the list because I’m not sure that an isolated visit would give off a real “Disney” feel. Most people experience Disney Springs as one part of a whole Disney vacation rather than completely by itself, and it works best this way. The area is designed and executed with Disney quality, for sure, but I think that between the two, a character meal would be a more magical offering if there’s only time to do one activity.

Other options are available if you’d like to spend some time on Disney property but want to do something different. However, they require a bit more planning to get just right. These options would also work well if you plan to do a day off from the parks, regardless of whether you’re just passing through or visiting for a long time:

  • Riding the Monorail to different resorts
  • Taking the Epcot Monorail for a scenic view through the park
  • Watching Wishes! from a public balcony of Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Enjoying watercraft on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, rentable from Disney’s Polynesian Resort or Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Strolling along the boardwalk at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this kind of quick, in-and-out Disney visit, and it’s honestly what could make or break whether you think such a visit is even doable. For someone who loves Disney, it can be difficult to be in the center of your happy place but only allow yourself a few short hours. It might be just plain torture to sit at a character meal with a view of Cinderella Castle without being able to enter the Magic Kingdom itself. Does that negate the value of the visit, though? That will be up to you and what you think you can personally tolerate, but there is plenty to do should you want to stop in to briefly say, “Hi.”

Have you ever stopped in for a quick visit to WDW on the way to somewhere else? What did you do, or what would you like to do if you were?

Images © Disney.

Mickey - Blake


Blake graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Broadcasting and Film. He is currently a participant of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite attraction is the hub grass. You can find him on Twitter @blake_242 or at BlakeOnline.com.