Do you really want to visit Walt Disney World but can’t justify the cost of a park ticket? Need to give Disney a trial run first to see if it’s worth the money? As those Disney park tickets keep going up, we totally understand! BUT, did you know there are other ways you can experience some amazing things at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida… without buying a park ticket? Yep! That’s right. No ticket required. This is how to start your Free Day living the Disney life.
A Free Day at the Walt Disney World Monorail Resorts
We love visiting the resorts at Walt Disney World. We’ve visited almost of them, even though we’ve only stayed at several. The Monorail Resorts at Disney are simply resorts that are accessible via the monorail. For many, the monorail resorts are highly coveted because they allow guests the opportunity to literally walk out of their resort, hop on the monorail and arrive at Magic Kingdom. So how does this help you? Well, the monorail also connects some of the best resorts at Walt Disney World, each with a unique feel, dining, gift shops, and even sometimes entertainment. Tons of Disney feels, without the Disney price tag.
How do you start your Free Day at Walt Disney World?
Just drive over to one of the resorts or the TTC ( Transportation and Ticket Center) and park.
Why should you spend a day at the Disney Monorail Resorts?
We consider monorail resort days the official opportunity for a Free Day at Disney. And while it’s true you don’t enter the parks on your resort day, there is oh so much more Disney than just to be found in the parks. In fact for the weary families who hesitate spending the money on park tickets this is a perfect way to get into the “feeling” of Disney. Truthfully, any resort experience will do, but lets start here. The resorts on the Monorail are The Contemporary, The Polynesian and The Grand Floridian.
Monorail Resorts at Walt Disney World
Monorail Resorts at Disney are higher end, house some of the best restaurants and gift shops and are essentially open to the public without a magic band or park ticket.
If you choose to park at Magic Kingdom the route runs as follows, though parking at any of these locations will do.
- Stop 1 Contemporary and Bay Lake Towers
- Stop 2 The TTC ( Transportation and Ticket Center)
- Stop 3 The Polynesian Resort and Villas
- Stop 4 The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
- Stop 5 Magic Kingdom ( again)
- Stop 6 BONUS: From Magic Kingdom you can grab the ferry to Wilderness Lodge
Monorail Resort Hopping
Here’s the breakdown of what you can do at each resort on the monorail and other options for more Free Days at Disney.
Contemporary & Bay Lake Towers
The Contemporary is the closest resort to Magic Kingdom. Guests can walk to the main gates of Magic Kingdom in about 15 minutes and have the luxury of not waiting for buses in the evenings.
As a Monorail Resort Hopper there are a few things you can access here without being a guest. The lobby, courtyards, restaurants and shops are all open to the public. This means you can have breakfast at Chef Mickey’s, Lunch at the Contempo Cafe and if you’re feeling a little fancy, The Wave for dinner. You’ll be able to get your fill of fancy cupcakes, usually at Contempo Cafe and coffees at the Joffreys in the registration lobby.
The shopping at The Contemporary is also quite impressive. A larger gift shop than many resorts boasts a full kitchen section, clothes, Dooney and Bourke bags, and a kids section.
You can also see the Grand Canyon Mural here which covers all four sides of the center column. And if the hustle and bustle of the monorail concourse is not your style you can meander out to Bay Lake to have a lakeside lunch, stop by the bar or watch the electric water parade in Seven Seas Lagoon.
Even more if you’re visiting during the holidays, you can see the decorations in the resort lobby.
The TTC : The Transportation and Ticket Center
So, unless you’ve parked your car at the TTC ( parking fees will apply) you don’t need to disembark here. Just ride the rail to the next resort. However, if you have decided to buy a park ticket to Epcot then this is where you’ll switch trains.
The Polynesian Resort and Villas
Apart from the gorgeous scenery, island atmosphere and connecting walkway to the Grand Floridian, there’s one big reason people visit the Polynesian. Dole Whip.
It’s true. You don’t have to be in the parks to get this magical dessert. The monorail will let you out at the second floor of the Polynesian. If you go downstairs and head outside towards the pool, you’ll see Pineapple Lanai, offering dole whips and dole whip floats.
The Polynesian Resort is home to the Kona Cafe, home of Tonga Toast and mimosa flights at breakfast. We love Kona Cafe for decent mochas and even dinner. Definitely a nice place to eat, even with picky eaters! But a favorite reason to come here is Ohana. Serving traditional Hawaiian food, family-style, Ohana is a restaurant experience complete with music at dinner and Lilo and Stitch at breakfast. If you venture downstairs you can find Captain Cooks Quick Service Restaurant.
Another excellent shopping experience, the Polynesian has merchandise you can’t find in other shops around Disney. They also carry the painted “Greetings from Walt Disney World” coconut you can mail to your family (or home).
However, if you’re more into just relaxing and living like a local, grab a dole whip and a beach chair. Any reason to get your feet in the sand is a good one.
Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Next on our Monorail stop is The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Can anyone say super fancy? We love going to the Grand Floridian. A character breakfast with the Evil Stepmother and stepsisters is always delightful at 1900 Park Fare. Or you can grab breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe. We never turn down an opportunity to have tea at the Garden View Tea Room or meander over to Gasparilla Island Grill for a mocha.
The Grand Floridian houses quite a few restaurants, some fancy, some casual so whatever you’re mood they’ll have something you love.
We personally love the shopping at the Grand Floridian. They have lots of DVC merch, beachy Florida wear, and Disney shops with fancier things than other resorts. So its always a treat to stop.
This resort is also covered in Hidden Mickeys and other characters you’re sure to recognize, so look up and down. Be sure to download the hidden mickeys app on your phone for extra fun. It is for a price, but in our experience totally worth it, because you can never, ever find them all!
Our Monorail Resort Hopping ends at the Magic Kingdom entrance. If you’re ending your night here, stand outside the gates to watch and listen to Happily Ever After; the fireworks show usually starts around 9 pm.
We also like hopping off at the Magic Kingdom stop to catch the ferry boat over Wilderness Lodge. Another free excursion with great restaurants, a gift shop and a large lobby to cozy up by the fire. If you’re into wilderness and want a hike, Wilderness Lodge connects to the Disney Fort Wilderness Campground via a trail that is as free as can be. If you don’t fit this into your monorail day, just park at the resort, or campgrounds to access the trail at another time.
More ways to Have a Free Day at Walt Disney World
We love the monorail resorts as a way to get in some Disney magic without having to step foot into the parks during busy times. If you’re looking for more free fun, there is probably more than you realize! You can visit any of the Disney resorts to just look around, dine or shop. Even Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter share a ferry boat that can bring you to and from Disney Springs. Fitting in a beignet run to those resorts when next you’re at Disney Springs will make you feel like you’re in the middle of the magic. And we haven’t even covered everything you can do at the Boardwalk! Another amazing place to experience fun activities, dining and shopping. And all you need to do is drive up and park there.
Hopefully this has given you a little glimpse of all the amazing fun you can have without purchasing the 100+ dollar tickets into the park. We’ve been amazed at how many things there are to do at the monorail resorts, and so much yet we haven’t tried. We’re hoping to experience the Monorail Crawl, new this year, and get a closer look at what all the resorts have to offer. We’ll be sure to report back. Ask questions if you got ’em. Here’s hoping this inspires you to visit Orlando, Florida soon.
- A Free Disney Day at Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness Campgrounds
- A Free Disney Day at Disney Springs and Port Orleans Resorts
- A Free Disney Day at the Boardwalk
- A Free Disney Day at the Disney Skyliner Resorts
- A Free Disney Day at Animal Kingdom Lodge