April 21, 2023
Setting up a new house in a different state after having spent over a decade in your previous home is such a huge hassle! We still have so many boxes to go through. It’s hard to figure out where the things we have unpacked should go with so much less space than we had before. And we don’t really have a place for those things to go because we haven’t bought proper furniture yet after spending most of our savings on the down payment!
But… we moved to Disney! So finding ways to procrastinate on taking care of those worries has been easy! Here are a few of things we like to do when we just want to say “Hakuna Matata” for a few hours and take a break from sitting on our way too small futon amongst our unopened boxes and mismatched spare furniture!
The theme parks are a gimme. But that was complicated by the fact that Disney stopped selling most of their annual passes over a year before we moved here. The only pass available to us when we arrived was the lowest tier pass, which blocked out all weekends, peak periods, and most holidays. With my wife working a Monday though Friday schedule, that only left evenings after work for us to go to the parks. (Thankfully, going forward that won’t be as much of an issue. As of this week, Disney has started up pass sales again, and allowed those like us who had lower tiers to upgrade them. So very soon we’ll be able to make our first all day trip to a park together on a weekend!)
But as an after work activity, it’s still been enjoyable. In fact, it’s fun in a much different way. We’re not there to wait in lines for rides or go to the shows. We’re just there to hang out. We go to shops if we want. We jump on a ride if there is no wait. We stop and rest whenever we like. There’s no rush and it is a very different experience than visiting on vacation.
Our favorite way to add some Disney to our day has been visiting hotels and just sitting and enjoying the atmosphere. It can be so relaxing… and is exactly what I wanted to spend my evenings doing when we first decided we wanted to move here.
But again, here Disney has complicated things a bit. For the most part, these days you can’t just drive up to a resort you’re not staying at and ask the guard at the security gate if you can just go in for a visit, like you used to be able to do in the past. One way to get around that is to have a dining reservation for a restaurant at the resort you want go to. That’s fine for those on vacation, but as locals eating at Disney table service restaurants too often becomes an expensive proposition!
An alternate (and basically free) way to get into a Disney resort hotel for a visit is to use Disney transportation. There is no charge to use the monorail, boats, buses, and skyliner — even if you are not a guest of a Disney hotel or don’t have a park ticket. While not every resort has an easy way to get to them via Disney transportation, most of them do. Here are a few of the ways to do it:
— Everyone can park at Disney Springs for free. From there you can hop on a boat that will take you to Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, Port Orleans Riverside, and Port Orleans French Quarter.
— If you are an annual passholder (or are staying at a Disney Resort or have already paid the parking fee that day at one of the parks), you can park at the Transportation and Ticket Center for free. (Otherwise it will cost you $25.) From there you can take a monorail to Polynesian Village, the Contemporary, and the Grand Floridian. You can also take a monorail to Magic Kingdom then jump on a boat on to Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness.
— Again if you have free parking or pay the fee, you can park at Hollywood Studios. From there you can take the skyliner to the Riviera, Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation. The skyliner will also take you to Epcot’s International Gateway (the “backdoor” of Epcot), and from there it is a very short walk to the Boardwalk Inn, Beach Club, and Yacht Club, as well as the Swan and Dolphin. You can also take a boat from Hollywood Studios to those last hotels as well. Or if you’re up to it, there is also a pleasant walkway.
So of the 21 Disney owned hotels on property, you can reach 16 by monorail, boat, or skyliner after parking at either the TTC or Hollywood Studios. (Disney also has buses available that will get you farther. Parking at Disney Springs or Hollywood Studios are your best bets for making it to the other hotels.)
All the different food options are, of course, another of the big reasons to visit the different resorts. And while counter service restaurants are still pricy by non-theme park standards, they are a lot easier on the wallet than the places that require reservations! Plus, you can do them spur of the moment, which is a huge deal a a local. Or forget a meal, just go for a drink and a snack! Dole Whip has been surpassed as my go-to by a new sweet treat: a cupcake with Dole Whip cheesecake frosting! But you really can’t go wrong with either and they’re both under $6 each!
Even without eating, there is so much to see and do… or sit and not do anything! The Polynesian has been our most visited resort so far. If I could decorate my entire house to look like that place I would do it in a second! But would still go back for all the smells, sounds, and ambiance. On our last outing we visited a place we had never been to before: Pop Century. Much different vibe, but a lot of fun! Especially loved all the displays of old tech, pop culture, and more in the lobby.
One of the more everyday type of things I was looking forward to doing after this move was making visiting Disney Springs as normal as going to the mall was back in Tennessee. And we certainly picked the right home for that, with the shopping complex being the closest piece of Disney property to us! (More on the house we bought very soon, I promise!)
Again, forget all the great table service restaurants at Disney Springs for the moment, because there’s a lot of good walkup counter service options here. My son likes the classic American food at D-luxe Burger and Chicken Guy, my wife loves the Polite Pig’s grilled chicken and the tomato & watermelon salad, and I’m a fan of the fish and chips at Cooke’s and the holiday turkey sandwich at Earl of Sandwich. The best part of these places is no advanced planning is required.
I’m not big into shopping, but I do love Disney merchandise, so my store preferences at Disney Springs are not as wide reaching as most. But I love the atmosphere, the hustle and bustle, the music, and that waterfront view. Walking aimlessly and just taking it all in is a great way to get in some exercise without having to actually convince yourself to do the work.
Starting out here in a new home has been a bit stressful, sure. But it’s not called the Most Magical Place on Earth for nothing! It doesn’t mean no worries for the rest of our days. However, there is no better place to put aside the problems of your day for a few hours than stepping just about anywhere on Disney property. And after putting in a lot of work to get here, it’s thankfully always just four miles away now.