Walt Disney World – The Best Things to do that Aren’t Rides (2023)


The Walt Disney World Resort includes four theme parks and two water parks that feature more than 150 individual rides like Space Mountain, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain.

Rides are typically the largest reasons visitors come to the Disney Parks.  And with ride technology consistently improving Disney is constantly expanding its offering of rides and there are always new rides for guests to enjoy. Unfortunately ride lines can get long and wait times are often lengthy.  Using the paid Genie + / Lightning Lane service to bypass the standard queues does help make the day more productive but it can get expensive quickly.   

As a result we are often asked, can you visit Disney World and not go on the rides?  The answer is a resounding yes and following is a list of some of our favorite things to do at the Disney Parks that don’t include rides.

Click here to learn more about Walt Disney World

Best things to do at Walt Disney World that aren’t rides (2023)

Parades

The parades are one of the be things to do at Walt Disney World and are not to be missed when visiting one of the theme parks.

The Festival of Fantasy Parade is the most prominent parade at this time and typically held several times a day in the Magic Kingdom Park.  Guests will see a number of the Disney Princesses, a fire breathing dragon and of course Mickey Mouse.  Since this is an outside event that takes place along Main Street USA, it is subject to inclement weather.

In addition to the Festival of Fantasy Parade, there are a number of parades held during special events like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

Live Shows and Performances

There are a number of live shows throughout Walt Disney World.  Some of our favorites include:

  • Mickey’s Magical Friendly Faire (Magic Kingdom)
  • Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Festival of the Lion King (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Matsuriza Taiko Drummers (Epcot – Japan Pavilion)
  • Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular! (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Dapper Dans on Main Street (Magic Kingdom)
  • Feathered Friends in Flight! (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Voices of Liberty (Epcot – The American Adventure)
  • Magic Kingdom Opening Ceremony (Magic Kingdom)
  • Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)

Guests will also find a number of live music performances at the United Kingdom Pavilion in Epcot as well as during special events like Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival.

Animatronic & Film Shows

In addition to the live shows, there are a number of films and animatronic shows in the parks.  These include:

  • Enchanted Tiki Room (Magic Kingdom)
  • For the First time in Forever (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • The American Adventure (Epcot – America Pavilion)
  • Disney Pixar Short Film Festival (Epcot – Imagination Pavilion)
  • The Hall of Presidents (Magic Kingdom)
  • Reflections of China Circle – Vision (Epcot – China Pavilion)
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic (Magic Kingdom)
  • Canada Far & Wide (Epcot – Canada Pavilion)
  • Muppet Vision 3D (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Country Bear Jamboree (Magic Kingdom)
  • Impressions de France (Epcot – France)

Fireworks and Nighttime Spectaculars

The later evening hours are one of the best times to visit the Disney theme parks as there are always amazing fireworks shows and nighttime spectaculars.  Following is a list of the most current spectaculars:

  • Disney Enchantment (Magic Kingdom)
  • Harmonious (Epcot)
  • Electrical Water Pageant (Seven Seas Lagoon & Bay Lake)
  • Tree of Life Awakenings (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Fantasmic (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Wonderful World of Animation (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

These outdoor shows are typically held just prior to park closing are are subject to inclement weather.

Character Meet & Greets 

Throughout all four theme parks guests will find a number of opportunities to meet their favorite Disney characters.  Some of current characters and locations are as follows:

  • Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theater (Magic Kingdom)
  • Merida at Fairytale Garden (Magic Kingdom)
  • Cinderella & a visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall (Magic Kingdom)
  • Princess Tiana & a visiting Princess at Princess Fairytale Hall (Magic Kingdom)
  • Minnie Mouse in front of Spaceship Earth (EPCOT)
  • Kevin from Pixar’s Up (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Rafiki from the Lion King (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Darth Vader (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Rey & Chewbacca (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Please note that Disney constantly changes characters and locations so check the MyDisneyExperience app on the day of your visit.

In addition to character locations, guests can enjoy dining with the characters at a number of restaurants throughout the Disney theme parks and resort hotels.  Following are several locations.

  • Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)
  • Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast (EPCOT)
  • Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (EPCOT)
  • Hollywood and Vine Character Dining (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Chef Mickey’s (Disney’s Contemporary Hotel)
  • Storybook Dining with Snow White & Friends (Disney’s Wilderness Lodge)
  • Topolino’s Terrace Character Breakfast (Disney’s Riviera Resort)

Click here to see our list of the Best Restaurants at Walt Disney World

Beacons of Magic

For the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World a park icon each theme park comes alive with a magical display of lights and sounds.

  • Magic Kingdom Park – Cinderella Castle
  • Epcot – Spaceship Earth
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Hollywood Tower Hotel
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Tree of Life

Exhibits, Galleries and Walk-Thru Attractions 

The theme parks at Walt Disney World are filled with a number of exhibits, galleries and walk-thru attractions.  Guests can literally spend the entire day exploring these attractions and have a completely enjoyable experience.

  • Discovery Island Trails (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Swiss Family Treehouse (Magic Kingdom)
  • Liberty Square Riverboat (Magic Kingdom)
  • Maharajah Jungle Trek (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Walt Disney Presents (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Star Wars Launch Bay (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

Exploring the World Showcase Countries at EPCOT

Guests will enjoy exploring the World Showcase at EPCOT which features eleven individual countries plus an African oupost that surround the World Showcase Lagoon.  There are a number of exhibits and galleries in a number of countries as well as a number of attractions, shops and dining experiences.

  • United States – The American Adventure
  • China – Temple of Heaven
  • Japan – Bitjutsu-kan Gallery
  • Germany – Bavarian Village
  • Italy – Fontana Di Nettuno
  • Mexico – Mexico Folk Art Gallery
  • Morocco – Musique Aramenco
  • Norway – Stave Church Gallery
  • France – Eiffel Tower & Palais du Cinem Exhibits
  • Canada – Hotel du Canada and Victoria Gardens
  • United Kingdom – Traditional English village

Interactive Experiences and Scavenger Hunts

There are a number of interactive experiences at the Disney theme parks which include:

  • A Pirate’s Adventures – Treasures of the Seven Seas (Magic Kingdom)
  • Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) [premium experience]
  • Droid Depot (Disney’s Hollywood Studios) [premium experience]
  • Turtle Talk with Crush (Epcot – The Seas Pavilion)
  • Beauty and the Beast Sing – Along (Epcot – France Pavilion)
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Kidcot Fun Stops (Epcot)
  • Harmony Barber Shop (Magic Kingdom)
  • Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (Magic Kingdom)
  • Disney Jr. Dance Party (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
  • Wilderness Explorers (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
  • Finding Dory’s Friends (Epcot – The Seas Pavilion)
  • Frontierland Shooting Arcade (Magic Kingdom)

During special events there are themed scavenger hunts like Remy’s Hide & Squeak Scavenger Hunt (Food & Wine Festival) and Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt (Festival of the Holidays).

Learn More about the Walt Disney World Resort with our Theme Park Guides

 Where Should We Stay When Visiting the Walt Disney World Resort?

The Walt Disney World Resort has a number of great on-site hotels and each and every one of them have their own benefits, characteristics and price points.

There are multiple “categories” of hotels which are as follows:

  • Deluxe Resort Hotels
  • Deluxe Resort Villas
  • Moderate Resort Hotels
  • Disney’s Campgrounds
  • Value Resort Hotels

Deluxe resort hotels include the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.  These resort hotels are all located adjacent to a Walt Disney World theme park (Magic Kingdom Park, EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom) and offer easy access to that park as well as superior amenities and accommodations. 

In addition Disney’s hotels and resorts, there are a number of other hotel options including the hotels in the Disney Springs Resort Area and those within the Bonnet Creek Resort.

Click here to learn more about hotels at the Walt Disney World Resort

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