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Sue Holland

Relaxing at Walt Disney World

Recharge your batteries for a more enjoyable trip

Friday, May 14, 2004
by Sue Holland, staff writer

Photo by Sue Holland.

For many families a vacation spent at Walt Disney World is anything but relaxing. They might return home needing a vacation from their vacation! Particularly if a family has had to save and plan for many years to make the trip, there is a tendency to try to do everything there is to do, for fear of missing anything.

After a few visits, though, most people start to get less frantic, and might actually build in some time to relax during their Disney vacations. Then there are people like me who make trips to Walt Disney World primarily to relax, without getting caught up in the mad dash from Dumbo to Splash Mountain.

Most visitors intend to keep pretty busy during their stay, wanting to see and do as much as possible. It is still possible to build in periods of time for relaxing and recharging your batteries (or letting the children burn off a little pent-up energy). One approach is to determine what activities or settings are relaxing back home, and then look to duplicate some of those while on vacation. For example, if lounging by your pool while reading a book is something you enjoy, it would make sense to plan an afternoon—or at least a couple of hours—doing exactly that by your resort pool.

Many resorts have quiet pools in addition to a busier themed pool, and sometimes it's possible to be the only person or family there. The busier pools tend to have water slides to amuse the children, and lifeguards to help keep everyone safe. They also usually have a bar nearby—great for a delicious tropical frozen drink, with or without the alcohol. Nothing says vacation like a frozen drink by the pool!

Boating is another popular pastime, whether it is done as a recreational activity or simple transportation. The resorts in the Magic Kingdom area are the best locations for renting boats, since the vast Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake provide the largest area to explore. Water Mouse are small speed boats that hold one or two people (up to 300 pounds), and zip along so low to the water your speed feels faster than it actually is. There are also large pontoon boats available—a perfect choice for a large family looking to meander slowly over the water.

Popular with teens, Water Mouse boats are a fun way to relax on a warm Florida day. Photo by Sue Holland.

Disney watercraft transportation can also provide a relaxing break during a busy day. Unless the boat is crowded, hop onboard and just ride. The boat will eventually return to where you boarded, and you may enjoy the view, as well as the chance to get off your feet for 30-60 minutes. If something looks interesting ashore, go check it out and return later to catch a boat to finish your excursion. Riding the monorail (during non-busy times) would be similar, with the loop from the Ticket & Transportation Center to Epcot and back providing the longest ride.

Most of the deluxe resorts have many quiet areas to sit and read or do some people-watching. At the Wilderness Lodge, there are rocking chairs located overlooking the beautiful lobby. The Polynesian Resort has a large waterfall in the lobby, providing very relaxing background noise. The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa lobby is just plain gorgeous, especially during the holiday season when the tree is lit and the smell of gingerbread is in the air.

Even the moderate resorts have peaceful areas, and except for the swimming pools (restricted to guests registered at that specific resort) everything is available to be used by anyone who visits. Coronado Springs has a long path circling the lake, which is especially beautiful around sunset. Along the way you can stop and rest in a hammock on the beach or sit on a bench. Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter are connected by another path, which is also quite nice.

However, if walking is not your idea of relaxing, rent a surrey bike that seats up to six people and ride along the paths instead. At Fort Wilderness and Port Orleans Riverside there are also horse-drawn carriage rides available nightly (starting by 6 p.m.). Every resort has an informational newsletter that describes the amenities and activities available.

You can rent surrey bikes at most resorts. Photo by Sue Holland.

When the children are raring to go and the adults just want to rest, consider one of the resort playgrounds. While the young ones are having fun playing on the equipment, parents can find a shady spot and perhaps enjoy one of those cold drinks from the bar while keeping an eye on the kids. Try not to view time like this as being a waste of your vacation time and money because you are not in the theme parks. When my son was a toddler and preschooler, his favorite attraction was riding the Disney buses—so you just might be providing your child's best memories while relaxing!

Fort Wilderness is a destination with plenty of opportunities to relax. Easily accessible via boat from the Magic Kingdom or bus from any of the other parks, it is possible to spend a good portion of a day here without running out of things to do. The petting zoo is free of charge, and located right next to Pioneer Hall at the hub of the campground. Bicycle or boat rentals are available, along with evening hayrides and a campfire program that includes a singalong, animated movie and character visit. A hammock on the beach can be the perfect spot to relax with a good book (or without one for a nap) while the kids or rest of your party is busy with other Fort Wilderness activities.

It's also possible to relax while inside one of the busy theme parks. Epcot has live entertainment occurring several time daily in the countries around World Showcase. In some cases people stand to watch the brief show, but at some locations, seating is provided. Getting off your feet—even for 20 minutes—can be a big help in boosting your energy to continue touring.

A couple of years ago Disney experimented with lounges for annual passholders. These were intended to be comfortable places for passholders to take a break and relax during their time in the theme parks. By far the nicest one was at Epcot, located above the revolving restaurant in The Land pavilion. Cold drinks, restroom facilities, videos, toys for children and even the characters were available exclusively for passholders' enjoyment. There have not been any plans announced regarding future lounges, and currently none exist.

No longer open, the passholder lounge at Epcot was a popular spot to relax. Photo by Sue Holland.

Interrupting your touring for a leisure lunch or dinner can also be a great way to relax. Lunch is the more peaceful of the two meals, and the restaurants at the resorts are generally more relaxing than those in the theme parks. Unfortunately, not all resort restaurants are open for lunch, so definitely check that out before making the trip. Usually priority seatings are not necessary for lunch, even at restaurants where they are necessary for dinner.

A relaxing massage or other spa treatments are available at the Grand Floridian and the new Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. Golfing is available, on several excellent courses. Booking golf or a spa treatment in advance is recommended. There are also four miniature golf courses on Disney property, a 20-screen movie theater, and seemingly unlimited merchandise shops available to visitors who enjoy relaxing by doing any of these activities.

Once you start building time to relax into your Walt Disney World vacation planning, you might just find after the trip that the favorite memories will come from those more relaxed moments.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Sue here.


Sue has been hooked on Walt Disney World since her first visit in 1972 with her parents and younger brother. She kept returning more frequently until she moved to Florida in 1986.

After joining the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) in 1997, she now visits almost monthly. She also spends time at the DVC's non-WDW locations, and is experienced with the Disney cruise ships.

She takes many of these trips on her own, but she's also toured WDW with large groups of people, including families, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

She works as the Administrative Services Division Head for a large residential facility administered by the Florida Department of Children and Families. She currently resides in Southwest Florida with her teenage son.

Sue is one of our most prolific trip report writers. Read her trip report archive here.

You can contact Sue here.

Get the latest info about the resort at “Park Update: Walt Disney World.”


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