Chilling Out at Walt Disney World

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer

You don't pay the kind of money you pay to get into a theme park at the Walt Disney World resort, simply to sit around and do nothing. If you're like many people, you're planning all of the different rides and attractions you want to enjoy. I remember doing this, especially as a kid when I was going to Disneyland. I had it down to a science as to how I would spend each ticket in my coupon book, and I learned which attractions to do at what time, so I didn't wait too long in line. I was going to max out my stay.

And then came my first visit to the Hungry Bear Restaurant. More than a counter-service location, this place has a beauty all of its own. And I soon found that just kicking back and watching the boats passing along the Rivers of America took me to a place I still remember today. I try to stop there whenever I'm back at Disneyland Park. 

Still one of the loveliest corners in the Happiest Place on Earth. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

So what about Walt Disney World? This resort has been likened to the Disneyland Resort on steroids. And, with millions passing through each year, there's reason to feel that way. Still, there are corners in the parks that are really quite tranquil and enjoyable and I've listed my top 10. The qualification is that it is a place to sit back and enjoy--without paying an additional price.  For instance, I would note that eating on the patio at San Angel Inn Restaurante in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot is a wonderful treat, but you will pay for the real estate. The choices here are ones you can grab at any time without paying additionally for it beyond the price of theme park admission.

10. Storybook Land Upper Terrace. This is the newest quiet spot in the Magic Kingdom. I must say there are several niches in the New Fantasyland where you can sit back and enjoy. But with construction still going on, it's hard to see the complete picture. This is also the largest of the spaces to relax. Part of it is beneath the yellow tent, but there are also some areas out in the sun looking down on Casey Jr.'s Splash 'N' Soak. If you have younger children who want to play, you can pretty much enjoy your time sitting back while keeping an eye on them. Small snack stands surround this setting, but I would suggest grabbing a treat inside Big Top Souvenirs before taking a seat. 

Lots of choices for grabbing a bite to eat at this terrace that offers sun and shade. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

9. The Patio at Tomorrowland Terrace. Sometimes Disney management gets really possessive of this space, using it for dessert parties and the like. And it doesn't help when the counter service restaurant isn't open. Still, the views are lovely and there's usually plenty of space to find a seat. The patios off of Cosmic Rays and even the dock landing from the former Swan Boats aren't too bad as well.

A view of the dragon defending the castle moat. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

8. Victoria Gardens. What a gorgeous location. This would be higher on my list but there aren't very many places to pull up a seat. And with a Kidcot area at the exit to O Canada, you can let them enjoy the crafts while you grab a stool and take in the view. Again, if nothing else, meander through this and the accompanying Rocky Mountain cascade falls nearby. If it's rainy, it's not a bad thing to grab a bench inside the queue for O' Canada.

Such a peaceful, tranquil setting. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

7. Animal Kingdom Backside Trail. The trail between Africa and Asia has a little meandering path on the side that follows over a little brook. It's perhaps the most beautiful of locations. The challenge is that it has gone back and forth from being a smoking area to being a non-smoking area. I have no problem with those who choose to smoke, it's just that some of the best locations in the parks for chilling are now smoking areas. The other challenge is that this space also goes back and forth from having chairs and benches to not having them. Still if you do nothing else than meander through, it will be worth it.

The natural beauty is just gorgeous. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

6. Magic Kingdom Rocking Chairs. It's one thing to have a seat. It's another thing to enjoy a rocking chair. The Magic Kingdom is wonderful in providing many of these along the porch at Town Square Theater. Get there early before a parade, and you won't regret it. For intimacy, there's a small nook that adjoins The Hall of Presidents. But you'll be fortunate to find a moment when someone isn't occupying it.

The sign has changed from Exposition Hall to Town Square Theater, but the rocking chairs are still there. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

5. Tomorrowland Transit Authority. So far I've only described locations with park benches and/or tables. Describing a ride is very much a departure, but, in Tomorrowland, the TTA is a great way to literally get above it all. You see Tomorrowland from every perspective without having to walk around. It's very casual, and, sometimes, when the crowds aren't crazy (early in the day or late at night) you can ask the cast member on duty to just stay on board and ride it again.

The loveliest views from the People Mover are at twilight and throughout the evening. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

4. Rainforest Cafe Patio. One of the many hidden treats at Disney's Animal Kingdom is actually outside the park. Most people are familiar with the Rainforest Cafe. Few know about the back patio area that borders the restaurant and the park itself. Just hang a hard right as you exit Oasis. Sometimes—but not often enough—there is an open stand for drinks and snacks. Just grab something on Discovery Island and simply enjoy your final moments in the park sitting back. Or, use this as a meeting place for entering the park. You'll find there is practically no line at the queue to enter.

Playful fountains, ponds and caricatured animals are part of this little corner of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

3. Echo Lake Terrace. My biggest complaint about a park that I truly love is that Disney's Hollywood Studios does not have enough little places to sit and watch the world go by. Still, twilight around Echo Lake is really serene. I love the tables and chairs on the west side, but there are benches to be found along the east side, as well. Grab a light refreshment from Min and Bill's Dockside Diner, and you're completely set. It's a great place to camp out while others choose to do some last-minute shopping along Hollywood and Sunset boulevards.

Echo Lake is actually a real lake and park in the Los Angeles area not far from the original Disney Studios. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

2. World Showcase Cafes. Anywhere along World Showcase is a great place to stop and watch the world go by. But there are several eateries along World Showcase that provide a nice little respite. Tangierine Cafe in Morocco; Kringla Bakeri og Cafe in Norway; and the new patio at La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico are not just great eateries, but they provide a nice place to enjoy the outdoors and the views—even if you don't get something to eat. All of these places can be found along the promenade, which allows you to people-watch as you kick back. For pure respite, there isn't anything quite like the patio at Katsura Grill in Japan, which is set against a beautiful garden filled with ponds, koi fish, and bonsai creations.

This quiet corner sits apart from the rest of the world--World Showcase, that is. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

1. The Dock on Tom Sawyer Island. Go figure that my No. 1 location would be around the Rivers of America. But this time, we're taking a break from the island side. Many are familiar with the veranda-style seating near old Aunt Polly's, facing Liberty Square. But my preference is on the other side of the island in a little dock-side location that overlooks Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the open wilderness. Here you'll find not only chairs, but a checkerboard game. It takes a raft ride to get here, but when you're ready to have a vacation from your vacation in the theme parks, this is the place to go.

Just sit back and relax. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Do you enjoy kicking back at any of these places? Or is there a place you enjoy that we haven't listed? Share yours, and be sure that the next time you're between E-ticket adventures, that you take time to stop and smell the roses. After all, it is a park.


  1. By marclichon

    I agree with your #1; I carve out an hour or two every trip just to sit in a rocking chair at Tom Sawyer's Island and watch the people and boats go by but I just wish the snack shop was open (it would be nice to grab a soda or Mickey Ice Cream bar). I also agree with the TTA, a must-do for every trip. Another favorite is the beach at the Poly; I don't know (or really care, unlike the pool which is obvious) if it's exclusively for resort guests but I love grabbing a Dole Whip and sitting on a large swing and watching the boat traffic go by and hearing the sounds of the MK across the water. Also, walking through the campground is extremely relaxing while ensconced in the Disney Zone.

  2. By Jeff Kober

    I clearly need to do a follow up article on laying back throughout the resort outside the parks. There are so many choices. Another wrote off line about the boats between Epcot and the Studios. I love the Dole Whip on the Polynesian beach given above. I would say that I prefer sitting back on the beach at the Polynesian watching the Electrical Water Pageant over doing the same on a crowded Main Street watching the electrical parade.

  3. By mickeymom5

    Love your article! Now that I have been several times to WDW, I can let myself enjoy these quiet spots. I actually got to enjoy one of those rocking chairs to the right of the exit of the Hall of Presidents. I had went to get fast passes while everybody else in our group experienced the HoP. I made my way to the exit so I wouldn't miss them and lucked up on an empty rocking chair. It was great! I got to people watch and watch some CM's work that Disney magic.

    I didn't know about the patio at Rainforest...I will be checking that one out next time! Thanks again for a great article!

  4. By DisneyGator

    I would say #5, the TTA, is my #1. This last trip, it was a great spot for me and my 1yo to circle around quietly and peacefully while the family rode Space Mountain. I could easily loop that ride about 4 times before I even thought of being bored.

    The one you left out is the seating area of Flame Tree BBQ. That area seemed so obvious that maybe you overlooked it. But I love grabbing lunch and then sitting in "the jungle", ,maybe overlooking the lake and viewing ExEv.

  5. Discuss this article on MousePad.