Rainy Day Options in Walt Disney Worldby Margie Binder, contributing writer
The best advice for a rainy day or a short-lived shower in Walt Disney World is to pack an umbrella or poncho and continue with your plans. A little rain is great for keeping away the crowds, so attendance at the parks during such periods will probably be lower than normal. Additionally, families with park passes that only cover part of their trip will most likely choose the rainy day to skip the parks. Here are some tips to enjoy that next bad weather day in Walt Disney World, whether heading to a park or if you are interested in an alternate experience away from the parks.
Best Rainy Day Park
Over the last 10 years, Hollywood Studios has become our favorite rainy-day park, with a strong line-up of indoor rides, attractions, and shopping to stay out of the worst of the weather. Additionally, it is the smallest park, with parking and transportation options relatively close to the park entrance. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Star Tours, and Toy Story Mania are all great fun and should stay open in poor weather. Indoor exhibits and shows are abundant at Hollywood Studios: American Idol Experience, Muppet*Vision 3D, the Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, Magic of Disney Animation, Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, and the Great Movie Ride round out a solid touring plan for a rainy day.
Much like Main Street, USA in the Magic Kingdom, Sunset Boulevard—the main drag between the entrance of Hollywood Studios and Mickey's sorcerer hat—provides a variety of shopping experiences to find that perfect souvenir or gift, or just to pass the time during heavy rain.
Hollywood Studios is my least favorite park for dining options, so for a lunch-time break, rain or shine, I take a Disney boat to the Yacht Club or Boardwalk Resorts to get off my feet and enjoy Captain's Grille or Big River Grille and Brewing Works, respectively. The boat launch is a short walk from the main gate on the left side of the canal, and all boats travel to the Swan and Dolphin hotels, the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, and Boardwalk Resorts before continuing to the International Gateway at Epcot, then reversing course back to Hollywood Studios.
If you don't want to spend a rainy day in a park, use your private vehicle or Disney transportation to explore one or more of the deluxe resorts. Since Disney buses do not travel between resorts, you may need to be creative to determine the best way to get from one to the other. Traveling to a hub (such as one of the parks or Downtown Disney) is usually the most efficient, although I suggest avoiding Downtown Disney unless you also plan to spend time there. The traffic lights in front of Downtown Disney on E. Buena Vista Drive are poorly timed and the bus stops are notoriously slow. Don't forget about other transportation options, such as the monorail and boats, to add fun and variety to the journey. Information on transportation options is available in resort lobbies. Cast members can also help, although in my experience, too often, they recommend using Downtown Disney as a hub.
Deluxe resorts have at least one sit-down dining option, so use a rainy day to pick a new spot or ask your resort concierge for a recommendation. For families, great dining options include Boma – Flavors of Africa at Animal Kingdom Lodge (Jambo House) for a buffet breakfast or dinner. Both Kona Café at the Polynesian Resort and Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge serve all three meals. All three resorts have large lobbies to explore, and the observation decks at Animal Kingdom Lodge are wonderful places to relax and view animals on the savannah before or after your meal. Many deluxe resorts also host character meals, so a rainy day can be a great time to check that off your list without using park touring time. Be sure to call for reservations or check with your concierge for confirmed seating at any of the deluxe resort restaurants, particularly for large parties.
Normally, Downtown Disney is not my first choice for a rainy day because many travelers will head there instead of the parks, resulting in a larger crowd and more challenges moving around with bags in wet weather. However, the numerous dining and entertainment options in Downtown Disney can be a nice diversion, particularly if poor weather extends more than a day or two. DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park and the recently opened Splitsville Luxury Lanes offer some much-needed physical activity for those otherwise cooped up at their resorts. DisneyQuest requires an entry fee; Splitsville does not, although the bowling and billiards games inside are pay as you go.
General Tips for Rainy Days
- Carry an umbrella or poncho, plastic shopping bags to hold those items when they are wet, and cards or other small games if you need to wait out the weather at a restaurant or resort lobby.
- Parks should be less crowded, but plan to arrive early if you go to Downtown Disney or to a restaurant without reservations.
- Wearing sandals or flip flops for short walking days in the rain should be OK, but bring a pair of good walking shoes and fresh socks to change into when the weather clears, or feet get sore.
When rain hits Central Florida, which it does quite often, the number one tip is to relax and go with the flow, so to speak. Although it's frustrating to lose time to bad weather, great memories can still be made. If you are traveling with children, follow their lead and splash in a puddle, play a card game in the lobby, or interact with fellow travelers or cast members. Even on a weather-perfect two-week trip, it's impossible to see or do it all. Pause to consider options, ask a cast member for ideas, and enjoy the opportunity to do something you might not have in nicer weather.
Those are my rainy-day ideas. What do you and your family do when rain washes out your plans?