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?
I'm from the Great Northwest and if you were raised there the only umbrella you own is permanently attached to your golf bag.
But, I have three rain stories to share. The first came on my first trip in 1998 to WDW. Tropical Storm Mitch cut across Florida, became a hurricane and did serious damage to Central America. It made a U-turn and came back to Florida again as another tropical storm. My first day wasn't too bad but on day two it rained pretty hard. I was standing at Hollywood Studios with a friend and we turned to each other at the same time, but he said it first, "If we lose each other in the crowd it should be easy to find each other...we're the only ones not in yellow." That was the days of the infamous (more than famous) yellow rain ponchos with Mickey emblazoned on the backs. We eventually ended up on the back lot tour and were seated in the lead car. The emcee was in shorts, but wrapped in a towel and shivering. As she was waiting for the rest of the tram to be filled she was asking each of us in the lead car our names. When it came to me I said, "You don't want to know." She said she did. I said, "Mitch." She replied, "You're right, I didn't want to know."
Second story was on my last trip to WDW in December 2011 with my brother. We unloaded from the buses at Magic Kingdom just as the rain started. Everyone stayed under cover. We looked at the rain, and he said "Let's go for it." We're from the NW and besides, our experience with Florida rain was that it doesn't last too long and will probably stop before we get to the docks. We took two steps out from under the cover and were nailed by rain drops the size of marbles. Back under cover we went. Wow! Those drops held more water than I have ever experienced before, including what I had felt during Tropical Storm Mitch. And like I said earlier, the rain didn't last long, maybe 2 minutes.
In 2006 at Disneyland I got caught in a steady rain which wasn't too heavy. Except for as we were exiting It's a Small World. Our boat stopped right beneath the overhead walkway of the exit from the unloading platform. Nothing to do but take it.
Excellent article. Rainy days are some of the best touring in WDW, especially right after those famous Florida afternoon showers that last around 20 minutes or so and send 75% of the crowds racing for their hotel room!
One minor correction - the main drag in DHS from the entrance to the hat is Hollywood Blvd., while Sunset Blvd. is the newer offshoot that leads to the Tower of Terror.
Great article! When at Disney in the rain I remind myself that a rainy day there beats a rainy day in Ohio anytime (and twice on Sundays).
I agree with your suggestions. One of our favorite activities is resort hopping. Also, we try to enjoy the amenities at the resort in which we're staying. Florida rain often seems to be on/off so it rarely lasts long enough to affect the entire day.
For me it's sort of a "depends" type question. For the usual on again/off again rain I sort of just go with the "take it" approach and do what I'd normally do. I try to head to either DHS or MK on rainy days though- mostly because I am trying to avoid EPCOT with the tons of walking and AK, which is largely outdoors. While I make sure I am prepared on my trips (I prefer a good rain coat to an umbrella though, because I don't have to try and figure out what to do with an umbrealla as I ride a ride) I don't need to stay out in it forever. For the heavier rain days it depends on if it's early in my trip or later in my trip. Early in my trip I might move my "off day" from the middle to the start of the week and just sleep in, check out resorts, enjoy amenities and maybe catch a movie. Later in my week it's more of the "just take it" approach.
Overall though, I take marchlicon's approach- a rainy day in Disney is better than a rainy day in either of my home states...
Not sure why we're seeing misinformation about park sizes this week, but this is the second article in a week to contain some false information. Disney's Hollywood Studios is NOT the smallest park at WDW; DHS is approximately 135 acres, while the Magic Kingdom is approximately 107 acres.
Great stories, Mitch, thanks. I agree the storms in Florida can be unlike any in other parts of the country, but the worst ones usually pass quickly.
Dan, I'm with you on the rainy days. I actually smile a little more when the morning is a bit stormy, because I know it will usually clear and it will keep the crowd level down. Totally my error on the Sunset Blvd/Hollywood Blvd goof. I checked the correct names for the rides and attractions but neglected to confirm the street name. Thanks for keeping me straight! (Enjoyed your last trip report, by the way.)
Marclichon, I agree...attitude is everything! Whenever we are in Walt Disney World and hit a bump in the road, e.g. bad weather, closed attraction, etc., I remind myself and my kids that it sure beats being just about anywhere else.
mkelm44-- great points. I feel for folks who experience a week of horrendous weather during their one and only, or very infrequent, trip to Walt Disney World. It's easier to be flexible when I've been fortunate enough to take more than a dozen trips to Walt Disney World in the past decade, and barring emergency, have another around the corner (always planning the next one!). Hopefully people will recognize that there is more to see and do than can possibly be done in one trip, and that there are plenty of indoor activities to enjoy during bad weather days. My umbrella/poncho/rain coat choice is situation dependent. Umbrellas are easy to carry and best for hot days, but I need to be extra conscious and considerate when using one in crowds, such as park closing. I almost always carry a light weight day pack to the parks, which can easily hold an umbrella or two, along with a plastic shopping bag for umbrellas after use. Ponchos are easy to carry and were very handy when my kids were young, but I find them hot and cumbersome when I need my hands for something; thus I haven't used one in the past 2-3 years (not that I won't ever again). Last year I purchased a light weight rain coat, which should offer me the best of both options. I just haven't had a chance to use it yet on a trip to the World.
davidgra, my mistake...I should have been more clear that I was not comparing actual acreage on the park size, but walking efficiency. On rainy days, the best attractions at DHS require less walking than any other park (IMHO). Many of the attractions I mentioned in the article are either side by side or just a stone's throw away from one another, and a fairly robust and efficient touring plan is pretty easy to come up with at DHS, even in the worst weather.
Thank you all for reading and commenting on the article! I appreciate your feedback and interest, particularly when I miss the mark.
It's a tough choice which park to visit on a rainy day but I'll play devil's advocate and say that the Studios are NOT the best choice. The two stunt shows and Fantasmic! are not performed when the weather is bad so not only do you miss out on 3 big attractions but the other attractions will be even more packed than normal (forget about Toy Story with less than an hour wait time.) I would suggest Epcot because even though you will have to walk quite a bit in the rain, only Illuminations depends on good weather.