In 2017, 72 million people visited Orlando, effectively earning our city the title of “America’s Most Visited Destination”. We’re lucky to live in a top travel destination that's home to some of the world’s best theme parks, even if I-4 traffic is the not-so-enjoyable tradeoff. And close proximity means ample time to explore the parks and discover the best of what Disney has to offer to locals.
Whether you’re a mouse ear-wearing Disney fanatic or want to experience the magic without the high ticket price, this guide to Disney for Orlando locals houses all of our best local-focused content, inside and outside of the parks.
Wine and Dine Outside of the Parks
From Disney resorts to restaurants and wine bars, wine lovers won’t find a lack of options for wining and dining outside theme park gates.
After parking your car in the free garage at Disney Springs, head to Paddlefish where you can pair oysters with a sparkling wine. The much-anticipated Wine Bar George, owned and operated by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, is now open at Disney Springs and showcases 130+ wines available by the glass and bottle.
Sip something out of the ordinary at Jiko – The Cooking Place, where you can pair African dishes with South African wines. You’ll find this eatery within Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Have a Progressive Date at Disney’s BoardWalk
Drinks, dinner, entertainment, and a picturesque setting modeled after a seaside town…you’ll find it all at Disney’s BoardWalk. This date night-friendly Disney property offers several standout options for couples, including drinks at the AbracadaBar (a magic-themed bar), craft beer brewed on site at Big River Grille & Brewing Works, upscale eateries like Flying Fish, and entertainment in the form of live entertainers and midway games.
Our progressive date itinerary includes options for drinks, appetizers, dinner, entertainment, and dessert.
Do Date Night…Inside the Parks
Planning a day at the parks? While it’s difficult to find “secret” romantic hideaways inside the theme parks, it’s not impossible. Within Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Nomad Lounge is a travel-themed oasis for adults with plenty of small details to spark conversation. The scenic Maharajah Jungle Trek is a peaceful place to escape for a relaxing walk hand in hand.
Another favorite, the BaseLine Tap House at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the ideal place to share a beer flight and charcuterie board in a lively atmosphere. Epcot has some of the best romantic options, including fine dining at Monsieur Paul, and the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar.
Conduct a Disney Monorail Pub Crawl
Although the Disney Monorail Pub Crawl is neither an organized or official tour, visitors and locals have been touting this 21+ adventure for years. The free Monorail links three Disney resort properties (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort), each with their own set of unique bars and restaurants.
Here’s our suggested itinerary for date night:
Stop 1: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
– Mizner’s Lounge
Stop 2: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
– The Wave Lounge
– California Grill
Stop 3: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
– Tambu Lounge
– Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
Note: please use a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, or travel with a designated driver.
Visit Disney Springs After Dark
Head to Disney Springs during the day and you’re guaranteed to run into a horde of tourists. But visit after the sun goes down for a mini bar crawl visiting some of the Springs’ best spots for entertaining nightlife. A few of our favorites include Raglan Road, an Irish pub with live bands and Irish dancers; Morimoto Asia, a swanky restaurant with an exclusive late night menu; and Paddlefish, a seafood eatery with a rooftop deck ideal for watching the sun go down with a drink in hand.
Don’t miss newcomers like The Edison and Enzo’s Hideaway. The former is a steam punk-themed restaurant with nightly live entertainment, which turns 21+ after 10pm. The latter will take you through rum runner tunnels before planting you inside a speakeasy-style bar and restaurant specializing in Roman cuisine. Read all of our recommendations in this guide to Disney Springs after dark.
Watch the Disney Fireworks from Outside the Parks
The nightly Disney fireworks are a spectacle to behold inside the parks, but there are dozens of vantage points outside the parks where you can soak up the views.
For the Magic Kingdom fireworks, try:
– Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (beach or boat launch area)
– Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort (boat launch area)
– Disney’s Contemporary Resort (observation deck at the 4th floor concourse, or California Grill)
For Epcot fireworks, try:
– Disney’s BoardWalk Resort
For Hollywood Studios fireworks, try:
– Disney’s Beach Club Resort (beach area)
– Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin
Read our guide to viewing Disney fireworks outside the parks for more ideas and full details, including parking and alternative viewing locations.
Explore Disney Without a Park Ticket
As local Disney blogger and Instagrammer @livingbydisney shares in this post, there are tons of ways locals can explore Disney properties without ever entering a park.
Try starting the day with a classic Disney breakfast at the Grand Floridian Café, or share beignets in the French Quarter at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. You can also sip drinks in a magician-themed bar at Disney’s Boardwalk, or step back in time to a Gatsby-esque party at The Edison at Disney Springs. All of these destinations are accessible to non-resort guests.
For more ideas, check out:
- 8 Things to do at Disney Without a Park Ticket by @livingbydisney
- 7 Disney Date Night Ideas – Outside of the Parks
Best Disney World Hotels for Couples
Disney and non-Disney resort properties boast dozens of amenities for couples. While some resorts are geared towards families, there are a handful with special perks for adults and couples, including high-end spas, adults-only pools, romantic restaurants, and more.
On Disney property, consider a staycation at:
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa: amenities include fine dining at Victoria & Albert’s, live jazz at Mizner’s Lounge, Monorail access, and Senses Spa.
- Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort: amenities include Extra Magic Hours at the parks, five heated pools, and a Couples Spa Package with treatment at the on-site Mandara Spa.
Off Disney property, try:
- Four Seasons Resort Orlando: amenities include the adults-only Oasis pool with private cabanas, a waterfront restaurant, and Bed and Breakfast package perfect for couples.
- Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress: amenities include poolside lounge service and a grotto-style pool and dining at Hemingway’s.
- Waldorf Astoria Orlando: amenities include shared resort property with Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, upscale dining at Bull & Bear, and the Suite Life Package, which includes personal concierge service.
Read our full guide to the best Disney hotels for couples for more ideas.