Arrival day at Walt Disney World is full of excitement. A lot of you may have been planning a very long time for this day to come. You certainly do not want to just “wing it” on your first day. As with most aspects of a Disney vacation, some planning in advance is key.
On your arrival day, I recommend checking with the front desk of your resort to make sure you are all set with your park tickets and dining plan, if you have one. After that mission is accomplished, you have two choices: hit the ground running with a bang and head straight for a park OR start with a variety of activities outside the parks. Taking a slower approach with a longer stay can help so you’re not exhausted after the first day. Let’s take a look at some of the many activities offered outside of the parks that you can do on your arrival day that will help you ease into your vacation.
Explore your resort
So many people do not take the time to look around their resort that they have so carefully chosen. Each resort is differently themed and offer a variety of amenities. Every Disney World Resort has scheduled activities, crafts or movies. Check with the front desk for that schedule so you don’t miss any. Arrival day is also a great time to get your room organized for your stay. Unpack your bags, put away any groceries that you ordered or get your park touring bag/clothes ready for the next morning. I love doing this on my first day, so that I am not scrambling for the rest of my vacation. If your room isn’t ready yet, then relax at your resort pool. Remember to pack your swimsuit and sunscreen in your carry on bag when flying.
Schedule a character meal
A great way to immerse yourself in the magic of Disney without entering a park is to schedule a character meal at a resort. A perfect choice is a meal with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey’s inside The Contemporary Resort. Keep in mind that Disney transportation doesn’t travel directly from resort to resort. You will need to transfer at least once at a park or Disney Springs. Make sure to allow yourself 90 minutes of travel time to get to your reservation on time when using Disney transportation. Another option to get to your dining reservation is by using either Uber, a taxi or a Minnie Van.
Watch Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside the park
Although watching the fireworks inside Magic Kingdom is a must, your arrival day is a perfect time to combine watching the fireworks outside the parks with a nice dinner. There are a couple places that offer especially amazing views and experiences. Schedule dinner at California Grill atop the Contemporary Resort to coincide with the firework show. If you time it right, you can be eating your dessert and watching the fireworks light up the sky right from your table. Another option is eating at ‘Ohana located at The Polynesian Resort. Afterwords, head outside to the area in front of the Hawaii longhouse where they play the music from Magic Kingdom through hidden speakers for the fireworks. It’s very relaxing and peaceful.
Ride the monorail loop
Schedule a meal at one of the restaurants at the Disney resorts on the monorail loop and then take a ride on the monorail after eating. Hop off at each stop and explore that resort. This is especially nice during the holiday season to see all the different decorations at the resorts.
There is a variety of shops, restaurants and entertainment located at Disney Springs. Literally something for everyone, including the huge World of Disney store that was just newly renovated. You could spend hours here exploring, eating and shopping.
A couple other things to keep in mind on your arrival day:
- Try not to schedule any reservations or activities too close to when you expect to arrive. Allow at least 3 hours if you are flying and taking the Magical Express to your resort. Less time if you are driving. You don’t want to be late for a dining reservation or rushing to make it in time for a Fast Pass. This can add stress to your first day. It’s vacation! No stress allowed!!
- It’s your first day…Don’t overdo it! I know the instinct is to cram in as much magic as you can, but you don’t want to turn into Grumpy for the rest of your trip because of how exhausted you are.
You will be surprised at how great your first day was without ever stepping foot in a park.
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