A Disney vacation can be a bit overwhelming at times for guests of all ages. At some point during your trip you’ll inevitably need an escape from the crowds or simply a place to sit back and relax for even just a few minutes. The crowds of the parks can be overwhelming at times, especially during peak seasons, but I dont see that as a reason to avoid the parks altogether, but rather quite the opposite. I see the crowds as an opportunity to explore something new.
Perhaps, I view the crowds that way because I’ve been able to ride attractions time and time again over the years, or because I tend to enjoy the simpler elements of a Disney experience, but nevertheless, a relaxing spot can make all the difference throughout the course of your Disney vacation. A place of “escape” and a place to relax the mind and simply step away from it all while remaining present in the Disney realm of activities can become a small highlight of the day. No matter what your purpose of your vacation may be, here are a few unique places to step back and relax at Walt Disney World.
While many of these locations are outside of the parks, none of them will be more that 10 minutes away from the heart of the magic in Disney’s theme parks. Additionally, we’re taking a look at some of the less obvious locations and on top of that, locations that cost absolutely nothing extra during your vacation.
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The Second Floor of the Grand Floridian
The Grand Floridian is designed in a way that is quite relaxing and an excellent place to step away from the parks for even just a short while. The resort is a short monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom and opens up a world of possibilities developing a relaxing venue for guests of all ages. The lobby is complete with a piano playing in the background or a classic band playing in the loft above the main floor, creating a sensory experience that is nearly second to none. Around Christmas, the lobby transforms into a winter wonderland and a Christmas setting like you’d find in a Hollywood movie.
While the main lobby is excellent, one of my favorite places to relax for even a brief few minutes is on the second floor of the resort. On the right hand side of the lobby, if you’re facing Magic Kingdom, you’ll find a grand staircase lined with red carpet leading up to the second floor. As soon as you arrive on the next level you’ll notice a relatively small seating area off to the right complete with an outdoor covered balcony. As you sit in the comfortable chairs, rest your feet for a while, or take some time to catch up with family or friends you can hear the sounds of the lobby while stepping away from the constant flow of guests. It’s a vastly simple experience but oftentimes the needed few minutes of rest necessary to finish out your day in the parks no matter if you’re a guest of the resort or not.
The Carolwood Room
A second location just a short boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom is Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Of course, the grand lobby of the resort is typically the selling factor for most guests when booking reservations for the location, there’s a second lobby that many guests completely overlook. The second lobby is a short walk away from the main atrium if you follow the path traveling out the right hand side of the lobby.
As you walk down the hill you’ll see a second building. That second building is the main section of villas at the resort (the original villas) and actually features it’s own small lobby with a unique twist involving Disney history, The Carolwood Room. I’ve mentioned it many times here on the site, but the Carolwood Room and display is one of my favorite places on Disney property. It’s a place where you can head to late at night, sit down in front of a fireplace, and catch a glimpse at some true Disney history. The chairs are incredibly comfortable, the atmosphere is warm and inviting, and could quite easily be one of the quietest places on property at the right time of day.
I wont go too in depth about the historical element of the room, because we covered it in detail in our Outstanding Disney History Hiding in Plain Sight: The Carolwood Room article. All things considered, it’s one of the most overlooked elements of Walt Disney World that I honestly think any guests should go and see even if you’re not looking for a place to relax.
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The Contemporary’s Grand Concourse
As one of the closest and simplest places to take a break from the parks, the Contemporary’s 4th floor Grand Concourse is a great place to sit down or even wander around for a short amount of time. There are small seating areas throughout the floor in addition to one of the most expansive balconies with an excellent view of the Magic Kingdom. Looking to avoid the majority of the crowds during the Happily Ever After fireworks or have a young child who’s ready to be done for the night? Head to the balcony of the Contemporary’s 4th floor to relax before the show debuts and then as it nears the nightly fireworks debut, head out on the balcony and enjoy the show from a new perspective. It’s not the perfect view of the show and you will miss some of the projections (due to the distance away from the castle) but it’s a magical experience nonetheless.
The Japan Pavilion
Over at Epcot, you can take a few steps away from the promenade and the day’s activities to a little hideaway full of character at the Japan Pavilion. Tucked away on the left hand side of the pavilion you’ll find a series of fountains over near Katsura Grill. Grab a snack from the counter service location and escape from reality for a brief moment as you explore the unique elements of the garden atmosphere in one of the most picturesque settings in all of Walt Disney World. It’s an incredibly simple location, but one that I see as one of the easiest “escapes” to implement for a long spell or as briefly as you want during your day at Epcot.
The Polynesian Outdoor Seating
Last but certainly not least is a casual location that I stumbled into a few short years ago and have surprisingly never mentioned here on the site. Just outside of the Polynesian’s main lobby, near the Captain Cook’s counter service location, you’ll find an outdoor seating area a few steps away from the pool where you can catch a glimpse of the Seven Seas Lagoon and even Magic Kingdom in the distance. It’s nothing overly special, but a great place to grab a snack and take in a view that is certainly hard to beat! The only real downside to this location to step away from the parks to is that it is not air conditioned. However, with the Polynesians main lobby and ample indoor seating also a short distance away, you’ll always have that option to beat the weather if you get hot or a mid afternoon rain shower rolls in unexpectedly.
Personally, my favorite time to visit this casual spot is in the early evening right after the typical dinner time as the sun goes down and those picturesque Florida sunsets debut. Grab a Dole Whip at Pineapple Lanai a few steps away and take in the sunset before walking down to the beach for an excellent experience you’ll never forget.
What do you think of our list? Of course, these aren’t show stopping locations, or high end spas that most guests look to for prime relaxation, but if you want a free “escape” look no further! Hopefully, these relatively unique locations can provide you with something special during your vacation experience or something new to try for the first time.