by: guide4wdw – Collin
Disney World in the Rain – Making the Most of It!
A rainy week at Walt Disney World is something we all dread seeing pop up in the weather forecast for an upcoming trip. At times it can be frustrating to set up all the resort reservations, tickets, dining, and all the other details of the trip to arrive to a week of rain in the parks. Sure, it’s not ideal, but at the same time it opens up the door to new experiences that you otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to enjoy. Admittedly, that’s easier to say sitting behind a computer screen that walking through Walt Disney World with thunderstorms looming or a constant trickle of rain falling from sky, but it can be quite true in reality.
Here’s the thing about rain at Walt Disney World. Most guests and sites are going to say to avoid the parks because it’s “miserable” to trek around in the rain and that you should go to an outlet mall or go do something else in Orlando that is inside and away from the rain. I’m going to tell you to do the opposite. Sure, rain can be uncomfortable at times and your shoes will be wet and inevitably you’ll stay pretty damp throughout the day, but I’d recommend you go to the parks anyway and enjoy the moment and a new experience you may or may not have had before.
If you can get behind that concept, keep on reading and we’ll dive into it a little deeper, but if you really despise rain check out our final tip which will be how we’d recommend avoiding the rain altogether. For the rest of you, here are a few things I’d think about and recommend for a rainy Disney trip.
Before we get started, I will say that rain is just something you’re likely to face on any Disney trip. Chances are, it’s going to happen and it’s more of a matter of when it is going to happen rather that if it’s going to happen. Unfortunately it’s a part of the warmer weather that is characteristic of Florida and a rainy season unfolds as a result. Don’t let it ruin your vacation, simply adapt and overcome to make the most of the experience, even if it’s not your “ideal” plan for a Walt Disney World vacation.
One Solution – Don’t Worry About the Rain (Let Me Explain…)
Thankfully, rain “all day” at Walt Disney World is typically the exception rather that the rule. In the rainier seasons of late spring, summer, and early fall, chances are it’s going to rain at some point if you’re planning a week long trip to the parks. With that being said, chances are vastly in your favor that it will not be “all day” rain. A vast majority of the time, you’ll be walking through the park, enjoying a beautiful morning, and then as 2 or 3 o’clock rolls around storm clouds will fill in and you’ll catch an aggressive downpour that lasts anywhere from 1 hour (or less) to 4 or more hours. I’m not local, but from my experience a majority of the afternoon thunderstorms last a couple hours and fade away as the sun sets unveiling an incredible sunset reflecting off of the passing storm clouds.
Truth be told, there’s a huge upside to these rain showers, particularly in the summer months. If the storms are short, the temperature will drop aggressively as the rain rolls through the area leaving behind a far less aggressive temperature that the 85-90+ degree early afternoons that tend to be the preface a big storm.
These afternoon rain storms aren’t just a Florida phenomenon, but tend to happen more frequently and predictably there. Here in Kentucky, we’ve faced almost identical weather the last few days to what you’d expect from a Florida summer day. This morning it’s 85 degrees here and yesterday it was 90 at about this time. This afternoon we’ll catch a pretty aggressive rainstorm that will develop but in Florida, a similar weather pattern occurs almost daily. If you are in the parks this week (the week of May 15th 2018) it appears to me as if you will be facing an uncharacteristically rainy week with a fair amount of continuous rain, but I’ll let the local readers confirm or deny that one.
However, the kind of rain that is typical of these Florida months isn’t a vacation ruiner and I’d argue that no type of rain will “ruin” a Disney vacation. Don’t be like many guests and avoid the parks, just avoid the rain when it comes around.
Avoid the Rain, Not the Parks
When the rain starts to come down at Walt Disney World, there tends to be two types of guests. The ones that run for the resort and hang out in the lobby or watch TV in the resort room and the ones that embrace the rain and head to the parks anyway. Honestly, it bothers me a bit to see guests huddled in the lobby “waiting out” the rain when a somewhat rare rainy morning develops. Most of them have already paid for their day in the parks and simply don’t realize how much fun you can have touring the parks in the rain. It’s not the situation you look for and wish for, but nevertheless it’s an experience you don’t want to miss. One of my greatest memories with a group of friends arose from a rainy day in the parks.
It was a rather simple day, and we had started the day at a park other that the one we planned to finish our day in, but we had secured a reservation for Le Cellier at the Canada Pavilion in Epcot for a late afternoon lunch. Well, it was summer, so at this pointing in the article you know what that means for an afternoon reservation. You guessed it, rain! When we left our first park for the day (which for the life of me I can’t remember what park it was) we knew we were going to be cutting it incredibly close to make our reservation, or even our grace period before they gave away our reservation.
As we approached Epcot via the Monorail the skies opened up and a rainstorm broke loose that was one of the worst I’ve seen in all my years touring the Disney parks. It was a sideways rain that is incredibly difficult to deal with but we were determined to make the reservation. We arrived at the front entrance already late for the reservation, but knew they’d hold it for a short time. Me, being around 16 or 17 at the time decided I would just run and see if I could make it to the restaurant to at least prove that we were in the park, even if the whole party wasn’t there to be seated…. Now, before I finish this story this is a great time to say I DO NOT RECOMMEND doing this lol. Truth be told it’s a great way to get hurt and is frowned upon by Disney… For those of you who know Epcot well, you know that the front entrance to the Canada Pavilion for this reservation is not a short journey. At this point, I had about 5 minutes to make the trek. Long story short, I saved the reservation by about a minute and a half.
You may be wondering how any of this applies to a rainy day at Walt Disney World, but I share this story for one reason and one reason only. This is a story we share and talk about among friends and family time and time again. It was so absurd that it was hilarious and out of the ordinary for any place other that Disney that it’s utterly comical to replay in our minds time and time again. It’s a strange memory but one that has stood the test of time. However, it’s one that would have never happened if we didn’t just embrace the rain and enjoy the moment no matter what the weather threw at us.
I know this is a hard suggestion to implement, but if you’re prepared for the rain (see below), you’ll have an incredible day that vastly exceeds sitting at the resort and waiting on/watching the rain fall outside the windows. The resort staff does an excellent job of entertaining guests and creating fun, limited time, events indoors for guests to enjoy but don’t pass on a park day just because of the rain. Enjoy the resort and what it offers on rainy days but do that in the afternoon or during a break from the parks to change clothes or dry out for a little bit, don’t make it the focus of your day.
Honestly, many of the resorts, especially the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Polynesian, take on a warm and inviting persona as the rain falls outside or a storm passes which can be incredibly relaxing. Enjoy those moments but also take the time to enjoy the parks we all know and love despite the circumstances and the weather of the world around you. Enjoy that escape from reality and enjoy a few minutes playing in the rain like you did when you were a kid. A little water falling from the sky never hurt anybody, and you may be surprised at what you can get done with lower crowd levels, and that unique situation opening up a variety of new opportunities.
Attractions to Focus on In The Rain
If you take my advice and head to the parks anyway, you’ll likely be able to avoid the rain more so that you may expect. Magic Kingdom and Epcot are particularly good parks to tour in the rain. The experiences and attractions are very close together. At Magic Kingdom, take Tomorrowland for example. When the rain begins, jump in line for Space Mountain, make a quick walk over to Carousel of Progress, jump in line for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, head to the Laugh Floor, and finish things off with a ride on the Peoplemover. By the time you do all that, you’re looking at likely over 2 hours of awesome entertainment that will get you through a big storm reasonably dry.
Here’s a few other attractions to take part in in the Magic Kingdom:
- The Country Bear Jamboree
- Splash Mountain (you’re already going to get wet, and it’ll run if no lightening is in the area)
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- It’s a Small World
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Haunted Mansion
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- and so many others! – Not to mention how much time you could spend strolling through the stores of Main Street.
Epcot is a bit different:
- The Land Pavilion is a great place to spend some time riding Soarin’ or the Land attraction itself. You may even want to look into a “Behind the Seeds” Tour for a closer look at the greenhouses, especially while the rain falls outside.
- The Seas with Nemo And Friends is an incredible place to hang out for a bit as a passing rain shower rolls through. The pavilion is vastly underrated and could easily take up a great bit of time during an Epcot day, but very few guests take the time to fully explore it.
- Last, but certainly not least, you have the World Showcase. The showcase is full of stores and indoor experiences that allow you to take a few steps in the rain and then right back inside to enjoy the next store or experience. Don’t forget to book a dining reservation or to stop for a great counter service meal somewhere to experience the culinary aspects of some (or a few) of the countries.
As a bit of a seemingly odd suggestion, don’t count out a day at the waterparks if there’s no lighting in the area. The water parks are great and you’re going to get wet anyway so just stick your towels and change of clothes in a locker to keep them dry and go enjoy the slides!
What Park to Avoid in the Rain – Here’s Why
If you’re going to try the Disney parks on a rainy day, here’s the one park I don’t recommend, Hollywood Studios. Now, this recommendation is a bit strange because it is a very small park, but there’s really no good way to navigate Hollywood Studios without having to trek through large areas of open space where you simply cannot avoid the rain. Additionally, the Indiana Jones Stunt show is typically cut short because two of the sets are exposed to the elements, and even with the Toy Story expansion set to debut, there isn’t too terribly much to do in the park when it rains. The Star Wars Launch bay is a great place to be indoors for a bit, along with Toy Story Mania, Star Tours, and Tower of Terror, but there’s really no good way to navigate the park and get from place to place without getting soaked at some point or another. At Epcot and Magic Kingdom multiple things are attached or only a few steps away from each other, and that doesn’t tend to remain true at Hollywood Studios. You may know a better way to make it work but I’ve never had much luck with Hollywood Studios in the rain.
To me, Animal Kingdom is also particularly tough in the rain due to the layout of the park, but its rainy day activities have improved with the new attractions of the Pandora expansion.
What to Pack and How To Prepare
This is the key to this whole article and finding ways to make Disney “work” in the rain. A few simple things can make or break the way you can or cannot handle the parks in the rain. Here’s a few quick suggestions.
- Make sure you have a change of clothes somewhere. In your bag, at the resort, or somewhere near by.
- Pack a good rain jacket. In my opinion, ponchos are terrible. While they are vastly convenient, if you know rain is inevitable, a rain jacket is far more comfortable and keeps you far more dry that the glorified plastic bag with three holes cut in it. Never buy Disney ponchos unless you’re a collector of ponchos (yes, they do exist lol… you know who you are) or are just incredibly desperate. They’re horribly overpriced and while they are nice ponchos you’ll likely never wear them again so a $1 poncho from the dollar store could essentially serve the same purpose or one of these compact individually packaged ones off of Amazon.
- Have an extra pair of shoes ready at the resort. Wet shoes are not fun, so having an extra pair is a nice way to freshen up after a day of making the most of the rain. (Pro tip: if you get desperate, carefully slide a hair dryer into your shoes to dry them out faster in your resort room or consider opting for waterproof shoes or even flip-flops on a rainy day.)
- Consider taking a hat. In many cases it will shield your eyes from the heaviest of rain showers and keep your hair dry along the way.
- Carry with you some extra plastic bags for electronics just in case. I know most iPhones are water resistant or at least claim to be at this point in time, but other cameras and phones may not be.
- If you are carrying a camera through the parks, consider picking up a nice camera bag, especially if you’re carrying a more expensive DSLR or one that isn’t sealed. Personally I recommend and use a Lowepro Photo Hatchback because it fits everything I need and it has an All Weather Cover that conveniently fits into a pocket of the backpack itself in the chance that a huge rainstorm develops that could ruin my gear. For more on my park bag/gear, check out my Disney Packing List – What I Take to Disney World – If anyone wants to hear more about my photo gear in particular just let me know and I’ll get something written up. It’s a pretty budget friendly setup at the moment.
If You Despise Rain, Try This
If you’ve made it through this whole article and still think a day in the rain at WDW doesnt sound even remotely appealing, that’s okay! Here’s a few recommendations:
- Consider resort hopping. Head to Magic Kingdom, jump on the Monorail and spend the day touring the resorts on the Monorail loop. There’s plenty of shopping and dining to keep you occupied for quite some time, and you could even make a day out of it.
- Go see the legendary Yehaa Bob perform at the River Roost at Port Orleans Riverside. Be sure to check performance dates and times first.
- Enjoy your resort and explore it in much greater depth that you likely would have without the rain. If you don’t know where to start, ask a cast member at the front desk and I would almost guarantee they’ll have a great suggestion!
- Book a last minute Table Service Meal and go try something you’ve never experienced before. It may become your new favorite dining location! Resorts are great places to look for dining reservations but oftentimes you can pick up hard to find reservations in the parks on rainy days as guests cancel and opt to stay in the room opposed to touring the parks. It’s their loss and your win in that case!