Resort Hopping at Walt Disney World

The Ultimate Guide to visiting the Walt Disney World Resorts (for free)

What Is Resort Hopping?

Resort hopping is my favorite free activity to do at Disney World (it also encompasses several other free activities)!

So what is it?

Basically, it’s visiting the other Disney resorts at which you are not staying. Because while staying at the Grand Floridian is very much not free, walking into the lobby and enjoying the decor is.



  • Please note: because of Covid-19,

    some activities listed here may not be available.


Why Go Resort Hopping?

There’s a little more to it than just enjoying the decor. Or even just filling up (for free) your Disney mug and sitting in the lobby pretending you’re posh enough to stay there.

Here are the main reasons to go resort hopping:

  • Check out the decor/atmosphere of each resort

  • Shop for unique gifts in the gift shop

  • Try out unique foods in the casual dining hall

  • Dine at one of the fancy restaurants

  • Fill up your Disney mug

  • Go pin trading in the lobby

  • Try out one of the special resort activities

  • Watch the fireworks

Some resorts have more to see than others. I will go over the best things to see at each resort, so you can decided for yourself if you want to visit them.

It’s a great way to spend some time at Disney World, without having to pay to go into the parks.

  • TIP—some of the resort activities cost money.

    So do this to get a free Disney gift card!

A campfire cupcake from the Wilderness Lodge.

A treasure chest pin board at the Caribbean Resort.


How to Go Resort Hopping

In this article, I am going to list out every single Walt Disney World Resort, and why (if at all) you would want to visit each one.

I am also going to list how to get to each resort specifically. Most resorts have multiple ways to get to them from wherever you are staying.

If all else fails, just remember, the most basic way to get to any resort at Walt Disney World is this:

  • Take the bus from your own resort to any theme park or Disney Springs.

  • Find the bus at that theme park that is going to the resort you want to visit.

(And then in reverse, to get back to your original resort.)

If you’re not already staying at a Disney Resort:

Park at Disney Springs. From there you can get a bus to any resort.

  • Note: You will have to pay for parking at Disney Springs.

If you have a dining reservation for a restaurant at one of the resorts, you can go ahead and park at that resort.

You also might be able to park for free at the Boardwalk, especially if you have a nearby dining reservation or tell them you are planning to eat at the boardwalk (I know several people have parked for free this way, but I think it depends on how friendly the guard at the gate is).


The Magic Kingdom Resorts

Ride the monorail from Magic Kingdom to the nearby resorts.

These deluxe resorts are all situated near the Magic Kingdom and are very easy to get to for a day of resort hopping.

  • Please Note: Because we live in the days of heightened security,

    you will have to go through a bag check/metal detector

    in order to reach the boats and the monorail at Magic Kingdom.

The Electrical Water Pageant

This parade of musical boats floats along to all of the different Magic Kingdom area resorts in the evenings, so in addition to seeing the fireworks from here, you can also enjoy this free parade.

  • The parade is not always on. Check here for more information.


The Wilderness Lodge

The Wilderness Lodge is my absolute favorite of all the Disney resorts! I love the beautiful wooden interior, even if I do get a little queasy looking down at the lobby from the fifth floor!

This is a fantastic resort to just visit and hang out in for a while.

Special things to see:

  • Check out the “Old Faithful” geyser behind the pool.

  • Grab a s’mores latte at the Roaring Fork and curl up by the fire with a book.

  • Take a rental boat out on the lake.

  • Have dinner with Snow White and the 7 dwarves.

  • See the fireworks and water parade from here.

How to get to the Wilderness Lodge:

  • Take a bus from your resort to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Take the boat to the Wilderness Lodge.

This cozy nook overlooks the lobby from the third floor.


Fort Wilderness Campground

Not to be confused with the Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness is a campground composed of cabins, campsites, and lots of rec halls and “trading posts” (general stores).

I honestly didn’t think there was much for resort hoppers to do here, but upon further research, there are actually a lot of activities here! From horseback riding to archery shooting, it seems like the folks at Fort Wilderness have more recreational activities than anyone else!

The hard thing is… it’s a campground, so everything is all spread out. To get from the boat dock to the Tri-Circle-D Ranch for horseback riding is a half hour walk.

Special things to see:

  • Horseback riding, pony rides, and carriage rides at Tri-Circle-D Ranch (or just visit the horses!).

  • Embrace your inner Merida and practice your archery shooting.

  • Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner theater.

  • See the water parade here.

    • See all the recreation activities available at Fort Wilderness here.

How to get to Fort Wilderness:

  • Take the bus from your resort to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Take the boat from the Magic Kingdom to Fort Wilderness

    • or

  • Take the bus from your resort to Disney Springs.

  • Take the bus from Disney Springs to Fort Wilderness.

*Depending on what activity you are going to Fort Wilderness to do, either the boat dock or the bus stop might be closer.


The Contemporary Resort

The Contemporary Resort is one of the oldest at Walt Disney World. It’s unique architecture is very recognizable, and easy to spot on your way to the Magic Kingdom.

The coolest things about the Contemporary Resort is that the monorail actually goes right through the center of it!

Special things to see:

  • Take a rental boat out on the lake.

  • Morning yoga classes on Tuesdays & Thursdays.

  • See the fireworks and the water parade from here.

How to get to the Contemporary Resort:

  • Take a bus from your resort to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Take the resort monorail and get off at the first stop.

    • or

  • take the boat directly from Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary.

Magic Kingdom fireworks, as seen from the Contemporary Resort.


The Polynesian Resort

This is one of the most unique Disney resorts, in my opinion. And I like it even more now that Moana is a thing (also, they redid some of the rooms to be “Moana” themed).

If you really want to splurge a little, come for the Spirit of Aloha dinner show in Luau Cove.

Special things to see:

How to get to the Polynesian Resort:

  • Take a bus from your resort to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Take the resort monorail and get off at the third stop.

    • or

  • take the boat directly from Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian.


The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

I wouldn’t want to pay to go to the spa here; I imagine it’s quite the splurge. It is free, however, to watch the fireworks!

The Grand Floridian is my favorite spot for watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks at night. You can sit on the patio outside, or you can ride the boat back towards the Magic Kingdom and see them from the lake (If you’re lucky, your boat driver will mysteriously “break down” in the middle of the lake once they start).

Special things to see:

  • Splurge at Senses Spa.

  • Take a rental boat out on the lake.

  • At Christmastime, check out the life-size gingerbread house.

  • See the fireworks and water parade from here.

How to get to the Grand Floridian:

  • Take the bus from your resort to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Take the resort monorail and get off at the fourth stop.

    • or

  • take the boat directly from Magic Kingdom to Grand Floridian.


EPCOT Area Resorts

Ride the Skyliner between the EPCOT resorts & the Wide World of Sports Resorts.

The best places for resort hopping would definitely be either the Magic Kingdom resorts, or the EPCOT resorts. They are the easiest to get to, the most connected, and have the most things to see.

While historically, the Magic Kingdom ones have always been the easiest to access, with the new Skyliner, it is very easy to spend a day resort hopping around the EPCOT and Hollywood Studios area.

  • Although they are officially called “EPCOT area resorts” they are in between EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.

  • Please Note: The Skyliner will shut down if there is any lightning in the area. If you get stranded due to the Skyliner shutting down, they will send buses to pick you up.


The Boardwalk Resort

I’ll start with this one, because it is probably the one you will most want to visit, even if you don’t find visiting any of the other resorts interesting.

I don’t think it really needs much explanation as to why you would want to visit this resort. It literally has a boardwalk behind it. While restaurants and stores are open during the day, come at night to really experience the life of the boardwalk.

Special things to see:

  • Look out for entertainers telling jokes, doing magic tricks, and other fun things, all for free!

  • Rent a surrey bike for the family to pedal around the lake.

  • Check out the carnival games, and maybe win a prize!

How to get to the Boardwalk Resort:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Walk from the bus stop to the boats, and take the boat to the Boardwalk Resort.

    • For more information on getting to and from the boardwalk, check out this article.


Yacht & Beach Club Resorts

A Mickey confetti cupcake milkshake from Beaches & Cream at the Beach Club Resort. Usually it comes in a souvenir “Beach Club” mug, but they were all out. I did save $5 though!

These two “sister” resorts are right next to each other, and right across the lake from the Boardwalk. It is easy to walk back and forth from here to the boardwalk.

This is where you will find one of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World (and also one of the hardest to get a reservation to)! Come get some ice cream and classic American dining at Beaches & Cream. You can also get ice cream at their to go window.

Special things to see:

How to get to the Yacht & Beach Clubs:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Walk from the bus stop to the boats, and take the boat to the Yacht/Beach Club Resorts.


The Swan & Dolphin Resorts

The Swan & Dolphin Resorts behind the Dance Hall on the boardwalk.

These two are also sister resorts. They are Disney resorts…but they are also not Disney resorts. I consider them more like second cousins in the Disney family.

The bus transportation to/from Swan and Dolphin goes to the third party lots, as opposed to the main Disney bus stops. But you can get a boat from Hollywood Studios, or from the other nearby resorts.

If you want to go to the Fantasia Gardens mini golf course, this is where to go.

Special things to see:

How to get to the Swan & Dolphin:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Walk from the bus stop to the boats, and take the boat to the Swan & Dolphin Resorts.


The Riviera Resort

This is one of the newest resorts at Walt Disney World. The most popular spot is the hallway of mosaics leading out to the Skyliner, which make the perfect photo backdrop!

Special things to see:

  • Take a photo by the mosaics. There is a scene from “Tangled,” and a scene from “Peter Pan.”

  • Treat yourself at Le Petit Cafe to a drink in the coffee shop during the day, or the fancy bar at night.

  • Play a giant game of chess or a round of bocce ball in the terrace.

How to get to the Riviera Resort:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Take the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Resort.

  • Take the Skyliner from the Caribbean Resort to the Riviera Resort.

If you are already at the Boardwalk or the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts:

  • You can walk to the Skyliner at the back entrance of EPCOT and take this to the Riviera Resort.


Caribbean Beach Resort

I would love to stay here in a pirate themed room where the beds look like pirate ships (of course, that costs extra…)!!

But it is free to visit the pirate themed swimming pool, and get a tropical drink from the pool bar (oh, well, the drink isn’t free… but still).

Special things to see:

  • Check out the pirate themed swimming pool.

  • Get a tropical drink at Banana Cabana.

  • Nap in one of the many hammocks.

How to get to the Caribbean Beach Resort:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Take the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Beach Resort.


Disney's Wide World of Sports Resorts

These resorts are also in between Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, but they technically fall in the category of the “Wide World of Sports” resorts.

They are along the Skyliner route, so they are easy to visit while you are resort hopping in the area.


Art of Animation & Pop Century Resorts

Everything so far has fallen into the “deluxe” category of resorts, meaning they are super nice to visit, and super expensive to stay in (that’s why we just visit for free!).

  • These two are my choice for where to stay at Disney World.

They are one step up from the value All Star Resorts, but still affordable. They are also connected to the Skyline and very close to two of the main parks, plus you can very easily visit some of the nearby deluxe resorts for fun!

As far as actually coming to visit them, they’re nothing too special, but, as with everything Disney, they are both themed. And you might have fun (especially with younger kids) finding all the larger than life characters and taking pictures with them.

Special things to see:

  • Look for your favorite Disney characters and other fun objects in larger than life sizes.

  • Read the fun facts as you take a stroll along Hourglass Lake.

  • Spot rooms with decorated windows!

How to get to the Art of Animation & Pop Century Resorts:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Hollywood Studios.

  • Take the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios to the Caribbean Resort.

  • Take the Skyliner from the Caribbean Resort to the Art of Animation/Pop Century Resorts.

I noticed a lot of guests put up decorations in their windows!


Disney's Animal Kingdom Resort Area

These resorts are not as close together and easy to “hop” around as the previous ones, but there are still some worth visiting.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

This is one of the best resorts to visit, and since it’s right next to Animal Kingdom, it’s not that hard to get to. It’s just like going to the zoo, except for free!

The architecture is very similar to that of the Wilderness Lodge, and I think this is also one of the most beautiful resorts to visit. Also be sure to check out the unique souvenirs in the gift shop!

Special things to see:

  • Visit all the animals, including giraffes, zebras, and more!

  • Check out the gift shop for unique souvenirs.

  • Wild About Painting paint class.

How to get to the Animal Kingdom Lodge:

  • Take the bus from your resort to the Animal Kingdom.

  • Take the bus from the Animal Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom Lodge.


Coronado Springs Resort

This is not a resort I would typically visit on my resort hopping tour, just because there is not fun boat or skyliner to get there, and it is not near any other resort.

But if you have time to get there, like all the deluxe resorts, it is beautifully decorated, and the swimming pool is absolutely one of the best!

  • Please Note: Coronado Springs is a huge resort. The main dining and entertainment section, and the pool are a bit of a walk from the front lobby, and there are multiple bus stops.

Special things to see:

  • The “Mayan ruins” swimming pool.

  • Fun Run—Sunday morning run through 1.7 mile course. Ends with a commemorative pin and a tasty Magdalena (lemon flavored cupcake).

  • Colors of Coronado paint class.

How to get to Coronado Springs:

  • Take the bus from your resort to any theme park (Blizzard Beach or Animal Kingdom is closest) or to Disney Springs.

  • Take the bus from there to Coronado Springs.


The All-Star Resorts

When I’m not being spoiled by my aunt who has a Disney Vacation Club membership (read more about that here), this is where I stay.

There are three All-Star Resorts:

  • All-Star Sports

  • All-Star Music

  • All-Star Movies

They are a great place to stay if you’re on a budget! And from here, we go to visit all of the other resorts where we wish we were staying!

However, if you’re not staying here, there is really no need to come and visit them.


Disney Springs Resort Area

Technically the Disney Springs resort area includes all of the resorts on the edge of the Walt Disney property, such as the Hilton and the Holiday Inn.

But these aren’t really “Disney” resorts, so I will only focus on the ones that are themed by Disney and therefore worth visiting (and have free Disney transportation).


Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa

Just across the lake from Disney Springs.

This is honestly one of my least favorite resorts to visit, because I just don’t think there are a lot of interesting themed decorations to come and see (and you know I love my themes!).

This is the place you will come if you sign up for the Disney Vacation Club “schpiel” though. And that I do think is worth it (not to join the vacation club, but to get the free food and gift card)!

This is also the place to come if you want to do “real” golfing (as opposed to mini golfing at the Swan & Dolphin).

Special things to see:

How to get to Saratoga Springs:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Disney Springs.

  • Walk or take the boat from Disney Springs to Saratoga Springs (just across the lake)

    • or

  • Sign up for the DVC schpiel, and ride a “Minnie Van” to Saratoga Springs.

    • Please Note: The Minnie vans and boats from Disney Springs are not currently running. You can take a bus from Disney Springs, or walk.


Old Key West

Old Key West is another great resort to just hang out. It doesn’t have a lot to see, but it has such a relaxing island vibe, which is great while you sit there enjoying your key lime pie and letting your worries fade away.

Special things to see:

How to get to Old Key West:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Disney Springs.

  • Take the boat from Disney Springs to Old Key West Resort.

    • Please Note: The boats from Disney Springs are not currently running. You can take the bus from Disney Springs to Old Key West.


Port Orleans

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort reopened Oct. 14. We were there Sept. 30… :/

BUT I found this fantastic picture of the pool in the scrapbook my aunt made me from our 2003 trip to Disney. She even added two little heart stickers. <3

The Port Orleans Resort has two sides to it: Riverside and the French Quarter, and they both have so much for resort hoppers to do and see!

From the New Orleans inspired atmosphere, to the many activities, to the easy access from Disney Springs, Port Orleans is one of the best resorts to visit.

Special things to see:

  • Beignet Fun Run—Sunday morning run through 1.5 mile course at French Quarter. Ends with a medal and (of course) a beignet!

  • Painting on de’ Bayou paint class at French Quarter.

  • Splurge on a horse drawn carriage ride at Riverside.

  • Visit the sea monster pool at the French Quarter.

How to get to Port Orleans:

  • Take the bus from your resort to Disney Springs.

  • Take the boat from Disney Springs to Port Orleans Riverside.

    • Please Note: The boats from Disney Springs are not currently running. You can take the bus from Disney Springs to Port Orleans.


And that’s it!

I hope you enjoy your day(s) of resort hopping at Disney World! Feel free to email me if you have any questions about resort hopping.

And don’t forget, there’s lots more to do than just what’s listed there!


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