Home » Arrival Day Activities at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World Welcome sign, welcome home!

Arrival Day Activities at Walt Disney World

Welcome Home to Walt Disney World!

Arrival day is so exciting, a bit overwhelming perhaps, and easily missed during planning.  You’ve likely been thinking about this day for quite a while, at least 190 days if you follow our planning guide.  You don’t want to just ‘play it by ear’ -yet don’t feel the need to over plan it either.  These are among some of the common mistakes when traveling to Walt Disney World. Below are some of our tips on how to handle your arrival day.  Although this guide is marked as arrival day, these ideas can really be applied to a rest day or departure day (too soon to talk about that?) too.

Make Your First Walt Disney World Day, A Park Day!

Before you even arrive on-site, think about how you like to travel.  If you like to travel early, you may be able to make your first day a park day too.  Personally, we often fly out of Newark, NJ into Orlando. If I take a 6 am flight, I could be on the ground in Orlando at about 8:30 am and taking the Magic Express to arrive at my resort by 10 am (usually earlier).  That gives us plenty of time to go enjoy a park for the day and evening. Now, that also makes for a very long day, but it can be done. This also requires a little forethought with what is packed in checked luggage (if you decide to do that) and what is in your carry-ons.  Of course, if you’re driving this is much easier too.

No matter what time you’re getting there, start with checking in at your front desk.  They can verify plans for you, see if a room is available early for you, and help make arrangements with Bell services.  They’ll look after your bags as you head out to start your vacation.

Again, there are so many options that I always encourage people to consider their personal preference over just following some list.  My approach is to consider what kind of trip this is going to be. If it is longer, more than 4 days, we tend to take it slower on arrival day.  We’ll get to those recommendations soon. If it is a short trip and we’re looking to maximize time, that is when we’ll likely take that early flight and hit the parks.  Take a look at some of our Last Minute Tips too. 

Walt Disney World Spa Day

A man lays on a massage table at the Disney spa as a lady massages his shoulder.

You can always go the opposite and maximize your relaxation on that first day!  There are multiple Spas and Fitness centers throughout Walt Disney World, with Senses Spas at the Grand Floridian Resort and the Saratoga Springs Resort.

Explore Your Walt Disney World Resort

A mayan temple with lots of greenery is a center point in a large pool at a Walt Disney World Resort.

Take the time to enjoy your resort.  I can’t tell you the number of people that miss out on enjoying many of the amenities at their carefully chosen resort.  Every resort is uniquely themed with a variety of amenities available.  Check at the front desk for their list of scheduled activities, crafts, or movies.  Assuming it is ready, arrival day is a perfect time to get your room organized for your stay.  If the room isn’t ready, enjoy the pool or hot tub, grab a bite at the food court or lounge, get a jump on your pin-trading, or even souvenir shopping are all things you can do at the resort right away.

Schedule A Walt Disney World Character Meal

Speaking of grabbing a bite, plan a character meal.  One of our personal favorites has always been Chef Mickey’s.  This is a perfect choice because it is right outside of the park and will just reinforce the magic for your first day.  Just keep in mind that Disney transportation does not travel directly from resort to resort.  You may need to go to a park or Disney Springs prior to going to the Contemporary.  With the additional stops, you should allow at least 90 minutes for the trip. Another option would be to use a ride-hailing service or a Minnie Van.  Going to the Contemporary is another example of a few other ideas that we have…

Chef Mickey restaurant is a Walt Disney World favorite of our Heyday Travel Company travel planning agents!
Chef Mickey’s at Walt Disney World

Explore Other Disney Resorts On Your Trip

Not only can you enjoy everything at your resort, but you may go explore others.  Feel free to go explore the Wilderness Lodge (one of our favorites).  Grab a bite Geyser Point, watch Fire Rock Geyser erupt (on the hour for most of the day), or watch the Electric Water Pageant from the shore there.  Throughout the resorts, you’ll also find arcades, various lounges (Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Polynesian is a favorite with their “interactive drinks”), and the great playgrounds at the resorts!

Ride Walt Disney World’s Monorail

Speaking of going from one resort to another… Take a bus from your resort to the Ticketing and Transportation Center, Magic Kingdom, or Epcot, and enjoy a ride and the views from the Monorail.  You can also take in the Monorail Resort loop at the Magic Kingdom to visit the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian.  That alone can use significant amounts of time and allow you to enjoy amazing views.  Take in the diversity that Imagineering creates and the immersive theming at each. This becomes a suggestion anytime, not just arrival day, and especially during the holidays.  All of these hotels (especially Wilderness Lodge) have some of the best, in our opinion, Christmas decorations in the resort.

Explore Other Modes Of Disney Transportation

A family is getting on a Disney ferry boat, a small girl is guided by the captain or worker.

Beyond just the monorail there are various boats and of course the Skyliner.  Take a cruise on some of them. Take a Ferry from the Ticketing and Transportation Center (TTC) to the Magic Kingdom, boat to Wilderness Lodge or Polynesian.  Try riding all of the monorail loops, not forgetting to look for hidden mickeys along the way!

Watch Magic Kingdom Fireworks From Outside The Park

While we’re speaking of the Magic Kingdom area hotels you can also enjoy the fireworks from there.  A great vantage point, and a personal favorite, is from the beaches at Polynesian Resort. It is directly across the Seven Seas Lagoon from MK and the music is played live so you don’t miss a thing.  Plus, you can grab a Dole Whip from the Pineapple Lanai to enjoy while watching. In addition, you may try and time a meal at O’hana (also at Polynesian) or California Grill (at Contemporary) to enjoy a meal or dessert with the fireworks.  

The photo of fireworks at Walt Disney Word was taken from Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary.
The photo was taken from Bay Lake Tower at the Contemporary.

Disney Springs

Beautiful sunset with hot air balloon in distance and view of river and colorful buildings.

Of course, Disney Springs has really become a destination on its own.  This is also a great idea for departure day (sorry to mention that again) another day that you want to be more relaxed.  The entire area has been rethemed with a variety of stores, restaurants, and entertainment for everyone.  While there, maximize your Memory Maker service and visit one of the PhotoPass Studios.

Walt Disney World Mini Golf

Winter themed Disney World mini golf course has a family playing mini golf.

There are 4 different mini golf courses at WDW.  Winter Summerland Mini Golf is next to Blizzard Beach where you can join Santa and his elves at their off-season retreat on two separately themed 18-hole courses. Fantasia Gardens and Fairways Mini Golf is across the street from the Dolphin and Hollywood Studios.  There you can enjoy a traditional mini golf course inspired by Disney’s Classic, Fantasia.  The Fairways course resembles a more traditional golf course just built on a miniature scale!  Each one offers a unique Disney experience.

Walt Disney World’s Boardwalk

This is another exciting area to explore without having to go inside of a park!  The Boardwalk area is on the lakeside of the Boardwalk Inn and across from the Yacht and Beach Clubs, all being just outside of the International Gateway entrance to Epcot.  This makes the entire area easily accessible from the Skyliner. There is always plenty going on in the area; check out Ample Hills Creamery and enjoy the boardwalk performers!

Last few points to consider:

  • Don’t make your plans too close to arrival.  Especially if flying, unexpected delays can and do happen.  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, let’s minimize the stress.
  • 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, no matter what you decide to do.

Feeling Overwhelmed? Let Us Help YOU!

Heyday Travel Company can plan a Disney vacation that’s perfect for you. We are a free Disney travel planner with expert knowledge of the entire Disney catalog and Universal Parks destinations. No matter where you want to go, our experienced team is excited to help you make it happen. We provide our service at no charge, so you’ll only have to pay for the vacation itself. If you want help planning a Disney trip that’ll make your dreams come true while also fitting your budget, let’s talk!

Fill Out Our Form To Start Planning Your Perfect Disney Vacation!

Scroll to Top