The first day at Disney World can be challenging.
Usually, it’s a big travel day and you may just want to check in your bags and call it an early night.
However, give it a little bit of time, and more than likely you will be itching for some excitement as soon as you drop off your bags.
You will want to make the most of your time and here we show you some fabulous things to do on your Disney World arrival day.
The best advice we can give though is to take it easy on your first day! A Disney World vacation is an amazing experiece, but it can be exhausting.
Pace yourself and you will have a much more rewarding time.
Remember that you will not be able to check into your Disney World Hotel until 3 pm.
You can ask for an early check in but it is not guaranteed, and really isn’t particularly likely. However, one way to increase your chances is to check in via the My Disney Experience App on your phone.
You can set your arrival time, and you may just get lucky. Just don’t rely on it and it will be a nice surprise if you get an early check in.
If you have to wait to get to your Disney Hotel room then just leave your luggage with the bell hop and get out there and begin your vacation!
Visit Disney Springs on Your First Day at Disney World
No matter how much time you have to take in the surroundings on your first day at Disney
World, you can enjoy something sensational at Disney Springs.
It is a great introduction to get into the Disney mood, without having to use one of your park ticket days.
There are loads of shopping, dining, and entertainment opportunities to get you caught up in the excitement.
You can spend hours touring the four distinct neighborhoods at Disney Springs, or drop in for a stroll, some light window shopping, and a bite to eat at one of the many themed restaurants on the famous
Disney Springs Landing.
Here is a quick overview of the kinds of experiences that await:
Disney Springs Marketplace
This Disney-centric neighborhood on the eastern end of Disney Springs has some of the best
attractions for families.
Affordable food options, a carousel, and lots of shopping choices make this a great place to be if you love all things Disney.
Take some time to browse around the World of Disney Store and the Disney Springs Co-Op. You really can just spend hours happily browsing around the stores here. Bring your credit card though as you wlll probably not leave empty handed.
You’ll also find kid-pleasing restaurants like T-Rex and the Rainforest Cafe among other draws like the Lego Store and Goofy’s Candy Co.
Disney Springs Landing
This part of Disney Springs used to be known as Pleasure Island.
Here you will find a fabulous choice of restaurants and immersive dining environments.
Many of the Disney Springs restaurants have a unique backstory and some are owned by celebrity chefs.
Whether you find excitement in the blend of modern and traditional found at Raglan Road, or you savor the thrill of experiencing Indiana Jones character Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, there is plenty to love about this part of Disney Springs.
Rememember that, particularly if you are here in the evening, these are very popular restaurants, so making a reservation ahead of time is highly recommended.
Town Center at Disney Springs
Town Center is the place for lots of shopping if that’s your way to unwind after a long travel day.
The retail therapy here is for real with lots of top brands and popular stores lining the Spanish-
style streets of the heart of Disney Springs.
Because it’s Disney, you can bet that there is more story to uncover as you drink in the surroundings and pore over the architecture at every turn.
You’ll also potentially find some free live entertainment on one of the surrounding outdoor stages.
Disney Springs Westside
If you have a lot of adrenaline from the rush of finally being at Disney World, you might want to
take that ball of nervous energy with you over to the Westside where Splitsville Luxury Bowling
Lanes and House of Blues await.
You can also drink in the nightlife on this end of Disney Springs and catch some world-class entertainment in the form of Disney’s new Drawn to Life.
There’s also an AMC Theater and even more shops to discover and enjoy!
Visit Disney’s Boardwalk and Epcot Resort Area on Your First Day
Depending on your energy level, a whole Disney Springs experience may not be right on your
first day at Disney World.
Disney Springs is a great location, but it is large and can often be crowded particularly on evenings and weekends.
However, there is a more intimate spot in Disney World that is just as known for its nightlife and evening atmosphere. It definitely gives you that Disney feeling, but in a very relaxed way.
The Boardwalk is part of Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. The Epcot hotels are located on the opposite side of Crescent Lake.
It’s most accessible to guests in the immediate EPCOT resort area along Crescent Lake.
However, anyone can visit the Boardwalk and Epcot Resorts area.
Certainly if you are staying in one of the Epcot Resort hotels it is a great idea to spend your first few hours at Disney exploring this area.
Howver, if you are staying at one of the other resort hotels you can get there by Uber or you can use the Disney Skyliner.
Disney’s Boardwalk has all kinds of fun and gorgeous waterfront ambiance. There is a dance
club and a bar where dueling pianos perform.
There are also exquisite dining options including Flying Fish and Trattoria Al Forno.
The Boardwalk has a gorgeous lawn for picnicking and enjoying the summer night air. There is also a bakery and the alluring magic-themed lounge Abracadabar!
Walk around from the Boardwalk towards the Beach Club Resort and the Yatch Club Resort and you will see a large sandy beach at the side of the lake. This is a great place to spend some time just relaxing and taking in the atmosphere.
Indulge in Some Disney Resort Rooftop Dining
There are three must-do rooftop dining experiences if you enjoy fancy dinners with a
This popular style of dining has become a Disney World trend. One of the most popular is the California Grill restaurant that overlooks the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon.
The contemporary California cuisine they serve here includes steak and sushi. Dining here is a good way to marvel at your rooftop view before finally getting to go inside the Magic Kingdom theme park later on in your Disney World vacation.
The Disney Riviera Resort Topolinos Terrace embodies the cliffside restaurants of Italy.
The view here overlooks Epcot and Disney Hollywood Studios. Topolinos Terrace is consistenly voted one of the best dining experiences in Disney World.
Toledo, in the Gran Destino Tower of Coronado Springs offers Spanish Style Tapas amid surrealist art and architecture in the Animal Kingdom resort area.
Not rooftop dining but certainly a restaurant with a view, why not visit Sanaa on your first day at Disney World? This highly rated Disney restaurant is located in Animal Kingdom Resort Kidani Village.
Sanaa is located at the edge of one of the Animal Kingdom Resort savannas. So don’t be surprised to see a giraffe out of the huge picture windows at the side of the restaurant!
These four hotel restaurants are especially good choices for lunch or dinner on your first day at Disney World if you happen to be staying at the resorts they are in, but you can visit them from anywhere.
Advance dining reservations are essential as these are exremely popular dining venues at Walt Disney World.
Explore the Disney World Hotel Resorts
You do not have to be staying at a particular Disney Hotel resort to experience the restaurants, tours or even just enjoy some people watching in the lobby.
Each Disney World Hotel Resort is unique. It is always fun to take some time to visit the resorts, particularly the Disney deluxe hotels.
Some of the hotels offer tours or events that both enhance your stay and give you a better
sense of the resort you’re staying in.
Often people are so keen to prioritize time in the parks they miss actually exploring the resort where they are staying, or taking time to enjoy the pool.
I completely understand wanting to maximise time in the Disney parks, but some of our best family memories have been made in the hotel resorts themselves.
Exporing your resort or taking a trip to look at another resort can be the most rewarding way to spend your first day at Disney World.
You can take a tour at Fort Wilderness, or take a painting class at Coronado Springs in the Toledo restaurant.
Many of the resorts offer some kind of unique experience that can be a great way to help settle into your new environment and do something kind of low-key before you begin a highly active vacation that consists of running around at all the theme parks.
Some experiences will cost a lot more than others. Animal Kingdom Lodge has some safari
tours available that are well worth it, but other tours like the carriage ride at Port Orleans
Riverside is far less expensive.
However, you really don’t have to spend anything to enjoy the Disney Hotel Resorts.
Sitting on a rocking chair outside Disney’s Beach Club Resort costs nothing. Neither does enjoying the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the Polynesian Resort beach.
Movies Under the Stars at a Disney Resort
One way to settle in on your first day at Disney World while embracing the Disney magic is to
enjoy the Movies Under the Stars.
These are Disney animated movies, Marvel, Pixar, or just about any other Disney-owned film.
Each resort hotel plays a different movie schedule. You can watch a movie at your hotel or at another Disney resort.
You can even find out the movie schedules for each resort hotel in advance by calling the front desk or 407-939-2273.
Movies Under the Stars is especially nice in the warm summer air!
Enjoy the Disney World Transportation System
I know it might sound difficult to beleive that using the Disney transport system can actually be a magical thing to do. But it really can.
No I am not talking about taking a Disney bus. They are useful to get around, but aren’t entertainment in themselves.
However, the Disney Skyliner, monorail and boat transportation are fun experiences in their own right. And they are free for everyone to experience.
The Skyliner connects some Disney resorts with Epcot and Hollywood Studios. If you have some time it can be a great way to spend some time just enjoying the Skyliner experience and taking in the view.
The Disney monorail is of course the classic transportation. It connects the monorail resorts with the Magic Kingdom.
If you want a longer experience you can also travel from the Transport and Ticket station to Epcot on the monorail. This is a unique journey as the monorail actually goes through Epcot Future World.
If you want a great way to relax then take one of the Disney boats.
Not many people realize that you can take a very relaxing boat ride from the Epcot Resort to Hollywood Studios.
Or that you can take a boat launch from one of the Disney Magic Kingdom resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon.
What do you want to do on your first day at Disney World?
Alison Meacham is the founder of EverythingMouse Disney Blog. For over 15 years she has shared her love of Disney Parks, Disney Cruises and Universal Orlando. In over 30 years of Disney Travel she has spent countless months in Disney Parks and has sailed on over 45 cruises. A British native and now a United States resident she splits her time between California, Florida and the UK. And spends a serious amount of time sailing the seven seas. She helps over 200,000 people per month follow their Disney travel dreams.