Disney World for the Non-Disney Fan

Disney’s Polynesian Bungalows
Disney’s Polynesian Bungalows - Photo by Steps to Magic

The topic of going to Walt Disney World for someone who really doesn’t like Disney is a fascinating adventure through the cosmos that can divide travellers down the middle. Let’s be honest, folks may think that Mickey Mouse will walk you down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom with fireworks in the background with thousands of families (and only families) surrounding your every move.

That’s not the reality of a vacation at Walt Disney World, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have a “magical” time!


Disney World for the Non-Disney Fan

I’ll be touching on the following topics

  • Theme Parks
  • Dining
  • Resorts
  • Attractions
  • Shopping

Let’s start with a little bit of an understanding and setting ground rules.

  • I won’t be using Jargon (Cast member = Employee)
  • There is no bias or judgement
  • I know going into this article that minds will already be made. That’s cool!

Let’s start with the basic questions

Why Should I Vacation in Walt Disney World?

Completely valid question!

Most of the time, this question actually focuses on the difference between the theme parks and the resort as a whole.

Walt Disney World Resort is made up of 25,000 acres (39 square miles), so think of it as double the size of Manhattan Island or the same size as San Francisco. This means that although the initial decision may be to visit the Magic Kingdom theme park, you’re actually going to a huge destination resort.

You have the opportunity to be as close to the intellectual property (IP–like Cinderella) as you’d like, but remember that with the sheer size of the resort, you’re able to escape it.

Walt Disney World is actually a place where you can have world-class dining, entertainment and completely escape your reality, which is why folks go on vacation to begin with.


What can I do if I don’t like Disney Characters?

Expedition Everest
Expedition Everest – Photo by Steps to Magic

Once again, it’s all about what you actually want to do and to what level. I went through the parks and made a short list of the attractions that actually don’t have an IP (or Disney tie-in).

Magic Kingdom 

  • Big Thunder Mountain
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Astro Orbiter
  • Space Mountain
  • Tomorrowland Speedway

Animal Kingdom

  • Expedition Everest
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Primeval Whirl

Hollywood Studios

  • Tower of Terror
  • Rock n Rollercoaster

EPCOT

  • Test Track
  • Mission: Space
  • Soarin’
  • Journey into Imagination
  • O’Canada
  • Reflections of China
  • Impressions de France
  • Illuminations: Reflections of Earth

Do I have to dine with Mickey Mouse and all those families and kids?

Victoria and Alberts
Victoria and Alberts – Photo by Steps to Magic

With over 400 restaurants on property, you’re able to get everything from basic theme park fare to 5 Diamond Fine Dining.

Of the 65 restaurants on Trip Advisor:

  • 1 5-Star Restaurant (Victoria & Alberts) – Our Review
  • 60 4-Star Restaurants
  • 4 3.5-Star Restaurants

Most of the dining actually takes place outside of the theme parks, and with hotels that cater to more business / convention traffic than families…you’re actually more likely to see a table of kale salads than a set of Mickey Ears!

From the African-style cuisine of Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge to The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’re able to see a full range of high-quality experiences without having a character interaction.


Shopping

Arribas Brothers at Disney Springs
Arribas Brothers at Disney Springs – Photo by Steps to Magic

You’re not walking into a Disney Store from your local mall when you’re at Walt Disney World. Yes, there are a bunch of retail that is themed around characters and franchises (like Star Wars), but you’re able to pick up some incredibly unique merchandise that you may never have thought you’d see at Disney!

Just at Disney Springs alone:

  • Arribas Bros – Glass blowing and so much more!
  • Coach
  • Coca-Cola Store
  • Ghiradelli
  • Lacoste
  • Oakley
  • Pele Soccer
  • Trophy Room

Overall, you’re looking at around 310 shops at Walt Disney World that cater to all styles and budgets. Knowing ahead of time that you’re able to get a shirt that doesn’t have a giant Mickey Mouse on the front is reassuring!


Resorts

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Bungalows
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort Bungalows – Photo by Steps to Magic

Okay, so this one threw me for a loop initially, but that’s because I was looking at it through a prism. The goal of staying on Disney Property is about staying in the “Disney bubble”, but if you’re not a Disney-fan, you still want to have the same level of service and attention to detail that is expected from the price that you’re paying.

From Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort to Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter, you’re able to find hotels that bring a standard of travel that makes folks come back year after year without having all the families and tour groups.

Many of the resorts have amazing amenities, like huge pools, top-notch spas, and adult-only bars just like any other world-class resort.  It’s all about knowing what amenities you want and will use while on vacation.


Budget

Boardwalk Resort Store
Boardwalk Resort Store – Photo by Steps to Magic

A Disney World vacation is expensive, and anyone who says that you can do it cheaply isn’t really understanding the market.

You can hop on a plane and get an all-inclusive resort on a beach and be completely happy with your vacation! If that’s what you’re looking for, go for it:) Tag me in the photos on instagram because we all can use a little sun-envy!

That being said, there are a more ways to save money while at Disney!

  • Stay at a Disney Springs Resort
  • UBER to and from the Airport and take Disney transportation on property
  • Buy tickets online before you go
  • Look for discounts!
  • Starbucks – you can use your star rewards at Disney Springs on sandwich boxes
  • Eat a table-service lunch and a quick-service dinner.
  • If you’re not interested in being at the theme parks, you don’t have to go!  Instead of buying park tickets, buy a round of golf or a day at the spa instead.

Overall, there are tons of options for folks to experience at Walt Disney World if you’re not a fan of the Disney movies. It’s not my goal to try to change minds or create a difference of opinion…but more to show that it’s a huge parcel of land in Florida and we can all use a little sun during the winter months!

If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know what you think over at our Facebook Page!

Disney World for the Non-Disney Fan – #StepstoMagic

Written by Dustin Fuhs

I’m Dustin Fuhs, a theme park fanatic that has created this platform to showcase my passion, tools and opinions to create a fun and interactive experience for everyone who visits. My goal is to help you and your family have the most magical experience at Walt Disney World. In reading my articles and ideas, I hope that you can find some fantastic ways to bring your dreams into reality! If you want more Theme Park fun - listen to the We Like Theme Parks Podcast at https://welikethemeparks.podbean.com/

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