When you plan your visit to Disney World, you probably picture something like this:
However, many times of the year you’re likely to encounter something more like this:
It rains, on average, at least 75 days a year in Orlando. But fortunately, a little rain at Disney World does not a rain-out make. Disney World offers plenty of indoor options for fun … if you know where to look. We’re here to help you if it rains while you are at Disney World. For this post, I’m going to assume you’re in or near a certain park when the skies open up and will steer you toward things that will be close to you, though if you know rain is in the forecast, you can be proactive in choosing a park with more indoor options.
Making the Most of a Rainy Day at Disney World
Know that certain times of the year, it rains pretty frequently in Central Florida. You’re best served preparing ahead of time either by bringing ponchos or rain jackets from home, or budgeting to buy them in the parks if needed. Expect to pay about $10 to $13 for Disney ponchos in the parks, but word is that the shops in the park will replace them if they rip. If you have a poncho and the right shoes, you can keep on going with your day at Disney (potentially with lighter crowds) if the rains come. Just don’t forget a rain cover for the stroller, too!
However, note that rain and lightning are different issues. During lightning, most outdoor Disney attractions will temporarily close, leaving you to chase the indoor fun. If the ride you have a FastPass+ for is closed due to weather during your time slot, the system should load an “anytime” use pass for that ride so you can head that way once it reopens.
What to Do at Magic Kingdom When It Rains
If I start feeling raindrops near Fantasyland, I head straight for Mickey’s PhilharMagic. Because the 4D movie has been around since 2003, there’s never a long wait and even the waiting area is protected from the elements. I’m a fan of the film, which asks the question, “What if Donald got hold of Mickey’s Sorcerer cap?” (Spoiler alert: Chaos ensues.) If you get lucky, blue skies will reappear before the 12-minute movie ends. This is Florida after all, so sometimes rain comes and goes quickly.
In Tomorrowland, the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is my go-to during a shower. The comedy show is another attraction that often gets skipped but that is a lot of fun. The kids like the interactivity of the show, which is slightly different every time. While perhaps not quite as entertaining for the kids, the longest ride at Disney World — the Carousel of Progress is also in Tomorrowland and gives you 20 good minutes of indoor air-conditioned time to wait out the showers (we won’t tell if you cat nap). The wait for Space Mountain is also typically indoors and makes for a good ride at the end of an indoor wait.
The Country Bear Jamboree is my refuge in Frontierland. Fun fact: The bears are one of a handful of original attractions from the Magic Kingdom’s grand opening in 1971 that are still alive and well. And I’d be remiss not to mention the Hall of Presidents, which might not be high on the children’s list, but is really well done.
If the day at Disney World is entirely rained out and you just can’t throw on a poncho and muster through, I suggest hitting the monorail. Each resort on the monorail — Grand Floridian, Contemporary, and Polynesian — is really a destination onto itself.
Of the three, my favorite hangout is the Grand Floridian. At the Grand Floridian you can participate in a fun, if brief, character sighting that takes place every day at 3:45pm. On their way to 1900 Park Fare, Cinderella and Prince Charming waltz through the lobby. Kids are invited to join in. You might also get to enjoy the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, a ragtime band that performs most afternoons and evenings.
My other favorite stop at the Grand Floridian is Basin, on the second floor. Basin is famous for its by-the-slice soaps shaped as Mickey and many other Disney themes. Next to the register, you will find little bags of soap remainders at half-price (usually around $3) that are perfect for stocking stuffers or hostess gifts. Even better, from time-to-time, you will see mystery bags. If you do, do not pass up the chance to get a huge stash of stuff for at least half off.
If you get peckish during your detour, the Grand Floridian Cafe is one of my faves and is a rare Disney World restaurant that seldom requires reservations. For not much more than the cost of a hot dog, you can enjoy a wonderful bowl of French onion soup and a salad you would have to pick yourself to get any fresher.
Speaking of eating, if you hop on the monorail to the Polynesian Village Resort, you might not be able to get into ‘Ohana at the last minute, but you often can get into Kona Cafe, which is also very good and open for all three meals a day. If you just need a cool snack, head out the back door of the Polynesian’s lobby to pick up a Dole Whip to enjoy under the awning.
What to Do at Epcot When It Rains
If a rainy day is forecast during your Disney World trip, plan to spend your day at Epcot. Ed Pizzarello, Disney Vacation Club owner and all-around Disney pro, agrees that Epcot is chock-full of indoor attractions. In fact, only one attraction in the entire park (Test Track) is liable to shut down for weather. In Future World, he recommends Journey into Imagination with Figment, and the imagination play area after the ride is over as well. It gets skipped by a lot of folks, so you can assure a walk-on most days. Other solid options are The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends, both of which also usually feature short lines. There’s also healthy places to eat in the same building that features The Land and Soarin’, so you can spend a good chunk of time without going back outside.
In World Showcase, the Mexico pavilion is a great shelter from the storm. Inside hides one of my favorite old-school attractions: the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Cabelleros. The Small World-esque ride is as cheesy as it gets, but I love it. Even better, there’s hardly ever a line and it’s eight minutes long, so perhaps the rain will end by the time your tour does. Or — ask if you can take a second lap if there isn’t a line!
Another solid option is The American Adventure, a 30-minute experience that is part Hall of Presidents, part Schoolhouse Rock and all indoors. My favorite part of The American Adventure is the Voices of Liberty, a chorus that performs daily in the entry hall.
Honorable mentions go to the movies at the Chinese, French and Canadian pavilions. Any of them will keep you dry and you probably haven’t had an excuse to see them on previous visits. If you’re Kawaii-deprived, the Mitsukoshi department store in Japan is always a hoot. Be sure to see the gallery in the back, which puts the Hello Kitty plane to shame.
What to Do at Hollywood Studios When It Rains
I’m not gonna sugar-coat it: Hollywood Studios is tough in the rain. The new Toy Story Land has many positives, but shelter from the storm (or sun, for that matter) is not one of them. Many of my old standbys, like animation lessons or The Great Movie Ride, have gone the way of the dodo.
If the line isn’t too long or you can score a Fastpass+, Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a good option. If you decide to see Beauty and the Beast in a torrential downpour, pick your seat strategically as ones near the rear can still leave you damp. The 30-minute Frozen Sing-a-Long show is also indoors, so that’s another dry option if the showtimes align with the rain showers.
You can also use the time to dine. Ed Pizzarello says that, “Brown Derby is the only place I can think of to avoid the rain for a protracted period of time at Hollywood Studios, but it won’t come cheap.”
My honest advice? If you have a Park Hopper ticket and it’s going to rain for a while, go to another park, preferably Epcot or the Magic Kingdom.
What to Do at Animal Kingdom When It Rains
In some ways Animal Kingdom is the worst of the four Disney World parks on a wet day as everything is spread out, lots is outdoors and it gets very humid here even when the rain stops. But Ed has more advice — lean in. “Go the compete opposite of trying to stay dry and do Kali River Rapids in the rain.” Gotta admit, I kind of love it. I haven’t tried it yet, but did recently ride Thunder Mountain in a Paris snowstorm and it can’t be more intense than that.
If you don’t want your britches squeaky for the rest of the day, try to get a Fastpass+ to The Festival of The Lion King or Finding Nemo. If that fails, It’s Tough to be a Bug usually doesn’t have a line, but people either seem to love or hate it. The same can be said for Dinosaur. My 7 year old was traumatized on that ride and even at 15 won’t get within 100 yards of it.
If your entire day at Animal Kingdom is washed out, I’d take the bus, an Uber or a Minnie Van to nearby Animal Kingdom Lodge. A Mommy Points favorite, Animal Kingdom Lodge has many diverse and entertaining ways to spend a day, even if you aren’t staying there as an overnight guest. In the space of three hours, recently my daughter and I matched the feces to the species (you read that right), decorated giraffe and elephant cookies, learned how to say elephant in Swahili (tembo), played bingo and caught some zebras taking a nap. Total cost? Zero! They also offer drum lessons, face painting and a whole host of (often free) activities.
If tummies start to grumble, The Mara is Animal Kingdom Lodge’s quick-serve restaurant. I normally wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend a quick-service restaurant, but The Mara is one of my favorites. I seek out the BBQ Flatbread and a Zebra Dome on every visit.
Even better, if you’re there at 4pm, head down to the lobby between Boma and Jiko. You’ll be rewarded with a free culinary tour that features a bowl of Boma’s famous butternut squash soup and a charcuterie platter sampler from Jiko. I did the tour a few months ago and didn’t even need dinner afterward.
You can plan just about every aspect of your Disney World trip except the weather. Fortunately, you still have plenty of options to enjoy your trip on a rainy day at Disney World. As the drops start coming down, check to see if some of your most coveted FastPass+ selections are available as people change their plans, or maybe you can even sneak into a last-minute dining reservation at one of the best restaurants at Disney World. There are perks to bad weather at Disney.
In fact, I find that sometimes the best memories at Disney World are from the moments you didn’t plan in advance, so you just might find that Disney magic where you least expect it.
Here are some other Walt Disney World trip-planning resources:
- TPG’s Ultimate Guide to Disney World
- The Best Restaurants in Walt Disney World in 2019
- The Best Points Hotels Near Disney World
- In the Shadow of the Mouse: Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- How to Save Money By Renting Disney Vacation Club Points
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- Disney World Without Kids: 10 Ways to Enjoy an Adult Trip to Disney
- 10 Things Kids Will Love at the Disney Aulani Resort in Hawaii
- How to Ride Every Disney World Ride in One Day
- How to Eat Healthy at Disney World
Featured image by GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images