When you visit Walt Disney World for a runDisney weekend, be sure to pack a positive attitude and options for running in multiple weather conditions, because if there’s one thing true about Central Florida, the weather is a bit unpredictable. After that the biggest question is which resort to stay at.
Disney’s runDisney weekends were originally a strategy by Walt Disney World to help fill some hotel rooms during what were otherwise less busy times of the year, and boy has it worked. These weekends are now some of the busiest of the year attracting runners an their families from around the globe to enjoy a magical weekend of road races as only Disney can provide.
Booking at Disney World vacation during a race weekend is much like any other time of year, but there are a few tips and strategies to keep in mind that will make your weekend easier and allow you to maximize both your race and time enjoying the parks whether you’re a spectator or a race participant.
Walt Disney World offers over 20 fantastic resort hotels and all of them offer race transportation. So if everyone in your party is participating in a race, your decision on where to stay for your race weekend can be made based on other factors.
What’s also true is that road closures make Disney’s otherwise reliable resort transportation a little more difficult in the morning. If you’re among the first to finish the race, getting back to your resort can take a bit longer than expected. Therefore proximity to your Disney resort via other transportation systems could be a deciding factor for you.
Marathon and Half-Marathon Weekends
Disney World’s half marathon and marathon races both start and end at EPCOT. The Walt Disney World monorail system is a highway in the sky and therefore won’t be impacted by road closures, which makes any of the Walt Disney World resort hotels a great place to stay.
The pre-dawn start for most Walt Disney World races means a finish early enough to spend most of the day in the parks. Many runners will go right into the parks after their race, but if you’re in need of a refreshing shower or want to switch out of a special themed costume, minimizing the time between celebrating your finish and taking a spin on the teacups is important.
There is one resort that is a bit off the beaten path allowing easy access by car or bus to and from EPCOT, Coronado Springs. You might also consider Caribbean Beach or the Pop Century and Art of Animation Resorts, which also don’t cross the race course, but they will experience more road traffic.
Spectators in your group?
For the Marathon and Half-Marathon weekends spectators are allowed for the two big races and the 10K, but not the 5K. Due to road closures, it can be more difficult to get around if you’re a spectator than a race participant.
If your travel party includes people who want to cheer the runner along the course, the best hotel depends largely on the race course being run (keeping in mind that runDisney can change the course map at any time).
If your race starts in the Ticket and Transportation Center and then heads through the Magic Kingdom, a Monorail Resort offers spectators easy access to the park where guests can cheer for runners even before attractions open that day. The monorail starts running early on race days (usually around 3am).
Ideally, we recommend spectators stay at either Bay Lake Towers of the Contemporary for the half or full marathon. You can watch the runners pass by on their way into the Magic Kingdom, then when runner passes, take the monorail to the TTC and transfer to EPCOT. You should be there in plenty of time to watch your runner cross the finish line too.
If the race starts or concludes at EPCOT, the options expand to include the EPCOT resort area hotels. If the race course goes through the EPCOT Resort area, that is also a great place to watch. If you’re lucky you may even get a balcony that looks out over the course.
Unfortunately, spectators stay at any of the other hotels, due to heavy and diverted traffic, there’s no guarantee the cheer squad will get to the preferred vantage point to view cheer on the runner before they pass that spot.
When to book?
Here’s the question that puts the gizzard in the gravy. Registering for any of Disney’s more popular races can be a bit of a lottery, unless you have a pre-registration option. There are countless tales of guests who want to run, but were unable to get a bib. Alas, if you want to book a room at your preferred hotel, we recommend acting even earlier.
The good news is that Walt Disney World will let you change the dates of your Disney resort vacation up to 30 days before you arrive with no fee (subject to some restrictions and you will have to pay any price increases). But if you do find that you made a reservation for a race weekend, but were unable to register, then you should move your dates as early as you can as some runner will be happy to have your room that weekend. Contact your travel agent for all the details.
If you’ve traveled to Walt Disney World to participate in or watch a runDisney event, what are your tips for fellow travelers?
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