Walt Disney World – Great Places to Explore Outside the Parks

There are lots of magical little corners of the World to be found outside the hustle and bustle of the parks.  Today I want to talk about a few of our favorites.

Walt Disney World – Great Places to Explore Outside the Parks

The walkway between the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian Village Resorts – For us, this is a must-do anytime we’ve dined at Citricos or Narcoossee’s.  We’ll walk off our dinner with a stroll from the Grand Floridian to the Poly.  It’s a beautiful, peaceful way to end the evening.  If we time it right, we can stop on the boat dock at the Polynesian and watch the Electrical Water Pageant go by.  Disney World's Electrical Water PageantOnce we arrive at the Polynesian, we’ll catch the monorail back to Magic Kingdom for a resort bus if we’re not staying in that area.  If we’re staying at Bay Lake Tower (more likely than not), we’ll take the monorail home.  

Fort Wilderness – This is one of my favorite places in the World and we’ve never stayed there!  Sure, the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review is a draw for many, but the entire resort is incredibly interesting.  Feels like no place else at Walt Disney World and has the added bonus of being the home of the Tri-Circle-D Ranch!  We got to explore the ranch’s horse barn during our Wilderness Back Trail Adventure Segway Tour (highly recommend!).  While we were there, we also took the time to visit the gift shop (very cool!) and explore the resort.  If you’re looking for something different, consider either the Segway Tour or a carriage ride or horseback riding at the ranch.    The Boardwalk at Walt Disney World

Disney’s Boardwalk – A great place to explore anytime of the day, but evening is when the Boardwalk really comes alive.  Live performers like mimes and magicians, lounges for a pre-dinner cocktail, ice cream, snacks, and more.  It took us years (and years!) to visit the Boardwalk for the first time and now that we know what’s there, we visit an almost every trip to the World.  We especially love the Flying Fish Café for a nice dinner and the AbracadaBar for a well-themed libation stop.  

Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Savannah Overlook – If you’ve never taken the time to visit Animal Kingdom Lodge, you need to squeeze it in on your next visit.  The place is spectacular and, you know, ANIMALS!  It’s very cool to step out of the lobby and check out the wildlife.  Whether you’re at Jambo House or the Kidani Village area of Animal Kingdom, there’s a lot to see.  We try to go over in the late afternoon straight from Disney’s Animal Kingdom (park) to see the sights and maybe enjoy an adult beverage at the Victoria Falls Lounge.  If we can add dinner at Boma, Sanaa, or Jiko…all the better!  Tip:  If you only have time for a snack, visit Sanaa after you check out the savannah at Kidani Village and order their famous Indian-Style Bread Service!  You won’t be sorry.

When you’re at Disney World, where are your favorite places to visit outside the parks?

Disney World Rambling and Meandering

Bay-Lake-Tower-SunriseWhen asked, I always recommend my favorite rides and attractions, rope-drop strategies, snacks and restaurants to my Disney-vacation-planning friends.  So much to do and see – I try my best to suggest ways to make each day action-packed and fun-filled.  Probably I should do less of that.  Instead, I should stress the importance of taking a few minutes here and there to break away from the business of crowded park navigation.  I need to make a point of telling people to make time to relax and just soak up the beauty and atmosphere of Walt Disney World by roaming, free-styling, wandering…you get the idea.  Some of my family’s best vacation memories were made during many such expeditions.RM-Grand-Floridian-Exterior

Disney World Rambling and Meandering

Take a stroll on the path between the Polynesian Village Resort and the Grand Floridian.  Catch the monorail from Magic Kingdom to either one of these resorts to begin your exploration.  On a beautiful day, this little excursion is a calm and lovely way to spend a quiet few minutes.  Once you’ve completed your journey, hop back on the monorail and continue your day.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Waterway1

Explore Fort Wilderness.  You just might decide to hang out for a good, long visit.  Take a bus from the parks or a boat from Magic Kingdom or the Contemporary Resort.  Then catch one of the Fort Wilderness-specific busses for a short ride to the Meadow Depot where you can walk around the gorgeous grounds, rent a bicycle, kayak or canoe, take a Segway tour, or shop for souvenirs in the Meadow Trading Post.  You’ll forget you’re at Walt Disney World!  This place is an awesome destination and recreation area on its own.RM-Sunrise-Bay-Lake-Tower

Start your day off right.  No matter where you’re staying, rising with the sun on at least one morning is a wonderful way to begin the day.  Maybe it’s just us, but we think sunrise at Walt Disney World is particularly beautiful…dare I say magical?  Talk a walk with a cup of coffee in the early morning light, listen to the sounds of the resort coming to life – amid the incredible tropical landscape, you can relax a bit as you look forward to the excitement of the day ahead.Firepit on the Animal Kingdom Lodge's savannah overlook

Check out Animal Kingdom Lodge.  If there’s a resort at Walt Disney World I would give up park time for, it’s AKL.  Everything about this place is unique and interesting!  From the soaring, expanse of the Jambo House to the restaurants and lounges, this place is nothing if not exquisitely well-themed.Giraffe on the savanna at Animal Kingdom LodgeBest of all?  Watching animals on the savannah overlook off the back of the Jambo House.  We love it there!  We try to make a dinner reservation at one of the Lodge’s table service restaurants on a day we’ll be at Animal Kingdom (park).  It’s a quick bus ride from park to lodge and a perfect way to keep the day’s theme going in a much more relaxing atmosphere.Ostrich on the savannah at Animal Kingdom Lodge Exterior Rooftops / Animal Kingdom Lodge

These are just a few – my personal favorites – of the many places you can find some outside-the-parks places to take a stroll and soak up not just the Disney magic, but quiet moments that remind you…vacation is supposed to be relaxing!

Where are your favorite places to ramble and meander at Walt Disney World?





Dawn & Dusk at Walt Disney World

RM-Sunset-Seven-Seas-LagoonWith so many gorgeous and captivating Disney details everywhere at Disney World, it’s often hard to notice the spectacular beginnings and endings to the day provided naturally by the Sunshine State.  Early mornings are often missed getting ready to hit the parks for rope-drop and early evenings are completely ignored in favor of delicious meals in a favorite restaurant.  Once I notice what I was missing, I started making it a point to pause and appreciate those breathtaking moments I’d been ignoring.

Some amazing sights are afforded by Dawn & Dusk at Walt Disney World – here are five of my favorites:

Sunrise over Bay Lake:  Peaceful, misty, and absolutely gorgeous, watching the sun rise on Bay Lake is one of my favorite activities when I’m lucky enough to get a lake view room in Bay Lake Tower.  RM-Sunrise-Bay-Lake-Tower RM-Sunrise-Bay-Lake-Shore RM-Sunrise-Bay-LakeAt first, the scene looks as still as a post card picture, but shore birds are waking for the day and boats are soon moving across the water.  I just soak it all in while sipping a cup of coffee – it’s the kind of quiet time every great vacation should include.

Sunset over the Seven Seas Lagoon:  A window seat in the California Grill is a great vantage point for some gorgeous sunset viewing.  RM-Sunset-From-California-Grill RM-Sunset-Over-Seven-Seas-LagoonBut the walkway between the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower works just as well (first pictures on this page were shot there).  Absolutely worth taking the time to enjoy!

Sunrise on the road to (or from) the Magic Kingdom:  You might not have to enter a runDisney race to catch the particular beauty, but that’s how I saw some pretty awesome sights.  RM-Sunrise-runDisney-road-past-BLT RM-Sunrise-runDisney-Princess-HalfRM-Sunrise-Magic-KingdomDuring the Princess Half Marathon, I was a tiny bit too late to see the sun rise on Cinderella Castle, but if you’re planning on attending the next 24-Hour event, be sure not to miss that!  I bet it’s incredible.

Sunrise over the World Showcase Lagoon:  Again, I was in Epcot before the sun came up for a runDisney event, but I had to stop and take a picture when I saw how still and beautiful everything looked in the early morning light.  RM-Sunrise-World-Showcase-Lagoon RM-Sunrise-Boardwalk-AreaThe sunrise is also very beautiful in the Boardwalk, Beach Club, Yacht Club area – and except for my fellow runners, very few people were out and about to enjoy the view.

Sunset at Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I’m sorry I don’t have more pictures to share.  To me, there’s something very special about this resort any time of the day, but as the sun is slowly sinking, the buildings glow and it’s easy to feel as if you’ve been transported to Africa.  RM-Sunset-AKL RM-Sunset-Animal-Kingdom-LodgeBook a dinner reservation at one of the Lodge’s fantastic restaurants and plan to catch the sunset!

Your turn!  What are your favorite places to catch the views of dawn or dusk at Disney World?


Disney Deluxe – 5 Great Things About Animal Kingdom Lodge

IMG_3196If you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation, you have a huge variety of on-property resort choices available.  Just in the deluxe resort category alone, not counting Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Deluxe Villas, you have eight from which to choose as a home-base for your Disney vacation adventures.  I’ve seen and heard a lot of folks on Disney discussion forums, Twitter and Facebook asking about Animal Kingdom Lodge.  Is it a good place to stay?  YES!  Don’t let its off-the-beaten-path location deter you – it’s a beautiful, relaxing and very unique member of the Disney deluxe resort line-up.

FIVE Great Things about the Animal Kingdom Lodge!

1.  Gorgeous Lobby:  When you arrive at AKL and pass through its front entryway, be prepared IMG_3390for a breathtaking experience.  The 6-story high lobby is stunning!  Huge and open while still comfortable and inviting, the muted colors in this expansive, well-themed space welcome guests with an undeniable charm.  If you feel like standing right in the middle and slowly turning in a circle to take it all in – go ahead!  And don’t forget to look up too!

2.  Delicious, plentiful dining options:  The dining at AKL is so fantastic, we will eat here on every trip to WDW no matter where we’re staying.  It’s a perfect way to end the day at the Animal Kingdom Park as it’s just a short bus ride away.  Of all the restaurant choices at Disney World, I consider AKL’s dining options to be the most unique.  Don’t worry – Disney has a special way of making sure there’s something on every menu to satisfy even the pickiest of IMG_3213eaters and the menus at Animal Kingdom Lodge are no exception.   The Fam and I enjoy Boma – Flavors of Africa (buffet – home of the famous dessert called Zebra Domes) and Jiko – The Cooking Place (table service) so much, we’ve yet to try Sanaa (table service) although I hear it’s wonderful.  The Mara offers quick service dining and there are two lounges (Victoria Falls and Cape Town) as well as two pool bars (Uzima Springs and Maji).

3.  Relaxing, well-themed pool areas – Uzima Pool is an 11,000-square-foot oasis facing the Uzima Savanna. This pool offers gently sloping, zero-depth entry and a 67-foot-long waterslide.  At Kidani, the Animal Kingdom DVC Villas, you’ll find Samawati Springs Pool which, while smaller than Uzima, also offers zero-depth entry and has a 128-foot waterslide.  Swimming not your thing?  There are also playgrounds and jogging trails!IMG_0921

4.  Learning opportunities for everyone.  There are programs for children, special sunrise safaris (including adventures just for tweens and teens), evening fire-side African story telling and more.  The Fam and I have enjoyed meeting different Cast Members and learning about each one’s home country.

5.  Oh, yeah – ANIMALS! On three separate savannahs over 30 species of African wildlife are there – up close – for you to enjoy (no touching or feeding!).  If staying in a savannah-view room, you can watch the animals from your window.  If you don’t have a savannah-view, don’t worry.  Right off the resort’s gorgeous lobby is Arusha Rock, an elevated savannah overlook with great animal viewing all day long.

IMG_3231My two cents:  This is an incredible place to stay IF you have some extra time to invest.  To appreciate the Animal Kingdom Lodge fully, you must spend time there – on Arusha Rock, visiting with Cast Members to learn about Africa, enjoying unique table service meals, and lounging or swimming at one (or both) of the pool areas.  If you love resorts that are within walking distance of (or a short bus or monorail ride away from) your favorite park or if you spend all your Disney vacation time in the parks and none at the resort- Animal Kingdom Lodge is probably not for you.