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?





Walt Disney, Horses, & Tri-Circle-D

RM-Tri-Circle-D-Walt-Disney-and-HorsesAfter our recent exploration of Fort Wilderness via Segway (Wilderness Back Trail Adventure), we were elated to have discovered all the amazing treasures we never knew existed at Fort Wilderness.  We also felt sorry that we’d previously only considered Fort Wilderness “the place we go to see Hoop-Dee-Doo”.

One of the best tour stops was at the Tri-Circle-D stables where we had the pleasure to hear more about the amazing horses of Walt Disney World and see some incredible Disney memorabilia.  Our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic as he took the time to show us the wonderful treasures found there.  I can’t believe we’d never heard details about Walt Disney’s love of horses and how they shaped is life.RM-Tri-Circle-D-Stable-Display-Case RM-Tri-Circle-D-Stable-Photo-Alcove

Just inside the entrance to the stable, an alcove on the right displays a variety of objects and photos.  The pictures capture a very happy Walt Disney and clearly show his love for horses.  RM-Tri-Circle-D-Pic-Walt-and-Polo RM-Tri-Circle-D-Pic-Walt-and-Wagon RM-Tri-Circle-D-Pic-Western-WaltAn avid horseman, Walt suffered a serious polo injury in the late 1930’s that fractured vertebrae in his neck.  This injury prevented him from continuing to enjoy riding, caused him lifelong pain that worsened over the years, and culminated in Walt seeking medical attention to relieve the unbearable discomfort caused by a buildup of calcium deposits on the back of his neck.  Hospital x-rays led to the discovery of the lung cancer that brought about the end of Walt Disney’s life.  A sad story, true, but seeing Walt Disney’s beaming face in picture after picture with his beloved horses was unexpectedly moving.

On the left side of the stable, before the stalls begin, is an enclosed area that houses the Dragon Calliope.  RM-Tri-Circle-D-Disney-Calliope RM-Tri-Circle-D-Pic-Calliope-in-UseThis gorgeous “vehicle” is described on the Disney website as, “the horse-drawn musical instrument that Walt Disney purchased for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland Park in the 1950s.” – It might not sound like much, but it was really beautiful in person with amazing details.RM-Tri-Circle-D-Stables

And, as you’d expect, the stables also house actual horses.  Again, from the Disney site, the horses of Disney World include, “Appaloosas, Arabians, Belgians, Clydesdales, paint horses, Percherons and quarter horses, plus Shetland ponies”.  RM-Tri-Circle-D-Name-Sign-RookieA sign on each stall displays the horse’s name and any special dietary needs they possess.  Guests are prohibited from petting or feeding the horses, but that didn’t keep those gorgeous animals from being friendly and curious enough to take a break from munching hay to stick their heads out and say hello.  RM-Tri-Circle-D-Horse-Black RM-Tri-Circle-D-HorseImpeccably clean and well-tended, both the stable and its residents are as perfect as they can be.RM-Tri-Circle-D-Horse-Care RM-Tri-Circle-D-Harness RM-Tri-Circle-D-Hidden-Mickey

If you’re planning a Walt Disney World vacation and find a free afternoon to spare, I can’t think of a better way to experience some very special Disney magic than by visiting Fort Wilderness and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.  If you’re interested in horseback riding, wagon, or carriage rides, details are available here.

Have you seen the Tri-Circle-D at Fort Wilderness?  What do you remember most about it?

Disney World Wilderness Back Trail Adventure

RM-FW-Back-Trail-SegwayYou may have visited here recently when I mentioned that Raymond and I, during our TWO extra days at Walt Disney World (flights cancelled due to winter weather), took the super-awesome Segway tour at Fort Wilderness.  I’m here today to give the deets on that extra-fun-spur-of-the-moment experience.  If you’ve always wanted to try riding a Segway, this is the very best opportunity…and currently the only Segway tour offered at Walt Disney World.

We were not Segway rookies when we decided to see if we could make last minute reservations for this tour.  We’d taken our first Segway tour in Barcelona, Spain while getting ready to embark on the Disney Magic for a Mediterranean cruise in August, 2013.  Riding a Segway is easy.  I’m being totally honest – remember, I have absolutely zero eye-hand coordination and can barely walk and chew gum at the same time.  If I can ride a Segway without incident, anyone can!RM-Fort-Wilderness-Bike-Barn

Luckily for us, we were able to find a couple of spots available for a late morning Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Fort Wilderness.  Safety first, there are forms to complete upon arrival at the Fort Wilderness Bike Barn where the tour begins.  Forms in order, the tour actually begins with a safety class (including video and awesome gigantic helmets), followed by a very thorough practice session during which all necessary maneuvers on the off-road Segway are mastered.RM-FW-Back-Trail-Tour-ReadyWe learned to go forward and back, turn, and get safely on and off the Segway.  It was our understanding that if anyone in the group could not safely perform all Segway riding exercises, they would not be allowed to advance to the actual tour.  No one seemed to struggle in the least – including one lady, I’m guessing she was in her late 50’s, who was extremely nervous in the beginning.  The instruction and practice took about 30 minutes all together.RM-FW-Segways

Once we’d all performed the necessary Segway driving requirements, we were off!  It was raining lightly, but no one cared.  The tour includes some Disney World history, some photo ops, and, the highlight for me, a guided tour (off Segway) of the Tri-Circle-D Ranch.  I loved everything about this part of the adventure.  RM-FW-Tri-Circle-D-Tour RM-FW-Tri-Circle-D-Photo-of-Walt-Disney RM-FW-Tri-Circle-D-Horse-Black RM-FW-Tri-Circle-D-HorseOkay, really, I completely, thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, but going in the horse barn and seeing photographs of Walt Disney with the horses he clearly loved was a side of him that I hadn’t seen before.  The horses (no petting!) were curious, friendly and beautiful.  This is one place I would love to visit again.

The rain stopped while we were in the barn, so we enjoyed the rest of the tour much more comfortably (without the poncho hood!).  We were literally on the back trails as the name of the tour implies and saw the woods and fields surrounding Fort Wilderness and Wilderness Lodge.RM-FW-Back-Trail-Tour-Beside-Bay-LakeWe spotted deer and listened to wonderful facts and stories from our guide.  We also, at a maximum speed of SIX miles per hour, zipped (slowly) off-road around and between trees and over rough-ish terrain, which was actually very fun.  So fun, in fact, that the lady I mentioned earlier that was nervous to begin with could be heard laughing out loud during these off-road expeditions.  All too soon, it was time to return to the Bike Barn and park our Segways.  RM-FW-Back-Trail-Tour-GuidesI wish I had more pictures for you of the off-road portion of the adventure, but the rules strictly prohibit the use of a camera while operating a Segway.  As a very cool souvenir, we each received a Back Trail Adventure pin.RM-FW-Back-Trail-Segway-Tour-Pin

Would we recommend this experience?  With enthusiasm!  It was even better than we’d hoped and, if we get the chance, we will absolutely do it again.

Have you taken (or thought about taking ) the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure?  What do you think about this unique offering at Walt Disney World?

Fort Wilderness Adventures

RM-Fort-Wilderness-Sign2First of all, I’d like to formally apologize to Fort Wilderness fans.  I’ve raved about the Hoop Dee Doo and shared Barbie and Nick’s experience in a Fort Wilderness Cabin, but I’d never taken the time to visit and explore Fort Wilderness until recently…and for that, I’m sorry.  I never realized what a remarkable, fantastic, unique and FUN place Fort Wilderness is – so different from the other Disney World Resort properties, yet possessing every bit of that Disney magic that we know and love.

What prompted us to finally visit Fort Wilderness for a look around?  Our second day of being stranded at Walt Disney World by winter weather at home.  On the first day, we decided to make the most of our One More Disney Day with action-packed park fun.  When cancelled flights meant yet another opportunity to play, we decided to do something we’d heard about, but had never made time for.  I’d long thought the off-road Segway adventure at Fort Wilderness would be great fun – this extra day was the right time to give it a try.RM-Boat-to-Fort-Wilderness

A wonderful Cast Member at Bay Lake Tower’s front desk helped us book our Wilderness Back Trail Adventure.  We didn’t have much time to spare, so we grabbed some breakfast at the Contempo Café and made our way to the Contemporary’s boat dock.  Captain Howard was just getting ready to make the crossing to Fort Wilderness, so we hopped aboard and enjoyed being the only passengers on this particular cruise.  If you need a break from a busy day at Magic Kingdom, I strongly recommend walking or catching the monorail to the Contemporary and taking a leisurely boat ride on Bay Lake.  So relaxing!!!

Once we’d bid Captain Howard goodbye, we needed to figure out how to get to the “Bike Barn” – home to our Segway adventure.  Fort Wilderness is HUGE!  So large, in fact, that the resort relies heavily on an internal bus system and a brisk golf cart rental business to move guests throughout the resort.  RM-Fort-Wilderness-Map1We found the bus we needed (could take Orange or Yellow to reach the stop near the Bike Barn) and hopped on.  Arriving at our stop, we stepped down and were completely and totally charmed.  Amid the very heart of Walt Disney World’s hustle and bustle is a wilderness oasis.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Grounds2RM-Fort-Wilderness-SquirrelTrees dripping with Spanish moss, waterways made for leisurely canoe-paddled explorations, a wonderful pool and recreational areas full of a variety of entertainment choices.  How did we not know what Fort Wilderness had to offer before now!?!?!  On our way to the Bike Barn, we checked out the pool, the paths, and waterways.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Waterway2 RM-Fort-Wilderness-Waterway1 RM-Fort-Wilderness-Pool1 RM-Fort-Wilderness-Pool2It was quiet, but kids were roller skating, guests were out for a stroll or a bike ride; the overall atmosphere was one of the relaxed recreation of a summer camp.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Sign3RM-Fort-Wilderness-Fishin'-Sign

At the Bike Barn, we filled out some paperwork for our Segway tour and found we had about 45 minutes to continue our explorations before it was time to meet our guides.  RM-Fort-Wilderness-Bike-Barn RM-Fort-Wilderness-Bike-Barn-Activities-MenuWe noticed guests could rent carts, kayaks, canoes, bicycles, and book guided fishing tours – Fort Wilderness offers visitors a lot of alternatives to spending time in the parks!  The outdoor theater is surely a popular place in the evenings.  Guests can join Chip and Dale for an evening around the campfire that includes refreshments and a movie.  (Details here.)RM-Fort-Wilderness-TerminusThis, among some of the other activities Fort Wilderness offers, is one I absolutely want to try in the future.  Never one to pass up an opportunity to shop, we stopped in at the Meadow Trading Post for a look around.  RM-Fort-Wilderness-Meadow-Trading-Post RM-Fort-Wilderness-Meadow-Trading-Post-InteriorAgain, like everything else at this resort, we found a unique and different experience.  This was not the average cookie-cutter store that has become typical at so many Disney World resorts.  The Trading Post was stocked with a great selection of themed merchandise arranged in clever displays.RM-Fort-Wilderness-Mugs RM-Fort-Wilderness-Hat-Shopping RM-Fort-Wilderness-ShirtsOf course I wanted to try on some of the hats and do some pin trading with the Cast Members at the checkout counter.  RM-Fort-Wilderness-Ranger-HatBefore long, it was time to head back to the Bike Barn and set off on an even bigger adventure.  I’ll be back to give a review and tell you all the details of the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure one day soon.

Are you a Fort Wilderness fan?  What’s your favorite thing to do there?