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 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?