by Makena W.
We all know that Disney is filled with fun and fantasy inside Magic Kingdom, adventure and wildlife inside Animal Kingdom, special effects and storytelling in Hollywood Studios, and exploring and technology in Epcot. But what is there to do besides visit the parks? Here is a list of ideas:
1. Pirates and Pals Cruise This cruise is unlike any other. After a photo opportunity and chance to have snacks and drinks, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee lead you to a small boat for a voyage that will be hosted by either Patch or Patchy. A child is picked to carry the flag, and when I did this, my brother was chosen! You watch “Wishes” from Seven Seas Lagoon/Bay Lake and sometimes you might even catch the Water Pageant! This might sound a little young for some of you out there, but trust me, it is a very fun addition to anyone’s vacation. Thousands of people can say that they’ve watched the fireworks over Cinderella Castle but you will be able to see them over the Main Street Train Station with the castle in the background! Overall, my favorite part of this adventure was the humor on the boat during the ride to and from the firework viewing spot. Patchy was the host on our boat, and he was amazing! He made jokes that flew over younger kids heads and smacked the rest of us right in the face. He also asked trivia questions and gave out prizes to people with the right answer. It was a lot of fun, and it is one of my fondest Disney memories.
2. Explore the Hotels Every Disney Hotel is inspired by a different era, place or feeling and they are each unique in their own way. If you have one certain hotel that you stay at every time you visit, take the time to explore other hotels and you might find a new favorite. I usually stay at All Star Movies or Caribbean Beach. On one of our “hotel hop” days we visited the Wilderness Lodge. Now I am trying to convince my parents to stay there the next time we visit Walt Disney World. During the holidays, my family set up a free day as resort exploration. Part of the fun before we left home was figuring out the most efficient way to get to each property. Sometimes it was a stopover at a park or Downtown then jumping onto another mode of transportation. Other times it was as easy as jumping on the monorail or walking! It took a full day to visit every hotel to see their holiday decorations. If you can’t visit every property, I would suggest to set a goal to visit at least visit 2 other hotels to see the decorations at the different resorts. The Grand Floridian has the gingerbread house (this is one not to miss!) and the Contemporary has the huge Mickey wreath. Don’t forget to look for the food displays, too! Don’t worry if it’s not holiday time, it is fun any time of the year!
3. DisneyQuest DisneyQuest is a 5-floor “arcade” that is more than just Pacman. I personally don’t like arcades, but this isn’t any normal arcade. It is almost completely interactive. From a Pirates of the Caribbean ride with a Toy Story Mania twist to a roller coaster creator that you actually get to ride, DisneyQuest is a very fun place for a rainy day. The five floors each have a name that describes the area very well- the “Replay Zone” (classic games with a twist) “Explore Zone” (a virtual Adventureland with interactive games) “Create Zone” (a floor featuring completely customizable activities) “Score Zone” (features many multiplayer games) and Ventureport (the main floor that leads to all the other zones). This is one place that I could go to everyday and not get sick of it.
4. Mini Golf Mini golfing is something that I get very competitive with. If I aim just right and hit the ball – but at that exact moment it seems like an invisible force field appears around where I want it to go and instead it goes in the opposite direction (don’t you hate it when that happens?), – I get angry and it throws off the rest of my game. I miss shots left and right from then on. But Fantasia Gardens brings the competitive-ness down a notch (and only a notch!) with its whimsical colors and effects. Where else could you golf with dancing hippos and marching buckets, hear stairs that play music and negotiate an ice cave? Don’t let the whimsical parts fool you because you also have to putt through an unexpected geyser field and navigate through moving snowflakes which isn’t as easy as it sounds! It’s a lot of fun. Because it is reported to be more challenging than Winter-Summerland, it is the only course I’ve visited.
5. Downtown Disney This is probably the most obvious selection. Downtown Disney has everything from shopping to a movie theater. The possibilities of what you can do are endless! There are some options that are free like walking into stores (but you might walk out with less money then you walked in with) and some things that require admission like Characters in Flight (a hot air balloon ride) and Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba (basically an amazing circus show without animals). Of course the restaurant options are up to Disney standards and even higher at places like Wolfgang Puck’s and Planet Hollywood. I would even leave a park to come here and eat. At Downtown Disney you can spend as little or as much time as you want and do it on different days…even after the parks close if that is before 11:00pm. It’s never too late to shop!
6. Visit the Tri-Circle-D Ranch
Did you ever wonder where you could find the horses when they’re not on Main Street USA? Head over to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and solve the mystery. At the Tri-Circle-D Ranch you can walk through the stables and get a close up look at the horses. Carriage rides are available, pony rides for the kids and, for the more daring, even horseback rides (with a guide).
7. Search for Hidden Mickeys and secrets To some people, Disney is an ordinary theme park. Some may believe that it was created to make money and had no other focus in mind. Of course we know that that is not true AT ALL. Disney and its company put a lot of work into little details to create memories and make people happy and maybe give people experiences they can’t get anywhere else. One way this is proven are the secrets hidden around the World. If the Disney Company only cared about money, why would they put them there? They are scattered around the property in many forms. A famous type is a Hidden Mickey which was originally used to leave as a signature since artists and architects couldn’t put their name on their work but have now evolved into a game for park guests to find (Thanks, Steve Barrett!) You can fill entire days in the pursuit of secrets and hidden mickeys both in the parks elsewhere in the property. Is that a Mickey on the giraffe’s back at Animal Kingdom Lodge? It sure looks like that could be another Mickey on Tweedle Dee’s apron in the World of Disney! Should you ask for ketchup at the Whispering Canyon Café in the Wilderness Lodge? You can even get free Disney Transportation Trading Cards by just asking!
I have written about seven “outside the park” options but there are countless to choose from. You can watch your parents ride in a race car, rent a watercraft, see the parks from the air while parasailing or shoot a bow and arrow like Merida. Next time you visit the World, make sure you consider some of these activities for things to do when you are not in one of the four best parks on the map.
Side note: Last Thursday I graduated 8th grade. I got a Mickey graduation hat as a gift weeks prior to my graduation, so I took pictures in my gown with the hat on instead of the unoriginal cap and gown picture. Here is one of my favorites.
This Week’s “Where in the World?” is featured in one of my favorite parks and I love the design that the picture is a part of. Good luck to all of you!
See ya REAL soon! ~Makena W.