TouringPlans is pleased to welcome back guest author Shannon Loehrlein.
Walt Disney World is known around the world for its four amusement parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Some guests may even visit Disney’s two water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. But most people are not aware of the other unique activities they can experience at Walt Disney World. Disney World has approximately 25 Disney owned hotels and many offer some unique experiences.
(Note that some of these activities in this article are not currently available due to COVID restrictions)
Horseback Riding at Tri Circle D Ranch
One of the unexpected activities to find at Walt Disney World is Tri Circle D Ranch at Fort Wilderness. Trail rides and pony rides are available at the ranch. Prior to COVID, you could also book a wagon ride or horse-drawn carriage. The pony rides are reasonably priced at $8 per child. They are open 10:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. daily. Horseback riding is $55 per person. You must schedule this in advance. The times offered daily are 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 2:00 p.m.
Mini Golf and Golf
Disney offers two mini-golf courses, Fantasia Gardens and Fairways and Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course. Winter Summerland has not reopened post COVID. If you book a Walt Disney World vacation package, you will receive Magical Extras coupons that include free mini-golf. Otherwise, the prices are $14 per adult and $12 per child. Children under 3 are free. Disney also offers four professional golf courses: Lake Buena Vista, Magnolia, Oak Trail, and Palm.
Explore the Savanna
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House and Kidani Village are truly unique experiences. Both hotels have an active savanna with giraffes, zebras, kudu, impala, cattle, wildebeest, waterbuck, hogs, gazelles, bongo, ostrich, and several species of birds. No where else in the United States can you have an experience like this.
Booking a dining reservation at Sanaa is one way you can view the savanna without staying at the resort. Request a table near the window for the best view. And make sure you order the famous bread service. Both Jambo House and Kidani Village have outdoor viewing areas where anyone can spend time watching the animals.
Prior to COVID, Animal Kingdom Lodge offered two special tours that do not require a theme park ticket: Sense of Africa and Starlight Safari. The Starlight Safari is $75 a person. Guests have to be older than 8 years old to participate. The experience includes a nighttime safari and lasts approximately an hour.
The Sense of Africa Tour is much more involved. It lasts 3.5 hours and costs $250 a person. The tour begins with an “authentic African storyline” at the resort, then you will have breakfast at Boma. You will enjoy a private safari and head backstage with cast members of the Animal Care team. You will receive up close encounters with the animals. You must be over the age of 10 to participate in this activity.
Enjoy Your Resort
If you have a longer stay at Walt Disney World, spend a day enjoying your resort. All of the Disney owned hotels have themed pools. The moderate and deluxe hotels feature a water slide. Disney’s Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts even have a lazy river. Several hotels offer cabana rentals to truly relax for the day.
Most of the Disney hotels offer Movies Under the Stars and some have campfires (the Deluxe Resorts, Port Orleans, Fort Wilderness Cabins and the Campsites at Fort Wilderness), although campfires have yet to restart post-COVID. Grand Floridian, Saratoga Springs, and the Dolphin each offer a full spa. Currently the Dolphin’s spa is the only one which has reopened post COVID. Several of the hotels also offer a fitness center or running trails.
Some of the Disney Vacation Club Resorts offer Community Halls which include both free and paid experiences such as Mickey Tie-Dye, video games, DVD rentals, foosball, and crafts.
Lastly, enjoy the restaurants at your resort. The Deluxe resorts offer table service, character meals (although currently suspended for COVID-19), and quick service options. Several of the moderate resorts offer table service and quick service options. The value resorts have large food courts with many food options.
Sports and Boat Rentals
Fort Wilderness Resort offers canoe and kayak rentals for $13. The rentals are open from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. each day and do not require reservations. Fort Wilderness also offers an Archery Experience for $45 a person. The small group experience lasts 75 minutes and requires advance reservations. Motorized boat rentals are temporarily unavailable but are offered at Grand Floridian, Beach Club, Fort Wilderness, Polynesian, Wilderness Lodge, Yacht Club, and Contemporary Resort. When available, you can rent a Sea Raycer for $32 per half hour, a Bostoner Wahler Montauk for $45 per half hour, and a Pontoon boat for $45 per half hour. Reservations are not required.
You can also go fishing at Walt Disney World. Disney offers both guided fishing tours and dockside fishing at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. The guided fishing tours are offered at Fort Wilderness, Caribbean Beach, Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Old Key West, Polynesian, Port Orleans, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club. Currently Port Orleans Resort and Old Key West are not offering this experience. You must call for reservations for guided fishing excursions.
With so many different things to do at your resort, you’re sure to find something for everyone at Walt Disney World.
What’s your favorite activity to do beyond the parks? Let us know in the comments.
Shannon Loehrlein lives in Evansville, Indiana, and is a mom of two young daughters, ages 7 and 2. Shannon’s day job is a school social worker and her husband is a middle school teacher. Shannon is an avid Disney parks and Universal Orlando fan. Shannon is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Passholder at both Disney and Universal. Shannon shares her love of Disney Travel with others as an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner with MickeyTravels. She provides FREE travel planning for anyone looking to book a Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise, Adventures by Disney, or Aulani Vacation. Shannon also runs a travel blog called Mommytravel.net. You can find her on Facebook or contact her through email at Sloehrlein@mickeytravels.com.