Answer to Tyranny of the Spreadsheet
by Alice McNutt Miller
AllEars® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the August 4, 2009 Issue #515 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
A few months ago, I wrote an AllEars® Newsletter feature article ("The Tyranny of the Spreadsheet") on learning the importance of occasionally letting go of ones' schedule, and finding some "down time" during a visit to Disney World (adding the "Time For...?" column of "The Spreadsheet"). Following is a list of my family's favorite things do to at Walt Disney World that require little or no advance planning time. Some of these ideas are obvious, and some you may not have thought of before. Which of them will become your family's favorites?
1. Hang out at your resort pool. Whether you are staying on-site at a Disney resort or at an off-site hotel, most Orlando resorts have great pools. We often leave the parks just after lunch, head back to our resort, and hit the pool. The kids (and Mom and Dad) love to cool off, chill out and have a good time together. I remember being slightly disappointed after one trip when my kids were younger and my older daughter declared that the pool was the best part of the trip. What about Fantasyland? Dumbo? The Beauty and the Beast show? Nope. It was the Silver Creek pool at the Wilderness Lodge (I have to admit, it is one of my favorite things, too).
2. Play a round of (mini) golf. Disney World has several really great mini-golf courses: Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. Fantasia Gardens is located adjacent to the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin hotels, and near the Yacht and Beach Club and Boardwalk resorts. There are two courses. The Gardens course is a traditional miniature golf course with theming from the movie "Fantasia." The Fantasia Fairways course is a challenging grass course complete with water hazards and sand traps.
Winter Summerland is located next to the Blizzard Beach waterpark, and has two courses: the Winter course and the Summer course (of course!), and each have Santa themes. The Summer course has a summery tropical theme, and the Winter course a more traditional Christmas theme. Both courses are a blast, and provide great backdrops for family action photos.
There may be discounts available for Annual Pass holders and DVC members. Be sure to ask when checking in.
3. Play a round of (real) golf. Disney has a number of world-class golf courses (the Osprey Ridge, Palm, Magnolia and Lake Buena Vista courses), including a nine-hole walking course (the Oak Trails course) that is great for junior golfers. While it may not always be possible to get a tee time on the spur of the moment, it is certainly worth trying if someone in your party is bitten by a last-minute golf bug. Don't have your clubs? Not to worry, Disney rents clubs (and shoes) for both grown-up and junior golfers (free for junior golfers). Don't have a car? Again, Disney takes fantastic care of its guests. Golfers can get free taxi rides from their Disney hotel to any Disney golf course. Just ask the valet at your hotel to call a cab for you, and give you a free voucher, which you will give to your cab driver. Be sure to remember that the voucher includes the tip for the driver. Staff at the courses will arrange the same transportation for you back to your hotel at the end of your round. Note that proper golf attire is required on all courses.
4. Go boating. Several of the Walt Disney World resorts have marinas where guests can rent a variety of watercraft. My girls' favorites are the two-person Sea Raycers, but there are pontoon boats and canopy boats available for rent as well. Be careful to read the rules of operation carefully before renting watercraft. I have gotten "in trouble" while driving a Sea Raycer several times, once for going too close to the boat that my husband was driving, and once for taking pictures from the boat. Both are no-no's. Oops. Ask for Annual Passholder or DVC discounts when renting the boats.
5. Take a bike ride. You can also rent bikes at several of the Disney resorts. Our favorite ride is on the three-quarter mile paved bike path that goes between the Wilderness Lodge and the Fort Wilderness Campground. Helmets are available. Again, ask for Annual Passholder or DVC discounts when renting.
6. Tour a new resort. Interested in staying at a new resort on your next trip? Travelling during the holidays and interested in taking in the decorations? Take the opportunity during your down time to tour a new resort. If you have a car, you can drive to the resort and ask for a short-term parking pass that will allow you to park for a few hours, see the hotel, sample a beverage or have a meal. If you don't have a car, you can take a Disney bus from a theme park or Downtown Disney to the resort that you want to visit. Resort touring is especially fun between Thanksgiving and New Years' when the resorts are decked out in their holiday glory. Our favorite resort to visit, if we are not staying there, is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We love to have dinner at Jiko, our favorite Disney restaurant, then view the animals and visit the Lodge's unique gift shop, Zawadi Marketplace. Some resorts also provide lists of Hidden Mickeys for you to find. Ask at the front desk.
7. Go shopping. I'm not much of a shopper myself, so I tend to rush my family through gift shops in the parks, and on to the next ride or attraction. However, it can be very relaxing to wander through the shops in Downtown Disney and stop for a leisurely ice cream cone. Tip: Set a limit for each child (or grown-up) for souvenirs during your trip, and let them spend it as they wish. Once we started doing this, we have avoided having to say "No" a thousand times, and have taught our daughters how to choose their purchases carefully and budget for what they want.
8. Visit DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney's West Side. I have to admit that this is not my own personal favorite, but my kids love it. This indoor interactive theme park offers fun "virtual" games, including a Magic Carpet ride, river rafting, and sailing a pirate ship in an interactive electronic virtual gaming environment. It also has a variety of arcade games. If your Magic Your Way ticket has a "Water Parks and More" option, your admission is included. There are discounts for Annual Passholders and DVC members.
9. Take the boat from the Old Key West or Saratoga Springs resorts to Downtown Disney. Ferries from both resorts take guests on a lovely, leisurely trip down the Sassagoula River to Downtown Disney. The ride is a great opportunity to do some bird watching, and you may see some other types of critters along the way. The boat captains are a treasure trove of information, and make this a really fun ride.
10. Take a ride on the monorail. We have a running joke in our family that when the kids were little, their favorite ride at Disney World was the parking tram. Well, they are no longer so enamored with that mode of transportation, but we always look for an opportunity during our trips to take a ride on the monorail. Por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.
The Tyranny of the Spreadsheet: http://allears.net/ae/issue504.htm
Alice has also written an AllEars.Net guest blog about Finding Disney Magic on Broadway:
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.