Getting Out of the Fast Lane at WDW
by Rick and Gayle Perlmutter
Authors of "Walt Disney World for Couples"
This article appeared in the April 23, 2002, Issue #135 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
After you've visited Walt Disney World a few times, you might be ready for a different sort of Disney vacation. When we talk with other Disney lovers, we realize how many spend their entire vacation running from attraction to attraction, hurrying to see everything. Some guide books even feature itineraries tailored to fit as much as possible into every waking moment.
We'll admit that this approach makes some sense, especially if you're new to WDW. With resort and ticket expenses being what they are, it only seems natural to feel that "getting your money's worth" means seeing and doing as much as possible. But after you've done that a few times, you might just want to consider a Disney vacation that's a bit more relaxed, even a bit romantic. Pull out of the fast lane and enjoy Walt Disney World the way we've learned to: savoring it slowly and carefully, and keeping the pace a relaxed and leisurely one. Instead of spending every moment at the theme parks trying to see everything, simply visit the parks now and then for a few hours of adventure and excitement. Spend the rest of your time in "the slow lane," enjoying a side of Disney you might not be that familiar with.
What Kind of WDW Vacation Do You Want?
After a decade of furious growth, Walt Disney World has become too large and too diverse to see in a single visit (unless you're planning to settle in for the summer!). There's so many different things to do that you might just as well ask yourself, "What kind of vacation do I want to have at Walt Disney World?" A sports vacation playing golf or tennis and taking in some of the spectator sports at Disney's Wide World of Sports? Or how about a vacation at the 'beach,' spending your days in the Florida sun, laying out at the pool of your resort or playing in one of the terrific Disney water parks? There's shopping, fine dining, nightclubbing, movies, even a variety of water sports. Yes, there's much more to Disney than a theme park vacation.
After a decade spent visiting Walt Disney World (more than 130 nights at Disney resorts in the last six years), we've come to love Disney as much for its diversity of fun as for its theme parks. What keeps us coming back again and again is the sheer variety of things to do. Here, then, are a few of our favorite things to do outside of the parks. You might not be so familiar with them all, but you might just want to make some of them part of your next WDW getaway.
Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Centre
Spend a few hours here at the Contemporary Resort water-skiing or tubing, or try WDW's ultimate (and highest) thrill ride: Parasailing. We spent a morning with the consummate professionals at Sammy Duvall's and it was one of the most fun times we've had at Disney — or anywhere else! Try following up your water adventures with an hour in the couples massage room at The Grand Floridian Spa. After that, you might be ready to head back to your resort room and take the afternoon "off."
This is a little theme park of its own and it's the perfect place to spend an evening. The Flying Fish Cafè is one of our favorite WDW dinner spots. Other choices include Spoodles, ESPN Club, or Big River Grille. Or you can simply graze the BoardWalk's food wagons or grab a slice of pizza at Spoodles' take-out pizza window. After dinner, enjoy some midway games and some sidewalk entertainment courtesy of the BoardWalk Buskers. Be sure to take one of the BoardWalk's surrey quadri-cycles for a spin around the lake. These carriage-bikes are wild fun. There's club-excitement at the BoardWalk too, with Jellyrolls "duelin' pianos" or Atlantic Dance Hall, where you can dance the night away. (There may be admission charged at these clubs.) Don't forget to make it out onto Atlantic Dance's second floor balcony in time to catch Illuminations. Then finish off the evening with a nightcap at the Belle Vue Lounge in the Boardwalk Inn. All in all, you'll discover more than an evening's worth of fun at the BoardWalk, without long lines.
Boating Around Walt Disney World
You don't even have to be staying on-property to rent a boat and get out onto the waters of WDW. Any one of the marinas at the Contemporary, the Polynesian, Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, or the Grand Floridian will provide access to both Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon, Disney's largest body of water. This is a really different perspective of Disney and a relaxing one, too. Sailors, rent a Hobie Cat at the Polynesian on a nice blustery day. How about a leisurely trip through the backwaters of WDW? Head over to the Marketplace at Downtown Disney and visit Cap'n Jack's Marina to rent a boat for a voyage up the Sassagoula Waterway. See the Treehouse Villa area then drop in for an island lunch at Olivia's Cafè at the Old Key West Resort.
Wining and Dining at Disney
For fine dining, our favorites include the California Grill, Flying Fish Cafè, Jiko, Cítricos, Victoria & Albert's, and the upstairs dining room at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Our recommendation for the best value in very good food: The Wolfgang Puck Cafè (main level, inside). It's fine dining at a reasonable price and Wolfgang's Cafè is open for both lunch and dinner. Disney provides the perfect opportunity to wine and dine your way around The World and have a free, designated driver: the Disney transportation system. Bon Appetit!
Disney's Wide World of Sports
There's always something exciting going on out here. Depending on when you visit, you might see a spring training baseball game, the Harlem Globetrotters, tennis, softball, or track. Got a football lover in the family? The NFL Experience (open year-round) is just the place to have fun and to hone one's skills in passing and kicking. Spend an afternoon at the tranquil and beautiful Wide World of Sports.
Cirque du Soleil
We love this show so much we wish they'd offer an annual pass. We've seen it twice and got goosebumps both times. Expensive no doubt, but truly worth the price. With two shows nightly, you can have dinner at Downtown Disney followed by an evening at the theater. Or enjoy the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues and see the Sunday matinee. We think Cirque will be the highlight of your Disney vacation.
Stalking the Best of the Best
Of course, we have our opinions about "the best of Walt Disney World," and we're mostly talking food and drink, here. Head out in search of your own Disney superlatives. Ours include: Best Hotdog: Beaches and Cream Best Steak: Shula's Best coffee: Forty Thirst Street Most Exotic Meal: Jiko Best Ice Cream Cone: Ghirardelli's (the dipped-in-chocolate, nut-covered extravaganza) at the Disney Marketplace.
Explore WDW to find your own best burger, best lobby Christmas decorations, best ice cream soda, best lounge, and so forth. Make a list, plot your course, and head out.
From fishing excursions to horseback riding, there's a World of non-theme park activities at Walt Disney World. Whatever you do, throttle back on your next Disney vacation; spend a few hours in the morning at one of the attractions, then slip away for an afternoon of biking or shopping, or enjoy one of the WDW behind-the-scenes tours. Lay out at your pool, go on a nature walk, or play miniature golf. Return to the parks later in the day, then take a moonlight stroll along the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Just remember to visit the theme parks instead of living in them. It's easy. Just put on your turn signal, pull over, and savor Walt Disney World in the slow lane.
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.