Beyond the Parks

Hitting the Trail: Taking on the Disney World Walking Paths

by on August 13, 2014

I know what you’re thinking. Why would anyone want to take a walking path when it seems like all you do at Walt Disney World is walk? Well, just hear me out, I do have a few good reasons! You see, walking paths allow you two big luxuries that are hard to come by at Disney World: no lines or crowds and the ability to make your own time.

Hollywood Studios Walking Path

Hollywood Studios Walking Path to the BoardWalk

Nobody likes fighting the long lines for buses, boats, and monorails, especially at closing time. It’s not unusual to have to wait for several of your own resort buses to fill up before you can board yourself following Magic Kingdom’s Wishes, which is hard to bear when your feet hurt and the kids are crying, right? Although, there can be lines or standing room only on buses, boats, and Monorail during the day too. However, the walking paths are never crowded, offering you and yours a reprieve from the shuffling lines and seas of strollers. Also, many are in open, beautiful settings that are well-lit, paved, and serve as great decompression zones from all the hustle and bustle.

But the lack of chaos isn’t the only reason to take on a walking path. Guests who have visited Disney World before know that getting from one place to another can be time consuming! Disney even recommends those with dining reservations to allow at least an hour for transportation time. Why? Well, for example, if you were to have a reservation at one of Epcot’s World Showcase restaurants, a lot of time can be wasted in waiting for transportation, actual travel time, going through security and the turnstiles, and then actually walking across the park to your restaurant. Whew! That can really take awhile and there are a lot of variables to contend with! That’s why, when I can, I prefer to take a walking path so that I can make my own time without checking my watch in nervous frustration for the umpteenth time at a resort bus stop.

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Keeping the Kids Happy When Disney World Theme Parks Are Off the Table

by on August 6, 2014

Maybe you don’t want to spring for the 6th day of Magic Your Way admission. Maybe the thought of wading through a neck-deep sea of people for another afternoon makes you break out in hives. Maybe you are just looking for something different on your vacation, like “relaxation.” Or need a day to recharge your (metaphorical and actual) batteries before taking on the parks again. There are all kinds of reasons to decide to skip the parks for part of your Walt Disney World vacation. However, while adults might—might—be able to accept, or even look forward to an attraction free day, children may be a little more hesitant to do so. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things outside of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom to remind the kids that they are still in the happiest place on Earth.

Spend some time enjoying each pool your resort has to offer. Copyright - Erin Foster.

Spend some time enjoying each pool your resort has to offer. Copyright – Erin Foster.

Take Advantage of Your Resort – With the parks off the table, your resort becomes the primary destination for your trip. And each Disney Resort—even a Value Resort—is uniquely designed to be so (for more on unexpected extras from the Value Resorts, click here). Spend some time exploring, not just one pool, but all the pools your resort has to offer. Aside from expert theming, there will be poolside activities that your child can partake in (hours and activities will vary). Each resort also offers an evening movie on a large screen somewhere on property, which can be a great way to unwind at the end of the night. There will also be some kind of food court/ counter service/ shop that will be open late, and something as small as treating the kids to a late night snack can really turn into a lasting memory.

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Disney Dining: Splitsville at Downtown Disney

by on August 5, 2014

I went to check out the latest developments at Downtown Disney this past weekend and finally got a chance to stop by Splitsville for lunch. I have heard nothing but positive reviews since it opened in December, 2012, in the former home of the Virgin Megastore, but I often end up taking visiting friends and family to the Rainforest Cafe or T-Rex Cafe because of the theatrical nature of those restaurants. I personally enjoy going to House of Blues, Raglan Road, and Cookes of Dublin when I’m by myself or with friends, so it was high time to check out this relatively new venue.

Splitsville is located on the West Side of Downtown Disney, directly next to the AMC movie theaters.

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TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Aulani!

by on August 5, 2014

Aulani                                                                                            ©Disney

Aulani ©Disney

Imagine this – you get a call from Len asking if you would like to go to the Disney Aulani resort in Hawaii. Really? Of course, the answer is YES! Aulani, is a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, located just 17 miles from the Honolulu International airport and close to Waikiki. Unlike most of Disney’s other destinations, there are no rides at Aulani, but the resort is designed with families in mind with the intent to immerse all guests in Hawaiian culture, history and traditions.

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Disney World Mini Golf and Massive Cupcakes

by on August 4, 2014

I recently returned from another magical trip to Disney World. After spending several nights in the theme parks, my family and I decided to shake things up and try something different. We headed out for an evening of Disney World mini golf and massive cupcakes. Here’s everything you need to know if you want to relax with a unique outing of Disney World mini golf at Fantasia Gardens and some massive BoardWalk Bakery cupcakes!

Getting There

Epcot Resort AreaOn this particular vacation we had rented a minivan so transportation for us was a no-brainer. We were starting our evening with a round of mini golf at Fantasia Gardens which is located right next to the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. We just followed the trusty red and purple signs as if we were headed to that hotel and as soon as we arrived, we saw the large parking lot for Fantasia Gardens right off Epcot Resorts Boulevard. If you are using Disney transportation, your best bet is going to be taking a bus to Hollywood Studios and making your way from there. Once you arrive at Hollywood Studios, you have a couple of options. If your feet are up for it, your fastest way to get there is to take the short walk (about 10 minutes) along the path that runs between that park and Epcot. If your feet are too tired, your other alternative is to take a relaxing ride aboard one of the boats that runs among Hollywood Studios, Epcot and the surrounding hotels. If you choose option two, you will want to exit the boat at the stop for the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. From there, Fantasia Gardens is located right by the tennis courts.

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Camping at Disney World – A Day at Fort Wilderness

by on August 3, 2014

On the shores of Bay Lake, sitting on 750 acres of pine and cypress, Fort Wilderness is often the forgotten resort among its Magic Kingdom brethren. Many times it is overlooked, or dismissed altogether, simply because it is a campground, and the idea of “roughing it” can make many trip planners cringe. But passing by the most unique place in Walt Disney World based on perception would be a mistake. Give it a try, and your Disney World trip might go something like this:

Welcome to the most unique place in Walt Disney World

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TouringPlans #Everywhere: I’m Going to Hilton Head

by on July 29, 2014

©Disney

©Disney

Welcome back to the latest news about our big October eventTouringPlans #Everywhere. As a recap, during Columbus Day weekend, TouringPlans is sending our staff far and wide (some far-er and wider than others) to Disney destinations throughout the world to collect content, meet our subscribers, maybe have some fun while we’re at it.

Speaking of people who aren’t traveling very far, I will be visiting the Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort, a Disney Vacation Club property. This is roughly 5 hours from my home in North Carolina, and I drive past Hilton Head, SC, every time I’m on my way down I-95 heading to Florida. I’ve always felt a little guilty about never stopping by because I’m a DVC member and believe I should experience all the resorts. (After October, Vero Beach and Aulani will be the only ones left.)

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Legoland: Theme Park for Adults?

by on July 29, 2014

Legoland, Florida’s latest theme park, bills itself as “geared to families with children ages 2 to 12”. The park sports attractions, including four beginner coasters, but all are specifically for kids and their parents, so what were a couple of forty-somethings doing there without kids in tow?

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Lego-built truck welcomes you to Miniland at Legoland Florida. Photo by Thomas Cook

I’m glad you asked.

Legoland was developed on the grounds of Cypress Gardens, a park that opened in 1936. Often called Florida’s first theme park, Cypress Gardens was a large botanical garden to which water ski shows were added during World War II. Comprising 150 acres, it’s one of the larger botanical gardens in the United States.

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Walk Disney: A Review of the Boardwalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour

by on July 28, 2014

t_logo_fbThe Walk Disney series will provide a description and review of activities that can be done while walking the grounds at Walt Disney World resorts.

Do you know why the ESPN Club on Disney’s BoardWalk is shaped like an octagon? Do you know where the hidden Tinkerbell is near the elevators of Disney’s BoardWalk Villas? By taking the free BoardWalk Ballyhoo Guided Tour, you will learn these and many more interesting details about Disney’s BoardWalk Inn and Villas resort area.

Before describing the experience that my wife and I had on the tour, here are the tour basics:

What does the tour entail? The tour covers many of the design choices that the Imagineers made when constructing Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area. The walking, informational tour begins at the Bellevue Lounge, continues through the main floor of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, and eventually ends up on the boardwalk outside of the Boardwalk Bakery.

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A Review of Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge Tour

by on July 27, 2014

Our tour guide Ranger!

Our tour guide Ranger!

From the first moment I stepped foot into the Wilderness Lodge just to look around, I fell in love with it. The architecture and ambiance are romantic to me. Both my husband and I are nature lovers. We dream of staying at the Wilderness Lodge someday. But until then, we just visit it often, walking through the lobby and grounds, eating our hearts out. When I learned there were actual free guided tours of this majestic beauty, I couldn’t wait. My husband, on the other hand, was skeptical and thought it would be a waste of valuable park time. What could a tour offer that we hadn’t already seen on our many strolls through? We were about to find out.

On Thursday morning of our trip we had opening breakfast reservations for Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary. As soon as we finished we grabbed a boat over to the Wilderness Lodge, where our tour was about to begin. The meeting spot for the tour is in front of the large fireplace in the lobby of the Lodge. We were a little early, so we sat in the rocking chairs and enjoyed the slower pace. Soon another couple joined us, and we all waited patiently for our tour guide to arrive.

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