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Disney Back Stage Tours and Guest Experiences

Behind the scenes and special guest activities at Walt Disney World

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Can Segway at Disney be the Talking Heads* fulfillment of a future driving standing up?

  • Apr 14, 2010
Rating:
+5
I always wanted to ride a Segway, every since I was a little kid. Well that’s not really true, since the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) didn’t first appear publically until 2001. But you’re always a kid at Walt Disney World and when I saw these gyroscopically stabilized two-wheelers displayed at Innoventions I was ready to jump on and go. (*Maybe the truism from the Talking Heads 1984 album Stop Making Sense, that "in the fuure, we will drive standing up" is Segway!)

The Segway Experience – Photo © Disney

There are four Segway experiences at WDW including: Around the World at Epcot, Simply Segway at Epcot, the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Fort Wilderness and the Nature Inspired Design Segway Tour. Mary Ann and I have done Around the World and Back Trail.

 
Around the World at Epcot
It started for us a few years ago as we were planning our trip to the World. We made sure to book Around the World at Epcot as our first Segway adventure. Its $99 per person now (minus discounts, see end of story), with several start times for the two-hour tour beginning at 7:45 am (also 8:30, 9:00 and 9:30 am). Epcot opens at 9:00 am, so with a reservation your name will be on the list to be let into the Park early, at the main gate not the International Gateway.
 
Park Admission is required, plus it’s an outdoor event so weather could change your plans. You will wear a helmet of course. And although a Segway can travel more than 10 mph, the machines have regulators that limit you to about 5 mph on Disney property. The limit per class is 10, and normally two cast members accompany you, one to guide and the other to watch you and run interference (traffic control).

You must be at least 16 years old and weigh between 100-250 pounds. You should get there at least 15 minutes early. There are two parts to the tour, first some instruction on riding the Segway PT. You learn to stand, move forward, back, stop, go uphill, downhill and turn around. Once you get going, you take a trip around Epcot World Showcase. Traveling single file along the Promenade, you will get see and travel around several of the international pavilions along the way. You do get to stop for a rest, riding around and photos; and you will use a headset.

 
It’s not as hard to navigate a Segway as you might think; it is actually pretty easy once you become familiar with it and adjust to the slight movement that reacts instantaneously. Lean in and go forward, lean back to go backwards, and straighten up to stop. The handle bars or “LeanSteer Frame” work as you expect, taking you left and right. It’s just that you need to control your body, not easy for the first few minutes. But it does feel natural, safe and instinctive after a while. Simply, you will love it and want to ride more.

There is also a Simply Segway experience offered at Epcot and it is designed for those guests who may not want or have time for a longer tour. This one-hour program includes a Segway product overview, training, and indoor riding at Innoventions in Epcot on a pre-determined course Again guest limited, the cost of $35.00 per person for an 11:30 am start-time (except Tuesdays). And Park admission is required as well.

Wilderness Back Trail Adventure
During our last trip in December 2009, we booked the Wilderness Back Trail Adventure. In our view, this is much better than the Epcot program, mostly due to the wide open spaces of Fort Wilderness. And although the Segway X2 model used here is an off-road vehicle, we still follow a trail and don’t get to wonder off too far. We also got started much faster after training and rode longer; and there were only a few us on this ride as opposed to the full-house at Epcot.

We first get lost trying to find the Segway location in the Fort Wilderness Resort. If you haven’t travelled the full length of this resort, make sure you ask directions since the map it not enough. I’m a guy; so I don’t need to ask for help. So it took us nearly a half hour to locate the Meadows Bike Barn after parking our car, including taking two bus rides. Next time, I’ll ask.

At Fort Wilderness – Photo © Disney

You can tell that the deep treads in the tires and higher ground clearance will hold the road better at an outdoor park and wooded area that is Fort Wilderness. You will likely see some wildlife, but mostly lots of trees and campsites. There’s a long stretch of ride following the shores of Bay Lake which is very nice, and you get to stop, rest and take some pictures.
The latest information I have is that Disney offers this two-hour adventure twice a day from Tuesday to Saturday at 8:30 and 11:30 am, for a cost of $85.00 per person. My recommendation is to take the early ride during the warm weather. It does get hot and humid in Florida. Schedules change, so use the contact information below.

 
This is also a two-person guided tour that hits many sites including parts of Wilderness Lodge and the Tri-Circle-D Ranch where you stop to greet the horses. It’s also a place to take a break, drink some water and hit the head. We had a lot of fun with our guide, who would tell us stories, some even true. You get a digital head set, just like with Epcot’s adventure, so we can hear what was being said.

Nature-Inspired Design Segway Tour
I didn’t know about this tour until recently, and it’s not yet listed on the Disney Web site. I called 407-WDW-TOUR (407) 939-8687) and asked about it, but I also found the official description in the Attractions Magazine blog:

Discover the wonder of nature-inspired design as you glide through land, sea and air at Epcot®. This 3-hour backstage tour allows you to experience the symbiotic relationship between nature and the nature-inspired designs incorporated into Epcot® pavilions and attractions. Glide over California on Soarin’™, tour the greenhouses at The Land pavilion, explore The Seas with Nemo & Friends® and visit Life Support scientists to learn how technology helps us maintain a better balance with nature.

After completing a required product overview and training, you will be equipped with a helmet and a Segway® Personal Transporter X-2 to experience this unique off-road tour. Epcot® Cast Member scientists share how their work environments are inspired by nature’s own design and how they use evolving technologies to maintain a balance with the world around them. After experiencing “air, land and sea” you will have the opportunity to ride your Segway® X-2 in a designated off-road backstage area at Epcot®.

This program starts are 8:15 am, and runs on different days depending on the season, so in the spring or summer it could three or fours days a week and in the fall only two. The cost today is $124 per person.

Comparing Epcot to Fort Wilderness: There are clear differences between the Epcot and Fort Wilderness rides. First, of course, there is difference in terrains. There aren’t as many obstructions as in Epcot and the roadways/sidewalks at Fort Wilderness are less travelled. There is also a difference in vehicles, with the Segway X2 used in Fort Wilderness having wider wheels and greater stabilization that might be expected when riding off-road. It’s also a longer experience on the Segway at Fort Wilderness, because the training period is much shorter, even for the inexperienced rider. This is likely because of the wide open spaces and there is less of a chance you can run into somebody or something (literally) as opposed to Epcot. Also as a result, you do seem to (if not really) travel faster at Fort Wilderness.

Bruce and Mary Ann at Fort Wilderness in front of Bay Lake

How it works: The Segway Human Transporter works through technology called dynamic stabilization that is similar to a person’s own sense of balance. People use their inner ear, eyes, muscles, and a brain to keep their body balanced. The Segway uses solid-state gyroscopes, tilt sensors, high-speed microprocessors (10 on board, equal to three times the power of a typical PC), and powerful electric motors to keep its balance. Working together these dynamic stabilization components sense the user’s center of gravity, instantaneously assess the information and make adjustments to the Segway at one hundred times per second. Thus, the Segway balances itself whether moving, carrying a heavy load, maneuvering in tight spaces, or standing still.

 
Inside the Segway, From ExtremeTech

 
The Rules of the Road... Again
At minimum you must be at least 16 years old and weigh between 100-250 pounds, but there are other qualifications such as not allowing pregnant moms or some persons with special needs to ride. The whole issue of Segway use, particularly by persons with a disability has been a subject of lawsuits, but Walt Disney World has featured the Segway since 2002, right after it was first introduced publically. Guests can call 407/WDW-TOUR for more information or reservations. And it is highly advisable to make a reservation well in advance for any of the Segway experiences. There is also a Segway display at Innoventions includes interactive stations and demonstrations by cast members on how the product works.

Be aware that you are standing the full length of the tour and your legs could get tired. Even your feet will feel a little strange after finishing your ride, especially at Fort Wilderness. If you are under 18, parent/guardian permission is needed. But there is also a liability release to sign. Plus a reward for making it through your experience - a special pin, one each for Epcot and Wilderness; mine are pictured here.

 
There are discounts available, to AAA or DVC members, and holders of an Annual Pass or the Disney Visa Card. Anyone can ride (if you meet the minimum qualifications), and beginners are welcome. Park Admission is required for Epcot, plus for the outdoor events weather could change your plans. You will wear a helmet of course. And although a Segway can travel more than 10 mph, the machines have regulators that limit you to about 5 mph on Disney property. The limit per class is 10, and normally two cast members accompany you, one to guide and the other to watch you and run interference (traffic control).

 
I did search for some videos, but nothing struck me as comprehensive due to the fact that you can’t shoot a camera while you’re riding and I don’t know anyone who will run along the side taking pictures while someone else in on the Segway. But put “Disney” and “Segway” in YouTube to find videos with some idea on training and riding on the vehicle.
.

 
Want to read and see more? AllEars.Net has two sites, one on the Fort Wilderness Segway Tour from Oct. 2007 and User Reviews for guest feedback for Epcot attractions . In DisUnplugged there are some pictures from an Epcot Tour plus an audio review.

 
Disney Worlds offers many back-stage and special tours, which is truly a plus for people who travel there a lot and want something different. We have done a bunch of tours and will include reports over time in A World View. But the Segway in particular is definitely one we want to do again. (If I can only find the $6-8,000 I need to buy one.) One of those just plain fun things you never get to do at home. Have a question? Write me at brucewdw@gmail.com.

A World View is pleased to present this post as part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Go there to read more great Disney posts from the community of Disney fan bloggers.

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About the reviewer
Bruce Brodsky ()
Ranked #118
Hi folks. My blog is A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World. I actually think it was watching a True-Life Adventure called the Living Desert that started my enthusiastic love of Disney. I must have … more
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Walt Disney World provides a variety of experiences beyond regular attractions, taking your behind the scenes, involving you in the action or through special guided tours.  These are available throughout the parks and elsewhere and number about two dozen with new experiences every year. Some examples are the Segway tours, back-stage in various parks, and special attraction tours. These activities have scheduled times and admission fees.
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