We love Walt Disney World for attractions, resorts, restaurants, characters and more. But for many of us who return time after time, there is always something a little less traveled at the "World" that also brings us back. This series is about some lesser known or frequented Disney magic that helps make the experience special or unique, and which takes you off the beaten path at Walt Disney World.
I wanted to point out events or activities at WDW Resorts which are open to all guests, even when you are not staying at that particular resort. And what is even better for this particular story, there is no charge to participate. Of course, I couldn't include everything at the different resorts; but I've tried to identify the more significant activities of interest to a wider audience.
Since there is so much more than what I've discovered and described here, let me know of others by e-mail (email@example.com) for inclusion in future articles. By the way, these activities also support my theory that a rental car should be part of your vacation budget planning, since travelling from hotel to hotel can be time consuming.
Animal Kingdom Lodge One place to visit is the Arusha fire pit is located just outside the Jambo House lobby back entrance. During most evenings listen and relax to African stories. There is an inside fire pit as well.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Arusha Fire Pit One of the viewing areas along the savanna is the Sunset Overlook, which as its name suggests, is the place to be at sunset at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It is a wonderful place for pictures as the giraffes and zebras enjoy their wondering around. AKL has more than 200 mammals and birds of nearly three dozen species including not only giraffe and zebra but also Thomson's gazelle, ostrich, flamingo, African spoonbill and sacred ibis.
Animal Kingdom Lodge Savanah OverlookSome rights reserved by Express Monorail Stay a little later when it's completely dark on the savanna and ask one of the cast members at the Uzima Overlook for a pair of night goggles to help identify the animals on the range. Animal Viewing with Night Vision normally happens between 9-11pm daily.
A guided Culinary Tour of two of WDW's most popular restaurants takes place at 4:00 pm every day, just before opening of Boma and Jiko. In addition to learning about the culture, history and décor of these two guest favorites, you also get to sample some of the menu items during your half-hour walk-around. Here is a review of one such tour from one of my favorite planning blogs, The Disney Food Blog.
Polynesian Resort The Polynesian Resort is such a wonderfully themed environment. There is so much to admire, and it is so relaxing to walk around. A great time to be there is for the daily torch lighting ceremony occurring most evenings around 6:00 pm. Later in the evening, around 8:00 pm, there is Polynesian entertainment and cultural Storytelling in the Great Ceremonial House.
Polynesian Resort Learn to hula dance at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, where complimentary classes take place most days in the resort’s lobby. Auntie Kaui, a hula dancer and instructor with 50 years' experience, leads most of the classes offered Monday through Saturday at 3:45 p.m., and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon. Weekday classes are geared toward the younger set, with leis and grass skirts aplenty, while the Saturday morning lessons encourage guests of all ages to do the hula shake. And whether guests stay for five minutes or the full two-hour Saturday classes, they’ll learn a variety of chants and dances from such tropical locales as Hawaii, Tahiti and more.
Campfire Sing-A-Longs and Movies Four resorts have campfire programs which are open to all WDW resort guests. There is a marshmallow roast to which you can bring your own supplies or purchase a S'More's kit for under $10; although there is normally other fast food available as well nearby. When it's dark, a Disney movie will be projected on an outdoor screen at some locations. Don't forget to bring a blanket, although some seating is normally available. This is free to all Disney resort guests so reservations are not necessary, but I'd recommend arriving early to mark your spot.
Ft. Wilderness Chip 'N Dale Campfire One of these campfire locations is at Fort Wilderness, where this is held every night at 7:00 or 8:00 pm depending on the season. Chip and Dale characters join in. Another is at the Beach Club Resort and also the Grand Floridian. Contact the resort directly to learn the days and times they are held. And check out the movies on the beach.
Beach Club Campfire and Movies Under the Stars Sample Schedule Port Orleans Riverside's version is called Campfire on de' Bayou and it's held at the Ol' Man Island Fishing Hole near the Muddy Rivers pool bar. It is not held all year, but starts in November when weather permits. Again, check with the resort for the schedule. Port Orleans does not have a movie. However, for a movie but no campfire, check out Wilderness Lodge Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Marina.
Resort Tours At the Deluxe Resorts, there are guided tours provided by the themed staff at these locations. I'm aware of tours at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Wilderness Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort and the Yacht Club. Find out what is special about each of these locations such as:
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge was inspired by National Park Lodges, such as Old Faithful Inn (Yellowstone) and Ahwahnee Lodge (Yosemite). Massive pine logs for Disney’s Wilderness Lodge were harvested from standing dead wood at an elevation of 7,000 feet in Oregon and Montana.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge houses a diverse collection of African art sure to impress amateurs and aficionados alike. Sculptures and carvings throughout the resort tell stories that help familiarize guests with Africa and its diverse countries and regions. Among the art is the 16-foot-tall Igbo Ijele mask, a piece created and exported by the Igbo people of Nigeria specifically for use in the lodge.
Wilderness Lodge Check with the front desk for schedules but also ask about reservations especially during the busy season.
Of course, Disney resorts are very well themed, from Value to Deluxe and each of them has plenty of walkways which provide different experiences during the day and evening. So you really don't need a tour to enjoy moving about and hotels properties. Just walking around means hundreds of photo ops.
Electric Water Pageant This is a floating parade of sea creatures outlined in tiny lights, with an electronic score highlighted by Handel's Water Music. It is a magical aquatic parade of multi-colored fish, turtles, whales and Americana like stars and flags. If you are at a Magic Kingdom resort along Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon go down to the water for an enjoyable interlude. The pageant arrives first at the Polynesian about 9:00 pm. After that it will pass by the Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and the Contemporary/Bay Lake.
Christmas Season The holiday season is Mary Ann and my favorite time of the year to visit Walt Disney World. As much as the parks and especially the Magic Kingdom are decked out for the season, it's the Deluxe Resorts which are always worth a visit.
Beach Club Chocolate Carousel Arguably the most well-known Christmas creation is the life-size gingerbread house in the Grand Floridian Resort. But a stroll around the Crescent Lake Resorts, including Boardwalk, Swan & Dolphin, Yacht and Beach Clubs offer a variety of holiday themes that may include massive decorated trees, model trains, village displays and chocolate creations. Mary Ann in front of Gingerbread House at Grand Floridian Our course, the ceiling-high themed trees stretching several floors at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Wilderness Lodge is just jaw dropping. And with very comfortable seating in the lobby areas of both resorts, this is a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends and legal beverages.
I hope you have enjoyed this edition of “Off the Beaten Path” as A World View continues to search out what truly makes Disney the most magical place on earth.
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