LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – High-flying elephants and spinning teacups usually take center stage when a guest is thinking of Walt Disney World Resort. But did you know that 9-pound lemons flourish at The Land pavilion at Epcot, or that safaris explore Africa-inspired savannas in the middle of Florida? Guests who take a second – or third – glance will come across countless undiscovered gems within the 40-square-mile Vacation Kingdom. Here’s a sample of “the unexpected” (prices subject to change):
- Embark on a Wild Africa Trek – Guests wanting to venture off the beaten path at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have the chance during a new, immersive, add-on experience, Wild Africa Trek, that takes a small group of adventurers on personalized, guided excursions that include a bushwalk through unexplored areas of the forest along with over-landing in customized vehicles across an animal-filled savanna. On these expert-led treks, extended time is spent observing and learning about the wildlife. Reservations for Wild Africa Trek (ages 8 and up) can be arranged by calling 407/939-8687. The experience starts at $189 per person. More information: Disneyworld.com/disneyafricatrek.
- Find treasure at The Pirates League at Magic Kingdom – This buccaneer experience in Adventureland features makeovers that turn guests ages 3 and up into savvy swashbucklers. Guests who want to join Captain Jack’s motley crew will receive a pirate identity, be transformed into a pirate by a sea-sailing Pirate Master and gain access to a secret treasure room. Packages include a sword and sheath, earring and eye patch, temporary tattoo, exclusive pirate coin necklace and a personalized pirate oath. Packages are $29.95 plus tax (407/WDW-CREW). Pictures and costumes are also available for an additional charge.
- Take a spin on a Segway Personal Transporter –The Segway PT, originally the “Human Transporter” first displayed to the public at Epcot Innoventions in 2002, is the world’s first self-balancing personal transporter that uses advanced technology, gyroscopes and tilt sensors to emulate human balance. Guests can put these high-tech machines to the test at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The Wilderness Back Trail Adventure at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort is a two-hour beginner’s tour that allows guests to experience the outdoors first-hand on a Segway X2 Personal Transporter. The program also includes a product overview and training ($95.85/person including tax; tours are daily, 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.).
- Harmony Barber Shop a cut above the rest – Sit back in the barber’s chair and experience a good old-fashioned haircut at Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. in Magic Kingdom. Located near the Emporium and with a signature candy-striped pole outside, the shop transports guests to a simpler time when barbershop quartets entertained and getting a haircut was a real treat. Haircuts are $15 for children age 12 and under; $19 for adults; first-come, first-serve. “First Haircuts,” the establishment’s specialty, treats young’uns to pixie dust, bubbles, Mickey Mouse stickers and an extra-special “My 1st Haircut” set of Mouse Ears; price is $19.
- Everybody’s Gone Surfin’ at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon– Adventurous guests can catch a wave and feel like they’re sitting on top of the world at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park. Its 2.75-million-gallon wave pool provides consistent waves every 90 seconds that can range from three to six feet high — and no sharks! Cocoa Beach Surf School invites guests to learn from professional surfers how to cut, carve and “hang 10.” The program is available by reservation for $165 on selected mornings prior to regular park hours. Guests may call 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for more information.
- Make a Splash with Watercraft Rentals – Walt Disney World Resort offers a fleet of motorized and non-motorized watercrafts for vacationers looking to make a splash around Vacation Kingdom. Sea Raycers by Sea Ray® boats ($30.08/30mins, $42.60/45 mins., $47.93/60 mins.), Boston Whaler Montauk boats ($47.93/30 mins.), sail boats ($21.30/60 mins.) kayaks ($11.72/60 mins.) and canoes ($6.93/30mins.) are just a few of the available options for rent at various Walt Disney World Resort hotels.
- Sunset Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge offers up-close encounters with exotic creatures – Guests staying at the lodge can enter a serene animal reserve for an up-close encounter on the Wanyama Safari. Just before sunset on Wednesday through Monday nights, guests board a specially designed vehicle that explores the resort’s three savannas. Guests get picture-perfect views of more than 200 mammals and exotic birds and then partake in a savory South African feast at the resort’s signature restaurant, Jiko-The Cooking Place. The 3 ½-hour experience, including dinner, is $190.64 (tax included). For reservations at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, call 407/W-DISNEY.
- A Fisherman’s Dream Come True– Even sport fishermen’s dreams really do come true at Walt Disney World Resort, where trophy-sized largemouth bass in the 14-pound range sometimes lurk in lakes and canals almost within casting distance of Cinderella Castle. But this fish story gets even better: “Wannabe” sports fishermen’s dreams also come true. On BASS fishing excursions led by expert guides, guests with lots of experience — or with little or no fishing experience — can enjoy the exhilarating thrill of a feisty largemouth “striking.” The two-hour catch-and-release excursions are for a party of up to five people and are on a boat stocked for the excursion with Bassmaster rods and reels and other fishing gear, cold drinks, and a camera to prove you’re not telling “fish stories.” All guests receive a one-year membership to BASS, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, and other benefits. The 2-hour excursion is $270 and the 4-hour excursion is $455, both can accommodate up to 5 guests. Additional information and reservations are available by calling 407/WDW-PLAY (939-7529)
- Parasail Around the ‘Kingdom’ –The sky is the limit when guests take a parasailing adventure high above Bay Lake. Single and tandem fliers can have a bird’s-eye view of Magic Kingdom at altitudes nearing 600 feet for 8 to 10 minutes. Instead of the traditional water approach, the uniquely designed boat enables a “dry” take-off and landing from the back of the boat. The cost for a single sailor is $95 – $130, tandem is $170- $195. For “flight” times guests may call 407/939-0754.
- You’ll Feel at Home on the Range! – Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground invites adventuring “trail” seekers to discover the beauty of Bay Lake Beach, relax on horse-drawn carriage rides, tell tales and catch all at fishing spots, explore running and biking trails, and much more. Take the reins for a 45-minute Horseback Trail Ride ($46) through the natural wonders of the resort and you’ll feel right at home on the range!
- The Land at Epcot mixes science and entertainment to grow one-of-a-kind plants – Behind the brightly colored, mosaic façade of The Land pavilion at Epcot sits offices where greenhouse magic takes place. “Horti-tainment,” a mix of horticulture and entertainment, creates some of the most visually interesting fruits and vegetables found under one roof anywhere in the world. Among the highlights: a world-record harvest from a single tomato vine (see below); Mickey Mouse-shaped cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins; 9-pound lemons, and more.
- ‘Tomato Tree’ sets record with 32,000 tomatoes – The Tomato Tree at The Land pavilion at Epcot has blossomed into a record-setting plant. The tree was recognized as an official Guinness World Record Holder, with a one-year harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and a total weight of 1,151 pounds. Guests can spot the tree during the pavilion’s Living with the Land boat ride.
- Take the ultimate dive in a 6-million-gallon indoor aquarium with more than 65 species of marine life, including sharks, turtles, eagle rays and diverse tropical fish. DiveQuest at Epcot offers guaranteed calm seas, no current, unlimited visibility, incredible marine life and bright coral structures. Additionally, you become part of the show. Your family members and friends (with Epcot admission) can view your dive through any of the 56 giant acrylic windows at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Guest must be at least 10 years of age and must provide proof of SCUBA certification to participate. Price of $186/person (not including tax) includes a limited edition T-shirt, refreshments, dive certificate and a dive log stamp. Call 407/WDW-TOUR for information.
- Build your own roller coaster at the DisneyQuest CyberSpace Mountain attraction – Bill Nye the Coaster Guy walks guests through the design process where they choose from three different speeds, three world settings (fire, ice or outer space) and an infinite number of track combinations. The roller coaster of your dreams (or nightmares!) can do flips, corkscrews and even wild maneuvers such as a loop that flies off the tracks. A digital card tracks guests’ personal coasters and the simulator re-creates it both visually and physically. Downtown Disney guests must be 51″ to ride, 407/W-DISNEY for more information.
- 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.
- The Archery Experience at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground – Whether novice or expert marksman, an archery guide offers training and tips on how to hit the bulls-eye. Open to resort guests (ages 7 and up) and non-guests alike, the 90-minute experience costs $39.00 per person not including tax, and includes equipment and instruction and can be booked up to 180 days in advance by calling 407/939-7529. Offered Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoon.
Merchandise & Dining
- Stylish boutique at Downtown Disney is sure to turn heads – Tren-D at Downtown Disney Marketplace is packed full of retro, urban-inspired merchandise. With its designer flair and eclectic offerings, the specialty store is a one-of-a-kind destination for fashion-conscious shoppers seeking trendy apparel and novel accessories. Offerings include organic loungewear, embroidered handbags, jeweled sunglasses and hip accessories set among stylish art and unique furnishings. The eclectic environment offers a raw and unfinished feel with jeweled chandeliers, distinct fixtures and mod furnishings.
- Fashionable Mickey Mouse earhats “all the rage” – Trendsetters and fashion gurus can strut their stuff with fashionable Mickey Mouse earhats that come in a variety of vibrant colors and styles to suit guests of all ages. In addition to traditional earhats, there are specially designed ears with character-specific themes. Gal versions don pink veils, jeweled princess crowns or wild cheetah prints. For the boys, pirate scarves and hoop earrings adorn the headgear, plus Stitch-themed offerings and more. And with the Create Your Own Ears option, guests can custom design their own pair. The Mickey Mouse earhats are available in limited quantities at select locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort starting at $11.95.
- Creative minds are put to good use at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney Marketplace, where kids can build and customize toys in five uniquely themed rooms. The Build Your Own Mr. Potato Head display has customizable options including Mickey Mouse ears, a sorcerer’s hat and a teacup vehicle from Disney’s Mad Tea Party attraction. Guests can also enjoy the Build Your Own Lightsaber display, which is a step-by-step “Star Wars” merchandise experience that invites guests to build custom lightsabers with dozens of unique possibilities. It’s the ultimate toy-store shopping experience where kids and families can play and create together.
- Walt Disney World guests are put right inside their own fairy tale thanks to the special offerings of the Walt Disney World Florist. From popping the question to a birthday or anniversary to “just because,” the choices are endless. Surprise moments can be created during a Disney dining experience. A park-goer can return to a guestroom strewn with rose petals. Or a lover can be surprised, during a carriage ride, with a glass slipper – nestled on a pillow made of flowers, ribbons and pearls. Guests can visit www.disneyflorist.com or call 407/827-3505.
- In World Showcase, young guests can create their own Epcot souvenirs at the park’s Kidcot Funstops. Craftsmen teach the budding artisans how to create one-of-a-kind masks or musical instruments using their own magical touch. Parents and children alike will love to “travel the world” and discover these activity-filled craft areas at each of the pavilions.
- Epcot is a World Showcase for art lovers – Epcot World Showcase has been a “showplace” of nations since its grand opening in 1982. But beyond the pagodas in Japan and the longboats in Norway lies a whole other world: treating art lovers to museum-quality galleries. Current exhibitions are located at Norway, China, Japan, Morocco, The American Adventure and Mexico. Admission to the exhibitions is included with general park admission.
- 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.
- Guests can slurp a sandwich at the 50s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where peanut butter and jelly take yummy milkshake form. At this fabulous 1950s kitchenette, the servers holler for guests to take their seats among Formica tables, pull-down lamps and knickknacks, checking in periodically to make sure each person eats their veggies and cleans their plate. Wash it down with a PB&J shake.
- A popular place to take a break at Epcot is Club Cool, where guests can savor complimentary samples of Coca-Cola products from countries around the world including China, Israel, Italy and Costa Rica.
- Coca-Cola products are available for purchase, including Frozen Coke, Style My Coke (contour bottle wrappers) and an array of merchandise.
- The Dole Whip, sold at Aloha Isle in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom, combines pineapple soft serve in a delectable swirl with either vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The tasty, fruit-flavored treat can also be ordered with pineapple chunks or as a Dole whip float, perfect for a mid-day cool-down, and each for $5 or less.
For more information about Walt Disney World Resort, guests can visit www.disneyworld.com or phone 407/824-4321.