BEYOND THE RIDES: 7 Underrated Activities Around Walt Disney World
Amongst the many things I love about traveling to Walt Disney World is the fact that there is always something new to do. It’s true that the parks are centered around the rides and main attractions, but it’s all those extra sights and activities that make WDW more than just your average amusement park. However, with so many entertaining things to see and do, even some of the best activities are bound to get overlooked. Of course, you’ll always want to experience the greatest and newest attractions, but for the ultimate Disney adventure, don’t forget about these 7 underrated activities:
Located at Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom, the Affection Section is a hands-on petting zoo for guests of all ages. This seriously underrated outdoor animal encounter features mild-mannered goats, sheep, and the occasional pig. The fenced off area is stocked with petting brushes to help visitors be both comfortable and gentle with the animals. You can also clean your hands at the washing station as you leave the area. Be sure to check out the rest of Rafiki’s Planet Watch and the Conservation Station while you’re in the area, which includes Q&A sessions with animal handlers, a veterinarian treatment room and an animal nutrition center. As an added bonus, you can take the 5-minute Wildlife Express Train—the only other non-ride train at Disney World aside from the trains at Magic Kingdom—to access the area. The Affection Section may be a bit off the beaten path, but it’s a sure-fire way to bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Ride the Monorails
Everyone knows about the monorails at the Disney parks, but I’m always a little surprised to hear how few people actually take advantage of these complimentary modes of transportation. Available to any ticket-holding guest, the monorail isn’t just a way to get around, but also provides a fun way to take a break from the draining afternoon heat. And while you’re enjoying a break beneath the air-conditioning, also take in the arial glimpse of Epcot you can’t get anywhere else.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
If character experiences aren’t your thing but you still want to have an entertaining dining experience, check out Fort Wilderness Resort’s Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. The two-hour comedic stage performance features western-style song and dance numbers that get diners joining in with all the fun. Between the skits and songs, guests can enjoy an all-you-can-eat southern buffet with selections that cater to children and adults alike. Not being a huge fan of musicals myself, I was apprehensive to watch the show. However, the talented cast really is entertaining and I was left with an undeniably positive experience. If you’re at all interested, be sure to call ahead and make reservations for this popular dining activity.
Main Street Glass Blower
You can hardly think of the Magic Kingdom without Main Street, U.S.A. coming to mind! From the shops and entertainment to a barber shop and theater, Main Street is the standard of what park goers have come to expect from Disney parks in general. One of my absolute favorite activities at the Magic Kingdom—and I think the most underrated of all—is watching the glass blowers at the Crystal Arts Shop. These talented artisans come from all over the U.S. to put on daily demonstrations, showing guests how many of the glass objects are created. We often stand mesmerized during these demonstrations as the glass blowers use specialized burners and equipment to make exquisite and charming Disney-inspired keepsakes. Stop by the shop after 11 am for some indoor entertainment or to get some oft needed relief from the weather!
Boats on Bay Lake
We love taking afternoon breaks at the pool. But if you’re looking for something a little extra special as an alternative to the pools, rental boats are one of the most underrated water activities around the parks. These one- or two-person motorized boats can be rented and enjoyed at several locations on Disney grounds. Our favorite by far is zooming around Bay Lake near the Magic Kingdom. Although boat rentals are made at the Disney resorts, you don’t have to be a resort guest to get in on the fun.
Miniature golf is of course an activity you can do back home, but you’ve never really played until you’ve done it Disney-style! Both Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland prove that you don’t have to be visiting the main attractions to have a blast at Walt Disney World. Located just outside Disney’s Blizzard Beach, the more child-friendly Winter Summerland puts you right on par with Santa as he’s preparing for Christmas or while he’s on a summer break. Fantasia Gardens, on the other hand, will take you through some of the most iconic scenes from Mickey’s famous cartoon short, “Fantasia.” Putt your way around the dancing animals and walking brooms for $12–$14. Fantasia Gardens can be found just south of the Swan and Dolphin hotels.
Our favorite hotels, located between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, include The Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and the Boardwalk Inn. All three are prime locations for taking in all the fun of the Atlantic City-styled Boardwalk promenade. Particularly fantastic at night, the Boardwalk is nothing short of charming, with its unique 20th-century shops, restaurants, dance hall, performers, and more. It’s one of the nicest ways to wind down in the evening after a full day of sun and fun in the parks! Alternatively, you can hop on a ferry at Epcot International Gateway and cruise around Crescent Lake for a lovely tour of Bay Lake while giving your feet and legs a welcome rest. You can also catch a great view of the Epcot fireworks from the bridge connecting the Boardwalk to the pathway leading to the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts.
How about you? Do you have your own list of underrated activities not to be missed around Walt Disney World? If so, please share in the comments below! After all, there’s always something new to do at Disney!