It's a Great Big Beautiful World! Let's Discover it Together

Showing posts with label Friday Family Fun. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Friday Family Fun. Show all posts

Friday, March 15, 2013

Featured Foto Friday - Splitsville - New Fun at Downtown Disney

Splitsville is the exciting new activity at Walt Disney World. Located in the Downtown Disney West Side, just steps away from DisneyQuest and Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba, it's a modern twist on an American classic - the bowling alley.  It features 50,000 square feet of retro-decor, covering 2 levels, and includes 30 lanes, food (including 2 different sushi bars), live music, billiards, dancing and outdoor patio dining.  Splitsville certainly is NOT your father's bowling alley!  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Family Fun - Miniature Golf: Fantasia Gardens

When looking for fun things to do with the family at Walt Disney World, beyond going to one of the theme parks, why not think golf?... mini-golf, that is.  The resort boasts two fun, ultra-themed miniature golf courses: Fantasia Gardens, located across the street from the Walt Disney World Swan and Walt Disney World Dolphin resorts; and Winter Summerland, located adjacent to Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, in the area of the Animal Kingdom Resorts.  Both offer a fun-filled time, at a relatively low cost. Oftentimes, depending on your resort package, guests might even be given a discount.  Annual Passholders also can get a discount.

Disney's Fantasia Gardens features two courses, both themed to Walt Disney's animated classic film, "Fantasia":  "The Hippo-est Golf Around," and Fantasia Fairways, "A Miniature Golfing Adventure."   Fantasia Gardens features pirouetting gators, tutu-clad hippos and dancing water fountains.  Fantasia Fairways is more of a putting course designed around skill than chance;  holes include "Ave Maria", "Rite of Spring", "Ostrich Island" and "Ballet of the Bunkers."  

Getting to Fantasia Gardens is not very complicated, though at first blush you might think so, especially if you haven't gone there before. If staying at an Epcot area resort, simply walk over to the Swan and Dolphin via the Crescent Lake bridge, and then cross the street.  If not at an Epcot area resort, you'll need to take a bus to one of those resorts (depending on where you are at at the time), or you can go to Disney's Hollywood Studios and then take a boat up to the Swan and Dolphin. It's a great way to spend an evening (followed by time along the Boardwalk!), or part of an afternoon.  So far we've only done the Fantasia Gardens course, but hope to try the Fantasia Fairways in the future.  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Family Fun - Horseback Riding & Carriage Rides

Did you know that in the midst of the world's largest themed vacation destination - filled with theme parks, water parks, excellent golf courses and beautifully themed hotels and resorts - you can take a relaxing break in the scenic natural woodlands and enjoy a wholesome, family fun filled horseback ride?  Or a relaxing trail ride?  

Tri-Circle D Ranch, found at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is home to the draft horses used to pull the trolleys down Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom Park.  The horses, when not working in the Magic Kingdom, and a few farm animals are on display for guests to come and visit.  There are also pony rides for small children from 10 am to 5 pm for around $5. Other horses fill out the Ranch's stables, and provide relaxing 45 minute guided trail rides for guests looking for the horseback riding experience.  The trails weave in and around the surrounding forests of the Fort Wilderness Resort.  It is a very enjoyable way to spend part of a day.  Parking at Fort Wilderness is free for the day, and transportation back in to the "Settlement" area where the Ranch is located is available by simply boarding one of the internal Fort Wilderness Resort buses.

In addition to horseback riding, carriage rides are offered at the Fort throughout the year, with seasonally themed rides are offered for Halloween and Christmas.  During the fall months, be sure to check out the chilling sights and sounds of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as narrated by your carriage driver.  The ride itself is a nighttime ride through the woods, lasting about 25 minutes.  This ride is generally offered between September 30 and October 31, 2011, weather permitting.

The other seasonally themed carriage offering will help get you in the Christmas spirit with an enchanting, horse-drawn sleigh ride. This 25-minute is offered nightly throughout the month of December, weather permitting, and takes you through the secluded natural beauty surrounding Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Family Fun - Characters in Flight

It's time once again to look at relatively inexpensive, fun activities beyond the theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort.   Today we'll take another peek at Downtown Disney – specifically though, an activity located within Downtown Disney.   Characters in Flight, operated by AĆ©rophile, is a giant tethered balloon which takes you 400 feet above the Downtown Disney Area!  You’ll ascend into the sky and experience breathtaking views of the Walt Disney World Resort.   Depending on how clear day is, you will be able to see each the icons from each of the 4 theme parks, both of the water parks, plus pick out many of the resort hotels.

The balloon itself is decorated with some very famous silhouettes — Mary Poppins, Aladdin, Dumbo and other famous Disney characters!   The balloon takes off along the water’s edge of Lake Buena Vista, between the West Side and Pleasure Island areas of Downtown Disney.  But you can see the balloon itself from all over.  After dark, the characters continue to be visible thanks to the internal illumination. It's a special design created just for the Walt Disney World Resort, and is the world’s largest tethered gas balloon.  Tethered to a gondola platform 19’ in diameter, the balloon holds up to 29 guests plus the pilot.  Your stay up in the air lasts about 8 to 10 minutes, and provides spectacular views up to 10 miles away!  (Of course you can see other things away from Walt Disney World too – such as Sea World Orlando and the suburban sprawl that is the greater Orlando area to the east of the Walt Disney World resort.)
The balloon does not operate when winds get stronger.  Signs are always posted whether the balloon is operating or not.  Don’t be surprised if you think it isn’t very windy but the balloon is closed – as just remember that the winds at the surface are not always the same strength as the winds at 400 feet up in the air!  Weather permitting, the balloon operates every day from 10 a.m. to midnight.  It is an exhilarating experience, and I recommend it highly!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Family Fun - Downtown Disney

It's time once again to look at relatively inexpensive, fun activities beyond the theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort.  Today we'll take a peek at Downtown Disney.  This shopping and dining area is filled with fun for all ages, and we always include a visit (or two) to the area whenever we visit Walt Disney World.  If nothing more, we love to go and get a free sample of chocolate at the Ghirardelli store next to their ice cream parlor - free samples are handed out to each guest who walks through their door.  But of course, heading to Downtown Disney is not guaranteed to be completely inexpensive.  There is no entrance fee, but you will find multiple opportunities to part with some (or more) of your money.  But it's all in what you make of it. Some times we've gone and not spent a dime - others, well....

Downtown Disney includes three distinct sections:  Marketplace, Pleasure Island and the West Side, and is filled throughout with fanciful shops, restaurants, a marina, 24 screen movie theatre, small pay-to-play attractions for the young or young-at-heart such as the small carousel and train ride, or for the more-adventurous at heart the "Characters in Flight" balloon ride.

Dining adventures can be had, either with endangered species of the wild in the Rainforest Cafe, or extinct creatures of old over at T-Rex; Wolfgang Puck is represented in both the Cafe on the West Side or the Express location in the Marketplace. You'll find quick casual choices such as Earl of Sandwich or Pollo Campero; or nicer table service options such as Fulton's Crab House, Portobello, Raglan Road Irish Pub and more.

The area includes various entertainment offerings, both on a temporary and more permanent nature in an effort to keep it fresh, and ever evolving. Some days you'll find musical acts performing on the stage in the Marketplace, other days not. More permanent entertainment can be found in the West Side at the House of Blues, combining dining and entertainment, or DisneyQuest, an interactive indoor theme park, or Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba.

And then of course there is the shopping.  One of my favorite stores to look in (and occasionally purchase something) is the Art of Disney store in the Marketplace, and the Days of Christmas store.  Once Upon a Toy is a lot of fun, as is the Lego Imagination Center.  My wife loves Basin for all of the fancy, scented soaps and bath supplies; and we all love Pin Traders... but there are so many other fun shops to explore!

Here are just a few images of the fanciful Lego creations found at Downtown Disney:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Family Fun - Spirit of Aloha

It's time once again to take a look at activities that can be done outside the theme parks at Walt Disney World!  Previously I've talked about boating, miniature golf, and bicycling - all relatively inexpensive activities that you and your family could enjoy on non-theme park days.  Today we'll look at an activity that is not as inexpensive, but could be done on either a theme-park or non-theme park day:  Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show.  The show is performed nightly at Disney's Polynesian Resort

As a family, we have enjoyed this show twice in the past 18 years:  once on our honeymoon, and then again in 2004 while on vacation prior to the arrival of my daughter.  (I'd say it was time to see it again!)  The first time we saw it - while on our honeymoon - was part of a non-theme park day.  We had spent the day leisurely enjoying boating with a romantic picnic lunch, shopping and other fun stuff.  The second time we saw it, with our boys, was part of a theme-park day.  We had spent the day in the nearby Magic Kingdom, taking the boat from the park over to the Polynesian when it was time - then returning back to the Magic Kingdom via Monorail. after the show concluded. 

Like the two other dinner show opportunities at Walt Disney World, the Spirit of Aloha includes an all-you-care-to-eat feast, featuring tastes and delights from Polynesia, and beer and wine are included for those over 21.  It features enchanting music, costumes, and authentic dances. Our favorites were the two different fire-dancers.  They were really cool!

As I mentioned previously, this show is not as inexpensive an activity as some of the others I have previously highlighted - but it is an experience that is well worth it, at least once. The cost per person depends on the seating location, and whether you choose to attend during peak or non-peak periods.  But no matter which show you attend, tax and gratuity are already included in the price.  For an adult, it currently costs between about $55 - $75.  Kids (3-9) are less, coming in between about $30 - $40 - and of course the littlest kids (under 2) are free.  If you are a Tables in Wonderland cardholder, you can save 20% off the cost.  And if you are on vacation using the Disney Dining Plan, you could exchange 2 Table Service Credits per person for entry into the show.  

The luau has been running at Walt Disney World nearly since the resort first opened.  Originally performed on the shores of the Polynesian Resort, a few months later being moved into a specially designed area within the protected shelter of what has become to be known as Luau Cove. It is a very popular show, usually selling out pretty quickly, so securing reservations early is key.  Reservations are available as many as 180 days in advance. So prior planning is important.