Orlando Sports and Outdoor Activities
Tennis, anyone? Or maybe you'd rather surf, parasail, or drive a race car. You can take part in these activities and many more should you feel the need to stretch your legs and move around beyond the theme parks.
Disney is known for its championship golf courses, but if you'd rather swing a racquet, you'll be happy to know there are several lighted courts—both clay and hard—at five Disney resorts. Disney's Fort Wilderness is the place to saddle up for a ride through the woods, and the Contemporary Resort is number one for water sports, including parasailing.
Got a lead foot? Head over to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where you can race a NASCAR-style stock car or ride shotgun with a pro. Anglers get hooked on fishing charters; runners and bikers get their adrenaline rush on trails across the property. If you'd rather be a spectator, take yourself out to a ball game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Popcorn? Check. Hot dogs? Check. Does it get any better than this? For Disney recreation information, call 407/939–7529.
Magic Kindgom Resort Area
Richard Petty Driving Experience. This experience lets you ride in or even drive a NASCAR-style stock car on a real racetrack, which is along the road that leads to the Magic Kingdom parking lot. Depending on what you're willing to spend, you can do everything from riding shotgun for three laps on the 1-mile track to taking driving lessons, culminating in your very own solo behind the wheel. The riding cost for three laps is $99; for eight laps, $449; 18 laps, $849; 30 laps, $1,299. The experience, priceless. The Speedway Challenge ($2,099) is a 50-lap program that includes tech talk with the crew chief, and the high-octane Racing Experience ($2,599) includes over-the-top perks. The Exotic Driving Experience puts you behind the wheel of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or other "supercar" ($169 and up; $99 to ride with a pro driver). The Richard Petty organization has a second Central Florida location at the Daytona International Speedway, but prices differ, so check the Web site. Walt Disney World Speedway, 3450 N. World Dr., Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830. 800/237–3889. www.drivepetty.com.
Fort Wilderness Resort. Fort Wilderness Resort offers a number of sporting activities. For 90 minutes you can get in some target shooting with an archery guide who oversees novice and expert marksmen (ages 6 and up). Non-resort guests are welcome to join campers, and the $39 fee includes use of the compound bow and arrows, plus instruction. You can book up to 180 days in advance. Tame backwoods horseback trail rides from here begin at 8:30 am and continue through mid- to late afternoon. Children must be at least 9 years old and 48 inches tall to ride, and adults must weigh less than 250 pounds. Trail rides are $45 for 45 minutes; hours vary by season. You must check in 30 minutes prior to your ride, and reservations must be made at least one day ahead. Both horseback riding and the campground are open to non-resort guests. Pick up rods and tackle at the Fort Wilderness Bike Barn, open daily 9–5, for fishing in the canals around Fort Wilderness Resort. Rod and reel with tackle is about $12.50 for the day. You must be at least 18 to rent here. 4510 N. Fort Wilderness Trail, Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830. 407/939–7529 Archery; 407/824–2742 Bike Barn; 407/824–2832 Horseback riding.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. This complex is proof that Disney doesn't do anything unless it does it in a big way. The 220-acre facility, formerly Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, is on the route to Animal Kingdom. It contains a 7,500-seat baseball stadium—housed in a giant stucco structure that, from the outside, looks like a Moroccan palace—a 5,000-seat field house, and a number of fan-oriented commercial ventures such as the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill and shops that sell clothing and other items sanctioned by Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL. During spring training the Atlanta Braves play here. The complex also hosts more than 200 amateur and professional events each year, including big-ticket tennis tournaments. In all, some 30 spectator sports are represented among the annual events, including Harlem Globetrotters basketball games, baseball fantasy camps held in conjunction with the Braves at the start of spring training, and track events ranging from the Walt Disney World Marathon to Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championships. The complex offers bowling, softball, basketball, and other games for group events ranging from family reunions to corporate picnics. 700 S. Victory Way, Kissimmee, FL, 34747. 407/828–3267 events information. www.disneyworldsports.com..
Sammy Duvall's Water Sports Centre. Thanks to Sammy Duvall's you can get a bird's-eye view of Disney while parasailing on Bay Lake. Flights with 450 feet of line last 8 to 10 minutes ($95); deluxe flights with 600 feet of line last 10 to 12 minutes ($130). You must weigh at least 120 pounds, though lightweights can bulk up with the help of a lifeguard or family member and a tandem flight (without the tandem charge). But if you want to parasail with a partner from the get-go, tandem flights are $170; deluxe tandem flights are $195. At the same location, you can try your skills at waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing. Up to five people can go on the ski boat, which includes equipment and an expert instructor and driver. For a group that large, instructors recommend booking two hours ($165 for the first hour and $135 for each additional hour); couples or smaller groups may want to try one hour, though half-hour rentals ($85) are available. Contemporary Resort, Magic Kingdom Resort Area, Walt Disney World, FL, 32830. 407/939–0754.
Sports and Activities Elsewhere in Disney
Paved trails take you past forests, lakes, wooded campgrounds, and resort villas. If you're 18 or older, you can rent bikes at multiple locations, but you must ride them in the area where you rent them.
Rental locations include Downtown Disney Marketplace (near the Rainforest Café) and nearly every moderate-to-deluxe Disney resort, including the BoardWalk Inn and other Epcot Resort Areahotels, Coronado Springs Resort near Disney's Hollywood Studios, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs near Downtown Disney, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Grand Floridian Resort, and the Fort Wilderness Bike Barn at Fort Wilderness Resort.
Most locations have children's bikes with training wheels and bikes with toddler seats. Surrey bikes are also an option. These look like old-fashioned carriages and are a great way to take your family on a sightseeing tour. The covered tops provide a rare commodity at Disney—shade.
Rates start at $9 an hour for regular bikes and go up to $20 to $25 per half hour for surrey bikes (depending on whether they have two, four, or six seats). Wear a helmet; it's free with each rental.
Disney has one of the nation's largest fleets of rental pleasure craft. There are marinas at the Caribbean Beach Resort, Contemporary Resort, Downtown Disney Marketplace, Fort Wilderness Resort, Grand Floridian, Old Key West Resort, Polynesian Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside resorts, and the Wilderness Lodge.
You can rent 12-foot sailboats, catamarans, motor-powered pontoon boats, pedal boats, kayaks, canoes, and tiny two-passenger Sea Racers—a hit with children—for use on Bay Lake and the adjoining Seven Seas Lagoon, Crescent Lake at Epcot resorts, Lake Buena Vista, or Buena Vista Lagoon. You can also sail and water-ski on Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon; stop at the Fort Wilderness, Contemporary, Polynesian, or Grand Floridian marina to rent sailboats or sign up for waterskiing. Call 407/939–7529 for more information.
Disney Fishing Excursions. You can sign up for two-hour catch-and-release excursions on regularly stocked Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. In fact, Bay Lake is so well stocked that locals joke that you can almost walk across the water on the backs of the bass. Departing from the Fort Wilderness, Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary, Polynesian, Yacht & Beach Club, Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, Port Orleans Riverside, and Grand Floridian resort marinas, trips include boat, equipment, and a guide for up to five anglers. Similar charters depart at the same times from a Downtown Disney Marketplace dock by Lake Buena Vista. Your guide is happy to bait your hook, unhook your catches, and even snap pictures of you with your fish. Two-hour trips for up to five people depart daily at 7, 10, and 1. The cost is $270 (per group) for morning departures and $235 at 1. Live bait and fishing equipment are included; a license is not required on Disney property. 407/939–2277.
Ol' Man Island Fishin' Hole. You can fish inexpensively from a dock at Port Orleans–Riverside. Cane poles and bait are $15 per half hour for a family of up to six. You must rent equipment here to use the dock, and you're required to release any fish that you catch. The Fishing Hole is open daily 7–2:15. Disney's Port Orleans, 1251 Riverside Dr., Downtown Disney Resort Area, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830. www.disneyworld.com.
Where else would you find a sand trap shaped like the head of a well-known mouse? Disney has 72 holes of golf on four championship courses—all on the PGA Tour route—plus a 9-hole walking course. The original Palm and Magnolia 18-hole courses are southwest of the Magic Kingdom near the Grand Floridian and Polynesian resorts, as is the 9-hole Oak Trail walking course. The Lake Buena Vista 18-hole course is northwest of Downtown Disney. The newer 18-hole Osprey Ridge is east of Fort Wilderness Resort.
Tee times are available daily from dawn to dusk. You can book them up to 90 days in advance if you're staying at a WDW-owned hotel, 60 days ahead if you're staying elsewhere. One-on-one instruction from PGA-accredited professionals is available at the Palm and Magnolia. Prices for private lessons vary: 45 minutes cost $75 for adults and $50 for youngsters 17 and under. For tee times and private lessons, call Walt Disney World Golf & Recreation Reservations at 407/939–4653.
If mini-golf is your game, Disney's Winter Summerland, next to Blizzard Beach, has 18 holes on its faux-snow "winter" course and 18 on its tropical "summer" course—sand castles and all. At the Fantasia Gardens 36-hole mini-golf course, adjacent to the Walt Disney World Swan, dancing hippos and broomsticks remind you of the classic animated film Fantasia. There's even a Fantasia Fairways challenge course, with sand traps, water hazards, and par-3 and par-4 holes up to 75 feet long for experienced golfers.
The World has several scenic running trails from the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary in the Magic Kingdom area. At the Epcot resorts, you can get your heart rate up along the promenade that circles Crescent Lake past the BoardWalk and Yacht and Beach Club resorts. If you're staying at Port Orleans, you can work up a sweat on nearby trails; Coronado Springs guests run along the resort's 1-mile esplanade.
The roads that snake through Downtown Disney resorts are pleasant, and early in the morning traffic isn't too bad. At the Caribbean Beach Resort, there's a 1½-mile running promenade around Barefoot Bay. Fort Wilderness Campground has a woodsy 2-mile course with numerous exercise stations along the way.
Surfing? Here, in landlocked Central Florida? You bet. Early in the morning, before Typhoon Lagoon opens to water-park visitors, you can hit some man-made waves with 11 other novices and a professional instructor. Run by the Cocoa Beach Surf School, the 2½-hour session begins with a half-hour beachside lesson on surfing moves and basics. Before you know it, you're in the heated wave pool and headed for your first ride. You must be at least 8 years old, and lessons cost $150 per person. Soft-sided boards are provided. You must have transportation to Typhoon Lagoon; even if you're staying at Disney, buses don't run before the class begins at 6:45 am. The program is scheduled several days each week for up to 12 participants, but lesson days vary, so call 407/939–7529.
You can play tennis at several Disney hotels: Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort (two hard courts), BoardWalk (two hard courts), Old Key West Resort (two hard courts), Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa (two Hydro-grid clay courts), and Yacht Club Resort (one hard court). Courts are available without charge on a first-come, first-served basis for resort and non–resort guests. All have lights, and most have lockers and racquets available to rent or borrow. At the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin hotels, you can get an hour-long private lesson on one of four courts for $90 from 7 am to 9 pm. Call 407/621–1991.
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