High-flying elephants and spinning teacups usually take center stage when thinking of Walt Disney World Resort. But did you know that 9-pound lemons are grown at The Land pavilion at Epcot, or that safaris explore Africa-inspired savannas in the middle of Florida? It takes a second – or third – glance to come across countless undiscovered gems within the 40-square-mile Vacation Kingdom. Here are just a few of the unexpected:
Embark on a Wild Africa Trek
Guests wanting to literally venture off the beaten path at Disney’s Animal Kingdom have the chance during a brand 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. The experience starts at $189 per person (price is subject to change). 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 (price is subject to change). For more info call: 407/WDW-CREW.
Find out why the 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 $18.
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, try off-roading on Segways. Guests can take the "Wilderness Back Trail Adventure" at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground aboard the Segway "x2" personal transporter. The "x2" features deeply treaded tires and higher ground clearance than other Segway models to provide a smooth, stable ride through the trail-like terrain ($85, price subject to change). Following a training session, guests take the off-road Segways along the backwoods trails through Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. (This is more for the older set, since guests must be 16 years or older to participate.) Reservations can be made up to 90 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-TOUR.
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. The concept is “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, Mickey Mouse-shaped cucumbers, 9-pound lemons, and more.
Fans of high-speed racing can grab the wheel behind the high-revving exotic cars and racecars at Walt Disney World Resort. The Richard Petty Driving Experience offers racing wannabes their choice of whipping around the Walt Disney World Speedway as a passenger with a professional driver, or an instruction course allowing them to take the wheel themselves. For a limited time Richard Petty Driving Experience is offering a special Fathers Day price of $59 for the thrilling ride-along experience, a $109 value! For information or reservations, visit drivepetty.com or call 800/BE-PETTY.
Up, Up and Away!
The sky is the limit when guests take a parasailing adventure above Bay Lake. Single and tandem fliers can have a bird’s-eye view of the Magic Kingdom at altitudes nearing 600 feet for 8-to-10 minutes. Instead of the traditional water approach, the uniquely designed boat enables take-off and landing from the back of the boat. For flight times call 407/939-0754.
Disney's Typhoon Lagoon water park offers surfers a chance to ride the waves! Craig Carroll's Cocoa Beach Surf School invites guests to learn from professional surfers how to cut, carve and “hang 10_ before normal operating hours. For more information and reservations call 407/WDW-PLAY.
This once inside joke has become a 'Guest Quest.' The Walt Disney World Resort is filled with "hidden" Mickeys -- silhouettes and abstract images of Mickey Mouse cleverly hidden by Walt Disney Imagineers across the Vacation Kingdom - including this Mickey-shaped fountain at Downtown Disney Marketplace. There are blogs, books and even phone apps dedicated to this very topic. Hidden Mickeys are everywhere from the Disney Resorts, Theme Parks and even Downtown Disney. You never know where the next one will appear and you'll have fun (and possibly become obsessed) on this quest for hidden treasure.
Under the Sea
Certified divers can slip into dive gear for an unforgettable encounter with creatures of the deep. Imagine browsing a salt-water world of coral teeming with marine life without ever entering the sea! Walt Disney World guests can do just that at The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilion at Epcot. One of the world’s largest aquariums, at 6 million gallons, is home to thousands of creatures — from angelfish to 300-pound sea turtles. Disney’s twice-daily DiveQuest program welcomes certified divers on expert-led tours. Rates include equipment, so guests don’t have to bring dive gear from home. Call 407/WDW-TOUR for more information.