You have your tickets in hand. You’re roughing out a two-week plan, aiming to squeeze every last drop out of your theme-park fun. Sitting in your living room with the cold wind—and maybe even the snow—of February swirling beyond your front door, the idea of a full-on assault of the parks, ideally from opening to closing, is what keeps you from sliding into utter despair. But wait! Instead of salvation from winter’s icy edge, what’s written on that schedule in front of you is a recipe for exhaustion.
Making The Most of Water Park Fun…and More!
By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
As if two weeks’ worth of theme park frolics wasn’t enough. Walt Disney World’s four major theme parks can easily absorb the majority of any visitor’s holiday time, but with the added value of ‘water park fun and more’ included in Disney’s Ultimate passes, it would be a shame to miss the smaller-scale attractions.
Day-in, day-out theme-parking may seem like a good idea, but the truth is, you’re going to need a rest day over the course of two weeks. Probably two. Three would be even better. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your daily Disney experience. Every Walt Disney World 7, 14, and 21-Day Ultimate pass includes access to Disney’s smaller attractions, including Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park, Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course, and two mini-golf locations of Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Disney’s Winter Summerland.
Let’s take a look at what’s on offer:
Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
If you’re a repeat visitor, you have probably been to at least one of Disney’s water parks in the past. And if you’ve been to one in the past, it’s likely you had so much fun you’ve added them to your upcoming holiday, too. If you’re new to Orlando or simply haven’t tried them yet, water parks make an excellent break-day without losing any of the magic.
Which park is right for you? Both. Only have time for one? We recommend Blizzard Beach as the most family-friendly option, especially with younger children, and Typhoon Lagoon for those with older children and teens, who will probably spend most of the day in the fabulous wave pool (bring waterproof sunblock!). But don’t worry; you won’t go wrong with either one, and both parks have water-play areas for young ’uns.
We think a day or two at a water park, perhaps combined with some shopping, a dinner show, or one of the other small-scale options on your pass, is essential, especially in summer. Can’t swim? No problem! Child-size and adult life vests are free, and the water slides and lazy rivers don’t require active swimming.
DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park
Gamers, take note! DisneyQuest’s 5 floors of virtual-reality games, classic video games (remember Donkey Kong and Space Invaders?), and the interactive fun of Animator’s Academy and Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam are the perfect reason to visit Disney Springs (Downtown Disney). Easily a half-day attraction, DisneyQuest is a superb choice for a rainy day, or for parents with older teens (hint: there’s an outdoor patio ideal for a drink or two at House of Blues, just across the walkway). Free parking is available, but ages 14 and under must be accompanied by someone 15 and up.
Disney’s Oak Trail Golf Course
Most golf courses in Central Florida are designed with experienced players in mind (some are decidedly pro-only), but this is Disney we’re talking about, so naturally one of their courses is perfect for families. The nine-hole Oak Trail golf course is a par-36, with the distance between the tee and the hole ranging from 132 yards to 517. Bear in mind, it’s a walking course with no golf carts. The course is near Disney’s Polynesian Resort, with golf club rentals and onsite parking available.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
Disney’s WWoS complex is a 220-acre training ground for school-aged baseball, basketball, American football, and soccer teams (as well as several other sports), but it’s an interesting diversion that may surprise British visitors with the extent of its cutting-edge facilities. Dining, restrooms, and free onsite parking are available. Your Ultimate pass also includes 30 minutes of play at the Playstation Pavilion.
Atlanta Braves baseball spring training also happens here, but be aware the games are separately-ticketed events. Even so, it makes a wonderful family outing if there are games on while you’re in town. Check out the schedule.
Disney’s Winter Summerland and Disney’s Fantasia Gardens
Besides the water parks, it’s possible we’ve left the best for last. All of Orlando’s mini-golf locations are heavily themed, but Disney has that ‘something extra’ that makes a round or two well worth adding to your holiday break days. From character-themed statuary to things that squirt, twirl, and pop up unexpectedly, the courses are as much fun to watch as they are to play.
Winter Summerland is located next to Blizzard Beach, but with its own free parking area. There are two courses, a Winter-themed course and a Summer-themed one, so it’s easy to play a round, have a picnic at one of the picnic tables, then play a second round. We find the Summer course slightly more challenging, but the Winter course is funnier (until that squirty snowman gets you in the eye, and then it’s not funny at all, says past victim, Susan!). There are snacks and restrooms at the front of the courses, and don’t miss the photo op in Santa’s sleigh before you leave.
Fantasia Gardens is based on Disney’s hit movie, Fantasia, compete with ballerina hippos and Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. All of the holes are par 3, making it a good choice for beginners, but there is little shade here, so slather on the sunblock and bring a bottle of water (or purchase at the small snack counter). The course is located near Disney’s Boardwalk Resort and the Swan-Dolphin Resort. It’s tucked away just a bit, but head toward the Swan and you’ll find it on your left. Dedicated onsite parking is available, and it’s free.
Mini-golf has become a Christmas tradition when our family gathers together, and while Winter Summerland is usually our course of choice for the Winter version’s Christmas theme, we also recommend packing a picnic and spending an hour or two at Fantasia Gardens, enjoying lunch and a round of mini-golf. Take note, Disney’s mini-golf courses close during inclement weather (lightning and golf clubs should never meet!), so keep an eye on the weather before heading over.
There truly is something for everyone at Walt Disney World, and with your Disney Ultimate tickets you can explore the Disney grounds beyond the theme parks . Offering such excellent value for money, you can even spend your down-time right in the heart of the Disney magic with these amazing Disney tickets.
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