Walt Disney World Resort

Off the Beaten Path: Discover the Undiscovered
at Walt Disney World Resort

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- High-flying elephants and spinning teacups usually take center stage when a guest is thinking of Walt Disney World Resort. But did you know that nine-pound lemons flourish at The Land pavilion at Epcot, or that sunset safaris explore Africa-inspired savannahs in the middle of Florida? Guests who take a second glance find undiscovered gems within the 40-square-mile Vacation Kingdom. Here's a sample of "the unexpected":
  • Take a spin on a Segway Human Transporter -- The Segway HT, first displayed to the public at Epcot Innoventions in 2002, is the world's first self-balancing human transporter that uses advanced technology, gyroscopes and tilt sensors to emulate human balance. Guests can put these high-tech machines to the test in two tours offered most days at Epcot.

    Around the World at Epcot is a two-hour tour that allows guests to operate the device throughout World Showcase before the area opens to park guests ($85/person; tours are daily at 7:45, 8:30, 9 and 9:30 a.m.).

    Simply Segway is a one-hour program that gives guests a product overview, training and indoor riding time at Innoventions ($25/person; daily at 11:30 a.m.). For both programs, class size is limited to 10 guests. (407/WDW-TOUR)

  • 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. "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. Haircuts for children are $14; adults are $17; first-come, first-serve.
  • Sunset Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge offers up-close encounters with exotic creatures -- Club-level (concierge) guests can enter a serene animal reserve for an up-close encounter on the Wanyama Safari. Just before sunset three nights a week, guests board a specially designed vehicle that explores the resort's three savannahs. Guests get picture-perfect views of more than 200 mammals and exotic birds and then partake in a savory South African feast at the resort's signature restaurant, Jiko-The Cooking Place. The 3 ½-hour experience, including dinner, is $160 for guests ages 10+; $80 for guests ages 8-9. For club-level reservations at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, call 407/W-DISNEY.
  • New, fashionable Mickey Mouse ears "all the rage" -- Trendsetters and fashion gurus get ready to strut your stuff with a new line of Mickey Mouse ears. The new ears come in a variety of vibrant colors and styles to suit the pirate or princess in your family. Gal versions don pink veils, jeweled princess crowns or wild cheetah prints. For the boys, pirate scarves and hoop earrings adorn the headgear, plus Stitch-themed offerings and more. There's also gold-sequined, patriotic-themed, and a bride and groom version. The new Mouse ears are available in limited quantities at select locations throughout Walt Disney World Resort starting at $8.
  • Epcot is a World Showcase for art lovers -- Epcot World Showcase has been a "showplace" of nations since its grand opening in 1982. But beyond the pagodas in Japan and the longboats in Norway lies a whole other world, treating art lovers to museum-quality galleries. Current exhibitions include: Echoes of Africa at The American Adventure, The Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas at Norway, Tomb Warriors at China, "Tin Toy Stories" Made in Japan at Japan, and Gallery of Arts and History at Morocco. Admission to the exhibitions is included with general park admission.
  • The Land at Epcot mixes science and entertainment to grow one-of-a-kind plants -- Behind the brightly colored, mosaic facade of The Land pavilion at Epcot sits offices where greenhouse magic takes place. "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 (see next bullet point); Mickey Mouse-shaped cucumbers, watermelons and pumpkins; nine-pound lemons, and more.
  • 'Tomato Tree' sets record with 32,000 tomatoes -- The Tomato Tree at The Land pavilion at Epcot has blossomed into a record-setting plant. The tree recently was recognized as an official Guinness World Record Holder, with a one-year harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and a total weight of 1,151.84 pounds. Guests can spot the tree during the pavilion's Living with the Land boat ride.
  • Take the ultimate dive in a 5.7-million-gallon indoor aquarium with more than 65 species of marine life, including sharks, turtles, eagle rays and diverse tropical fish. DiveQuest at Epcot offers guaranteed calm seas, no current, unlimited visibility, incredible marine life and bright coral structures.  Additionally, you become part of the show. Your family members and friends (with Epcot admission) can view your dive through any of the 56 giant acrylic windows at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Guest must be at least 10 years of age and must provide proof of SCUBA certification to participate. Price of $140/person includes a limited edition T-shirt, refreshments, dive certificate and a dive log stamp. Call 407/WDW-TOUR for information.
  • Discover the magic backstage -- A "must do" for any true Disney fan, the Backstage Magic tour unveils the fine points behind the artistic, technical, and scientific operations found throughout the theme parks.  This 7-hour behind-the-scenes adventure guides guests through the magic of one man's dream, Walt Disney.  Highlights may include a journey beneath the Magic Kingdom theme park to view support systems located in the "tunnel," the opportunity to observe the unique technology that brings the story of the American experience to life at The American Adventure at Epcot, or a peak into the Disney-MGM Studios Creative Costuming area to examine the process of Disney costume design and fabrication. A family-style lunch at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano is included. Guests must be 16 years of age to participate; $199 per person. 407/WDW-TOUR for more information.
  • Build your own roller coaster at DisneyQuest's CyberSpace Mountain attraction -- Bill Nye the Coaster Guy walks guests through the design process where they choose from three different speeds, three world settings (fire, ice or outer space) and an infinite number of track combinations. The roller coaster of your dreams (or nightmares!) can do flips, corkscrews and even wild maneuvers such as a loop that flies off the tracks. A digital card tracks guests' personal coasters and the simulator re-creates it both visually and physically. Guests must be 51" to ride, 407/938-6253 for more information.
  • Wonder of wonders -- The Disney Wonder, the most magical ship afloat, received an extra dose of pixie dust recently, adding major enhancements that appeal to all members of the family. Adults will enjoy the expanded fitness center and new spa villas -- an industry-first spa treatment room with private outdoor verandah complete with hot tub. Families can gather for poolside movies with the new 24-by-14-foot Ariel Vision jumbo screen, and the youngest cruisers will delight in a brand new toddler splash zone.
  • Learn to hula dance at Disney's Polynesian Resort, where complimentary classes take place most days in the resort's lobby. Auntie Kaui, a hula dancer and instructor with 50 years experience, leads most of the classes offered Monday through Saturday at 3:45 p.m., and Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon. Weekday classes are geared toward the younger set, with leis and grass skirts aplenty, while the Saturday morning lessons encourage guests of all ages to do the hula shake. And whether guests stay for five minutes or the full two-hour Saturday classes, they'll learn a variety of chants and dances from such tropical locales as Hawaii, Tahiti and more.

For more information about Walt Disney World Resort, guests can phone Academy Travel at 609-978-0740.

Academy Travel is an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner
Specializing in Walt Disney World, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line and Adventures by Disney Vacations
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