Last week, I posted about the 5 most overrated experiences at my favorite place on earth, the Walt Disney World Resort! Today, I want to take a slightly more positive, happy, and, dare I say, MAGICAL approach with my top 5 most UNDERRATED experiences! Some of them may be well known to you, but I hope somewhere on this list you’ll find a gem that you can discover for yourself next time you’re at Disney!
Tom Sawyer Island, Magic Kingdom
When the boys were young, this was our place to let them run around and let off some family vacation steam! Now that they’re older, this is still one of my favorite places at Disney. When the parks are especially crowded, this is a fabulous place to escape and pretend that they’re not. Nope, there are no rides on this magical little patch of land. Instead, you’re left to your own devices to explore caves, walk across bridges, and find quiet places to just sit and watch and listen. Sitting on the porch at Aunt Polly’s (which was a counter service place years ago but now just has some vending machines), you can hear the train whistle, the happy screams from Big Thunder and Splash, and if you listen really closely, you can hear the dog howling from the Haunted Mansion. And just when you thought your heart couldn’t be more content, the Mark Twain comes around the bend and . . . well . . .just not sure what vacation stress could survive all of that. My only caution here would be if you have toddlers or pre-schoolers because 1. they get lost easily and 2. the paths are uneven in many places. But for the 6 and up set, this is HEAVEN.
ALL of the resorts!
You don’t have to be staying at a resort to enjoy all it has to offer, and each on-site resort (especially the deluxe ones) has it’s own charm and special magic that is worth taking the time to get there! Doing a monorail loop and stopping at the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian was one of my favorite things from our August trip. Stopping at each one to get a refreshment (dole whips can be found at the quick service location at the Poly!), shopping in each gift shop, and just sitting in the lobby and taking in the sights, smells and music is a wonderful way to spend some time and I especially like it on a rainy afternoon as you don’t get wet. I don’t like being wet. And here’s a pop quiz for you: do you have to be a guest at the Poly to lay in a hammock on the beach? Answer: WHY NO, no you don’t. So if the weather is gorgeous, help yourself, Friend. On me. (I kid, it’s free)
All The Paths and Trails around the Tree of Life! (Animal Kingdom)
They’re a little tricky to find, but don’t just pass through Discovery Island on your way to Pandora. There are special little trails all around the base of the tree of life where you can see animals, amazing foliage, and get up close and personal with the amazing tree. The detail of the carvings just makes me swoon. Finding them is half the fun, so I won’t give that part away, but in my opinion, Animal Kingdom is best discovered at a slow pace (preferably on a non-boiling day). Yes, I know, you’ve got to get your Pandora done, but maybe rush and do all that and then really take your time. I promise it will be worth it.
The International Gateway
I can’t tell you how many people I talk to who don’t even know this is there! They see the exit between The UK and France and assume it just goes to the Epcot area resorts. Well, that’s true, but it’s also where you can find ice cream, live entertainment, a gorgeous beach with swings, campfires at night and gorgeous gift shops. Oh, and this is the best place to catch your Lyft or Uber driver after Illuminations. Take your time walking back and enjoy – maybe even grab a night cap at the Yacht or Beach Club, and then leisurely make your way to the front of either resort and catch a ride. Much better, in this girl’s humble opinion, then fighting with thousands of people to get out of the park through future world. This is one of those ones I kind of wish I hadn’t told you because the more people that do it, the less magical it will be. I also don’t know what the new gondolas will do to this blissful situation (the station will be right outside the international gateway), so watch this space for more on that.
A couple years ago, I took an afternoon and went to the Senses spa at Saratoga Springs. I got a great discount because we are DVC members and it even included a special robe. The massage I got was top rate, the price was only slightly more than I pay at home for a spa level massage, and the whole experience was just lovely. I took my bathing suit and spent a couple hours at the Saratoga Springs pool before I headed back to the MAJOR CHAOS (whoops, I mean, my fam;). If you’re the trip planner, family packer, and overall vacation organizer you really should treat yourself to a little me time. You’ve earned it.
Wow, I actually could make this list a lot longer! Even if this is a “once in a lifetime” trip for your family, take some time to discover things off the beaten path. You’ll find yourself away from the crowds and in some cases the weather, and it can give you a whole new appreciation for the RESORT part of The Walt Disney World Resort.
Have a magical day!