Today it’s all about the under-dogs. With so many things to see and do at Walt Disney World and with so many places to dine and stay, its only natural that a few Disney gems are bound to get lost in the shuffle. Today we give a tip-of-the-hat to those Disney experiences that are often overlooked. So that next time you are planning a trip to the Mouse you can give one or two of these a try!
1. Most Underrated Park – Animal Kingdom. It hurts a little bit inside every time those planning a Disney Vacation tell me they are going to leave Animal Kingdom off of their list or want to blitz through it because the heard it was only a 1/2 day park. If you’ve been to AK and you don’t like it, well that’s one thing. But if you’ve never been before- please give Animal Kingdom a try. It is such a rich immersive and diverse theme park experience. In my opinion it also boasts the best thrill ride, stage shows and some of the best food on Disney property. So whether its finding yourself at the foot of the Himalayas preparing for a Yeti encounter or strolling through a bustling African marketplace before heading out on safari, at Animal Kingdom, its all about the details. Take your time, look around and take it all in. As of this Summer, you can even stay for the evening activities. There’s a carnivale, street party, late night animal viewings and some amazing evening shows further dispelling the rumors that this is a park best left off of your to-do list.
2. Most Underrated Resort – Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – When it comes to a place to lay your head while at Disney World, for some reason Coronado Springs is often at the back of the queue. Though it may not be big on characters like the Values, lacks the Pirate or Princess theming of some of the other Moderates or the amenities of the Deluxes, there is a lot to love about this resort. The theming is Southwestern and is carried through in all of these fantastic little details. The Dig Site central pool area wows the kids with its giant Mayan pyramid and 123 foot waterslide. While parents love the Margaritas on hand at the neighboring pool bar. Because it houses a convention center it is also big on amenities like a health club and spa and great cuisine like the Tex-Mex served up at Maya Grill. One of the larger resorts, there is no shortage of places to relax and unwind and for that reason the resort always feels a lot more quiet and relaxed than some of it’s counterparts. This underrated Moderate has so much going for it that I bet if you were to ask a group of Disney Travel Agents where they stay when they visit Disney World, Coronado Springs would top a lot of lists. Consider yourself let in on our secret!
3. Most Underrated Show – TIE Mickey’s Philharmagic (Magic Kingdom) and Finding Nemo -The Musical (Animal Kingdom). I consider each one of these shows is an absolute gem of a Disney attraction that it was impossible for me to choose between the two. Philharmagic is located right in the heart of Fantasyland and for that reason it often gets overlooked by visitors making a beeline for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Peter Pan’s Flight. But be on the lookout for it next time you’re in the parks. Its short wait times mean it’s easy to squeeze into your day, while the inside auditorium is a great way to cool off in the afternoon heat. But most importantly, this 3-D concert is Disney at its best. The film takes you through key musical numbers from much-loved Disney films like Beauty and the Beast Aladdin and the Lion King with fantastic 3-d effects that will have your little ones jumping out of their seat. Every time I see this show with my family we are wowed by how amazing it is. Give it a try.
When most people think of Animal Kingdom stage shows- the one that comes to mind is Festival of the Lion King- which is an absolutely fantastic show in its own right and worthy of the the accolades. For this reason I think guests often overlook Finding Nemo-The Musical. However, anyone that’s decided to take in this 40 minute underwater musical adventure will quickly tell you how amazing it is. With musical numbers crafted from key scenes in the movie like “Just Keep Swimming” and puppetry so visually stunning that you’ll often be wondering how they did it- it is one of the best live stage shows on property. Fastpasses are available for this attraction but if you are saving your FP’s for other attractions still stop by. Lines for Finding Nemo- The Musical vary and you may be able to walk right in to the next performance.
4. Most Underrated Quick Service Restaurant – Columbia Harbour House. There is an awful lot to love about Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbour House making it a favored Quick Service Dining spot among Disney insiders. First the seafood heavy menu makes a nice change from all of the burgers you’ll be having at the parks. My daughter loves the tuna fish sandwich that comes shaped like a fish. But what I love is the upstairs dining area. Often overlooked by the heaving masses, it is a sea of calm in an otherwise chaotic Disney park. Get a seat by a window for a view that is best described as “cute” and enjoy the dark and quiet atmosphere. This is also a great place for a pit stop as the upstairs restrooms are usually not busy and are typically nice and tidy. Escape the heat and head to the Harbour House in Liberty Square next time your tummy starts to rumble.
5. Most Underrated Non-Theme Park Activity – Miniature Golf. If you’re looking for something to do on those check-in or check-out dates when you don’t have enough time to visit the theme parks but still want to do something Disney-focused, why not give one of Disney’s two miniature golf courses, Fantasia Gardens or Winter Summerland a try? Unlike Universal’s miniature golf offerings which are located adjacent to the City Walk, Disney’s courses are slightly off the beaten path. Winter Summerland is just outside of Blizzard Beach and Fantasia Gardens is over by the Swan and Dolphin meaning many visitors don’t even know they’re there. Both of the courses offer really fun Disney theming. Fantasia Gardens has all of the trimmings of the classic Disney film with tutu-wearing hippos and marching broomsticks (watch out for their water pails). Where Winter Summerland carries over the theming from Disney’s Blizzard Beach water park with one course representing Summer complete with surfboards and sandcastles and the other half Winter with snowmen, giant peppermint candies and a grand finale featuring Santa Claus. Fantasia Gardens also offers an easy course for beginners and an advanced course for more savvy putters. The cost of playing at both courses is $14.00 per adult and $12.00 for children (3-9).
6. Most Underrated Character Dining Restaurant – Garden Grill (Epcot). When it comes to character dining at Epcot, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall really does get all of the glory. But for those not wanting a big dose of Disney princess with their meal, the Garden Grill in The Land Pavilion provides a really nice (and very underrated) character dining experience. Guests dine in a rotating restaurant with changing landscapes taken from the Living With the Land exhibition including a farmhouse, prairie and sandstorm while a delicious array of all-you-can-eat favorites are brought to your table. Many of the dishes even feature vegetables cultivated in the Living With the Land greenhouses. It doesn’t get much more locally sourced than that! The character dining experience dubbed Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast features both cuddly critters as well other much-loved Disney Pals. Advanced booking is recommend by calling 407.WDW. DINE or online at My Disney Experience starting at 180 days from your arrival. However those late to the game may still be able to nab a last minute reservation. Prices range from $15.99 – $59.99 per adult depending on the meal.
7. Most Underrated Attraction – Walt Disney World Railroad. Steam trains were important to Walt, so its no surprise that you’ll find a railroad station as soon as you enter the Magic Kingdom. And though the conductors brag that more people ride Disney World Railroad a year than ride on Amtrak, as of late I’ve found this attraction to be remarkably empty. It may not have the bells and whistles of some of the new attractions or pack the thrills of one of Disney’s many Mountains but it doesn’t get any more delightfully Disney than hopping aboard one of Walt’s authentic steam-powered trains. Not only is fun but its also incredibly practical. Why scamper across a busy theme park to get to Splash Mountain when you can hop the train? Its probably also Disney’s most family-friendly ride. For those with a Disney stroller rental, you can leave your old stroller at one train stop and pick up a brand new one when you arrive at your new destination, making it amazingly easy to get around. Even if it’s not on your must-do list try to squeeze this 1.5 mile tour around the periphery of the Magic Kingdom into your next visit. All aboard!
8. Most Underrated Table Service Restaurant Without Characters – Spice Road Table. With so many fantastic places to dine at Epcot, its not surprising that Morocco’s Spice Road Table remains slightly under-the-radar. Yet for those looking for unique cuisine, exotic drinks and an incredibly romantic vantage point from which to watch the fireworks, Spice Road Table just might be your perfect spot. Located along the shores of the Moroccan Pavilion guests can sample a tapas-style range of small plates including garlic shrimp, humus and olives or friend calamari. Guests with larger appetites can indulge in entrees like Rack of Lamb, Grilled Skewers and Yellowfind Tuna. With a drinks menu that boasts everything from Greek Ouzo to Sangria, Sherrys and Ports, it’s the perfect place for a night cap. Make a nighttime reservation and request a table with a view to take in Epcot’s IllumiNations nighttime fireworks display. Spice Road Table can be a delightful exotic family dining experience or a romantic dinner with a view that your loved ones won’t soon forget. Prices range from $15 – $34.99 and advanced booking is strongly recommended at 407.WDW.DINE.
Whether you are a first time visitor or a regular at the parks, next time you head to Walt Disney World, try to give one of our off-the-radar offerings a try. Each of them will bring something delightfully different to your Disney visit and have you wondering why they don’t have more people talking.
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