Whether you’re interested in a new way of visiting your favorite theme park or a fabulous departure from Florida, Orlando is overflowing with tour and excursion options both on and off the path.
Closer to the parks, Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre offers myriad opportunity to play in and spray in the waters of WDW’s Seven Seas Lagoon – or even soar above it via parasail. And in the depths of Mother Africa, or at least Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s stunning facsimile, fans of the popular Kilimanjaro Safari ride can level it up with the three-hour Wild Africa Trek, where the animals are closer, the guides are personal and the meals are oft served in the company of a flamboyance (that’s the word for a group of flamingos).
Culture vultures curious about the Dr. Phillips Center can even get a peek for free. Saturdays bring with them 45-minute Curiosity Tours that will leave attendees more eager than ever to score seats to its next stellar performance.
Those more interested in culinary adventure travel than the high-adrenaline variety will enjoy this three-hour gourmet stroll around beautiful Winter Park. From vintage candy shops to upscale olive-oriented gourmet boutiques, Asian delicacies to one of the Orlando metro’s best-loved modern Italian eateries, your appetite for history and local color will be sated along with your palate. Participants of all ages are welcome, so feel free to bring the whole family. Expert guides are on-hand to answer questions and all food is included in the tour price. If it’s your first time exploring the brick-lined lanes of Winter Park, you’ll get an ample taste.
The ghostbusting crew at American Ghost Adventures have been leading the paranormally curious on various tours of Orlando since 2010 and often venture to outer-lying areas in Florida – such as Daytona, Mount Dora, Deland, Sanford and Winter Garden – where spectral activity is said to be off the chart. Some ventures even require the use of paranormal detection equipment. Like spirits with your spirits? Explore some of Orlando’s downtown hot spots for both ghosts and happy hour.
The shiny-new, world-class Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts is indeed a sight to behold. In the daytime its glittering façade showcases all that’s exciting and growing here in Orlando and by night it’s beautiful, chameleon-like Wave Wall lights up downtown with a wash of changing colors. You may have had time to schedule a bit of culture into your visit by securing tickets to the Dr. Phillips Center’s vast array of entertainment – music, theater, dance and more. If not, however, you can still get a peek inside, and for free, on one of its Saturday Curiosity Tours. Tours last 45 minutes and are followed by a Q&A session. Tours are held on Saturdays at 10:30 & 10:45 a.m. Check-in starts 15 minutes prior.
This privately guided VIP experience brings guests behind the scenes – and even above them – in a “Disney-fied” version of a Kenya safari. Groups of up to 12 take a hike through the territory that makes up the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, traversing rope bridges, getting up close and personal with hippos and crocodiles, seeing a bit of what the animal caretakers do (Note: Disney’s “Backstage Safari” tour delves deeper into DAK animal care and what it entails.) and heading out onto the savannah for an even closer look at its free-ranging rhinos, giraffes, zebras and more. Guides are there to answer all guest questions and while photography is welcome, Disney’s own will be documenting your excursion the entire way. You’ll receive the images later. Gourmet eats are included, as well. Enjoy an African-infused lunch in the company of flamingos and perhaps other delightful creatures.
Ever found yourself sailing over or perhaps across the Seven Seas Lagoon, headed for fun at the Magic Kingdom, and spied folks enjoying a sunny Orlando day on its sparkling waters? You may have thought it was a privilege reserved for guests at Disney properties. It isn’t. At Sammy Duvall’s Watersports Centre, located at the Contemporary’s Marina, anyone can tube, wakeboard, parasail, water ski or, for the purposes of this particular list, tour the waters of Walt Disney World on a PWC (personal watercraft). Morning, hour-long tours offer up loads of nature photo-ops (beautiful birds and other animals call this oasis home) and stunning, unique views of iconic Disney architecture and other points of interest.
Local are always talking up how cosmopolitan Orlando is. We’re not denying it, but just outside the city sits acres of wetland wilderness so loaded down with wildlife – alligators, bald eagles, wading birds and more – you may spot more animals than at the zoo. Of course, you’ll need an expert guide and Wild Willy’s can help with that. Tours are exciting (if you’ve never glided over the seas of grass before, you’re in for a treat) and uber-educational. Photo-ops with the “on-staff” gators are available, as well. Florida nature is unlike any other, it’s well worth a quick side-trip from the parks (and close by, too).
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