Does gliding across the lake on a peaceful morning, hiking through the wilderness, sharing stories about Disney heritage, or riding in a horse-drawn wagon sound appealing to you? The new Escape to Walt’s Wilderness offers an off-the-beaten-path experience ideal for the whole family.
The journey begins with a pontoon boat tour from Disney’s Contemporary Resort marina with a Disney guide who shares stories about Walt’s love of the outdoors and nature. He tells us we are about to “walk in Walt’s footsteps and see why he was determined to choose this place for his next Disneyland.” Unbeknownst to me, Central Florida had personal appeal to Walt as this was where his parents met many moons ago. And as we pushed off the dock to explore Bay Lake we also learned that while Walt never had the chance to see the completion of Walt Disney World Resort, he did indeed sail across this same lake before he passed.
The adventure continues with a quest for native Florida wildlife. Two pontoon boats carrying about ten guests each are equipped with wildlife guides and binoculars to seek out the many varieties that call Bay Lake home. Birds and bald eagles soar, dragonflies buzz about, fragrant moss and lily pads connect you to the surroundings and allow you to reflect on the sheer beauty of the environment. We were exploring nature, just like Walt loved to do.
Once the boat is beached, the group is welcomed by a giant bonfire and camp-style breakfast. Locally sourced citrus salad, egg frittata, cinnamon rolls, biscuits, granola, coffee and juice make for a nice feast. And what’s a campfire without marshmallows for roasting. Next, a pair of field horses pulling a wagon enter the scene for transport to an archery lesson in a woodsy field at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. A short hike in the woods past the train tracks from the former Fort Wilderness Railroad is where we discover Walt’s fascination with trains.
Next stop is Tri-Circle-D Ranch where “ranch hands” share stories about how horses have been incorporated into Disney theme parks since day one. Guests have a chance to view the horses in a natural environment, learn about how they are cared for, and get up close with these majestic animals. There’s lot of surprises throughout the immersive, half-day trek, especially the legends and tales that unfold along the way.
The program is typically offered two days a week from 8 a.m.– 1 p.m. on select days. The cost is $109, plus tax for ages 7 and older. Complimentary transportation to and from the experience is provided for guests staying at Disney owned and operated resort hotels. To book or for more information, call 407-WDW-PLAY.