In this Walt Disney World series, I’m mostly covering theme parks. But, I feel I must pause to hit a look at some other parts of the resort that are a bit overlooked. One may not seem overlooked, and that is Downtown Disney. Another is the water parks, and specifically Typhoon Lagoon. Lastly are the very overlooked miniature golf courses, and this will be in the form of looking at Fantasia Gardens.
Downtown Disney is the big, one-stop shopping area for the whole resort. Within it is some Disney themed stores, but also some third-party venues. As the area is being transformed into Disney Springs, there are new areas to visit and let the place get grounding.
One such area is the Co-Op building. Just opened a little before my visit, this is a mall-esque building that has divided rooms of shopping. A D-Tech area features customizable cases and other tech accessories. Centerpiece features kitchen ware with a Disney flare. Beautifully Disney is the makeup area. Zoey and Pickles has girls’ clothes. I spent quite a bit of time in the Centerpiece part, and some in the D-Tech On Demand area. It is an interesting take on the Downtown Disney store area, sort of combining space and having individual product places. It feels like a mall with Disney style. It doesn’t have that mall feeling of just store after store, but somehow open and fun.
Other new venues are the food trucks that have come into the shopping place. Each truck is themed to each theme park, and even specific areas from there. Fantasyland is featured on one. Also some Asian cuisine like from Yak and Yeti is for the Animal Kingdom one. Epcot’s World Showcase even got in on the act.
A spot I like frequenting on the West Side of Downtown Disney is Disney Quest. It’s an indoor “virtual” theme park. Basically, attractions are designed as games, but feature ride elements to them. One example is Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters which combines bumper cars and nerf cannons. That’s probably the best way of describing it. One of my favorites, Pirates of the Caribbean: Buccaneer’s Gold is in rooms with 3D screens surrounding where you fire cannons at ships to collect treasure. In a way, it’s a predecessor to Toy Story Midway Mania, which uses the same cannon tech and has 3D screens as well.
Disney Quest has evolved over the years, but mostly in aesthetics. You would first enter in an elevator dubbed the Cybrolator. It wasn’t just an elevator “it’s an adventure” as the Genie from Aladdin would tell you in a projected animation as you traveled to the third floor. Now, it’s simply an elevator. Where it sounds like it’s cutting costs, the Cybrolator would take maybe too much time to get to the final destination. It’s nice to simply get on with the experience of Disney Quest, but I do miss the show.
Typhoon Lagoon is the water park I ventured to on my recent trip. The first thing about it is I found out going to a water park first thing is the best strategy. I got there a little after the park opened and there wasn’t a lot of people. The most I waited for a slide was about 10 minutes.
Amidst the slides, the best is Humanga Kowabunga, of course. It’s the steepest, fastest, and most thrilling. The newest is the Crush n’ Gusher. It was fun and had some interesting features, especially of propelling people up a slope. But, I found it too short for it to be one of my favorites. Mayday Falls was one of my favorite sets of slides. Be aware that there are some climbs to these slides, but they are worth stopping by.
The other features at Typhoon Lagoon worth jumping into is the wave pool and Castaway Creek, a lazy river. The wave pool is second biggest in the nation, but at one time was the biggest. It has random waves, which I do caution families with younger kids. The waves are quite powerful for the inexperienced swimmer. Still, it’s a lot of fun. Castaway Creek is a very nice lazy river with plenty of shade and some fun features. There’s a cave with some waterfalls, and bridges with other pouring water. It’s a nice place to cool down in a relaxing way.
Besides shopping and swimming there are other recreations available at the resort. Over by Blizzard Beach and near the Swan Hotel are miniature golf courses. Winter Summerland is by Blizzard Beach, and Fantasia Gardens is near the Swan and Dolphin. I went by Fantasia Gardens this trip for a round of golf.
What I liked about Fantasia Gardens is the way it goes through Fantasia with animations and nice poetic summaries of each hole. Surprises come up in some of the holes, like a projection of Chernabog in a cave area for one hole. The only thing I recommend is having a bottle of water for the course. I didn’t easily find any drinking fountains, and it’s all outdoors in a hot environment.
Each hole was challenging enough, but not frustrating for golfers. It was fun and is easy to get to, especially for the Epcot resort area folks.
Walt Disney World has a lot to offer guests besides theme parks. These experiences I had were just scratching the surface of what it has to offer. It makes for the chance to have a longer trip with enough new things to be surprised at the resort. I recommend taking time for them in your next visit.
And, until next time, have a marvelous day!