Disney: Beyond Rides

Take a look at these Disney World activities that should not be missed.

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Parades & Parks

There's no shortage of extrasensory experiences in the wonderland that is Disney World. But it's tough to pack in all the activities offered throughout all the different parks during shorter stays. So, in the event that vacation days are limited, here are suggestions for which activities should not be missed.

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular
Magic Kingdom
A new tradition begins with the Wishes fireworks display, replacing the Fantasy in the Sky show that premiered in 1976. Wishes features unique pyrotechnics never before used in any of Disney's other displays. Located in the heart of the Magic Kingdom above Cinderella's Castle, this spectacular show marks the close of each day at Disney World. Jiminy Cricket tells another magical Disney tale with the help of classic Disney songs and characters including Pinocchio, Cinderella, Ariel, Peter Pan and of course, Tinker Bell. Don't miss out on your chance to wish upon these spectacular stars.

Share a Dream Come True Parade
Magic Kingdom
The magic and wonder that are inherently Disney are captured in this 15-minute parade depicting treasured moments in the history of Disney stories. More than 100 performers participate in the parade, and 8 floats tell stories from Disney's past. Each spectacular float is a larger-than-life snow globe featuring much-loved Disney characters. The parade opens with the It All Started With a Mouse float, featuring Mickey Mouse inside the snow globe, surrounded by statues depicting him throughout the years. Highlights include A Thousand Dreams to Be, with Aladdin on his Magic Carpet, surrounded by Winnie the Pooh and Mary Poppins (watch closely -- Aladdin magically flies!). Other globes are home to Cinderella and Prince Charming, and Beauty and the Beast. Keep an eye out for Pocahontas, Cruella De Vil and the Little Mermaid -- they're all here, too! Don't forget to purchase Disney's Magical Moments pins that react with special effects at certain points during the parade.

Typhoon Lagoon
Walt Disney World Resort
A wet-and-wild water-park adventure is guaranteed at Typhoon Lagoon -- home to a 2 million-gallon water wave pool and chock-full of water rides! Typhoon Lagoon was inspired by the legend of a town struck by an unruly typhoon, an earthquake and volcanic eruption, that later built itself into a wateropolis. Take an inner tube ride along Castaway Creek, and then meander down a 2,100-foot river that winds through grottos, rain forests and waterfalls. When the adrenaline starts to pump, head over to Humunga Kowabunga water slide, where top speeds reach 30 mph. Kids love playing in Ketchakiddee Creek, a children's play area that's home to 10 different activity areas with slides, boats and waterfalls.

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade
Animal Kingdom

In this far-out safari street party, the Disney characters create a caravan of wacky, wilderness fun that pays homage to their wild animal friends. Among the parade's more whimsical elements are its rickshaw taxis, safari vehicles, drum sculptures, and animal stilt walkers. The parade is interactive; 8-foot tall Party Animals and Party Patrols wander among the spectators inciting a call-and-response extravaganza. Up to 25 guests are selected to join in the parade, and are invited to ride in guest rickshaws. The 15-minute parade comes alive with the color and splendor of handcrafted costumes and colorful safari vehicles filled with performers. Adventure Rovers and Character Jeeps carry Disney favorites like Minnie, Goofy, and Donald Duck through the celebration. Mickey brings up the spectacular rear in the Bon Voyage Caravan -- a jeep pulling a float of safari-themed segments and a special guest family.

SpectroMagic Parade
Magic Kingdom
The magic and wonder of Disney are brought to brilliantly glowing life during the park's newest extravaganza: the SpectroMagic Parade. Designed to replace the Main Street Electrical Parade, this new display recreates a world of whimsy using 100 miles of fiber optic cable and mini-computers to choreograph ever-changing light colors and music. Mickey Mouse reigns supreme over the spectacle of lights, donning a regal magician's cape and appears to control the altering colors of light with a wave of his magic wand. Circling around him are SpectroMen swathed in mini-lights and fiber optics spinning atop whirlyballs. Other highlights of the parade include the Genie from Aladdin orchestrating colored music notes into the air, and the 3 good fairies from Sleeping Beauty helping transform glowing floats into the sparkle of day and darkness of night. The resulting fantasy is awe-inspiring.

Skiis & Sails

Blizzard Beach
Where: Walt Disney World Resort
What's Cool: Challenge someone to an inner tube race on the Downhill Double Dipper side-by-side racing slides.
Imagine a wintry snowstorm striking Disney World, blanketing it with snow and ice and prompting Disney to build a ski resort amid all the other parks. And just as construction finishes on a ski resort, the temperatures begin rising, melting the snow and thus turning the ski slopes into water slides. This is the concept behind Disney's awesome Blizzard Beach. Boasting both the world's tallest and fastest free-fall water slide (Summit Plummet), as well as the world's longest whitewater raft ride, the park is a true water adventure. Summit Plummet stretches 120 feet high and is visible from most points in the park. This water slide is not for the faint of heart as it reaches speeds topping 60 mph! There's even rock climbing on Mount Gushmore and other great activities, including the Toboggan Racer and Slusher Gusher water slides.
The Scoop
Where: 1534 W. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Phone: (407) 560-9283
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., hours extend during summer and may vary seasonally
Best for: Because many rides require a 48-inch height minimum, Blizzard Beach might be better for families with older children, though all ages are welcome.

Richard Petty Driving Experience
Where: Walt Disney World Speedway, near Magic Kingdom
What's Cool: Find out what it's like to drive at speeds of 145 mph!
Can't get enough of those Sunday afternoon NASCAR races? Cruise on over to the Richard Petty Driving Experience and see what it's like driving at speeds of 145 mph in a 600-horsepower Winston Cup stock car. Choose one of four types of experiences - from riding shotgun in a two-seater stock car to the "Experience of a Lifetime" program, which stretches over three 10-lap sessions. Fans hoping to dabble in the art of racecar driving may opt for the Rookie Experience, which allows them to drive one of the racecars in an eight-lap course around the tri-oval. Drivers are prepped with track orientation and safety instruction before heading out on the speedway.
The Scoop
Where: Near the Magic Kingdom's Ticket and Transportation Center in the westernmost part of the Walt Disney World Resort
Phone: (800) 237-3889
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closures may occur due to inclement weather, testing or private events. Reservations are required for all driving programs. The Ride-Along Program is offered on a walk-in basis.
Best for: Riders must be at least 16 years old, drivers at least 18 years old with a valid driving license. Spectators of all ages are welcome.

Where: Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre at Disney's Contemporary Resort
What's Cool: Get a bird's-eye view of Disney!
If you love watersports, but are tired of the same old activities, try a parasailing adventure with Sammy Duvall's Watersports Centre at the Contemporary Resort. Soaring up to 600 feet above Disney's Bay Lake, parasailors won't soon forget the amazing views of the Disney resort, the wind whipping through their hair, or the spectacular takeoff from the back of the boat. These seven- to 10-minute rides are a totally unique way to experience watersports.
The Scoop
Where: Sammy Duvall's Waterports Centre at Disney's Contemporary Resort, 4600 North World Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000
Phone: (407) 939-0754
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; boats leave every 30 minutes
Best for: Parasailors face a minimum weight requirement of 110 pounds and a maximum of 325 pounds. Parasailors weighing less than 110 pounds may be able to ride tandem.

Where: Downtown Disney resort area, West Side section
What's Cool: Fight aliens in your own virtual-reality spaceship while playing "Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter"
With five stories of interactive games and virtual-reality rides, Disney Quest is part high-tech uber-arcade, part indoor theme park. Located on the West Side of the Downtown Disney resort, Disney Quest allows visitors to experience the latest innovations in virtual entertainment by visiting any of the complex's four "zones." Explore Zone takes visitors into an ancient virtual wonderland, where they can take a magical trip on Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride. Artists will love the Create Zone, where they can join the Animation Academy, creating Disney characters from an electronic drawing pad. And Cyber Space Mountain invites guests to design their own roller coaster via touch-screen computer and then, with the help of simulators, have the chance to take a virtual ride on their creation.
The Scoop
Where: 1486 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Phone: (407) 828-4600
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to midnight, daily. Until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Best for: All ages welcome, but no strollers are allowed inside. Children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult, and some attractions have height requirements

Cirque du Soleil's "La Nouba"
Where: Downtown Disney, West Side
What's Cool: Watch in wonder as Cirque performer Vasily Demenchukov balances himself on a stack of eight chairs atop a table, 25 feet in the air.
The name "La Nouba" is derived from the French word meaning "to party, to live it up," and this Cirque du Soleil performance does exactly that. Originally a troupe of acrobatic street performers from Canada, Cirque du Soleil's creators hoped to inspire in their audiences a new way of viewing the art of the human body. Ignoring the traditions of past circuses, these performances are thought-provoking feats of acrobatic stunts, modern dance, humor, juggling and performance art. La Nouba enthralls audiences with its tale of two lives - that of the Cirques (circus people) and that of the Urbaines (dull urbanites), ultimately uncovering forgotten passions and drawing out the ecstasy of life. Dramatic lighting, sets and costumes and a live orchestra enhance the theatrics. La Nouba was created for Disney and is one of Cirque's permanent shows.
The Scoop
Phone: (407) 939-7600
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday
Best for: All ages

Plays & Programs

The Living Seas
Where: Future World, Epcot Center
What's Cool: Home to the world's largest saltwater aquarium.
The Living Seas transports Epcot visitors into the fascinating world of maritime research. The pavilion centerpiece is an aquarium so large that it not only holds 5.7 million gallons of water, but could fit Epcot's Spaceship Earth inside it. After a briefing video, guests can take the "hydrolator" elevators down to Sea Base Alpha, where they can watch as actual underwater research takes place, and try on a space-age diving suit. The observation deck on the pavilion's upper level offers excellent views of manatees at play as well as 70 other varieties of fish and marine animals, including sharks, rays and dolphins, that call the aquarium home.
The Scoop
Web Site: Click here
Best for: All ages

Jim Henson's Muppet* 3-D
Where: Disney's Hollywood Studios
What's Cool: Spectators beware! Watch for a 3-D pie in the face!
Anyone with a sense of humor and love of the Muppets will roar with laughter as they watch Jim Henson's Muppet* 3-D movie. The adventure begins even before the movie starts with a humorous pre-show starring Gonzo and Scooter. Upon entering the main theater, take special note of just who's doing what - the Swedish Chef is running the projector, Waldorf and Statler are ready to heckle in their orchestra box, and there's even a band made up of twittering penguins! The movie itself stars everyone's favorite frog, Kermit, as he creates Waldo, "the spirit of 3-D." Movie highlights include a singing Miss Piggy and Sam Eagle's finale, "A Tribute to All Nations, but Especially America."
The Scoop
Web Site: Click here
Best for: All ages

Kilimanjaro Safaris
Where: Harambe Village, Africa, Disney's Animal Kingdom
What's Cool: Catch glimpses of the nearly extinct Mhorr gazelle.
Entering the world of Animal Kingdom is like being dropped into the wilds of Africa - only on a much smaller scale, of course. Guides lead tours into a vast, 100-acre savannah, pointing out hippos resting by waterfalls and the giraffes, gazelles, antelopes and ostriches meandering in the grassland. Don't be surprised if you encounter the "queen of the jungle" herself, a Kopje lion. And keep your eyes peeled for warthogs, rhinos and kudus, which also wander around the savannah.
The Scoop
Where: Disney's Animal Kingdom, P.O. Box 10,000, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-1000
Phone: (407) 939-2468
Web Site: Click here
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset (approximately)
Best for: All ages

American Adventure Show
Where: American Adventure, World Showcase, Epcot
What's Cool: All 110,000 bricks of the American Showcase building were handcrafted from Georgia clay.
Arguably one of Epcot's finest attractions, the American Adventure was created as the centerpiece at the World Showcase. Animatronic, yet extraordinarily lifelike characters play the parts of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain, who narrate the show, which pays tribute to the moments in history - both good and bad - that have helped form America's indefatigable spirit. Along with the hosts, there is music by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra and a cappella performances by vocal groups, which bring to life this poignant telling of American history. Historic events portrayed in this adventure include the pilgrims' arrival at Plymouth Rock, the crossing of the Delaware River by Gen. George Washington and the stories of American icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Martin Luther King Jr.
The Scoop
Web Site: Click here
Best for: All ages

Campfire Programs
Where: Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
What's Cool: Toast marshmallows on sticks over a crackling campfire.
The perfect way to unwind after a day of Disney parks and excitement is on a blanket under the stars at a Fort Wilderness Campfire Program. Held each night near the Meadow Trading Post, the program treats guests to a boisterous singalong around two campfire rings. The lovable Chip 'n' Dale, who are happy to sign autographs and pose for pictures, entertain guests with an appearance during the singalong. After the songs wind to an end, it's Disney movie time! One or two animated features are shown on an outdoor screen. Refreshments are served at the Chuckwagon, and seating is also available on benches and bleachers.
The Scoop
Web Site: Click here
Where: 4510 North Fort Wilderness Trail, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
Phone: (407) 939-7529
Rates: Free
Best for: All ages

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