Walt Disney World's Water Transportation and Buses Part 2
By Judy Daley
If you are looking for a way to save a few dollars at Walt Disney World in Orlando, here are a few tips to consider on your travels. My last article discussed the Monorail at the renown theme park as part of a free transportation system. Now let me tell you about the amazing and no-cost water transport and buses.
Want to get around the park via the waterway system? The boats around the resorts range in size from large paddle wheel ferries to small launches. Although you can rent boats and jet skis, all the flagged boats in the waterways are a part of the free transportation system. Yes, they are free!
The color of the flag on the bow indicates where the boat is headed. Look for the posted color key to reach the destination you desire. A very pleasant afternoon or evening can be spent riding the waterways, enjoying the cool breezes and catching glimpses of native flora and fauna.
As with the Monorail, our tour begins at the Contemporary Hotel . Find your way past the pools to the dock area at the back of the hotel. Catch a boat to the Wilderness Lodge and wander through a Yellowstone-type lodge complete with indoor hot spring, which flows out of the building to form a stream, a waterfall and, eventually, the swimming pool.
In the lobby, don’t miss the carved totem columns and the tee-pee chandeliers with buffalo, cowboys and Indians. Take the elevator to the second floor. Look for a rocking chair on the balcony for a leisurely bird’s eye view of all the activity below in the lobby.
Listen for the hobby horse races in The Whispering Canyon Café . Sit in the Craftsman style rocking chairs in front of a crackling fire in the huge stone fireplace. Check out the different geological strata represented in the stone chimney and the Indian artifacts in cases around the lobby. Keep your eyes peeled for the animal tracks embedded in the driveway of the Porte Coacher out front or hike to Artists Point for a peek at the geyser.
Back on the boat, head for the Wilderness Lodge Camp Ground . The campground offers all the amenities you could want in an outdoor camping experience, including a trading post. The free experience here actually happens in the evening and is really family oriented. Each night free movies (of course they are Disney Movies!) are shown by the campfire circle. After watching a staged skit, take your child’s picture with Chip n’ Dale or roast some marshmallows over the crackling fire. Mosey over to the stables and watch the tenderfoots learning to ride the horses.
Another short boat ride will take you into the heart of the Seven Seas Lagoon . From this point you can reach The Grande Floridian Hotel , The Polynesian Hotel , The Magic Kingdom , and The Transportation Centers . You will need to transfer to another boat after reaching the dock in order to visit the hotels and the Monorail Transportation Center, but the bus transport and the entrance to the Magic Kingdom are a short walk.
Don’t miss the ride on the impressive Ferry , which plays the waves between the Magic Kingdom and the Transportation Center. Much like the Columbia ride at Disney Land, this ferry rivals the ride on the San Francisco Ferries.
In addition to the boats in the Seven Seas Lagoon resort area, you will find an intricate system connecting Epcot, Disney/MGM Studios, The Swan and Dolphin Hotels as well as the Yacht and Beach Clubs with the Disney Boardwalk area.
Drive to the Boardwalk Hotel area and park in the self-park. Remember that the evening is the busiest time in this area, and you may be required to pay for parking after 7 PM. The Boardwalk is a reproduction of the Boardwalk at Atlantic City- complete with the sound of waves lapping against the pylons under the decking (piped in).
Walk the short distance to The Boardwalk Hotel and wander through the lobby. See the scale model of the Victorian era roller coaster, the stereopticons, and the plush circular couch under the Carousel horse. Sit in the wicker rockers on the porch and watch life pass you by down on the boardwalk or try out the larger than life settee guaranteed to bring out the child in you. You can even rent a bicycle built-for-two or more and cycle around the whole waterfront.
The Boardwalk itself is a hub of activity. You will find lots of shops to wander through as well as a wealth of restaurants to tempt your palate. A favorite with our family is the Seashore Sweets shop, which features photos of all the Miss Americas as well as salt water taffy, chocolates and ice cream.
Three more attractions of the Boardwalk area are Jellyroll’s, The Dance Hall and The ESPN Club . Jellyroll’s is a bar, which features dueling pianos. As part of the crowd you are encouraged to call out song titles which the two pianists must take turns playing. The one who gets stumped on a title loses the duel. Keep in mind this is a bar and is only open in the evening. Although the bar atmosphere is muted, this place is probably best saved for Mom and Dad’s night out. At the Dance Hall, you can get instruction on the latest steps or enjoy an evening strutting your stuff on the dance floor. ESPN is a sports bar/restaurant which offers multiple screens for the sports enthusiast.
After checking out the Boardwalk, board a boat at the dock. Check out the signs to know which boat to board for your desired destination. If you head for Epcot, you will travel through a beautifully landscaped canal. It takes you to the back of Epcot giving you great views of the Eiffel Tower and a peek into the World Showcase . Stay on the boat for the return trip to the Boardwalk. At the Beach and Yacht Clubs dock, you‘ll see a partially- buried pirate ship, which serves as a waterslide, and a windmill sophisticated enough to make a Dutchman jealous.
You can get off here for a wander or stay on board for the trip under the bridge to the Swan and Dolphin Hotels . Both these properties are worth wandering through to see the unique decor and architectural features. If you choose to stay on the boat, it will enter a second canal that will take you to the entrance to Disney/MGM Studios . If you can time it just right, your boat will be docking when the Fantasmic show starts, treating you to laser lights and fireworks. Stay on the boat to complete your round trip back to the Boardwalk dock. If you have not departed the boat since boarding, the circuit will have taken approximately 45 minutes to complete.
Another area which offers water transport is the Downtown Disney area; however the stops are limited to two which allow you to travel from the House of Blues in West End to The Rain Forest Café in The Marketplace .
BUS TRANSPORT SYSTEM
You can reach any park, any resort and Downtown Disney on a Disney Bus . There are several transportation centers located around Disney World. We’ve found the best to be at Downtown Disney.
There is plenty of parking, and parking is always free. Be aware that weekend and evenings are extremely busy at Downtown, and you may have to search for parking. It would be wiser to arrive in the morning or early afternoon.
Downtown is a fascinating place to wander in but will be left for a future article. Look for the posted signs that will tell you which bus will take you to your destination. Although the buses run on a schedule, you may need to wait to catch the buses you are looking for. The rule for bus routes is that you will need to travel to a park entrance and transfer to a second bus, which will take you to a resort. For instance, to go to the Wild Animal Lodge from Downtown Disney, you would board a bus for The Wild Animal Park and transfer there onto a bus for the lodge.
Of the modes of transportation available, the buses are by far the slowest way to reach your destination . To be safe, you should allow an hour’s travel time to your destination if you need to be somewhere at a certain time, i.e., a dinner reservation or a show.
Despite that, riding the bus does have benefits. Finding parking is not always easy (or free) at all the places you’d like to visit while at Disney World. The bus system allows you to park your car once and let a professional navigate the sometimes confusing maze of roads. In addition, the buses often travel the back roads through areas you would not normally see giving you glimpses of the more private and restricted areas. We have more often seen deer, wild turkeys and armadillos while traveling these back roads on the bus.
So if you travel within the resorts via bus or water, plan your stops accordingly and don't let your watch dictate your schedule. Remember, you are on vacation!
WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO…
- Pack for changeable weather. In winter and spring, wear layers
- Pack for extremely humid tropical heat in summer. Clothing that dries quickly and doesn’t hold heat is best. Most natives wear shorts from March through September.
- Be prepared for tropical rain- the winter is the drier season, but it rains year round. Bring a compact rain poncho- a large plastic garbage bag will work in a pinch as it takes up very little space.
- Be prepared for severe thunder and lightning storms in the summer. Head indoors when lightning is present. Florida is the lightning strike capitol of the US.
- Don’t bring an umbrella, which acts as a lightning rod in America's lightning strike capitol.
- Bring good walking shoes- the pavement gets very hot and you will be walking a lot.
- Bring a swimming suit- even in cooler weather, most hotels have heated pools
- Carry a bottle of water with you for each person. It is easy to become dehydrated in the tropics when the weather turns warm.
- Bring sunglasses and sun block because the sun is much more intense in the tropics.
- Bring a backpack or tote to carry your water, camera and poncho and other necessaries.
- Bring your camera. Disney has provided multiple "photo ops" on its’ property .
NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES :
To discover more about Disney World Transportation go to:
Disney fan Judy Daley lives in Orlando with her husband Tim. Although their children are grown, they have not hung up their mouse ears.
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