You will most likely burn more calories than you ever thought possible by simply strolling through the theme parks. Nevertheless, if you want some exercise other than walking the parks, Walt Disney World and the surrounding areas have plenty of recreational options. Most of the following are open to everyone, no matter where you're staying (exceptions are noted; for further information about WDW recreational facilities, call 407/939-7529 or go to www.disneyworld.com.
The real Florida Everglades don’t begin until south of Lake Okeechobee, which is why you’ll hear Central Florida referred to as the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. The waterlogged land is still home to a wide diversity of life forms.
BK Adventure—An hour’s drive from Orlando, you’ll find a mesmerizing natural phenomenon: dinoflagellate plankton that literally light up salty water in a glowing blue hue. In peak season, June to October, easy kayak tours bring visitors into the mystical spectacle (best with no moon) 3–4 times nightly.
www.bkadventure.com. 407/519-8711. Guided tours $55–$75 adults, equipment provided. 90 min. Reservations required.
Boggy Creek Airboat Rides—Airboats use powerful, backward-facing propellers to skip through shallow bogs, and they’re a common form of eco-entertainment in Florida, particularly farther south in the Everglades. Though much wildlife is spooked by the din (you’ll get ear mufflers), water snakes and alligators appear too thick-headed to care, so you should see a few on one of the continuously running 30-minute tours—boat skippers will cut the engine and float near the critters. Know ahead of time that the boats don’t operate in the rain, and animals are more active first thing in the morning. The wildlife spotting is better in South Florida, but this still is a long-running crowd-pleaser. Coupons are commonly distributed. One-hour night tours ($63 adults, $53 kids 3–12) are also available, but require reservations; check the website for times.
2001 E. Southport Rd., Kissimmee. www.bcairboats.com. 407/344-9550. 30-min. tours $30 adults, $25 kids 3–12; 1-hr. tours $50 adult, $45 kids 3–12. Daily 9am–5:30pm, must arrive by 5pm.
Scenic Boat Tour—This Winter Park institution has been showing visitors glorious lakeside mansions since 1938, when they were in their heyday of attracting wealthy snowbirds from the North. Three of Winter Park’s seven smooth cypress-lined lakes, which are connected by thrillingly narrow hand-dug canals, are explored in a 1-hour, 12-mile tour narrated by neighborhood old timers. The lakes are flat and relaxing, with plenty of bird life and 250-year-old live oaks, and your guide will pay particular attention to the works of James Gamble Rogers II, a virtuosic architect responsible for many of the area’s finest homes. Among the high points is a glimpse of the modest condominium where Mamie Eisenhower spent her waning years. You’ll find this charmer 3 blocks east of the shops on Park Avenue. Bring sunscreen: The pontoons are exposed.
312 E. Morse Blvd., Winter Park. www.scenicboattours.com. 407/644-4056. $16 adults, $8 kids 2–11. No credit cards. Hourly departures 10am–4pm daily.
Hot air ballooning
Florida is well suited to hot-air ballooning for many of the same reasons that it’s ideal for golf: flat, even topography and often placid morning weather. Note that flight restrictions prevent you from making Magic Kingdom flyovers. A trip involves a very early start—6am is common. You’ll be finished with your hour-long ride by the time the theme parks get cranking. If balloons don’t float your boat, there are other ways to see Orlando from up high as well.
Balloons & Beyond—More intimate than its supersized competition, with just two to four people in the basket with the pilot, this company, flying since 1998, will toast landings with champagne.
Launch locations vary. www.balloons-and-beyond.com. 813/240-4844. $195 per person for 2–4 people, $150 kids under 90 lb., no kids 5 or under.
Maverick Balloon Adventures—In business since 2002, Maverick can even do aerial weddings—its pilot Pat Schmitt is an ordained minister. Weekday mornings are cheapest. Its gondola has a door so you won’t have to clamber over its side, as you must with many balloon baskets.
Launch locations vary. Office: 2900 Parkway Blvd., Kissimmee. www.orlandoballoonrides.com. 407/786-7473. $225 per person shared flight, $900 private 4-person basket, $25 discount for cash, frequent discounts online.
Bike rentals (single- and multispeed adult bikes, tandems, baby seats, and children's bikes -- including those with training wheels) are available at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.Fort Wilderness offers a lot of good bike trails. Many of the other resorts also offer bicycle rentals at similar rates. Call your hotel in advance or inquire upon check-in.
There are several catch-and-release fishing excursions offered on Disney waterways, including Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. The lakes are stocked, so you may catch something, but true anglers probably won't find it much of a challenge. The excursions can be arranged 2 to 90 days in advance by calling 407/939-3474 (https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/recreation/fishing/). A license isn't required, but prices start around The fee $270 for up to five people for 2 hours and just go up from there.
A less expensive alternative: Rent fishing poles at Disney's Port Orleans Resort – Riverside or Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, both of which offer dockside fishing. A license isn't necessary.
Outside the Mouse realm, Pro Bass Guide Service (407/877-9676; www.probassguideservice.com) offers guided bass-fishing trips along some of Central Florida's most picturesque rivers and lakes. Hotel pickup is available; the cost is upward of $250 for one or two people per half-day, $400 for a full day. A license is $17.
You'll get the chance to soar 2,000 feet in the air as you fly through the sky—with a little help from some instructors at the Wallaby Ranch (863/424-0070; www.wallaby.com), located in Davenport, just south of Kissimmee. If you're a thrill-ride junkie, this is the real deal. Prices, starting at $175, depend on the number of lessons and type of flight you want (call or check the website for detailed information).
For a bird's-eye view of Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and beyond, fly sky-high with International Heli-Tours (www.orlandohelitours.com). Two locations—one on International Drive (407/354-1400), the other in Kissimmee (407/239-8687). Prices, which vary depending on the number of locations included on the tour, range from $65 to $175 per person (often with a two-adult-fare minimum and a four-passenger maximum).
The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve (407/682-3664; www.nature.org/florida) is a 12,000-acre, little-discovered getaway from the theme-park madness. It has 7 miles of trails at the headwaters of the Everglades ecosystem, just south of Orlando. Self-guided trails range from a .5-mile interpretive trail good for younger kids to a 4.5-mile hiking trail for adults and teens. Picnic facilities are available along the trails. Admission costs $3 for adults, $2 for kids 6 to 17 and Nature Conservancy members. It's open year-round, Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm. The preserve also features Sunday-afternoon buggy rides ($12 adults, $6 kids) from October through May.
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground offers 45-minute guided trail rides several times a day. The cost is $42 per person. Children must be at least 9 years old. Maximum rider weight is 250 pounds. If you or your children have never ridden before, the tame horses and gentle terrain make this ride a good introductory experience. For information and reservations up to 30 days in advance, call tel. 407/824-2832.
Outside the world of Walt Disney are the Horse World Riding Stables, in Kissimmee (tel. 407/847-4343; www.horseworldstables.com). Trail rides range in price from $44 for an easy hour on a nature trail to $75 for a 1 1/4-hour advanced-level ride.
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides
Disney offers evening carriage rides at two of its resort locations: Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and the Port Orleans Resort. The 30-minute rides cost $45 for up to four people. Most kids will enjoy the ride and the sightseeing opportunity. For information, call tel. 407/824-2832.
Many of the Disney resorts have scenic jogging trails. For instance, the Yacht and Beach Club resorts share a 2-mile trail, the Caribbean Beach Resort has a 1.4-mile promenade encircling a lake, Port Orleans has a 1.7-mile riverfront trail, and Fort Wilderness has a tree-shaded 2.3-mile jogging path with exercise stations about every quarter-mile. Pick up a jogging trail map at any Disney property's Guest Services desk.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Believe it or not, even in an inland location like Orlando, you can scuba and snorkel in the Florida waterways. Fun 2 Dive Scuba and Snorkeling Tours (866/922-3483; www.fun2dive.com) and Orlando Dive and Snorkel Tours (352/795-7033; www.floridamanateetours.com) both offer the chance to swim and snorkel with manatees (and other wildlife) as well as other ecotour opportunities. Prices run approximately $105 to $390 for a maximum of six to swim and snorkel. Fun 2 Dive also offers scuba lessons and deep-sea-fishing excursions.
There are 20 lighted tennis courts scattered throughout the Disney properties and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Most are free and open to resort guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Call tel. 407/939-7529 for more information. The courts at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort are lighted for evening play; reservations are required. Private lessons are available. The courts at the Grand Floridian are for Grand Floridian guests only (Contemporary Resort guests will temporarily be allowed access until that resort's Bay Lake Tower has been completed).
The Grand Cypress Racquet Club (407/239-1944; www.grandcypress.hyatt.com) features 12 courts, 5 of which are lighted. Racquetball courts, a clubhouse, and pro shop are available as well. Clinics are offered daily, with private lessons and semiprivate lessons available as well.
Water-Skiing & Wakeboarding
Water-skiing and parasailing are no longer available on the water in front of Magic Kingdom.
Outside Disney, you can get some time behind a boat or at the end of an overhead cable at the Orlando Watersports Complex, 8615 Florida Rock Rd. (407/801-7977; www.orlandowatersports.com), near Orlando International Airport, which has lights for nighttime thrill-seekers. Teens will likely think the nighttime option cool, but kids younger than 8 and those not completely comfortable in the water aren't the best candidates for this activity. The complex offers a number of specials and discounts aimed at kids and families—call or check the website to see what's being offered during your visit.
Another good option is Buena Vista Water Sports (407/239-6939; www.bvwatersports.com); the setting is far more inviting, and it's located closer to all the action at Lake Bryan in Lake Buena Vista. It offers Sea-Doo rentals as well as water-ski, wakeboard, and tube rides.
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park—In some woods 3 miles south of Disney, nine elevated obstacle courses, from 10 to 40 feet off the ground and ranging from simple to tricky, challenge families to conquer their fear of heights while they puzzle how to navigate suspended obstacles. Sometimes you’re stepping on boards, sometimes wires, sometimes nets, but you’re always hooked into a safety line, and guides are always cheering you on. Budget 2 to 3 hours.
7625 Sinclair Rd., Kissimmee. www.orlandotreetrek.com. 407/390-9999. $56 adults, $35–$45 kids 7–11, based on height. Min. age 7, min. vertical height reach of 4’7” (140cm). Daily 8am–dusk.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.