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 tel. 407/939-7529 or go to www.disneyworld.com (click the "recreation" link).
Bike rentals (single- and multispeed adult bikes, tandems, baby seats, and children's bikes -- including those with training wheels) are available from the Bike Barn (tel. 407/824-2742), at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Rates for each bike are $9 per hour, $20 per day (surrey bikes run $21-$23 per half-hour), regardless of age. Fort Wilderness offers a lot of good bike trails. Many of the other Disney resorts also offer bicycle rentals at similar rates. Call your hotel in advance or inquire upon check-in.
With so many man-made lakes and lagoons dotting the WDW landscape, it's no surprise Disney owns a navy of pleasure boats. Capt. Jack's, at Downtown Disney (tel. 407/828-2204), rents Sea Racers ($34 per half-hour, tax included), pontoons ($48 per half-hour, tax included), and sailboats ($21 per hour, tax included). The Bike Barn, at Disney's Fort Wilderness (tel. 407/824-2742), rents canoes and paddle boats ($7 per half-hour). At both sites, kids must be at least 12 to rent a boat; those younger than 18 cannot rent without a signed parental waiver.
There are several 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 tel. 407/824-2621. A license isn't required. The fee is $235 to $270 for up to five people for 2 hours, $445 for up to five people for 4 hours ($110 for each additional hour), including refreshments, gear, guide, bait, and tax. Children above the toddler stage are permitted on these tours when accompanied by an adult; however, excursions just for kids ages 6 to 12 are available for $10 from Disney's Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and Old Key West Resort.
A less expensive alternative: Rent fishing poles at the Bike Barn (tel. 407/824-2742) to fish in the Fort Wilderness canals. Pole rentals cost $6 per hour, or $10 per day (not including tax). Bait is $3.50 to $3.65. A license isn't necessary.
Walt Disney World operates five 18-hole, par-72 golf courses and one 9-hole, par-36 walking course, so if you want to work on your putting and need some time away from the kids (who will most likely prefer an outing on one of Disney's minigolf courses), you'll have plenty of options. All are open to the public and offer pro shops, equipment rentals, and instruction. The rates are $164 to $245 per 18-hole round ($25-$45 less if you're staying at a WDW property). Twilight specials are available in the spring for $55 to $70 per person; "After 10" and "After 3" specials are available during summer and fall for $49 to $59 per person. For tee times and information, call tel. 407/939-4653 up to 7 days in advance (up to 30 days for Disney resort and "official" property guests). Call tel. 407/934-7639 for information about golf packages.
Beyond Mickey's shadow, try Celebration Golf Club (tel. 888/275-2918 or 407/566-4653; www.celebrationgolf.com), which has an 18-hole regulation course (greens fees $39-$89; twilight specials $39; discounts apply for Florida residents and Celebration residents). Note that there is a dress code at the club -- be sure to ask ahead so your kids are decked out in suitable attire. ChampionsGate (tel. 888/554-9301 or 407/787-4653; www.championsgategolf.com) offers 36 holes designed by Greg Norman, where greens fees will set you back $55 to $172, as well as the David Leadbetter Golf Academy (tel. 407/787-3330; www.davidleadbetter.com). Orange County National (tel. 407/656-2626; www.orangecountynationalgolf.com) has 36 Phil Ritson-designed holes; greens fees run $30 to $150.
Golf magazine recognized the 45 holes designed by Jack Nicklaus at the Villas of Grand Cypress as among the best in the nation. Tee times begin at 8am daily. Special rates are available for children younger than 17, and the resort even runs a 5-day summer golf program for kids interested in the game. For information, call tel. 407/239-1909. The course is generally restricted to guests or guests of guests, but there's limited play available to those not staying at the resort. Fees run approximately $120 to $175.
With more than 150 courses located throughout the Orlando area, it's simply impossible to list them all. There are, however, several additional courses and academies worth noting: the Shingle Creek Golf Club, including the Brad Brewer Golf Academy (tel. 866/966-9933 or 407/966-9933; www.shinglecreekgolf.com), located at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort; Hawk's Landing Golf Club and Academy (tel. 407/238-8660) at the World Center Marriott; and the Legacy, Independence, and Tradition golf courses, as well as the ANNIKA Academy, all located at Reunion Resort & Club of Orlando (tel. 888/418-9610 or 407/662-1000). The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and Grande Pines Golf Club, both located at the Grande Lakes Orlando (tel. 407/393-4814), offer the only golf caddie concierge program around to make your game all it can be; the program offers advice, helpful hints, caddie services, food and beverage service, and much more.
Also consider Golfpac (tel. 800/848-8941 or 407/260-8989; www.golfpactravel.com), an organization that packages golf vacations with accommodations and other features and prearranges tee times at more than 40 Orlando-area courses. The earlier you call (months, if possible), the better your options. Advanced Tee Times USA (tel. 888/465-3356; www.teetimesusa.com) and Golforlando (tel. 866/342-4782; www.golforlando.com) are two other reservations services that offer packages and course information.
A hay wagon departs Pioneer Hall, at Disney's Fort Wilderness, nightly at 7 and 9:30pm for 45-minute old-fashioned hayrides with singing, jokes, and games. Most kids will find it enjoyable, though some teens may think it corny. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for children ages 3 to 9, and free for kids 2 and younger. An adult must accompany children younger than 12. No reservations are taken. Call tel. 407/824-2832 for more information.
For a bird's-eye view of Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, and beyond, fly sky-high with International Heli-Tours (tel. 407/239-8687 or 407/397-0226; www.internationalhelitours.com). Two locations -- one on International Drive, the other in Kissimmee -- offer tours 7 days a week (including a nighttime fireworks tour over Epcot). Prices, which vary depending on the number of locations included on the tour, range from $30 to $400 for adults, $20 to $200 for children 10 and under (with a two-adult-fare minimum and a four-passenger maximum).
The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve (tel. 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.
The Sammy Duvall Watersports Centre, at Disney's Contemporary Resort (tel. 407/939-0754; www.sammyduvall.com), will take you up to 600 feet above Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake on a flight that lasts 8 to 12 minutes. The cost runs approximately $95 for one rider and $170 for two riders. Kids older than 5 are eligible if they fly in tandem with someone else (minimum total weight of 125 lbs.), though you'll have to judge whether your child is up to such an experience. While older kids and teens would probably fare well, younger children likely wouldn't. Everyone who goes up has to sign a waiver, and parents have to sign off on their kids' participation. You can reserve a spot up to 90 days in advance.
It's true. The creative minds at Disney have added a way for you to learn how to catch a wave and "hang ten" at the Typhoon Lagoon water park. On Tuesdays and Fridays, instructors from Ron Jon Surf School (tel. 407/939-7529) show up for an early-bird session in the namesake lagoon, which has a wave machine capable of 8-footers. The 2 1/2-hour sessions are held before the park opens to the general public and are limited to 14 people. Minimum age is 8. The $150-per-person cost (including tax) doesn't include park admission, which you'll have to pay if you want to hang around after the lesson. You'll also need alternative transportation to get here if you're staying in Walt's World, because the Disney Transportation System doesn't service Typhoon Lagoon until official park opening time.
Another good option (especially on a rainy day) is Fantasy Surf (tel. 407/396-7433; www.ultimateindoorwave.com), the area's newest indoor surf park, located in Kissimmee in the midst of the tourist district along U.S. 192. Here you can catch a wave on the Flowrider, grab a bite to eat at the snack bar, and pick up the latest in surf wear at the small yet well-stocked shop. Rates per half-hour run $25 per adult and $20 per child younger than 9. Bodyboarding holds a height requirement of 42 inches, flowboarding a requirement of 52 inches.
Almost all of Orlando's resorts have their own pools, some of which are rather unique, others rather extensive. If you're not satisfied with the one at your hotel, the YMCA Aquatic Center, 8422 International Dr. (tel. 407/363-1911; www.aquaticcenterymca.com), has a full fitness center, racquetball courts, an indoor Olympic-size pool, and a heated 25m pool for kids. All pools have lifeguards. Admission is $10 per person, $25 for families.
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,all lighted for evening play, will cost you $12.50 per hour to play; reservations are required. Private lessons are available for $90 per hour; group clinics run $15 per person. 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 (tel. 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 ($89 per hour, $49 per half-hour) and semiprivate lessons ($49 per hour) available as well.
Water-Skiing & Wakeboarding
Water-skiing trips (including boats, drivers, equipment, and instruction) can be arranged Tuesday through Saturday at Walt Disney World by calling the Sammy Duvall Watersports Centre, at Disney's Contemporary Resort (tel. 407/939-0754; www.sammyduvall.com). Make reservations up to 14 days in advance. The cost for skiing is $185 per hour for up to five people. You can also arrange wakeboarding for up to four people; rates run $165 for an hour. There's no minimum age, though I wouldn't recommend this for children younger than 8; it's definitely not for those at all uncomfortable in the water.
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. (tel. 407/251-3100; 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. Prices for skiing (including lessons) begin at about $22 an hour for a cable and $55 for a half-hour behind a boat. 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. Rental fees run $2 to $45 depending on equipment and duration of rental.
Another good option is Buena Vista Water Sports (tel. 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 ($55 per half-hour, $98 per hour) as well as water-ski, wakeboard, and tube rides ($50 for 15 min., $85 for a half-hour, $145 for an hour).
Relax & Rejuvenate
If, after pounding the theme-park pavement, you find yourself in need of some R&R, Disney's got just the ticket. The Grand Floridian, Saratoga Springs, and Walt Disney World Dolphin each have a full-service spa offering services ranging from massage therapy to facials to full-body treatments -- all designed to relax your mind, body, and soul. Small-scale spas (offering limited services) can be found at the Animal Kingdom, BoardWalk, Contemporary, Coronado, Wilderness Lodge, and Yacht Club resorts.