Fantasia Gardens & Winter Summerland
Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf, located off Buena Vista Drive across from Disney's Hollywood Studios, offers two 18-hole miniature courses drawing inspiration from the Walt Disney classic cartoon of the same name. You'll find hippos, ostriches, and alligators on the Fantasia Gardens course, where the Sorcerer's Apprentice presides over the final hole. It's a good bet for beginners and kids. Seasoned minigolfers will probably prefer Fantasia Fairways, which is a scaled-down golf course complete with sand traps, water hazards, tricky putting greens, and holes ranging from 40 to 75 feet.
Santa Claus and his elves provide the theme for Winter Summerland, which has two 18-hole miniature courses across from Blizzard Beach on Buena Vista Drive. The Winter course takes you from an ice castle to a snowman to the North Pole. The Summer course is pure Florida, from sandcastles to surfboards to a visit with Santa on the "Winternet."
Tickets at both venues are $12.78 for adults and $10.65 for children 3 to 9 (including tax). Both are open from 10am to 10 or 11pm daily. For information about Fantasia Gardens, call tel. 407/560-4582. For information about Winter Summerland, call tel. 407/560-3000. You can find both on the Internet at www.disneyworld.com.
The reaction that visitors have upon experiencing this popular attraction is often the same. No matter if it's from kids just reaching the video-game age, teens who are firmly hooked, or adults who never outgrew Pong, they leave saying: "Awesome!"
Four separate zones -- explore zone, a virtual adventure land; score zone, a superhero competition city; create zone, where imagination and invention rule; and replay zone, filled with classic games but in a futuristic setting -- ensure that everybody will be entertained . . . and likely for hours.
The five-level virtual-video arcade has everything from nearly old-fashioned pinball to virtual games and rides. Want appetizers?
Aladdin's Magic Carpet Ride puts you astride a motorcycle-like seat and flies through the 3-D Cave of Wonders. Invasion! An ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter has the same kind of intensity. Your mission is to save colonists from intergalactic bad guys. One player flies the virtual module while others fire weapons.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for Buccaneer Gold puts you and three mates in 3-D helmets so that you can battle pirate ships, virtual-reality style. One plays captain, steering your ship, while the others assume positions behind cannons to blast the black hearts into oblivion. Each time you do, you're rewarded with some doubloons, but beware of the sea monsters that can gobble you and your treasure. In the final moments, you come face to face with a ghost ship, which can send you to Davy Jones's locker.
Try the Mighty Ducks Pinball Slam if you're a pinball fan. It's an interactive life-size game where you ride platforms and use body English to score points.
If you have an inventive mind, stop in at CyberSpace Mountain, where Bill Nye the Science-Turned-Roller-Coaster-Guy helps you create the ultimate loop-and-dipster, which you can then ride in a simulator (yes, you'll actually turn upside down). It's a major hit with the coaster-crazy crowd.
Finally, if you need some quiet time, sign up at Animation Academy for a minicourse in Disney cartooning (a drawback, however, is that you'll have to fork out yet more bucks just to keep your artwork). There are also snack and food areas for those who need something more tangible than virtual refreshment.
DisneyQuest (tel. 407/828-4600; www.disneyquest.com) is located in Downtown Disney West Side on Buena Vista Drive. The admission ($43 for adults, $37 for kids 3-9, plus 6.5% sales tax) allows you unlimited play from 11:30am to 11pm (until midnight Fri-Sat). Unfortunately, heavy crowds tend to gather here after 1pm, which can cut into your fun and patience.
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
The 200-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex -- known until 2009 as Disney's Wide World of Sports -- has a 7,500-seat professional baseball stadium, 10 other baseball and softball fields, six basketball courts, 12 lighted tennis courts, a track-and-field complex, a golf driving range, and six sand volleyball courts. It's a haven for sports fans and wannabe athletes.
Note: The Hess Sports Field North, opened in the spring of 2005, is the first expansion of the sports venue since its opening in 1997. The addition features 20 acres of playing fields, with space for four football/soccer fields and four baseball/softball diamonds.
The complex is located on Victory Way, just north of U.S. 192 and west of I-4 (tel. 407/939-1500; www.disneyworldsports.com). It's open daily from 10am to 5pm; the cost is $13.55 for adults, $9.34 for kids 3 to 9. Organized programs and events include the following:
- The Multi-Sports Experience challenges guests with a variety of activities, covering many sports: football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and volleyball. It's open only on select days.
- The Atlanta Braves play 16 spring-training games during a 1-month season that begins in early March. Tickets cost $15 to $28 through Ticketmaster (tel. 407/939-4263).
- The NFL, NBA, NCAA, PGA, and Harlem Globetrotters also host events, sometimes annually and sometimes more frequently, at the complex. Admission varies by event.
Richard Petty Driving Experience & Indy Racing Experience
Test Track is for sissies. The Richard Petty Driving Experience, and now the Indy Racing Experience, both located at the WDW Speedway, give you a chance to do the real thing in a 600-horsepower NASCAR car. How real is it? Expect to sign a two-page waiver that features words like dangerous and calculated risk before you climb in. At one end of the spectrum, you can ride shotgun for a couple of laps at 145 mph ($116.09, including tax, at the Richard Petty Experience; $109 at the Indy Experience). At the other, spend from 3 hours to 2 days learning how to drive the car yourself and race fellow daredevils in 8 to 30 laps of excitement ($478.19-$1,383.44, including tax, at the Richard Petty Experience; $399 for 8 laps at the Indy Experience). Note: You must be at least 18 years old to do this. Richard Petty operates daily from 9am until 4pm, the Indy Experience daily from 4pm until dusk. For reservations at Richard Petty Driving Experience, call tel. 800/237-3889 or go to www.1800bepetty.com. For reservations at the Indy Racing Experience, call tel. 888/357-5002, or head to www.indyracingexperience.com.
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.