The Vacation Kingdom of the World: Walking the Worldby Tom Richards, contributing writer
"I think I'll go for a walk outside, now, the summer sun's calling my name…"
This line, sung by Jan Brady in the song "Sunshine Day," performed on that immortal episode of The Brady Bunch, may seem like an odd subtitle for an article about Walt Disney World.
But it shouldn't.
So much of the Vacation Kingdom of the World was designed with pedestrians in mind, and nowhere is this more evident than at Walt Disney World Resorts. In fact, many of the World's most memorable walks can be found at resorts. It's one of the details that separates Disney "moderate" resorts from similar resorts in the same price range. Some of the most memorable Disney walks are to be found at the moderates: Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort and at Disney Port Orleans French Quarter Resort.
Now before you roll your eyes or shake your head in disbelief, hear me out. I readily acknowledge that here are many guests who feel that walking to and from bus stops and down the oftentimes very long hallways of the resorts is more than enough exercise for them,. Add the requisite standing and walking necessary when visiting theme parks and one could argue that's more than enough walking—especially when on vacation. But there is a marked difference between uninterrupted pleasure walking and maneuvering through the crowds (and strollers) found at a theme park. So please, hear me out.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, walking provides numerous health benefits. We won't get in to all of those here, but the one that applies most to vacationing is this: walking actually helps improve your mood. And isn't that what vacation is all about?
Research found in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that walking releases natural endorphins to the body, which naturally make us feel better. Walking also helps clear your head, giving the mind a chance to rest, meditate, and contemplate. On vacation, this is very important—who doesn't want to process and remember vacation experiences? Walking provides a time and a space for the mind to rest, gather, and plan.
With this in mind, let's explore some amazing venues for walking that are found at Disney's Moderate Resorts.
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
Disney's first foray into the moderate resort market is also one of its most popular and lush resorts. Colorful accommodations are located around a 45-acre lake, Barefoot Bay, and lush landscaping is everywhere. A 1.4-mile walking path surrounds Barefoot Bay. This walkway connects to pathways leading to guest rooms and common areas such as village pools, and to Old Port Royale, the resort center complete with a restaurant, a food court, shopping, games, a themed pool, and marina. Footbridges connect the walkway to Caribbean Cay, a tropical island complete with picnic areas and lovely views of the surrounding resort.
This walk is really one of our favorites; at 1.4 miles, it's a perfect way to start the day. Two laps—one in each direction—offer plenty of morning sun and a chance to build an even Florida tan. In the early evening, the warm breezes and tropical smells seem more vivid than usual—and the colors of the evening sky add to the tropical feel of this charming resort.
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
This sprawling resort has a Southwestern/Mexican theme and like the Caribbean Beach Resort, is located on a large body of water: this time, a 15-acre Lake named Lago Dorado. There's no denying that Disney's Coronado Springs is massive, but part of its allure is the very fact that its sweeping vistas and extensive grounds make is so unique.
At Coronado Springs, a one-mile walkway links the many guest rooms to the quiet pools and to the main building. This path encircling Lago Dorado offers a relaxing walk through a picturesque setting. There is also a nature walk here that takes guests over wooden paths, through wooded areas, and over wooden bridges. It's easy to forget you are in the middle of one of the world's largest, busiest tourist destinations when meandering through this charming out-of-the-way area of the resort.
Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter and Disney's Riverside Resort
Hand down, this is our favorite moderate resort, and the atmosphere and expansive grounds are one of the main reasons we are so enamored of this particular part of Walt Disney World. With three distinctly themed areas, numerous walking paths, water, woods, and lush landscaping, what's not to love? Add to this the best carrot cake on property—a sweet indulgence after a nice long walk—and it's next to impossible not to love this place.
Disney's Port Orleans French Quarter, the first of the three areas, is a cozy, colorful, and inviting resort. It's fun to meander through the New Orleans style "streets" or sit by the whimsical Mardi Gras themed swimming pool. There's a nice gift shop here as well—it always seem to carry some merchandise not featured elsewhere.
From Port Orleans French Quarter, it's a short 10-minute walk to the main building at Port Orleans Riverside, the neighboring resort. There's a lovely walkway—or a boat for those who might enjoy views from the river—that winds its way along a scenic route. Port Orleans Riverside is really two resorts in one: Magnolia Bend and Alligator Bayou. Each area has a distinct theme and the best way to get a feel for this sprawling establishment is on foot. The walkways along the Sassagoula River are beautifully landscaped and offer plenty of welcome shade.
Crossing the bridge from Port Orleans French Quarter, the first area of the Riverside Resort you encounter is Magnolia Bend. The buildings in this area of the resort are themed to resemble plantation-style mansion homes. With names like Oak Manor and Magnolia Terrace, this section of the resort is graciously elegant, from the white plaster columns to the well-manicured flowers, yards, and shrubs surrounding the picturesque walkways. You can find many photo opportunities here—look for charming gazebos, little nooks and crannies filled with inviting benches and colorful flowers, sweeping views across the river, and ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.
Continuing your journey, your next encounter is the more rustic setting of Alligator Bayou. The landscaping is less manicured here; large trees, soggy wetlands, and towering pines surround the guest lodges in this area of the resort.. The buildings themselves are just as charming as their counterparts in Magnolia Bend, but very different: tin roofs, clapboard siding in warm earth tones, and warm-colored shutters invite guests to "sit a spell," relax, and listen to the cricket song.
It's also fun to visit Ol' Man Island, Riverside's main pool complete with themed slide, a larger-than-expected swimming area, a wading pool, and a kiddie pool—all offering an inviting respite on a hot summer's day. This area offers plenty of shade as well, and the allure of the fishing poles found here is hard to resist. The bridges and landscaping here are among Disney's most effective—definitely worth a look.
The Sassagoula River walk continues toward Riverside's main building, complete with the better-than-average Riverside Mill food court (and that tempting carrot cake I mentioned earlier). The resort's sit-down restaurant, Boatwright's, offers an enjoyable dinner menu, and nearby is the inviting River Roost Lounge where grown-ups can sit in leather chairs and enjoy an adult beverage or two. Fulton's General Store is a great spot for shopping. The selection is large and often features items that are difficult to find in the busy shops inside the theme parks. Many times, we have found the sweatshirt size we were looking for, a collectible that was not seen elsewhere, and items uniquely themed to this location at Fulton's. The Mickey and Friends characters that adorn this shop are amusing and fun as well,
The Riverside Levee is also located in this area, providing boat and bicycle rentals. The surrey bikes are especially popular here, and with good reason: there are ample paths to peddle and so much spectacular scenery to enjoy.
Take a Walk
Of all the joys of vacationing, building lasting memories ranks high on my list. One way to do just that is to take the time needed to process and appreciate the experiences and sights encountered along the way. Walking the picturesque Disney-designed pathways around the Walt Disney World Resort is one way to do just that.