My Disney Top 5 - Scenic Views in Walt Disney World

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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My wife and I recently spent some time in a picturesque town on the Connecticut River called Essex. Just across the river from Essex is an old estate turned state park known as Gillette Castle. It’s really quite a place. Perched on a hilltop overlooking the river and the hills of Southern Connecticut, it really does take your breath away. The view is amazing. It’s tranquil and far removed from any sort of hustle and bustle. It makes you stop and just…stare. We had ourselves a nice little escape up there.

So when it was time to conjure up another My Disney Top 5 list, I began thinking about that recent weekend away as well as the last weekend away we managed to have which was at…take a guess…Walt Disney World. I thought about that beautiful vista that captivated us up there at Gillette Castle and how it made us pause and take a few moments to relax and just soak it all in. And that started me thinking: Can you find a spot like that at Walt Disney World? Is there a naturally beautiful spot in the theme park capital of the world that makes you pause and just stare quietly and serenely?

The initial difficulty with this is the Orlando landscape. Let’s face it: Florida is pretty flat. It’s not that easy to have a scenic view without a little bit of height. As usual though, the magic of Walt Disney World is that it will always surprise you. One of the things that I think is most surprising to people when they visit Disney World for the first time is the amount of vast open space. People immediately think crowds. They immediately think theme park. They don’t realize that roughly 2/3 of Walt Disney World’s 47,000 acres is undeveloped. There’s plenty of room for beauty and scenery, even within the parks and resorts themselves. Let me prove it to you with my Top Five Scenic Views in Walt Disney World.

5 – World Showcase Lagoon


Looking across World Showcase Lagoon. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

Starting off within one of the parks may be an interesting choice, considering I’m talking about open space and scenery. But Epcot is pretty expansive and when you have that much space, with a large body of water in the center, you get some pretty nice scenery. That said, it would be hard to leave out the view across World Showcase Lagoon in Epcot. My preference is at night. Even more so when it’s almost time for Illuminations and the torches are lit. Looking across the lagoon at all of the pavilions bathed in soft light always makes me stop in my hurried tracks and appreciate where I am. As with most of these choices, a picture doesn’t do it justice. Next time you’re in Epcot at night, find a good spot and gaze across the lagoon—you’ll see what I mean.

 

4 – The View of Expedition Everest Across Discovery River in Animal Kingdom


The view of Everest from Discovery Island. Photo by Chris Barry.

There are breathtaking views around every corner in Animal Kingdom. It’s incredibly lush and incredibly beautiful. It’s one of the places in Walt Disney World where you really should slow down and absorb all of the details. One of our favorite spots to eat is Flame Tree Barbeque on Discovery Island. The seating areas located behind the restaurant are some of the most secluded and scenic spots to eat in the whole resort. In particular there’s some seating right along Discovery River with a view of Expedition Everest. It’s a great place to sit, relax in the shade, enjoy the birds and ducks that hang out there—all the while taking in the great views across the river.

 

3 – Sunset Pointe at the Polynesian


Sunset Pointe at the Polynesian. Photo by Chris Barry.

Whether it’s looking across the lagoon at the stately Grand Floridian Resort, or watching the monorail make its way through the Contemporary from your longhouse balcony, there are lots of places on the Polynesian grounds where you can enjoy a wonderful view. To me the most special place has to be Sunset Pointe. Standing under the palms with Cinderella’s Castle peeking out over the trees across the Seven Seas Lagoon, you can’t help but relax and feel tranquil. That’s quite a feat considering there are probably tens of thousands of people just 5 minutes away at the Magic Kingdom.

 

2 – The View From the Top of the Contemporary


The view of the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

I haven’t stayed at the Contemporary yet, but I’ve eaten at The California Grill and the outdoor deck certainly has one of the best views in all of Walt Disney World. You really have your choice here. You can see The Grand Floridian and the Polynesian. You can watch the ferries or the monorail ply their routes across and around the Seven Seas Lagoon. And, of course, there’s the amazing view of The Magic Kingdom. You also get to see just how natural your surroundings are with acres and acres of undisturbed forest as far as you can see.


Sunset on the Seven Seas Lagoon from the Contemporary. Photo by Frank Anzalone.

1 – The View Across Bay Lake From Disney’s Wilderness Lodge


Bay Lake as seen from the Wilderness Lodge. Photo by Chris Barry.

When Walt Disney flew over central Florida looking for a location for his dream project, it was Bay Lake and its 14-acre island that sealed the deal for him. One of the things that I loved most about staying at the Wilderness Lodge is it’s setting nestled on the shores of Bay Lake. Looking out at the water surrounded by old Florida forestland really transports you and makes you forget that you’re staying in the heart of the biggest tourist destination on Earth. Whether you’re sitting on your balcony, walking the pathways to the ferry, or sitting on the beach, you’re surrounded by the natural beauty of what attracted Walt to this spot 40 years ago. He never got to see the view from the Wilderness Lodge that bears his name, but I’m quite sure he would approve of the view.

So, the next time you’re down in “the World,” make sure you stop in on some of these places and soak in the views, or find your own. There are plenty of others. The camera rarely does them justice, so, take the time, slow down and let the views work their magic on you.

As I’ve said before, most people just don’t think of it as a place with beautiful sweeping views and that’s a shame. However, those of us in the know can appreciate both the man-made wonders created by Disney’s Imagineers and also the natural beauty that surrounds you at every turn in Walt Disney World.

That's My Disney Top 5 for today. What's yours? Click on the "Discuss this article on MousePad" link below and share your list!

Comments

  1. By davidgra

    I agree that many of your choices are indeed good views, but this statement bothers me:

    "There are breathtaking views around every corner in Animal Kingdom."

    Actually, I think you can count the scenic vistas at Animal Kingdom on one hand. You can't see ANYTHING in that theme park. Vegetation grows up right next to all the pathways, preventing any long-range views in just about the entire park. You've got, really, two good vantage points for viewing the Tree of Life, and maybe three for seeing Expedition Everest, but that's it. The only thing you see in that park is what immediately surrounds you, especially in the entrance area, Africa, Asia and Dinoland.

    I'm not a claustrophobic person by any stretch of the imagination, but being in Animal Kingdom on a crowded day can make me feel that way. With the dense vegetation, you get a lack of air movement, which only makes things worse.

    I would say my current favorite "scenic" view is from the Top of the World Lounge on top of the Bay Lake Tower. You get the same view of the Magic Kingdom as from the California Grill, but you can also see the Contemporary itself from the Bay Lake Tower, which is pretty darned impressive from that height. From the outdoor areas on one side of the lounge, you can watch the nighttime fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, then you can go out to the other side and watch the Electrical Water Pageant. Way too cool.

    I also love the view of Innoventions Plaza from near the World Showcase lagoon, looking back at Spaceship Earth across the fountain.

    The tops of several rides provide really cool views, too -- the view from Splash Mountain just before the biggest drop, for one. The view from the Tower of Terror when the window-things open. And the view of Animal Kingdom from the Expedition Everest lift hill is way better than any view you get from ground-level.

  2. By Joysnote

    I love your top 5 articles and this one did not disappoint!

    I agree with all of yours, my favorite is from Contemporary, California Grill observation deck or balconey from room

    I have to add one, the views when on top of Blizzard Beach when you get to the top of Mt. Gushmore!

    Joy

  3. By mwalter

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    The tops of several rides provide really cool views, too -- the view from Splash Mountain just before the biggest drop, for one. The view from the Tower of Terror when the window-things open. And the view of Animal Kingdom from the Expedition Everest lift hill is way better than any view you get from ground-level.

    I agree with these views, especially the one from Expedition Everest, you really feel like you are travelling up a mountain and you get an idea of just how big WDW really is.

  4. By jpg391

    I agree, all of you're top 5 picks are great views.

  5. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    I agree that many of your choices are indeed good views, but this statement bothers me:

    "There are breathtaking views around every corner in Animal Kingdom."


    I see your point about that one line. Perhaps "breathtaking views" isn't quite stated right. I think the park is amazingly beautiful and lush and I enjoy what I see around every corner, the dense vegetation, the detailing in the structures, etc. I think the whole place is eye candy.

    Love the view from the top of Splash Mountain also. Great choice!

  6. By jms1969

    I agree with those who have pointed out the great view you get while on certain rides. The view of the top of Expedition Everest is one of the few you can get on property that really give you an idea of just how BIG the Disneyworld Resort is. I agree that the view from Splash Mountain is terrific, but have a whole different place in mind. My favorite view on this ride occurs at night, when you go through the short outside part of the ride early on, before the main section. It's dark enough that you can see stars above you on a clear night, then you round the bend and see the Castle. The contrast of the peaceful and serene natural beauty with the hustle and bustle of WDW and the beautiful Castle, as well as the ride in motion, never ceases to amaze me.

  7. By GoofyMomInMN

    Another great article, Chris. Thank you. The Flame Tree lunch and view has long been one of my favorites, and I agree with the additions of views from the tops of many rides. One other view which is a favorite of my family is from a beach chair at the Yacht and Beach Club after stuffing ourselves at the Cape May Buffet. We love to relax at an early dinner seating, then lounge on the beach to let the meal settle and watch the lights come on over at the Boardwalk. Once we can waddle on, we casually stroll back to Epcot through the International Gateway to enjoy the rest of the evening.

  8. By jennibell

    What a wonderful article! Imagine my surprise to see Gilette Castle in a Disney top 5. Gilette Castle is one of our favorite spots here in CT. I hope you saw the view of the Castle from the ferry boat. It's just as beautiful rising up out of the trees.

    It's funny, the Ferry boat to MK is one of my favorite places to enjoy the views too.

  9. By tgropp

    I agree with most readers who say that there are many more top 5 views, but I do have to agree with the #1 choice, the view from the upper balcony at the Wilderness Lodge. This place holds a special place in my heart as we stayed there for the first time in 1994. Discovery Island was still open and you looked out during the daytime to observe all the boats going back and forth and the scenery was amazing. Then at night time, just grab a glass of wine, go to the 5'h floor balcony and watch the Electrical Boat Parade from the elevated view....well, it was just tough to beat it.

  10. By carolinakid

    I love the view from the acent of Expedition Everest where you can see the Tree of Life on your right and Spaceship Earth on your left. C'est magnifique!

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