My Disney Top 5 - Scenic Views in Walt Disney Worldby Chris Barry, contributing writer
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
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
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
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
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.
1 – The View Across Bay Lake From Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
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.
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