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Celebrating the Holidays at Mickey’s Fun Wheel at Disney California Adventure Park

Making a Greener Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on October 10th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is one of the most anticipated events of the year here at the Disney Parks. It’s a guest favorite and loads of fun. But are you aware of all the eco-friendly efforts that go on behind the scenes?

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Lawrence Whiteside of Magic Kingdom Environmental/Recycling recently shared with the Disney Parks Blog what goes into this green endeavor and why they do it.

“For the last 13 years, the MK Recycle Team and its partners have committed to support our corporate goals and standards. I hope our actions provide a deeper knowledge and understanding of our environmental efforts, and to also inspire others to take action and make even more of a difference.”

Conservation at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is serious business. For instance, some of the initiatives during last year’s party included recycling 25,000 cardboard boxes and 500 pounds of shrink wrap, salvaging Craisin boxes to store over 3,000 pounds of scrap electronics and repurposing “Monsters University” cardboard boxes to help out with the Toys for Tots drive.

The due diligence of the MK Recycle Team during this event just keeps getting greener, according to Lawrence.

“Our environmental successes and stories are a rich part of our history and a key focus of our growth. We not only recycle on stage but, through a collaborative effort, recycling happens backstage to reduce waste and our carbon footprint.”

The Walt Disney Company has a longstanding tradition of corporate citizenship. From providing children’s environmental education programs to pledges to reduce energy and waste consumption on property, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’s goals fall right in line with this environmental stewardship.

So, while you’re enjoying Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade, your favorite spooktacular Disney characters, the Happy HalloWishes fireworks spectacular and all the rest of the festivities, maybe you can take a moment to consider the concentrated effort put forth to giving back to Mother Earth.

Though he was speaking specifically of the U.S.A., Walt Disney’s words of wisdom could easily be applied to the big picture: “Its preservation and the wise conservation of its renewable resources concerns every man, woman and child whose possession it is.”

Lawrence echoes those sentiments. “Personally, I think everybody needs to play a role in preserving our planet,”

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Try a Slice of Poolside Heaven: Rent a Cabana at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on September 5th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


One surefire way to enhance your Walt Disney World Resort stay even more is to rent a poolside cabana — a private, shaded retreat perfect to while away the hours or to gather with friends and family for some added fun.

Available at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (note, the cabanas at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are closed during the resort’s renovations), these private sanctuaries include standard amenities like 32-inch LCD television with cable access, DVD/CD/MP3 player, ceiling fan, mini refrigerator stocked with complimentary sodas and water, fruit basket (may only be available with advance reservation), plush towels, and padded chaise lounge and straight-back chairs. Plus, a cabana attendant helps take care of all your needs. Private dining is available at an additional cost.
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If you’re splish-splashing at one of the water parks, yeah, you’re covered (pun intended) there, too. Beachcomber Shacks at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Polar Patios at Disney’s Blizzard Beach include a locker, refillable mugs, a cooler full of bottled water, lounge furniture and towels. Attendants also offer “tips and tricks” for the water parks.

Cabanas are a great way to spoil yourself and enrich your whole resort experience. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for reservations and info. You can also visit the Cabanas page on our website.

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Experience the Ultimate Day VIP Tour at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

posted on August 15th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


What could possibly be better than enjoying all there is to enjoy at the acclaimed Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Enjoying it via the Ultimate Day VIP Tour!

Delicious Desserts Tempt the Sweet Tooth

Begin the daylong festivities at the VIP Lounge hidden within the Festival Center at the Wonder’s Retreat. This special tour includes Champagne, a beverage tasting, six-course tapas-style lunch, wine, private backstage tours, time on some of the most popular Epcot attractions, food and beverage pairings with Disney chefs, VIP seating at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, reserved seating for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth fireworks spectacular and more. Whew!

Sip, taste and enjoy as you travel World Showcase at Epcot. You won’t want to miss this extraordinary celebration of all things culinary, the grape and brew as your Disney VIP Guides accompany you throughout, highlighting special moments not everyone gets to experience.

Occurring rain or shine Thursday and Sundays on select dates September through November, this private tour lasts six and a half hours and costs $399 per person (21 and up only). Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations. You can also access the online VIP Tour Services brochure here for more info.


For more about the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festive, visit the posts below:

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Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye

posted on July 30th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


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When was the last time you looked at a billboard — I mean really looked? Ever spot a facet of one that you missed at first glance? Something that made it pop?

When it comes to Disney theme park billboards, bet you didn’t realize all that’s entailed into making them so exceptional, filled with sly references and artfully hidden gems. Well, those creative whizzes at Disney’s Yellow Shoes Creative Group know how to ensure they don’t just look amazing and enticing, but also tell a story. But why go the extra mile?

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“We hope to remind guests of how much fun they had on the attractions or that they create a sense of anticipation to want to go on them if they haven’t,” explains Yellow Shoes Senior Art Director Steve Carsella. “Having all the details in the billboards is in line with a Disney theme park experience by adding something special wherever you look.”

For instance, on one of the latest Expedition Everest billboards, subtle yet oh-so-clever tidbits include the Yeti’s footprints in what looks like random texture in the snow, an authentic Tibetan carving embedded in the “T” in the word “EVEREST” and the Yeti’s shadow disguised as a rock cropping. Meanwhile, a new Twilight Zone Tower of Terror board includes a falling brick that is actually an old-timey radio that’s a prop from the attraction’s queue and a Hidden Mickey stamped on another brick.

Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye
Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye Disney Billboards: More than Meets the Eye

When designing and implementing billboards, there are general creative tenets that are taken into consideration, of course. Does it accurately depict the attraction? Is it readable? Does it feel cinematic? Are there strong details that don’t impede the message? But it takes that Disney magic of adding just enough originality and ingenuity that assures they are always surprising, dynamic and uncommon.

“I think it follows in the steps of Walt himself to pay attention to the details and to offer our guests something out of the ordinary,” Steve says.

So now that you know, maybe next time you’ll take the time to appreciate all the thought and effort that go into Disney billboards. Just wait until it’s safe to check them out!

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Light Up Your Night With a Campfire at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on May 29th, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Campfires are a social event like none other. There’s the night sky, the smells of burning wood, the laughs and the kinship. Did you know that they’ve been a beloved and longtime tradition at Walt Disney World Resort?

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“They started at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground many years ago,” explains Michael Cooper, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Lodging Line of Business – Recreation. “Then their popularity grew so much that they spread across property.” Today, campfire activities (held nightly, weather permitting) can be enjoyed at many resort hotels.

Marshmallows and sticks are provided at all locations that host a campfire, except for Fort Wilderness, where you can bring your own or purchase a s’mores kit. It’s a great way to relax when the sun goes down after visiting the parks — a roarin’ good time in the great outdoors to gather ‘round and share stories and connect with your little (and not-so-little) ones.

But it’s not all fun and games. “As much as we want our guests to enjoy themselves, safety is always top of mind,” Cooper says. “There are always two cast members present at every campfire to ensure everybody’s well-being.”

For an extra-special treat when the unwinding winds down, the singing and dancing kick in (pun intended) near the Meadows Trading Post at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The complimentary Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long is a spirited campfire entertainment experience. And an ideal opportunity to interact with two of your favorite Disney characters plus a guitar-strummin’ cowboy.

And if that isn’t magical enough, you can snuggle up with those you care about most and take in a favorite Disney movie on a huge outdoor screen with Movies Under the Stars. Bring your own chair or blanket for these complimentary screenings of Disney films; some resort hotels even offer benches. Can you think of any better way to top off a magical day at Walt Disney World Resort? Yeah, didn’t think so.

For campfire times and movie schedules, check the recreation calendar of the particular location you plan to visit or the front desk at your resort hotel for more information. You can also call 407-939-2273.

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Lots of Fun Horsing Around at Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on April 2nd, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


It’s 7 a.m. and the barn doors slide open. The aroma of hay hangs in the air and soft whinnying can be heard as the horses peek out from their stalls anxiously waiting for their morning grain. The familiar ritual of feeding, grooming and bathing prepares these wonderful animals for their day of entertaining, educating and delighting.

And another day at Tri-Circle-D Ranch begins.

“I love that guests have an opportunity to visit the horses and ponies at the stables in their everyday environment,” says Assistant Animal Operations Manager Jay Sanderson. The barn is open from 10 a.m. to dusk for leisurely strolls to learn about the horses and to observe a genuine blacksmith at work (on select days). Heck, you can even check out the 1907 Dragon Calliope that Walt Disney purchased for the opening of Disneyland Resort. Later featured in the 1960 film “Toby Tyler,” it’s one of those unique Disney history gems not to be missed.

But the ranch doesn’t provide just stable tours. Unique wagon, romantic carriage (at both Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort—Riverside) and thrilling horseback trail rides are also offered—and kids love the pony rides!

There are 90-plus residents—including such distinct breeds as Arabian, Appaloosa, Paint, Clydesdale, Percheron, Belgian, quarter horse and Shetland pony—that call Tri-Circle-D Ranch home. While certain breeds pull the trolleys down Main Street, U.S.A. and appear in parades and special events, we can’t forget to mention those lovable ponies that pull Cinderella’s Coach during the enchanting wedding ceremonies on property.

The wagon rides, perfect for the whole family, are one the most popular activities. Two large draft horses pull a rustic wagon that can accommodate up to 35 guests. That may seem like a lot of weight to you and me, but not for 2,000-pound horses that can easily pull three times their body weight. Taking riders through the fertile, green surroundings that encompass Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, the wagon drivers keep the journey lively by offering tidbits and facts about the animals as the wagons pass the Pony Farm and the Draft Horse Barn. Rides last about 45 minutes and are always a big hit. For a really fun time, book reservations (call 407-WDW-DINE) to experience the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Pioneer Hall, then board the wagon to complete your evening out.

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In the autumn, an extra-special treat includes the Headless Horseman riding his trusty black steed before Mickey’s “Boo-To-You” Halloween Parade at Magic Kingdom Park on select nights. And in December, guests are thrilled for the opportunity to enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides at Fort Wilderness. Okay, it’s obviously too warm here for snow, but with a sprinkle of Disney magic, these sleighs just glide right through the Florida terrain.

For Jay, the most rewarding part of his job is “the opportunity to work with the cast members and horses at the ranch to create stories for our guests. These stories are what connect us, and without a doubt, the reason our guests return year after year to visit our magnificent animals. Some of these stories include a bride being picked up in Cinderella’s Coach, a child’s first pony ride, a group gathering on a guided horseback excursion, or even an unforgettable proposal on a carriage ride. These stories cannot be written without the team that cares for our gentle giants on a daily basis.”

Cast members at the ranch are part of Disney’s Animal Programs (“committed to delivering uncompromising excellence in animal care and nature conservation”) that care for the animals across Walt Disney World property. And the equines’ welfare is always paramount. “Our horses and ponies are just as much a part of our team as our cast members,” Jay explained. “They all have a role in the show and get plenty of rest when they are not ‘on stage.’ They work part-time hours, but get full-time benefits!”

The horses and ponies receive top-notch care from the staff, veterinarians, blacksmiths and nutritionists. It includes yearly physical examinations, vaccinations, routine dental appointments and getting new shoes every five to six weeks. Jay likes to call them the “happiest horses on Earth!”

As a child, Walt Disney, a well-known horse enthusiast, would draw his neighbor’s horse “Rupert.” Later, he became an avid polo player. With the Disneyland Resort a glint in his creative dreams, Walt wanted to showcase the animals in his brand-new, never-before-seen-kind-of-theme-park. When it opened in 1955, some of the equine-themed attractions included Stagecoach Ride, Conestoga Wagons, a horse-drawn fire wagon and horse-drawn surreys.

So it made sense that when he was planning Walt Disney World Resort (originally called “The Florida Project”), Walt was determined to repeat history. Tri-Circle-D Ranch was established before opening day, October 1, 1971, so that Walt’s vision of having horses in Magic Kingdom Park would be realized. If you attended the park’s opening, you may have been lucky enough to ride one of the street cars down Main Street, U.S.A. pulled by—you guessed it—horses.

Visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch and you’ll invariably overhear guest comments such as: “Oh my, they’re beautiful.” “Wow, they’re huge!” and “Wait, is that the same kind of horse that’s in those commercials?”

Tri-Circle-D Ranch, located near Pioneer Hall at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, is the perfect place for animal lovers, nature lovers, horse enthusiasts and everyone of all ages in between. Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) for reservations or 407-824-2832 for more information.

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Ride a Train into Disney History at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on January 23rd, 2014 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Clankety clank…chug chug…Woot! Woot!

Anyone who’s been to Magic Kingdom Park is familiar with the ubiquitous Walt Disney World Railroad as it transports guests on its 1.5-mile track. But do you know the story behind the trains? How they run? The names of the trains?

You can learn all that and more, as I did recently, on The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. This three-hour outing before the park opens to guests, offers a behind-the-scenes peek at the railroad’s operations, led by a tour guide who also happens to be one of the engineers. Joe, our guide, was lively, entertaining and informative, weaving tales of the railroad’s story and its complexities, general railroad lore, and especially of Walt’s longtime affinity for trains.

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We found out what the fireman does (fire up and tend to the steam engine…and to “make the engineer happy”), how the station conductor and train conductor coordinate so the trains leave the stations safely, how the steam engines run, and how they’re prepped each morning and repaired in the roundhouse.

The park’s four trains—the Walter E. Disney, Lilly Belle, Roy O. Disney and Roger E. Broggie—run on low-sulfur diesel that heats the water that creates the steam power. Originally wood burners, these rusting steam engines were rescued from Yucatan, Mexico, and painstakingly refurbished to the magnificent machines we know today.

Walt’s fascination with trains began in his youth working for the Santa Fe Railroad. He later built his own railroad, known as the Carolwood Pacific, in his backyard at 1/8 scale. Not surprisingly, Walt came up with the initial sketches for both Mickey Mouse and Disneyland park while riding on trains.

You don’t have to be a train aficionado to enjoy The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. And the great thing about it is each tour guide is unique, sharing their own wisdom and facts, making each tour a possibly brand-new experience. It’s a fascinating journey into an important chapter of Disney history not to be missed. Call 407-WDW-TOUR (939-8687) for reservations.

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Reel In a Great Time With Some Fishing at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on November 19th, 2013 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Ever have a favorite fishin’ spot when you were a kid? A place you’d return to, rod and reel in hand, hoping to catch the big one? Well, believe or not, we have those right here on property. From the water’s edge of a winding canal to an open-throttle trip to the middle of a lake, Walt Disney World Resort offers an abundance of options to satisfy your fix.

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I recently got some fishing in at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, where you pick up your rod, reel and tackle at the Bike Barn. You can buy wigglers or night crawlers as bait as it’s not included in the price, or bring your own. Mariann was helpful and friendly as she set me up for my quest. Casting off for the bluegill, catfish, sunfish and bass is allowed from the shoreline in pretty much any of the canals and off the footbridges and dock near the Bike Barn.

“Fishing is one of the ways people come here just to unwind,” she explained. And it’s easy to see why. This day was warm with a refreshing breeze and just a smattering of other anglers trying their luck. It was the picture of serenity as I tried to outwit the fish. Though I didn’t catch anything, the almost Zen-like tranquility of the experience just about guaranteed a return trip.

If you want to keep it really simple, though, traditional cane pole fishing (basically a cane pole, line and hook) might be your thing. Throw a line from the dock on Ol’ Man Island at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside, a great place for you and the kids to leisurely fish the well-stocked waters. Reservations are not required here or at Fort Wilderness.

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Enchantment is Afoot (Ahoof?) in Horse-Drawn Carriages at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

posted on September 26th, 2013 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


Sure, Walt Disney World Resort offers memorable moments beyond the fabulous attractions, dining, shopping and resort hotels. From the elegant, Victorian-themed Disney’s Wedding Pavilion to a luxurious cruise aboard the 52-foot Grand 1 yacht, the options abound. But did you know that you can take a private horse-drawn carriage ride through the verdant back trails of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground?
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I recently took one of these treks, and it was definitely memorable.

Parked under a sprawling moss-covered cypress tree outside Crockett’s Tavern, where the rides originate, my carriage was maroon with caramel-colored leather seats, two old-fashioned brass hanging lamps and spoked wooden wheels. Totally vintage looking. It was also covered (not all are, though), which comes in handy during light drizzles and when our familiar Florida sun graces us in all its glory. Ivan, my horse, was a 7-year-old dark brown Percheron draft horse, a breed originally hailing from France. Huge and muscular, Ivan was off with a command from Chris, my driver.

“I assume the horses are treated well,” was my first question for Chris. “Oh yeah,” he chuckled. “They are spoiled.”

We went past Fort Wilderness Pavilion and Tri-Circle-D Ranch and its stables. Numerous white ponies and other Percheron draft horses were out munching on hay in the pens. Then we headed down a paved trail at the back end of the property.

Along the way, I was surrounded by the lush nature that is Fort Wilderness with the clippity-clop of Ivan’s hooves filling the air. Pine and cypress trees. Thick, green foliage. Hawks screeching above. Chris was friendly and affable, answering my questions and offering tidbits on the area’s history. I was lucky enough to see three deer and some wild turkeys behind a stand of pine trees. Wildlife usually comes out around dusk; you might catch a glimpse of rabbits, ducks or even a bobcat.

After a while, we turned around (“a horse U-turn,” Chris called it), and headed back to Crockett’s Tavern, where Ivan’s trough of refreshing water was waiting. The ride lasted about 25 minutes.

Romantic and enticing, a private horse-drawn carriage ride is perfect to share with your significant other. “We have couples who get engaged on our carriages, then return year after year to celebrate their anniversary,” Jay K. Sanderson, Assistant Animal Operations Manager, Tri-Circle-D Ranch, told me.

But, with carriages holding four adults or two adults and three children, they’re also suitable for everyone. “Kids love hearing all about the horses: what their names are, where they live, how much they eat, everything,” Jay said.

You could consider these jaunts (also available at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort — Riverside) one of the unsung treasures of Walt Disney World Resort. A true ride to remember. Maybe not as well-known as other experiences on property, these charming outings are worth seeking out.

Rides commence at 5:30 p.m. and are open to all (in other words, you don’t have to be a registered guest of a Disney Resort hotel). Walkups are welcome, but it’s best not to leave availability to chance. Book early and inquire about rates by calling 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529). Holiday update: From November 29 to December 30, holiday sleigh rides replace carriage rides at Fort Wilderness.

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Test Your Steely Nerve and Steady Hand with an Archery Lesson at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

posted on August 23rd, 2013 by Russ J. Stacey, Writer, Yellow Shoes Creative Group


All right, I confess. I never shot a bow and arrow in my life. So when the opportunity to partake in an archery lesson at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground arose, I jumped at it.

From the Fort Wilderness main entrance, I headed through this 750-acre woodland oasis to the Bike Barn where the lesson is held and was surrounded by tranquility-inducing sights, sounds and smells: pillars of cypress trees, the fragrance of pine, a meandering stream perfect for canoe rentals, people horseback riding. Civilization? What civilization?

After checking in, I was ready for my outdoor adventure.
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Each class is limited to 10, and participating with me were two adults and seven youngsters. It’s not surprising that the grown-ups were outnumbered. “The kids tend to really enjoy it, and are surprised at how much fun it is,” Lisa Moore, recreational regional manager, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge/Fort Wilderness, told me.
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No simple aim-and-shoot exercise, this is a thorough rundown of what a person needs to know to get started. Our instructors, Ron and Forrest, explained what we’d be learning — everything from how to safely hold the bow when not shooting to the proper arm and foot position. Hey, did you know the notch at the back end of an arrow that holds it in the bowstring is called the “nock”? They patiently coached us on each step as we got used to the compound bows (composed of a levering system of cables and pulleys to bend the limbs); full size for the adults, smaller ones for the kids.
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After the instructions, it was time to shoot some arrows! Most of the 90-minute session was devoted to practicing our newly acquired abilities. Chatting with some of my classmates, I was relieved to discover that I wasn’t the only newbie there that sunny day.

Thanks to our tutors, I felt comfortable handling the bow, positioning my body, loading the arrows, drawing back on the string with three fingers, aligning the shots, aiming and releasing. We shot a few rounds 15 feet from the targets, then a few more 21 feet away and finally from 30 feet, increasing the challenge each time. To put that in perspective, Olympic archers shoot from 229 feet. Yikes! I better get to practicing.

While most of my arrows hit the target, I’m not about to quit my day job. Still, Ron encouraged me by saying he thought I was doing well.

As relaxed and engaging as the training was, safety was always paramount. From the mandatory safety glasses and blunt-tip arrows to the proper way to handle the equipment, Ron and Forrest ensured we all enjoyed the class without getting hurt.

An overall satisfying experience that left me with a sense of accomplishment, I recommend you do not miss out on this rousing, family-friendly test of dexterity, concentration and skill. Who knows? You may even discover your inner archer.

Call 407-WDW-PLAY (939-7529) to reserve your spot. The Fort Wilderness Archery Experience costs $25–$39 and is open to all aged 7 and up. A stay at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is not required. But as Lisa advises, “book early because it sells out quickly.”

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