7 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Flying

I’ve covered a variety of forms of transportation here on Vacationearing—trains, boats, cars, Segways—but perhaps you prefer traveling by air rather than by land or sea. There are a number of flight-themed attractions in Walt Disney World, and that’s what I’ll focus on today.

Here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love flying.

1. Soarin’

Soarin’ is one of my favorite attractions. It simulates serenely hang-gliding over California. It’s true you’re just watching a film, but since you’re raised 40 feet in the air, you do get a real sense of the height and even the wind blowing in your face. The views are fantastic, and the music is even better. Here’s a little clip from the end of the attraction, when you’re flying over Disneyland.

2. The Barnstormer

The Barnstormer has recently been rethemed to fit in Storybook Circus, part of the New Fantasyland expansion, but it still features little airplanes as the ride vehicles. The story is that The Great Goofini is taking you on a ride on a stunt plane. It’s a starter roller coaster for little kids, so don’t expect over-the-top thrills, but it’s a cute ride.

Goofy's Barnstormer (now The Barnstormer starring the Great Goofini) in Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World

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3 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Segways

The Walt Disney World Resort covers 47 square miles. Not all of that area is accessible to guests, of course, but still, that’s a lot of ground to cover. Disney offers a lot of walking tours to show you some of the unique sights around property, but if you prefer to roll rather than walk, a Segway tour may be right for you. There are three Segway tours currently offered in Walt Disney World. There used to be one more—the Simply Segway tour that taught the basics of navigating a Segway—but that tour was discontinued in September 2011. The first tour on today’s list is also being discontinued, but not until July 2012, so you may still be able to experience it before it’s gone.

Here are three things to do in Walt Disney World if you love Segways.

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6 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Cars

Cars 2 came out yesterday on Blu-ray and DVD. I saw this movie in the theater with my nephews, and while it certainly doesn’t have the emotional impact of a Toy Story or Up, it was a perfectly pleasant way to pass the time. I particularly enjoyed seeing the car-version of London, one of my favorite cities.

I know there are those of you out there who love everything car-related, whether it’s part of the Disney-Pixar Cars franchise or not. While Walt Disney World is missing out on Cars Land (opening in Disneyland in 2012), there are many car-themed experiences to be had in Florida.

So, here are six things to do in Walt Disney World if you love cars.

1. Meet the Stars of Cars 2

We’ll start off with something that everyone can participate in and that may only be around for a limited time: taking your photo with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater at Team McQueen Headquarters near Streets of America in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Team McQueen Headquarters replaced the previous Cars meet-and-greet location, Luigi’s Garage, pictured below.

Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater at Luigi's Garage in Disney's Hollywood Studios

2. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater

This is another experience everyone can participate in: eating in a “car” at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. I love drive-in movies, and so I can’t believe I’ve never actually eaten at this restaurant. You sit in cars that hold three rows of seats (two across), and there is a counter in front of you, so you don’t have to balance a tray on your lap (an advantage over real drive-ins). Check out the menu on AllEars.Net (there’s also a kids’ menu).

3. Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show

If you like car-related stunts, this is the show for you, and since June 2011, Lightning McQueen makes a cameo! There’s lots of driving really fast, going forward and backward and turning and such. (Can you tell I’m not really a car person?) All can attend, but it’s really loud, so don’t expect to use this show for baby’s naptime.

4. Tomorrowland Speedway

Not quite everyone can participate in this one, but little guys (32 inches or taller) can ride if an adult is with to handle the pedal. Yes, there’s only one pedal: press it to go (max speed: 7 mph) and lift your foot off to stop. The kids are then free to steer, or not steer, to their hearts’ content. I’ve mentioned this before, but my favorite memory of this attraction was riding with my then three-year-old nephew, who said afterwards, “I was driving so crazy I almost went somewhere!” Kids at least 54 inches tall can drive themselves.

In case you’re wondering, it is OK to ride Tomorrowland Speedway without a child. In fact, here I am on its equivalent in Disneyland Paris:

Erica on Autopia in Disneyland Paris

5. Test Track

This one is for bigger kids, because you go a lot faster, up to 60 miles per hour! Kids must be 40 inches or taller to ride. First you experience different car safety and handling tests, and then you head to the outdoor track, where things speed up a bit. If you enjoy learning about how cars are designed and tested, you’ll find the queue and post-show areas interesting.

6. Richard Petty Driving Experience

Here is the fastest car ride you’re going to get in Walt Disney World! The Richard Petty Driving Experience allows you to drive or ride in a real NASCAR race car, with top speeds up to 140 miles per hour! Reservations are required for the Driving Experience but not for the Ride-Along. To do the Driving Experience (starting at $449), you must be 18 years old and have a driver’s license. For a Ride-Along (starting at $99), you must be 14 years old. Friends and family can come along to watch. While I can’t imagine ever doing this one myself, I have to say it is one of the more unique experiences available at any Disney resort.

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So, are you up for a car-themed day? If you’re going to do the Richard Petty Driving Experience, I’d suggest doing that first thing in the morning (the track usually opens at 9 a.m.). If not, I’d suggest starting at Epcot and getting on Test Track. Then, take the boat over to Hollywood Studios. Check the Times Guide and work in lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater between Lights, Motors, Action! and meeting Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater. Then, head over to Magic Kingdom and take a leisurely drive around Tomorrowland Speedway.

So which car-themed experience is your favorite?

7 Things to Do in Walt Disney World If You Love Trains

If you love trains, you’re in good company. As I mentioned in the post on vintage Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney loved trains, and “it should be surrounded by a train” was one of the early requirements of Disneyland.

So here are seven things to do in Walt Disney World if you love trains:

1. Walt Disney World Railroad

This is a no-brainer. Head to Magic Kingdom and enjoy the Grand Circle Tour, which takes about 20 minutes. Take note of the name of the locomotive pulling your train. There are four locomotives: the Walter E. Disney, the Roy O. Disney (Walt’s brother), the Lilly Belle (Walt’s wife), and the Roger E. Broggie (an Imagineer who helped Walt build the model railroad in his backyard). Yes, Walt had a model railroad in his backyard. To learn more about it, visit the . . .

2. Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Walt’s backyard railroad was named the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, because his house was on Carolwood Drive in Los Angeles, California. It was one-eighth scale, and adults and children alike rode on it by sitting on top of the cars. You can see some brief video of Walt and others on the train in this video from the Disney Parks blog (the Lilly Belle they show is the one in Disneyland, not Walt Disney World). In the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room, you can see model trains from Walt’s collection and G-scale replicas of the Carolwood Pacific cattle car and gondola. If that’s not enough train history for you, try . . .

3. The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour

I’ve never taken this tour, but it’s described on the Disney website as granting “railroad enthusiasts a once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch as the Magic Kingdom theme park train crew prepares the Walt Disney World Railroad steam trains for their daily operation.” It’s a three-hour tour that starts before Magic Kingdom opens. You’ll see where the trains are stored and how they’re maintained, and you’ll hear more about Walt’s love for trains. The tour is currently priced at $49 plus theme park admission.

If the tour still leaves you wanting more, you’re a prime candidate for the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Now, let’s talk about some train experiences that are more for the fun of it than the historical value, starting with . . .

4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

My brother’s mother-in-law never can seem to remember the name of this attraction, so she just calls it “Runaway Train,” and that’s basically what it is: a roller-coaster ride on a runaway train through a mining town. It’s a great roller coaster for kids who’ve conquered the Barnstormer (currently closed and being transitioned to The Great Goofini) but aren’t yet ready for Space Mountain. My nephews love it! You can find it in Frontierland in Magic Kingdom.

5. Wildlife Express Train

This train takes you to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in Animal Kingdom. I’ve only ridden it once, and I remember finding it unusual that all the seats face to one side. It’s a short ride, about seven minutes there and five minutes back.

6. Miniature Railroad in Germany Pavilion in Epcot

Since I’m more of a lover of miniatures in general than model trains in particular, this is my favorite item on the list. I love seeing the trains chug through the little village that gets redecorated for special events. In this video, you can actually see the view from the train through the town when it was decorated with Toy Story 3 characters for the Flower and Garden Festival.

7. Walt Disney World Monorail System

No discussion of trains at Walt Disney World would be complete without mentioning the trains of the future: the monorail. Riding the monorail loop is a great way to tour some of the World’s best themed resorts, and it’s the easiest way to travel between Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Just remember: por favor mantengase alejado de las puertas (translation).

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So, could you do all these in one day for a train-themed extravaganza? Probably. You’d start before opening in Magic Kingdom for the Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour. During the tour, you’ll ride the Railroad, and afterwards you can head to Big Thunder. Then, take the boat over to Wilderness Lodge and walk through the Carolwood Pacific room. Next you could take a bus to either Animal Kingdom or Epcot. Since Animal Kingdom usually closes earlier, I’d head there first. Then take the bus over to Epcot to see the model railroad. After that, take a ride on the monorail, and then you’re done!

Whew! That’s a lot of riding the rails for one day! So, what’s your favorite train experience at Walt Disney World?