Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Mouse Is In The Details - Serenity Now!

When in Walt Disney World, many times we're so busy running from one attraction, show or parade to another that we don't stop to smell the roses and relax. And it's important to smell the roses sometimes. Not only can it give you a greater appreciation for the creative genius behind the design of the parks and resorts, but sometimes it can give you a much needed break from the hectic pace of the day.

Below is a list of our favorite chill-out spots for you to take advantage of when you need a little break. Some of them I'm sure you've heard of, seen, or even visited and took advantage of. But if you haven't, give them a try :

Koi fish pond and garden, Japan Pavilion, Epcot
The Japan pavilion is personally my favorite of the 11 that encircle the World Showcase lagoon in Epcot. And within that pavilion resides one of the most serene and peaceful spots you can find in Walt Disney World: the Japanese garden. This easily overlooked garden sits almost hidden behind the huge 5-story Goju-no-to pagoda. At ground level is a beautiful pond filled with huge multi-colored koi fish and several small waterfalls. Behind the koi fish pond are winding pathways and rustic bridges leading upward into a traditional Japanese garden. Meticulously kept trees, paths, flowers, pebbles, lanterns and other beautiful ornaments give this area an authentic aura of serenity. At the top, outside of the Yakatori House (the pavilion's underrated counter-service restaurant), the garden theme is continued into a small courtyard. Small tables adorn the courtyard where you can enjoy something from the restaurant if you wish as you listen to the waterfalls of yet another beautiful pond. Garden lanterns hang overhead, lending to the courtyard a beautiful, atmospheric glow at night. The whole garden is an oasis and should not be missed.

Walkway along Village Lake at Downtown Disney
"Relaxing" and "Downtown Disney" aren't usually anything you'd pair together. The Marketplace, especially at night, is usually very crowded. And while the West Side isn't what it used to be (with so many store closings), it still gets very hectic as well - especially with Disney Quest, the AMC theater, House of Blues and Cirque du Soliel all down on that end. However, there is an area to Downtown Disney that can get you away from all of that: the walkway along Village Lake. Running alongside the beautiful body of water that separates Downtown Disney from the DVC resorts of Saratoga Springs and Old Key West, this path extends the length of the West Side, from behind Cirque du Soliel all the way to the Pleasure Island bridge (by the new Characters In Flight helium balloon attraction). Along this path sit numerous benches that provide a beautiful view of the lights of the resorts and Marketplace shimmering on the water. Here, the chaos of Downtown Disney seems very, very distant.

Dawa Bar patio, Animal Kingdom
The Dawa Bar in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom is a relative hidden gem in and of itself. It is one of the few places in the parks (besides World Showcase) where adult beverages can be purchased and enjoyed outside of a table service restaurant. But the bar itself isn't what we're talking about here; we're referring to the patio behind the bar itself. This area is fairly well hidden and easily overlooked. Whether you're enjoying something from the bar or just looking for a place to get away from the crowd, it provides a rather secluded spot with great scenery - a wonderful view of the river its surrounding greenery.

Walkway from Toontown to Space Mountain in Fantasyland
This may not necessarily be a place to sit and get a load off, but it is usually barren. Very few people take advantage of this shortcut to begin with, let alone realize it's even there. This allows for a leisurely stroll that provides glimpses of the Magic Kingdom Railroad Train as it moves along the parameter of the park and the Tomorrowland Speedway in addition to plenty of relative solitude. Bonus: During the Not So Scary Halloween Party, it's a place to rack up the candy!

Walkway deck opposite Boardwalk and Yacht & Beach Clubs
Now, there are very few (if any) poor views anywhere along the Boardwalk. It's one of the most beautiful places in Walt Disney World, either during the day or at night (try early morning before most people get up - it's you, the sound of seagulls, boats and soft early morning sunshine - you're transported back in time 100 years). But there's only one spot that provides a full view of the whole Boardwalk itself AND the Yacht & Beach Clubs. You can only get that view along the covered walkway deck just after the ESPN Club. Most people do not frequent this area as they are usually in a hurry to either get into the Boardwalk area, or back into Epcot. So this little nook provides one of the most serene, scenic views anywhere in The World.

Caribbean Beach Resort Nooks and Crannies
What says relaxation more than a hammock? Well, the areas around the Caribbean Beach Resort are LITTERED with them. I'm not just talking about the hammocks on the sandy beach areas. They are all over the place. Little secluded and tree-covered outcroppings with a hammock or two or three are there for the taking - you just have appeal to your adventurous side to seek them out. But once you find them, you're set - and ready to doze off for as long as you can handle.

Walkway along Sassagoula River at the Port Orleans Resort
Walkways and water are a common trait to most of these spots, and this last selection is no different. The sidewalk running along the Sassagoula River between the Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter Resort hotels is a thing of beauty. Incredible scenery and unique architecture at both resorts lend greatly to the atmosphere as do the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages. It's a romantic stroll at night and a relaxing stroll during the day. Benches dot the path so you can have a seat and enjoy for as long as you want.

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