For most of my adult life, I thought of central Florida as not much more than acres upon acres of swampland — the exclusive domain of crocodiles, frightening bugs the size of a toddler’s fist, and of course, a certain big-eared Mouse with a dainty little laugh. While all of those are indeed longtime residents of central Florida, there’s also vast natural and manmade lakes, some of which serve as a watery frame around the most magical place on earth.
For many who visit Disney World, boarding and disembarking a boat is very much part of the experience. Ferries run guests from resort to resort and also to the front gates of the Magic Kingdom, but the boating options at Walt’s ever-expanded family oasis don’t end with a commuter trip.
Every evening, the sky above Epcot’s World Showcase becomes aglow with breathtaking fireworks. You can certainly try to elbow your way to the front of the crowd so your kids can watch the show or, better yet, your family can climb aboard a boat from the dock outside of Disney’s Yacht Club to watch the stunning IllumiNations firework show. Experiencing this nightly event from the cushioned comfort of a 10-person pontoon boat is as first class as it gets at Disney. You can even rent an entire boat for your family and have it decorated to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary! Free beverages and snacks on board add to the occasion.
During the day, you can rent one of the pontoons used for the bass fishing excursions (and fireworks cruises) from nearly every resort that touches water — including The Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge and Polynesian Village — to scoot around as a family, have a picnic on the water or just feel the warm wind in your hair as you cruise in front of Space Mountain and the Magic Kingdom.
The most exhilarating boating experience at Disney for kids is hopping in a two-person SeaRaycer from one of six locations (Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts Marina, The Captain’s Shipyard, Seven Seas Marina, The Boat Nook, Teton Boat & Bike Rental and Fort Wilderness Marina), and zooming around the many waterways of Disney World. At less than $50 per hour (for two people), this boating adventure is extremely affordable, and because kids as young as 12 are allowed to captain the cute little SeaRaycers, it is a family activity your tweens and teens will remember forever.
— Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site OutWithTheKids.com. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world. Jeff also writes for PBS.
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