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 Guides for Seniors 

Golden years travelers are discovering that --like grandkids -- a Walt Disney World vacation is worth boasting about. Golden memories and vacation experiences of a lifetime abound.

Seniors traveling to Disney's Vacation Kingdom have the curiosity and the time to fully experience the theme parks, nighttime entertainment complexes, resort hotels, lakes, waterways, pools, golf courses and tennis courts.

The many famed attractions and entertainment shows found in the Magic Kingdom, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot and the Disney Hollywood Studios are designed for those "from 3-to-93" as Walt Disney once stated. Disney executives find this is still true today.

"I've noticed that seniors are more willing to take the time visiting our parks to breathe in the total experience," said Greg Emmer, vice president of the Magic Kingdom. "They enjoy the storytelling we do through architecture, music, background sound and aromas.

"The hustle and bustle of Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom makes that location one of the most popular for seniors, perhaps because it is reminiscent of experiences in their own lives. You'll find seniors much more involved with the entertainment experiences on Hollywood Boulevard in Disney Hollywood Studios or in World Showcase at Epcot."

"Seniors don't need thrill rides," said Lucille Birdsong of Sunnydale, Calif., strolling a World Showcase promenade with her friend Freda Adams of Mountain View, Calif.

"I traveled a lot with my husband," said Freda. "To visit the countries of World Showcase brings back a lot of memories."

Mickey's Tropical Luau at Disney's Polynesian Resort is a hit with mature travelers. So is the three-hour walking tour of the Epcot World Showcase gardens or the behind-the-scenes Backstage Studio Tour at Disney Hollywood Studios. For those seniors for whom the spirit is willing but the feet aren't, motorized self-drive vehicles may be rented at all four theme parks.

Seniors with fond memories of the circus can treat themselves to a modern-day version of the Big Top like they've never experienced before. Cirque du Soleil® at Downtown Disney West Side combines theatrics, mind-boggling acrobatics and an original score in the 90-minute production La Nouba . Performances five nights a week.

Swing is king at Atlantic Dance located along Disney’s BoardWalk. Guests can dance check-to-cheek “under the stars” to the retro-swing sounds of top bands. Designed with an art deco flair, Atlantic Dance recalls the charm and glamour of a 1930s dance hall with a classic lounge atmosphere.

Back-in-time grandeur reigns supreme at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Through the late afternoon and evening hours, the four-story atrium lobby is filled with the mellifluous sounds of the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra and a grand pianist. Seniors can lounge on a couch or stuffed chair and sip a drink.

Afternoon tea is a daily ritual in the Garden View Lounge of the Grand Floridian. Scones, pastries and finger sandwiches accompany tea.

Steps from the Grand Floridian is where the mature set can go to recharge and revitalize. Luxurious pampering is the cornerstone of the Grand Floridian Spa & Health Club, featuring beautifying services and wellness techniques such as massage therapy, body treatments and nutrition and fitness counseling.

Seniors feeling less than sedentary can bike through Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, float around Disney water parks in brightly colored inner tubes or take out a rental boat for a spin on Disney waterways.

Recreation managers at the Walt Disney World Resort point to a special bond with seniors.

"All of our recreational activities are oriented to the young at heart," said Joe Wisner, director of resort recreation and water parks. "We have most of the same leisure activities you can find anywhere -- tennis, sailing, fishing, and so forth. But it's our special water recreation areas that seem to appeal most to seniors.

"River Country has a special appeal to seniors because Bay Cove reminds many of them of places they knew growing up. River Country is a hidden retreat in the middle of a relatively hectic area and is extremely popular with seniors."

But it is at the famed Walt Disney World Resort hotels that seniors feel the most at home.

Disney designers attribute this to the "residential feel" the resort hotel lobbies have, property-wide. Hotels may have large numbers of rooms, but the smaller lobby provides a much more personal feel than other resort hotels.

Seniors 55 and older who join the Magic Kingdom Club enjoy discounted admission prices to Disney theme parks worldwide and reduced rates at all Disney resort hotels. Restrictions apply.

A two-year Gold Card membership is $50. For more information, call 800/89-DISNEY.

From daytime experiences in the theme parks, to afternoon recreation on the water, to nighttime rest at a down-home resort, seniors find Walt Disney World Resort the perfect fountain of youth.

After all, seniors were kids, too. At Walt Disney World, they're kids all over again.


 Popular Senior Activities at Walt Disney World Resort 
  • Golf . There are six superb courses, the Walt Disney World Golf Studio and equipment rental.
  • Epcot World Showcase. This Epcot experience includes dining, shopping and a mile-long stroll around World Showcase Lagoon. Many seniors enjoy chatting with the World Showcase ambassadors, college students from around the globe on loan to Disney for one year.
  • Guided Tours. Gardens of the World focuses on landscaping at Epcot, and includes tips on gardening. Hidden Treasures of World Showcase explores the art, architecture, costumes, customs, landscape and entertainment of Epcot World Showcase. Guests tour backstage to see how entertainment illusions are created. Cost is $35 per person and theme park admission is required. Call 407/939-8687 to schedule.
  • Relive heydays of Hollywood at the Disney Hollywood Studios. Favorite attractions include The Great Movie Ride, "Fantasmic!", The Magic of Disney Animation and "Beauty and the Beast -- Live on Stage."
  • Magic Kingdom lets kids of all ages be kids. Favorite senior attractions include Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress, The Hall of Presidents.
  • Victoria & Albert's is the creme de la creme dining experience. This intimate restaurant in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa offers impeccable service and a menu that changes daily. Expensive but worth it for a special night on the town.
  • Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Fort Wilderness is 650 acres with 1,190 campsites and includes homey Fleetwood trailer homes if you don't want to drive your own. Also included are riding stables, tennis courts, swimming pools, a marina and nature trail. Electric golf carts may be rented.
  • Fishing. Disney's Bay Lake was stocked with 70,000 bass in the 1960s. Anglers can take a guided, two-hour expedition (no license required), and bass up to 12 pounds have been recorded. Gear available.
  • Shopping is an adventure throughout the Vacation Kingdom at more than 200 shops offering interesting and unusual merchandise from around the world.
  • La Nouba is a Cirque du Soleil® production you can see only at Downtown Disney West Side.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom is adventure and exploration at each guest's own pace plus lavish live entertainment spectacles in a spectacular natural setting.
  • Walking trails. Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort has a 1.4-mile promenade around its lake. Fort Wilderness offers a 2.3-mile course with exercise stations, and the walkways of Disney's Dixie Landings Resort are perfect for long strolls. Maps available at Guest Services.
  • Atlantic Dance. Swing is king at Atlantic Dance located along Disney’s BoardWalk. Guests can dance check-to-cheek “under the stars” to the retro-swing sounds of top bands. Designed with an art deco flair, Atlantic Dance recalls the charm and glamour of a 1930s dance hall with a classic lounge atmosphere.