For my stepson’s birthday celebration, we were ready for some fun outside of the Walt Disney World theme parks. He has gotten to the point where going to the parks and going on rides is not as exciting as it used to be. It’s a sad side effect of being a frequent theme park visitor. So we ventured over to Disney’s Fantasia Gardens mini-golf.
For my pre-teen stepson, doing something more active and competitive has become more appealing than the rides and shows in the theme parks. Walt Disney World has four mini-golf courses on property located in two mini-golf complexes known as Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland, each one offering two different courses.
Fantasia Gardens opened in 1996 and was the first miniature golf course to open on Walt Disney World property. It is extremely convenient to get to from the Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios area, you can walk from either park or take a boat and stop at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. From the Swan and Dolphin it is a short walk. With both courses being open until 11pm it is a great evening activity for guests of these two hotels as well as Disney’s Boardwalk, Yacht Club, and Beach Club.
Fantasia Gardens contains two courses. Once upon a time I played the more challenging “Fairways” course. This course contains mini replicas of some of the world’s most challenging holes. Let me tell you, as a non-golfer the course was frustrating! I much prefer the silly whimsy of the Gardens course. Each hole is designed with fun figures, scenes, and other effects. My favorite hole is toward the beginning of the course in which the ball is hit up a ramp and curves around to what appears to be a gate made of brass bars. These xylophone bars chime when struck by the golf ball. Once the ball passes through the bars it drops down a set of stairs which are also musical bars. As the ball drops from step to step a different musical note chimes.
Since this was Disney’s first mini-golf course it is a little more challenging than the courses of Winter Summerland. There were four of us playing and three out of the four of us lost our ball at least once to one of the many “Water hazards” on the course. Each hole has a plaque displaying the name of the hole, the par level, and a short poem – some of which contain tips on how best to play the hole.
On this particular visit we had just enjoyed an amazing, unforgettable meal at Il Mulino at the Swan hotel. Our bellies full from an Italian feast, we needed the physical activity. The walk over was easy and enjoyable. The fresh night air was much needed. We enjoyed teasing each other and allowing ourselves a few “do-overs”. Alongside the course a little retention pond welcomed a family of ducks with a bunch of little ducklings. My mother and I loved hearing their little chirps and squeaks. The boys loved the holes towards the end of the course because of the surprise water effects – we did get wet!
Although the courses can seem a little pricey, $10 per child age 3-9 and $12 per adult, the time spent together as a family is worth it. The theme parks are a blast, but sometimes the crowds can be overwhelming and all the rides and entertainment can be a bit of a sensory overload. Miniature golf provides a break from the theme park madness and allows you to connect with your loved ones. And a little friendly competition is good for families and friends. (In case you are wondering, my mother won – scoring three holes in one!)