Category Archives: Disney Running

Running / Walking at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and the surrounding area transport you away from Florida to the mountain west.  It is home of my second favorite running/walking trail of the WDW resorts.  The lodge is themed after Yellowstone National Park and is absolutely stunning.  The area surrounding Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness fits into the theme with a forest of towering pines all around.  The path winds through the “forest” from Wilderness Lodge through and around Fort Wilderness and back.

This is a wonderful place to run.  It also makes a great walk for the whole family.  The tall pines provide ample shade.  Most of the path is paved, but pine needles soften your stride.  You are surrounded by the fresh pine scent.  Deer, squirrels, and the occasional rabbit can be encountered as well as the horses at Fort Wilderness.  The Spanish moss, palmettos, flatness, and humidty let you know you are still in Florida, but with a little imagination, you can picture yourself out west.  I haven’t been to Yellowstone, but it takes me to the Ponderosa Pine forests of two of my favorite places to run:  Flagstaff, Arizona and the Black Forest, just north of Colorado Springs.

Maps of the exercise trail are available at the Guest Service desk.  Starting from the dock behind Wilderness Lodge, running along the path to Fort Wilderness, and then circling though campground is 2.5 miles.  Running straight back to Wilderness Lodge comes to about 3.7 miles.  The out and back is a 5 mile jaunt.  There is a small hill coming up from the docks at Wilderness Lodge.  The trail is otherwise flat.  If you want, you can wind further through the camp ground and make it an even longer run.  The trail is mostly shaded and is rarely crowded.  This enables you to enjoy the trail at any time during the day.  You do have to cross roads a couple of times and part of the run is along roads in Fort Wilderness.  So you will need to pay attention during these portions.

Pros:  Pine trees.  Shade.  Critters,  All day access.  Rarely busy.

Cons:  Road Crossing and potential traffic at Fort Wilderness.

Overall:  This is a great running trail that blends in with the wonderful theming of the resorts.  It makes a nice place to take a walk with your family, too.

I hope you give it a try.

Pongo (dad).

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Running on the Disney Dream

Pongo here.

The three of us took our first cruise a little over a year ago, a 3 day cruise to the Bahamas out of Port Canaveral upon the Disney Dream. Being addicted to running, I made it a part of the experience. On board, you can either run laps around Deck 4 or go to the fitness center on Deck 11. I avoid treadmills unless no other option exists. The walking/jogging track around deck 4 is 0.4 miles long. You might think that it would be boring, but I quite enjoyed it.

Disney Dream Deck 20140203-LThe deck is made of trex-like material which has good traction, even when wet. It is plenty wide along the sides of the ship, but fairly narrow around the front and rear. There are mirrors around turns which are very helpful as to not run head-on into others. The best thing about running on deck 4 is the view. I ran each morning as the ship was pulling into port. The views were spectacular, whether pulling into Castaway Cay or into Nassau. One of the major joys of running to me is taking in the sights. Seeing the waves, the islands in the distance, the rising sun, the pastel buildings, and other ships was sheer joy. Having a new perspective with each lap from the movement of the ship, to me, made it even more interesting. The breeze from the water made it very comfortable, too. It did not feel like running in circles.

Cons: The only con I can think of is being fairly “restricted” to running in the morning due to crowds. The deck is rarely very crowded, but with people looking overboard, relaxing deck chairs and playing shuffle board, it would be hard to keep a steady pace.

castaway cayrunDisney has a 5K, untimed, free, fun-run on Castaway Cay. I did not know about this when we took the cruise. Check with the ship activity director or concierge to sign up. I wish I had known. Next time!

So, if you are a runner or walker, don’t forget your running shoes and shorts. You will enjoy it. I recommend running in the early morning as the track is not crowded, the breeze cools you, and the sights are the best.

extra tip: The shower gel supplied makes great “detergent” to hand wash sweaty clothes in the cabin sink, that can then be hung to dry in the shower.

Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

This post is not Disney related. I am an avid runner who ran the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in Louisville, Kentucky today. This is a review for any runners out there, and also anyone interested in hearing about our fair city.

The Kentucky Derby Festival is a set of events leading up to the big race; including the marathon, concerts, balloon glow race, steamboat race, Thunder Over Louisville (which brought 650,000 people downtown) and other events. The mini-marathon and marathon are ran together with about 13,000 and 3,000 participants roughly and is usually held one week prior to the derby. The coarse highlights many famous and historic sites in the city. It is a nice tour for both the local person or for tourist.

Weather is fairly unpredictable this time of year. Last Saturday it was sunny with a low in the mid 60s quickly rising to the 80s. Yesterday started out just above freezing. This morning was 52 with rain and remained the same throughout.

The race begins in downtown on Main Street. Your are assigned into 1 of the 6 corrals based on your estimated time. All 16,000 start together. It is very crowded until mile 9 when the mini and full break apart. Unfortunately, many people ignore their corral assignment and there is much weaving and slowing down. It makes it hard to get into a rhythm. After the break it is not a problem.

For the first mile, you pass along Main St.  past some of Louisville’s most iconic buildings including the KFC Yum! Center, Kentucky Center for the Arts, Actors Theater, and the Louisville Slugger

Museum.  The next 3 miles pass through one of the most economically depressed neighborhoods of the city.  There are several vacant lots, abandoned factories and boarded up homes.  From here, you pass into Old Louisville, the largest Victorian neighborhood in the US and view the beauty and architecture of Spalding University, St. James Court, Belgravia Court, and Central Park.  Central Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted around 1900.  He is the father of American landscape architecture and the designer of New York City’s Central Park.

From Old Louisville, you continue along 3rd Street through the University of Louisville and on to Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. You run through the front gates of the track, under the track, and onto the infield, completing a lap just inside the track. This is a highlight for most people. You pass the iconic twin spires and smell the track while old races are broadcast over the sound system.

After exiting Churchill Downs, the minimarathon turns back north to the downtown finish and the marathon heads south along the Southern Parkway and into Iroquois Park. Both the Southern Parkway and Iroquois Park are Olmsted designs. The Southern Parkway is a broad, tree lined boulevard with well kept homes from the early 1900s. At mile 11, heading into the park, is the first and toughest real hill. Iroquois Park is an urban forest. The 4 miles are hilly and completely tree covered with birds chirping being really the only sound you hear.

You pass out of the park and back onto the parkway, merging onto 4th Street and back onto the U of L campus. More U of L landmarks are passed this time through campus including Jim Roberts Stadium (home of the top 10 ranked Cardinal baseball team), Ekstrom library,Speed Art Museum, and the controversial Confederate War Memorial. You continue on a straight line back through Victorian Old Louisville until about mile 20 when you turn east toward the Highlands.

The Highlands is one the more colorful neighborhoods in Louisville. It is often described as a little piece of Seattle in the midwest. It is full of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and novelty shops.. The 3 miles through here are hilly, too. Of personal interest is passing Jack Fry’s Restaurant, which is in my opinion the best in Louisville. It is also where I took my wife on our first date; almost 21 years ago.

The final 3 miles to the finish are graciously mainly downhill. There is not much to see until you pass back into downtown and retrace your first mile to the finish.

Pros: Well organized. A scenic urban route with multiple points of interest. Nice tech tee, running cap and finishers medal. When the weather is nice, there are live bands, food booths and carnival rides at the finish.

Cons: Not a particularly fast coarse, although my personal best was here. Crowded first 9 miles. Food at finish is underwhelming (bagles, banana, sun chips, peanut butter crackers).

Overall: I recommend this race to anyone looking for a 1/2 or full marathon in the upper south/midwest. I think you will enjoy the race, the city, and the derby festivities.

YUm Front

Louisville Slugger Museam
Louisville Slugger Museum
Speed Art Museum
Central Park
Central Park

Louisville-Private-StreetView of the winner's circle, pink Twin Spires, grandstand

Iroquois Park
Iroquois Park
University of Louisville
University of Louisville

jack fry's

The Highlands
The Highlands
Whiskey Row
Whiskey Row

Running at the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower

If you refer to my earlier post, ranking the trails at the deluxe and DVC resorts, you will see that I have the Contemporary Resort and Bay Lake Tower near the bottom. It is really not a bad place to run, though. We own DVC points at the Bay Lake Tower and stay there more than any other resort due to its location next to Magic Kingdom. I never have a problem getting good runs there.

There are two paths from which to choose or you can combine the two. The first option is to follow the path from Contemporary that leads to and beyond the Magic Kingdom. The second is following the dumbbell shaped loop at the resorts. Maps are available at guest services in the lobby.

The Magic Kingdom path is a flat, 1.25 mile out and back. It starts on the path between the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower, follows under the monorail in front of Tomorrowland to the entry to the park, then along the Seven Seas Lagoon till it dead ends at a canal. If you are doing a leisurely run or walk and do not care about slowing down or stopping, then it is a good route. If you are hoping to keep a constant pace, then you have to run very early. About an hour before the parks open, the path gets very busy. The congestion decreases after the park opens, but is still significant for the entire day. Once you pass the entry to Magic Kingdom, it is usually clear. There is also no shade along the entire path. The views are nice though. Space Mountain, Astro-Orbiter, Cinderella Castle, and the Train Station are clearly seen along the way. There are also good views of the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, and Contemporary resorts. The main area of caution, other than running over other people, is crossing the road across from Space Mountain.

The resort loop is 0.9 miles and is also flat. There are markers to help guide you. The path is rarely crowded. There are a few places that require caution, though. There is a supply loading area at the far end of Bay Lake Tower that you cross. You also cross the drop off area in front of Bay Lake Tower and have to watch for cars. Passing between the South Garden Wing and the Contemporary Tower is very tight and quite busy with people passing from one to the other. If you do not pay close attention, you can crash into someone. The scenery is not bad. The landscaping at the back of Bay Lake Tower, with tall bamboo shoots is attractive. The outer side of the South Garden Wing offers nice views of the canal and of Bay Lake, with boats and birds. You have a great look at the resort, the pool and the metal Mickey head behind the Contemporary Tower. You can access a water fountain by the restrooms of the Bay Lake Tower Pool, just a few steps off the path. Unfortunately, there is little shade along the entirety of this route either.

Pros: Great resort access to Magic Kingdom.
Nice views of Magic Kingdom and of Bay Lake.

Cons: Little to no shade.
The Magic Kingdom path is very crowded at all but very early times.
You have to pay attention for cars and others at several places.

Overall: Not bad. Best for early morning as you can run both routes and will not need shade. I recommend that you not listen music on either route as you really need to pay attention for safety.

Bonus: With a little extra time and effort, there are two other great options available from the resort. If you do not mind riding the monorail while wearing running garb and being sweaty (at least two of the trains smell like zoo animals anyway), then you can ride it to either the Grand Floridian or Polynesian and back and give those trails a try. (It has been done before.) There is also a ferry boat the also crosses over to Wilderness Lodge, where you can run its trail. The ferry is very slow, though.


Running at Disneyland

There are two main options for running if staying at one of Disneyland Resort Hotels: through Downtown Disney or around the perimeter of the parks. The two routes can easily be combined,. A map is available at Guest Services in the lobby of the each of the hotels.
The Downtown Disney route is a flat out and back. It is 0.4 miles from the Sorcerer Mickey hat at the Disneyland Hotel to the bag check area at the entering the courtyard between Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks. If you run early, at least 1-2 hours before the parks opening, you can also circle the courtyard, which is 0.2 miles. This makes for a nice 1 mile out and back. The shops and restaurants are lit in the early morning and the area is empty other than the cleaning crew and few other runners and walkers. Most of the shops open at about 10 a.m., the restaurants earlier. The area quickly becomes very busy as the day progresses, and the crowds grow through the day and evening. Starbucks, 0.3 mile from the Sorcerer’s hat, opens at 5 a.m., enticing you with its aroma.
For longer runs and if you want some hills, try the loop around the parks. The Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Hotel are both on Disneyland Boulevard and have direct access to the loop. From the Disneyland Hotel, it is 1/2 mile to reach the loop. Go straight out the front and then take a right on Magic Way until you reach Disneyland Drive and the loop. I am describing running the loop clockwise. The north half of the loop is not scenic. You run on a sidewalk right next to the road in front of motels and strip malls with a fence blocking any view of Disneyland. Before daylight though, as you start down the hill toward Ball Road, you can see the parade floats through the fence in storage. There were several homeless people sleeping on benches each morning along Harbor Blvd. People were waiting at the bus stops. It did not appear to be unsafe, but always be cautious.
The south half of the route is much better Near the end of Harbour, the Tower of Terror is easily seen. Along Katella Ave.,you pass between rows of tall, stately palm trees while viewing the tops of the cliffs from Radiator Springs, California Scream, and Mickey’s Fun Wheel. On Disneyland Blvd. you continue to pass between rows of trees and landscaping and have good views of the Paradise Pier Hotel, the Grand Californian, and Downtown Disney. The resort loop is approximately 3.3 miles long. Most of the run is flat, but there are three “Florida Hills” with an underpass on Disneyland Drive at Downtown Disney and 2 overpasses along Ball.
To combine the two routes, follow a path off of Disneyland Drive under the monorail between Downtown Disney and Magic Way. There is a sign showing the way. The path ends, conveniently, across fro Starbucks.
Cautions: On the resort loop, you have to cross traffic a few times. Stop and pay close attention, especially at the ramps to I-5.
Pollution worsens as the day progresses.
Pay attention to people around and take caution on the resort loop when running alone.
Recommendations: Run early: the air is cleaner, the traffic is less, and there are less people.
Do not wear headphones on the park loop as you really need to be aware of your surroundings.
Use caution running alone along the park loop..

Running at Disney

Pongo here.  I am an avid runner.  My wife says that I’m obsessed.  My son says I’m crazy.  As long as it is safe (no lightning, ice, tornado..) I will be outside running most days, even on vacation.  I will be reviewing running at the WDW resorts, Disneyland and Aulani, Disney races, and races that are easily accessible from WDW resorts.  I will also try to provide helpful information on eating healthy while on a Disney vacation.

Today, I am going to give my rankings of the Deluxe/DVC resorts for run quality and review running at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.

1.  Epcot resort:  Yacht & Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin.

2  Old Key West and Sarasota Springs (these are connected by a path).

3.  Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness

4.  Grand Floridian and Polynesian (connected trails)

5.  Contemporary / Bay Lake Tower

6  Animal Kingdom Lodge / Kidani Village

The Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village are at the bottom of the list, because there are basically no good places to run, other than the treadmills.  This is a shame as the resort is beautiful with wonderful theming.  The only safe outdoor option is running back and forth along the 1/4 mile path between Animal Kingdom Lodge and Kidani Village.  This is okay for a short 1 or maybe 2 miler, but dreadful for 4 – 6 miles, passing the same real estate 16 – 24 times respectively.  The roads around the resort are NOT SAFE!!  Do not attempt!  I have heard of people running around the parking lot.  This seems pretty boring also and not too safe in my opinion.


Pros:  Beautiful resort with great theme, rooms and views.

Cons:  The treadmill is the best running option.

Overall:  I recommend any other WDW property if you plan to run while staying at WDW, unless you are okay with a treadmill.