One of the trips to Walt Disney World that I remember fondly was right after I turned twelve years old. That is because this was the first age at which I could pilot a boat by myself out on the waters of Bay Lake Sure, I had been out on the water with my family before, but only as a passenger. This time, I got to be the captain.
Boating is one of the many non theme park activities that are available at the resort. Obviously, this is an activity that requires you be located near a body of water, so your first step is to head over to a resort with a marina. There are three main areas for boat rentals, the Magic Kingdom area (Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness), the Epcot area (Yacht and Beach Clubs, and the Boardwalk), and the Downtown Disney area (both Port Orleans resorts, Old Key West, and Downtown Disney). In addition, Caribbean Beach and Coronado Springs each has their own marina.
If you do plan on renting a boat, I definitely recommend you do so from one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. The combined area of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon gives you ample room to have fun, and you cannot beat the view of the Magic Kingdom in the background. Although be aware, there is also greater traffic on the waters here than in many of the other locations.
Once you choose your boat, you will be given a life jacket followed by instructions on how to operate the watercraft and what areas are permitted and which ones are off limits (don’t worry about memorizing them, they are clearly marked). You are also reminded that larger watercraft have the right of way (so no cutting off the Ferry Boats please). And with that, you leave the dock and head out onto the water.
There are a variety of types of boats to choose from, but the most exciting one (and the only one that a 12 year old can drive) is the Sea Raycer (in the past these have been called Water Sprite, and even Water Mouse). This small speed boat seats two. For larger groups, there are pontoon boats available.
Zipping around the water in the Sea Raycer is a blast. For a little extra thrill, you can even jump the waves left by the passage of the Disney transportation boats. You also can get a closer look at some extinct attractions such as Discovery Island and River Country, as well as a beautiful view of the resorts. It is a trip that can be both exciting and relaxing. This is especially true for kids, who will no doubt love the fact that they can get behind the wheel of one of these four whole years before they can do so in a car.
One word of caution however. While this may seem like a great way to be the heat, you really want to avoid the hotter, sunnier parts of the day. The combination of a really hot life vest (which you are required to wear) and the fact that you get no shade on the water means that you can come back off the boat with one nasty sunburn. Earlier in the day may be better, and put on lots of sunscreen.
Piloting a boat in Walt Disney World is a lot of fun, and given the low age requirement for being the driver, is something that can be really exciting for your kids as well. It’s a nice break from the parks, and may end up being one of the more thrilling things you get a chance to do.