Ultimate Disney World Guide

by Hayley Bezdek

So you want to go to Disney World ? Well, you’ve made a fantastic choice! We have the Ultimate Disney WorldGuide to help you out from choosing what to do, what to eat, and how to do it!

Let’s do a Disney deep dive….

A light introduction

Disney World is located right outside of Orlando, Florida, and is open year-round with four amusement parks and two waterparks.

Disney World Resort map showing all parks and hotels.

Each one is spread out across the Walt Disney World Resort and you can get from one to another with Disney transportation including busses, monorails, and boats. Disney has dozens of resort hotels on the property in a range of prices with different themes. This place is HUGE (As you can tell from the map).

How to plan

Money

If you really want to make the most out of your Disney experience, you have to do a bit of planning and research. Of course, the scariest part is probably the cost. Luckily, we have some advice on How to Do Disney World on a Budget! This article has several helpful tips including buying bulk Disney gift cards at places like Costco, along with visiting in the off-season. Choosing the perfect hotel and time of year to visit will help you save a lot of money, too.

Time of year

Although it’s convenient to go in the summer months, it might be a better experience if you visit in fall or winter. Things will overall be less crowded, the weather will be more bearable, and you will truly get your money’s worth out of the attractions and entertainment. I’d suggest using a Crowd Calendar website like this one, to see what places are the least crowded at what times of the year.

Resort Hotels

Disney’s Polynesian Resort has a main hotel, and waterfront villas.

The Walt Disney World Resort has resort hotels at varying prices from $99 to $500 a night. Whatever kind of vacation you’re planning, it’s worth looking into the various hotel options for your trip. Each one has a sort of overall theme/vibe, from the Polynesian resort being full of tropical wonder to Wilderness Lodge’s woodsy charm. Also, if you know the theme park you like the most, you can choose a resort that’s close by. Perks of resorts include reliable, free transportation to and from the parks and Disney shopping and characters right outside your room.

How long is my stay

Lastly, you have to plan the duration of the trip. If you know you can spend a whole week in Disney I’d recommend trying to spend a day at each of the four theme parks. There’s certainly enough to do in rides, food, and entertainment that would last a day. On the other hand, if this is more of a weekend trip- research what things are at each park and either invest in park hopping (going to 2 or more parks in one day), or just choose one or two parks you want to enjoy on your trip.

Trivia: Disney’s employees are called Cast Members – this includes everyone from cashiers to ride operators! Want to know more? Here’s 6 Disney Cast Member Myths Debunked

What to do

Most of the things to do at Disney World can be split into three categories: Attractions, Dining, and Entertainment. Of course, there are things that don’t go into those categories exactly, like these Instagram Worthy Photo Walls at Disney World!

Before we dive into what to do everywhere, let me share with you the magic of the Magic Band. Magic bands are wristbands (similar in size/feeling to a smartwatch) that basically contain everything you need for your Disney vacation. This band acts as a park ticket, credit card, FastPass holder, hotel key, and Photo Pass. It’s waterproof and reusable, so you can bring it year after year! Shop Magic bands below!

This princess uses her Magic Band as a ticket to get into the theme parks. (Disney)

Theme park overview

Each park has the same main elements: attractions, dining, and entertainment. You will find something you like in each park, but you might find yourself loving one more than the other, because they are all so different! No matter which place you choose, you will have fun at any age – but here’s a quick overview if you have to choose, including links to the top ten things to do in each park.

Overall, Magic Kingdom is the most popular and the most “Disney” of the four theme parks. It is geared towards young children with a lot of rides, characters, and parades so it will be crowded almost all the time. But don’t let that scare you off- It’s got a lot to do and see in six different themed lands! If you want to see the castle and get the true Disney experience, Magic Kingdom is a must do!

Epcot is a more relaxed “adult” park, with cultural experiences and seasonal food and drink festivals. It’s definitely low-key, but has really fun rides and is by no means boring. It’s split up into two sections: Future World and World Showcase. The attractions in Epcot are all centered around innovation, exploration, space travel, and culture. Epcot is home to 11 different “countries,” so it’s very popular for parkgoers to travel the world in one day!

A celebration of the movies and television, Hollywood Studios, has lots of performers, shows, and a few iconic thrill rides. Kids and adults will both love the Star Wars and Toy Story themed lands. The regulars will tell you to visit the corner with Tower of Terror and Rock N Roller Coaster for the best rides.

Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom (Disney)

Lastly, Animal Kingdom is basically a giant zoo and theme park in one and it is very fun for every age. If you’re an animal lover you have to visit this park – especially the safari! Not only will you see live animals from across the planet, you’ll still get that Disney magic from visiting Dinoland and Pandora!

Blizzard Beach and Typoon Lagoon are the waterparks and are pretty much like every waterpark ever, but cooler. Lots of fun slides, wave pools, and water playgrounds! Blizzard Beach is winter themed (kinda funny for a waterpark) and is most famous for its insane freefall body slide, Summit Plummet. Typhoon Lagoon is a tropical paradise, and has slightly more relaxing waterslides.

Attractions

One of the most exciting things for any park-goer is your first ride of the day. Disney World has plenty of coasters and attractions to keep all ages happy. Each park has its own charm and different levels of thrill. Disney World is known for its heavy theming and each attraction has a story along with it.

Trivia: Park-goers have made Magic Kingdom is famous for its Magic Mountain Range, made up of the three rides: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain.

FastPass entrance for a ride (touring plans.com)

This Disney World guide wouldn’t be complete without a rundown on FastPasses! FastPasses are Disney’s free way to cut the lines and enjoy more rides! It is a virtual placeholder in the queue for certain attractions that gives you a shortened wait time. You’ll get an hour time slot throughout the day for your ride, so it might say Expedition Everest 2:05-3:05pm. These are especially useful for the new rides with hour long waits! You’ll want to plan these ahead of time (Up to 30 days) because there’s only a limited number and they fill up fast!

Entertainment

Disney has shows, parades, and characters galore! If you have a lot of little ones, or aren’t into roller coasters – you will not feel forgotten! One important thing to mention is that entertainment at Disney is on a schedule. Although attractions are open all day long, the character meet and greets, parades, and shows are only at specific times and require planning ahead!

There are several parades throughout the day at each theme park. In these parades you’ll see characters on giant floats decorated for the movies, holidays, and celebrations of everything Disney. Check out your Disney app or the website for parade schedules. You can count on a parade to be musical, magical, and not too long!

Ariel on parade float with a Peter Pan behind her (Disney)

Pro tip: It can get quite crowded on the sidewalks during parade times, so either plan ahead and get your spot early OR go ride a few rides while everyone else is watching the parade!

Some of the most magical moments happen when you meet your favorite Disney characters! From princesses to villains to cartoon animals – you are bound to bump into someone you love. Since they’re so popular, you will need to look at an online schedule and maybe wait in line to meet characters on your bucket list. Not all characters are outside all day and not every character is at each park! For advice on who to meet, check out the Top 5 Character Meet and Greets at Disney World!

Another huge element of Disney is the shows! Live theatrical performances are in every park and you can see everything from a Beauty in the Beast musical to an Indiana Jones showdown! if you need a break from riding rides and just wanna sit down – pick up a parks program and find a showtime that works for you.

UP: A Great Bird Adventure, a show at Animal Kingdom with live birds and characters from UP (Disney)

Dining

If you wanna talk about Disney food, I could talk about it all day. But in a quick summary, here’s the Must Try Snacks at Disney World. The main thing to know about dining at Disney is that there’s a lot of options! On most days in any park you’ll have no problem grabbing some park fare like popcorn or pretzels (Mickey shaped of course!) However, there are nicer restaurants and dining experiences that can elevate your Disney day!

Character dining combines two of the best things about Disney into one. As you eat a delicious meal, Mickey and friends will come to your table and take pictures and interact with you. There are several locations around Disney World that offer character dining including storybook dining with the princesses! I can’t stress enough how important it is to make reservations ahead of time for these, because they’re in high demand.

Chef Mickey’s Character Dining experience (Disney)

If planning your Disney meals sounds stressful, you could try one of their dining plans! These are pre-paid and you can use mobile ordering on them, too. There are several plans, including both quick-service and table-service restaurants.

To Conclude: Do Your Disney Research

First of all, congrats for making it this far in my post, I know I’ve said a lot about Disney World and I feel like there’s so much more to say, but thanks for reading this Ultimate Disney World guide!

I mostly just want to reiterate the most important part of your trip to Disney World is planning ahead! Making dining reservations, choosing FastPasses, and figuring out what parks you’re going to are all way easier when you do it ahead of time. Do your Disney research about the characters, attractions, restaurants, hotels, and parks for a great vacation experience.

Go put on your ears and have a magical time at Disney World!

Check out more of our Disney scoop!!

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