By Stacey Zable
The impulse when visiting Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL, may be to try to pack in as much as you can. However, to get the most of your stay, especially if this is your first trip, dedicate a minimum of a day to each of the four main theme parks and take the time to enjoy the rides, shows, dining, and shopping.
Be sure to use the FastPass+ service, which allows you to reserve select attractions, entertainment, and even character greetings in advance. Head out to the parks early, take a break mid-day and go back to your hotel for a dip in the pool or a nap, returning for more theme park fun in the evening.
DISNEY’S MAGIC KINGDOM
Begin your trip to the park that started it all in 1971. Here is where you’ll find the iconic Cinderella Castle amidst the park’s seven magical lands with the themes of fantasy—yesterday and tomorrow. Favorite attractions include the Splash Mountain flume ride and the in-the-dark roller coaster Space Mountain. If you’re coming with your own little princess, she will want to go to Fantasyland’s Princess Fairytale Hall to meet Cinderella and other Disney princesses in the Castle Courtyard. Do not miss visiting the park at night to catch the incredible evening Happily Ever After light and fireworks show in front of Cinderella Castle.
DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
A motion picture and television studio is located within this Disney theme park. Star Wars excitement has exploded here including the Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away live stage show and the nightly Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular that combines fireworks and special effects. Look for even more galactic fun when a new Star Wars-themed land opens in 2019. First, however, is Toy Story Land which opens this summer 2018. Here, guests join their favorite Toy Story pals and will feel like they’ve shrunk to the size of a toy themselves as they explore Andy’s backyard. Other classic favorites in the park include The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith thrill rides.
DISNEY’S ANIMAL KINGDOM
Real, exotic animals, as well as some of Disney’s fictional favorite animal characters, and even giant dinosaurs from long ago, are a part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Last summer brought the new land Pandora—The World of Avatar, with such rides as the 3D Avatar Flight of Passage. Top picks within this park include Finding Nemo—The Musical stage show and It’s Tough to be a Bug! 3D film and live show. The long-time favorite Kilimanjaro Safaris, where guests travel by open-air vehicle to see live animals that include hippos, zebras, elephants, giraffes and more, has been extended to include the nighttime Nocturnal Encounter. Evening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom also includes Rivers of Light, featuring live performances, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery on the Discovery River.
Cultural heritage is celebrated within 11 different nations at World Showcase including The American Adventure, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway and the United Kingdom. Amid the “countries,” you’ll find plenty of choice in terms of native foods, plus shops, music, and even the spotting of Aladdin’s Jasmine for a meet-and-greet in Morocco. Beyond the World Showcase, Epcot focuses on Future World in terms of discovery and scientific achievements. Favorite attractions include the relaunched Mission: SPACE, a simulated space flight, and Soarin’, where IMAX technology allows you to fly around the world. The newest and biggest news for Frozen movie fans is the chance to meet Elsa and Anna in the Norway Pavilion and experience the ride Frozen Ever After, which features many of Frozen’s friends.
BEYOND THE PARKS
After a day at the parks, or when it’s time to take a mid-day break, head for Disney Springs. Formerly known as Downtown Disney, the area is a retail, dining and entertainment mecca. There is plenty of Disney brand clothing and goodies, but there are also major brands that include Sephora and Vera Bradley. Among the many dining options, Planet Hollywood is an attraction in itself with a 4,500 square-foot video wall and many film memorabilia. The restaurant also satisfies with great food including mega ice cream shakes providing the energy to keep discovering more Disney all day and night.
For more information on Walt Disney World Resort, visit disneyworld.disney.go.com.
Staying on-property at the Walt Disney World Resort is part of the all-encompassing Disney experience, and you have your choice of more than 35 resorts (including non-Disney resorts and Disney Vacation Club ownership resorts.) Make your decision based on your budget and which park you prefer to be closest to during your stay. Disney resort guests can take advantage of the free transportation system that drops you off steps from the entrance of each park. Extra Magic Hours at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels also offers more time in the parks before they open and after they close.
Stacey Zable is an award-winning veteran editorial professional with experience writing for both print and online publications. She has held senior staff positions at travel trade publications, and has freelanced for some of the industry’s top consumer travel magazines. Visit her website at staceyzable.com.