Updated: Nov 13, 2022
Walt Disney World in Florida is one of the best travel destinations in the world, and should be the top destinations for families with children.
WikiVoyage has the original version of travelling in Disney World. But we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.
According to Wikipedia, "The Walt Disney World Resort, also called Walt Disney World or simply Disney World, is an entertainment resort complex in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, Florida, United States, near the cities of Orlando and Kissimmee. Opened on October 1, 1971, the resort is operated by Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, a division of The Walt Disney Company. The property covers nearly 25,000 acres (39 sq mi; 101 km2), of which half has been used. The resort comprises four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom), two water parks (Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon), 31 themed resort hotels, nine non-Disney hotels, several golf courses, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues, including the outdoor shopping center Disney Springs."
Here we quote the best way to travel in Walt Disney World provided by wikiVoyage, a multilingual, web-based project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable worldwide travel guide. Wikivoyage is hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that also hosts a range of other project such as Wikipedia. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiVoyage articles on Star articles - Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs. Content on wikiVoyage can be shared under a Creative Commons License.
Part 1: Understand.
At Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, Florida, you can explore human innovation and cooperation; enjoy rides both thrilling and enchanting; relax and recuperate on the beach or the golf course; and discover an entire resort where children and adults can have fun—together.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World puts you in good company; it is the flagship of Disney's worldwide theme park empire and is, by far, the most popular theme park resort in the world. Even amid numerous other attractions in and around Orlando, Florida, the Mouse House stands tall, the beacon that draws millions of tourists a year to the area. Some visitors describe it as a place of magic, wonder, and fantasy; others speak of fun, excitement, and relaxation; and still others complain of crowds, artifice, and unrelenting tackiness. As with most things, the essence of Walt Disney World lies near the intersection of those three views. It can be frustrating at times, but preparation and a positive attitude will smooth over most of the rough edges.
The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and Disney's Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World also has two of the world's most popular water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, both heavily themed. Two shopping and entertainment districts, Disney Springs and Disney's Boardwalk, provide plenty of opportunities for retail therapy and nighttime fun. If none of that strikes your fancy, check out some of the lesser-known activities, such as golf, tennis, boating, fishing, spas and health clubs, backstage tours, sporting events, and character dining.
Simply put, there is always something fun to do at Walt Disney World.
The most important thing to understand about the Walt Disney World Resort is that it was designed to be fun for everyone. Don't make the mistake of staying away just because you don't have kids. Singles and couples without children who think a Walt Disney World vacation is just for kids ignore the many "adult" entertainments available throughout the resort. Foodies, sun-worshipers, world travelers, thrill-seekers, comedy-lovers, film devotees, sports fans, club-hoppers, and history buffs will all find plenty of ways to have a great time.
Of course, if you do have kids, the best part of your Walt Disney World vacation is in experiencing the parks through their eyes. That is when you really understand Walt Disney's vision of a place where kids and parents can have fun together.
Walt Disney World is enormous, a multi-day resort destination. Each of its four theme parks is big enough to occupy visitors for a full day (and often two, depending on crowds). Unless you live nearby, four days is considered the bare minimum length of visit to even begin to experience the resort; some people stay as long as two weeks and still bypass some attractions.
Traveling to Walt Disney World represents a major pilgrimage for many American families. The "typical" visit involves flying into Orlando International Airport, busing to an on-site Disney hotel, spending about a week without leaving Disney property, and returning home. There are infinite variations possible, but this remains what most people mean when they talk of "going to Disney World".
Everything at Walt Disney World is carefully constructed and choreographed to maintain your perceptions of visiting an idealized world. Company jargon frames every aspect of customer service as part of the "show": employees are "cast members", visitors are "guests", and every prop and costume must be completely "in-character" while "on-stage". Disney considers the guest experience to be their top priority, and their customer service is almost universally impeccable. You will never find garbage lying in the streets or bathrooms that are too dirty, and anything that is damaged is either removed or fixed immediately. The streets are almost sparkling and the buildings look brand new no matter what time of the day or year you are there.
While some people find this attention to detail cloying and artificial, the vast majority of visitors are happy to immerse themselves in this relaxing, carefree environment. Even so, the realities of Walt Disney World can be stark: long lines, sweltering heat, rude guests, and expensive merchandise are common. There are ways to avoid the worst elements (namely by carefully choosing when to visit), but if things do go wrong, you can rely on the cast members to try to make things right.
Many first-time visitors try to do too much during their stay. Unless crowds are unusually small, this is a sure-fire recipe for burnout and exhaustion. You need to have a basic schedule in mind, but you should remain flexible in order to account for closed rides, full restaurants, special events, and just changing your mind. If the crowds get too heavy or the weather gets too hot, smart guests staying on-site head back to their hotels to relax, grab a snack, or take a swim, then return later in the day. Trying to adhere to a rigid schedule will only frustrate you and your family, and you're not going to Walt Disney World to get frustrated, are you?
With some careful basic planning, an open mind, and a cheerful attitude, a visit to Walt Disney World can be whatever you want it to be: fulfilling, exciting, relaxing, enlightening, or just plain fun.
Part 2: Get Around
Getting around Walt Disney World is easy and often fun. You may walk, drive, or ride public transit (in this case, buses, monorails, or ferryboats). All Walt Disney World transit vehicles are wheelchair-accessible, and there is no additional fee to use any of them. If you are traveling with a stroller, you must take your child out of the stroller, then fold it and hand-carry it onto the vehicle.
In some places, walking is the most convenient way to travel from one area to another. Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and the five resorts in between (Swan & Dolphin, Yacht & Beach Clubs, and Boardwalk) are connected by walkways, as is Disney Springs to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. If you are staying at Disney's Contemporary Resort, you will find it quicker to walk to the Magic Kingdom than to take the ferry or monorail. From Shades of Green (a military-only resort) it's a five-minute walk to Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, to take the monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom; and from the Polynesian it's another five-minute walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center, to take the monorail to Epcot.
Keep in mind, though, that you'll be doing a lot of walking within the parks, especially at Epcot and Animal Kingdom, so don't tire yourself out early!
Strollers, wheelchairs, and electric convenience vehicles (ECVs) are readily available to rent at the entrance to each park. If you have a problem standing too long, or if walking on the hot pavement makes your feet ache, renting a wheelchair or ECV can make a big difference. Wheelchairs can be brought up to the loading area of most rides, where you'll usually need to transfer to the ride vehicle. Both wheelchairs and ECVs are accommodated in most theater and stage attractions. Strollers will usually need to be left outside; most attractions have a designated stroller parking area. Electric standing vehicles (ESVs) are also available for guests who have trouble walking, but also cannot sit for long periods of time. There are very few ESVs, though, so it might be a bit of a hassle to rent one.
A single stroller rents for $15, or $13/day for multi-day rentals. Double strollers are $31, or $27/day. Wheelchairs are $12, or $10/day. ECVs and ESVs are $50, with a $20 refundable deposit. Even if you park-hop, you only have to pay once per day; simply show a same-day receipt to avoid paying a second fee.
Disney buses lined up
Learn to love the ubiquitous Walt Disney World bus system. You'll be using it a lot, especially if you didn't bring a car.
The bus routes are set up to facilitate travel from a resort to a park, but not from one resort to another or from one park to another. Most resorts have five bus routes originating from them, providing direct service to all four theme parks and Disney Springs. Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are served only by buses that leave from Disney Springs and Animal Kingdom, respectively.
Walt Disney World's monorail system is one of its signature attractions, and it's not even inside one of the parks. They do a great job of getting large numbers of guests from place to place, but they're also quite comfortable and fun to ride.
The monorail service is limited and only goes to certain areas, all originating from the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). There are three monorail lines:
Express: This route travels from the Transportation and Ticket Center (adjacent to the Magic Kingdom parking lot) to the Magic Kingdom gates and back, without stopping at the resorts. This is primarily used by Magic Kingdom guests who parked in the lot or are coming from Epcot. This route runs on the outer beam, counter-clockwise around Seven Seas Lagoon.
Resort: This route runs parallel to the Express route, clockwise on the inner rail, and stops at all the resorts it passes. The stops are, in order: Transportation and Ticket Center, Polynesian Village, Grand Floridian, Magic Kingdom, and Contemporary. This route is used by resort guests to get to the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, and by guests visiting one of the resorts.
Epcot: This route travels between the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Epcot gates. When entering Epcot this way, the monorail makes a nice loop in the park before arriving at the station, giving a great aerial view of Future World and the World Showcase.
If you are going to Epcot from the Polynesian Village Resort, you may walk to the Transportation and Ticket Center to get to the Epcot monorail; it's usually faster than taking the Resort monorail completely through the loop. The same is true of traveling to the Magic Kingdom from the Contemporary Resort. It is also possible to walk to the TTC from Disney's Wilderness Lodge, which is not connected to the monorail. The distance is about half a mile, and takes around 10 minutes.
Monorails generally run from an hour before park opening to an hour after closing. Most of the time that'll be enough for anyone, but if you're using it to transit between resorts (for, say, a late dinner reservation), you might want to double-check the exact hours at your resort's front desk. You might also have a problem with early-morning breakfasts and tour appointments, but again the front desk can help you arrange alternative transportation.
Walt Disney World also has several waterways which are used by ferryboats to transport guests. In some cases, these take the place of bus service between two destinations.
From the Magic Kingdom, huge ferryboats transport guests to the Transportation and Ticket Center, adjacent to the parking lot. Smaller motor launches and cruisers travel to the Grand Floridian, Polynesian Village, Fort Wilderness Campground, and Wilderness Lodge (and sometimes the Contemporary).
From Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, Friendship boats travel to the Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach Club, and Boardwalk.
From Disney Springs, ferry service is to Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and the two Port Orleans resorts.
If you are staying on-site, a car is not necessary, unless you wish to travel off-property during your stay. Some people purchase groceries to use during their stay; while there are a couple of places on the property to buy them, better selection and prices are found off property. Other people use a car to avoid the delays that can sometimes affect the public transportation options.
If you are staying at a hotel off Disney property, on the other hand, a car is strongly recommended. Many off-resort hotels offer shuttle service to the parks, but the schedules may not be convenient.
Several car rental agencies have locations on Walt Disney World property:
Alamo and National, which are both owned by the same company, have dual locations in three places:
WDW Car Care Center (near the Magic Kingdom toll plaza), +1 407 824-3470
Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, +1 407 934-4930
Hilton Buena Vista Palace (in the Disney Springs Resort Area), +1 407 827-6363
Avis at the Hilton Lake Buena Vista in the Disney Springs Resort Area. +1 407 827-2847
Budget at the DoubleTree in the Disney Springs Resort Area. +1 407 827-6089
Dollar at the Wyndham in the Disney Springs Resort Area. +1 407 583-8000
Hertz at Shades of Green. +1 407 938-0600
U-Save at the Best Western in the Disney Springs Resort Area. +1 407 938-9585
Part 3: Itinerary
Day 1-2: Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is the "main" park at Walt Disney World, based on the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the one most people think of first when they think of Walt Disney World. It is organized around the central landmark of Cinderella Castle, with six themed "lands" arrayed around a central hub. Starting from the main entrance and going clockwise around Cinderella Castle, the lands are Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
Of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, the Magic Kingdom is the oldest, most popular, and the most child-friendly, although many adults love the escapism as well. Adult visitors who do not enjoy rides such as "it's a small world" where you sit in vehicles that take you in a circle through a tunnel, and listen to childlike delight and screams, may want to visit Epcot or Hollywood Studios instead.
Though the FastPass+ system works well, it is not available for all attractions, and lines can be endless but always keep moving. Food and merchandise can be pricey, but not too bad considering where you are. Plan accordingly for a trip and expect to spend at least $100 per person for a visit.
Despite it all, most people would agree that the lines, the crowds, and the prices are worth it for the magical Disney experience that makes all adults "children", if even only for a day.
Upon entering the park, you'll find yourself on Main Street U.S.A., and though there are plenty of shops here, your eye will no doubt be drawn right to the magnificent Cinderella Castle. The centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom sits at the end of Main Street, and the circular area in front of it serves as the hub of the park, from which you can get to all of the other lands.
From the hub, Adventureland can be reached via the leftmost path, followed by Liberty Square moving clockwise. Fantasyland is straight through the castle, and Tomorrowland is off to the right. You can get to Frontierland via either Adventureland or Liberty Square. The lands, with the exception of Main Street, are also all connected around the perimeter of the park, away from the hub.
If you don't want to walk, you have a couple of options. At times, but less often these days, you'll find a horse-drawn trolley running up and down Main Street, which you can hop to get to and from the hub. More reliably, you'll find train stations at Main Street, Frontierland (near Splash Mountain), and Fantasyland (in Storybook Circus), where you can board a train for a scenic narrated journey around the perimeter of the park.
1. Main Street, U.S.A.
Modeled after a stereotypical early 20th-century small town, Main Street, U.S.A. is the gateway into the Magic Kingdom; the view straight down the street to Cinderella Castle serves to draw you inward upon arrival. It is also, of course, the exit, which means shopping galore, the better to entice you with souvenirs on the way out. You'll find most of the basic services, like Guest Relations, here, but not much in the way of attractions.
Do stop in at the Crystal Arts glass shop, though, as they often have glass blowers working in the shop and watching them is fascinating. And keep an eye out for some of the colorful characters who make appearances from time to time, especially the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet.
Main Street Vehicles. Ride a horse car, omnibus, jitney, horseless carriage, or fire engine from the entrance to Cinderella Castle and back. These vehicles only run if crowd levels permit, usually early in the morning; as of December 2017, hours are from 8AM until 10:15AM.
Town Square Theater. Mickey is preparing to give a magic show at this old-time theater, but he's always up for greeting guests backstage. (There's no actual magic show... just the meet-and-greet with Mickey.) Don't forget you can use FastPass+ here; it might save you some time. Also in the same building is a magical portal that shrinks you down to fairy size and leads to Tinker Bell's Magical Nook, where Peter Pan's friend waits to greet her friends.
Walt Disney World Railroad - Main Street, U.S.A.. A 19th-century steam train that circles the park, the station is above the entrance to the Magic Kingdom at its southernmost point, with additional stops at Frontierland and the Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland.
Adventureland recalls the Victorian-era tales of exotic adventure in far-off locales. Near Main Street, the environment evokes the jungles of deepest Africa, of the type explored by David Livingstone and H.M. Stanley in the late 19th century. Walking westward, you'll pass through the Middle East and the South Pacific before arriving at the Spanish outposts on the Caribbean Sea during the Golden Age of Piracy. Just around the corner are the Spanish flavors of the American Southwest in Frontierland.
Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room. The original Tropical Serenade show is back! A roomful of wise-cracking Audio-Animatronic birds serenade you with classic tunes. After years "Under New Management", a minor fire in early 2011 prompted the Imagineers to take the opportunity to restore the older show, which is nearly identical to the one Walt Disney created for Disneyland.
Jungle Cruise. Tour the world's jungle rivers, from the Amazon to the Nile to the Irawaddy. The cruise's pilots are well-armed, both with pistols and with the worst puns mankind has ever known. View the back side of water, and visit "head" salesman Trader Sam, but please, no "hand-outs" to the crocodiles!
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Guide your carpet up and down as it spins around and around, but if you don't watch out for the spitting camels, you're going to get a little wet!
A Pirate's Adventure ~ Treasures of the Seven Seas. Would-be pirates can pick up a treasure map and help Captain Jack Sparrow find the Treasures of the Seven Seas. It's an interactive scavenger-hunt game that takes players of all ages across Adventureland to seek the treasures.
Pirates of the Caribbean. The classic swashbuckling adventure along the Spanish Main now features Captain Jack Sparrow from the blockbuster film series. A bit spooky at the beginning, but once the pillaging starts, things start to get silly.
Swiss Family Treehouse. Tour the shipwrecked Robinson family's ingenious home. Be warned: lots of stairs.
Frontierland celebrates the United States west of the Mississippi in its 19th-century frontier years (with just a bit of rural Southern flavor). From Mark Twain's Missouri to the California Gold Rush, there's a lot of adventure packed into a small area.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A roller coaster with a runaway mine train theme. No inversions, but the hairpin turns, fast hills, and frequent tunnels make for an exciting ride.
Country Bear Jamboree. Live stage show with country music-singing Audio-Animatronic bears. Best enjoyed with lots of hand-clapping and foot-stomping from the audience.
Frontierland Shootin' Arcade. Grab a rifle and pretend you're in a shootout at the O.K. Corral. The animated targets react only to the special infrared rifles, so there's no safety concern for little ones.
Splash Mountain. A log flume ride based on Song of the South, with a thrilling 50-foot drop into the briar patch! You will get wet, and you may get soaked; one way to avoid that fate is to buy a rain poncho at a gift shop and wear it onto the ride.
Tom Sawyer Island. Take a raft ride across the Rivers of America to a pair of heavily wooded islands perfect for imaginative and adventurous play. Winding paths, a spooky cavern, a barrel bridge, and even the rustic frontier Fort Langhorn are among the many places to explore. Go ahead and let the kids run around freely; the islands are completely isolated from the rest of the park.
Walt Disney World Railroad - Frontierland. A 19th-century steam train that circles the park, with stops at Main Street, U.S.A. and the Storybook Circus area of Fantasyland.
4. Liberty Square
Step back into colonial America in Liberty Square, where freedom and independence are buzzwords and powdered wigs are the height of fashion. Even the flower beds are red, white, and blue in this patriotic harbor town. A replica of the Liberty Bell sits in the central square, along with a majestic live oak serving as the local Liberty Tree, where patriots would gather to debate and plan.
The Hall of Presidents. This attraction starts with an inspirational ultra-widescreen film on the history of the U.S. presidency. At the climax, the screen rises to reveal all 44 presidents on the stage, presented in lifelike Audio-Animatronics. Washington, Lincoln, and Trump give brief speeches.
Haunted Mansion. A stately Dutch Gothic mansion sits on a hill to the north of Liberty Square, representing the Hudson River estates of the 19th century. Observant visitors will, however, note some decidedly eerie sounds coming from the mansion; those who venture inside will find themselves immersed in a creepy but occasionally wacky house of horrors. A mostly ride-through attraction featuring 999 happy haunts (which means there's room for one more—did you bring your death certificate?) and the only Disney cast members who never smile. The latest round of renovations in 2008 have done wonders in updating the innovative special effects.
Liberty Square Riverboat. Ride a steam-powered stern-wheeler down the Rivers of America, all the way around Tom Sawyer Island. Gives you some unique views of attractions like the Haunted Mansion and Big Thunder Mountain that you can't otherwise see, and there are also some dioramas scattered around that are only viewable from the riverboat.
In the courtyard, around the forest, or at the circus, Fantasyland is where Disney's classic animated fairy tales come to life. It is home to many of the most iconic Disney attractions, and is nearly always very crowded. In 2012, Fantasyland underwent an extreme makeover, the biggest changes to hit the Magic Kingdom in its 40-year history. The land is now divided into three distinct sections: the Castle Courtyard, Enchanted Forest, and Storybook Circus.
6. Castle Courtyard
This area of Fantasyland, closest to the castle, has most of the pre-2012 Fantasyland rides and has remained fairly unchanged during the land's expansion. From rides based on classic Disney animated features to the inimitable "it's a small world" boat ride, the attractions here are among Disney's most beloved and iconic.
"it's a small world". Set sail on the happiest cruise around the world, to be serenaded by stylized Audio-Animatronics of children from every continent. This was originally Pepsi and Bank of America's pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The cheerful theme song is known all over the world, both for its message of unity and peace as well as for its relentlessly catchy tune.
Mickey's PhilharMagic. A computer-animated 3D movie. You think you're in for a magical concert conducted by Mickey Mouse, but Donald Duck swipes Mickey's sorcerer hat, and things go hilariously awry. The audience follows Donald into iconic scenes from Fantasia, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and more.
Peter Pan's Flight. Experience the story of Peter Pan from your own flying pirate ship. Soar over the rooftops of London, and on to Neverland. Hit this attraction early, as the line can get very long.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. This carousel was built in 1917, making it the oldest ride in the park. Found dilapidated and no longer operational in 1967 in Maplewood, New Jersey, it has been meticulously restored to its splendor. Non-riders can play a bit of name-that-tune as they listen to the creative band-organ arrangements of classic Disney music.
Princess Fairytale Hall. Snow White's Scary Adventures, an opening-day attraction, is gone, but Snow White herself and many of her Disney Princess friends have gathered at the Fairytale Hall to meet their young fans.
7. Enchanted Forest
Unused and underused space in the northeastern part of the land—some of which was once the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride—has been transformed into a lush fairy-tale setting that stands in stark contrast to the fair-like atmosphere of the Castle Courtyard. Finally completed in 2014, the Enchanted Forest represents the biggest addition to Walt Disney World since Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998.
Enchanted Tales with Belle. Guests walk through the cottage where Belle's father lives, making use of a magic mirror to enter the Beast's castle. There, Lumiere and the Wardrobe have arranged a surprise for Belle, and all the guests—kids and adults alike—are welcome to participate in the story. This experience is much more than just the typical autograph and photo session.
Mad Tea Party. The Mad Hatter and the March Hare invite you for a spin in a giant teacup. You can spin your teacup around its center axis at whatever speed you like, but that's not the only thing that'll be moving; each group of five cups also spins around a common axis, and then the whole shebang rotates around a giant teapot. Riders with plenty of arm strength can get their teacup spinning to ridiculous speeds; know your limits!
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Follow Pooh and his friends on an adventure through the Hundred Acre Wood. Might be the most popular ride in the park, at least for the under-5 set.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. An innovative roller coaster takes guests through the Seven Dwarfs' mine in carts that swing precariously back and forth. This is not a mega-thrill ride like some of Disney's big coasters, but it will still offer plenty of excitement... particularly for kids who've graduated from The Barnstormer over at Storybook Circus.
Under the Sea ~ Voyage of the Little Mermaid. In the classic Disney dark-ride style, guests revisit the story of the 1989 film that ushered in the Silver Age of Disney animated films. Ariel's Grotto, just outside, lets guests meet and take pictures with the mermaid herself.
8. Storybook Circus
Storybook Circus is a wild and energetic area with animals and music galore.
The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini (formerly The Barnstormer at Goofy's Wiseacres Farm). A children's roller coaster. Perfect alternative for those too short to ride Space Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station. Kids can play and splash around the circus train from Dumbo. They will get very wet, and you probably will too, even if you just sit around the perimeter. Consider bringing a change of clothes.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Dumbo spreads his giant ears and flies around and around, and you can make him go up and down as you spin. This classic attraction has been the very first "thrill ride" for countless kids over the years. Now, with two carousels and an indoor "virtual" queuing area with activities and games, the days of insufferable waits for Dumbo are over. (Guests using FastPass+ will bypass the activities inside the big tent.)
Pete's Silly Sideshow. Mickey's pals have all been working hard at the Storybook Circus, and you can meet them here, in their circus personae: "Minnie Magnifique", "Daisy Fortuna", "The Great Goofini", and "The Amazing Donaldo". (Mickey himself still holds court down at the Town Square Theater.).
Walt Disney World Railroad - Fantasyland. A 19th-century steam train that circles the park, with stops at Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland.
Take a glance into the future in Tomorrowland, Disney's homage to the dreams and innovations that will keep humanity moving forward. Very different from the other lands of the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland is all about smooth chrome architecture, strange and bizarre creatures, and thrilling spaceflight.
Astro Orbiter. Climb into a rocketship and control your altitude as you spin around a central pillar. Quite similar to Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland, but the Astro Orbiter is positioned much higher, allowing for some very nice views. It can be a great way to watch the nightly fireworks, if you can time it right.
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin. An indoor dark ride with a laser gun game. Help Buzz Lightyear beat the evil Emperor Zurg by firing your laser at targets scattered throughout the ride. Some targets are worth more than others, but you won't know which are which! You'll want to ride multiple times to try to beat your scores.
Carousel of Progress. A four-part Audio-Animatronic production taking you through a century of technological progress. Housed in a unique rotating show building. This show originally debuted as General Electric's pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair and holds the record of being the longest-running stage show in history. It's a bit dated, but it was one of Walt Disney's favorites and very much embodies his approach to human progress.
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Interactive comedy show featuring characters from Monsters, Inc. The animated monsters on the screen will pick on specific audience members and even call them by name. Audience members can also submit jokes via cell phone for the monsters to tell!
Space Mountain. The classic rocket-themed indoor roller coaster. It's quite dark, which enhances the thrill because you don't know what's coming next. (And those who've been on it with the lights on will assure you that you probably don't want to see how close you get to the structure above you!)
Tomorrowland Speedway. You don't need a driver's license to drive these real gas-powered cars; you just need to be able to reach the gas pedal. Drive around a 0.4-mile (640 m) racetrack (safely secured to a guiderail) and try not to bump into the car in front of you.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. Take a round-trip sightseeing tour on an elevated track around all of Tomorrowland. The nearly silent PeopleMover vehicles are an innovative prototype for an efficient and comfortable transport system. The ride goes inside several of the show buildings, giving you behind-the-scenes peeks at both Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear.
Day 3-4: Epcot
Walt Disney World's second theme park opened October 1, 1982, as EPCOT Center, joining the Magic Kingdom. Often likened to a "permanent world's fair", Epcot is divided into two distinct areas, Future World and World Showcase.
World Showcase features eleven different countries, focusing on authentic food and merchandise, each one hosted by citizens of that country. Don't miss the impossibly cheesy but fun Mexico ride, or the inspirational American Adventure stage show.
Future World comprises a variety of attractions, each one highlighting one aspect of human progress. The "future" in this case is not the fantasy of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland, but the promise of a future in which communication, imagination, and conservation have become mankind's foremost values. Test Track and Mission: SPACE are the most thrilling of the attractions, though Soarin' Around the World, a simulated hang-gliding adventure, provides thrilling visuals without the high-speed movement.
Epcot is sometimes derided as an "educational park", and though it is perhaps the most cerebral of the four theme parks, it's all presented in the usual entertaining Disney style. It's true that Epcot may appeal more to adults and older children, but young ones aren't exactly left out; they'll enjoy the character greetings and the Kidcot Fun Stops as well as the more colorful and character-filled rides like The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
Just outside Epcot's International Gateway is Disney's BoardWalk, a nightlife and shopping area themed as a mid-Atlantic beach community.
Epcot might be the easiest of the parks to get around, because it's very open and spacious. The spaciousness has a drawback, though; because the pavilions are spread out, it can be a long walk from one side of the park to the other. Spaceship Earth is visible from anywhere in the park and provides a convenient orientation landmark.
The northern half of Epcot, formerly called Future World, is divided into three sections. From the main entrance, you enter World Celebration, with Spaceship Earth directly in front of you, and Club Cool hiding behind it. World Discovery—Mission: SPACE, Test Track and the upcoming Play pavilion and Guardians of the Galaxy ride—is on the left side. World Nature is on the right and comprises The Seas with Nemo & Friends, The Land, and Imagination!
Go past Spaceship Earth and through the former Innoventions Plaza and you'll see the World Showcase Lagoon front of you, with the eleven nations of World Showcase arrayed around the far shore. From left to right (east to west), the pavilions are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The International Gateway, Epcot's "back entrance", is between France and the United Kingdom; exit here to get to the BoardWalk and the other Epcot-area resorts, or to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The World Showcase Lagoon has a circumference of roughly a mile. To make a long trip short, there are two more Friendship ferries (yes, just like the ones you took to get here from Hollywood Studios or the resorts) that traverse the lagoon.
The name says it all; the possibilities of imagination are on display here. The pavilion represents the importance of new ideas and innovative thought to the progress of humanity. Be sure to check out the jumping fountains and the backwards waterfall outside.
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival (Magic Eye Theater). The pavilion's 3-D film theater is now home to a rotating selection of three Disney and/or Pixar animated short films, each enhanced for 3-D viewing and with added in-theater effects.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment. A classic Disney dark ride, starring Eric Idle and the iconic purple dragon named Figment. The ride is much improved since its 1999 revamp, but still pales compared to the original 1982 ride. Even so, it's still fun to explore the senses and what your imagination can conceive with just a little sensory push.
ImageWorks. This is an interactive play area at the end of the Journey Into Imagination ride, allowing you to put into practice some of the imaginative ideas you saw in the ride. You'll explore the senses of sight and sound, using your imagination to take those sensory inputs and create something new.
2. Spaceship Earth
Yes, the ride really does go all the way up to the top inside that giant "golf ball", the geodesic sphere that is the icon of Epcot. This pavilion is centrally located because its focus is on human communication, without which all of the other innovations in Future World would be meaningless.
Spaceship Earth. This dark ride through the history of communication was revamped in 2007 with new scenes and new narration by Dame Judi Dench, but its message is the same as it was when it first opened in 1982: communication is the key to all human achievement. Kids might get bored; keep them occupied looking for humorous vignettes scattered among the Audio-Animatronic scenes.
Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future. After riding Spaceship Earth, you'll end up here. This space houses several inventive games based on technology from communications company Siemens AG, which sponsors the pavilion.
3. Test Track
Test Track. Get an idea of what it might feel like to be a crash-test dummy in this unique thrill ride. Start off by designing your own custom test vehicle, then hop into one of the pre-built cars for a ride through the testing course. Your custom design gets put through its paces, virtually, at the same time as the "real" test vehicle—with you inside. Perfectly safe, but the 60 mph (100 km/h) speed your car gets up to feels a lot faster. Lots of fun and extremely popular; you'll probably want a FastPass+ reservation. Because the cars seat six, there's often room left over from parties of two or four; the single-rider line, from which the cast fills those spaces, can get you on the ride quicker if you don't mind splitting your party.
4. World Showcase
The Mexican pavilion is dominated by a pyramid, loosely modeled after the pre-Columbian pyramid in Teotihuacan known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, dating back to 150-200 CE. Its use is still a mystery, but more than 200 sacrificial burials have been found around the original temple. The head of the mythical serpent creature Quetzalcoatl has been included in this replica along the entrance stairs. Inside the pyramid is a nighttime square with stars twinkling above, some Spanish-era colonial buildings, a restaurant, and a market selling various Mexican items.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. A much-needed update to this gentle boat ride added the Three Caballeros, from the 1944 Disney film of the same name. Join Panchito and José Carioca on a gentle boat ride across all of Mexico, searching for Donald Duck, the last member of the trio, who has been distracted by all the commotion and gone missing.
The Mexico pavilion is opening early, along with Future World, to accommodate overflow from Norway.
This area is built as a square representing a few Norwegian towns. The fortress-like restaurant building is modeled and named after the Akershus fortress in Oslo, guarding the sea approach to the city. The huge wooden church, which hosts rotating exhibits, is a replica of the traditional Stave Church in Gol in Western Norway, dating back to 1212; the original is one of very few surviving ancient wooden churches left in the world. The current exhibit is Norsk Kultur, Inspiration for Disney's Frozen.
Speaking of Frozen, that's pretty much all you'll see in the Norway pavilion these days. Although the film was set in the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, the artists took most of their inspiration from the people, landscapes, culture, and architecture of Norway.
Frozen Ever After. Ride a Scandinavian boat through the waterways of Arendelle, in a continuation of the story from Frozen. Opened on June 21, 2016 and replaced the former Maelstrom attraction, utilizing the same ride vehicles and a similar track layout. Very popular.
Walk through the large Paifang gate. These gates were used in ancient China to mark entry into a new division (called Fang in Chinese), and this gate at Epcot is modeled after one in Beijing's summer palace. The courtyard is dominated by a large recreation of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing; it was used by the emperors to pray for a good harvest. The 12 columns supporting the roof represent the 12 months of the Chinese year, and the four columns in the center represent the four seasons. Many of the smaller buildings are recreations of the Forbidden City, also in Beijing. If all the Asian culture gets you in a meditative mood, the rough Chinese gardens are one of the most peaceful spots in Epcot.
Reflections of China. A Circle-Vision 360, 13-minute travel movie of China's most well-known sights, from Shanghai and Inner Mongolia, to the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China.
Germany is a federation of 16 states, each with a separate and distinct culture and identity. The architecture of the German pavilion reflects styles from various regions of the country; for example, the Biergarten restaurant is Bavarian, but the statue of St. George slaying the dragon represents the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Of course, the influence of German architecture on Disney parks goes all the way back to 1955; Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, commissioned in 1869 by King Ludwig II, was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
There are no rides here, and the only show is the band inside the Biergarten, but there's plenty of shopping to be had.
The Italian pavilion is a scaled-down replica of St. Mark's Square in Venice, right down to the bell tower (one-fifth scale) and the gondolas floating in World Showcase Lagoon. The original Doge's Palace makes heavy use of marble; Disney recreated the effect with fiberglass. In addition to the Venetian architecture, a stucco building with tile roof represents Tuscany.
The pavilion has no rides or theater shows; the main attractions are the shops and the restaurants. You might also catch the World Showcase Players performing their audience-participation comedy skit Kiss Me Shrew. You can also see a flag-throwing show called Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro, several times daily.
The American Adventure
The United States of America pavilion is housed in a building inspired by the colonial period of the 18th century. Inside, keep an ear out for the legendary harmonies of the Voices of Liberty a capella chorus, performing throughout the day; they're rightfully considered the pinnacle of Epcot entertainment. Check the Times Guide for details.
The American Adventure. It turns out that the best show in World Showcase is the one for the host nation. This inspirational and informative presentation combines film and Audio-Animatronics to take you through every era of American history, with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain as your hosts. Don't mistake this show for the Hall of Presidents; the latter is impressive for putting 43 presidents on stage at the same time, but The American Adventure has a wider variety of on-stage effects and scenery. The theater is cavernous (and air-conditioned) but never crowded.
American Heritage Gallery. Inside the pavilion is this exhibit space, which changes occasionally to spotlight different aspects of American art or history.
America Gardens Theater. Across from the main building, on the shores of the lagoon, is this amphitheater, where any number of events might be scheduled. Check your Times Guide for details.
Mitsukoshi, a Japanese retailer founded in 1673, is the sponsor of the Japan pavilion. All the touristy classics of Japan are recreated, in a way that has little to do with reality. Start your visit by walking through the Torii gate. In Japan you walk through these gates before entering a Shinto shrine, to mark the passing into the spiritual world. The five-story Goju-no-to Pagoda was inspired by the Horyuji Temple in Nara, Japan's ancient capital. Rather oddly, it is named after the five Chinese elements, but built in five stories to represent the 5 Japanese elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. Surrounding it all is a large Japanese inspired garden, complete with koi fish swimming around in the ponds.
Bijutsu-kan Gallery. Inside this replica of the White Heron Castle, modeled after part of the famous Himeji castle in Japan, are changing exhibits on Japanese culture. The current exhibit is "Kawaii: Japan's Cute Culture", which examines the historical roots and modern examples of the Japanese kawaii aesthetic.
Morocco's is the only pavilion sponsored by a government. King Hassan II was heavily involved in the construction, and he dispatched native craftsmen to build the pavilion. The minaret (or tower) towering over the area is a recreation of the unique Koutoubia Minaret in Marrakech, which has inspired thousands of church towers across Europe. In Muslim countries priests call for prayers (fard) from these towers five times a day. The pavilion also holds a small recreation of parts of the Chellah necropolis, a burial place located in Rabat that is actually an ancient Roman structure. There is also a replica of the Nejjarine fountain in Fez, a very intricate mosaic fountain. Also from Fez, the evenly-tiled Bab Boujouloud gate marks the border between the old town (the Medina) and the new town. Inside the Medina, there is a bustling market place, or bazaar. Because many of the structures, even as replicas, holds great religious significance to Muslims, the buildings are not lighted during the Epcot Forever show.
Gallery of Arts and History. This gallery features exhibits of Moroccan science, music and technology.
The French pavilion re-creates a Parisian street scene, complete with a miniature Eiffel Tower that uses forced perspective to appear as if it's off in the distance. Designed to represent Paris during La Belle Epoque, the pavilion features many of the typical Parisian sights—a sidewalk cafe, beautiful fountains, and distinctive architecture. There's a park, next to the International Gateway canal, based on Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Le Petit Rue, The Little Street in the back of the pavilion, represents rural France.
The World Showcase Players stop by France now and then, performing their comedic audience-participation skit, Cyranose de Bergerac. Serveur Amusant! is a humorous acrobatic show played out on the street of the pavilion five times a week.
Impressions de France. A travel movie through the French countryside with a classical music soundtrack.
This pavilion's street contains one building for each century of British history. The largest structure, a recreation of the royal Hampton Court Palace in southwest London, is massive patchwork of different periods' architecture, since it was successively expanded to compete with the French palace of Versailles. Elsewhere the adorable little thatched roof house is a model of Anne Hathaway's cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Anne was the wife of William Shakespeare. There is also a traditional hedge maze, modelled after the Somerleyton Hall Maze in Lowestoft, which dates back to 1846. Don't forget to get a photo of yourself in front of the iconic red British phone booths.
A couple of musical groups can be found gracing the United Kingdom stage. Quickstep is a quartet playing traditional but up-tempo Irish, Scottish, and English melodies. The British Revolution is a tribute band playing "British Invasion" pop and rock music from the 1960s and 70s. Check the Times Guide for the schedule.
The mountains, Indigenous wood carvings, and the (fake) hotel all represent various regions of Canada. Victoria Gardens was inspired by Butchart Gardens in Victoria in British Columbia, while the Hotel du Canada features a 19th-century chateau-style design. Around the base of the hotel is a village-like atmosphere evoking the Maritime Provinces. The totem pole outside the Trading Post was carved in 1998 by David Boxley, working "on-stage" in front of guests at the Canada pavilion; the other two (also by Boxley) were added in 2017.
Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360. Replacing O Canada!, Canada Far and Wide is a feature with updated sequences, a new musical score by Canadian composer Andrew Lockington, and narration by Canadian actors Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy.
Between the United Kingdom and Canada pavilions is the Mill Stage, home to folk band Alberta Bound.
Epcot Forever. At park closing, enjoy this extravagant display of fireworks, lasers, fountains and electric lighting over World Showcase Lagoon.
Day 5: Disney's Hollywood Studios
Walt Disney World's third theme park opened in May 1989 as Disney–MGM Studios, joining the Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. The park, billed as "the Hollywood that never was", features live shows and attractions based on movie and television favorites, from classic Golden Age films to modern-day blockbusters. In addition to the well-known Disney-branded productions, several Disney subsidiaries also have inspired rides and shows here; it's the place to go for fans of Lucasfilm properties, Pixar films, ABC television, and Jim Henson's Muppets.
Among the top attractions are two exceptional thrill rides, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a 13-story vertical drop) and the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (a launched coaster, 0-60 in 2.8 seconds), and a ride through a Toy Story-themed shooting gallery.
Just south of Hollywood Studios is the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves and host to countless other sporting events throughout the year.
Upon entering the park, you'll find yourself on Hollywood Boulevard, the park's equivalent of the Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A. Shops line both sides of this street, perfect for grabbing a souvenir on your way out at the end of the day. (Feel free to browse on the way in, though; you can always come back later, or you can have it held for you or delivered to your Disney resort.) Here, it's perpetually the 1930s, so keep an eye out for young starlets, ambitious directors, suspicious policemen, eager autograph hounds, and the like—these Streetmosphere actors play out comedic vignettes throughout the day, and they may just pull you into their stories. At the end of Hollywood Boulevard, you can see the beautiful replica of Hollywood's Chinese Theater, the centerpiece of the park.
As you travel down Hollywood Boulevard, you'll find the famous intersection with Vine St., a smaller street that heads off to the left towards Echo Lake. The next intersection is with Sunset Boulevard, another major thoroughfare that branches to the right. Here you'll find more shops and more Streetmosphere, and looming in the distance is the 199-foot-tall Hollywood Tower Hotel, which houses the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. (Why 199 feet? If it were one foot taller, it would require a blinking red light at the top under federal aircraft regulations.)
Past Sunset, as you approach the Chinese Theater, to the right will be a large gateway, through which you'll find the Animation Courtyard. Through the gate and to the left, starting behind the Chinese Theater, is Mickey Avenue, which leads to the new Toy Story Land, where you'll shrink down to the size of a toy and meet Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the gang.
From there, you soon hit a dead end where the former backlot used to be. Now, if you were to peek over the construction walls, you might see the mountains of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge rising. You can't get through here yet, so head back to the Chinese Theater. Off to the left of the theater is Echo Lake—just look for the giant Dinosaur Gertie. Here, you'll find the Lucasfilm attractions. Or you can take Commissary Lane towards Grand Avenue and the Muppet Courtyard (which is another dead end, pending the opening of the Star Wars land).
1. Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Boulevard is mostly a location for shops, restaurants, and Streetmosphere, but at its far end is where you'll find the park's centerpiece, the Chinese Theater. While there, be sure to check out the cement plaza in front—just like at the real Chinese Theater in Hollywood, you'll find a number of celebrities have placed their handprints and signatures there. Everyone from Donald Duck and R2-D2 to Carol Burnett and Michael Jackson has left their mark.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. Nightly; check Times Guide for specific start times. Every night, the skies above the Chinese Theater (and the Chinese Theater itself) are lit up with projected images, lasers, and fireworks, all choreographed to bring the excitement of the Star Wars saga to eager crowds. The Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party ($79/$45) gets you dessert before the show and access to a preferred viewing area without needing to camp out ahead of time.
The park's marque attraction, housed within the Chinese Theater, was The Great Movie Ride. It closed in August 2017 in anticipation of Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. This dark ride, using state-of-the-art Disney-invented tech that enables you to see 3-D images without the need for glasses, is scheduled to open sometime in 2019. It's also, surprisingly, the first ride-through attraction the company has built that stars Mickey Mouse.
2. Sunset Boulevard
In addition to more shops, restaurants, and Streetmosphere, Sunset Boulevard is home to the Studios' two major stage shows and its two popular mega-thrill rides.
Fantasmic!. Performed nightly after dark; check the Times Guide for details. Watch as Mickey Mouse uses the power of imagination to defeat some of Disney's nastiest villains. Live-action nighttime extravaganza with outstanding film and lighting effects, fireworks, and a 50-foot animatronic dragon. The theater fills up quickly, so get there early if you want a seat. Reserved seating is available if you purchase a dining package.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Hop into your "limousine" and take a wild ride through the streets of Los Angeles to get to Aerosmith's concert. The only roller coaster at Walt Disney World with inversions, this indoor launched coaster accelerates you from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds. An exciting but fairly smooth ride, it's accompanied by the (very loud) music of Aerosmith and decorated with bright fluorescent signs that obscure any view of the track, so you never know where you're headed next.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Rod Serling welcomes you into this mystery, involving an elevator on the 13th floor, a late-night lightning strike, and vanished guests. Most people ignore the story, though, and just go on this ride for the 13-story free-fall down the elevator shaft, followed by a random sequence of sudden rising and falling. Not for the faint of stomach, period. The view from the top is quite a sight, if you can open your eyes long enough to look. The pre-ride area of the attraction is filled with references both obscure and subtle to various episodes of the TV show.
3. Animation Courtyard/Mickey Avenue
Through the gate is this courtyard, which segues into Mickey Avenue as it heads toward the back of the park. The courtyard was once the gateway to the backstage area, with access to the animation department and the Backlot Tour; the Animation building is now the Star Wars Launch Bay. And there used to be working sound stages along Mickey Avenue, but they've been converted into semi-permanent exhibit space and attractions.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Go "Under The Sea" with Ariel and friends in this live stage show featuring black-lit puppets and costumes. Very imaginative and colorful, with some intriguing special effects. Fairly popular, it can get crowded at times.
Walt Disney Presents. A walk-through gallery housing props, artifacts, and diagrams galore; Disney history fans will have a ball. A 15-minute film tribute to Walt Disney, narrated by Julie Andrews, is also presented continuously throughout the day. In the months just before and after a major Disney feature film release, that tribute is replaced by a 10-minute sneak preview of the new movie.
4. Toy Story Land
Opened in July 2018, everything is larger-than-life in this new land built on former backstage space. With light-posts built from tinker toys and Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and Rex standing watch over Andy's backyard, the two new rides here add in some much-needed kid-friendly attractions to a park that was sorely lacking in that regard. The entrance to what is probably the park's most popular ride, Toy Story Mania!, has been rerouted to face this land, and the former entryway, Pixar Place, is closed.
Toy Story Mania!. Possibly the most popular attraction in all of Walt Disney World, this 3-D virtual midway game, complete with moving targets and special effects, is themed around the characters from Toy Story. Great fun for all ages, but visitors with aiming skills honed by years of video game playing will get higher scores. Due to its popularity, Fastpasses go very quickly, especially on weekends.
Slinky Dog Dash. Andy's wrapped his Slinky Dog toy around the cars of his Mega Coaster Play Kit — and you get to ride it! A tame but exciting family roller coaster that winds through the building blocks and around the Lincoln Logs of the backyard.
5. Echo Lake/Grand Avenue
On one side of Echo Lake is a large steamboat, known as Min and Bill's Dockside Diner; on the other is a large dinosaur, with Dinosaur Gertie's Ice Cream of Extinction. Around the perimeter of the area are attractions based on Lucasfilm properties, restaurants, and a couple of soundstages. Running north from the lake is Grand Avenue, themed to present-day downtown Los Angeles and home to the Muppets Courtyard and the future main entrance to Star Wars Land.
ABC Sound Studio. Formerly the home of the "Sounds Dangerous" attraction, this theater is now showing "Star Wars: Path of the Jedi", a retelling of the Star Wars saga, from A New Hope straight through the prequels to the newest film, The Last Jedi.
Hyperion Theater. Formerly the home of the "American Idol Experience" (and before that, "Superstar Television"), the Hyperion Theater is showing "For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration".
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. An exciting 35-minute live-action stunt show recreating some of the best scenes from Raiders of the Lost Ark (and explaining how the stunts work). A few lucky audience members might even get to appear on stage as extras.
Muppet*Vision 3-D. A hilarious show featuring the Muppet characters, shown in a detailed replica of the Muppet Theater. You have to see it to believe it. The combination of a 3-D film, in-theater animatronics and special effects, and a special live-action appearance makes for an immersive show. The pre-show, held in a staging area while the previous main show runs, is just as good as the main show; if it's not too crowded, ask a cast member if you can stay to see the whole thing. The queue area and the pre-show area are overflowing with sight gags and bad puns. You will never see them all in just one trip.
Star Tours: The Adventures Continue. The much-loved (but 23-year-old) Star Tours ride closed in 2010, but this "prequel" to the original takes Star Wars fans to new locations in that galaxy far, far away. An upgraded motion-simulation system, a 3D screen, and over fifty combinations of scene sequences mean that this ride will remain crowded for years to come. A new scene based on The Last Jedi is now in the rotation.
Day 6-7: Animal Kingdom
Walt Disney World's fourth and newest theme park opened in April 1998, joining the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney-MGM Studios. When it opened, park advertising used the faux-African word "nahtazu" ("not a zoo") as a slogan to emphasize that it was not just a collection of animals in small iron cages. The animals here spend their days in expansive habitats that are as close to their natural environments as possible, with subtle and camouflaged barriers keeping them away from guests (and each other). At night, they sleep comfortably indoors in the park's extensive housing area backstage.
Although the animals are nominally the main attraction, the park has slowly expanded its ride offerings, allowing the park to stay open later after the animals are put to bed. The marquee attraction from that perspective is the wild roller coaster, Expedition Everest. Towering 200 feet over the surrounding terrain, this mini-mountain is visible from some distance away and even threatens to overtake the Tree of Life as the park's most visible icon. The Tree, perhaps by contrast, is most impressive up close, where its size and detail can truly be appreciated.
The other major rides and attractions include It's Tough to be a Bug, a 3-D movie based on the Pixar film A Bug's Life; Kilimanjaro Safaris, a jeep ride through the recreated African savanna; Kali River Rapids, a soaking raft ride; and Dinosaur, a time travel ride into the late Cretaceous. Two musical stage shows are also very popular: Finding Nemo: The Musical and Festival of the Lion King
The newest addition to the park is Pandora – The World of Avatar, based on James Cameron's blockbuster space fantasy film. The land features two major rides that take visitors aboard a flying banshee and on a gentle river cruise through the bio-luminescent forests of Pandora.
Not far from Animal Kingdom is Blizzard Beach, a large water park themed as a melting ski resort.
Animal Kingdom is a very large park, and most of the attractions are outdoors. You will be walking, and walking a lot, so prepare accordingly.
After going through the entrance gates, you'll be in the Oasis area. While there are no rides or shows here, there are two well-shaded paths that pass by a number of animal enclosures. The main purpose of the Oasis is to lead you into the park toward Discovery Island, which is the hub from which you'll explore the rest of Animal Kingdom. You can't miss Discovery Island, thanks to the humongous Tree of Life in the center. It's here you'll find most of the shops and a couple restaurants, along with the 3-D movie It's Tough to Be a Bug.
Animal Kingdom has four themed "lands" that surround Discovery Island. The first, clockwise from the Oasis, is Pandora – The World of Avatar, with its floating mountains and bio-luminescent forests. Next is Africa, where the Kilimanjaro Safaris take you into the park's savanna. Asia has the Kali River Rapids and, at its far end, Expedition Everest. Finally, DinoLand U.S.A. is where you'll find Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama and the Dino Institute.
Rafiki's Planet Watch, a "backstage" area with information on the park's research projects and animal maintenance, is accessed via a short train trip from Africa.
Although Discovery Island is the hub, there is an outer pathway that connects the four outer lands without needing to return to the center.
1. Discovery Island
Discovery Island is the central hub of Animal Kingdom. The Tree of Life is located here, as are the majority of the park's shops and a couple of very good restaurants. "Discovery" isn't just a name, either; if you wander off the main drag you'll find yourself in the Discovery Island Trails that wind around the base of the Tree. There you'll find a number of birds and other small animals on display. You'll also be able to take a look at some of the Tree of Life's animal carvings up-close, although the queue area for It's Tough to be a Bug provides the best vantage points.
Adventurers Outpost (character greeting). Come on in to the air-conditioning and meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari gear.
It's Tough to be a Bug!. This is a 3-D film featuring Flik and other characters from the Pixar film A Bug's Life. You'll meet grubs, stink bugs, wasps, and other creepy-crawlies, complete with special effects both tactile and olfactory. Some scenes may be a little frightening for kids, or for anyone with an aversion to insects.
Winged Encounters - The Kingdom Takes Flight (Near the tree of life). Several shows daily; check Times Guide for show times. This new show near Flame Tree BBQ showcases a variety of macaws, which fly in and out of the presentation. The show lasts less than 10 minutes so it's well worth stopping by if you're in the area.
2. Pandora – The World of Avatar
Animal Kingdom's newest land (opened May 2017) transports guests to the fictional planet at the center of James Cameron's epic 2009 film (and its upcoming sequels).
Avatar Flight of Passage. A thrilling simulator ride allows guests to experience the landscape and scenery of Pandora from the back of a banshee, the vicious flying beasts ridden by the Na'vi in the film.
Na'vi River Journey. This boat ride lets visitors see Pandora at a much more leisurely pace. You'll have encounters with all sorts of exotic Pandoran flora and fauna, culminating in a visit from a Na'vi shaman.
Welcome to Harambe, or as they say in this fictional east African town, "Jambo!" The detail here is incredible, from the consistent overarching storyline (of a town on the outskirts of the Harambe Wildlife Reserve) all the way down to a faded Coca-Cola advertisement painted on a wall. Take some time, if it's not too crowded, and see if you can't convince yourself you're in Africa.
Festival of the Lion King (To the west of the main island). Acrobatic, colorful, and tuneful, this theater-in-the-round features the characters from The Lion King in a musical revue. This ain't Broadway, though; don't expect the elaborate costumes and choreography of that famous show, nor is it just a retelling of the plot of the movie. Still, kids will enjoy seeing these favorite characters on the stage, there's plenty of audience participation, and the music is still just as good as it was in the movie.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (North of the main island). A walk-through area near the exit of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. This forested area is home to hippos, meerkats, and gorillas, among other animals. As you walk through, keep an eye out for research documents from the Harambe Reserve researchers and their student visitors, which serve to both maintain the fictional setting and provide information about the animals.
Kilimanjaro Safaris. According to the story of this attraction, you're headed out on a two-week safari through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve. Board your well-equipped (and very large) safari jeep, and your driver/guide will point out the animals along the route. This area of the park covers more than 100 acres (40 ha.), with habitats representing wetlands, forest, and savanna. Lions, elephants, giraffes, rhinos, and many more species can be seen during your trip. Absolutely fantastic for photos; many of the herbivores will hang out just feet from the jeep's path, and there are no windows or fences between you and them. (Although Disney has posted safety restrictions for this ride, it is relatively mild, especially compared to rides like Dinosaur and Expedition Everest.)
Wildlife Express. This train ride is the only way to get to Rafiki's Planet Watch. The route takes you past the animal houses, where the animals get fed and spend the night. Trains depart every 5–10 minutes. Both the train and Rafiki's Planet Watch are closed to guests as of 2018.
4. Rafiki's Planet Watch
Rafiki's Planet Watch is accessible only via the Wildlife Express train from Africa. This is an interactive learning center documenting wildlife conservation efforts around the world. Best of all, it includes a petting zoo!
Affection Section (Just outside Conservation Station). This is the aforementioned petting zoo, featuring some exotic but still domesticated species from around the globe.
Conservation Station. This is the main attraction at Rafiki's Planet Watch, housed in part of a large building that includes many of the park's animal treatment facilities. Large glass windows even let you look in on some of the procedures as they occur. Other exhibits focus on conservation and attempts to protect endangered species of animals. Trainers and keepers periodically bring out some of the less dangerous animals for up-close encounters. You'll also find some character greetings in here, in particular Rafiki himself.
Habitat Habit!. This is the walkway between the train station and Conservation Station. You'll find cottontop, golden lion, and emperor tamarins here, as well as tips on steps you can take to preserve animal habitat, no matter where you live.
Much like Africa, the Asian section is meant to represent a fictional community somewhere on that continent; in this case, it's Anandapur, a South Asian village on the edge of a jungle and not far from the Himalayas. Again, the attention to detail is incredible and worth some exploration if you have the time.
Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. Located in the fictional village of Serka Zong. Defy local wisdom and book a train ride through the heart of yeti country, crossing the Forbidden Mountain to forge a path to Everest. Don't say you weren't warned, however, when you find the tracks are out and your train starts careening backwards! This roller coaster is exciting and includes a number of neat twists and special effects. The queue is also worth seeing; it takes you through an expedition-supply shop and a museum purporting to hold conclusive evidence of the yeti's existence. Very popular ride, so you might want to consider a Fastpass, especially if you've been through the standby queue once already.
Kali River Rapids. This is a wild whitewater ride through a tropical forest. Not much educational content here; it's just a fun, very wet ride. You will get soaked, guaranteed, not just from the ride but from the water guns controlled by guests on the surrounding walkways.
Maharajah Jungle Trek. Similar to the Gorilla Falls trail, this is a walk through ancient "ruins" showcasing Asian wildlife. The Bengal tigers are the stars, but don't miss the giant fruit bats, or the countless birds inside the aviary.
6. DinoLand U.S.A.
Dinosaurs play a dual role in popular culture, representing both ancient mystery and thrilling fantasy. Both aspects are represented in DinoLand U.S.A.. As the story goes, when the Dino Institute, a dinosaur research facility, opened up along a dilapidated stretch of highway, the local service station owners, Chester and Hester, had a brilliant idea. They collected material from the junkyard nearby and created a roadside attraction called Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama! The Institute represents the educational, realistic side of dinosaur enthusiasm, while the carnival atmosphere of Dino-Rama represents the sense of fun and excitement dinos can generate.
The Boneyard. At the entrance to DinoLand U.S.A. is this play area for pre-schoolers, where they can dig around in the sand for "bones" and otherwise climb and jump and play.
Cretaceous Trail (Connects the boneyard with Dinosaur). A walking path that shows you some static dioramas of dinosaurs, as well as some live animals and plants that have survived from the Mesozoic Era.
Dinosaur (Dino Institute). Head back in time to the late Cretaceous, come face-to-face with a variety of dinosaurs, then race against time to escape the asteroid impact that ended their reign. Pretty rough but fun. Very dark and probably too scary for little kids, with lots of "gotcha" moments.
Finding Nemo: The Musical (Theater in the Wild). This popular show adds inventive music to an abbreviated version of the story from the film. Acrobatics and puppetry give a feeling of being underwater. Check the Times Guide for show times.
Fossil Fun Games (Dino-Rama). This is Dino-Rama's midway, with all of the impossible games and plush prizes you'd expect from any self-respecting carnival.
Primeval Whirl (Dino-Rama). This is a pair of identical spinning-car roller coasters, themed to display Chester & Hester's creativity in adapting automobile parts to thrill rides. Can be a rough ride, especially if you're sitting next to someone with a lot of mass to spin around, but it's fun.
TriceraTop Spin (Dino-Rama). A Dumbo-like ride with Triceratops-shaped vehicles that spin around a central axis and move up and down with a joystick. Great for kids too small to go on Primeval Whirl.
Day 8: Disney Springs
At Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney), you can design your own T-shirt or marvel at the biggest Disney store in the world; enjoy the fine cuisine of the world's top chefs or eat among the dinosaurs; see a the new hit movie as you dine at your seat or take a ride in a classic "Amphicar"; and in general just get away from the Disney parks for a while.
An outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment complex in the southeast corner of Walt Disney World, Disney Springs has been re-imagined and expanded to four districtsː Marketplace, The Landing, Town Center, and West Side. Although it's geared primarily to adults looking for something to do away from the parks, kids will find several things to occupy their attention as well.
Nearby is the most popular water park in the country, Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, and several resort hotels and golf courses.
Disney Springs is long and skinny, running roughly northeast-to-west. The northeastern-most end is the Disney Springs Marketplace. The Marketplace curves down and around to the southwest, where it meets up with The Landing (on the water front) and Town Center (to the south near the bus stops). To the west is, of course, the Disney Springs West Side, with the Cirque du Soleil arena at the far end near the ferry terminal.
The entire long complex is sandwiched between parking lots/structures on the south side and Village Lake on the north. From Village Lake, boats can travel the Sassagoula River, which provides access to the Saratoga Springs, Old Key West, and Port Orleans resorts. The Downtown Disney Hotel Plaza, a set of inexpensive non-Disney resorts on Disney property, lies just to the northeast of the Marketplace.
If you're tired of walking and need to get from one end of Disney Springs to the other, a free shuttle boat runs among the three docks (West Side, The Landing, Marketplace) every 15 minutes or so—make sure you get on the Green Flag boat.