Disney World, Florida

Disney World - Sleeping Beauty Castle - from WikipediaDisney’s collection of Theme Parks, hotels, and shopping centers in Orlando, Florida is a world on its own. The property covers 25,000 acres nestles in the woods around Lake Buena Vista with its own roads and transportation system.

Walt Disney decided to build his expansive new resort on the east coast and went hunting for the location. He picked this area because it was mostly empty and close to the intersection of the four freeway and the Florida Turnpike.

The magic kingdom opened its doors in 1971, followed by Epcot in 1982. The rest followed through the years with a total of 6 parks finishing with Animal Kingdon in 1998. Many lodgings and resorts immerse visitors in themes like Music, Movies, Animals, Polynesian, Wilderness, and New Orleans.

Disney World - Dolphin Hotel - Wikipedia by Pete ToscanoThe six Disney parks offer a large variety of experiences, with many rides and shows to choose from. So how do you pick the right park for you and your family?

The simple answer is you do a lot of research and ask people’s opinion before you go. Also, visit Disney’s website here to read about the attractions. 

Here is a quick guide to help you choose. If you like to learn more about a park, follow the link.

The Magic Kingdom

For families with kids or everyone who loves Disney movies and cartoons, then the Magic Kingdom is your park, with authentic Disney experience, the usual characters, fairytales, and fantastical places.

It is the park most like Disneyland in Anaheim, California with Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. It also has a unique land called Liberty Square with the Hall of the Presidents.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney World - Sunset  Boulevard Hollywood Studios - Wikipedia by Jedi94For everyone who loves movies, television and everything Hollywood, a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a must. It is similar to Universal Studios but with a Disney flare.

The park is full of rides based on your favorite movies and shows like “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue”, “Indiana Jones”,  “First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along show”, “Muppets Vision 4D” show, and “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”. It is also home to the new land “Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

Epcot

Disney World Epcot IllumiNations - Wikipedia by Katie Rommel-EshamAt Epcot, you can visit 11 countries, learn about their cultures, and catch rides and shows.

Walking around the huge center lake, you can visit Canada, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, The American Adventure, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.

You can also glimpse the future and learn about sustaining the Land and the Sea. Also, make sure to build your own race car then test it at the Test Track ride.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

To visit animals in their natural habitat and learn about conservation efforts, you can take Disney World - Nighttime landscape at Pandora - Wikipedia by Jedi94this safari through the Animal Kingdom. While at the park, visit the Tree of Life, go into the mythical world of Pandora (from the Avatar movie), or go back in time to the age of Dinosaurs. The Kilimanjaro Safaris will take you deep into the wild animal's territory for a closer look.

Water Parks

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Team Boat Springs - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999For wet fun, you have two parks to pick from; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Both are full of water slides, pools, lazy rivers, and fun areas for smaller children.

Blizzard Beach looks like snow-capped peaks with melted water running through. This park is home to the Summit Plummet, a fast freefall 120-feet drop and the Toboggan Racers, an 8-lane racing slide.

Typhoon Lagoon looks like a hurricane just whipped through a tropical island, destroying homes and throwing wrecked ships on top of mountains. Here you can find “Surf Pool”, a wave pool with 6-foot waves. The pool is used to give surf lessons before the official park opening.

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Animal Kingdom, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Pandora - Wikipedia by Jedi94Disney’s zoological park is the only place in the world where you can go on an animal safari through time and fantasy – without leaving home.

The park is considered the largest theme park in the world with 580 acres of land dedicated to a natural environment and animal conservation with a Disney twist.

The fun and learning happens in 7 distinct areas:

The Oasis

The Oasis is the main entrance to the animal kingdom with lush vegetation, streams, waterfalls, a few animal exhibits, and stores.

Discovery Island 

Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Safari - Wikipedia by LoadmasterThe island is the main hub connecting to all the other areas with bridges. It is home to the Tree of Life, which is a huge representation of the baobab tree. At night, the tree comes alive with beautiful colors. As you walk around, you will pass by several animal exhibits and many shops and restaurants.

Pandora – The World of Avatar

The newest area in the park allows visitors to walk into the fantasy world of Pandora, based on the Avatar Movie. Along with the stunning plants and rock formation, you get to go on two thrill rides: Avatar Flight of Passage, a 3D flying simulator and Na'vi River Journey, a dark ride boat attraction.

Avatar Flight of Passage

Animal Kingdom - Avatar Flight of Passage - by Theme Park Tourist - wikimediaThis virtual reality ride simulates riding on the back of a Banshee and flying around Pandora. 

Before the ride, we had to watch 2 videos. The first video was purely instructional and told us what to do, and that was followed by a safety lecture and we were matched up with our avatars.  The second video explained why the banshees are important to Pandora, along with telling us what we should expect. 

As we enetered the ride, everyone was given his own vehicle that he straddles like a bicycle. Once we were fastened in and wearing our 3D glasses, the banshees flew us all around Pandora.  

It felt like we were actually flying. It was a mixture of riding on a roller coaster and paragliding at the same time.  The visual effects were absolutely stunning and made us feel as if we were actually flying over the planet, which made this a thrilling experience. 

See the video below or click here.

Na’vi River Journey

Too cool off in the warm months, take this raft ride down the river and through the dark Pandoran jungle with glowing bioluminescent plants. Along the way observed the exotic animals on this mythical planet.   

Africa

In this simulated African village, the main attraction is the Kilimanjaro Safaris where Disney World - Epcot - Animal Kingdom - Africa - Wikipedia by Jennifer Lynnyou climb aboard an open-sided vehicle for an expedition through the African savanna, rivers, and rocky hills. During this safari, you will visit the wild African animals in their natural habitat. Back in the village, you can enjoy some more animal exhibits, shops, and shows.

Rafiki's Planet Watch 

You can take a train to this area from “Africa” and learn about animal habitats, how Disney takes care of the wildlife and spend some time at the petting zoo.

Asia

Enter the mythical kingdom of Anandapur, which blends the cultures of Cambodia, Disney World - Animal Kingdom - Asia - Komodo - Dragon - Wikipedia by LoadmasterIndia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, and Thailand. In the Himalayas region, take a rollercoaster ride through the forbidden mountain and try to avoid the Yeti or enjoy a thrilling ride through the Kali River Rapids.

DinoLand USA: Enter the land of Dinos and other prehistoric animals and enjoy the rides, games, and shows. The area is home to Dinosaur (a dark thrill ride), Primeval Whirl (a spinning roller coaster), the TriceraTop (carousel ride), and Finding Nemo – The Musical.

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Disney World Water Parks

Disney World - Typhoon Lagoon and Mount Mayday - Surf Pool - Wikipedia by JZ85Within Disney World’s sprawling complex of theme parks, you will find two Water Parks, each with a distinct personality.

Typhoon Lagoon

Imagine a hurricane whipping through a tropical island, destroying homes and throwing wrecked ships on top of mountains. Then add slides, waterway, and geysers to come up with this wild wet fun place designed by Disney.

Main Attractions

The water park has six distinct areas of fun; the most prominent is with a ship on top and many slides running through it. Riders can choose between speed slides, body slides or rafts.

Disney World - Epcot - Typhoon Lagoon - Crush n Gusher - Wikipedia by JZ85 Another popular attraction is Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, which is a wave pool of 6-foot waves. You can take surf lessons here – but before the official park opening.

For relaxation, take a tube a lazily drift along the 2100-foot river that circles the park. The river passes through waterfalls, rainforests, mist screens, and Mount Mayday itself. Riders can float on their own or in an inner tube.

Young children can have fun at "Ketchakiddee Creek" with small slides and fountains shaped like tugboats, whales, and seals.

Dining

The main dining are is the “Leaning Palms” with shaded outdoor seating and is located near the main entrance.

For snacks or treats, try “Happy Landings Ice Cream”, “Snack Shack”, or several other small carts throughout the park.

Blizzard Beach

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999Only Disney could come up with a snow-themed water park. The park is full of slides for every age and daring level.

Main Attractions

If you dare, go on the Summit Plummet for a fast freefall drop from 120 feet or go for a thrilling race on the Toboggan Racers – which is an 8-lane slide with riders sliding face down.

For milder wet fun, try the Cross Country Creek (Lazy River) or Melt-Away Bay (a wave pool).

Disney World - Bilzzard Beach - Team Boat Springs - Wikipedia by Dr_latino999Even though you can see snow (mostly simulated) everywhere you look, the water is always at a steady 80 degrees – good enough for all seasons.

At Ski Patrol Training Camp, smaller children can enjoy milder fun on several slides and pools. AT the Leisure Pool kids can walk across "icebergs" and at Freezin' Pipe Springs they can slide on short body slides.

The Chairlift is a "one-way" ride to the top of the Summit. It is a fun way to get to slide at the top, but guests can also use the long stairs.

At the main entrance, you can find locker rentals, and you can buy or rent any supplies you forgot to pack.

Dining

For a full meal, Lottawatta (Ski) is the main counter service restaurant providing outdoor covered seating.

If you are looking for a snack or a treat try the ice cream shop “I. C. Expeditions” or “Avalunch” for light snacks and refreshments.

If you like to relax on the beach with a drink while watching the kids having fun, then try the “Polar Pub” bar. 

 

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Epcot, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Spaceship Earth - at main entranceEpcot is the most unique theme park in the Disney World collection with rides, exhibits, and shows you can’t find in any other Disney property.

The park is a permanent World’s Fair with a Disney flair. As you enter, you are presented with Spaceship Earth, a huge sphere you walk into and ride through human history.

On either side of Spaceship Earth, you will come across Future World (East and West sections). The exhibits demonstrate the latest technologies and allow visitors to interact with hands-on experiments.

In the West section, the Land Pavillion is a showcase of human interaction with mother earth. Visitors here can enjoy the flight simulator ride Soarin over the World and a ride through innovations in agriculture. 

In the Eastern Future World, design your race car on a touch screen then test it on the “Test Track” ride.

The World Showcase starts after future world and surrounds a large lake. Eleven countries from around the globe represent their culture and sites – with most offering rides and shows. Most notable are “O Canada!” - a “Circle-Vision 360° movie, “Frozen Ever After” ride, and “Impressions de France”.

The United States pavilion, located in the middle, showcases American history with an animatronics show titled The American Adventure.

Future World

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - Soarin around the worldAt future world, experience the progress of innovation throughout history, get a glimpse of our future, learn about the land and the sea, and have fun while you are at it.

Future World starts with Spaceship Earth as you enter the park and splits into East and West sections – each with many exhibits and rides.

In the Eastside, go inside Spaceship Earth, try a space launch at “Mission Space” or go on a race at “Test Track”.

In the Westside, learn about the land and the sea, visit Nemo and Friends or go Soarin’ Over the World.

Future Plans: Disney is planning to replace future World with three “neighborhoods” - World Nature, World Discovery and World Celebration.

Spaceship Earth  

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The LandThe iconic geodesic sphere dominating the park entrance is a time-machine ride through human innovation from the stone age to modern times.

The ride starts with the caveman’s first attempts at communication and takes through major events like the invention of the alphabet and the printing press and ends with today’s broadcasts and the Internet.

Riders can then use the touch-screens in their time machine to fill out a questionnaire to build a possible future, which uses the pictures taken at the beginning of the ride.

Mission Space  

A place for aspiring astronauts to train for their Disney World - Epcot - Mission Space - Wikimedia by UpstateNYermission to Mars. The centrifugal motion simulator ride simulates what an astronaut might experience aboard a spaceship.

Riders will train for the mission then go on a flight on the X-2 Deep Space Shuttle. You have to pick between a thrilling Orange Mission and a more subdued Green mission.

After your mission, visit the Advanced Training Lab, a high-tech play area featuring space-themed games and activities for all ages.

Test Trak 

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - Test TrackYou start your adventure by designing your race car. You learn about factors impacting performance and speed. Then you get to test your design on the tacks.

Your car undergoes four different tests: capability, efficiency, responsiveness, and power. At the end of the ride, you get to see how your design performed.

Fun idea: If the lines are not too long, go back and try a different design.

The Land

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The LandThis indoor pavilion is a launchpad to two attractions and a place to grab a snack.

From here you can go on the flight simulator ride “Soarin’ Over the World” – with amazing views, sounds and smells of famous world landmarks. You get to see the Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, Iguaza Falls, and many more.

Living with the Land is a slow-moving ride through greenhouses and innovative experiments in agriculture.

The ride starts in a rain forest simulated environment and then meanders through 5 distinct biospheres. As you visit each area you learn how to live with the land and protect the environment.

The Sea

Disney World - Epcot - Future World - The Sea - Dory - Pexles by Magda EhlersAt “The Seas”, browse through an aquarium and ride a “Clamobile” under the sea.

The Sea Base is the main viewing area of the aquarium with several exhibits of manatees, dolphins, sharks, and jellyfish. It is not SeaWorld, but it is a good launching point to your journey under the sea.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends is an adventure to help Dori and her friends to find Nemo. After several misadventures, you are deposited into a large aquarium where Nemo is reunited once again with his friends.

World Showcase

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Lake

Unless you live abroad, you probably haven’t seen a World Fair in recent times. The last one held in the USA was in New Orleans in 1984, unless you count Epcot with its permanent World fair with eleven countries with permanent exhibits.

The counties are arranged around a large lake – each country showcases its culture, architecture and goods. Some counties have attractions, rides or shows. There is a lot to see, so plan your visit ahead of time and hit your favorite countries before you run out of time.

Canada

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - CanadaThe Canada pavilion celebrates Canada’s outdoors with a canyon, a waterfall, gardens, a pool with fountains, and totem poles. The buildings within this natural wonder are reminiscent of old English castles.

If you venture indoors, you will find “O Canada!”, a Circle-Vision 360° movie of Canada's cities, scenery, and people.

To try a taste of Canada, visit “Le Cellier Steakhouse” – a sit-down service restaurant. Enjoy steak or seafood with Canadian wines and beers.

United Kingdom

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - United KingdomThe UK pavilion was designed to represent an old English village with garden and a hedge maze. The main attraction here is the “British Revolution” band that performs British rock music covers from acts such as the Police, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Blur, and Led Zeppelin.

If you are hungry, this is good place to stop and try some traditional British dishes in a Pub like setting. You can also enjoy your meal in the outdoor garden.

France

Visit a French suburb of Paris with a bakery, restaurants, and shops selling French goods. Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - FranceIndoors enjoy a panoramic film about France entitled "Impressions de France." 

Outdoors you can always find street performers most notable is the comedy chair climbing and balancing show "Serveur Amusant."

For authentic French Cuisine, visit “Les Chefs De France” for a sit-down meal or grab a pastry at the Boulangerie Pâtisserie des Halles.

Morocco

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - MorrocoThe Morocco exhibit was designed to simulate a real Moroccan city with realistic houses, minaret, and restaurant. It is the only exhibit at Epcot that is managed by the host government. This allowed for a real non-commercialized representation of the country.

The Fez House shows guests the traditional Moroccan dwelling with exquisite mosaic tiles, carvings, and artifacts from daily life. A large open courtyard in the middle with benches allows visitors to sit, relax and enjoy the beautiful art.Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Morocco - Marrakesh Restaurant

To complete the Moroccan experience, make sure to visit Marrakesh, an authentic local cuisine restaurant.

The best way to enjoy this place is to order the “Taste of Morocco” -  a three-Course Meal with choices of Lamb, Beef or chicken with Couscous and Seven Vegetables.  End your feast with Assorted Baklavas.  

Depending on the time of day, you may be entertained with traditional Arabic music and/or belly dancers.

Japan

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - JapanAt the Japanese pavilion you can admire the unique Architecture, arts, and entertainment styles. Don’t miss the Matsuriza playing and dancing to the traditional drums at the Pagoda.

The drummers are the highlight of the visit to Japan, but you can also spend some time browsing through an art gallery and the shops.

For a delicious Japanese meal, stop at Tokyo Dining, which offers traditional sushi, tempura, and some grilled items.

You can’t go wrong with the specialty rolls, but if you are not sure what to order, try the Chef’s Bento box. It comes with Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura, New York Sirloin Steak with Wafu Sauce, Chicken Teriyaki, Garden Salad with Dressing, Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp Nigiri, and Vegetable Roll. 

The American Adventure

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - The American AdventureYou are now mid-way through the World Showcase, and it is time to take a break before continuing your world tour. 

At the American pavilion, you can attend a galactic rock concert with the Guardians of the Galaxy or step back in time and learn about American history.

The concert is held in an outdoor theater overlooking the lake. The music is loud, but the guardians make it fun to watch.

The large colonial building presents the American story on a large stage with animatronics of figures of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. 

Before the show, you can browse through photos of famous Americans posted around the square lobby with an oval dome. While you wait, a chorus entertains the audience with stories about America.

ItalyDisney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Italy

Visitors to the Italian Plaza can admire the Venetian, Florentine, and Roman architecture – or dine at an Italian restaurant. There are no major attractions here, but you can catch a show by Sergio, the comedic juggler or the flag throwing troop.

 

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - GermanyGermany

The German Plaza resembles an old Bavarian village with unique colorful buildings and many shops. At the center you admire a fountain with a statue of St. George slaying a dragon. The clock tower sings a different song every hour and a miniature German village with model trains delights all guests.

If you are hungry, join the Oktober Fest at Biergarten Restaurant. This dining hall offers a buffet-style feast with long communal tables. While eating, enjoy a band playing German Folk songs.

China

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - ChinaEnter China through the large gate and into a replica of the Temple of Heaven. The plaza showcases Chinese architecture and culture with a museum, a circle vision movie and lots of shops.

The circle vision movie "Reflections of China" explores China's history and scenery. Outdoors you can catch a team of young acrobats performing their feats.

If you love Chinese cuisine, try the Nine Dragons Restaurant, a full-service gourmet Chinese restaurant featuring traditional Chinese cuisine with a twist.

Norway

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - Norway - by Jared from FlickrBuilt to resemble a Norwegian village, the plaza includes reproductions of famous buildings and churches in Oslo and the countryside. A lot of interconnected shops sell Norwegian clothing and trinkets.

The main attraction in this pavilion is the Frozen Ever After ride. The ride features scenes inspired by Disney's 2013 animated film Frozen.

For lunch or dinner, visit Akershus Royal Banquet Hall which offers buffet-style dining with Disney Princess Characters.

For a light meal or a snack go to Kringla “Bakeri og Kafe” for Norwegian pastries.

Mexico

Disney World - Epcot - World Showcase - MexicoThe tall Mesoamerican pyramid dominates the Mexican pavilion and leads into an indoor plaza resembling a Mexican village at twilight.

Inside you will find a large lagoon, with shops and restaurants and the entry point to the Gran Fiesta Tour. The boat ride starts on the lagoon inside the pyramid and continues into a dark tunnel. The ride is based on The Three Caballeros, an old Disney cartoon.

You have many dining choices at the Mexican pavilion. You can enjoy a sit-down meal on the indoor lake at “San Angel Inn Restaurante” or “La Hacienda de San Ángel” – or you can have a light meal at “Cantina de San Ángel“.

Finally, you can’t visit a Mexican village with listening to some authentic Mexican music. The “Mariachi Cobr” band entertains visitors throughout the day.

Other Attractions

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

IllumiNations is a spectacular laser-pyrotechnics nighttime show to complete a thrilling day at Epcot. The show utilizes fireworks, pyrotechnics, water fountains, fire effects, lasers, and searchlights to create a compelling story about our planet.

The show is ending on September 30, 2019 and will be replaced by a new show: Epcot Forever.

https://youtu.be/1eZireHqahQ

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Hollywood Studios, Disney World

Disney World - Epcot - Hollywood Studios - Wikimedia by Jedi94This park opened in 1989 as both a production studio and a theme park but later became a theme park dedicated to the fantasy worlds and characters from film, television, music, and theatre, while celebrating the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Visitors enjoy many shows and attractions with movie themes in 6 distinct areas:

Echo Lake

At Echo Lake, you can ride “Star Tours – The Adventures Continue”, or “Indiana Jones”, or watch the “First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along, and “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi” shows.

Grand Avenue

Disneyland - Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Millennium FalconAt Grand Avenue, you can pretend you are back in Los Angles walking on the famous street, enjoying the restaurants and pubs or relax in the park with the same name. This area also has the Muppets Vision 4D show. The Figueroa Street Tunnel leads you into the new Star Wars land.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge officially opened in August 2019. It is identical to Star Wars at Disneyland, California. Like Disneyland’s version, the main attraction is the “Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run” ride. Disney World - Hollywood Studios - Toy Story Land - Flickr by elisfkc.jpgGuests will join smugglers on the infamous Millennium Falcon and become part of the action as Pilots, Gunners or Engineers. Read the full review in the Disneyland article.

Toy Story Land

At Toy Story Land, visitors feel like toys as they walk through giant props and enjoy kid-friendly attractions. While here you can ride on Slinky Dog Dash or shoot your way through Toy Story Mania. 

Animation Courtyard

In the Animation Courtyard, learn about Walt Disney’s life at Walt Disney Presents or get Disney World - Hollywood Studios - Sunset Boulevard - Wikipedia by Jedi94close to Star Wars characters and exhibits at the Star Wars Launch Bay. Visitors can also enjoy live shows, Disney Junior Dance Party, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

Sunset Boulevard

Walking through Sunset Boulevard, you can enjoy the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster or get scared out of your mind at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The area also has three live shows including “Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage” and “Fantasmic!, a nighttime show with fireworks and laser.

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