Theme Parks

At Walt Disney World there are 4 Theme Parks, 2 Water Parks, Downtown Disney and a whole lot of fun! I am going to break down each Theme Park and share some of my favorite things to do, eat and see at each one!

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is probably the most iconic of all of the Walt Disney World Parks.  I don’t think a trip, especially a first trip, is complete without strolling down main street and catching a glimpse of the breath taking Cinderellas Castle.  It really is just a really special park!

Magic Kingdom is divided up between 6 very different and equally as fun areas.

-Adventureland.  Adventureland happens to be my favorite land at Magic Kingdom!  You can find my favorite Snack at Magic Kingdom in the area, the Dole Whip Float from the Aloha Isle Stand.  My favorite ride is also in the Adventureland area.  I love riding the Magic Carpets.  True its a no thrill ride, up and down and round and round BUT there is a camel and he spits at you.  Yep, spits.  If you can’t have a good time on the Magic Carpets, you just can’t have fun anywhere.  Pirates of the Caribbean is also is the area and that attraction is wildly popular and has a fun gift shop connected to the ride.  Aladdin and Princess Jasmine often make appearances in this area with little to no wait time, which is great for my little girl!

-Liberty Square. Liberty Square is themed to resemble the colonial era of America and is home to 3 attractions.  Its a pretty low key land in Magic Kingdom but it does have some do not miss items on your Walt Disney World to do list!  I really like eating at the Counter Service Restaurant here in liberty Square – Colombia Harbour House.  My family really loves this dining spot for lunch.  Try the shrimp platter – lots of large fried shrimp. Its really good and not greasy!  And my daughter loves the homemade mac and cheese and truth be told, so do I!  Also their apple crisp for dessert rounds out an All American Meal nicely! Liberty Square is also home to the Haunted Mansion.  If you have small children use discretion   My daughter (who is now 6) was never scared on it but I know some kids do get a little frightened.

-Frontierland. Frontierland is a busy place!  It is home to Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Tom Sawyers Island, the Country Bears Jamboree, iconic turkey legs, my beloved churro cart, some really fun cast members and Pecos Bills Cafe.  We also like to nab a spot back here to view the Spectromagic Night Parade, its generally less crowded back there.  Fun things happen on the streets of Frontierland, so slow down and enjoy it!

Fantasyland. Fantasyland has the biggest draw in the park, especially with the kiddes.  Just a warning… it is normally a crowded area.  But it is oh so fun too!  All of the attractions in the area are on the do not skip list!  The attractions in the area are: It’s A Small World, Barnstormer, Dumbo, Enchanted Tales With Belle, Journey of the Little Mermaid, Mad Tea Party, Mickeys PhilharMagic, Peter Pans Flight, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Opening 2014), and Winnie the Pooh.  Also, Be Our Guest, an all new restaurant, just opened recently in the Beasts Castle.  Even if you don’t eat there, go in and check it out!  There were several updates made to the Fantasyland area and it is so nice!  Make sure to stop in the Big Top Treats and look around.  Try the fresh and hot caramel corn while you are there.  Yum!

-Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is a really fun area of Magic Kingdom and is home to some really popular attractions, that I happen to LOVE.  You can find Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in this area.  My whole family loves this ride, it’s interactive and a lot of fun!  Also in this area is Space Mountain, Astro Orbiter, Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, the People Mover and a few other great attractions. There is also a lot of great food in this area.  Try a Taco Hot Dog from the Lunching Pad sometime…deeeelish! Make sure to keep an eye out for special magic in this area too, it may even come from a talking trash can named ‘Push’!

-Main Street, USA. Don’t just fly past all of the beautiful shops on Main Street, USA (The main road when you enter Magic Kingdom).  I could spend hours people watching, snacking and shopping on this street!  The stores are all beautifully themed and house some of the most wonderful cast members!  We also love grabbing a sweet treat at the Main Street Confectionery   The Cast Members are amazing in there. Tip: If you stop to watch them make the goodies inside of the store, they are always making something different, they will almost always ask if your kiddos can have a sample.  Of course, they ask before they hand them out to kids because of allergies and what not.  But its a fun small but free sweet treat.  We also love having some hot dogs at Casey’s on the corner of Main Street.  Its an iconic counter service that serves up a great hot dog, french fries and cheese sauce, cotton candy and even a box of cracker jack!  On Main Street there is a real working Barber Shop, where a lot of kids get their first hair cut.  It is such a fun experience.  Several other stores and restaurants are in this area!  Don’t skip this fun spot!

Magic Kingdom is a lot of fun, but on a busy day can be overwhelming.  My suggestion, especially to first timers, is to pick your top 5-7 must do’s and do those first and when the park opens.  Then later in the day, if the kids get cranky or it gets super crowded or just plain hot and you just need a break you feel like you can take one.  Realistically, you are just not going to be able to see and do every single little thing there is to do, so prioritize.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I LOVE Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it is a smaller park which makes for a really great day.  In fact, on the past 5 or 6 trips to Walt Disney World, I would say this has been our family’s favorite day on vacation.

Attractions and Shows

Make sure to arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before the Park actually opens.  The best ride is Toy Story Mania and the best way to ride it in the least amount of waiting time is to rush quickly, no running, straight there when the park opens.  We normally snag some fast passes right away and then get in line for the ride!  It is a Do Not Miss at this park and if you get there later in the day you will be disappointed at how long the wait time will be.  Some other really great attractions are at this park too including Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, The Great Movie Ride, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Star Tours, One Man’s Dream, Disney Junior Live On Stage, Lights Motor Action!, Muppet Vision 3-D and some other really great things!  Don’t miss the Beauty and the Beast Show.  It is done really well, we love it, and its a nice break from walking!  There are also some fun Parades and Street Shows that go on at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The Pixar Parade is really popular with the kids.  We also really love the Disney Channel Rocks concert that is put on a parade float and driven around the park a few times a day!  Don’t forget about the nighttime show, Fantasmic!  Fantasmic! is an outdoor show lasting about 30 minutes.  Seating begins 90 minutes prior to the shows start time, and in my experience can fill up quite quickly.  The show is appropriate for all ages, although because it is dark, loud and has villains it can frighten small children.  My daughter has always loved it, but I am sure that’s not the case for everyone.  You can get VIP seats to the show by dining at 3 participating restaurants   You must have reservations and request the VIP package because there are a limited number of seats available each show.  The participating restaurants are The Hollywood Brown Derby, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano and Hollywood and Vine.  If you call for reservations and cannot get the VIP package it doesn’t hurt to ask when you are actually in the restaurant and eating.  They have a small number of VIP vouchers they give out each day in the restaurants as well! The VIP packages are nice because you can arrive 30 minutes prior to the shows start rather than 90 and still have a great seat!  That’s more time to ride rides!

Food

My very favorite Walt Disney World snack can be found at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, The Carrot Cake Cookie!  The carrot cake cookie is a snack on the Disney Dining Plan and can be found at the Writers Stop!  I don’t drink coffee but they do have great coffee there as well! Another great treat is the Butterfinger Cupcake found at the Starring Rolls Bakery.  They are so good and big enough to share, making it a great value for your snack credits.  The sandwiches at StarIf you love hot dogs I would suggest trying the Mac and Cheese and Truffle Oil Hot Dog at Fairfax Fare.  It is as delicious as it sounds, it also has bacon on it…yum!  I cannot visit the park without snagging one!  Another fun place to eat, especially with kids, is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.  Classic All American Food gets served up to you drive in style while your sitting in booths that look like cars watching old black and white movies!  The food is great and the atmosphere is a lot of fun, its great on a warm summer day too because its cool and semi-dark.  It’s a great place for an afternoon break but remember reservations are strongly recommended!

Shopping

I very much love looking at the little shops that line the streets at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It seems that a majority of the things I buy to take home come from this park.  Because it is a smaller park, I think you will have plenty of time to enjoy some shopping here – so don’t skip it!  There is a very fun store with lots of toys, stuffed animals and kids clothing that I just adore!  It usually has some hard to find items in there.  My daughter collects the Disney Babies and I am always fining ones that we don’t see anywhere else there.  Just a tip, from experience, if you see something you love and have to have don’t wait till you head to Downtown Disney or another park to grab it.  There are unique items all of the Parks, if you see it and love it then get it!  I trecked all over Walt Disney World looking for a tote bag I had seen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios with no luck.

EPCOT

Epcot is a very large park, nearly twice as big as the Magic Kingdom!  EPCOT is divided into two main areas, Future World and The World Showcase.

Future World

Future World is the front part of EPCOT.  In Future World you can find the newly refurbished Test Track, Spaceship Earth, Innovations, Mission: Space, Universe of Energy, The Seas With Nemo and Friends, The Land and Imaginations.  I love walking around this area.  I feel like I always learn something new, but in a fun way!  My daughter loves riding in the big ball, and really so do I!  In this area there is also a great character meet and greet. You can see the Fab 5 in an area called the Character Spot.  If you get there early in the morning the line is usually very short.  It is my favorite spot to see the characters.  Even in the afternoon there isn’t too much of a wait.

The World Showcase

The World Showcase is the back half of EPCOT.  The World Showcase opens usually around 11:00am and is home to 11 countries.  The countries represented are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, Canada.  You can spend a lot of time touring The World Showcase so make sure you plan accordingly.  There are so many great places to eat, snack and drink! You can find counter service restaurants and table service restaurants all around The World Showcase.   Some of the countries have rides or movies that represent the country you are in.

Annual Events

There are several events that go on at Epcot during the year.  The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival is held in the spring.  You can see beautiful gardens and topiaries during this time.  This year, they also added food to the event which was widely popular!  The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is held in the fall.  There are tons of food booths set up by a lot of countries and they serve small plates so you can sample from several booths.  The Food and Wine Festival is very popular and a lot of fun!

Illuminations

Illuminations is a nightly outdoor show around the lake at EPCOT.  It is my favorite show on Walt Disney World property and well worth the wait!   It is an award winning show featuring lasers, fireworks, fire and water fountains timed to music.  The show lasts for about 13 minutes and is usually at 9pm.  This show is a Do Not Miss!

Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the last of the 4 theme parks to open and is the largest, although it doesn’t feel that way.  Animal Kingdom is divided into 7 areas.

Oasis- The Oasis is the very front part of the park.  In this area you will find guest services, animal habitats, and the Rainforest Cafe.  You do not need park admission to eat at the Rainforest Cafe located at the front of Animal Kingdom.  Also in the Oasis you will usually find Cast Members walking around with animals, usually small like reptiles, and they will let you and your children touch them.  It’s a fun learning experience.

Discovery Island- Discovery Island is the very center of the park, you cannot miss it because it is where the very iconic Tree of Life is located.  Most of the other sections of the park connect to this area.  You can also see several animal enclosures in this are.

Camp Minnie-Mickey- Camp Minnie-Mickey is a great place to meet some characters.  You can see Minnie, Mickey, Koda and Thumper. (Please remember all characters are subject to change at any time.)  Also in this area is the Do Not Miss Lion King Show.  It’s an interactive show, so try to get there early and sit down toward the front if you have small children.  It is an amazing show!

Africa- Africa is home to the very popular Safari!  You want to get there early as the lines tend to be very very long later in the day!  The Safari is fun and you can see a lot of free roaming animals all over the preserve.  Here is a tip.  Have breakfast at the Tusker House (located in Africa) before Animal Kingdom officially opens.  When you have finished your meal it will be just about time for the park to open.  When the Cast Members let you out of the Tusker House area at Park opening head straight to the Safari.  You will almost be able to walk right on!  I have also found that a lot more of the animals are active first thing in the morning.  Also in Africa is Pangani Exploration Trail.  You can walk the trail and see a lot of additional animals.

Asia- Asia is a very fun area of Animal Kingdom, mainly because Expedition Everest is located here.  I also love the Flights Of Wonder bird show that is in this area.  At the end of the show they bring out a Bald Eagle.  I get choked up everytime.  It is also an interactive show, so if you are brave and want to volunteer sit near the front.  Kali River Rapids is also a ride in this area.  Although I skip it every time, you will get soaked and that’s not much fun for me.  There is another jungle trek in the Asia area where you can see tigers and some other animal too.

Rifiki’s Planet Watch- To get to this area of Animal Kingdom you will have to hop on board the Wildlife Express train and take a short ride.  Rifiki’s Planet Watch highlights a lot of the conservation efforts made by the Walt Disney World Company.  There are also many animals you can see in this area and a petting zoo.

Dinoland U.S.A.- Dinoland is my favorite part of Animal Kingdom and we normally spend the most time in this area.  Nemo and Friends The Musical is in this area.  There are distinct show times each day, so pick up a show times guide at the front of the park because you don’t want to miss it.  Dinosaur is a thrill ride in this area and I have loved this ride since I was little.  There is also the TriceraTop Spin, which is a lot like the iconic Dumbo ride, and the Primeval Whirl, a spinning roller coaster, is in Dinoland.   I love all three rides and never skip them!  There are also some fun carnival games and a play area for kids called the Bone Yard.  I also love stopping in the area and getting some popcorn and frozen cokes, it’s a tradition for my family.

There are several great places to eat at Animal Kingdom.  I highly suggest checking out Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House.  It is an all you can eat buffet, some really great and unique food, and a great character breakfast!  The characters spend a good amount of time at each table and there is also a parade with Goofy after the characters have come by the table.  It is a great time!

Water Parks

There are 2 really fun water parks at Walt Disney World.  There is Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.

Blizzard Beach- According to the legend Florida had a freak snow storm creating the first ever ski resort in Florida!  Well the snow didn’t last long and the owners were about to cut their losses when they had a bright idea to turn it into a water park! You can see evidence of the ski resort all around in the decor.  It is really a fun place to take pictures!  The slides are a lot of fun at Blizzard Beach and even little kids can take a slip slide down on the toboggan racers, they go so fast!  Blizzard Beach is also home to the famous Summit Plummit, it is the second tallest water slide in the world.  You can reach speeds of 60 miles an hour straight down!  It is fast!  Blizzard Beach also has a great kiddie area!  If you have small children, this is the water park you want to be at.  You can also take a ride on a real chairlift one way up to some of the slides.  It is really cool and adds to the theme of Blizzard Beach.

Typhoon Lagoon- Typhoon Lagoon happened because of a storm that wrecked a tropical paradise.  Fishing gear, surf boards and ships were strewn everywhere!  The focal point of the park is Miss Tilly a shrimp boat that got shipwrecked on top of a geyser which erupts every half hour!  Typhoon Lagoon is the most visited water park in the world and is home to the worlds largest wave pool.  You can actually take surfing lessons in the wave pool before the park opens, the waves are really that big!  It is so much fun!  The Typhoon Lagoon wave pool is my very favorite thing of both water parks, I could literally spend all day getting tossed around by the ginormous waves! You can also snorkel at Typhoon Lagoon and pick a pearl from an oyster shell.  There is also a kids area at Typhoon Lagoon, but not nearly as nice or as good as the one at Blizzard Beach.

I love both water parks but depending on what I want to do is where I go.  If you are looking for a more kid friendly water park Blizzard Beach is your place.  If you are wanting more of a thrill I tend to head to Typhoon Lagoon.

Downtown Disney

Downtown Disney is a very fun upbeat place full of shopping, food and fun!  We always schedule at least a full day to spend at Downtown Disney and then maybe an afternoon or evening here or there.  Downtown Disney is free and open to the public.  It also has free parking and offers complimentary shuttles to and from the Walt Disney World Resorts.  Many of the restaurants at Downtown Disney are on the Disney Dining Plan so be sure to keep that in mind when making dining reservations.  Also at Downtown Disney is the worlds largest Disney store!  And it is big!  You can find just about any souvenir you want here.  Also in the World of Disney is the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique where little girls can get a makeover of a lifetime!  If you have a daughter, I would highly recommend it! There are a few rides at Downtown Disney that you can pay for including a carousel and a tiny train ride, mostly for little children.  There is also a Build-A-Dino in the restaurant TREX.  My favorite part of Downtown Disney happens to be Goofy’s Candy Co. which is a candy shop boating of all kinds of yummy treats and candies.  On the weekends there is usually some form of live entertainment on the main stage.  Often times in the evening there will be a fun DJ playing some popular music and having a dance party with the kids.  My daughter loves to get her face painted at Downtown Disney and it is affordable fun and they do a great job.  You can also go bowling, to the movies, ride in a hot air balloon, play interactive video games at Disney Quest and see an amazing show Cirque du Soleil.