Walt Disney World resort sprawls across 39 square miles southwest of Orlando
. It encompasses four theme parks, two water parks, 23 resort hotels, a shopping and entertainment district and much more. You could spend several weeks here and not experience everything, so here are our best tips for the top must-do Walt Disney World experiences. Each park requires at least one day. The restaurants and shops in the entertainment and shopping district of Downtown Disney can be enjoyed at any time of day or during the evening.
The Magic Kingdom is the best known park at Walt Disney World, and it's the park that best embodies Disney enchantment. Just the sight of Cinderella's Castle is enough to put a smile on your face. The characters of our childhood—Pinocchio, Dumbo, Alice in Wonderland and Snow White—can all be found here. These classic tales still delight young and old creating a family-friendly experience that everyone can enjoy together. The Magic Kingdom is divided into different "lands" and each has a theme. Fantasyland highlights the adventures of childhood favorites like Peter Pan and Snow White, while Mickey's Toontown Fair is home to Mickey, Donald and all their friends. Tomorrowland is for thrill seekers, with Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway. Main Street, U.S.A. is the heart of it all, with its old-fashioned charm, shops and experiences. Parades are a major part of the Magic Kingdom experience (check daily schedule for times), and Main Street, U.S.A. is often a good place to view them.
This is our favorite theme park at Walt Disney World. Epcot celebrates the world—both her potential and the distinct countries that call her home. Future World explores what is and what can be, using science and technology. Innovative rides like Test Track put guests through the paces of automobile testing, while Soarin' offers the breathtaking sensation of flight. At the World Showcase, you can travel around the globe in just a few hours without a passport. The national pavilions explore the people, unique culture, cuisine and beauty of 11 different nations. With ever-careful attention to detail, Disney brings the essence of each country to its guests. For many, these experiences will be the only touch points they have with these cultures. Epcot is best for older children and adults, and it's worth visiting again and again, because you can’t see it all in one day. The IllumiNations pyrotechnic show that takes place nightly in the Epcot lagoon is spectacular.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios is all about the magic behind the camera. The park offers backstage tours, TV- and movie-themed attractions and shows, giving visitors a chance to explore the magic of animation and learn how actors perform daring movie stunts. But most visitors come for the thrill rides, which are among Walt Disney World’s most radical. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror are two of the most popular attractions in the park, and they'll certainly keep you on edge. And we have to say it—Toy Story Mania! is one of our favorite rides at Walt Disney World. Hollywood Studios is best suited for older kids and adults.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
What do you get when you mix the lush landscapes of Asia and Africa with thrilling rides and exotic animals? You would have Disney's Animal Kingdom, a unique theme park that explores nature, action and zoo life all in one location. The animals, of course, are the central attraction here. Some 1,700 animals call the park home. You can view them on "safari" in natural-looking habitats. Animal Kingdom is rich in attractions, too. Don't miss Expedition Everest (a roller coaster that falls backwards) or—if you have small children—DinoLand U.S.A. One tip: The paths in the Oasis, at the park entry, can become quite congested at times. To avoid the crowds, take the path to the left when you enter and leave the park.
Typhoon Lagoon & Blizzard Beach
Walt Disney World is in Florida, so it only makes sense that it would include two themed water parks: , Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, each with its own back story. Typhoon Lagoon was "created" when a typhoon hit a small resort village, leaving it in ruins. Locals have rebuilt it into their own "wateropolis" around a watershed mountain called Mount Mayday. A massive surf lagoon, steep slides and a lazy river are among the top attractions. Blizzard Beach has a completely different feel. At this winter-themed water park, slalom and bobsled runs become waterslides. You can even reach Mount Gushmore via a chairlift. Once at the summit, you can choose between an inner-tube run, a white-water raft ride, or—if you dare—the speed slides. During the winter months, the pools are heated but each of the parks closes for several weeks for refurbishment, so check the Walt Disney World website or call 407-939-7529 for scheduled closings.