This article describes the Walt Disney World parks, accommodations and other attractions. It also discusses how to plan your trip and get to Disney World.
At a Glance
The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is not just a resort. It currently consists of four theme parks, two water parks, more than 25 hotels, one campground, Disney Springs and too many shops and restaurants to count…and they continue to expand. All of the Disney properties are not actually located in Orlando and are much closer to Kissimmee, which is to the south of Orlando.
The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom was the original Disney park in Florida and is still the most visited. Visitors will enjoy riding some of the park’s iconic attractions including It’s a Small World, Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion as well as the parks newer additions like TRON Lightcycle / Run. This park is divided into 6 sections: you enter the park into Main Street USA with Cinderella’s Castle directly in front of you. The park has a central hub in front of the castle and starting to the right and going counter-clockwise there is Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland.
EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow, was also an idea of Walt’s, but he passed away before he could start building it. Afterwards, the plans were changed considerably from Walt’s original vision to what EPCOT is today, park theme park, part museum and part garden. This park is the largest to walk around and is the least visited, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re trying to enjoy a Disney day, but don’t want to fight the crowds.
As you enter EPCOT you can’t miss the giant golfball called Spaceship Earth and just beyond is the World Celebration. To one side is World Nature, which has three buildings, one dedicated to air, another to earth and another to water and imagination (I know, what’s imagination doing in there are ask). On the other side is World Discovery, which has three buildings, one for the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride, one dedicated to space and one dedicated to motion (but its really about cars).
The next area beyond World Celebration is World Showcase, which has a number of buildings dedicated to different countries from around the world. Some of these attractions have shows, some have restaurants, some have shops and they are all staffed by people from the country that is represented by the attraction. This area of EPOCT is home to a number of seasonal festivals like the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival.
Hollywood Studios, with the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is getting close to the Magic Kingdom as the most visited. This original section of this park is themed to look like the back lot of a working movie studio combined with the glamorous heyday of the moives while the newer Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a very immersive Star Wars themed land.
Animal Kingdom is the second largest park in terms of how much walking is required. After you enter Animal Kingdom you will walk through a section known as the Oasis, which takes you to Discovery Island where the Tree of Life is located. This park also has a hub-n-spoke layout. Starting to the right and going counter-clockwise there is Dinoland U.S.A., Asia, Africa, and Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Disney accommodations are divided into value, moderate and deluxe levels. Disney accommodations are very expensive compared to other options in the area, but you do get full immersion in the Disney experience, entry into the parks 30 minutes before the general public (enough time for 1 or 2 rides) and, if you’re staying in a deluxe level resort, you get an extra hour after the park closes, but only on certain dates.
Disney does provide free transportation between their hotels and theme parks. Depending on where you stay you can take a bus, monorail, boat or the Skyliner gondolas. Busses are the slowest, can be crowded, you may not even get on the first or second bus during peak times and they’re just not very fun. The other transportation options are more fun and interesting, but limited to certain resorts and parks.
Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground is a favorite amongst RVers from the around the country, but even if you don’t have an RV you can still enjoy the camping experience because they have well appointed cabins you can rent as well. Another option is to rent a drivable RV from a local RV rental center, drive it to Fort Wilderness and return it when you’re finished. But if you still want to camp in an RV, but don’t want to deal with driving it there Disney, has partnered with Meacham’s RV, the only officially sanctioned RV rental company, to provide an RV, delivered to a Fort Wilderness campsite and you just have to show up and enjoy the great outdoors.
Disney Affiliated Hotels
Certain hotels in the area have partnered with Disney to give guests similar transportation options (some are even on Disney transportation routes), magic hours and other benefits at a somewhat lower price point.
Other Accommodation Options
There are lots of other hotels, motels, timeshares and private home rentals in the area at every price point. Private homes in particular can be a great value for families (see our affiliate blog article: Why Rent a House or Villa When Staying in Kissimmee or Orlando, Florida). These can be booked through sites like AirBnB, VRBO or our affiliate company Your Florida Vacation Villa.
Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is home to numerous stores, restaurants, attractions, shows and events. Visiting Disney Springs can be a nice break from the hectic days in the parks, but still keep your Disney vibe on.
Planning Your Visit
For more detailed information on Disney trip planning check out our article: How to Plan your Trip to Disney World at Orlando, Florida.
There are two international airports near Disney and Orlando, Orlando International Airport (MCO), which is just east of downtown Orlando, and Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB), which is about one hour north of Orlando.
All of the Disney resorts are located to the west of Interstate 4, just north of State Route 192 and east of State Route 429. Once you’re in the area on any of these roads you will see signs for the different Disney resorts. Once you are within the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, formerly known as Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, directions to all of Disney’s resorts and parks are well sign posted. Self-parking at Disney hotels is free, but there is a charge valet parking. Disney also charges a fee for parking at their theme parks.
Visiting the Parks
Unless you’re a Disney regular you will want to spend a day in each park. There is no need to pay extra for a park hopper add-on and Disney has made it more difficult to park hop since COVID-19 anyway. Make sure you download the MyDisneyExperience App to your smartphone as this is now essential for planning, booking and navigating the parks. If your not sure whether to purchase Disney’s Genie+ for those park days or you don’t even know what Disney’s Genie and Genie+ are check out this article from our affiliate blog article: Is Disney’s Genie+ Worth Purchasing?
Additional Planning Tools
Mammoth Club has several outlets including a YouTube channel (linked above), TikTok, redit, instagram and a podcast. Mammoth Club provides a lot of great information about all things Disney.
Experience Kissimmee also has a great section on Disney World.
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