It's been a number of years since Walt Disney World’s 1971 opening, but some people still refer to the Magic Kingdom, the east coast version of the original Disneyland, as “Disney World”–as if the one park was pretty much the whole deal. Sure, the Magic Kingdom, with its Cinderella Castle, Dumbo ride, and other icons, is the heart and soul of the Florida resort.
But it comprises a mere few dozen acres among WDW's 35,000 acres. That's 47 square miles, roughly the size of two Manhattan islands, filled with four theme parks, two waterparks, 25 resort hotels, four golf courses, two shopping-dining-entertainment complexes and–are you still with me?–enough other diversions to keep tens of thousands of “cast members” (Disney-speak for employees) busy catering to tens of millions of guests annually.
Disney World is a phenomenon that has made an indelible mark on travel and tourism and changed the very notion of what it means to take a vacation and be entertained. It can be a wonderful source of pleasure and a great way to gather with friends and family for treasured, shared moments. But it is so enormous that, without proper planning, it can also be a powerful source of frustration and disappointment.
Before you proudly proclaim to anyone within shouting distance, "I'm going to Disney World!" take the time to learn all you can about the resort's incredible palette of options so that you can take full advantage of them. Gather your vacation mates for planning meetings well before you leave. Develop a rough itinerary, make restaurant reservations where practical, and do consider some of the other parks and attractions outside the Disney complex.
Whatever you do, don't try to do everything. Disney World is much too big now for vacationers to realistically do it all. Save your energy and patience for the parks and attractions you can reasonably accommodate, and save the parks and attractions you miss for your next vacation. After all, half the fun is in the planning and getting to tell people, “I'm going to Disney World!”
This is not meant to be an exhaustive article that explains everything there is to know about Disney World. Instead think of it as a hub with resources to help you find the info you need to plan your visit.
Essential Trip-Planning Resources
- Disney World’s Ticket Program Learn how to navigate through the different options, save some money, and land the best deal for your vacation.
- MyMagic+ Learn about Disney World's advance planning program, including My Disney Experience, MagicBands, and FastPass+. Discover how to make ride reservations, minimize your waits, and maximize your fun by taking advantage of Disney's free program. Yes, you read that correctly. It's free.
- MyMagic+ Tips
- What is Disney's MyMagic+, FastPass+, and My Disney Experience? Breaking down and defining the different elements of Disney World's trip planning program.
- FastPass+ vs. FastPass: What is the Difference?
- How to Skip All of the Lines at Disney World Forget Fastpass! If you really want the ultimate V.I.P. experience, discover how to bypass all of the standby lines for your next visit to the parks.
- Best Things to Do at Disney World - Yes, we’ve identified some of the best rides and attractions. But there is so much more to do at the vast resort. Let’s run down the very best that Disney World has to offer so that you take advantage of its riches.
- Why You Should Stay at Disney World Hotels - There are plenty of compelling reasons to stay on property at the resort. We run them down.
- Your Guide to Visiting Walt Disney World During the Pandemic - There is plenty to consider as you plan a getaway amid the COVID-19 outbreak. We’ve compiled all of the info for you.
The Best Attractions, Rides, and Shows–and the Ones to Avoid
- Top 10 Best Rides and Shows From the flashy, new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance to the classic Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney World has some of the most amazing attractions on the planet. If you have a limited amount of time to spend at the resort, these are the rides and shows you should put on your must-do list.
- Best Thrill Rides - Unlike Six Flags, or even crosstown rival, Universal Orlando, Disney World is not known for its kickass coasters and scream-inducing thrills. But it does offer some adrenaline-pumping attractions. We run them down in order of intensity. You may be surprised to discover that the most thrilling attraction is not located at one of the four theme parks.
- Best Rides for Kids - Do you have young, aspiring pirates and/or princesses? Let’s identify the attractions that are geared especially to them.
- Walt Disney World for Wimps - This may be a bit of a sensitive topic, but are you or somebody who will visiting the resort with you something of a ride wimp? We’ve got you covered! Yes, there are attractions you should avoid, but rest assured there are plenty for you to enjoy as well. Check out our comprehensive, park-by-park guide for thrill ride-wary guests.
Magic Kingdom Attractions
- The Scariest Rides at Disney's Magic Kingdom - If it’s thrills you’re after, head to the mountains.
- Guide to New Fantasyland - Discover all of the wonderful things to see and do, including the Little Mermaid ride, in the expanded land.
- Rock to and fro on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train - Review of the unique and highly themed roller coaster.
- Enchanted Tales with Belle - Discover the charming walk-through attraction and show based on the “Beauty and the Beast” heroine.
- Pirates of the Caribbean - It is one of the most compelling and influential theme park attractions ever created. We review the classic ride.
- Haunted Mansion - We dissect another classic Disney attraction.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Attractions
- The Complete Guide to Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge - Get the lowdown on the (incredible) rides, the food, the shops, visiting tips, and more for the wildly popular and impeccably themed land.
- Toy Story Land: The Complete Guide - We run down Slinky Dog Dash and the other rides in the whimsical land based on the Pixar series.
- Nighttime Shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios - There are five different shows featured at the Studios park, including Fantasmic! and Wonderful World of Animation. We run them down and offer viewing tips.
- Enter the Cartoon World Aboard Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway - We provide a comprehensive review of the delightful attraction–the first ride to showcase Mickey Mouse.
- Tower of Terror - Sure it’s thrilling. But it’s the dazzling effects that make this Hollywood Studios attraction one of Disney]s best.
- Top Epcot Thrill Rides - With attractions such as Test Track, Epcot offers unique ways to test your mettle. We highlight the most scream-tastic rides at the park.
- Soarin’ Around the World - The groundbreaking flying theater attraction is one of the best that Disney has to offer.
- Mission: Space - Blast off to Mars in Epcot’s astronaut training simulator and experience sustained positive G-forces.
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends - Don’t overlook this charming ride that melds real creatures in The Living Seas’ aquarium with characters from “Finding Nemo.”
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival: The Complete Guide - It is the grandaddy of park festivals. Read about the popular fall foodie event and make plans to join the fun.
Animal Kingdom Attractions
- The 10 Coolest Things to Do at Pandora the World of Avatar - Discover all of the amazing things to do and see in the Avatar-themed land, including riding a banshee on Avatar Flight of Passage and seeing a Pandoran shaman on the Na’vi River Journey.
- Expedition Everest - The themed coaster, which features an encounter with the infamous Yeti, is one of Disney’s most thrilling attractions.
- Finding Nemo - The Musical - This is one of Disney World’s very best shows. Read why.
The Water Parks
- The Complete Guide to Disney World’s Blizzard Beach - Read about the splashtastic park and its mix of thrilling water slides and delightful themeing.
- Summit Plummet - Do you have what it takes to tackle this incredibly intense speed slide?
What’s to Eat at Disney World?
Top 10 Best Restaurants at Disney World - Would you believe that there are over 400 places to dine at the enormous resort? We pare them down to the best table-service and quick-service restaurants as well as the best snacks and desserts. We also focus on the many offerings at Disney Springs.
Disney World Character Dining - Booking a meal with Mickey and the gang is one of the best ways to meet the characters at Disney World. Learn where to find the restaurants that offer the option.
Disney World Dining Reservations - You’ll want to nab reservations to make sure you will be able to experience the unique restaurants at the resort. It can be especially hard to do so at the more popular dining spots. We offer tips.