The 10 Best Things to Do at Disney World

Pandora Floating Mountains
••• © Arthur Levine

If you're making a pilgrimage to Florida, I've got ten suggested things to do at Disney World that I just don't think you should miss — or at least know about so that you and your gang can get ready for a great vacation. And I'm not just talking about the best rides (although rides and attractions figure heavily on the top-10 countdown). Disney World is a massive vacation resort with many hotels, an astonishing number of restaurants, shopping and entertainment districts, and a wealth of other features to explore.

There's so much to see and do, it would be easy to dole out way more than ten tips. Among the intriguing options that didn't make the list, for example, are the mesmerizing Cirque du Soleil show, "La Nouba," a ride aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and (speaking of doling out) a refreshing serving of Dole Whip, the pineapple-flavored treat that is served at Aloha Isle in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom and Capt....MORE Cook's at Disney's Polynesian Resort. Consider the preceding items honorable mentions that would merit your travel-planning attention.

In no particular order, here are the ten things that did make the list. Ready?

  • 01 of 10

    Make Plans to Dine Out at Some Great Restaurants

    Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant, Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom
    ••• Melvyn Longhurst/Getty Images

    Many Disney World visitors chow down on the same nondescript fast food typically found at traditional amusement parks. And that's a shame.

    They are missing out on some extraordinary restaurants at the Florida resort and an opportunity to make their vacations more memorable. You, however, won't have to make that mistake, because you'll be in the know with our handy-dandy guide to Disney World's best table-service restaurants. The list includes both high-end and more moderately priced restaurants such as Jiko - The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Flying Fish Cafe at Disney's BoardWalk.

    You wouldn't want to blow all your vacation dollars (and your diet) indulging in table-service restaurants, would you? But that doesn't mean you have to settle for burgers and fries all the time either. The resort has some great counter-service restaurants. And if you are looking for something sweet, check out the Top 10 best Disney World snacks and desserts.

  • 02 of 10

    Yo Ho with Pirates of the Caribbean

    "Pirates of the Caribbean", Disney World
    ••• Mrs. Gemstone/Flickr/cc 2.0

    After a few decades of yo-hoing, Pirates is still the best ride in all of Disney World. First, it was a ride, then it inspired the wildly popular movie series featuring Johnny Depp. The Disney Imagineers then incorporated Depp's character, Captain Jack Sparrow, as well as other film references back into the ride. Read my review of Pirates of the Caribbean to learn more about why it is still the crown jewel among all of Disney's attractions. You might also enjoy my feature about the history of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. For great, classic attractions, the Haunted Mansion is typically mentioned in the same breath as Pirates.

  • 03 of 10

    Spring for Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach

    Typhoon Lagoon
    ••• Ashley/Flickr/ cc 2.0

    Among the iconic imagery that one typically associates with Disney World is Cinderella Castle, Epcot's Spaceship Earth (AKA, the giant golf ball), and the Tower of Terror. While the theme parks may reign at Disney World, don't overlook the water parks. Both Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon are among the most spectacular, thrilling, and downright fun water parks anywhere on the planet. With its evocative and whimsical seaside village theme, its dense and beautiful canopy of flora, perhaps the most stunning and tranquil lazy river in all of the water parkdom, and its namesake wave pool lagoon, we give the (slight) nod to Typhoon Lagoon. Then again, Blizzard Beach has the incredibly thrilling speed slide, Summit Plummet.

  • 04 of 10

    Journey to Pandora – The World of Avatar

    Pandora The World Of Avatar Dedication
    ••• Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images

    The level of detail at the Animal Kingdom land is breathtaking. Marvel at the floating mountains, gawk at the bioluminescent plants, witness a Pandoran shaman on the tranquil Na'vi River Journey, board a banshee on Avatar Flight of Passage (one of Disney World's best simulator attractions), and more in this living ode to James Cameron's film series.


    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Drop In on the Tower of Terror

    Disney World's Tower of Terror
    ••• Paul Beattie/Flickr/ cc 2.0

    If you can handle the thrills (which are pretty thrilling), no trip to Disney World would be complete without a visit to the classic ​The Twilight Zone-themed attraction. At its core, the Tower of Terror is a relatively basic drop tower ride, which is a staple at many amusement parks. However, the elaborate theme and effects take it to, well, a whole different zone.

  • 06 of 10

    Get Thrilled

    Disney World's Space Mountain
    ••• bdesham/Wkimedia Commons

    Do you love the Tower of Terror for its stomach-in-your-throat moments? You're not going to find roller coasters of the extreme white-knuckle variety or other major thrills at Disney World. That's more the province of amusement parks like Six Flags and Cedar Point. But the Florida resort does have some rides that will get your pulse racing. 

  • 07 of 10

    Find the Best Rides for Your Young'uns

    The It's a Small World Ride at Disney World
    ••• Gene Duncan, photographer/The Walt Disney Company

    Thrills are great. But what about kids who aren't tall enough to tackle the Tower of Terror, much less have the stomach for thrill rides? Fortunately, Disney World is loaded with wonderful rides that young children will adore.

  • 08 of 10

    Stay at One of the Disney Hotels

    Wilderness Lodge, Disneyworld
    ••• Dan Forer/Getty Images

    Sure, you could save a few bucks by staying off the property. But you'd be robbing yourself of the full Disney World experience (as well as some nifty benefits, including complimentary ground transportation to and from the airport and exclusive ride time at the parks). See my rundown of the Disney World Hotels.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Go to the Galaxy's Edge at Star Wars Land

    Star Wars Land
    ••• The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek/Wikimedia Commons

    Like us, you probably can't wait to visit the new Star Wars land coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios. But you're going to have to wait until 2019 for its grand opening. Until then, check out what's on the way.

  • 10 of 10

    Seek Out the Best Rides and Shows

    Expedition Everest Disney World
    ••• Jeremy Thompson/Flickr/cc 2.0

    OK, we're going to cheat a bit on this last one. We'll to send you off to our list of the 10 best Walt Disney World rides so that you can see the rest of the must-do Disney World attractions. To help avoid lines for the popular rides and to better manage your visit, you should learn how to use Disney's MyMagic+.