Consider yourself a cuisine connoisseur? Stop by World Showcase from mid-September to mid-November and dine your way across all eleven countries! This fun fall event boasts nearly 30 international marketplaces, culinary demonstrations and dining experiences with professional chefs, and even an “Eat to the Beat” concert series. The 2014 event is currently scheduled for September 19th to November 10th.
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Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
This holiday celebration for all ages takes place in Magic Kingdom on select nights during September and October. Guests can look forward to meeting Disney villains and ghostly characters by day, then taking part in the “Boo-to-You” Parade by night. Also be sure to catch the special version of the castle fireworks called “HalloWishes,” a ghoulishly fun spectacular.
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Star Wars Weekends
Occurring in late May and early June, Hollywood Studios uses the power of the Force to bring guests an out-of-this-world experience. Special franchise characters like Darth Vader and Chewbacca make an appearance to sign autograph books, and even to help train young ones in the art of being a Jedi!
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This special Spring event takes place in the gardens of Epcot each year from March to May. World Showcase and Future World are adorned with delightful flower displays and character topiary, including crowd favorites like Mickey, Donald Duck, and Tinkerbell. HGTV specialists visit Epcot during this time of year to conduct DIY seminars about indoor and outdoor designing, and their schedule can be found on Disney’s website. Also be sure to check out the Flower Power concerts performed each weekend.
Step right into the glamorous world of film and television when you enter Hollywood Studios. Formerly known as MGM, Hollywood Studios brings the entertainment industry to life with thrilling attractions, behind-the-scenes tours, and exciting new shows for all ages. Hollywood Studios has grown tremendously in size since Walt first pitched the idea 40 years ago, and now features some of Disney World’s most popular attractions.
The park is split into the following areas:
This entrance to the main park is meant to immerse you in Hollywood culture with palm trees, chic shops, and the iconic Sorcerer’s Hat just ahead. The feel of this classic era is especially captured in dining experiences like the Hollywood Brown Derby, or the replica of the Chinese Theater. Make sure you check out the Hollywood Walk of Fame right before getting in line for the Great Movie Ride, an adventure through classic cinema.
Echo Lake is home to some of Hollywood Studios’ classic landmarks, like Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Star Tours, and the American Idol Experience. Also be sure to check out the notorious eatery, 50’s Prime Time Cafe, where the servers aren’t shy about telling you to keep your elbows off the table!
This section of the park hosts a few of Hollywood Studios’ famous attractions: Tower of Terror and Rock n’ Roller Coaster, both of which are only for the bravest vacationers! Also be sure to check out some entertaining shows, like Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, or the nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!
Next up is Pixar Place, a popular attraction for all fans of the animation studio. Here you will find the incredibly popular interactive ride, Toy Story Mania, as well as appearances from Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and even the Green Army Men!
Just after Pixar Place lies Animation Courtyard, a tribute to vintage Disney animation. Don’t miss some behind the scenes peeks at the life of Walt Disney, including Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream, and The Magic of Disney Animation. You can also check out a live action reenactment of Ariel’s story in Voyage of the Little Mermaid.
This popular section of the park is meant to be reminiscent of lively city streets. Its most popular attractions are Lights, Motors, Action!, an extreme stunt show for all ages, and the Behind the Scenes Backlot Tour, which gives you a sneak peek at how movie magic is made. Also popular are the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Muppet Vision 3D attractions.
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One of the most unique parts of Disney World is its famed Animal Kingdom, which strays away from the traditional theme park format in order to bring vacationers an authentic adventure into the heart of Africa and Asia. The park features up-close animal encounters, wild safari rides, and a even a run-in with an animatronic yeti! At the heart of it all is the Tree of Life, Disney’s special homage to the idea that we are all connected.
Animal Kingdom is divided into the following areas:
This area of the park is dedicated to nature: it features several walking paths filled with exotic trees and animals, each of which ultimately leads you to the Tree of Life.
Discovery Island lies at the heart of Animal Kingdom, and is home to the Tree of Life. Seeing this breathtaking landmark is a must for your trip, and if you’re bringing PIXAR fans along, be sure to check out It’s Tough to Be a Bug, the 4D show based on A Bug’s Life.
Inspired by the village of Harambe, Animal Kingdom has recreated an authentic African community. This cultural experience features traditional African cuisine and entertainment, and is home to the one and only Kilimanjaro Safaris. These rides take you directly into an African savanna, where you’ll get up close to giraffes, hippos, alligators, and – if you’re lucky – even lions!
This area of Animal Kingdom is perfect for the vacationer that wants to learn more about the animals that call Disney home. Rafiki’s Planet Watch features a unique backstage look at the animals’ habitats, and even has a petting zoo area for young kids.
A land that is sure to delight vacationers of all ages, Asia features both stunning architecture and thrilling rides. If you’re looking to explore the culture, check out the Jungle Trek or Flights of Wonder, where you can observe animals in their natural habitat. Feeling brave? Be sure to stop by Expedition Everest, Disney’s highest roller coaster, where you’ll head into the heart of the mountain and contend with a ferocious yeti.
Dinoland is a tribute to the animals of our past, and is filled with prehistoric attractions and dining experiences. Little ones will want to check out The Boneyard (where they can dig up dinosaur fossils), and adults will want to take a spin on Dinosaur, a thrilling trip through time.
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Devised by Walt himself during the park’s earliest days, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was designed to highlight not only the many cultures of the world, but to show how we can all come together to build a better future. As such, the park is split into two distinct sections: World Showcase and Future World. Both unique themes stay true to Walt’s vision while forming one cohesive experience, making Epcot one of the most revolutionary aspects of Disney World.
In an effort to bring together the world’s many cultures, Disney highlights 11 countries at Epcot, where unique cuisine, architecture, and language make up the different areas of World Showcase. In one convenient and diverse location, you can explore the culture of Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the U.S., Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Each designated pavilion is run by cast members indigenous to the country, and features immersive dining and entertaining experiences. Certain places, like Norway and Mexico, even have attractions dedicated to telling the history of their countries!
Sticking around for the night? Don’t miss IllumiNations, the fireworks spectacular that takes place on the lake in the middle of World Showcase. The show tells the story of Earth with a globe on the surface of the water, reflecting powerful and beautiful images of the history of humanity. Vacationers of all ages will be amazed as each country of World Showcase goes dark, only to illuminate and celebrate their culture as the music swells. This is one show you just can’t miss!
Best known for the enormous golf ball-shaped landmark, Future World is just a step away from the center of World Showcase, and features some of the coolest attractions that Disney has to offer. Thrill-seekers will want to try out Test Track, which has been recently renovated to send guests on a ride like never before, allowing them to design their own car and then take it for a test spin on both an indoor and outdoor track. Looking for something a little more laid-back? Consider the ever-popular Soarin’, a high-flying ride that uses spectacular technology to take guests along the California coast line. For the classic Epcot experience, you’ll want to head inside the park’s famous landmark for an out-of-this-world adventure on Spaceship Earth, or its sister ride, Mission Space. Both are experiences unlike anything else on Disney property.
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When most people think of Disney World, they immediately associate it with the childlike innocence of Magic Kingdom. This 107 acre park was designed with Walt’s childhood memories in mind, and Main Street, U.S.A. is sure to evoke a classic hometown feel. The iconic Cinderella Castle stands in the center of Magic Kingdom, with exciting new possibilities sprouting out in every direction. The park itself is divided into six wonderfully-themed categories: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Liberty Square, and (the park’s newest expansion) Fantasyland.
Not sure which area will become your new favorite? Read on about what each one has to offer.
Main Street, U.S.A.
The classic entrance to the park is designed to represent small town America. This subsection of Magic Kingdom is a long path leading up to Cinderella Castle, where you can find quaint shops, old-fashioned dining experiences, and even a traditional barber shop. While it’s not the place for thrill-seekers, Main Street, U.S.A. is the perfect spot to wind down after a long day in Magic Kingdom. Grab a dole whip from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and browse the merchandise at the Emporium before settling down to find the best place to watch the park’s nighttime shows.
This exotic and daring subsection of Magic Kingdom transports you from small town America to exciting and far away places like the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and Polynesia. Just as the name suggests, it’s the perfect place for an adventure! The park is known for some of Disney’s most famous attractions, like the the delightfully entertaining Jungle Cruise, the classic and swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and the kid-friendly Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride.
Dedicated to the exploration of America’s wild, wild west, Frontierland features majestic mountains and rustic log cabins. Take a step back in time at the dance hall or shootin’ gallery, or better yet, explore some of the most widely-known attractions. Conquer Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as you whip around a roller coaster track in runaway mine train, or brave Splash Mountain as you climb to a five-story drop. Not feeling so adventurous? Enjoy a ride on the Walt Disney Railroad or the raft to Tom Sawyer Island.
Welcome to the land of the future, where science fiction becomes reality in this unique Disney park. Walt’s vision was to create a place of “science, adventure, and ideas,” and he has certainly succeeded in establishing a park unlike any other. Tomorrowland is home to some timeless attractions, including the ever-popular Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. If you’re not a Toy Story fan (or are perhaps looking for something a little more mature), check Space Mountain, the ultimate Disney thrill ride.
In honor of the birth of our nation, Magic Kingdom celebrates American life in the late 1700’s through the Liberty Square park. It features an animatronic dedication to all of our presidents, and has several New England-themed dining areas. Perhaps best of all, Liberty Square is home to the ghoulishly entertaining Haunted Mansion ride. Featuring spectacular technology and spooky scenery, the ride is sure to delight all ages.
Recently renovated, Fantasyland is meant to bring out the prince or princess in all of us. The park features delightful new developments, including Beast’s castle and Ariel’s Grotto, and even pays homage to old classics, like Peter Pan. Young ones will especially enjoy this park, as they can explore classic rides like the Mad Tea Party and the Regal Carousel, or even get a royal makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. You’ll also want to check out the park’s new dining option, Be Our Guest, which features Belle and other classic Beauty & the Beast characters.
Now that you have a basic idea of what there is to explore at Magic Kingdom, let’s talk about the shows performed at the park on a daily basis. From parades to fireworks, there’s something for all ages – and there’s one show in particular that you won’t want to miss!
Dream Along With Mickey
This show is performed directly in front of Cinderella Castle most afternoons, and features characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald, as well as a few of your favorite Disney princesses! If you’re vacationing with young ones that love seeing the characters, consider stopping by this show. It’s run-time is around twenty minutes, and contains musical numbers and a small fireworks display.
Move it! Shake it! Celebrate it! Street Party
This entertaining afternoon show features several popular floats and characters that sing and dance along with the crowd. The show is perfect for little ones who love a family-friendly party with some classic Disney characters.
Festival of Fantasy Parade
Magic Kingdom’s newest parade can be seen along Main Street each afternoon, and features colorful floats and thematic music dedicated to celebrating the characters of Fantasyland. Highlights include floats for Beauty & the Beast, Peter Pan & Wendy, and Elsa & Anna, as well as an enormous fire-breathing metal dragon!
Main Street Electrical Parade
These colorful glowing character floats can be seen around Magic Kingdom on designated parade nights just before the big fireworks show. Vacationers of all ages can enjoy the Electrical Parade’s dazzling display, featuring characters like Tinkerbell, Alice in Wonderland, and Pinocchio.
A spectacular nighttime display of fireworks over Cinderella Castle, Wishes is by far the most popular Disney show. It features voice overs and songs from several classic Disney films, all set to a dazzling light show that illuminates the Magic Kingdom sky. In my opinion, this show is a MUST for any Disney World vacation – it perfectly wraps up the magic of Disney in one stunning show.
No matter how many times you visit Disney World, there will always be something new to discover! First-timers will want to check out the traditional park landmarks, while more frequent vacationers might like to explore some hidden magic throughout the property.
Outside the classic parks are two adventurous water parks, golf courses and spas, and even a shopping/dining complex called Downtown Disney. There’s something for everyone all across Disney World, and you’re sure to enjoy your stay if you do some research beforehand and find out what you’d most like to see. Check out the parks pages to discover attractions, restaurants, and even Special Events that you just can’t miss!
Moderate resorts located on Disney property are available for the reasonable average of $160 per night. These themed hotels are very popular among vacationers, and feature more amenities and modes of transportation than value resorts. The hotels in this category are as follows:
Caribbean Beach Resort
This tropical resort is built around “Barefoot Bay,” and features everything from white-sand beaches to pirate-themed rooms in order to complete the island atmosphere. The hotel itself is located in the Epcot resort area, and is accessible by bus. Amenities include a pool with a water slide, special island-themed rooms, and a Caribbean dining experience.
Coronado Springs Resort
Also built around a lake, Coronado Springs resort will transport you to Spanish-colonial Mexico with rustic ranches and beachfront cabanas. The hotel is located in the Animal Kingdom resort area, and is accessible by bus. Amenities include a pool with a water slide, a Mayan grill, and a health club.
Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
Step into the Mardi Gras atmosphere of Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter, were cobblestone streets and gas lamps take you back to the Antebellum period. This hotel is located in the Downtown Disney resort area, and is accessible by bus or boat. Amenities include a pool with a water slide, a jazz club, and horse-drawn carriage rides.
Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Traditional Southern hospitality sets the atmosphere of Port Orleans – Riverside, where white columns and cottages take you to the Louisiana Bayou. This hotel is located in the Downtown Disney resort area, and is accessible by bus or boat. Amenities include a pool with a water slide, royalty-themed guest rooms, and and a Southern-inspired dining hall.
All images courtesy of disneyworld.disney.go.com. For more information on any of these hotels, please visit the official website.