Ah, the Happiest Place on Earth. Walt Disney World has been a summer vacation staple for families across the globe. Luckily for me, I live about 5-10 minutes away from all the magic, so I visit the parks often. This also makes me quite the expert when it comes to planning a Disney trip!
I've put together my official guide for visiting the parks with plenty of tips, tricks and secrets to spill on all things on the Walt Disney World Resort.
WHERE TO STAY
I highly recommend staying on-property at one of the numerous Walt Disney World Resort hotels for the duration of your stay! Not only are there plenty of options to choose from to fit your budget and needs, but you'll get to enjoy a few benefits as a Disney hotel guest as well.
As a resort guest, you'll get to book your FastPasses up to 60 days in advance on the My Disney Experience App. You'll also be able to enjoy Extra Magic Hours at the parks; almost every day, one of the parks allows Disney resort guests early entry to the parks, or you get to stay after the park closes. This is a great opportunity to catch a few rides that otherwise have longer lines! And, of course, you can utilize the Disney transportation systems - buses, boats or monorail - that can take you virtually anywhere in Disney World.
My favorite resort by far is the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, but I also love staying at any of the hotels on the Boardwalk - they have access to the Boardwalk shops and restaurants and have their own separate back entrance to Epcot! For extended stays, Coronado Springs and Port Orleans are great picks, or any of the Value Resorts. Or, if you're looking for something out of the ordinary, try Animal Kingdom Lodge, where you can view exotic animals right from your room!
WHAT TO DO
While Disney World is typically thought of as a place for kids 12 and under, there are so many things to do as an adult that can really make your vacation the best one ever.
Obviously, all of the parks are a must. My favorite, of course, is Magic Kingdom, and if you can, visit this park two times during your stay. It's nearly impossible to do everything in just one visit here! I love riding the classics - Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and Jungle Cruise - but Seven Dwarves Mine Train is a fun new one (if you can snag a FastPass for it!).
Epcotis my second favorite park, and while it's not exactly the best for rides, Test Track and Soarin'are definitely must-do's. I love visiting all of the different countries and, for my 21+ friends, drinking around the world. Epcot is a great place for Instagram opportunities, and if you enjoy meeting the characters, this park is the best for that because of shorter lines. I love going for the Food & Wine Festivalin the fall, and then again for the Flower & Garden Festivalin the spring!
Hollywood Studios is great for a half-day park. It's currently undergoing some major renovations, but there are a few fun things, like the newly updated Star Warsride or Toy Story Mania. If you're a thrill-seeker, hit up Tower of Terror (but I am not, so I refuse to go on this ride!).
Animal Kingdom is also another great half-day adventure. If you go, go early and hit up Kilimanjaro Safaris first thing. It's the best time to see the most animals. Expedition Everest is also a ton of fun. It's Disney's largest park, though, so make sure you dress comfortably.
Other than the parks, definitely check out Disney Springs! I go there all the time now that the new shops and restaurants are open. There's also a movie theater, bowling alley and fun entertainment at night. It's a great place to visit after a long day at the parks.
WHERE TO EAT
Some of my favorite restaurants ever are at the Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts. There are so many options when it comes to food. Also, I suggest making reservations in advance for any of the restaurants (besides quick service). They can get pretty busy, especially around dinner.
My absolute favorite brunch spot in the parks is Grand Floridian Café. It has all the Disney brunch favorites (ahem, Mickey waffles), and is almost always pretty quiet. This is a great spot to hit if you're planning on spending your day at Magic Kingdom, because after breakfast, you can go upstairs and hit the monorail to go to the park.
I usually just grab quick service lunches when I'm at the parks, but lunch is a perfect opportunity to try restaurants that are normally crowded for dinner. I recommend hitting up Epcot spots - my favorites are Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion for hibachi, and Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion for fresh, authentic Italian-style pizza.
Again, Epcot is the place for great restaurants when it comes to dinner. You really can't go wrong in any of the countries, and there's something for every taste.
However, one of my favorites at the parks is Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. The atmosphere is incredible - you legit feel like you're in Beauty and the Beast - and the food is even better! Make sure you try the grey stuff for desert - it's delicious ;)
Also, Disney Springs is amazing for all the restaurant choices. Since this place gets pretty busy in the evenings, I definitely suggest making reservations for any of the restaurants. I still need to try all the new ones, but The Boathouse is my go-to at the moment. I love being on the water and going out on the dock after dinner to look at all the cool retro boats. Not to mention, the food is amazeeee.
Almost all of the resorts have great restaurants as well. The California Grill at the Contemporary is probably one of the coolest experiences at the parks - it overlooks Magic Kingdom and has a viewing deck to watch the fireworks!
WHAT TO BRING
Packing for the parks can be super tricky. Florida weather is super weird - one minute, it's sunny and 100 degrees, the next, it's pouring rain! Your best bet is to check the weather before you go, and bring a light rain coat or poncho to throw in your bag. Shorts or t-shirt dresses and comfy shoes are a must.
I'm planning on sharing a more in-depth post about packing later, but until then, you can get outfit ideas from Disney Style. There's so many cute looks to inspire your park wear, and they always share the best Disney pieces to complete your look.
BEFORE YOU GO...
Plan, plan, plan! Book your FastPasses in advance for your favorite rides. Trust me, this is a lifesaver. You can book up to 3 FastPasses in advance per day, so USE 'EM! With the new update, you can even plan FastPasses back-to-back, so if you want to visit a park during a certain time of day, you can knock out all your favorite rides in one go. It's so great!
Also, like I mentioned before, book your dining reservations for your favorite spots. Some restaurants are booked up months in advance, so don't miss out. Mix it up, too, so you don't feel overly scheduled.
And, of course, get ready for a whole lot of fun! Whether you're spending the weekend or two weeks, a Disney vacation is always magical.
What are your favorite things to do at Disney World? Let me know below!
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