Updated On: November 27, 2023 by Courtney Augello
A trip to Walt Disney World is a holiday that everyone should experience. Children and adults alike will enjoy the fun and fanfare at the park. From meet and greets with iconic mascots to racing along roller coaster tracks, there is something for everyone at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World has so many rides, experiences, and attractions that you could easily explore the park for a week or more. To help you plan the best holiday possible, we’ve gone over the history of the iconic park and 5 of the best things to do at Walt Disney World.
The History of Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is an amusement park near Orlando, Florida, USA. The park opened in October 1971, just 16 years after the original Disneyland Park opened in Anaheim, California. It was the second park to be built, followed by multiple Disney parks opening worldwide.
Walt Disney World has 4 main parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. The park spans about 25,000 acres, but only half of it is currently used. The land was acquired through fake companies not to tip off competitors that a new Disney park was being built.
In 1966, Walt Disney passed away before he could see the park come to life. Walt’s brother, Roy Disney, took over the planning and construction of the park. It opened with just one main park: Magic Kingdom.
Roy Disney dedicated the park to his brother, naming it Walt Disney World. Roy passed away in December 1971, just a few months after the park opened.
The second main park, EPCOT, opened in 1982. It showcases technological advancements over time, similar to a world’s fair expo. 7 years later, Hollywood Studios opened with attractions inspired by show business.
The fourth and final main park to open at Walt Disney World was Animal Kingdom in 1998. Animal Kingdom is themed around nature and is dedicated to animal conservation, something Walt Disney highly valued.
It differs from the other main parks because it has hundreds of live animals on exhibit in addition to the rollercoasters, rides, and other traditional attractions. Magic Kingdom is the most visited zoo in the world and of the most popular amusement parks.
Over the next 25 years, Walt Disney World continued expanding. New rides and attractions were brought to the park. It was open every day until it was forced to close down during the pandemic.
Walt Disney World reopened with a limited capacity in July 2020 and is running at full capacity today. Each year, except for 2020, the park welcomes nearly 60 million visitors, making it one of the most popular amusement parks in the world.
How to Avoid Long Lines
Due to the park’s popularity, lines form quickly at the rides. On busy days, the wait for a ride can even be longer than 2 hours! To avoid waiting in the Florida heat and humidity, there are 2 main options.
The first way to avoid long lines is to arrive at the park early. A queue normally begins to form about an hour before the park opens at 8 am. If you are able to enter the park right as it opens, you’ll be able to get on rides without a wait.
Additionally, you can get in before the park officially opens if you are staying at a Disney resort on the property. For hotel guests, the park opens at 7:30 each morning. This is definitely something to take advantage of if you can!
The second way to avoid waiting in lines is to purchase a Lightning Lanes pass. Similar to a Fast Pass, this allows you to select an available ride time and skip the long lines. Lightning Lanes passes are available on the Disney app and cost an additional $15 per day per ticket.
If you are a solo rider, some rides at Walt Disney World have a queue specifically for you. These lines typically move faster as single riders do not need a whole car and can fill empty seats between other groups.
1: Visit the 4 Parks
Each of the 4 main parks at Walt Disney World has its own amazing theme and rides. From exploring the technology of tomorrow to walking around a planet far, far away, the parks are sure to open your imagination.
If you want to explore all 4 parks, your trip to Walt Disney World should be 4 days long. Between the endless attractions and long lines, one park per day is a good goal to set for your holiday.
There is no doubt that Walt Disney World’s original park is the most popular. Famous for its stunning Cinderella Castle and fun rides, Magic Kingdom has wowed guests since opening day. It is a must for anyone visiting the park.
Some of the rides in Magic Kingdom have been there since the park first opened. One of the most popular original rides is The Haunted Mansion. It is a dark ride that takes guests through a Gothic manor as your “Ghost Host” tells stories of what happened inside.
One of Magic Kingdom’s most iconic attractions is Splash Mountain. The log flume ride opened in 1989 and takes guests through indoor and outdoor sections before a 16-metre drop finale.
Splash Mountain was originally themed after the Disney movie Song of the South, but is currently being rethemed to The Princess and the Frog. Set to open in the Summer of 2024, the ride will be renamed Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
The oldest roller coaster in Florida, Space Mountain, is also a must at Magic Kingdom. Guests climb into trains themed like rockets as they prepare to shoot into space. The coaster climbs past strobe lights and warps into darkness as it faces drops, twists, and turns.
In addition to the over 2000 animals on exhibit at the park, Animal Kingdom features many thrilling and iconic rides. Sci-fi thrills and fictional beasts help fill the park with screams and laughter from anyone who visits.
Expedition Everest is the tallest roller coaster at any Disney theme park and the only one at Animal Kingdom. The ride opened in 2006 and features a Yeti protecting the mountain from riders.
The roller coaster takes guests up the mountain through rubble and ruined temples. As the train reaches the top, the track has been destroyed, and a Yeti can be heard. The coaster then begins rolling backwards through the mountain as the Yeti attempts to attack the train.
Another fan favourite at Animal Kingdom is a dark ride called DINOSAUR. This ride opened in 1998 and is themed around palaeontology. The ride begins with a movie pre-show before taking riders on a thrilling adventure full of dinosaurs.
Animal Kingdom also has dedicated theme areas, such as Pandora – The World of Avatar. This area has 2 main rides, as well as themed restaurants and shops. It is set on the fictional moon of Pandora and features alien flora and fauna from the films.
The second park to open at Walt Disney World, EPCOT, celebrates the innovation, achievements, and culture of humanity. The park is more than double the size of its predecessor, Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT is an acronym that stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. The park was originally intended to be a city at Walt Disney World with recreational, commercial, and residential buildings that would become the new standard for community design. The idea was scrapped, however, after Walt Disney’s death.
The iconic geodesic sphere at the centre of EPCOT contains one of the most popular rides at the park, Spaceship Earth. The ride takes guests back in time to explore advancements and breakthroughs in communication throughout history and how they have built today’s future.
Although it is not a ride, the World Showcase is the park’s biggest attraction. This area features recreations of 11 nations from around the world: Canada, the UK, France, Morocco, Japan, the USA, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.
Each recreation was built to capture and highlight the culture, food, and architecture of the nations they represent. The pavilions feature themed restaurants, shops, and live performances. The areas are staffed by citizens of the represented countries, and native music plays throughout.
Hollywood Studios is a park at Walt Disney World dedicated to the fictional settings created in tv, films, and theatre. The park was set to open in 1990, but construction was fast-tracked due to the park’s rival, Universal Studios Florida, being built.
Initially, the park was designed to host rides and an operating production studio, including an animation centre, backlot, and sets. The studio was closed during the 2000s and removed to make room for more themed attractions.
Hollywood Studios features multiple areas inspired by real locations in Hollywood. These include Sunset Boulevard and Grand Avenue, among others. The areas are lined with themed facades, shops, and restaurants.
The most famous attraction at Hollywood Studios is the Tower of Terror. It was the first of its kind built at a Disney park before similar versions were opened at other parks around the world.
The ride takes guests into an elevator at the Hollywood Tower Hotel after learning that 5 people mysteriously disappeared from it decades earlier. The elevator then ascends to the top of the hotel before an exhilarating plummet back to the basement.
2: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios
One of the best themed areas at Walt Disney World is Galaxy’s Edge. Inspired by the Star Wars universe, guests are transported to Black Spire Outpost on the fictional planet Batuu. The themed landscape, buildings, and characters here are fantastic, even for guests not interested in the films.
The outpost is known to host members of the Resistance, causing the First Order to take over the outpost in search of their enemies. Characters from both sides can be found at Galaxy’s Edge for photos. Famous bounty hunters also roam the area.
The area is full of attractions and experiences. Restaurants sell food and drinks themed to the Star Wars universe, and shops sell themed clothing and accessories so guests can fit in with the characters.
Guests can also build their own lightsaber or droid at Galaxy’s Edge. Each experience is narrated and themed for a fully immersive experience. Options from the light and dark sides are available at both experiences.
There are 2 rides at Galaxy’s Edge: Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Star Wars: Millennium Falcon – Smugglers Run. Both rides take guests on an exciting adventure where they must escape the danger of the First Order.
3: Happily Ever After
No trip to Disney World Orlando would be complete without seeing the Happily Ever After fireworks show in Magic Kingdom. The show first debuted in May 2017 and is set to return in April 2023.
The show takes place at Cinderella’s Castle at the heart of the Magic Kingdom. It features fireworks, music, lasers, and projections of Disney characters from different films. The show is extremely popular with Disney fans from all over the world.
After an exhilarating day on rides and meeting favourite characters, the Happily Ever After fireworks show winds down the day with a stunning display. It is the best way to end a day at Disney World Orlando.
4: Typhoon Lagoon
First opened in 1989, Typhoon Lagoon is the second most popular water park in the world. It welcomes over 2 million visitors each year. The park is themed around the tale of a typhoon that destroyed a popular beachside destination.
Typhoon Lagoon features one of the world’s largest wave pools, which creates waves that reach 6ft high. The park also has multiple sides, the Crush ‘n’ Gusher water coaster, and dedicated kids’ areas.
The park is open year-round, except for annual maintenance hosted during the winter. Visiting Typhoon Lagoon at Walt Disney World is a perfect way to escape the Florida heat and humidity.
5: Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach opened in April 1995. It was the third water park to open at Walt Disney World and is 1 of 2 that are still operational today. It is also open all year, apart from a brief maintenance period.
The story behind the park is that a snowstorm hit the tropical state of Florida and prompted the opening of the state’s first ski resort. As the heat and humidity returned, the winter attractions became thrilling waterslides.
The most popular attraction at Blizzard Beach is the Summit Plummet. It is a 37-metre-tall free-fall slide where guests can reach speeds of 60mph. It is the fastest and third-tallest in the world.
Walt Disney World is An Amazing Holiday Destination!
Walt Disney World has many attractions that will captivate people of all ages. Nicknamed “The Most Magical Place On Earth”, the park is where your imagination comes to life. From unique themed areas to thrilling roller coasters, Walt Disney World is a destination that everyone can enjoy.
For any trip to Walt Disney World, some attractions are must-dos. They capture the spirit of Disney and take riders on unforgettable adventures. These iconic rides and experiences will make your holiday one to remember.