This month we made our 8th visit to the most magical place on earth, Disney World!
My love affair with Disney began when I was just three years old, and my parents took me for the very first time. I was utterly mesmerized by the magic and begged my parents to take me back again the following year. And now, years later, I'm still just as obsessed!
On this visit, I was determined to hit all four of the magical parks in just two days, and let me tell you, it was a whirlwind adventure! From the classic attractions at Magic Kingdom to the high-octane thrills at Disney's Hollywood Studios, I was on a mission to experience it all. And while it may sound daunting to tackle all four parks in such a short amount of time, with a little planning and strategy, it's definitely doable! *We recommend our clients give each park a dedicated day, especially those with younger kids and first-time parkgoers.
In this blog post, we've compiled a comprehensive guide and review of all four parks so that you can make the most of your time at Disney World, whether you're a first-time visitor or a seasoned pro. From the must-see attractions to the best restaurants and hidden gems, we've got you covered!
Know Before You Go
When you're planning a trip to Disney World, it's important to be prepared! Here are some need-to-know tips and packing essentials to make the most of your time at the four magical parks.
First things first, after you purchase your park passes, be sure to make your park reservations for each park day. This is especially important now with the new reservation system in place due to COVID-19. Note: if you have a hopper pass, you can visit the second park in the afternoon without making a second park reservation.
Next up, let's talk about Genie+ service. This service enables you to skip the lines on select attractions and shows, making your park day even more magical. After visiting a second time using the year-old service, I finally got it down and have some pro tips to share. I recommend you purchase your Genie+ service in advance during your Disney World planning process. Then, make sure to log in at 7 am to obtain your Genie+ service for each park day.
After riding your first ride or two hours after park opening hours, you can book another Lightning Lane pass. It's best to book your first Lightning Lane for the morning so you can utilize the Genie+ service to your full advantage throughout the day. Additional info on Lightning Lane can be found on the official Disney World website here.
Now, let's talk about packing essentials. Snacks are a must-have, especially if you have picky eaters or want to avoid long lines for food. Bringing a reusable water bottle is also a great idea, as you can refill it at water fountains throughout the parks. Hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and a small microfiber towel can keep you clean and refreshed throughout the day. And remember a packable rain jacket, as Florida weather can be unpredictable. Finally, be sure to bring some to-go meds like Tylenol/Advil and Pepto Bismol, just in case.
With these need-to-know tips and packing essentials, you'll be ready for a magical adventure at Disney World!
Let's dive into the first park on our list, Magic Kingdom! As the most iconic park at Disney World, Magic Kingdom is a must-visit for any Disney fan. One of the most recognizable features of Magic Kingdom is Cinderella Castle, which serves as the park's centerpiece. As you make your way through the park, you'll be transported to different worlds and time periods, from the Wild West of Frontierland to the futuristic world of Tomorrowland. Each land is meticulously themed with attention to detail that truly immerses you in the experience.
Upon first entering Magic Kingdom, you'll encounter Main Street USA, which is designed to resemble a turn-of-the-century American town. Here you'll find shops, restaurants, and plenty of photo opportunities. If you're looking for souvenirs, be sure to stop by The Emporium Shop, which is the largest gift and souvenir shop at Disney. Everything you could ever want is in this store. Plus, at the end of the night, Main Street is the place to be for viewing the Happily Ever After fireworks show. This stunning display features projections on Cinderella's Castle, along with music and pyrotechnics. Be sure to stake out a good viewing spot early, as this show draws large crowds.
Now, let's talk about my favorite rides at Magic Kingdom. Space Mountain, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean are all must-do attractions. Plus, on this trip, I finally rode Big Thunder Mountain at night for the first time, which was amazing! If you have little ones, be sure to check out Fantasyland, which is home to rides and attractions based on classic Disney movies like Peter Pan, Dumbo, and It's a Small World. And if you're a fan of Disney princesses, be sure to stop by Princess Fairytale Hall for a chance to meet and take photos with some of your favorite characters.
When it comes to dining, there are plenty of options at Magic Kingdom. This trip, I finally got to eat at Be Our Guest, the Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant I've been trying to get a reservation for years! The highlight of my dining experience was seeing the Beast himself, who made an appearance during the meal. As for the food, we opted for the three-course meal for lunch. We had Escargot de Bourgogne, Duck and Pork Terrine, and Endive and Roquefort Cheese Salad for appetizers. For entrées, we had Duroc Pork Chop and Center-cut Filet Mignon. And for dessert, we enjoyed a trio of Raspberry Macaron, Dark Chocolate Truffle, and Chocolate Tart. Everything was absolutely delicious, and I would highly recommend these dishes to anyone dining at Be Our Guest.
Here are some of my other favorite restaurants:
Tony's Town Square (The restaurant from Lady and the Tramp).
Cinderella's Royal Table (A whimsical Cinderella-themed eatery set in a medieval-styled room akin to a castle's banquet hall).
Liberty Square Tavern (American-themed food).
Casey's Corner (Hot dogs).
The Plaza Restaurant (American comfort food).
And, of course, no visit to Magic Kingdom is complete without indulging in some classic Disney treats. In addition to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor and Aloha Isle, be sure to try a Dole Whip from the Sunshine Tree Terrace or a churro from one of the many snack stands throughout the park.
Overall, Magic Kingdom is a park that truly captures the essence of Disney and will always hold a special place in my heart. With its classic attractions, immersive theming, and delicious food, it's easy to see why this park is such a beloved destination for Disney fans.
Next up on our Disney World adventure is Epcot! Although this park may not be as alluring to younger visitors as some of the others, it boasts a wealth of attractions and amenities that will captivate adults and children alike. Epcot is essentially two parks in one, featuring both cutting-edge technology and a delightful culinary and cultural experience. The World Showcase area comprises 11 beautifully designed pavilions, representing different countries from around the world. Each pavilion offers visitors an immersive and authentic experience of the culture, history, and cuisine of its respective country. In addition to sampling delectable foods and beverages around the world, Epcot is a park that offers a range of unforgettable experiences.
Among its many attractions, one of the most stunning highlights is the spectacular nighttime show, Harmonious. This show is a celebration of the power of Disney music and stories to bring people together and is an absolute must-see experience that will leave you in awe. Beginning in April 2023, Epcot Forever will take center stage as the park's new nighttime attraction, promising an equally mesmerizing spectacle. In addition to these beloved nighttime events, Epcot also hosts several seasonal festivals throughout the year. Visitors who attend the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, held from March to July, will be treated to a breathtaking display of floral sculptures and other botanical wonders throughout the park. Meanwhile, the Food and Wine Festival is a culinary extravaganza that offers visitors the chance to sample a wide array of delicious foods and drinks from around the world.
As for my favorite rides at Epcot, I highly recommend Test Track, Soarin' Around the World, and Frozen Ever After. If you're looking for a new ride to try, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which opened last fall, is a top contender. This ride is a must-see attraction that quickly became my favorite in the park. To ensure that you don't miss out on the fun, be sure to sign up for the Virtual Queue in the morning. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is another new ride that is both adorable and entertaining, suitable for all ages. For a unique experience, the Beauty and the Beast Sing Along, narrated by Lefou, is a treat that should not be missed. And of course, be sure to visit Mouse Gears to shop for Disney merchandise.
And when it comes to dining Epcot also offers a diverse range of dining option. Biergarten Restaurant is a great spot to celebrate Oktoberfest all year round, while San Angel Inn offers delicious Mexican cuisine that is sure to satisfy your cravings. For the best margaritas EVER, head to La Cava del Tequila. And if you're in the mood for some fish and chips, Yorkshire County Fish Shop is the place to be. And for those with a sweet tooth, Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie offers delectable pastries and sweet treats that will make your taste buds sing. Finally, before you join the line for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, be sure to grab a crepe from Crepes a Emporter. The hazelnut and chocolate or Bechamel cheese and ham galette are my top picks.
As you make your way through the lush greenery and animal exhibits of Animal Kingdom, it's hard not to feel like you're on a real-life safari. The park is home to over 2,000 animals from 300 species, and there are plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with them.
One of the main attractions at Animal Kingdom is Pandora - The World of Avatar, which features two major rides - Na'vi River Journey and Flight of Passage. I finally got to ride Flight of Passage, and let me tell you, it was worth the hype! The ride simulates a flight over the world of Avatar, complete with stunning visuals and sensory effects that will leave you feeling like you're really there. I highly suggest either rope-dropping it or getting a Lightning Lane pass to skip the line.
Another must-do at Animal Kingdom is the Kilimanjaro Safari, which takes you on a journey through the savannas of Africa. You'll see animals like elephants, lions, and giraffes in their natural habitat, and it truly feels like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. This is still one of my favorite rides at Animal Kingdom, and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the park. When it comes to favorite rides, Expedition Everest is at the top of my list. It's a thrilling roller coaster that takes you on a journey through the Himalayas, complete with a Yeti encounter. Dinosaur is another great ride, which takes you on a time-traveling adventure to save a dinosaur from extinction. And of course, Na'vi River Journey is a must-do if you're a fan of Avatar.
As for dining, there are plenty of options at Animal Kingdom. Yak & Yeti is a great place to get some pan-Asian cuisine, while Eight Spoon Café serves up some of the best mac and cheese I've ever had. If you're looking for a unique dining experience, Rainforest Café is a great option. The restaurant has an indoor section and an outdoor area with seating on stilts above waterfalls, streams, and plants. Flame Tree BBQ is another great option for quick and delicious food, and Caravan Road is the place to be for shaved ice. For a quick service option, Restaurantosaurus is a great choice, while Tusker House Restaurant offers a buffet menu with African-inspired flavors and character dining experiences.
Overall, Animal Kingdom is a park that truly immerses you in the world of animals and nature. With its thrilling rides, stunning animal exhibits, and delicious dining options, it's a must-visit for any Disney fan.
Hollywood Studios is the park to be if you're a fan of movies, TV shows, and all things Star Wars. This park is home to some of the most thrilling rides, entertaining shows, and delicious dining options.
One of the rides that I highly recommend riding at night is Tower of Terror. I was lucky enough to ride it twice this trip, and it was even more thrilling in the dark. The Fantasmic! Show is another must-do at Hollywood Studios. This nighttime spectacular features fireworks, water effects, and live performers, and it's truly a sight to behold. I caught the show this trip, and I have to say, it was incredible. I'll be recommending it to all my clients from now on. I also got to experience the Frozen Sing-Along Show, which was super fun and a great way to break up the day.
For the Star Wars lovers out there, Hollywood Studios is the park for you. Make sure to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and witness March of the First Order, where Captain Phasma and a group of First Order stormtroopers march to the stage in front of the Chinese Theater. And each night after sunset at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre, there's a light show with projections of classic movie moments. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run are the newest and most popular rides at Hollywood Studios, and for good reason. These rides are truly immersive and take you on a journey through the world of Star Wars.
When it comes to favorite rides, Slinky Dog Dash is at the top of my list. It's a family-friendly roller coaster that takes you on a journey through Andy's backyard. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster is another thrilling ride that takes you through the streets of Los Angeles in a stretch limo. Toy Story Mania is a fun interactive ride where you can compete against your friends and family in arcade-style games. And of course, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway is a must-do for any classic Disney fan.
As for dining, there are plenty of options at Hollywood Studios. The Hollywood Brown Derby is a great place to dine in Hollywood splendor, while Hollywood & Vine offers character dining experiences. Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano is a great option for Italian food, while Star Wars Backlot Express is a quick service option for Star Wars fans. Woody's Lunch Box is a must-visit for the totchos (tater tots topped with chili, cheese, and other toppings), and Hollywood Scoops is the place to be for ice cream. And for a cool bar experience, make sure to make reservations at Oga's Cantina.
Overall, Hollywood Studios is a park that truly captures the essence of Hollywood and movie magic.
Looking to plan your Disney family getaway? Reach out to the expert planners at Travel Queen LLC! As experts in all things Disney, we know what it takes to create the ultimate trip for you and your family. Let us help create memories that will last a lifetime!
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