Planning your first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida? Feeling overwhelmed? Not to worry! Here are my top 10 things Disney “rookies” often miss on their first trip to the Vacation Kingdom. These things will only enhance your trip.
1) The Details/Atmosphere
– Walt Disney World is unlike any amusement park you’ve ever been to. The attention to detail by the Disney “Imagineers” is amazing! Most park guests run from attraction to attraction, and while that can be good advice early in the morning, take a few moments to sit on a park bench with a Mickey Ice Cream Bar or a bucket of popcorn. Listen to the background music and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Walk up close to Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom or the Tree of Life in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You will be amazed at the detail! Take time to “live in the moment”!
2) The Resorts
– If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times! “I just need a place to shower and sleep at night.” If you’re staying at Disney more than four days, you should consider spending some quality time at your Disney Resort Hotel. Just like the parks, Disney themes it’s hotels to the nth degree. Most of the Disney hotels could be a vacation in and of themselves! Consider taking a day to enjoy the pools, the children’s play areas, the restaurants, and the gift shops at your Disney hotel. Tip: During the holiday season, visit other Disney hotels and enjoy their festive atmosphere and decorations.
3) Table-Service Restaurants
– When most people think of visiting a theme park, they think of eating burgers, hot dogs and chicken fingers. While Disney offers those items at many of their quick-service dining locations, consider trying one or more of the table-service restaurants at Walt Disney World. There are dozens to choose from, both in the parks and outside the parks. If you’re staying at a Disney moderate or deluxe resort, your hotel will offer at least one sit-down restaurant. All are fun and well-themed to their particular area.
4) Characters Meals
– Speaking of table-service meals, a great way to see the Disney characters, in a comfortable, controlled environment, is a character meal. Certainly, you can see characters in the parks, but who wants to stand in another line, out in the blazing hot sun? Character meals are offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner, in all four theme parks and some of the Disney hotels. This can be a great way to enjoy a good meal, and see several characters all at once.
5) Making ADRs
– While Disney World boasts dozens of table-service restaurants, most are booked well ahead of time. Don’t miss out on a wonderful dining experience because you failed to plan! Before you leave home, make Advanced Dining Reservations at 2-3 different restaurants. You can make ADRs up to 180 days in advance of your trip by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
6) The Water Parks
– Like the theme parks, the Disney water parks are top-notch in attractions and theming. Consider spending a day at either Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. If you are staying at a Disney hotel, Disney transportation will take you to either park. You can even add the water park tickets onto your theme park tickets, for an all-in-one ticket.
7) Unique Souvenirs/Snacks
– Yes, you can buy everyone the usual Disney t-shirt or coffee mug, but the theme parks and hotels also offer many unique items. One of my favorite places to shop (and eat) is World Showcase in Epcot. There you will see items from literally around the world! From jewelry in Mexico, silk slippers in China, kimonos in Japan, perfumes in Italy, to maple syrup in Canada, there are many unique items offered. Speaking of unique, consider enjoying some different snacks in World Showcase, such as School Bread in Norway, sushi in Japan, and pastries in France.
8) Parades and Shows
– In my opinion, the best things at Disney World are the parades and nighttime shows. You may think you can’t pull yourself away from the rides and attractions, but I would urge you to make time for these special events. The Festival of Fantasy Parade and the Main Street Electrical Parade, both at Magic Kingdom, are amazing! Also not to be missed are the nighttime spectaculars such as Wishes at Magic Kingdom, Illuminations at Epcot and Fantasmic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These could easily be the highlight of your trip!
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9) Rope Drop
– This is a theme park term referring to the time a park opens, specifically when guests are first allowed access to the major rides and attractions. During really busy times, rope drop may occur even before the publicized opening time. Yes, you may have to get up earlier than you want, but the advantage is short lines. Most guests don’t arrive until two hours after park opening. By that time, you will have experienced many of the most popular rides and attractions.
– Fastpass is a system by which you can make a “reservation” to experience the most popular attractions, without standing in line. Simply set up a free account at www.mydisneyexperience.com, and you can reserve up to three experiences each day in the theme parks, beginning at 60 days prior to your trip. When your reservation window of time arrives, you walk to the front of the line, with no waiting.
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