The Ultimate Disney World Vacation Checklist – 20 Things You Must Do!

Walt Disney World is the most magical place on earth! Disney magic comes with endless possibilities and thrilling opportunities . The hardest part about visiting this magical kingdom is making the most of your trip (and subsequently making those hard earned dollars count)! Here are 20 experiences (in no particular order) you absolutely must do for the ultimate vacation experience!

20. Walk through Cinderella Castle to enter Fantasyland – There are many ways to access the many lands of the Magic Kingdom, but there is none more enchanting than passing under the gates of this iconic castle. You will need to time this right because the scheduled stage shows force this walkway to be roped off throughout the day. As you enter, pay attention to the elaborate mosaics depicting Cinderella’s story – made up of hundreds of thousands of pieces! This walkway accesses Cinderella’s Royal Table – a fine dining experience you will need to reserve (potentially months) in advance to enjoy.

19. FastPass+ Popular Attractions – Even though Toy Story Midway Mania at the Hollywood Studios and Soarin’ Over California at Epcot are getting expansions in 2016, these rides and others like it are subject to extremely long wait times. It behooves you to plan and schedule your vacation with this in mind as you want to make every minute count! Other rides this mostly affects are the Magic Kingdom’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain, Epcot’s Test Track, Hollywood Studios’ Rock’n’Roller Coaster, and Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest and the Khali River Rapids.

18. Stay at a Moderate to Deluxe Disney Resort Hotel – Sure the Value resorts are more economically friendly, but the luxury and ambiance found at these other Disney properties offer the grandest experience of them all. The great pools, wonderfully decorated restaurants and meticulously themed grounds will add memorable joy to your vacation. The extra magic hours are available at all Disney Resort stays – so definitely take advantage of that in the parks!

17. Explore all of the Disney Mountains – Mountains at Disney World represent thrilling excitement. Three of them are at the Magic Kingdom – Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are traditional rollercoasters while Splash Mountain is a log flume water ride with an exhilarating drop at the end. The most exciting one, in my opinion, is Expedition Everest found at the Animal Kingdom. If you have a park hopper or several day passes, these must be adventured!

16. Eat at Ohana – This tropical feast at the Polynesian Village Resort will make your mouth water. The all-you-can-eat Hawaiian buffet of coconut pineapple bread, pot stickers, fire-seared meat kabobs, noodles, and the incredible bread pudding dessert (and more!) will have you stuffed with delight. You’ll want to make reservations in advance because it’s one of the best places to eat in all of Walt’s magical world and, therefore, in high demand. Plan it just right and you could enjoy the classic water pageant from the Polynesian beachfront afterward as you digest!

15. View the Spectacular Nighttime Pyrotechnic Shows – The Magic Kingdom has two great shows to cap the evening. The first is Celebrate the Magic, an immersive projection display that transforms Cinderella Castle into familiar environments from beloved Disney animated features. A few minutes later, Tinkerbell ushers in Wishes, a fireworks presentation employing story and music elements sure to enthrall! Epcot features Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, a blending of synthesized cultural music, pyrotechnics and light effects to celebrate our global diversity. The Hollywood Studios’ grand finale is Fantasmic, a fully ensembled spectacle employing water effects and pyrotechnics that will leave you cheering by the end. Each must be experienced on your ultimate Disney vacation!

14. Try out the Disney Thrill Rides – Overcome your fears on attractions like The Tower of Terror, Rock’n’Rollercoaster and Star Tours at Hollywood Studios; the Disney Mountains (mentioned above); Epcot’s Test Track and Mission: Space; and Dinosaur at Animal Kingdom. These are all sure to excite and test your thrill capacity.

13. Meet Mickey in person – At the Magic Kingdom, not only can you meet Mickey and get an autograph, but you can actually have a conversation with him at the Town Square Theater! Also take the many opportunities to hug your favorite Disney characters, princes and princesses spread all across the four parks. You never know who you’ll bump into and that is part of the surprising fun!

12. Ride the Monorail Roundtrip – This highway in the sky makes stops at the Transportation and Ticket Center (or TTC), the Polynesian Village Resort, the Grand Floridian, the Magic Kingdom, and even rides through the enclosed tower of the Contemporary Resort. From the TTC you can enjoy a lengthier ride to Epcot and back! Just don’t plan a roundtrip around opening and closing hours or you’ll likely stand the whole way! In any case, you’ll be sure to join the club of Spanish speakers who can say “Please, stand clear of the doors.”

11. Enjoy a Disney Snack during a Parade – There are snacks galore to enjoy while viewing the daily (or in the Magic Kingdom’s case, nightly) parades. Munch on buttery popcorn, gnaw on a turkey leg, crunch on cinnamon almonds, share a Mickey pretzel, cool down on a Mickey ice cream bar, or indulge in a soothing Dole Whip. You can’t go wrong with any of them!

10. Ride Classic Attractions – At the Magic Kingdom specifically, you have the opportunity to experience rides created by Walt Disney himself. This link to the past can be a nostalgic tribute to the most ardent Disney fanatic while also inspiring younger generations in their imagination. Some of the best are the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise, the Enchanted Tiki Room, Peter Pan’s Flight, It’s A Small World, and the Carousel of Progress. A few classic rides remain at Epcot as well, but the most notable is Spaceship Earth. All of these attractions must be experienced for the ultimate Disney vacation!

9. Visit Beaches and Cream – Nestled between the Beach and Yacht Club, this old fashioned 50’s diner has great burgers, milkshakes and ice cream cones. Grab some friends and go for the Kitchen Sink, a dessert with every ice cream and sugary treat they have served in, yes, a kitchen sink. Take a long stroll along the Boardwalk to complete this slower-paced memory maker.

8. Take Lots of Pictures – Speaking of making memories, make sure your smartphone or digital camera has lots of space and plenty of juice for the countless photo opportunities. This will ensure you relive all the great moments long after your ultimate vacation is over.

7. Talk to Cast Members – One of the great joys at Disney World is found in conversations with those putting on the whole show. You might get secret tips or experience extra Disney magic simply by asking the right questions. It’s a cast member’s job to preserve the magic and enhance your experience! Depending on where they’re located, it’s also fun to see how long cast members can stay in character (at the Haunted Mansion, for instance).

6. Take the WDWRR Grand Circle Tour – Walt Disney loved trains so share in this passion of his by embarking at any of the three stops (Main Street Station, Frontierland Station, and Storybook Circus Station) and riding the riles all the way around the park. On the railroad, you’ll see parts of the Magic Kingdom you can’t experience any other way!

5. Become a Kid Again on Tom Sawyer Island – There’s something so imaginative at this hidden gem of the Magic Kingdom. It’s essentially an island-sized playground you can only get to by raft full of corners to explore. The simple fun of balancing on the barrel bridges, shooting at intruders inside Fort Langhorn, investigating the mine caves, or relaxing on the scenic rocking chairs can almost make you forget the busy crowds across the Rivers of America.

4. Eat at a World Showcase Restaurant – Disney has so many great restaurants, and those found at the different countries of World Showcase are no exception. Each diversely-themed atmosphere will also treat you to cultural dishes for a truly foreign experience, without the need for a passport or airfare. My favorites are the Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada, the Rose and Crown in England and the San Angel Inn Restaurante in Mexico.

3. Make Use of Boat Transportation – If you are staying at any of the Bay Lake Disney Resorts, the most relaxing way to get to the Magic Kingdom is via boat! There’s something magical about cruising the waterways on outdoor boat seating. You can also make use of this if, during a day at the Magic Kingdom, you want to enjoy one of the dining options at The Contemporary, The Polynesian Village Resort, The Grand Floridian, The Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness. I also recommend riding the steamboats on the second level deck if traveling to/from the TTC and the Magic Kingdom for a truly magical view.

Bonus Tip!

BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Disney travel deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius! Discover More >

2. Purchase a Souvenir – Some great items to enhance a trip are Disney hats, the many varieties of mouse ears, even a Disney shirt of your favorite character (somebody always comments on my Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride shirt every time I wear it in the parks!). If you don’t want to carry your items around all day, take advantage of Package Pickup – a free service that ships your goodies to your Disney Resort Hotel or the park entrance where purchased. Check our article ‘9 Of Our Favorite Disney Souvenirs’.

1. Experience the ‘Kiss Goodnight’ – Guest who stay until the very last minute of the Magic Kingdom’s operating hours can close down the park with a stroll down Main Street U.S.A. and hear a special announcement known as the “Kiss Goodnight.” With words from Roy O. Disney’s opening day speech, it’s a moving way of saying goodbye to the most magical place on earth!

BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!

About Jared

I believe there's magic everywhere and love Story in all of its forms. Disney has impacted me from childhood, helping to instill in me the lost art of wonder and imagination. Having spent time as a cast member and now as a professional communicator, I long to inspire others with those same values. A few of my favorite Disney things are Fort Wilderness, extra-magic hours at the Magic Kingdom, and the nostalgia of EPCOT Center. My wife and I recently traded the Walt Disney World mountains (Space, Splash, Everest, Big Thunder and Mount Gushmore) for the mountains of Tennessee but writing about the Disney experience helps keep the magic alive!

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