You’ll find four major theme parks, resort hotels, luxury villas, and the Disney Springs shopping and dining area. You will also find two water parks: Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s Blizzard Beach.
This is an open shopping area and it has three main parts -Disney Marketplace, the former Pleasure Island area, and Disney Westside.
The Disney Marketplace is home to the Disney transportation center in this area, as well as major restaurants like the Rainforest Café and T-Rex, retail stores like Lego, and one of the biggest Disney gift shops in the world – a great place to get your merchandise and souvenirs, including great Mickey Mouse gifts. There are other smaller boutique stores where you can purchase special soaps, Disney pins, and artwork.
The former Pleasure Island area has several retail outlets are still open — including Harley-Davidson and further along, Planet Hollywood.
At Disney Westside, you’ll find a street with ethnic restaurants, a terrific sock store called Little Mismatched, as well as a multistory and interactive video game location called DisneyQuest, a 24-seat movie theater, and a tethered hot air balloon ride. The Cirque Du Soleil La Nouba show, where the circus meets Broadway, is a permanent building at the very end of Disney Springs.
To enjoy Disney Springs, no park passes are required.
Disney Attractions Not in a Theme Park
As part of your day at Disney, you can enjoy a circular tour or two on the monorail, or cool off on one of the many boats that ply Disney World lagoons and canals. Several resorts are worth mentioning and they each have their own unique features and retail opportunities. The Contemporary Resort is a pyramid shaped hotel which the monorail goes right through. The Grand Floridian Resort is a stunning and large Victorian styled hotel which has a gorgeous Christmas display at this holiday time of the year. The Polynesian resort puts on a luau many nights a week and here you can be entertained by a show, while enjoying a feast.
The ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex is another attraction found at the Walt Disney World Resort. It frequently often hosts events that bring together athletes from around the world. In fact, Disney is a great place for amateur athletes. In addition to competitions and Atlanta Braves spring training camps, Disney hosts a marathon weekend each year with a full marathon and a half marathon.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Animal Kingdom is the newest of the Disney theme parks, and a few outstanding features are:
- Kilimanjaro Safari Rides — Ride through the African savanna in a free-roaming vehicle. Enjoy the adventure as you listen to your guide point out groups of animals such as giraffes, warthogs, lions, antelope, and many other animals. This ride is different each time because it’s live. The ride usually takes about 30 minutes, but can be shorter or longer depending on where the animals actually are.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch — Take a real steam train and study conservation efforts. You can peek in at the veterinary care center. It only takes a few minutes and trains come and go about every five minutes. There’s also a petting zoo here for the younger kids.
- Asia — This section of the Animal Kingdom features real gorillas, Komodo dragons, and tigers. There is also an enclosed section for bats, which are very large!
Epcot Theme Park
- Some consider this the most adult park at Disney World. It’s divided into two sections: World Showcase and Future World. Future World in the front of the park contains pavilions showcasing various rides and features, including The Seas, The Land, and the Universe of Energy. Epcot’s entrance feature is a huge geodesic dome which is actually a ride called Spaceship Earth. World Showcase is in the back of the park and features pavilions representing many countries.
- In The Living Seas kids will enjoy the Finding Nemo ride, as well as the gigantic marine aquarium which includes sharks and dolphins and manatees. Within The Land, the entire family will find plenty of great food to eat, as well as a cool and relaxing ride through real greenhouses on a boat.
- Illuminations is the nighttime show at Epcot. This is a large light, laser, and music show and it closes the park for the evening. It takes place around the World Showcase lagoon and each country is highlighted with colored lights and lasers.
The Magic Kingdom Theme Park
This park is closest in feel to Disneyland in California. It has many of the same attractions, and a few of these include:
- Spectacular fireworks are put on at the close of this theme park. Kids will be thrilled by a live actress portraying Tinkerbell, shooting down on a zip line from Cinderella Castle towards Tomorrowland. Just have the family focus on one of the windows high up in Cinderella’s Castle as she starts her journey at the beginning of the fireworks.
- There are several parades at the Magic Kingdom both during the day and at night. These are quite spectacular and everyone enjoys them. Main Street usually gets fairly crowded during the fireworks and the parades, so be sure and keep hold of the little ones!
- The Pirates of the Caribbean ride here is extremely popular. Get yourself a Disney FastPass and enjoy yourself until your reserved turn comes up and you can board your ship with little or no wait. As you exit this ride, it gives everyone a chance to try out a pirate hat or pirate duds, and adults and teens may find T-shirts to their liking.
- There are many family restaurants in the Magic Kingdom and a lot of them have characters interacting with diners, and therefore giving parents a lot of chances for great photographs.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Theme Park
- Two large shows not to be missed here are Fantasmic and the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Show. Fantasmic is a nighttime show with fireworks and live actors and plenty of Disney characters. The Indiana Jones show features recreations of various scenes from the movies and the actors here ask for audience volunteers!
- One of the pleasures of enjoying this particular park is a random occurrence of small groups of actors performing along the park’s main street and the various other locations. The actors interact with guests and their scenes often involve classic and antique cars.
- If you’re looking for a thrill, then the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is located in this park. The elevator drop will leave you screaming for more. Thrill seekers will also enjoy the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith.
- An absolutely not to be missed attraction at Christmas time is the Osbourne Family Spectacle Of Dancing Lights. This family is not the famous rock group family, but another one of the same name. Several blocks of the studios are totally lit up with colored lights and every few minutes they put on a show by blinking on off to the sounds of Christmas music. This is an attraction that people return to year after year.
- The Backlot Tour is very interesting and informative and gives you a ‘behind the scenes’ look into how movies are made.
- There are many places to eat, either a sit-down meal or a quick bite.
A World Of Vacation Fun
There is so much to see at do at the Walt Disney World Resort and at Disney Parks that you could spend a month on a Disney vacation and still not see it all.
If you live in Florida, then check for any current Florida resident discounts, including the option for an annual pass. These can be a real money saver.