Walt Disney World

From Wikitravel
Revision as of 02:28, 1 January 2005 by Speedway (Talk | contribs) (Disney-MGM Studios)

Jump to: navigation, search

The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is the largest and most popular tourist destination in the world. It is operated and owned by The Walt Disney Company.

Introduction

Opened in 1971, the resort has opened a new theme park every decade since. Currently, the resort is host to four theme parks;

  • The Magic Kingdom - opened 1971
  • Epcot - opened 1983
  • Disney-MGM Studios - opened 1989
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom - opened 1998

On top of the four main attractions, the resort is home to a vast array of activites to participate in.

  • Two water parks; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
  • A shopping, dining and entertainment complex; Downtown Disney
  • Four fishing lakes; the main one being Seven Seas Lagoon
  • Eight major golf courses
  • Tennis courts

The actual size of the resort is about the size of a small city. Despite the enormous expanse of land at their fingertips, much of the land is dedicated to preserving the natural wildlife of Florida. In spite of the many buildings on site, only 27% of Walt Disney World is in use.

The Magic Kingdom

Opened in 1971 by Walt Disney's brother Roy, the Magic Kingdom was the second American theme park owned by Disney. It was much in the style of the 1955-built Disneyland in California, with slight differences. Disneyland's nickname is the Magic Kingdom incidentally.

Lands

The Magic Kingdom, as with other Disney parks but on a much grander scale, is themed into different 'lands' just like Disneyland.

  • Main Street USA

Walt Disney's vision of a turn-of-the-century American town welcomes visitors to the Magic Kingdom.

  • Fantasyland

Walk through the majestic Cinderella Castle to the land of your childhood, where fairy tales and legends come to life.

  • Tomorrowland

Take a trip into the future - Disney style.

  • Adventureland

Visit the exotic jungles of Asia and Africa, or walk through the amazing marketplaces of Agrabah.

  • Frontierland

A nostalgic look at gold rush America.

  • Liberty Square

A patriotic Disneyfied plantation village during the American Revolution.

  • Toontown

Step into the world of Mickey Mouse and his friends. Discover their larger-than-life homes, and step into their shoes.

Attractions

  • Cinderella Castle

This landmark serves as the official logo of Walt Disney World, and the Magic Kingdom. It is known around the world, but to fully experiences it's grandeur and beauty one must visit it in real life. Take a walkthrough the castle to Fantasyland.

  • The Haunted Mansion Pirates of the Caribbean Walt Disney's Caroussel of Progress

These three rides, in Liberty Square, Adventureland and Tomorrowland respectfully, are Walt Disney classics, all observed by the man himself. Even after 20+ years of operating, they still pull in the crowds.

  • Dumbo - Fantasyland, Aladdin's Magic Carpets - Adventureland

Both rides operate on the same principal. They gently rotate, while you control the height your car is at. It is advised you only try out one of these two rides to save time, as the only differences are aesthetic.

  • Fantasyland is generally popular for it's child orientated attractions. The dark rides, like Snow White, Alice in Wonderland and the stunning Peter Pan, are very popular in the morning and early afternoon. Try to catch them just before the park closes.

Seasonal

  • For July the 4th, the Magic Kingdom hosts a special variation of the firework display they are currently exhibiting.
  • In October, the Magic Kingdom hosts 'Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party', an after-closing-hours event that calls for dressing up, trick or treating, and experiencing Halloween the Disney way after dark.
  • In December, the Magic Kingdom is transformed into a Winter Wonderland for 'Mickey's Merry Christmas Celebration', which operates on the same principal as the Halloween party, but instead of candy you get cookies and hot cocoa. Both events are a delight, and have limited attendances so the park is never crowded and all attractions are practically walk-on. You must book quite early in the year though if you want a ticket for the night of your choice.
  • If one of your party is celebrating their birthday at the Magic Kingdom, tell a Cast Member behind the desk at City Hall on Main Street, and I promise you your day will be made much more special.

Epcot

The second park to be opened at WDW, it opened it’s gates for the first time in 1983. Located south of the Magic Kingdom, a monorail connects both parks. The park is very much focused on education and exploration of the cultures of the world, both past and future. ‘Epcot’ was originally the name of the perfect model city that Walt Disney had planned before his death to be built in WDW, but a new theme park carrying some of the themes of the city took the name instead – it is an acronym of Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow.

Areas

The park is split in two. The first half is the educational side – The Future World, with mini-areas like The Living Seas and The Land taking the space. It is also host to some of the most advanced and exciting rides in Florida, let alone Walt Disney World. The second half – The World Showcase - is eleven mini-areas each themed around a country of the world, with local food and drink and cultural exhibits on display.

Attractions

The Future World;

  • Mission: Space

An $8,000,000,000 attraction, Mission:Space is the most realistic space simulation you will experience on Earth outside of the real thing. Disney have received advice from organizations like NASA and the Russian Space Committee to create a scarily-authentic experience.

  • Test Track

Get a rare sneak peek inside the world of automobile testing as you get a firsthand look at how cars and trucks are tested.

  • Innoventions

Innoventions will immerse you in an ever-changing technology playground full of interactive experiences. Catch a glimpse of how science and technology are improving our lives today and in the future.

  • Honey! I Shrunk The Audience!

A highly-enjoyable 3D adventure film starring all your favourites from Disney’s ‘’Honey! I Shrunk The Kids!’’

The World Showcase;

  • IllumiNations

Seen by many as the greatest display of fireworks in the world (!), IllumiNations celebrates international co-operation between cultures through a dramatic display of pyro and hydro technics, all on the World Showcase Lagoon. An ideal location to see the fireworks is at the Rose and Crown Pub in the United Kingdom.

  • Maelstrom

A fantastic trip through Viking land, celebrating Norwegian culture.

  • El Rio del Tiempo

Sail the ‘Rivers of Time’ on this adventurous boat ride. Take your time to experience the World Showcase in full detail, as not everything is as it seems. There are oriental Buddhist gardens in Japan to explore, or shop for fashion accessories in Italy or sports apparel in the United Kingdom.

Seasonal

  • The America Gardens Theatre presents different musical acts every night for select periods in Autumn and Spring. The setting is lovely, as is the ranging varieties of music.
  • At Christmas, the IllumiNations fireworks have an added Christmas-themed display at the end of the usual run.
  • Spaceship: Earth (the giant golf ball that is the symbol of Epcot) gets a special Christmas light decoration in December.

Tips

  • If a whole day at Epcot gets too much for you, why not spend a day by the hotel pool, a water park, or even go shopping and;

‘’’If you are staying on-site at WDW’’’ catch the monorail, boat or bus over to Epcot for IllumiNations or ‘’’If you are staying off-site’’’ get to Epcot around 4pm, visit some of the rides you definitely want to visit and pick a nice site to view IllumiNations at.

Disney-MGM Studios

When Michael Eisner opened the third WDW theme park in 1989, he said it was “the Hollywood that never was, and always will be”. Don’t worry if you can’t get your head around that, but that is basically what the theme is. Hollywood is the underlying current at Disney-MGM Studios. The Studios originally hosted an animation studio that worked on hits like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, television studios that hosted shows like Home Improvement and soundstages that were used for such blockbusters like Armageddon. Now the ‘real’ studios are used for tours, after being closed in cost-cutting. But the park is still considered the best for attractions at WDW.

Sections

The Hollywood and Vine area of the park is the first section you enter. As you stroll down Hollywood Boulevard, take a right to the terrifying Tower of Terror on Sunset Boulevard, or continue to Sorceror’s Court, featuring the symbol of Disney-MGM Studios – the Sorceror’s Hat. Experience Disney behind the scenes, with The Magic of Disney Animation at Animation Courtyard, and Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream at Mickey Avenue. Finally, the exhilarating Soundstage Backlot features Star Tours, the fantastic Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular show, and the hilarious Jim Henson’s MuppetVision 3D.

Attractions

Whenever you think of Disney-MGM Studios, or Walt Disney World for that fact, you think of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. A runway elevator will drop you 13 stories into the depths of the Twilight Zone again and again and again, due to the new ‘random’ upgrade. Also at Disney-MGM;

  • Rock’n’RollerCoaster Starring Aerosmith

It’s a rockin’ road trip through Hollywood with unexpected twists, turns and loops…all set to the beat of Aerosmith’s most famous anthems!

  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid

Watch this breath-taking live-action re-enactment of the well-loved animation made partly right here at the Disney-MGM Studios. Quite popular with the kids!

  • Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? Play It!

Everyone plays and every answer counts at the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire attraction. If you manage to get to the $million question, you win a trip on one of the Disney Cruise Line ships.

  • Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage

A heart-warming live-action version of the classic tale. Bring your hankey!

  • Fantasmic!

Words cannot describe this awe-inspiring nighttime extravaganza at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre. Watch Sorceror Mickey battle classic Disney villains in this spectacular show of lasers, lights, dancing fountains and dazzling special effects.

Seasonal

  • Every Christmas, New York Street at the Soundstage Backlot hosts the Osborne Family Christmas Lights display, a beautiful exhibition of magic through light.
  • At Christmas, Fantasmic! is given a special holiday feel.

Tips

  • Fantasmic is in the top three things you should ‘’not’’ miss at Walt Disney World. It takes place in a 10,000 seating arena but it is surprising how quick it fills up. This may seem like an over-reaction but getting to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheatre 120 minutes before the show is a minimum wait for even moderate seats.
  • Disney-MGM Studios hosts some of the finest attractions in Walt Disney World, so it is not surprising many of the rides offer FastPass. It is vital you use this to an advantage, for example you are looking at a three-hour wait for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in summer months compared to ten minutes through FastPass. You know it makes sense.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom was a project always on the future building list of Walt Disney World. One cannot give the park a worthy description without the audience being there. Opened in 1998, the park’s icon is a five-story tree, engraved with over 3,000,000 wooden carvings of animals. The areas are set around the different continents of the world; Asia, Africa. The park has it’s own African savannah with over seventy species of animals, and over four hundred species of animals in the whole park!

Attractions

  • Kilimanjaro Safaris

This is the highlight of many visitors’ day to Animal Kingdom. Take a fifteen minute tour around a real African savannah, where the rocks have iced water pumped into them to keep the lions cool (it’s a true fact!). While you are experiencing the wildlife, save an endangered elephant from poachers!

  • Kali River Rapids

Take a desperate trip through Indian waters on a rough rapid ride through tunnels and over bridges while being drenched through.

  • DINOSAUR

Jump into your time rover and zip back 65 million years to the age of the dinosaurs and try and save one of the last of these prehistoric beasts.

  • It’s Tough To Be A Bug!

A musical 3D show underneath the Tree of Life that is fantastic fun for all the family. Presented by Flik and his friends from the Disney/Pixar ‘’A Bug’s Life’’.

Continents

  • Asia

The newest area to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Be transported to the mystical realms of South-east Asia. The East Coast’s biggest rollercoaster, ‘Expedition Everest’, is in construction in Asia.

  • Africa

Go to the mighty continent of Africa through the incredibly authentic village of Harambe.

  • Oasis

The first ‘continent’ you visit. Enter the lush tropical garden filled with exotic animals. This is your pathway to a whole world of adventure.

  • Camp Minnie-Mickey

Join Mickey and the gang ‘on vacation’ at an Andirondack mountain retreat.

  • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

“Open your eyes to the world around you.” To get here, ride the Wildlife Express Train from Africa and let the journey begin.

  • Discovery Island

Encircled by Discovery River, the lush green island is your departure point for excursions into the different realms of the park.

  • DinoLand USA

Come celebrate our fascination with dinosaurs in the most fossilized area of the park.

Seasonal

Tips

  • Due to the tropical feel of the park, there are many tropical plants around. This can enhance the humiditiy believe it or not, and you fill find that Animal Kingdom is the worst park weather-wise to stroll around. Although if you need to cool down, an Asian Melonwater is quite refreshing.
  • It is recommended that the FastPasses should be taken advantage of, especially the Safaris in the summer months when the park is most popular.

Disney Water Parks

The first Walt Disney World water park opened in 1977 as Disney’s River Country. As the park’s main attraction was a real lake that you could swim, fish, or boat in, it was contaminated in the late ‘90s when an accidental water transfer between a swamp on-property and the park resulted in very dirty swimming water. The park was closed in 1999. But the other two parks are thriving, receiving as many visitors annually as the theme parks themselves. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon opened in 1989, and Disney’s Blizzard Beach opened in 1995.

Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon

You can tell which of the water parks you would prefer just by the way you would like to spend your day. If you are in a very relaxed mood, where you would prefer to lie on a sunbed all day next to beautiful scenery, Typhoon Lagoon is for you. But if you are in the mood for exciting slides and breath-taking pools, you may be suited better at Blizzard Beach but do not forget Typhoon Lagoon all together.

Many of Disney’s parks have a ‘backstory’. The Magic Kingdom is a real ‘city’ where all the Disney characters live. Disney-MGM Studios is a ‘film studio’. Epcot is the land of tomorrow. You get the picture. Typhoon Lagoon has not been forgotten, as Disney’s publicized ideal of the park is that a beautiful tropical island was flooded by a terrible storm, and the island was swamped with lakes and ravines that were turned into slides. In the background of the main pool, which generates 8ft waves every five minutes, is a mountain which is host to a deserted ship which spouts water every 15 minutes.

While the emphasis on Typhoon Lagoon is more laid-back than Blizzard Beach, the rides are still thrilling if you get bored of lying by the pool though not as ‘dangerous’ as Blizzard Beach.

Disney’s Blizzard Beach

The back-story of Blizzard Beach is that Walt Disney World suffered a great snowstorm in the winter of 1995 (which of course never happened). The owners of WDW decided to turn an area of the resort (the site of Blizzard Beach) into a skiing resort, but the hot Floridian sun soon melted the snow and the dream was destroyed. But atop Mount Gushmore (a play on Mount Rushmore for all those non-Americans out there) was the Ice Gator, who suddenly slid down the slippery un-used ski slope to the glee of on-lookers. Blizzard Beach Water Park was born.

The highlight of the park is of course, the tallest water slide in the world. Summit Plummet is a near-vertical free-fall down Mount Gushmore, an artificial mountain that has it’s own chair-lift. A whole eight seconds long, the ride is not for people afraid of wedgies!

But just that Typhoon Lagoon has exciting rides too, Blizzard Beach can still be very relaxing. Take a tube and let yourself float around the Lazy River, or take a chairlift up Mount Gushmore and experience the view of Cinderella Castle, or the Tree of Life.

Seasonal

Both parks close annually for refurbishment, usually in the winter months. As of December 2004, Typhoon Lagoon is currently closed for this reason, plus a new water coaster is being built there.

Tips

Although it is an excellent idea to park hop from a theme park to a water park and have a half/half day, it is not a good idea to visit the theme park in the morning and the water park in the afternoon. It is best to get a few sunbeds for your party as soon as you enter the park, and of course the best time to get there is opening time.

You can purchase a Typhoon Lagoon/Blizzard Beach flask at their respective park, and then get free re-fills from any of the filling stations around the park for $8. If you are returning to the park again in your vacation, you pay $4 to use your old flask again in the same way. You could also use a TL flask at BB, vice-versa.

Everything But The Parks

When one thinks of Walt Disney World, they think of Cinderella Castle. Or the Tower of Terror. Or the giant golf ball at Epcot! One tends not to think of the hidden aspects of a vacation at Walt Disney World though.

Shop

Downtown Disney is located opposite the entrance to Typhoon Lagoon. Set over three sections, Downtown Disney grew from the Walt Disney World Marketplace (now the Downtown Disney Marketplace) which was just a place where you could find rare and interesting souvenirs not available in parks. Now comprising of the Marketplace (Disney-themed shops, art galleries, casual eateries), West Side (a multiplex cinema, memorabilia shops, more exclusive eateries) and Pleasure Island (open 7pm-3am, nightclubs, bars, restaurants), Downtown Disney is popular with people who want to take a break from the parks. If your Disney hotel has access to one of the WDW waterways, you can usually get a ferry from your hotel to the Downtown Disney Dry Dock, at the Marketplace.

At Downtown Disney is the mother of all Disney Stores, the World of Disney Store. You will find absoulutely anything you want here. It is the second largest Disney pin retailer in the world (the biggest is also at Downtown Disney), has a whole room devoted to the Disney Princess line, and it is not exactly dear. Forgot to pick up that Mickey plush from the Magic Kingdom? Pop down to World of Disney.

This is certainly not all Downtown Disney has to offer. At night, the famed Pleasure Island (which was here long before the Marketplace) opens it’s doors with its dazzling array of nightclubs, glitzy resturaunts, exclusive boutiques and and 24-hour party on New Years Eve! Downtown Disney is the only major attraction at Walt Disney World Resort that is free to park and enter.

At Downtown Disney West Side is the specially-created-for-WDW Cirque de Soleil spectacular, ‘’La Nouba’’. Don’t want a fancy circus? Walk over the road to the Walt Disney World AMC Multiplex – the largest in the Southeast of the US - and catch a movie. These two don’t catch your eye? Visit the biggest Virgin Megastore on the planet and pick up some CDs to take home.

Sleep

Walt Disney World opened it’s first hotels with the Magic Kingdom in 1971. The Contemporary Resort was built by building separate rooms and using a crane to splice them together, the Polynesian Resort sits on the beach looking over to Magic Kingdom, and the Fort Wilderness Camping Ground has it’s own petting zoo. Not enough?

Since then, tens of hotels have sprung up across the landscape. The hotels are separated into price ranges (value, moderate, deluxe and home from home) but the service never differs. The only difference is prices is room sizes but the smallest is still bigger than any room on International Drive.

All hotel rooms offer a fully furnished bathroom with shower, WC and sink. The deluxe and home from home resorts offer Jacuzzis as well in rooms. Arcades, in-room child care, shopping, laundry facilities and rooms for non-smokers and disabled guests are available at all WDW hotel resorts.

Disney is legendary for offering fantastic hospitality service. Benefits that come with staying at an on-site hotel;

  • ‘Extra Magic Hour’

Every day, some of the most popular attractions at one Theme Park are open an extra hour for Guests at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Valid Theme Park ticket and Resort ID required.

  • Complimentary Transportation

Whether it's by monorail, water launch, motor coach, or tram, if you need to get anywhere on Walt Disney World property, you will be there in minutes.

  • Amazing Recreation

Championship golf courses, tennis, marinas, health clubs, horse riding, fishing, boating, sport spectating – and so much more.

Play

Disney’s Wide World of Sports sits between the Magic Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios nestled in a shallow valley. It’s the spring training ground of the Atlanta Braves American baseball team, and it’s also where you can compete, take part in a game, play of spectate. Grab a bite to eat after the game at the ESPN Zone.

At Downtown Disney is the world’s largest indoor theme park – DisneyQuest. Before grabbing a bite to eat at the Cheescake Factory, create and then ride your own rollercoaster, fly on a Magic Carpet through Agrabah or shoot the rapids in a prehistoric plane.

Important Information

  • Walt Disney World Dining 1-407-WDW-DINE
  • Walt Disney World Fairy Tale Weddings 1-407-828-3400
  • Orlando International Airport 1-407-825-2001
  • Walt Disney World Guest Relations 1-407-824-4321
  • Walt Disney World University 1-407-828-2850
  • Hotel Babysitting 1-407 827-5444
  • Walt Disney World Recreation 1-407-939-7529

External links