Let’s start with the basics. Many first timers think Walt Disney World (or the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, to give it its full title) is just one park or, even worse, that each park is within walking distance from the others. The expanse of this entertainment Mecca is impossible to imagine if you have never been before, but the fact the entire resort complex is approximately the same size as Greater Manchester should give you an idea of how huge it is and how serious Walt Disney World is about ensuring every visitor finds plenty of entertainment for the duration of their holiday. In fact, you would need a month or more to experience everything the House of Mouse has to offer.
Parks and Amenities
This immense resort consists of four separate theme parks, 21 speciality hotel resorts, a campground, two water parks, a sports complex, three 18-hole golf courses, one nine-hole course, four mini-golf courses and a huge shopping and entertainment district, Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. There are more than 300 places to eat, almost twice as many shops and some 24,000 hotel rooms. It has its own road system (which can amaze and bewilder in equal measure), fire department and security, and its car parks are large enough to swallow small counties. You cannot walk from park to park (unless you enjoy one-hour unpaved hikes in the hot Florida sun) and you are bombarded with choice at almost every turn. Stay two weeks and you might see most of it; one week gives you the basics.
Walt Disney World Highlights
Walt Disney World puts on some of the most spectacular firework displays in the world. The Magic Kingdom comes to life after dark with ‘Wishes’ as fireworks illuminate the night sky and iconic Disney movie scenes are projected onto the castle front. Epcot has the stunning ‘IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth’, which celebrates the spirit of humanity and ‘Fantasmic!’ tells a mesmerising story of good vs evil as the characters battle it out in Mickey’s dream. A visit to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without witnessing at least one, but ideally all of the incredible firework displays.
Magic Kingdom’s major expansion added two rides—Under The Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, and the family-friendly Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster—a lovely re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story at Enchanted Tales with Belle, counter service restaurant Gaston’s Tavern and the magnificently themed Be Our Guest restaurant (quick serve at lunch, full service at dinner).
Disney’s high-tech FastPass+ system allows guests to book dining reservations, character experiences and reserve access to popular FastPass+ attractions in advance. Guests can also add PhotoPass, and link their holiday experiences with friends and family, all prior to their visit to Walt Disney World. Booking park tickets in advance allows access to the FastPass+ website and the perks of planning all of your activities from home, freeing up time to enjoy the parks once you arrive.
Walt Disney World Size
Walt Disney World covers a massive 47 square miles and there are likely to be around 200,000 visitors within those confines at any one time (in fact, it sometimes feels like there is at least that number of people in the same queue as you!).
Recommended Visit Time
It would be nice if we could all stay for months, but let’s take a realistic look at how long you’ll need in each of the four theme parks to cover the majority of attractions without running yourselves ragged.
- Magic Kingdom: We recommend two days, especially with young children.
- Epcot: Two days is practically essential here. The park is split into two sections, Future World and World Showcase, each of which can absorb most of a day to fully appreciate.
- Animal Kingdom: One full day.
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: One full day.
But wait. There’s more. The shopping, dining and entertainment complex of Disney Springs (home to the spectacular Cirque du Soleil show and the massive indoor games arcade, DisneyQuest) deserves several hours of your time, as do Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks, easily a full day each or a good choice in combination with an evening at Disney Springs.
Our recommendation for a visit to Walt Disney World is a minimum of 6 days, but 8 days would be ideal, especially in the peak season of Easter, Summer, and Christmas/New Year.
Park hopping is allowed for guests holding Disney’s 7, 14, and 21-Day Ultimate tickets, so you can visit Magic Kingdom in the morning and spend the evening at Epcot. Or start at Animal Kingdom and hop to Hollywood Studios for the evening Fantasmic! show. Any combination of parks is allowed, giving you total flexibility, but bear in mind you can only book your FastPass+ times in advance for one park, then use the in-park kiosks to book further FastPass+ times once you have park hopped.
Along with the 7, 14, and 21-Day Ultimate tickets, Attraction Tickets Direct also offers maximum flexibility for your Orlando holiday with the Orlando Freedom Ticket (4 Walt Disney World theme parks and 2 water parks, 2 Universal Orlando Parks, Universal CityWalk, SeaWorld, Aquatica and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay) and the Freedom Ticket Ulimtate (which adds admission to LEGOLAND Florida for up to 14 consecutive days, as well as coach transportation from Orlando to Busch Gardens included). Both tickets are valid for 14 days after first use.