There are many decisions to make when planning a trip to Disney World. Not the least is which park to visit, what order to see them in, and which best fit your family’s needs. A well-planned trip to Disney can be the vacation of a lifetime, full of memories and joyous occasions or celebrations. A poorly planned vacation can be a stress-filled nightmare for all from start to finish. A basic introduction to each park can provide you with a fount of information for making these decisions about each park. Attractions, places to eat, age of ride demographics, all of these factor into whether you choose to visit a park at any given time or at this current time, or at all. There is no way I can provide here a comprehensive coverage of all of the amenities and attractions of Disney World- that would take an entire book! But hopefully, this will give you a brief introduction and a start. So let’s introduce you to the four main parks of Disney World:
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
What is important to you when deciding to visit a park? For many people it is
the particular attractions offered and whether they appeal to or are available to the age groups they have in their families. Some people are interested in the dining experience more, wanting to experience all four types of dining at Disney World: casual, fine, counter and character dining. And some want it all. Careful research and a little background knowledge help you start to plan your perfect Disney vacation, starting with your favorite park.
Magic Kingdom is truly known as a “magical” place. You walk in and it’s like walking into another world. In the distance you see the trademark Cinderella’s Castle, rising high above the streets and attractions. Walking down Main Street the USA, you can’t help but gape at all the shops or watch the parades as they stroll by on the way to the castle. As the oldest of Disney theme parks, some personally believe it is the best. Ideally suited for young children, toddlers, and preschoolers, there are attractions and rides geared towards this age group especially. Now there are some attractions for the slightly older child or adult, like Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, and the soon-to-open TRON Lightcycle/Run Coaster in 2023. Geared more for the junior rider and with smaller patrons in mind are rides such as Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyears Space Ranger Spin, Country Bear Jamboree, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Haunted Mansion, “it’s a small world”, Jungle Cruise, Mad Tea Party, Prince Charming Regal Carousel, Character Meet and Greets….Whew! And so many more! There are height requirements for some of these but many are for all ages. Disney offers Character dining, Counter Dining, Casual Dining, and Fine Dining. Food can be expensive, so you may not want t make reservations for every meal with characters to eat or to eat in a fine restaurant at the end of the day with a tired and cranky toddler. Casey’s Corner and Cheshire Cafe offer quick service in Magic Kingdom and for relatively cheaper than the fine or character dining options. There are several different choices though for full meals, snacks, or beverages throughout the park.
Hollywood Studios is ideal for the slightly older small child all the way up to adult. With a little more thrill and excitement, ages 4 and up, depending on height, often find the attractions here to their liking. Attractions such as Alien Swirling Saucers, Beauty and the Beast Live Spectacular, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Character Meet and Greets, Rock and Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith, Slinky Dog Dash, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania- please note some of these have a height requirement of 48” or higher. Some of these rides like Slinky Dog Dash have a height requirement of 38” and are for a slightly older child, with gentle excitement and thrills. Eating establishments such as Cataline Eddies, Backlot Express, ABC Commissary, Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo offer quick service for a quick meal. Since Hollywood Studios is geared towards a slighter older crowd and has limited attractions for the very young, it’s not as popular as Magic Kingdom- but be prepared, the lines are still just as long!
EPCOT is an international adventure and journey, taking you to several different countries’ landscapes and towns to visit the cultures there. Each area there immerses you into different cultures and atmospheres of each country. And while there are rides, attractions and character meet and greets for children, there are attractions for adults, too. A wide variety of food from each nation is offered here for the foodie soul as well as adult beverages, which aren’t offered elsewhere in the parks. There are also rides more suited for adults as well. Attractions in EPCOT include American Heritage Gallery, Beacons of Magic, Frozen Ever After, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Character Meet and Greet, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Voices of Liberty to name a few. Test Track height requirement is 40” and Guardians of Galaxy is 42”. Numerous places to eat and drink but to name a few: Gelateria Toscana, Kabuki Cafe, Joy of Tea, Katsura Grill, Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, and La Cantina de San Angel. And that just touches the surface of all there is to see, do, eat and drink at EPCOT. So perhaps not a favorite amongst the littlest of children, Epcot is often a favorite for the older palate.
Animal Kingdom is a wondrous outlook on animal wildlife and adventure. From the wilds of Pandora to the fabulous animal encounters, you will see the grandeur of nature, both real and imagined, here. The animal encounters introduce you to lions, giraffes, gorillas, hippopotamuses, meerkats, rhinos, tigers, zebras, different winged species, elephants, Ankole cattle, African hogs, and otters. Soar above Pandora in Avatar: Flight of Passage or search for fossils in The Boneyard. Check out Dino-Sue, the Discovery Island Trails, Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, Festival of the Lion King, Character Meet and Greets, Kali River Rapids, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Triceratops Spin, and the Wildlife Express Train, And if you can squeeze even part of that in, you have to eat right? Try Kusatiri Coffee Shop and Bakery, Mahindi, The Mara, Pizzafari, Pongu Pongu, Restaurantosaurus, Tamu Tamu Refreshments, Terra Treats, or the Warung Outpost. Kali River Rapids requires 40” tall to ride and Avatar: Flight of Passage s 44”. Animal Kingdom is a family favorite for all ages because so much is accessible for many ages, and almost everyone loves animals.
So making the choice of which may be your favorite or best Disney World park may be an impossible decision. By giving you some of the attractions, eating places, and age/height requirements, I hope it can help you narrow down which one you want to start with. Magic Kingdom seems to always be the favorite for very young visitors and their families. Hollywood Studios has more appeal to different age groups, from older children to teens to adults. EPCOT may also have that universal appeal, but can especially draw the adult epicurious crowd with its offerings. Lastly, Animal Kingdom has the most widely varied appeal to all age groups by having attractions for all ages. Of all four of these, I have to admit, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are my favorites, but Hollywood Studios and EPCOT are right behind…darn, I just can’t decide either!
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