Disney World, or the Walt Disney World Resort as it is now officially known, is the most visited attraction in the world, averaging 52.5 million visitors annually. Spread over more than 30,000 acres, it comprises no less than 24 themed resorts, four theme parks, and two water parks – Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach – and several additional entertainment areas. To children and adults alike, it is a place of magic, and a visit there is often the dream of a lifetime.
The park’s history
Disney World opened its gates for the first time in 1971 in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando in Florida. Walt Disney had actually started work on the idea of a supplement to California’s Disneyland back in the 1960s, but died in 1966 before construction could begin. The building of the resort complex required lengthy planning, as it entailed the formation of a special city district, with immunity from county or state land-use laws.
Today, Walt Disney’s original theme park, The Magic Kingdom – with its classic attractions, Cinderella Castle, musical parades, and beloved Disney characters – rubs shoulders with a kind of 21st-century world’s fair, Epcot, the animal theme park Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and the entertainment and thrill complex Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all of which opened throughout the ’80s and ’90s.
Tips for visitors
Most people visit Disney World with young families, but it can be an equally memorable trip for couples or groups of friends, who can let their hair down and play at being a kid again. All kinds of travelers can benefit from forward planning to make the trip as stress-free as possible.
Opting to stay inside the resort can add somewhat to the costs of a trip, but it enables guests to enjoy a car-free visit and makes everything so much more convenient. Similarly, a Park Hopper Pass is a one-off purchase offering unlimited transportation by monorail, boat and bus.
No matter what time of year you visit Disney World; at least some of your visit will be spent standing in lines. accept the inevitable and try to use the waiting time to enjoy a chat with family members and loved ones (or amuse yourselves people watching).
Don’t try to pack too much in. There’s so much to see that many visitors become very exhausted, so schedule in some downtime in all that fun.
Most of the classic and best-known Disney World attractions are situated in The Magic Kingdom, including the adventure rides of The Three Mountains; the incredible high-tech fireworks show called Wishes Nighttime Spectacular; animatronics meets history in the Carousel of Progress, and the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, which believe it or not, inspired the movie and not the other way around. Get yourself a princess haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, and come away with your hair sprinkled in pixie dust.
Highlights of the Animal Kingdom include the Kilimanjaro Animal Safari, the next-best thing to an African game reserve; The Boneyard, a playground of huge slides and pebbly sand filled with ‘hidden’ dinosaur bones; and musical performances such as the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo the Musical.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios meanwhile has some great thrill rides, including the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as well as video games, such as Toy Story Midway Mania, while high-tech Epcot boasts newer and popular rides like Kim Possible and Spaceship Earth.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Disney World depends on your priorities. Summer sees good weather and all rides open: Winter (excluding school holidays) is when rides may be closed for maintenance but there are fewer visitors. A compromise between these extremes is in early May or late September/ early October, while one of the quietest times of the entire year is in the weekends just after Thanksgiving. While late December is crowded and prices are high, early December sees less visitor numbers, lower prices, and the added bonus of all those Christmas decorations and events. Halloween is another magical time at Walt Disney World.
Visitors come to Disney World from all over the globe and most get there by plane to Orlando International Airport. . US Airways operate flights from most cities in North America. From the airport, rent a car (take Interstate 4), hail a cab, or take the free bus service to the Disney-owned resort hotels, Disney’s Magical Express (pre-booking required).