Not every trip to Walt Disney World can include a visit to each of the four parks. Whether it is time constraints or finances, it’s just inevitable that an average family will not be able to do all four every time they visit the world. How do you go about deciding which park to visit? Each has pros and cons, and a first time visitor might not be aware of these and left to choose blindly. Here is a quick little guide that might help in making this most important decision.
The Magic Kingdom
This park is, without a doubt, the quintessential ‘Disney World’ park. It’s what most people think of when they think about WDW, and for good reason. It was the first park to open, it is the one with the castle,
it has the People Mover, and it’s attractions are some of the most well-known throughout the world. Everyone has heard about It’s A Small World, not everyone has heard about, say, Epcot’s Universe of Energy. For me a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t complete without visiting the Magic Kingdom, but everyone else may not agree. Certainly if you have small kids this is the perfect park. Most of the rides are geared towards kids. There’s only three roller coasters, one of which is a ‘kiddie’ roller coaster, and the other two, Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, are fun but not exactly the most terrifying of thrill rides. Still, it’s called the Magic Kingdom for a reason; if you’re looking for that Disney magic that makes WDW so popular this is definitely where you’ll find it. Plus? There’s just something special about watching fireworks in the sky around Cinderella’s castle.
Epcot is my favorite park to visit, but most of my family have rather differing opinions on it. Epcot is divided into two sections. The front half, or Future World, and the back half, the World Showcase. Future World is largely dedicated to technological innovations, the focal point of which is Spaceship Earth, or ‘the Epcot ball’ as many refer to it. This is my absolute favorite attraction in any theme park, a ride that takes you through the progress of human technological evolution. My siblings do not find Future World nearly as enthralling as I do, criticizing it by claiming it leans too heavily on the educational side and not enough on the entertaining side. I say they just don’t appreciate a place where you can find Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and dinosaurs all under the same roof. The World Showcase has a completely different feel to it from the other half of the park. This side is home to pavilions celebrating eleven different countries from around the world. While some pavilions may be more interesting and entertaining than others, it is still a wonderful way to travel the world without actually traveling the world. You can find souvenirs and delicious food from each country, and there are even a few hidden gems of attractions here. The American Adventure is brilliant, the Maelstrom is fantastic, and the Gran Fiesta Tour Staring the Three Caballeros… well, it stars the Three Caballeros, need I say more?
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Originally named MGM Studios (and boy, does my head still have trouble referring to it by the new name at times) this park is meant to explore the making and enjoyment of all things film. This park has something for everyone. You can see how car chase scenes in movies are made via live demonstrations at Lights! Motors! Action!, you can go on the Backlot Tour to see what it is like on a movie set, or you can play what is perhaps the most fun and interactive attraction of them all, Toy Story Midway Mania. If you are an animation fan this is the park for you. Though it isn’t in use for animation any more, the Magic of Disney Animation building is where Lilo and Stitch, Mulan, and Brother Bear were animated. Nowadays you can view a presentation about how Disney animated films come to be, and also get a sneak peak at upcoming Disney films. Remember when I said the Magic Kingdom was not the park to visit if you’re looking for thrill rides? Well, this is the park for that. Here you’ll find both the Tower of Terror and Rockin’ Roller Coaster. If you enjoy live shows you can also view Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and the epic nighttime show Fantasmic. However, this is a somewhat small park, and I’ve often found myself running out of things to see and do long before the park closed.
The Animal Kingdom
The newest Walt Disney World Park is very interesting. Imagine a theme park and an African safari meeting, and you get the Animal Kingdom. If you like zoos this will be your favorite park. While it’s not a zoo, not exactly, you can still see many exotic animals in addition to the regular attractions. One attraction in particular, the Kilimanjaro Safaris, takes you on a Safari through ‘Africa’, where you can see giraffes, lions, hippos, elephants, and many other animals. Expedition Everest is a fun roller coaster through the Himalayas, and if you like Finding Nemo, this park is home to the wonderful Finding Nemo the Musical. While a fun park with many gems, it does seem to close early, sometimes closing at 6 PM, so you may come away feeling you haven’t gotten your full day’s worth of admission. An easy way around this, however, is to get a Park Hopper ticket, so you could spend the morning here and your evening at a different park.
I hope you will find this a helpful guide. Obviously the best way to plan a Disney trip is to allow time for all parks, whether it’s by going to a park four full days, or by getting a Park Hopper and dividing up your time. Sometimes this isn’t possible though and so regretfully some sacrifices must be made.