Now that you’ve read all about my personal love affair with WDW and the nitty gritty details to planning your own vacation, now it’s time for the fun stuff (OK, you got me, it’s all fun stuff): PARKS and FOOD!
Walt Disney World is divided into four major theme parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each of these parks is a world in and of itself; it will be impossible to see everything in each park in a day, or even a trip. I’ll take a little time to tell you about each park and the goodness it entails.
Magic Kingdom — this is the iconic land you think of when you hear “Disney World” (or Disneyland for that matter — the Magic Kingdom in Florida is modeled after the original park in California). From the main entrance, you walk down a nostalgic “Main Street” in the shadow of the majestic Cinderella’s Castle. The park splits off into several different themed areas with a variety of rides, shows, and shops. Fantasyland has recently expanded, and it, along with the semi-new Storybook Circus area, is wonderful for children of all ages (but especially littles!). Here you’ll find the Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride, kid-sized roller coasters, and several kid-friendly characters. You may find the Magic Kingdom to be the busiest park depending on when you go because there is a general opinion that it is the best park for kids. While this is a great park for kids, so is…
EPCOT — or the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. This is divided into two main sections, the World Showcase and Future World. Future World is science-themed, and kids will absolutely love experimenting at Innoventions or talking to Crush from Finding Nemo in the Living Seas. The World Showcase has food and customs from a variety of countries around the world. To make the most of Boone’s cultural experience on our next trip, we are asking him to meet a different cast member from each country and learn how to say “hello” in their native language and share one interesting fact about their country. When we visit (in September), the annual Food and Wine Festival will be taking place, so Jason and I will be eating and drinking our way around the world while Boone soaks up knowledge. Everybody wins!
Hollywood Studios — Although my answer changes by the minute, I think Hollywood Studios is my favorite park. It is themed with a vintage Hollywood vibe, and I love classic movies, so The Great Movie Ride, a ride that “drives you through” several iconic movies (including my personal favorite, The Wizard of Oz), is one of my favorites. There are also some Disney Junior shows here, and since I have little kids now, we’ll certainly be looking for some of our favorite characters. The fireworks show in this park is called Fantasmic! — and it is truly a spectacle. Fireworks, water works, animation, characters — this one has it all. It will keep even the sleepiest toddler (or mama) awake and happy at the end of the day.
Animal Kingdom — This is the newest park, and it, along with Hollywood Studios, are generally my “one day” parks. I can usually see all I want to see in one solid day (note “all I want to see” and not “every tiny little thing”), whereas I may want to revisit Magic Kingdom or EPCOT to feel satisfied. The Animal Kingdom is NOT a zoo — but you will find many animals of all kinds here! There is a safari ride and several trails packed with interesting animals and lots of fun facts. Additionally, there is a dinosaur land (which is fantastic for my little dino-lovers!) and a truly spectacular roller coaster (Expedition Everest).
Disney does many, many things well — and food is absolutely no exception. Snacks are available at almost any section of the parks, and unlike some theme parks, Disney does allow you to bring in your own food. (They’ll inspect your bags at the main entrance of each park, but they aren’t looking for your goldfish and graham crackers, fear not.)
For meals, if you want to eat in the parks (and you do!), your options are quick service or table service meals. The quick service are the WDW fast food option, and the prices are higher than your typical fast food — $10-$15 a meal. The portions are huge and easily shared, however. The table service meals can cost quite a bit more, but in the past we’ve only chosen one or two table service meals (because in addition to costing more, the “meal experience” takes longer than the quick service meals, and you generally leave feeling… quite full (and if not, congratulations on your restraint!).
One nice option for all of you planners is the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). You pay a set amount when you purchase your accommodations and tickets, and each member of your party has set meals or snacks for the day. So by the time you visit the parks, you aren’t shelling out cash for food — all of your meals are prepaid. There are different options here — the quick service plan has two quick service meals and a snack for each person in your party for the day. The standard plan has one quick service meal, one table service meal, and one snack for each person per day. The deluxe plan has three quick service OR table service meals as well as two snacks per day.
That is a lot of food. But no judgies.
I’d like to take a moment to point out that many “snacks” can serve as full meals (or at least a very filling pick-me-up) and that, as previously mentioned, portions are huge. When we are visiting in September, we are receiving the standard dining plan free with our stay (we chose to pay to upgrade from the free quick service plan, actually). I can already tell you we will leave WDW fuller than we were when we first arrived. This will also be our first trip wearing Fitbits, though… so I fully plan to let all of my Disney steps justify the eating.
MUCH more excellent food info can be found at www.disneyfoodblog.com. Just don’t visit the site hungry… you’ll see what I mean.
THE OTHER STUFF!
WDW has two water parks that I have personally never visited, but if you’re a water play fan, I’d encourage checking out Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. These parks are not included in your park hopper tickets; you’d have to specifically add the “water parks” option.
And for Disney fun without paying any sort of admission, check out Disney Springs (formally Downtown Disney)! There’s lots of shopping (including a year-round Christmas shop… I’m a fan) and restaurants as well as entertainment and performers. If you want a break from lines and rides but still want some Mickey Mouse in your day, Disney Springs is the place for you.
Whew! I hope today’s installment has helped your Disney-thoughts come together a bit more. While I’m not a “real expert,” I’d be happy to answer any Disney Q’s you may have (about traveling with little kids or not!). Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Thanks for reading! Next week — travel tips and what to pack!