Disney is overwhelming. There is an overabundance of fun waiting at every turn. Planning a "first ever" trip to Disney is no small task. When you add in the cost, the planning, the logistics of getting around and the ages of everyone on the trip Disney planners usually want to throw in the towel and cry.
It's just too much to figure out.
What parks? When? Why? Who put me in charge of this?
This post is intended to cut each park to the basics. I have received several emails inquiring about the parks, and I felt a post simplifying each park was necessary. This post will give you an overall idea of what to expect from each park, and what not to miss. When it comes to Disney, this is the bare minimum, which will allow you to add on and take out whatever works for you.
Let me begin with this: Every family is different. Every family has their own idea of what a great vacation is about. I am a big believer in getting up and getting to the parks early. I say it over and over again. I don't like lines, I prefer small crowds, and I want to be by the pool after lunch.
Some families may like to sleep in, and they don't mind taking their time in the parks. If there is a wait for a ride, so be it. They roll with it.
You have to first decide what kind of Disney trip you are planning. Are you up and ready to roll at 7am? Or are you sleeping until 9am and rolling after lunch? Do you have small kids? Are your kids teenagers?
With that being said, here is my breakdown of the Disney Parks. I'm trying to make them as simple as I can possibly make them.
The Mighty Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is all about fantasy.
Ages: Everyone (this park has the MOST for kids under age 5)
Don't Miss Attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean, Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, The Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh
Where to Eat: The Crystal Palace, The Plaza Restaurant, Be Our Guest Restaurant
If you are vacationing to Disney World, you MUST visit the Magic Kingdom. As you walk through the gates, Cinderella's Castle is up ahead, and it's impossible not to feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. This year, they are beginning to open a new section of the park with new attractions and restaurants.
There are characters scattered throughout the park, parades, shows and attractions for everyone. For young kids there is enough to spend the entire day. I recommend visiting this park twice if you have little ones with you on your Disney vacation.
Best Tip: Arrive 15 minutes prior to park opening and ride several rides with a minimal wait.
Epcot Center is a "discovery" park.
Ages: 5 and up
Don't Miss Attractions: Soarin', Test Track, The World Showcase, Spaceship Earth, Maelstrom (in Norway)
Where to Eat: The question in Epcot is where NOT to eat. The World Showcase is without question the best place to walk and enjoy a cold beer and some excellent food. In all 11 countries.
Despite the park being geared for older guests, there is much for little kids as well. Nemo, Journey into Imagination and the many discovery areas around the park make this park a great place to spend the day. The World Showcase is peppered with characters and great entertainment in every country. Every adult should treat themselves to a visit to Epcot Center, the kids will have plenty to enjoy.
Best Tip: Utilize the KidCot Fun Stops to entertain little ones as you walk the countries.
The Animal Kingdom
The Animal Kingdom is like a glorified zoo.
Don't Miss Attractions: The Safari, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Festival of the Lion King, Finding Nemo Musical
Where to Eat: The Tuskar House
The Animal Kingdom has attractions for kids and adults, and boasts great entertainment throughout the park. This park is most like a zoo, with animals galore. The Safari is a great place to start your day when visiting Animal Kingdom. Along with animals, you will find characters, shows and rides for everyone in your party. Dinosaur and Expedition Everest will thrill adults, and Camp Minnie Mickey will delight the little ones.
Best Tip: Eat breakfast with the characters at Donald's Brontosaurus Breakfast (in the Tuskar House) an hour before park opens. Immediately after breakfast get on line for the Safari.
Hollywood Studios is an "entertainment" park.
Ages: 3 and up
Don't Miss Attractions: Toy Story Mania, Rockin Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Beauty and Beast, The Great American Movie Ride
Where to Eat: 50's Prime Time Cafe
Hollywood Studios is pure entertainment. From the shows to the attractions, the park is all about the movies. Little ones will enjoy Playhouse Disney Live, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Little boys can participate in Jedi Training outside of Star Wars, and parents can catch a thrill on Tower of Terror and Rockin' Roller Coaster. This park is home to my favorite cupcake, and two of my favorite rides, Toy Story Mania and the Great American Movie Ride.
Best tip: Ride Toy Story Mania first, the line will be the longest in the park all day.
As always, feel free to email me with any questions!