Walt Disney World
Disney World is the biggest recreation resort in the world at 39 square miles and features four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), 32 resorts and hotels, two water parks, five golf courses and a variety of other attractions, including the Wide World of Sports Complex, BoardWalk and Downtown Disney.
With its location in central Florida, Disney is a year-round destination and benefits from its humid subtropical climate. The region experiences a hot and rainy season that begins in early June and lasts until late September, with average daytime highs in the 90s and lows in the low-to-mid 70s. Additionally, the region goes through a dry season between October and May, where more moderate temperatures and less rainfall are common. Expect high temperatures in the 70s and 80s and lows in the 50s and 60s.
To avoid long lines and big crowds, adults should also consider visiting Disney World when children are in school, especially late April, early May, late September or early October. Disney sees the heaviest volume during Spring Break (Easter) and from May to September, plus the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays.
Where to Eat
- On a Budget — Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano (Street of America, Disney's Hollywood Studios). This casual Italian restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios offers quality food at reasonable prices. It's a perfect place to refuel after a long day of gallivanting around the theme park.
- Upscale — Jiko – The Cooking Place (Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge). Creative and excellent contemporary food tinged with African flavors. The open kitchen can be seen by all and adds a unique touch to your evening. The service is top-notch while the wine list is exquisite.
- Expensive — Victoria & Albert's (Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) Disney's only jacket-required restaurant is a spectacular experience and perfect for a romantic dinner for two. Expect superb American Contemporary cuisine in an unforgettable setting.
Where to Stay
- On a Budget — Coronado Springs Resort (1000 W. Buena Vista Dr., www.disneyworld.disney.go.com). An affordable U.S. Southwest-themed hotel located in the heart of it all. It's a large resort, so be prepared to do some walking. The hotel offers a convenient bus that can transport you to all major attractions.
- Upscale — Wilderness Lodge (901 Timberline Dr., www.disneyworld.disney.go.com). Modeled after the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National Park, the Wilderness Lodge features an atmosphere similar to the Northwest U.S (plenty of wooden structures, use of open space and Native American influences). The lodge includes a fitness center, pool, a medley of dining options and guests can choose from a selection of suites.
- Expensive — Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (4401 Floridian Way, www.disneyworld.disney.go.com). Arguably the crown jewel of all Disney World resorts, the Grand Floridian is a Victorian-themed hotel and modeled after the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, California. The resort offers multiple top dining destinations, a full-service spa, two pools, a white-sand beach, watersport rentals and is connected the the Disney monorail system for easy access to the rest of the park.
Must-Do ItineraryPut on your thinking caps and spend the day at Epcot's Future World and World Showcase. Future World, which carries a central theme of technology exploration, includes must-do attractions like Spaceship Earth (the longtime icon of Epcot), Test Track and The Seas. Follow that up with a walk around the globe at the World Showcase, which features pavilions representing 11 different countries of the world. The nations included are Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, Morocco, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, France and America and showcase models of iconic structures and familiar architecture of each country. After checking out some of the representative shops and exhibits, be sure to catch the spectacular laser, fountain and fireworks show later in the evening called IllumiNations.
Things to Do
- Downtown Disney — (1486 East Buena Vista Dr., www.disneyworld.disney.go.com) This outdoor entertainment complex features a wide array of shops, restaurants, clubs and other attractions. It's free to park and simply walk around and there are plenty of transportation options to the other theme parks, too. The complex includes the Marketplace (shops and restaurants), Pleasure Island (comedy clubs, bars) and the West Side (large attractions and stores). Popular with locals as well.
- Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba — (1478 E. Buena Vista Dr., www.cirquedusoleil.com) This unforgettable circus-like show — which features acrobats, gymnasts, musicians, singers, and stunning costumes — is permanently located at Downtown Disney's West Side. Be sure to take one night to catch a performance. Front and center seats may be pricey ($128), but well worth the admission fee.
- House of Blues — (1490 E. Buena Vista Dr., www.houseofblues.com) There are 12 locations nationwide, but the Downtown Disney location brings in some of the nation's top blues and jazz acts, features a memorable Sunday Gospel Brunch and offers up some pretty fine southern-style cuisine.
- Magic Kingdom — (3111 World Dr., www.disneyworld.disney.go.com) The first theme park built at Disney World and still first on many people's visit lists. From Cinderella's Castle to Main St. U.S.A. to Space Mountain and Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom has a slew of unique attractions that continue to leave lasting impressions on visitors. Once the evening rolls around, grab a spot at the end of Main St. and catch Wishes, a dazzling 12-minute fireworks show over Cinderella's castle.
- Animal Kingdom — (1675 N. Buena Vista Dr., www.disneyworld.disney.go.com) This 500-acre animal conservation theme park is Disney's largest theme park in the world and features six different sections highlighting animals around the planet: Asia, Dinoland U.S.A., Discovery Island, The Oasis, Africa and Camp Minnie-Mickey. Rather than display a myriad of animals up close and personal for visitors like a zoo, Animal Kingdom has done a fine job of recreating animals' natural habitats in a sprawling, beautiful setting. Similar to a safari at times, so expect to do a little digging for the best finds.
- Hollywood Studios — (Lake Buena Vista, www.disneyworld.disney.go.com) Formerly Disney-MGM Studios, this is Disney's Hollywood-themed park highlighting the action and thrills of show business. The park is divided into six sections: Sunset Boulevard, Animation Courtyard, Pixar Place, Echo Lake, Streets of America and Hollywood Boulevard. Highlights include the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Aerosmith's Rock n' Roller Coaster and the Backlot Studio Tour.
- Disney's BoardWalk — (2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd, www.disneyworld.disney.go.com) Surrounding Crescent Lake, this impressive complex features 9,000 square feet of restaurants, shops, entertainment options. The complex was inspired by the east coast resort towns of Atlantic City and Coney Island, among others, and is worthwhile for an evening stroll.
How to Get ThereOrlando International Airport (MCO) is about 25 miles from the Walt Disney World Complex. The airport offers nonstop service to more than 50 cities domestically and 20 internationally. All major car rental agencies can be found at the airport.
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