Walt Disney World Orlando

Mickey Mouse. Tinker Bell. Cinderella. What would childhood be like without the magic of Disney? When kids and adults want to go to the theme park, they're heading to Disney. Here you're walking amid people from around the world and meeting characters like Snow White and Donald Duck while rides whirl nonstop and the irrepressibl
Mickey Mouse. Tinker Bell. Cinderella. What would childhood be like without the magic of Disney? When kids and adults want to go to the theme park, they're heading to Disney. Here you're walking amid people from around the world and meeting characters like Snow White an
Mickey Mouse. Tinker Bell. Cinderella. What would childhood be like without the magic of Disney? When kids and adults wa

Mickey Mouse. Tinker Bell. Cinderella. What would childhood be like without the magic of Disney? When kids and adults want to go to the theme park, they're heading to Disney. Here you're walking amid people from around the world and meeting characters like Snow White and Donald Duck while rides whirl nonstop and the irrepressible "it's a small world" tune and lyrics run through your head. You can't help but believe dreams really do come true here.

The Magic Kingdom is the heart and soul of the Walt Disney World empire. It was the first Disney outpost in Florida when it opened in 1971, and it's the park that launched Disney's presence in France, Japan, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. For a landmark that wields such worldwide influence, the 142-acre Magic Kingdom may seem small—indeed, Epcot is more than double the size of the Magic Kingdom, and Animal Kingdom is almost triple the size when including the park's expansive animal habitats. But looks can be deceiving. Packed into six different "lands" are nearly 50 major crowd-pleasers, and that's not counting all the ancillary attractions: shops, eateries, live entertainment, character meet-and-greet spots, fireworks shows, and parades.

Nowhere but at Epcot can you explore and experience the native food, entertainment, culture, and arts and crafts of countries in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the Americas. What's more, employees at the World Showcase pavilions actually hail from the countries the pavilions represent.

Epcot, or "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow," was the original inspiration for Walt Disney World. Walt envisioned a future in which nations coexisted in peace and harmony, reaping the miraculous harvest of technological achievement. The Epcot of today is both more and less than his original dream. Less, because the World Showcase presents views of its countries that are, as an Epcot guide once put it, "as Americans perceive them"—highly idealized. But this is a minor quibble in the face of the major achievement: Epcot is that rare paradox—a successful educational theme park that excels at entertainment, too.

Disney's Hollywood Studios were designed to be a trip back to Tinseltown's golden age, when Hedda Hopper, not tabloids, spread celebrity gossip and when the girl off the bus from Ohio could be the next Judy Garland.

The result is a theme park that blends movie-themed shows and attractions and high-tech wonders with breathtaking rides and Hollywood nostalgia. The park's old-time Hollywood atmosphere begins with a rosy-hued view of the moviemaking business presented in a dreamy stage set from the 1930s and ’40s, amid sleek art-moderne buildings in pastel colors, funky diners, kitschy decorations, and sculptured gardens populated by roving actors playing, well, roving actors. There are also casting directors, gossip columnists, and other colorful characters.

Thanks to a rich library of film scores, the park is permeated with music, all familiar, all evoking the magic of the movies, and all constantly streaming from the camouflaged loudspeakers at a volume just right for humming along. The park icon for many years, a 122-foot-high Sorcerer Mickey Hat that served as a gift shop and Disney pin-trading station, towered over Hollywood Boulevard until it was removed in 2015.

Disney's Animal Kingdom explores the stories of all animals—real, imaginary, and extinct. Enter through the Oasis, where you hear exotic background music and find yourself surrounded by gentle waterfalls and gardens alive with exotic birds, reptiles, and mammals.

At 403 acres and several times the size of the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom is the largest in area of all Disney theme parks. Animal habitats take up much of that acreage. Creatures here thrive in careful re-creations of landscapes from Asia and Africa. Throughout the park, you'll also learn about conservation in a low-key way.

Amid all the nature are thrill rides, a 3-D show (housed in the "root system" of the iconic Tree of Life), two first-rate musicals, and character meet and greets. Cast members are as likely to hail from Kenya or South Africa as they are from Kentucky or South Carolina. It's all part of the charm. New park areas based on the movie Avatar are expected to open in 2017, a fitting addition, since the film’s theme of living in harmony with nature reflects the park’s eco-philosophy.

Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are two of the world's best water parks. What sets them apart? It's the same thing that differentiates all Disney parks—the detailed themes. Whether you're cast away on a balmy island at Typhoon Lagoon or washed up on a ski-resort-turned-seaside-playground at Blizzard Beach, the landscaping and clever architecture will add to the fun of flume and raft rides, wave pools, and splash areas. Another plus: the vegetation has matured enough to create shade. The Disney water parks give you that lost-in-paradise feeling on top of all those high-speed, wedgie-inducing waterslides. They're so popular that crowds often reach overflow capacity in summer. If you're going to Disney for four days or more between April and October, add the Water Park Fun & More option to your Magic Your Way ticket.

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  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Set in gold-rush days, this thrilling roller coaster simulates a runaway train. It's a bumpy ride with several good drops (pregnant women and...Read More

    Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

    2. Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Based on the wildly popular Toy Story, this ride gives you a toy's perspective as it pits you and Buzz Lightyear against the evil Emperor...Read More

    Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
  • Crush 'n' Gusher

    3. Crush 'n' Gusher

    Typhoon Lagoon | Amusement Park/Water Park

    If flume rides, storm slides, and tube races aren't wild enough for your inner thrill-seeker, get ready to defy gravity on Disney's multipassenger...Read More

    Crush 'n' Gusher
  • 4. Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Who'd want to miss a parade that delivers in 12 entertainment-packed minutes a lineup of Disney characters and royalty, a Steampunk-inspired...Read More

  • Downhill Double Dipper

    5. Downhill Double Dipper

    Blizzard Beach | Amusement Park/Water Park

    If you're on your way to Snow Stormers or Toboggan Racers on the purple slopes, you may notice a cool-looking slide on the left. This is the...Read More

    Downhill Double Dipper
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle

    6. Enchanted Tales with Belle

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Stroll the path through an artfully planted woodland and meadow to a rustic French cabin complete with waterwheel, where Belle's father, Maurice...Read More

    Enchanted Tales with Belle
  • Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

    7. Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

    Animal Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    A fierce yeti guards the route to Mt. Everest. Of course, you're willing to risk running across the big guy in your roller-coaster quest to...Read More

    Expedition Everest—Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Festival of the Lion King

    8. Festival of the Lion King

    Animal Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    If you think you've seen enough Lion King to last a lifetime, you're wrong, unless you've seen this show. Disney presents a delightful tribal...Read More

    Festival of the Lion King
  • Finding Nemo–The Musical

    9. Finding Nemo–The Musical

    Animal Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    The performance of this fish tale is so creative and fun that many have likened it to a first-rate Broadway show. Indeed, Disney Imagineers...Read More

    Finding Nemo–The Musical
  • Haunted Mansion

    10. Haunted Mansion

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    The special effects here are a howl. You're greeted at the creaking iron gates of this Gothic mansion by a lugubrious attendant, who has one...Read More

    Haunted Mansion
  • IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

    11. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

    Epcot | Amusement Park/Water Park

    This marvelous nighttime spectacular takes place over the World Showcase Lagoon every night before closing. The show's Earth Globe—a gigantic...Read More

    IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

    12. Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!

    Disney's Hollywood Studios | Amusement Park/Water Park

    The rousing theme music from the Indiana Jones movies heralds action delivered by veteran stunt coordinator Glenn Randall, whose credits include...Read More

    Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris

    13. Kilimanjaro Safaris

    Animal Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    A giant Imagineered baobab tree is the starting point for exploring this animal sanctuary. Although re-creating an African safari in the United...Read More

    Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Mission: SPACE

    14. Mission: SPACE

    Epcot | Amusement Park/Water Park

    It took five years for Disney Imagineers, with the help of 25 experts from NASA, to design Mission: SPACE, the first ride ever to take people...Read More

    Mission: SPACE
  • Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

    15. Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith

    Disney's Hollywood Studios | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Although this is an indoor roller coaster like Magic Kingdom's Space Mountain, the similarity ends there. With its high-speed launch (0 to 60...Read More

    Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • 16. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    Quick! Can you name all Seven Dwarfs in seven seconds? Sleepy, Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Happy, and Dopey. Snow White's hardworking pals...Read More

  • 17. Slush Gusher

    Blizzard Beach | Amusement Park/Water Park

    This speed slide, which drops through a snow-banked mountain gully next door to Summit Plummet on the green slopes, isn't quite as intimidating...Read More

  • Soarin' Around the World

    18. Soarin' Around the World

    Epcot | Amusement Park/Water Park

    If you've ever wondered what it's like to fly, or at least hang glide, this attraction is your chance to enjoy the sensation without actually...Read More

    Soarin' Around the World
  • Space Mountain

    19. Space Mountain

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    The needlelike spires and gleaming, white, concrete cone of this 180-foot-high attraction are almost as much a Magic Kingdom landmark as Cinderella...Read More

    Space Mountain
  • 20. Splash Mountain

    Magic Kingdom | Amusement Park/Water Park

    One of the most popular thrill rides after Space Mountain, this log-flume water ride was based on animated sequences in Disney's 1946 film ...Read More

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