If you’re 50 or older, there is a good chance that you remember when Walt Disney World was just one theme park. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and for the next 11 years that was the only place in Florida to find the Disney magic. That all changed when Epcot opened in 1982. Walt Disney World has expanded quite a bit in the years since. There are now four theme parks, two water parks, a shopping, dining, and entertainment district known as Disney Springs, and there are around two dozen hotels on Disney property. It can all seem overwhelming at times. Don’t worry, that’s the reason for this crash course.
Let’s start with the theme parks. As already mentioned, there are four of them. Magic Kingdom is the most visited theme park in the world. It is all about fantasy and escaping reality. At Epcot there are two sections, Future World and World Showcase. Future World is a bit of a hodgepodge. World Showcase features 11 different countries to explore. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is supposed to celebrate the Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s a park in transition, with two new lands on the way. The final park to be added was Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It’s theme is part zoo and part travel adventure.
The two water parks are Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. They’re a great way to beat the Florida heat, which can be a bit much during the summer. The hours at the water parks are shorter, leaving your evening open.
Disney Springs is often referred to as a “shopping and entertainment district”. There are plenty of stores, offering everything from sunglasses to unusual souvenirs. There is a great variety of dining options at Disney Springs. You will find quick service stands, international cuisine, fine dining, and lots of ice cream options. If it’s entertainment you’re looking for there is a 24 screen movie theater (including dining in some theaters), live concerts, a bowling alley with style, and more. Some of the full service restaurants also feature live entertainment.
Many people who travel to Central Florida choose to stay at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel. Even if you don’t stay on property, you might want to spend a little bit of time doing what is known as “resort hopping”. You can explore the lobbies and the grounds of any of the hotels that Disney owns. You can also dine in the restaurants, even if you aren’t staying there.