It's been a number of years since Disney World's 1971 opening, but some people still refer to the Magic Kingdom, the east coast version of the original Disneyland, as "Disney World" -- as if the one park was pretty much the whole deal. Sure, the Magic Kingdom, with its Cinderella Castle, Dumbo ride, and other icons, is the heart and soul of the Florida resort.
But it comprises a mere few dozen acres among WDW's 35,000 acres. That's 47 square miles, roughly the size of two Manhattan islands, filled with four theme parks, two waterparks, 30 resort hotels, six golf courses, two shopping-dining-entertainment complexes and--are you still with me?--enough other diversions to keep tens of thousands of "cast members" (Disney-speak for employees) busy catering to tens of millions of guests annually.
Disney World is a phenomenon that has made an indelible mark on travel and tourism and changed the very notion of what it means to take a vacation and be entertained. It can be a wonderful source of pleasure and a great way to gather with friends and family for treasured, shared moments. But it is so enormous that, without proper planning, it can also be a powerful source of frustration and disappointment.
Before you proudly proclaim to anyone within shouting distance, "I'm going to Disney World!" take the time to learn all you can about the resort's incredible palette of options so that you can take full advantage of them. Gather your vacation mates for planning meetings well before you leave. Develop a rough itinerary, make restaurant reservations where practical, and do consider some of the other parks and attractions outside the Disney complex.
Whatever you do, don't try to do everything. Disney World is much too big now for vacationers to do it all. Save your energy and patience for the parks and attractions you can reasonably accommodate, and save the parks and attractions you miss for your next vacation. After all, half the fun is in the planning and getting to tell people, "I'm going to Disney World!"
The Theme Parks and Water Parks
- Magic Kingdom
- Disney's Hollywood Studios (Used to be known as Disney-MGM Studios)
- Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Typhoon Lagoon
- Blizzard Beach
Magic Your Way Ticket Program
Learn how to navigate through the different options, save some money, and land the best deal for your vacation.
Learn about Disney World's advance planning program, including My Disney Experience, MagicBands, and FastPass+. Discover how to minimize your waits and maximize your fun by taking advantage of Disney's free program. Yes, you read that correctly. It's free.
- MyMagic+ Tips
- What is Disney's MyMagic+, FastPass+, and My Disney Experience? Breaking down and defining the different elements of Disney World's trip planning program.
- FastPass+ vs. FastPass: What is the Difference?
- See what the Disney parks chairman, Tom Staggs, has to say about MyMagic+
Guide to Walt Disney World Hotels
Before you get to Disney World, you'll need to make plans, including hotel reservations.
- Orlando Theme Park Vacation Deals- Learn about the latest special offers for Disney World and other Florida parks.
- How to Skip All of the Lines at Disney World
- Forget Fastpass! If you really want the ultimate V.I.P. experience, discover how to bypass all of the standby lines for your next visit to the parks.
Walt Disney World for Wimps
A comprehensive, park-by-park guide for thrill ride-wary guests planning a trip to the resort.
Your (Free) Magic Carpet Awaits
Read about Disney's program that offers complimentary ground transportation between Orlando International Airport and its resort to guests staying at its hotels.
Managing Ride Lines for Guests with Disabilities at Disney Parks
If you or somebody who will be visiting the parks at Disney World with you is disabled, learn about the accommodations that the resort makes available and how to access them.
The Best of Walt Disney World
Disney World Dining
- Top 10 Best Restaurants at Disney World
- Disney World Character Dining
- Disney World Dining Reservations
- What is Disney World Free Dining?
Exclusive About.com Videos
- Five Best Rides for Kids at Disney World
- How to Meet the Disney Characters
- Tips for Eating Healthy at Disney World
- Expedition Everest
- Tips for Navigating Lines at Disney Parks
- Walt Disney World's Best Restaurants
- Splash Mountain
- Tips for Staying at a Disney World Hotel
Disney Cruise LineYou can combine a visit to Disney World with a Disney cruise, which docks in Port Canaveral, Florida, about an hour away from the resort. Read my profile of the Disney Fantasy, one of the ships in Disney's fleet.
New at the Resort
New for 2014
New Fantasyland- Learn more about the major expansion.
- Review of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- New Fantasyland Photos and Overview
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Little Mermaid Ride
- Storybook Circus
"Frozen Summer Fun Live!" at Disney's Hollywood Studios- Learn about the limited-time event.
New for 2013
Disney's Art of Animation Resort
The new Value Resort draws inspiration from movies such as Cars and The Lion King.
Coming in 2017
Avatar land- Disney's Animal Kingdom will transport guests to the mythical world of Pandora. Discover what's in store, including a flight aboard a banshee.