Walt Disney World
I’m just back from my fifth trip to Walt Disney World, Florida in 15 years. Each time I learn and find something new and this time was no exception. In fact I did quite a bit of planning before the holiday and found that it was time that was well spent.
For this blog I thought that I would share some of my favourite photographs and include some tips and learnings which you may find useful if you are planning a visit. There are a few Top 10 lists to come, including one with my best tips for Brits going to Walt Disney World.
I do though need to start off by paying tribute to the fine work of Touring Plans, whose book, website and app are amazing. More about them later, but first let’s jump to the headliner rides and attractions that in my opinion are the best of the best in Walt Disney World.
TOP 10 RIDES & ATTRACTIONS
A difficult job to choose the best rides, but here goes. All of these rides were very much enjoyed by a 7 year old too!
1. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
The story is that you’re going to an Aerosmith concert in a stretch limo. The limo is in fact the roller coaster car that you sit in and which goes from 0-57mph in 2.8 seconds. From a g-force start you’re soon travelling upside down, with Aerosmith playing at full blast. Love this ride, it’s fast, exciting and a great theme.
2. Toy Story Midway Mania (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
Make sure you get a FASTPASS+ (more about them later) for this ride as there are always long waits for it. You sit in a car and are taken to various screens to shoot up targets. Wearing 3d glasses you can see your progress and get a running tally of your total. Lots of fun and a ride that compels you to want to go back on again and again to improve your score.
3. Expedition Everest (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
Apparently this is the most expensive roller coaster in the world. It takes you to the top of Everest and then go backwards to escape a Yeti. A good and long ride with lots of thrills. We went on it three times in a row when the park opened one morning without having to wait.
4. Star Tours (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
A 3d glasses experience in a simulator. 50 different stories with Star Wars characters appearing. If you enjoyed the films you’ll love it as you’ll recognise lots of familiar scenes.
5. Tower of Terror (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
Based on the Twilight Zone, you travel up in a lift which then drops up and down as if it is out of control. You get a good view from the top when the lift doors open showing you a view across the park and beyond, I think that it is best to go on at nighttime.
6. Splash Mountain (Magic Kingdom)
A classic, quite a long ride and a good drop. You will probably get wet, or very wet!
7. Test Track (Epcot)
This ride has been upgraded since my last visit. You design a car and then get to test it in various conditions before it sets off at high speed, brilliantly done.
8. Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road (Magic Kingdom)
Another classic, but still good fun.
9. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)
Maybe because it is new, or it struggles with capacity, you will find this has the longest lines in the park for a ride. It’s a good ride though.
10. Kali River Rapids (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
You’ll definitely get soaked on this one. Good job they provide free lockers next to this ride.
TOP 10 PARADES & SHOWS
There’s nothing to beat the shows and parades that Disney put on. Here are my Top 10 personal favourites.
1. Festival of Fantasy Parade (Magic Kingdom)
I’m so glad that Disney have updated their daily parade. It is superb, happening once or twice a day, full of colour and character.
2. Jedi Training Academy (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
If you want to do this you must sign up for it, in person as soon as the park opens. For each show 12 children get the chance to learn Jedi skills and the ways of the force, ready for a show down with Darth Vader in a light sabre duel.
3. Fantasmic (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
Music, fire, fireworks and all of the characters in a very popular night time show. Pre-book (from 180 days in advance) a Fantastic Dining Package which allows you to book lunch, or dinner on the day that you wish to see Fantasmic, during the meal you will get a ticket which gives you very good seats in a reserved area.
4. Indiana Jones Stunt Show (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)
A behind the scenes look at the filming of stunts from the Indiana Jones films, I won’t give away what happens except to say that you really must see it.
5. Festival of The Lion King (Disney’s Animal Kingdom)
A live show based on the Lion King film almost like a carnival, brilliantly done.
6. Dream Along A Mickey (Magic Kingdom)
A show that runs a number of times each day on the steps of Cinderella’s Castle.
7. Hoop-De-Doop (Camp Wilderness)
A wild west dinner show which is funny and slick, you can’t help but enjoy it. Pre-book tickets and travel by boat to Camp Wilderness from just outside the Magic Kingdom.
8. Illuminations (Epcot)
The daily nighttime fireworks and laser show in the World Showcase
9. The Main Street Electrical Parade (Magic Kingdom)
Lots of floats with lots of lights, a Magic Kingdom classic.
10. Wishes (Magic Kingdom)
The nightly firework show, with Tinkerbell flying from the top of Cinderella’s Castle.
Top 10 of Other Disney Places
I’ve already listed a lot, but there’s still so much more to do, including a few other places to visit
1. Typhoon Lagoon
This is as much fun as the theme parks. Typhoon Lagoon is a waterpark with beaches, slides and a big lagoon with incredible waves that which will knock you off your feet.
2. Blizzard Beach
My favourite water park, themed as a ski resort, again with lots of slides, a lazy river etc.
3. Grand Floridian Hotel
If you’re not staying at a Disney Hotel you can still visit, The Grand Floridian is on the monorail track from Magic Kingdom. I really like the Grand Floridian Cafe for food, there’s a good atmosphere at night with a piano player in the enormous central area.
4. Disney Springs
Downtown Disney is currently changing into Disney Springs with more restaurants, bars and shops. If you want to eat there I recommend Raglan Road an Irish Bar, or Fulton’s Crab House.
5. Disney’s Beach Resort
Home of the brilliant Beaches & Cream restaurant, park here at night, have a meal and then get the boat to either Epcot, or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
6. Disney’s Boardwalk
Just across from the Beach Resort, it features a promenade with shops and restaurants. A great atmosphere at night.
7. World Showcase (Epcot)
Featuring different buildings, restaurants and attractions based on different countries of the world.
8. Fantasyland (Magic Kingdom)
Opened a few years ago this was a major expansion of Magic Kingdom with some excellent rides and themes.
9. Character Greetings (All parks)
Get a photograph with your favourite character from Mickey and Minnie to Elsa and Anna from Frozen. If you want to see the Frozen girls be prepared for a long wait. All the characters are great with children, spending a good bit of time with each one.
10. Disney Detail (Everywhere)
It’s amazing, take some time to soak it in. They are experts at making waiting for attractions less boring and interesting. On the rides themselves you’ll notice something new each time.
TOP 10 DISNEY TIPS FOR BRITS
I really hope you find these tips useful. They are designed for Brits heading to Walt Disney World.
1. Touring Plans
As mentioned previously this service is unbeatable. Buy their book which will give you a discount for their personalised services which work on a website and app. There crowd calendar will help you to choose a quieter time of year to go and then advise you on which park is busier on which day. Finally you can choose their tour plans or create your own, either way it will mean that you wait less time for rides and walk less distances.
2. Consider Flying to Tampa
For an extra hours drive from the airport to hotel we saved over £1,000 for a family of three flying at Easter.
3. Sheraton Visitana Hotel
I really recommend this hotel, it’s very big with lots of blocks of apartments. There is a supermarket on site along with seven swimming pools. It is a short drive into Walt Disney World. Before you go ask for a room with a balcony.
4. 14 day Ticket Offer
Buy your Disney ticket before you go, when we’ve been they’ve had special offer to Brits for 14 days for the price of 7 if bought in the UK.
5. Book Restaurants
You can book Disney restaurants 180 days in advance via their website. I really recommend this as at busy times you can’t just roll up and get a table. It means that you’re not spending time searching for places to eat. The advantage of the table service restaurants is that you can get out of the midday heat for an hour and chill. Consider some of the hotels for restaurants too, there are some very good ones. You can get character meals as well.
With FASTPASS+ you can book up to 3 rides a day from 30 days before you visit a park (60 days if staying at a Disney hotel). This is brilliant, I could go through lots more tips about this but will point you in the direction again of Touring Plans. Fastpass+ is free and stops you waiting for long periods.
7. Disney App
Download the Disney App, sign in and then check on your bookings for FASTPASS+ and restaurant reservations. There is free wi-fi in all of the Disney parks, remember to turn your roaming data off as you won’t need it and it stops you running up a bill. The Disney App and Touring Plans App will both tell you the current wait time for each ride and attraction.
8. Rope Drop
Get to the parks in advance of when they open. Enter at ‘Rope Drop’ and you’ll often just go straight onto your favourite rides. You’ll get more done in the first couple of hours than you will during the 6 hours that follow!
9. Have a Plan
We didn’t wait for any ride for longer than 30 minutes and we were there at the second busiest time of the year! A combination of arriving early, booking Fastpass+’s, having a plan, booking a restaurant for midday and then leaving worked really well. We’d go an chill at the hotel, recharge and then get back for the nighttime entertainment when it was a bit cooler and the crowd levels had gone down. You see people waiting in lines that say 180 minutes and gasp! It’s not necessary!!
As you’d expect there are shops everywhere. They all carry different stock and sometimes it can be hard to track down what you’re looking for, in our case a Pluto soft toy. However, the staff are really helpful and they will track down an item and tell you where you can find it.
So those are my personal Top 10’s hope you found them useful and enjoyed the photographs. Please leave any comments, or ask any questions. Have a good time if you’re going to Walt Disney World.
I am a Family Portrait & Wedding Photographer, I also create photography and video for business offering on-line content and marketing support. I run regular introduction to photography training courses, ideal if you you want to learn how your camera works and take better photographs. I am based in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and work throughout Scotland including Glasgow, Stirling and Edinburgh. See more at my website – www.paulsaundersphotography.com or call me on 01360 661029.
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