I’ve been going to Walt Disney World since I was a newborn. For that reason, it’s hard to imagine how overwhelming it can seem to someone that hasn’t visited 500 times. But since I started my blog and Instagram, I’ve gotten many requests for some Disney World basics. And I’m finally putting it all in one place! I’m trying to think about Walt Disney World from the perspective of someone who is brand new to the magic. So if you’re an avid Disney fan, you might want to skip this post. But if you are thinking about planning your first trip, or even an Orlando resident who’s never made it on the property, this is for you.
1. Walt Disney World is made up of four distinct parks.
I know it might seem hard to believe, but I’ve talked to lifelong Orlando residents who don’t know this part of Disney World basics! I’ve brought friends to Disney who don’t know the difference between Epcot and Magic Kingdom. And I can understand why! It could be confusing if you’ve never seen it for yourself! the four parks are Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom- this is the quintessential “Disney” and what most people think of when they think of Walt Disney World. This is where you will find Dumbo, Peter Pan’s Flight, Main Street, and pretty much any other classics you might think of. This would be my first pick for beginners.
Epcot- this park has two areas, which are Future World and the World Showcase. Future World is the tomorrow that never was. It has the “big ball” or the “golfball” that’s actually known as Spaceship Earth. The World Showcase has countries and experiences from 11 different countries around the world.
Hollywood Studios- this park has the newest additions, including Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. I LOVE this park because it has just a great retro Hollywood video and some of my favorite rides in the world, like Tower of Terror.
Animal Kingdom- this park is most simply described as Disney’s zoo. It’s much more than a zoo though and includes rides, the very popular Pandora, and popular live shows.
2. There’s a ticket option for everyone!
There are new Walt Disney World ticket options appearing nearly every day. Although this is definitely an important aspect of Disney World basics, when people ask me what ticket is best to purchase, it’s so hard to give a simple answer. It really depends on what you want to do and how long you want to stay. If you are planning a vacation, it’s really a good idea to at least talk to a Disney travel advisor. They know all of the current promotions and deals, and can even book your dining and fast passes.
If you are a local Orlando resident, you probably don’t need a travel agent to plan a one-day visit. So what ticket should you get if you are just trying to take your kids for a magical day? There are some new ticket options you should know about!
Get Your Ears On Ticket Offer– This is a limited summer offering for Florida Residents. But with this 4-day ticket, each day is only $55 plus tax! This is an amazing deal! And while this ticket won’t last forever, always check Florida resident offers with a quick Google search.
Mid-Day Magic Ticket– This is a brand new ticket option where you can go to all 4 Disney parks after 12 pm for a discounted price. There are 2, 3, and 4 day ticket options. This is a great option, especially if you’re a night owl and don’t want to deal with the morning rush.
Annual Pass- This is what we have had for over a decade. Basically, if you go to Disney World more than 5-6 times in a year, this is worth it. There are discounts for dining and merchandise with this pass. And it’s a wonderful feeling to just be able to hop in the car and go to the parks for a few hours after school.
So many more! I’ve only listed a few ticket options, but the list goes on and on! You really need to check out the website to read all about the various options to find the right ticket for your visit.
3. Fast passes are free.
At many theme parks, there are VIP upgrades available where you can skip the lines. But at Disney World, there’s a way to skip the lines for FREE! That’s right, an awesome Disney World basics fact that many newbies don’t know is that Fast Passes are free! Now, it does take some planning to take full advantage of them, but the most awesome part about them is that they are available to all guests, without paying anything extra.
If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can make Fast Pass reservations 60 days ahead of time through the My Disney Experience app. If you are just coming for the day, or staying off property, you can book your Fast Passes 30 days ahead of time. This is a great reason to purchase your ticket in advance! Once you have purchased even a one-day ticket, you can link your ticket on the My Disney Experience app, and start making Fast Passes! You can make up to 3 each day, and they all must be at the same Disney park. Once you have used those 3, you can make additional choices one at a time until the park closes.
4. Walt Disney World also has two water parks.
Walt Disney World has two water parks. I’ve shared about my love of Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon many times. I actually had never been to a Disney water park until last summer! I’d never visited as a kid and none of my children had ever visited. We finally were persuaded to give them a try by dear friends who were visiting with us. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time! We ended up buying After 2 pm Annual Passes, and used them a great deal!
The Disney water parks are CLEAN! That was always one of my concerns with water parks in general. But Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are impeccably clean. Even at the end of the day, the water is crystal clear and free of trash. They are also extremely well watched and life guards are everywhere. I feel so safe and protected at Disney water parks, and their number one priority is on safety. Don’t put it off as long as I did, give the Disney water parks a try!
5. Walt Disney World also includes ESPN World Wide of Sports, golf courses, and Disney Springs.
The entire Walt Disney World resort has about 30,000 acres! Not even a fraction of this land is developed. But beyond the four Disney parks, there is an almost never ending amount of things to do. Golfing, bowling, camping, shopping, eating; the list goes on and on. Basically, if you can think of something to do, you can probably do it at Walt Disney World.
If you are planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, or even just a day trip, you should plan to visit Disney Springs. This shopping and entertainment complex has FREE parking and lots of free and fun things to do. There’s always live entertainment going on, and so much to see, you could not spend a penny and still have a wonderful time. Disney Springs is always changing and adding new things, so it’s always a good time to visit.
6. What if it rains?
Somewhat surprisingly, this is a question I get a lot. It makes sense for those who aren’t used to the subtropical climate to wonder what us Floridians do when it rains every day in the summer. But don’t worry, Disney World has the rain situation under control! There is SO much to do, even when it rains! Many of the rides and experiences are totally inside or undercover. So lots of attractions are completely unaffected by the afternoon storms.
And something to know about Florida rain; it rarely lasts all day! In the summer, it rains almost every day around 2-3 pm. But it often only lasts an hour or so. It’s a perfect time to get some shopping done! Check out these posts for some ideas on how to deal with the Florida weather.
7. You can’t see it all one day.
Even if you are only doing one park, you won’t be able to see or do everything. This is a really essential aspect of the Disney World basics. If you are planning a vacation, you need a few days for each park. Magic Kingdom could easily be a 3-day park! You could probably just do one day at Animal Kingdom, but if you wanted to have a more relaxed day with dining, more than one day would be ideal. Basically, at Walt Disney World, the more time the better!
But if you only have one day, or if you’re an Orlando local, you can fit so much magic in one day. The Disney World basics tip I always tell beginners is, “Get there early. Now get there 30 minutes earlier than you thought you should!” If you have one day to spend at Walt Disney World, you can get there early and leave late. You can meet characters, ride rollercoasters, take a stroll down Main Street, eat a Mickey bar, and make memories to last a lifetime.
You’ll never forget your first trip to Walt Disney World, or seeing your child’s face when they first meet Mickey Mouse. It’s a joy, whenever it happens. Whether you have waited your whole life here in Orlando, or your planning your first trip to Florida, I hope these tips are helpful! Follow along on Instagram for all of our Disney World magic!