One Man's Dream celebrates Walt Disney's accomplishments
In this extended session we'll discuss some ideas on how to make the
most of your visit to the four major Walt Disney World theme parks. We'll
start off with general advice and then move on to each individual park
advice. The objective here is twofold, first to make the most out of your
precious time in Orlando, and second to reduce any frustration or angst
you may have regarding your visit.
There are some specific navigating tips that should be used depending
upon which park you visit but there are also general tips to keep in mind
when visiting any park. If anything, follow these proven techniques and
you will find your day to be enjoyable and filling:
- Be an Early Bird - Get an early start regardless of
which park you are visiting. Be early so you can visit your favorite
attractions (which could very well be everyone else's favorites) before
the crowd gets there. Know the operating hours and arrive at the turnstiles
thirty minutes before the official opening.
- Conform to Nonconformity - What does that mean? Very
simple, it means do what most of the other guests do not do. Of course
starting your day early is one way to begin this practice. Don't schedule
your meals like most guests. Eat a late breakfast (11 A.M.) and a late
lunch (3 P.M.) or early dinner (4 P.M.) so as to avoid crowded restaurants,
which would mean wasting precious time waiting for a table.
- Be Proactive in Planning - Use priority seating whenever
possible. If you want to begin your meal at 6 P.M. then make your priority
seating time for 5:30. Priority Seating will save time. If you don't
use it you may find yourself using some of your precious vacation time
waiting for a table.
- Shop Early - If you are a serious shopper, consider
sacrificing a morning of attraction hopping to take care of your shopping
needs. This will all but eliminate crowds and make your shopping experience
enjoyable. You don't want to be at the Main Street USA Emporium an hour
before park closing rubbing elbows with 90% of the guests do you?
- Back to Front - Whenever possible, regardless of the
theme park, consider when first entering the park (early) to head for
those attractions furthest from the gate. Work your way back from the
rear of the park. Most guests are so overwhelmed when they first enter
a park that they head for the closest attractions. Let the crowds visit
those attractions while you get some exercise and make tracks for the
attractions towards the rear of the park
- Right is Wrong, Left is Wrong, Right - Everyone has
his or her own opinion on this but I've tested this tip and it works.
When faced with the option of two lines for an attraction, choose the
line on the left. It's natural to go to the right...most everyone does.
I've documented this many times and have noticed that you save at least
10% of your time in line per attraction, if you use the line on the
- Fastpass for Dummies - This is simple. Use Fastpass
for the crowded attractions. Combine this tip with other general tips
and you're in business.
- Early Entry Tips - If/When Early Entry
returns remember this simple rule: Do not go to the park that has Early
Entry. That distinction draws attention. Yes it's resort guests only
but do you know how many resort rooms there are on WDW property? It's
not worth it. Pay attention to the Early Entry schedule (if/when it
returns) and plan your schedule around it.
Navigating The Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in Walt Disney World
and usually the most crowded. Here are some tips to help you enjoy your
visit to this theme park. Please note that it would take too long to discuss
every attraction. Here are some of the most important tips for enjoying
this theme park:
- Do not visit The Magic Kingdom on Monday. Everybody and his brother
like to visit this theme park on Monday. Pick another theme park.
- Shop on Main Street early in the day. You may sacrifice some attraction
time but believe me, you do not want to be in the Emporium an hour before
the park closes.
Main Street Traffic
- Always visit City Hall upon first entering the park for any information
regarding character greetings and other park information.
- If possible make use of the E-Ticket nights. E-Ticket nights are special
nights when resort guests can get special access to popular rides after
the park closes. To participate you must have a multi-day admission
and pay a certain fee. In a span of a few hours you can experience a
whole day's worth of park attractions.
- Other than the E-Ticket, the Fastpass is the best way to use your
time for enjoying the most popular attractions at the Magic Kingdom.
Use the Fastpass whenever possible.
- If there is two scheduled show times for the nighttime parade, attend
the later parade. While the earlier parade is going on visit some normally
busy attractions. There will be less people on attractions during the
early parade and less people in the park for the later parade.
- Use the Walt Disney World Railroad to quickly move from one part of
The Magic Kingdom another part of the park.
Epcot is a challenging theme park. The staggered openings of its two
main sections, Future World and World Showcase, forces guests to adjust
their visiting patterns. Here are some suggestions, which many people
have found to be helpful when visiting this theme park:
- When you first go into the park avoid Spaceship Earth. Most guests
head straight to this attraction. Save this attraction it for later
when you are just about to leave the park.
- Immediately head for your favorite attractions. If you find they are
already crowded, make use of the Fastpass. If you are a Test Track fan
don't forget the option of getting into the singles line.
- As soon as possible get a Fastpass for Honey I Shrunk the Audience.
Show attractions are best seen using Fastpass.
The Land Pavilion
- If you are a Land Grille fan, you may want to make priority seating
for lunch and enter the Land Pavilion about 90 minutes before your priority
seating so that you can enjoy some of the pavilion attractions before
- Regarding the World Showcase, visit the countries in a counter clockwise
direction. Most visitors will go in a counter clockwise direction.
- Get a head start on everyone and cross the World Showcase Lagoon by
boat to the American Pavilion and see The American Adventure.
- If you plan to eat in Epcot plan on a late lunch or early dinner.
You may want to plan on eating before 5 P.M., as the price of entrees
will go up. Also, by eating early you will get a head start on everyone
regarding attraction viewing around dinnertime.
- Illuminations viewing is best at an area called the Isolata. If this
is unavailable you may want to think about the Bridge near France or
Mexico. Keep in mind that the Illuminations fireworks and pyrotechnics
produce smoke that usually carries towards The United Kingdom and Canada
- You may elect to enjoy some Epcot attractions during Illuminations,
especially those attractions that are very popular and crowded.
Navigating The Disney MGM/Studios
The big attractions these days at the Disney Studios are the Hollywood
Boulevard duo of Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Rock 'n' Roller
Coaster. These and a few other favorite attractions make this theme park
very challenging when determining how to make the best of your day. Let's
try the following tips:
- If you are a thrill seeker you may want to immediately head towards
Hollywood Boulevard and take in the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Twilight
Zone Tower of Terror. If the Fastpass system is working you should not
hesitate to use it. These attractions are the most popular rides in
this theme park.
- The "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" show has a limited number
of show times so you want to be sure that you grab a Fastpass to this
attraction early in the day.
The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
- Save the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular for the evening. The effects
are much better. When entering the stadium do not bother looking for
a seat in the center. Instead, concentrate on sitting in one of the
first five rows down to the right. You will have good sights for most
of the better stunts.
- Use the Fantasmic Dinner Package. This requires you to eat dinner
at one of several park restaurants and in return you are given special
seating at a Fantasmic showing. This will save you at least an hour
of waiting time. The package grants you special seating in the Fantasmic
- Regarding Fantasmic, if you have the option of going to q later showing
of this nighttime spectacular than do so as the crowds will be lower.
- Parade viewing in MGM is tricky. There is no real secret to getting
a good spot other than finding an empty bench towards the front end
of the park.
- Use the general guidelines for restaurants in MGM. Many guests make
use of a ploy known as the 2 for 1 meal in which they go to Hollywood
& Vine 30 minutes before the end of breakfast. They then enjoy a
first course of breakfast and a second course of lunch.
Navigating Disney's Animal Kingdom
The jury is still out on the best way to enjoy Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Most guests have commented how in the summer this theme park seems to
be the hottest and most humid of the theme parks. Here are some tips that
I have found to be most useful in navigating this theme park:
- Don't plan on doing this park in one day. You should plan on putting
aside two mornings to best visit this park. This is recommended because
you can then deal with lower humidity and lower crowd levels.
- Get to the park early and make reservations at the Rainforest Café
for lunch. Make sure you have a good idea as to how much time you will
be spending in the park.
- Divide the park in half. Do one half one morning and the other half
- Plan on doing The Festival of The Lion King one morning and Tarzan
Rocks on another morning. Doing them on the same day may take a lot
of time because of their respective locations and show schedules.
- Do Dinosaur early as that gets crowded fast. Use Fastpass.
Kilamanjaro Safaris (Photo by Karl Buiter)
- Do the Kilamanjaro Safari early. You will see more animals in the
early morning when the temperature cool .The animals get hot too. Use
Wildlife Express to Rafiki's Planet Watch and Conservation Station
- If you are into science and love animals then and only then do you
want to commit to Conservation Station. The train ride, hike, and visit...and
return could very well tie you up for 60 to 90 minutes...and you may
not enjoy what you see. Talk to friends and others who have been to
Conservation Station to determine if you wish to visit this attraction.
- It's Tough to Be a Bug is an attraction that might be best served
at mid-day. You may want to hit this attraction just before you have
lunch. Remember to use Fastpass if available.
- Parades in Disney's Animal Kingdom are VERY DIFFERENT from the other
parks because the parade routes offer narrow passages. Look for a shady
spot when planning to see a parade.
Need More Info?
If you are looking for more detailed tips on navigating the parks you
may want to visit the MousePlanet Walt Disney World Trip Archives and
see my trip reports. I include more detailed information that you may
Thinking Cap Vacation
A Walt Disney World vacation is a constant learning experience. Use the
experience of others as a starting point in deciding how best to go about
discovering the wonders of the Walt Disney World theme parks. Build upon
that knowledge through your own experience and don't hesitate to try anything
which you feel will make your trip enjoyable and satisfying. Be creative.
"Partners" and Cinderella's Castle (Photo by Karl Buiter)
Walt would want you to.
Next time: Unheralded Treasures
Photos on this page by
Brian Bennett unless otherwise noted
MousePlanet's WDW Trip
Planning Guide has a LOT of pages on touring the parks. Here's the
General Information: Fastpass
-- Disney's "Virtual Queue" | Pin
Trading | The
Crushed Ice Caper | Touring
the Parks with Disabled Guests
The Magic Kingdom:
Kingdom Details-at-a-Glance | Touring
the Magic Kingdom | Shopping
in the Magic Kingdom | Magic
Kingdom Attractions | Magical
Moments Parade | Spectromagic
Parade | Fantasy
in the Sky
Details-at-a-Glance | Touring
Epcot | Shopping
at Epcot | Epcot
Attractions | Tapestry
of Dreams | IllumiNations
2000: Reflections of Earth
The Disney - MGM Studios:
Details-at-a-Glance | Touring
the Studios | Shopping
at the Studios | Studios
Attractions | Fantasmic!
Disney's Animal Kingdom:
Kingdom Details-at-a-Glance | Touring
Animal Kingdom | Shopping
in Animal Kingdom | Animal
Here's a list of the trip
reports that Mike has written that are part of MousePlanet's archives!
Also, don't miss Lani
Teshima's column, "The
Trip Planner" for more travel planning information!
Brian Bennett, author of MousePlanet's
WDW Trip Planning Guide
(and publisher of the Disney
Trip Report Archive), writes:
The first Disney trip report that I ever
read was a report by Mike Scopa that I downloaded from the America Online
travel library in late 1994. The report was a detailed description of
the Scopa family's trip to WDW in the summer of that year.
As soon as I was done reading it, I was
I picked my own brain and documented my
own trips and the things I'd learned from my own experiences. Then, in
1995 I actually wrote a report as the trip unfolded. I took a laptop with
me and spent some time in the evenings documenting what had happened that
day. (I've repeated that process for my own reports ever since.)
In July 1996, I started my Disney
trip planning Web site. Besides including my own reports, I asked
for permission from the authors of several other reports and added them
to the offering. Since then, the number of reports has expanded greatly.
In 1997, I added an information summary for each report to make it easier
to sort through the reports that are available.
I still 'blame' Mike for hooking me on
this Disney habit.