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First Timer at Walt Disney World? Here Are The Basics

If you’re new to the wonders of Walt Disney World, I envy the magic you’re about to discover! That being said, WDW is an ever-changing behemoth that can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. Meals, attractions, parks, resorts, transportation – how to make sense of it all? Not to worry! Below is a run-down of the basics you’ll want to know if you’re planning a WDW trip for the first time. So take a breath, read on, and get ready to enjoy the most magical place on earth!

Photo Credit: Matthew Cooper (www.thetimethespace.com)

1. The Parks

The main attraction at Walt Disney World is, of course, its four theme parks (there are also two water parks, for all of the water lovers in your party).  There are a variety of park tickets at different price points, depending on how many days you’ll be in the parks, how many parks a day you want to see, whether you’re a local, and other variables.

  • Magic Kingdom: If you only have time to see one park (perish the thought!), this will give you the best glimpse of iconic Walt Disney World.  It’s divided into 6 different whimsical lands, with Cinderella Castle at its core.  It’s here you’ll find classic rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Jungle Cruise.  Magic Kingdom is full of nostalgic fun for the young and young at heart!
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Animal lovers, rejoice!  Disney’s Animal Kingdom is full of animals from around the world, and you can get up close and personal with them throughout the park.  The theming in this park, like everywhere in WDW, is stellar; from the Himalayas to an area based on a Kenyan village, you’ll find different areas of the globe stunningly depicted in the attractions and restaurants here.  Pandora – The World of Avatar can also be found here, and you don’t want to miss it!
  • EPCOT: WDW’s Epcot is divided into two sections: Future World and the World Showcase.  Future World gives you a taste of where humanity has been and where it’s going, and its centerpiece is the unforgettable Spaceship Earth.  The World Showcase allows you to travel to 11 different countries around the world, all without leaving Orlando!  Each pavilion features cuisine, architecture, shopping and even cast members from that particular country, all within easy walking distance of one another.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios: You may have heard of a little land called Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where you can visit the planet Batuu, and live out all of your Star Wars fantasies!  But Hollywood Studios is much more than this.  Here, you can see what it’s like to shrink to the size of a toy at Toy Story Land, or ride some of the most thrilling attractions on property (try the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster). 

2. Dining

When it comes to restaurants, you can choose between quick service (or counter service) locations or table service locations. Quick service restaurants offer fast, cost-effective meals in a casual setting; you order your food, cafeteria-style, find a table, and eat. Table service restaurants, by contrast, provide sit-down meals that you’ll want to make an advanced dining reservation for; you can choose casual or fine dining table service restaurants.

3. Transportation

You won’t need a car at WDW (although you can, of course, choose to drive yourself!).  There are myriad transportation options throughout property, and they’re all complimentary.  You can always take one of the many frequent buses between your resort and each park, and WDW also has monorail lines that zoom to several resorts and Magic Kingdom.  You can soar above Walt Disney World and enjoy the view from a gondola on the Disney Skyliner, or take advantage of the water taxi lines for what is arguably the most relaxing way to travel around WDW.  Depending on where you’re staying, you may even find yourself within walking distance of a park.

4. MagicBands

It’s not an exaggeration to say that MagicBands are your key to Walt Disney World – literally and figuratively!  You can use these customizable wristbands to unlock your resort door, check in to the parks, charge purchases to your resort room, and much more. Do you need to have one to enjoy Disney? No, but they do come in handy!

Credit: Disney

5. My Disney Experience App

The magic of Disney World is as close as your cell phone when you use the My Disney Experience App.  The App allows you to make and check in to dining reservations, check ride wait times and show times, join restaurant waitlists and attraction queues, and access all the information you could want to help you get the most out of your day at WDW.

6. Disney Springs

Dining, entertainment, shopping – Disney Springs has it all!  It’s an absolutely massive complex where you can do almost anything imaginable: dine amid roaring dinosaurs and falling meteors, ride in a vintage amphicar, or challenge friends to an upscale game of bowling, for starters.  You’ll also find bars, lounges and dance clubs here, for all the night owls in your party.

7. Resorts

You don’t have to stay on property to visit Walt Disney World, but it’s a great idea!  Disney offers tiered levels of accommodations (value, moderate and deluxe resorts) to cater to guests with any budget.  Each resort is different, but fabulously themed, with at least one pool, gift shop, plentiful food options, and of course, that famed Disney service!

About Stacy Milford

Stacy has lived in 4 countries on 3 continents, and travels whenever humanly possible. Passionate about music theatre, dessert, and adventure in the great wide somewhere, she visits Walt Disney World every year, usually during Halloween! Stacy currently divides her time between writing and teaching English as a second language to children in China, and is pretty sure growing up is over-rated.