Congratulations, you are going to Disney World!!!
Soon you will be enjoying your time at the happiest place on Earth, how exciting!! As travel planners specializing in Disney, we are frequently asked ‘What is everything we should be sure to do on our Disney vacation?’ The answer to this question is not so simple. Disney World is HUGE!! Spread out over 4 different theme parks, 31 Disney resort hotels, 2 water parks, and a shopping and dining district; there is simply too much to see and do to fit it all into one vacation.
We do think there are several must-do’s for every first time visitor of Disney World and today we are going to share our list with you!
1. Pick-up your FREE 'I'm celebrating' button
Whether you are a Disney resort guest or not, complimentary buttons are available to every Disney guest celebrating something special like a first visit. Where can you find these buttons? At any Disney resort front desk or guest services at the theme parks. Not only do the buttons make a cute souvenir, they can also lead to extra pixie dust type experiences from Disney cast members!
2. Meet Mickey and Minnie
There are two places to meet both Mickey and Minnie during the same meet and greet. Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom and Safari Outpost at Animal Kingdom. If visiting during Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration (ends March 31, 2023) then Mickey and Minnie will be decked out in their special 50th anniversary outfits at Town Square Theater.
3. Snap a picture of the iconic landmarks for each theme park
Preferably, a picture with you and your travel party in front of said landmark! Have you even been to Disney World if you don’t have a picture in front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom? The other iconic landmarks are Epcot’s Spaceship Earth geosphere, The Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life. You will find Disney PhotoPass photographers scattered around the parks ready to take your picture in front of the iconic backdrops. We highly recommend purchasing Memory Maker, which will give you digital access to all pictures taken by the Disney photographers PLUS ride photos and magic shots. What exactly is a magic shot? Ask your Disney photographer if they have any magic and check your photo later to find out!
4. Book a Character Dining Experience
Several restaurants at Disney World offer character meals! This means while you are eating, you will receive visits to your table from different characters. You can ask for autographs, give a hug, pose for pictures, and enjoy special interactions with your favorite Disney pals. Interested in dining with Mickey and his friends? Then we suggest Chef Mickey’s, Tusker House, breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace, breakfast at Cape May, lunch or dinner at Hollywood & Vine, or Garden Grill. More into princesses? Try Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or Storybook Dining at Artist Point for dinner. Winnie the Pooh fans should check-out Crystal Palace, but if Lilo and Stitch are your faves then book breakfast at ‘Ohana. You do not need to do all the character meals on your Disney vacation, but we recommend including one to experience the more personalized character interactions, especially for first time visitors.
5. Sample all the Disney snacks
Absolutely take advantage of the refillable popcorn bucket, but be sure to leave room for all the iconic Disney snack items! Dole Whip is a must. For those unfamiliar- dole whip is a soft serve dairy-free frozen dessert with pineapple flavoring. Other must-haves include: the Mickey ice cream bar, churros, spring rolls, pretzels, beignets, corn dog nuggets, and of course the Mickey waffle. There are tons of other delicious snack options at Disney World, you really can’t go wrong, but these are the snacks we rate as must-do’s!
6. Ride the Disney Transportation
The monorail is a classic, and should be experienced even if you are not staying at one of the monorail resorts. Pro tip- there is a resort monorail track that will take you from Magic Kingdom to each of the 3 resorts (Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian). Hop on the resort track and check out each one! Our favorite time to resort hop is during the holidays when every resort on property is uniquely decorated (life size gingerbread house at The Grand Flo, anyone?!), but they are fun to explore year round.
Do not skip out on Disney’s newer form of transport, The Disney Skyliner! The Skyliner is so fun to ride with excellent views and efficient transportation. Ride between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, or over to Disney’s Boardwalk area.
7. Experience the Iconic Disney Rides
Your list may differ from others. Maybe you only care for the thrilling, or perhaps it’s the other way around. Regardless, we suggest making a list (or discussing with your travel planner) of all the attractions you have your heart set on getting to experience.
If hoping to ride the original attractions that have stood the test of time then be sure to add the following to your list: The Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Mad Tea Party, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Hall of Presidents, and Spaceship Earth.
8. Catch the Nighttime Shows
You will find nighttime shows at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. If visiting before the end of the 50th anniversary celebration (March 31, 2023) you will see Disney’s Enchantment at Magic Kingdom and Harmonious at Epcot. Both are nighttime spectaculars with a combination of fireworks, music, and projections. Hollywood Studios is the home of Disney’s Fantasmic!, which is a nighttime musical performance unlike anything you have ever seen.