A Disneyland Fan's Guide to Visiting Walt Disney World
A reader yesterday asked a great question about planning a trip to the Walt Disney World Resort:
You'll find lots of advice around for Walt Disney World fans planning their first visit to Disneyland, but not nearly as much for people doing the other way around. So here ya go — here are some tips for a Disneyland fan making a first trip to Walt Disney World:
Disney World's much larger castle, as seen before Disney tore up the entire hub in front of it to make a vast, treeless fireworks viewing zone
1. Don't get intimidated by the size
Walt Disney World is huge — more than 27,000 acres, compared with just 510 acres for the Disneyland Resort. You could fit 53 Disneyland Resorts inside Walt Disney World. The Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle stands 189 feet tall, compared to Sleeping Beauty Castle's 77 feet. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when making the switch from west coast to east coast, as a Disney fan. But don't. There are fewer attractions across the four Walt Disney World theme parks than you will find in the two Disneyland parks. The general layout of the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland is pretty much the same. The entrances to California Adventure and Hollywood Studios are almost identical. You'll feel right at home here, only you'll feel a lot smaller.
2. That said, respect that size
Forget that internal clock you've developed over the years that tells you how much time you need to walk from Space Mountain to Pirates of the Caribbean. The pathways and distances between attractions are much larger in Lake Buena Vista than in Anaheim. While many things might be in pretty much the same place in the MK and Disneyland, you'll need longer to get from one to the other in the Magic Kingdom. Set aside more time to get around, and don't plan on moving through attractions at the same rate that you do in California.
3. Don't even try to park-hop
At Disneyland, park hopping is as easy as walking a hundred yards or so across the esplanade. We often bounce back and forth between Disneyland and California Adventure three or four times on a typical day trip. But park hopping is an entirely different beast at Walt Disney World. The only two parks you can walk between are Epcot and Hollywood Studios, and that's a long, long haul. No, you'll need to take monorails, boats, buses, or your car to get between the parks in Florida. That might sound cool (especially the monorails!), but keep in mind that the trip between parks can take up to an hour out of your day for each "hop." That's time you've paid for with your park admission. Don't waste it. With so much to see in each Walt Disney World theme park, we always recommend that first-time visitors save the money and skip the park-hopper option. Focus on one park per day and leave the park-hopping for when you're an experienced visitor who knows how to work the system to better advantage.
4. Focus on what WDW does best, or at least different
Here are the best attractions for a Disneyland fan to visit at Walt Disney World:
In the Magic Kingdom:
- Jungle Cruise (There's a long temple scene not included in Anaheim)
- Tom Sawyer Island (Larger and with more stuff that's open)
- Country Bear Jamboree (The original, and still here, though the show's been trimmed a bit)
- Hall of Presidents (Great Moment with Mr. Lincoln, plus all the other Presidents)
- Haunted Mansion (Adds a scene and with better hitchhiking ghosts)
- Mickey's Philharmagic (Not in Disneyland)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Ditto)
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor (Ditto again)
- Be Our Guest (Must reserve in advance)
- Cinderella's Royal Table (Currently down for refurbishment, but dining in the castle is always cool)
- Columbia Harbor House (Sit upstairs, near a window)
- Sleepy Hollow Refreshments (Get your chicken and waffles fix)
- Any World Showcase table-service restaurant, especially Monsieur Paul, Teppan Edo, or Le Cellier Steakhouse
- Impressions de France (The best theme park movie attraction, anywhere)
- Spaceship Earth (Rides inside park icons are the best!)
- Illuminations (Prepare to take sides in the "World of Color vs. Illuminations" online discussion flame war)
In Disney's Hollywood Studios:
- The Great Movie Ride (Not in California)
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (The fourth dimension scene and random drop sequence beat our version)
- Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (If California Screamin' were an indoor coaster)
- Lights, Motors, Action (If only you could drive the 405 like this!)
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular (Another great stunt show that might make you think you're at an old-school Universal show)
- The Hollywood Brown Derby (Our original is long gone, so enjoy WDW's replica)
- The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (Cheesy fun)
In Disney's Animal Kingdom:
- Pretty much everything — This the park most unlike anything at the Disneyland Resort. Don't miss Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, or the Lion King and Finding Nemo shows. If you ride Dinosaur, keep in mind that it's the same track as Disneyland's Indiana Jones ride, just with a different theme.
5. Don't forget Fastpass+
Walt Disney World allows visitors to make their Fastpass ride reservations up to 30 days in advance of their visit — 60 days if you are staying at a Walt Disney World hotel. Advance reservations, for rides and for restaurants, are a must when visiting WDW to avoid long standby queues. Log into the "My Disney Experience" on DisneyWorld.com to start planning your visit. You can reserve three Fastpass+ reservations per day, as well as make additional restaurant reservations. (The restaurant reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance.) Focus on getting reservations for the attractions and restaurants listed above, then just go with the flow to experience the rest of the parks. If you book your Fastpass+ reservations for early in the day, you can get additional Fastpass+ reservations in the park, one at a time, after your first three reservations are up. You can make those reservations with cast members at Fastpass+ stations around the park, or via Disney World's My Disney Experience app.
6. Explore the hotels and beyond
With its much larger size and more than two dozen hotels, Walt Disney World is much more a full-featured resort than Disneyland is. If you're visiting for more than four days (one per park), use your extra time in part to explore some of the better hotels on property. Take the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary, Grand Floridian and Polynesian hotels. They all have some great restaurants and character meal options. Ride the boat or walk the path from the International Gateway entrance in Epcot's World Showcase over to the Yacht and Beach and Boardwalk hotels. (That's the path you'd take to the Studios, too, if you really want a long walk.) Ride the boat from the Contemporary over to Fort Wilderness for the Hoop-Dee-Do Review dinner show or Trail's End buffet. (Stay for the nightly campfire, too.)
Beyond the hotels, Disney has two water parks, golf courses, and its own, much larger Downtown Disney, which currently is a massive construction zone as Disney refurbishes it into a new concept, called "Disney Springs."
7. It's going to rain
Okay, it doesn't rain every day of the year in Central Florida, but afternoon thunderstorms make frequent appearances at the Walt Disney World Resort. When you get there, notice how many attractions have covered queues and wait areas in Disney World, compared with at Disneyland. That's because of the rain. If you're visiting during the summer — when it never rains in Southern California — don't forget to pack a light rain jacket for your Orlando visit. You'll need it.
Okay, fellow well-traveled Disney theme fans: What else would you like to tell a Disneyland fan making his or her first trip to Walt Disney World?
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Thanks, Robert! We were able to snag reservations at Teppan Edo and the Hollywood Brown Derby, but have tried every day for 4 months to find a reservation for Be Our Guest with no luck! I'm happy their FastPass+ system won't be up and running until after our visit.
Yesterday Disney changed the lunch system for Be Our Guest. Fastpass + is out. Beginning Feb 25th you can reserve lunch on My Disney Experience or the dining phone reservation system. Rumors are also abound that they will be serving breakfast in the future.
Yeah, we received an email inviting us to participate in the pilot for the new lunch reservation system (they were calling it FastPass+ at the time), and they were completely booked by the time I clicked the link on the email. Bummer!
#3 conflicts #6. If you can't do 2 parks in one day, you'll have even less success with hotel hopping especially if you don't have any plans to eat at the hotel restaurants. Instead, you should visit Downtown Disney for at least one visit and shop at the big Disney store, which is the biggest and busiest Disney store I've ever seen on a rainy day.
No, it doesn't. Note that #6 says, "If you're visiting for more than four days..." Hit the four parks on the first four days, one park per day, then do extra stuff.
Great article. Your advice about things taking longer to get to when walking is fantastic advice. It is quite a haul across the MK East to West. Here is some of the advice I give California friends who go to Florida for visits:
As a West Coast is better fan (I know, but my first 20+ experiences were at Disneyland) and a DVC member who visits Florida at least every other year, just remember THERE IS NO COMPARISON. Each coast has a unique flavor and feel. Try to pick up the experiences that are different. See ALL the shows! Finding Nemo and Festival of the Lion King are not to be missed. We always try to take ferry to MK at least once as it is so much fun to see from Bay Lake! And most importantly, if you have a car and need a break, you are NOT very far from the outside world! It took me 5 trips and finally a rental car to realize that we were right on the edge. There is wonderful shopping and other great attractions in Florida and grocery stores that are very close.
@ Anon Mouse.
If you're traveling in the winter months, just remember that central Florida can still get pretty chilly. Bring a few warm layers, and gloves and a hat. When cool, beware of wet rides unless you brought dry clothes, or you will feel cold and uncomfortable. This is pretty much true for December through February at least.
"it's quite possible thank you"
I have to say there are restaurants that are worth traveling around the "World" for.
Great, great advice.
I would probably just add that Splash Mountain MK>Splash Mountain DL. The boats move slower, allowing you to appreciate the scenery more and the story has more of a cohesive flow.
Havent been to Anaheim yet, but...
Prepare to be both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the attractions and the layouts in the parks. You'll miss the atmosphere and length of Pirates of the Caribbean, for example, but you'll probably be more impressed by the duration and theming of Splash Mountain. I would really encouraging enjoying the areas that are not duplicates or close copies of what you have in Anaheim - I personally love getting a great, quiet lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square, then strolling across the street to rest afterward watching the Hall of Presidents show in a big, comfy theater. And I cannot stress this enough: arrive early to Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios if you want to have a good time and see the major attraction at each. Otherwise, expect long waits and disappointments.
I found out the hard way about #2 and #3 during my trip to WDW. I purchased Park Hopper tickets and then never hopped :)
I know it's been mentioned here a few times, but I'd wholeheartedly recommend 'Be Our Guest' if you can get in. I managed it a few weeks ago and it took my breath away. The food was a little 'safer' than I expected, which was good for me, so nothing to be worried about there. My advice though, make sure your entire party is there on time. They won't let you come in late, which is something that happens to my group frequently. It's all at once or not at all.
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