I've grown up going to Disney World in Orlando. On my first trip, I was 8. Little did I know then, we'd return every year for 10 years!
I've been to Disney World 12 times and twice with my husband Gus (as part of our honeymoon and for our 2nd wedding anniversary). This, paired with the fact that I worked for Disney, leads many friends and family to ask me for my favorite tips.
So - without further ado - here's my favorite things to do and tips for visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
If you have a favorite tip, leave it in the comments!
general resort tips:
Port Orleans Riverside
I grew up going to this resort when it was still known as "Dixie Landings." Ironically, even though I live in the South, there is and has always been something magical about this hotel. It's got a giant water wheel, waterways you can boat in, great pools, and a fantastic food court - home to my all time favorite sugar cookies.
FAVORITE INEXPENSIVE ACTIVITIES
Everyone knows about how great the parks are, but I love the entire resort - especially as there is so much you can do inexpensively or for free around the Disney area. Here are some of my favorite activities that fit this bill -
- Hotel Hopping
There are so many hotels on the Disney property, you could spend an entire day just visiting a hotel or two. Many of them have activities, restaurants, and pools you can access (though the deluxe resorts do control who uses their pools, so do note that).
- Bike Riding
At Port Orleans Riverside, you can rent bikes inexpensively by the half hour or hour. Gus and I really enjoyed doing this and riding the bikes over to the French Quarter side. It's a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
- Disney Springs/Downtown Disney
Disney Springs (what I've always known as Downtown Disney) has always been a favorite area of mine (and unless they've changed things) it's free to visit. There's a movie theater, restaurants, shops, and live entertainment. A wonderful spot to spend an evening or an afternoon.
- Movies by the hotel pool
Something they started a few years back is hosting nightly Disney movies by the pool. Available at most resorts (including the value ones - the All-Star), it's a totally included way to enjoy an evening - especially if you're exhausted from a day at the parks.
A couple of things here - keep in mind as a resort guest, you can park for free at any of the Disney hotels, Downtown Disney, and all of the theme parks.
GET TO THE PARKS EARLY
And though the free buses are convenient, they can slow you down considerably - especially on a day when you're doing more than just one thing - like going to a park.
I recommend going to the parks early (15-20 minutes before they open) and taking your car. You'll be able to get a great spot, especially if you're headed to a less popular park for the morning time - like Epcot. Bonus is that you can then leave whenever you'd like to head back to the hotel.
TAKE THE WATER TAXI BETWEEN EPCOT AND HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS / AROUND THE BAY LAKE
Especially if you're planning a day with Epcot and Hollywood Studios, forego the bus or the car and instead, hop a water taxi that goes inbetween both parks. It'll also stop by the Beach Club and Boardwalk Resorts if you have a dinner reservation. But this is free and originates from Epcot. A wonderful break when you're tired from walking around the parks.
Favorite Resort and Parks Eats
- The Wave at the Contemporary Hotel (for Breakfast Buffet)
- Raglan Road at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs (for Dinner; gluten-free options)
- Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs (for Lunch or Dinner)
- Riverside Mill Food Court at Port Orleans Riverside
I'll be honest that I don't think WDW has the most amazing park food. I much prefer some of the spots at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. However, here are a few of the places I always try to hit when I'm visiting.
- Tutto Gusto in Italy pavilion (it's a small little wine bar; great spot to grab anti-pasti for a light dinner)
- Sunshine Seasons in Future World (great, healthy food court for breakfast or lunch)
Favorite park ADVIce + attractions
FREE PROFESSIONAL Photos on YOUR OWN CAMERA
Keep in mind that you are always welcome to ask the professional WDW resort and park photographers to take your picture with your camera (or iphone). We often bring our nice Nikon so we can get professional pictures of the two of us (Gus and me) and don't ever have to pay for the Disney-taken ones. It's worked out amazing here and at Disneyland.
- Space Mountain
- Mickey's Philharmagic
- Monster's Inc Laugh Floor
- Epcot is my favorite WDW park - lots of fun as an adult!
- The China Store in China's Pavilion
- The Japan Store in Japan's Pavilion
- Italy Pavilion
- France Pavilion
- Spaceship Earth
- Star Tours
- Muppet Vision 3D
- Toy Story Mania
- Walt Disney: One Man's Dream
- The Great Movie Ride
- Indiana Jones: Epic Stunt Spectacular!
- Finding Nemo: The Musical (written by the Lopezes - the Frozen soundtrack composers)
- Festival of the Lion King
- It's tough to be a bug!