Parks and Entertainment
Disney is 47 square miles or roughly the size of the city of Vancouver or San Francisco, includes 4 theme parks, two water parks, two shopping/entertainment areas and plenty of recreation areas. In short, no one can do everything in one trip. To help get started on where you might want to spend your time, here is a brief description of what Walt Disney World has to offer.
Perhaps the most iconic park in the world, Magic Kingdom is all about fairy tales, fantasy and getting lost in the magic. This park is the #1 must-do in all of Walt Disney World, with it's Festival of Fantasy parade, dozens of rides (for all ages - even infants!), four roller-coasters, a stage show and surprises around every corner. Here is also where you will find meet and greets for the most characters! Top it all off with the fireworks show, Happily Ever After, and you have the perfect day. We recommend at least 2-3 days at Magic Kingdom just to scratch the surface!
Epcot has a more laid back, relaxing feel than the other parks and consists of two areas: Future World and World Showcase. Future World (which is in the process of being reimagined) is all about technology, innovation and ideas. Way more than a science centre, you can experience hands on games, displays and educational areas. This is also the home to popular rides, like Test Track, Mission Space (with a new and improved tamer level) and Soarin'. World Showcase consists of 11 countries surrounding a beautiful lagoon. You can walk from country to country, enjoying the architecture, cultural displays, performances, character meets (like Elsa and Anna), food, some rides (like Frozen Ever After), shopping for imported goods and chatting with representatives from the various countries. At the end of the day, you can watch "Epcot Forever" from all around World Showcase lagoon (this show will be replaced by HarmonioUS in 2020).
Show-biz comes to life in this entertainment complex, focusing on stage shows, musicals and thrills. This is the park with the most extreme rides and is very popular among older kids. It is home to all things Star Wars, from rides to snacks to seasonal themed fireworks, and the latest expansion, Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge truly feels like you have been immersed in a galaxy far far away. Here you can pilot the Millennium Falcon, and immerse yourself in their headliner attraction, Rise of the Resistance. Hollywood Studios used to have very few mild rides, but Toy Story Land is now home to Slinky Dog Dash, which is a huge hit, Aliens Swirling Saucers and the classic Toy Story Midway Mania. Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railroad (opening March 4) is a charming adventure for the whole family too. Perhaps the biggest show at Hollywood Studios is Fantasmic!, a spectacle of pyrotechnics, water, film, acting, dancing and incredible special effects. Fireworks are also offered, with the theme depending on the season.
Disney also has two waterparks: Typhoon Lagoon, which has more of a laid back tropical atmosphere with a huge wave pool and a few thrilling waterslides. Blizzard Beach (above), is done up to look like a land of snow, is for adrenaline junkies with the most extreme waterslides.
Disney Springs (above, formerly called Downtown Disney) and the Boardwalk area are great places to poke around some unique and specialty shops, eat at some celebrity chef restaurants and the best part is you don't need a park pass to go. These areas do not require any admission or passes.
When choosing a pass, there are a few things to consider, the obvious one being number of days. The more days you buy on your pass, the less you pay per day. For example a one day pass to Magic Kingdom can cost up to US$132, whereas if you already have a 4 day pass, it is only a small upcharge to add extra days, up to a maximum of a 10 day pass, which can be used within a 14 day window. The base pass does not allow access to the waterparks.
You can add a hopper option to your pass, which allows you to start the day in one park and switch to another park as many times as you want for the life of your pass. It is an extra flat-rate cost (regardless of the number of days), so it just depends on if you want the flexibility to switch parks. For example you can spend the morning in Animal Kingdom when the animals are most active, then go back to the resort for a swim and head to Magic Kingdom for dinner and fireworks.
This option also gives you access to the two waterparks. The number of days that you are allowed to spend in the waterparks matches the number of park days you bought. For example if you have a 7 day pass, it comes with 7 admissions to a waterpark. Waterpark admissions are considered separate from a park pass, so if you don't go to a park one day and spend the entire day at Typhoon Lagoon, while one waterpark admission is deducted from your pass, all of your park days stay intact on your pass. If you go to two water parks in one day, that counts as two waterpark admissions. This add-on is also a flat rate per person (regardless of the number of days) and includes a few bonuses like free mini golf, 9 holes of golf and general admission to ESPN Wild World of Sports.
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