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Guide to Walt Disney World, Florida

Overview: WDW History Theme Parks: Magic Kingdom | Epcot | Disney's Hollywood Studios | Disney's Animal Kingdom Waterparks: Disney's Typhoon Lagoon | Disney's Blizzard Beach | Beyond the Parks| Other Resources

Located 25 miles southwest of Orlando, Florida, Walt Disney World (WDW) Resort consists of four Theme Parks, two Waterparks, a Downtown Disney Area, over 20 Disney hotels, and multiple entertainment options "beyond the parks". Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Park all offer very unique theme park experiences. Each park includes hundreds of attractions that offer visitors a glimpse into the imagination of Walt Disney, the chance to learn about environmental issues and the opportunity to see cultures from around the world. Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon provide a much-needed cool escape from the Florida heat. Disney accommodations are another important aspect of the Disney experience because it gives visitors the opportunity to relive the magic of the theme parks overnight. Other sources of entertainment beyond the Parks include Disney's Boardwalk, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, and Disney's Golf Courses.

Walt Disney World: A Brief History

Walt Disney started the plans for Disney World in 1959 after the success of Disneyland, located in Anaheim, California. With much enthusiasm from Florida officials, Disney chose the Florida location for Disney World in 1963 and continued acquiring land for his resort before he died in 1966. Roy O. Disney, Walt's older brother, took over the planning for Disney World, and the park opened on October 1, 1971. Shortly after the opening, Roy Disney conveyed to visitors the dreams that his brother had for the park in a dedication that officially named the park Walt Disney World to honor his brother's legacy. For a more in-depth history on the Walt Disney World Resort as a whole as well as a history of the parks, visit wikipedia and WDW History.

Theme Parks

In order to ensure that each theme park had its own identity, the Walt Disney Corporation decided to mark each park with a unique symbol. Cinderella's Castle helps visitors to identify Magic Kingdom. Epcot is symbolized by a huge globe-shaped sculpture named Spaceship Earth. Disney's Hollywood Studios is marked by Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat. The Tree of Life is the icon of Disney's Animal Planet. More in-depth information about each theme park can be viewed below.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom was the first installment of the many theme parks in the WDW Resort. Opened on October 1, 1971, along with the resorts first two hotels, Disney's Contemporary Resort and Disney's Polynesian Resort, Magic Kingdom was closely modeled after Disneyland. A larger area, the addition of a new "land" and four new attractions made Magic Kingdom unique. Magic Kingdom now contains Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Main Street, U.S.A., Mickey's Toontown Fair, and Tomorrowland. Popular attractions in Magic Kingdom are listed below divided by "land".


When Walt Disney was originally dreaming up the plans for Disney World, he wanted to include an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT). The plan was for Disney and his imagineers to build a community for the future for the rest of the world to model. Opened in 1982, the Epcot theme park that exists currently is a combination of Disney's ideas organized as sort of a future "world" of its own including a world showcase. The world showcase consists of 11 pavilions that give visitors a worldly view into different cultures. Countries included in the world showcase are America, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, and the United Kingdom. Some Attractions for Future World as well as the World Showcase and its pavilions are listed below.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Disney's Hollywood Studios, originally Disney-MGM Studios, was opened in 1989 as a way to tribute the Hollywood mentality. Disney's Hollywood Studios developed through an idea to expand Epcot. According to records, former Disney CEOMichael Eisner liked the idea so much that it was decided to make a new theme park dedicated to celebrating Hollywood. Disney's Hollywood Studios consists of four areas: Animation Courtyard & Mickey Avenue, Streets of America & Commissary Lane, Hollywood Boulevard & Echo Lake, and Sunset Boulevard. Listed Below are attractions in Disney's Hollywood Studios divided by area.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom was the fourth and last park added to the WDW Resort in 1998. Credited as being the largest of the Disney theme parks, the overall theme of the park is animal conservation. The design of theme park ensured that visitors would be getting more than a typical zoo experience. One of the other unique features of the theme park is that it honors three specific classifications of animals: animals that exist currently, extinct animals and legendary/mythical animals. Animal Kingdom features seven lands: Africa, Asia, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Dinoland U.S.A., Discovery Island, The Oasis, and Rafiki's Planet Watch. Listed Below are attractions in Disney's Animal Kingdom divided by area.


Two water parks reside in the WDW resort: Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Disney's Blizzard Beach. Typhoon Lagoon was opened in 1989 with a storm-wrecked tropical island theme. The park consists of five areas: Mount Mayday, Hideaway Bay, Typhoon Lagoon, Shark Reef, and Castaway Creek as well as around 20 attractions. Typhoon Lagoon contains the world's largest outdoor wave pool and is the most visited water park in the world. Blizzard Beach, opened in 1995, has a melting ski resort theme. The park's biggest attraction is "Mount Gushmore," a mountain that covers the tubing for the park's several water slides. Mount Gushmore consists of three color-coded sides each containing different types of slides. The ground level of the park consists of areas for children shorter than Mount Gushmore's height requirement. Blizzard Beach is the second largest water park in the world after Typhoon Lagoon.

Walt Disney World Resort Hotels

In order to discover all that the WDW Resort has to offer, more than 20 Disney hotels are located in the resort with accommodations ranging from 6 different price levels: Deluxe Villa, Deluxe, Moderate, Value, Campground, and Rooms for five or more. The Deluxe Villa hotel category contains the most up-scale of the Disney Resort accommodations. Guests get to enjoy animal kingdom, bay, beach, boardwalk, old Key West, springs, and wilderness-themed villas with the eight exclusive resorts in this category. Deluxe resorts offer guests the opportunity to experience similar luxuries with eight different lodging options in this category. Highlights include Disney's Contemporary and Polynesian Resorts as well as Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney's Yacht Club Resort. Moderate resorts offer guests Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, and Port Orleans experiences. Value resorts celebrate the true culture of America and all things Disney. Disney's All-Star Movies, Music, and Sports Resorts as well as Disney's Pop Century Resort give guests a nostalgic experience. The Campsites at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort allow a family-fun outdoors adventure. Rooms for parties with five or more visitors are offered in most Disney hotels in all price levels.

Beyond the Parks

Guests at the WDW resort are not limited to the thrill of the water and theme parks, Disney also offers other opportunities to make memories beyond the parks. Other highlights of the WDW resort include Downtown Disney Area, Disney's Boardwalk, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex and Disney's Golf Courses. Located near Saratoga Springs, Downtown Disney Area gives guests a nice experience with more than 70 shopping and dinning experiences. Disney's Boardwalk, located near two Disney theme parks and many WDW resort hotels, is a quarter-mile strip filled with entertainment. Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex is the headquarter for all of the sporting events at the WDW resort. The complex can host over 50 types of sports and every level of competition - from amateur to professional worldwide host events and tournaments in this sports resort. Walt Disney World's five golf courses are another way to enjoy the recreation and leisure of sports at the resort. Four 18-hole miniature golf courses are also available.

Other Resources

Before booking your reservations, consider these tools for more information on Walt Disney World, Florida, and the city of Orlando. The official web site for Walt Disney World offers a vast array of information from scheduling, maps, reservations, promotions, and the latest Walt Disney World news updated regularly. MousePlanet offers an extensive guide to Walt Disney World from an insider's perspective. Remember to visit before booking your trip for flight information, travel guides and tips and much more!

-- C. Turman

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