Walt Disney World – A Tale of Four Parks

WALT DISNEY WORLD is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney and to the talents, the dedication and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney’s dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place…a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn — together.

Plaque dedicated October 25, 1971, by Roy O. Disney, rededicated Oct. 1, 1996, by Roy E. Disney

Walt Disney World had gone through many changes since 1971 – new attractions, parades and even new parks. WDW is over 43 square miles of pure entertainment. They have worked the magic into four theme parks, two water parks, four golf courses and 27 resort hotels. To truly see everything is almost impossible as it is always changing. Let’s do an overview of main features.

The Magic Kingdom is where most people think of when they hear Walt Disney World. This is where you’ll find such icons as Cinderella’s Castle standing at 189 feet at the end of Main Street USA. Space Mountain- the oldest operating roller coaster in Florida- sits in Tomorrow Land.   And Big Thunder Mountain Railroad located is located in Frontierland but set in the American southwest.

Disney history buffs love that the Carousel of Progress is still showing every day and that the small world boats are still filled with people singing (somewhat reluctantly) “It’s a small world after all”. Though the queue for Peter Pan’s Flight has been updated, the ride remains unchanged. The Pirates of the Caribbean has be updated to include Captain Jack Sparrow from the hit movie series. Splash Mountain, also in Frontier Land, remains a crowd favorite along with Adventure Land’s Jungle Cruise, a  pun-filled boat ride.

Proponents for change have enjoyed the additions of Starbucks and the New Fantasy Land. This includes a new roller coaster; the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train opened in 2014 and is based on the vintage movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Also, there are now two Dumbo rides to enjoy with a play center between them and water accents outside. In this new Land, guests will also find The Big Top which is home to all the goodies you can imagine from cupcakes to cotton candy, and chocolate covered marshmallows to caramel apples.

When in the Magic Kingdom there is not shortage of tasty and cool treats to try.  Eat a Mickey shaped chocolate covered ice cream bar while enjoying the Festival of Fantasy parade or, over in Adventure Land, Aloha Isles is home to the pineapple Dole Whip and Dole Whip Float. Sunshine Tree Terrace with their beloved mascot Orange Bird is home to the Citrus Swirl ice cream. But, no trip to the Magic Kingdom is complete without a hug from a character!

There several meet and greets spread throughout the park but Mickey, everyone’s favorite mouse, is at Town Square Theater near the entrance to the park. If you only have one day at Walt Disney World, spend it at Magic Kingdom and stay for the fireworks!

To all who come to this place of joy, hope of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all. May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man’s ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.

E. Cardon Walker, October 24, 1982

Epcot, the second park opened at Walt Disney World, comes from one of Walt Disney’s ideas. Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and it is often referred to as a permanent World’s Fair.  The park is separated into two separate areas: Future World and the World Showcase.

Upon entry you see the geodesic dome that stands 18 stories high. Housed inside is the ride Spaceship Earth. Narrated by Judi Dench, you are taken through time to learn how communication changes the world.  At the end of the journey, riders enter Project Tomorrow and can explore games and simulations of the future.

With only a handful of rides, there usually are long lines for Soaring – a virtual reality flight above CA- and Test Track which is a simulation of a test drive in the concept cars of the future.  In the Seas with Nemo & Friends, you will get to walk among the fish. The ride is geared toward young kids but the aquarium is second largest in the country and can be enjoyed by guests of all ages. Next to the Seas is The Land where you can enjoy Living with the Land, a slow boat ride teaching you about agriculture around the world.  After leaving the Land guests will come across Journey into Imagination with Figment; this attraction has regained some popularity among the younger crowd recently. An adventure in education can be had, too, at Ellen’s Energy Adventure; this is a nicely air conditioned moving theater ride. 

The World Showcase is situated around the World Showcase Lagoon. This manmade body of water is home to the nighttime fireworks show, Illuminations.  There are 11 permanent countries represented.  Each showcases the culture of their homeland.  This includes it’s music, food, entertainment, traditional dress, and adult beverage. Drinking around the world is a popular pastime of guests over 21.

There is plenty of entertainment to be had in the World Showcase.  The Chinese acrobat shows are beautifully performed. Don’t miss the Stave Church in Norway for a taste of Frozen. The  country’s Maelstrom ride is gone now, but will be replaced with a ride featuring Elsa and Anna. No visit would be complete without a trip to the American Adventure, a history of American narrated by Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. The pre-show is an acapella  group, the Voices of Liberty. They sing traditional folk songs and will sprinkle in some Disney classics occasionally. France’s movie “Impressions de France” is a great place to sit and cool down and learn a little bit too.  If you are looking for a sweet treat in France, stop and get some of their ice cream.   Or, you can try the Werther’s Original popcorn in Germany which should not be missed.  For a meal, the food at Via Napoli in Italy is almost as stunning as the buildings facades.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the park that brings together old Hollywood with new Hollywood. Old Hollywood can be found through the park with attractions such as Tower of Terror and diners like 50’s Prime Time Cafe. The new Hollywood has taken over Hollywood Studios with the thriller ride, Rocking Roller Coaster with Aerosmith and the Frozen Sing-along. The Studios symbol was recently changed when Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat was taken down to reveal the Chinese Theater for the new backdrop to Hollywood Studios.

The draw for many to Hollywood Studios is its two thrill rides, Tower of Terror and Rocking Roller Coaster. Both rides get your heart racing, one with speed and one with fear. Not a fan of thrill rides? Get in line early for Toy Story Mania. The virtual 3D carnival game ride is fun for the whole family. Hollywood Studios also has some fun for the Star Wars fanatic. Star Tours is another 3D virtual ride that has many different scenarios; you can go on this ride many times and it may be different each time.

To pay homage to the place of it’s namesake, Hollywood Studios has stage shows that commemorate some of the most successful movies from Hollywood. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular is a stunt show that gives you a behind the scenes look at how action movies, like Indiana Jones are made. In this show viewers chosen as extras so have your  camera face ready.  Light, Motors, Action is another stunt show but this one features cars. The drivers in the cars do amazing stunts and there are appearances from some favorite big screen cars such as Herbie Lovebug and Lightening McQueen. Hollywood Studios also has a show for the Frozen lovers. Frozen Sing-Along has everyone singing the movies most famous songs while getting “snowed” on. There is also an appearance by Elsa and Anna. Lastly, the other musical show is Beauty and the Beast. Your favorite characters from the 1991 Disney animated classic come to life on stage to sing songs from the movie like “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” and “Beauty and the Beast”.

Some of the best places to eat on Disney property are in Hollywood Studios. Hollywood & Vine is a buffet with great traditional American food. Equally good food can be found at 50’s Prime Time Cafe but eat everything on your plate or “mama” will be upset. The Sci-Fi Drive-In is good food with a movie. You definitely will not leave hungry.

Animal Kingdom is a theme park and zoo all in one.  There are roller coasters, thrill rides, a safari, and a petting zoo sure to satisfy guests of all ages. Disney’s newest park opened in 1998 and offered a different experience than any other Disney park. Uneven walkways and foliage all around give Animal Kingdom give the feeling that you have traveled the world even though you have not left central Florida.

No trip to this park would be complete without making your way through the Kilamanjaro Safari. A specially designed safari truck brings travelers through African lands such as the Serengeti savanna and the Safi River Valley wetlands. All the animals on the journey are real and include giraffes, crocodiles, antelope, lions, and a crowd favorite, elephants. Guests are able to get quite close to the animals so have your camera ready. Once off of the safari you can learn even more about the animals from the safari many more on the one mile long exploration trails. To get even more immersed into the wonders of the featured wildlife, there is a short train ride over to separate part of Animal Kingdom. Rafiki’s Planet Watch tells you how the animals are fed and cared for. This is where you will find the petting zoo; here you can pet farm animals like goats and llamas.

 There are a few rides that  thrill seekers will enjoy.  The most thrilling being Expedition Everest. This ride is a fast roller coaster that goes forwards and backwards with steep up hills and dramatic downhills centered around exploring Mount Everest. Another thrilling ride takes you back to the age of the dinosaurs. This ride, Dinosaur takes you in a time rover through a jarring tour of  the end of the dinosaurs. To get some more dinosaurs, Dino Land USA is perfect. Designed to look like a traveling carnival, this section of the park has dinosaur themed rides like Primeval Whirl and Triceratops Spin. There is also an excavating site where youngsters can dig up dinosaur bones. With all of this adventure, you will have  worked up quite the appetite.

You can get quite the variety of food in Animal Kingdom. The new Harambe Market has ribs and sausages while Asian inspired food is served at the Yak and Yeti at both their indoor and outdoor service. Traditional American food can be found at Restaurantosaurus, Pizzafari and Flame Tree Barbeque.

In it’s 43 years, millions of people have traveled from all around the globe to visit Disney World.  But, what keeps guests coming back is Walt Disney World is not just a theme park but an ever-changing series of worlds to be discovered and experienced by guests young and old.

I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the park. I want to feel they’re in another world.
–Walt Disney


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