Every day at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida will immerse you in fantasy, adventure, wonder and fun – there’s a reason it’s called The Most Magical Place on Earth, after all. But with so much to do across four distinct theme parks (not to mention the water parks), planning your visit can feel a little daunting – especially for first-timers. Here’s your guide to the parks, resort hotels and more.

Magic Kingdom Park

This one’s a biggie. When you think of Disney, you’re thinking of Magic Kingdom Park. From its iconic Cinderella Castle (yes, that castle) to some of your favourite characters, this is where all your Disney dreams come to life. It’s the most visited theme park in the world for good reason.

Start with a stroll down Main Street, U.S.A, the park’s main entryway. It’s one of Magic Kingdom Park’s six “lands”: separate themed areas with their own distinct vibe. The others are Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. They’re packed with attractions and entertainment, so you’ll want to make time for them all.

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Must-dos include TRON Lightcycle / RUN, a lightning-quick attraction through the films’ iconic video game grid; classic attractions like the Space Mountain rollercoaster, which opened in 1975; the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean, where you can sail past Dead Man’s Cove (and you might even encounter Captain Jack Sparrow); the gold rush-themed Big Thunder Mountain Railroad rollercoaster; the fun and hilarious Jungle Cruise; and more. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, inspired by The Princess and the Frog, is also opening later this year.

Magic Kingdom Park is also where you may encounter many of your favourite characters– such as Ariel, Peter Pan, Rapunzel, Aladdin, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey and Minnie, and many more. Plus, make sure to get the best view of the night-time fireworks show, directly in front of Cinderella Castle.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a celebration of imagined worlds – and there’s a lot of adventure to be had here. The good news is this park is very easy to get around; the bad news is pretty much everything is a must-do. Start by heading down Hollywood Boulevard and look for the centrepiece Chinese Theatre; a replica of the real-world Walk of Fame; and home to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, an action-packed attraction that opened in 2020.

Down Sunset Boulevard, you can hurtle up and down a haunted elevator on the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, or race through the streets of LA to a glam metal soundtrack on Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. You’ll also find live shows such as For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, featuring some of the film’s best songs (and some special guests), and the night-time spectacular Fantasmic, a battle between good and evil with dazzling effects and pyrotechnics.

Make plenty of time for Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which feature some of the park’s top attractions. The headliner at Toy Story Land is the Slinky Dog Dash, a family rollercoaster with plenty of twists and turns, while at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge you can take on the First Order in the immersive Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Grab a bite at Oga’s Cantina, or look for some of your favourite characters, like The Mandalorian or Chewbacca, walking around.

EPCOT

The big golf-ball-shaped dome, Spaceship Earth, is one of the most iconic landmarks at Walt Disney World Resort, and it can be found at EPCOT. Celebrating human achievement, EPCOT is constantly evolving and changing, with four neighbourhoods – World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature and World Showcase – each offering something different.

In World Discovery, you can get lost on an intergalactic chase at the thrilling Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction. In World Nature, check out the new Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, an all-ages exploration trail where you can splash around and learn about water’s journey from sky to ocean and back again. Travel the globe at World Showcase, spotlighting cultures from 11 countries. And be sure to head to the France pavilion to check out Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, where you can scurry around and take in the sights, sounds and smells of Remy’s world.

With its worldwide focus, EPCOT has the broadest range of cuisines in all of Walt Disney World Resort. And come nightfall, you’re going to want to see the spectacular new Luminous – The Symphony of Us as it lights up the night sky with a stunning fireworks display. The Communicore Hall and Plaza opens later this year and will be the future nexus of EPCOT’s yearly festivals, including the International Festival of the Arts, the International Food and Wine Festival and more. Whether you’re a Walt Disney World Resort veteran or this is your first visit, there’s always sure to be something new to experience each time you visit.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is designed to show that nature has the most magic of all. The centrepiece of the park is the Tree of Life: a 40-metre-tall structure closely resembling a baobab tree with the silhouettes of 300 animals carved into it. There are six lands here, ranging from real world-inspired (styled after places in Africa and Asia) to imaginary (such as Pandora – The World of Avatar).

Watch out for Yeti as you speed through the Himalayas as part of Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, and Avatar Flight of Passage will have you flying on the back of a mountain banshee through the world of Pandora. But it’s all about the animals here. The best way to meet them is by going on Kilimanjaro Safaris, which takes you out onto the savannah surrounded by real animals like giraffes, hippos, rhinos, zebras, lions and more. Head to the animal trails like Maharajah Jungle Trek, which features tigers and Komodo dragons.

Don’t forget to check out all the entertainment. Festival of the Lion King is a no-brainer – sing along to some of your favourite tunes and see performances inspired by the classic film. You may also say hi to some of your favourite characters like Russell and Dug from Up and Polynesian wayfinder Moana.

Where to stay

Now that you’re familiar with the parks, it’s time to choose where to stay. There are over 25 resort hotels in Walt Disney World Resort, covering different themes and budgets. Staying on-site also gives you exclusive perks – including free transportation to and from the parks and early entry on select days at select parks.

There are three different levels of resort hotels. Value resort hotels give you the most bang for your buck, and include Disney’s Art of Animation Resort and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, both great picks for larger families. Moderate resort hotels are the mid-level options, with bigger rooms, more dining and recreation options – examples include Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Port Orleans Resort. Deluxe resort hotels have premium rooms and amenities, with spectacular views, amazing restaurants, activity centres and more. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is popular thanks to its proximity to the monorail that takes guests around key corridors of Walt Disney World Resort.

Disney Springs and Water Parks

By now, you’ve probably got a sense of the sheer scale of Walt Disney World Resort’s main four theme parks – but there’s even more on offer outside of the parks. That’s why some people include non-park days in their itineraries. This affords the opportunity to rest up, explore your resort, or hit up Disney Springs or one of the water parks.

Disney Springs is a shopping and entertainment precinct stacked with bars, restaurants, entertainment and shopping – there is truly so much to do here. It’s also a great place to grab a souvenir (which could save you some time in the parks). Then there are the water parks.

At Disney’s Blizzard Beach, enjoy wild fun in the warm Florida sun with Toboggan Racers, as you race down an eight-lane water slide. Or let the little ones splash around the Frozen-themed water play area. At Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, hop into the Typhoon Lagoon Surf Pool, the largest wave pool in North America. If you’re tired from a big week, grab a tube and get carried down the lazy river at Castaway Creek. Be sure to check opening times before booking a ticket to make the most of the attractions.

If there’s a theme to this guide, it’s that it’s hard to go wrong – there’s plenty to do, see, ride and explore, plus heaps of characters to meet, places to stay, immersive lands to visit and fun to be had. See you at The Most Magical Place on Earth, Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. To book your holiday, contact your local Flight Centre or visit their website today.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Disney. Check for performance times. Both a theme park reservation and valid ticket for the same park on the same date are required for park entry. Entertainment and offerings are subject to availability, restrictions, and change or cancellation without notice. Park admission and offerings are not guaranteed. Visit the website for important information before visiting Walt Disney World Resort.

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