Whether its a first visit to Walt Disney World, or your first time in 25 years, there are some fun Disney fundamentals that you’ll definitely want to squeeze in to your next vacation so that you can enjoy and experience the best that Disney World Resort has to offer. Here’s our list of 12 Disney must-do’s perfect for those diving into a Disney vacation for the first time.
1. Visit a theme park during Rope Drop – Rope Drop essentially means being at a Disney theme park when it opens first thing in the morning and is a bit of a Disney rite of passage. There’s something so magical about hanging out at your favorite theme park in anticipation of its opening and anxiously waiting for the fun to start. It’s also a great touring strategy as the parks are usually the least busy first thing in the morning (meaning smaller lines and more time for rides and attractions). Out of the four theme parks, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom are extra special for opening ceremonies. Magic Kingdom does a fun welcome show on the Castle stage and Animal Kingdom’s includes an amazing array of colorful birds. These are moments so magical its hard not to get a bit weepy!
2. Fit in at least one character dining meal – Enjoying a character dining meal at Disney is a fantastic way to feel like you’ve arrived. I usually try to schedule one on the day I check-in at Walt Disney World to set the tone. There are so many incredible character dining options that there is bound to be one that appeals to your family Whether its spending breakfast with Winnie the Pooh and Friends, having dinner with Cinderella and Prince Charming or grabbing some exotic grub with Safari Mickey and the gang; these unique experiences are a wonderful way to make those Disney memories. Oh and did I mention that you get to enjoy incredible dishes and buffets from around the world and indulge in delicious desserts? Character dining can be booked at the 180 day mark via the My Disney Experience app or by calling 407.WDW.DINE.
3. Try your hand at Disney bounding – Disney bounding is a term given to those, that in the spirit of Disney, decide to join in the fun and dress in character. It can be a simple as donning a pair of fun mouse ears and a matching t-shirt or coming up with creative outfits that pay homage to your favorite Disney character or film like the delightful ensemble you see above. However, Disney World does have restrictions on wearing costumes so your outfits must be functional and not of the trick or treating variety. More information on Disney bounding can be found on our sister-site DisneyFashionista.com.
4. Stay for at least one of the evening fireworks displays – Even if you’re not a night owl, Disney’s evening fireworks displays are totally worth it. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before and can really end your night and your vacation with a bang. Whether it’s witnessing the all-new state-of-the-art Happily Ever After fireworks spectacular at the Magic Kingdom, reliving some of your favorite Star Wars moments with Hollywood Studio’s Galactic Spectacular or finding your perfect spot among the countries in the World Showcase to enjoy IllumiNations, there’s no shortage of perfect ways to wind down your days at the theme parks. Disney even offers special fireworks viewings during Christmas, Halloween and 4th of July. Consider it the icing on the cake of a perfect Disney World visit.
5. Make your Vacation really your own with a special event or tour – If you can dream it at Disney you can probably do it. There are a range of really fun bookable activities that can elevate your vacation from wonderful to out of this world. Whether it’s treating your little one to a makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or the Pirates League, giving baby a first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop, going behind the scenes to witness the magic behind some of your favorite attractions during one of Disney World’s amazing tours, or indulging in a delicious dessert party with fireworks views, your perfect event awaits. Contact Disney or your travel agent to find out more about how you can add some pixie dust to your vacation!
6. Go by bus, by boat or by monorail – For most of us, relying on Disney transportation to get from our resort to theme parks is an absolute necessity, but even it if isn’t, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path and try some of Disney’s fun transportation links. They are just as magical as you would imagine. Hop the monorail from the Magic Kingdom to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort for an evening luau. Take the boat from Epcot to the Beach Club for lunch at Beaches and Cream soda shop. Hop a bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to watch animals roam the savanna. With great options at your disposal, all of Walt Disney World can be your oyster!
7. Indulge in a Mickey-shaped snack – Everything tastes better when its Mickey-shaped but don’t take our word for it. Be sure to try out a Mickey-shaped treat next time you’re at Walt Disney World for that perfect little edible dose of Disney magic. There’s ice cream bars, pretzels, ice cream sandwiches. lollipops, candy apples, waffles and rice krispie treats just to name a few. We challenge you to find your favorite!
8. Try and devote one day to EACH theme park – I am on a mission to rubbish the claim that any of Disney’s four theme parks should be done in 1/2 a day. There are so many amazing things to see, do and explore that devoting a day to each is always going to be your best bet. Larger parks like the Magic Kingdom and Epcot can even be stretched out over two days and you’ll still probably feel like you haven’t seen it all. If you’re visiting Disney World for the first time, also try and give every park a try. The ones that you least expect to love may just surprise you. If I’d listened to that co-worker 5 years ago advising me to skip that Animal Kingdom I would’ve missed out on the chance to fall in love with what is now my favorite theme park.
9. Tackle a mountain – Even if you don’t consider yourself a lover of thrill rides, venture outside of your comfort zone and try to squeeze in at least one during your Walt Disney World visit. The beauty of Disney’s coasters is that they range in scale from the slightly more ferocious Expedition Everest and Space Mountain to the milder Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I’m always blown away by how much little visitors love the faster-paced attractions and with the addition of PhotoPass technology that captures amazing photos and videos as your family is riding, they’re fun-filled Disney memories that will we be preserved for years to come!
10. Order a meal using your mobile phone – I am a sucker for a fun bit of Disney technology but what has me excited about Disney World’s mobile ordering technology at select Quick Service restaurants, is the ability it has to make life a lot easier for guests during busy park days. Instead of standing in long queues at lunchtime, visitors can now order and pay for meals in advance using the My Disney Experience app. Once you are ready to pick up your food, a push of a cell phone button alerts the restaurant your are there and your food will be waiting for your at the pick-up window. The technology can be used throughout the theme parks via your My Disney Experience App.
11. Set aside some time for a stage show – In the mad dash to try and squeeze in as many attractions as possible, a lot of first-time visitors overlook the amazing stage shows on offer at Walt Disney World. Whether its watching stunts be pulled off at the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, journeying under the see in Finding Nemo: The Musical or joining Simba and friends at the Festival of the Lion King, there is top-notch entertainment available at each of the four theme parks. Be prepared to be blown away.
12. Have a Dole Whip – Hands down the most iconic Disney treat, this delicious pineapple soft serve snack is an absolute Disney must-do. You can find standard versions, float versions, citrus versions and even rum infused versions scattered about the parks, resorts and Disney Springs. Nothing says I’m on vacation at Disney like this little taste of the tropics. For a rundown of places where you can grab a Dole Whip check out this article.
With four theme parks, two water parks, a downtown shopping district and 25 resorts, this list is by no means comprehensive. However, it does provide a great starting point from which to sample a little bit of everything that Disney has to offer.
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