50 amazing things to do at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, we’re sharing 50 special insider tips to maximise the magic during your family visit
This year is set to be one of the most memorable years ever to visit Walt Disney World Resort. You can be part of The World’s Most Magical Celebration as Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary with an 18-month Disney party like no other.
And, if you’re planning to make 2022 the year you take that dream family trip to the most magical place on earth, you can use our bumper stash of insider tips and need-to-know info to help fill your Disney holiday full to bursting with magic, enchantment and joy.
If you're looking for tips on what to pack to make your Disney World holiday even more magical then you can also read our Disney packing list for all the essentials you'll need for the parks.
Here are our 50 insider tips to make your family visit to Walt Disney World the most magical ever
1. See the newly decorated Cinderella Castle
The iconic Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park has had a stunning new makeover for the World's Most Magical Celebration. Complete with a gold '50' plaque to mark the anniversary, gold ribbons, elegant colours and a sparkly glow, the new design was inspired by the original 1950 animated Cinderella classic. The most famous Disney landmark has never looked more beautiful. Grab your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to snap that family selfie in front of the 50th embellishments, as they will only remain in place for a limited time.
2. Get a-head of the fashion game
The headgear de jour at Walt Disney World are the iconic Mickey (or Minnie) Ears, which come in a wide choice of colours, designs and textures. To celebrate 50 years of Mickey Ears, the 50th Anniversary edition have a sparkly, EARidescent glow and are almost guaranteed to be the bestsellers during the celebrations. You can even buy them in the UK before you go at shopdisney.co.uk and wear them on the plane.
3. Fly the Millennium Falcon
Whether you're a Star Wars super fan or just up for the challenge, who doesn't want to earn the bragging rights of flying the famous Millennium Falcon? On Star Wars: Millennium Falcon – Smugglers Run, you can do just that. Along with your group, take the role of pilot, engineer or gunner, and hold tight for a flight to remember.
4. Make a pre-trip must-see list
Planning for your Disney holiday is all part of the fun. Walt Disney World resort has 4 main theme parks – Magic Kingdom Park, Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot – plus 2 water parks – Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon – and a lively entertainment area called Disney Springs. From fireworks (see no 8) to flying the Millennium Falcon (see no 3) or meeting Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, there is something for everyone in your family to enjoy. In the weeks before your trip, get everyone together, make a list of the attractions that are top of your must-see list and work out an itinerary that includes them all.
5. Stay at the heart of the magic
There are over 25 Walt Disney World Resort hotels, each of which have their own unique personality and continue the magical storytelling and guest service found in the parks. And staying on site means you're close to everything. But, best of all, guests staying at a Disney Resort hotel are granted Early Theme Park Entry access to all 4 Walt Disney World theme parks 30 minutes before the gates open for everyone else. This is a great perk because it means you can be the first to head to the most popular attractions, shops or dining. And, if you book a stay at a Disney Deluxe Resort hotel or Disney Deluxe Villas, you can also enjoy extended evening hours too. This means access to the parks for up to 2 hours after closing time (in select theme parks on select nights).
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6. Catch the after-dark glow
All 4 Disney parks have been given a very special celebratory glow for the Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary. So make sure you linger as night falls to be enchanted by the Beacons of Magic, which include Spaceship Earth at Epcot, Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park, Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. They look truly stunning and make for some gorgeous Instagram snaps.
7. Bring a lightweight buggy
If you are using a pushchair for your visit to Disney, take one that folds easily – or pick up one of the strollers that are available to rent. Strollers have to be collapsed on all Florida state transportation, so you can't travel with your child sitting in the pram.
8. Book at dazzling dessert at Magic Kingdom Park
The brand new nighttime firework spectacular at Magic Kingdom Park, which debuted for the 50th Anniversary, is called Disney Enchantment. The magical show, which centres on Cinderella Castle and extends down Main Street USA, combines illuminations, projections, fireworks and beloved Disney music to spectacular effect. For something extra special, book a Firework Dessert party on the Tomorrowland Terrace in front of the castle (advance reservations recommended). Here, you can feast on a platter of anniversary-themed desserts including chocolate-dipped strawberries, ice cream sundaes and butterscotch pudding, as well as a selection of cheeses. Your sweet treats come with an even sweeter view, as you'll watch Disney Enchantment from one of the most exclusive spots in the park.
9. Marvel at the dancing fountains
Magic Kingdom isn't the only park with fireworks to close the day. At Epcot, guests are treated to another stunning new evening show, Harmonious. This epic display is one of the largest visual shows ever created for Disney Parks. Taking place across World Showcase Lagoon, it’ll dazzle you with dancing fountains, floating screens, pyrotechnics and lasers, as well as a firework finale. To feel at home, aim for a spot close to the United Kingdom Pavilion and enjoy a Great British pint (the over-21s in your family only, of course) from English Pub the Rose & Crown while you watch Harmonious. The friendly pub also serves traditional fish and chips, guv'nor.
10. Race to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Epcot is also home to the all-new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – a 4D story set in a hectic Parisian kitchen. It's the newest family attraction at the parks and ideal for younger guests who will love the theme of being shrunken to the size of a mouse and chased around Gusteau's kitchen.
11. Enjoy the new baby-friendly Mickey Mouse ride
Like Ratatouille, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios is a brilliant ride for younger guests and for families to all enjoy together. There is no height requirement, so you can even take babies on with you. This super cute train-themed attraction uses classic Disney animation and is the first to star Mickey and Minnie themselves.
12. Ride back in time
From the newest rides to the oldest… In honour of the 50th anniversary, you can experience one of the first and original attractions to open at Walt Disney World in 1971. 'It’s a small world' is a whimsical boat trip, with music written by Disney legends the Sherman Brothers and hand-sewn costumes representing countries around the world. The kids will love the fact that the attraction features 300 dolls! Other attractions that have been open since day 1 include the Haunted Mansion, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Jungle Cruise, and Peter Pan's Flight.
13. Take advantage of the designated baby areas
If you're visiting the Disney Parks with a baby, there are dedicated changing stations in every park designed specifically for the needs of Disney's youngest guests. These include feeding rooms, changing areas, small cribs and play pens and microwaves in which to heat milk and food. You can also buy essentials like formula, baby snacks and nappies if you run out. They've really thought of everything!
14. Make life simpler with the My Disney Experience App
Make your trip to Disney World as simple as possible by downloading the My Disney Experience app. This will hold all the essentials for your trip including booking details, tickets and reservations. Through the app you can also set up Disney Magic Mobile, which gives you a contactless pass for attractions and shops at Walt Disney World, and even allows you to use your phone to open your room when staying at a Disney World Resort hotel.
15. Call the Genie!
New for this year, is Disney's new Genie service, an add-on to the My Disney Experience app (see no 14, above). The complimentary Genie service creates an itinerary for your ideal Disney day inspired by your party's top interests, which you can input before your trip. The Genie updates its suggestions as you move around the parks depending on your location and attraction wait times. This means if you happen to be passing Splash Mountain and it has an unusually short line, the Genie will notify you and suggest you make the most of the quiet moment to visit that attraction. Pretty cool, right? You can also keep track of wait times for attractions at all 4 parks, allowing you to plan your own day if you choose.
16. Skip the queues with Genie+
In addition to the complimentary Disney Genie, you can also upgrade to a Disney Genie+ service on the days you plan to visit the parks. This is effectively a way to skip the regular lines at over 40 attractions for a fee of $15 per day. During school holidays in particular, this will ensure you make the most of your time by reducing the wait for your party and meaning you can see and do even more during your Disney holiday.
17. Speed down the Lightning Lane
For some of Walt Disney World's most popular attractions, Lightning Lane is available for purchase individually, for all guests, with or without the Genie+ service. These include Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (see no 38) and Frozen Ever After. Individual selections can be booked once the park opens for the day, but Disney World Resort Hotel guests can enjoy the perk of being able to book from 7am on the day of your visit.
18. Make magical family memories
Skilled Disney PhotoPass photographers are available in multiple locations throughout the park to take beautiful shots of your family at the resort. By tapping your Disney Magic Mobile device, these images will 'magically' appear on your device for you to keep, if you choose to. Purchasing Memory Maker through the My Disney Experience app, means that you'll receive all of photos along with action-shot ride images for the duration of your visit. In true Disney Style, you can even ask the photographer to add special effects to your pictures, such as Characters and other magical surprises.
19. Be the first on the new reverse rollercoaster
Epcot's new World Discovery Neighbourhood, celebrating science, technology and intergalactic adventures, will soon be boasting Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Rumoured to be one of the longest indoor coasters in the world, this will be Disney's first reverse launch rollercoaster, sending riders backwards into space. No official opening date has been announced, but keep your ears to the ground, as often attractions are given a soft opening and lucky guests who are in the right place at the right time may get a chance to be one of the first ever riders…
20. Spot all the golden 50th Anniversary statues
Fifty new golden characters – the Disney Fab 50 Character Collection – are located in various places across all 4 Disney theme parks. Challenge your family to find them all during your visit.
21. Catch the Festival of Fantasy
Another way to see your favourite Disney Characters will be during the Festival of Fantasy Parade that begins at Magic Kingdom Park in March. It's the 1st official parade to return to Walt Disney World, so you definitely won't want to miss this much-loved Disney tradition.
22. Pick the best spot for the parade
The best spot for the parade depends on you and your party. Of course, it's magical to see the Festival of Fantasy Parade passing Cinderella Castle, but this will be where the biggest crowds gather. If you want to nab a prime position, consider using this as opportunity to rest your legs. Arrive around 30 to 40 minutes early, take a seat on the curb and enjoy an ice cream sundae from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street USA. If you'd rather watch from a quieter location, head to Frontierland, which is usually the least busy spot on the parade route.
23. Make a mealtime date with your Disney favourites
If Character experiences are a priority, make a reservation for breakfast, lunch or dinner at a Disney Character Dining Restaurant. These do require advance booking, but restaurants such as Chef Mickey's, Tusker House and Hollywood and Vine allow you to eat while characters, including Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, pass through the dining room and participate in socially distant interactions with guests. It's a great way to see the Characters and a fun, memorable experience for the whole family.
24. Take (smart) turns on rides
We're not suggesting you abandon the family completely, but you might be interested to hear that some attractions at Walt Disney World offer a Single Rider line. This means that if you're the only one who wants to ride from your group, or you don't mind being separated from other family members, you can access the attraction via a shorter queue and fill in any empty seats left by groups in the main line. This is a great way to experience an attraction more than once during busy times too. If you are visiting with children, you may also want to make use of the Rider Switch option. This means that families don't have to be separated for extended times if the younger guests won’t be riding. Once you reach the front of the line, one adult remains with the children in a special waiting room while your group rides, then you'll get a chance to do the same when they return.
25. Schedule time for a breather
Visiting Walt Disney World will be a trip of a lifetime for the whole family. Even though you're going somewhere new and exciting, it's important to remember your children's usual routine. Don't get so distracted by all the magic on offer that you lose track of mealtimes or nap times. Ensure you plan moments to rest during the day, especially if it is hot.
26. Prepare for the sun
Orlando is a tropical destination, which usually means a heady mix of sun, cloud, rain and heat. You can bring reusable water bottles into the parks and there are water fountains at multiple locations for you to refill them throughout the day to stay hydrated. Make sure everyone has a hat and is regularly topped up with sunscreen – even when the skies are cloudy.
27. Pick up a celebratory treat
If all the above has given you a taste for the Disney magic, how about some limited edition 50th Anniversary food and treats available to sample for the duration of the celebrations. Our picks of the best, most Instagrammable eats are the 50th Celebration Cupcake (available at Magic Kingdom Park and Animal Kingdom), the hilarious Toad Burger, which is shaped like a frog (available at Magic Kingdom Park) and the Glimmer and Shimmer Pineapple Mousse (available at Hollywood Studios).
28. Enjoy the monorail ride
A fun thing to do that costs no extra is to ride the monorail and check out some of Walt Disney World's fantastic hotels. Fun fact: the monorail travels directly through the middle of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which the kids will love.
29. Travel between parks for free
Free Disney transportation is available throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort. Guests can travel between the theme parks, head to the water parks or visit Disney Springs for a spot of shopping. And, of course, you will also be able to travel to any Disney Resort hotel either by bus, boat, monorail or cable car, which is all part of the fun.
30. Cool off at the water parks
One of the best ways to enjoy the Florida sun is by cooling off at one of Disney's fun and immersive water parks. Walt Disney World has 2 water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Both have luscious beaches, lazy rivers and exciting adventure slides. But do you dare try Summit Plummet, the 360ft drop slide?
31. Reach for the sky
Somewhere slightly less earth-plunging but still with a great view of the Disney Resort is from the Disney Skyliner. These fun aerial gondolas connect Disney's Hollywood Studios and the International Gateway at Epcot to 4 Disney Resort Hotels and provide a beautiful view of Walt Disney World from the sky.
32. Check out the Cavalcade
There are so many fun opportunities to see Characters around the parks, including a brand new cavalcade, the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade. This will feature the most characters of any cavalcade to date, including some that younger guests will love, such as Nick and Judy from Zootopia, Moana and The Incredibles. Look out for the gang if you're passing through Frontierland, Liberty Square and Main Street, USA.
33. Catch Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire
Being the most popular mouse in town, Mickey has a lot of Disney friends, some of whom will be joining him on the castle stage in front of Cinderella Castle. Tiana, Rapunzel and Flynn, Olaf, Anna and Elsa all drop by for a dance to music from the classic films. Don't miss the finale featuring Mickey Mouse Characters in their sparkling EARidescent fashions, designed especially for the 50th anniversary celebrations. Use the My Disney Experience app for specific show times.
34. Eat somewhere out of this world
A very cool place to book a sit-down meal is the all-new Space 220 Restaurant. Designed to make it look like you're dining at an international space station with panoramic views above the planet, space fans young and old will love this experience. The menu is fixed price but, if you'd rather find a more casual place in space, the Centauri Space Station lounge offers the same views with a simple a la carte menu. Tasty options including short rib sliders and a New England lobster roll. Booking for both the restaurant and the bar is essential.
35. Book your meals in advance
As well as Space 220, there are some fantastically themed sit-down restaurants at Walt Disney World. To secure a table for your family, advance booking is highly recommended. You can make a dining reservation via the My Disney Experience app up to 60 days ahead of your trip, and 60 days prior to check-in for Disney Resort hotel guests.
36. Grab great food on the go
If you would rather maximize time exploring the parks than spend a couple of hours in a restaurant, you don't have to miss out on the unique and delicious food on offer at Walt Disney World. The Satu'li Canteen in Animal Kingdom's Pandora: World of Avatar is a brilliant spot to grab a quick bite and try something out of the ordinary. Grab a seat in the shady outdoor terrace with a view of the floating rocks. The Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge also serves nutritious and quirky bites with an otherworldly twist.
37. Go on safari
At Disney's Animal Kingdom Park, you can explore the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, home to 34 species living across 110 acres of picturesque open plains, shady forest landscapes and rocky wetlands. Suitable for all ages, an expert guide will share fascinating wildlife facts during the 18-minute jeep expedition.
38. Ride one of Disney's most popular rides ever
One of the most popular attractions in any Disney Park, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, is a massive attraction with multiple ride systems, components and live actors, unlike anything you'll have ever experienced before. This amazing 18-minute immersive experience is brilliantly suited for teenagers and older children (there is a height restriction of 40in). With everyone wanting to board the iconic Disney attraction, using a pay-per-ride Lightning Lane pass (see no 17) is highly recommended. Book via the My Disney Experience app once Hollywood Studios opens for the day and secure your spot.
39. Try a more hands-on experience
Another bookable activity in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge is a chance to build your own custom lightsabre. In Savi's Workshop, you will construct your very own lightsabre and bring it to life through the power of kyber crystals. This is a fantastic experience for the over 5s. Advance booking from 60 days before your visit is required.
40. Construct a Droid
Younger guests may prefer to build their own droid at Black Spire Outpost's industrial depot. This wacky workshop is stocked with parts, units and tools on a conveyor belt to pick out and design your very own droid. You'll be given help to build your droid, which will be paired with a remote control and activated as you watch it come to life. So much fun!
41. Take the magic home
Shopping for souvenirs is part of the fun and a good place to start would be Disney Springs, Walt Disney World’s shopping, dining and entertainment complex. There is no admission to enter and it's an enjoyable place to wander and soak up the Disney atmosphere day and night.
42. Check out the world's biggest Disney Store
Make the pilgrimage to World of Disney at Disney Springs, the largest Disney Store in the World.
43. Snack on the famous popcorn
Another top souvenir tip is to look out for the collectable, refillable popcorn buckets available at shops and food stands in all four theme parks. For the 50th Anniversary, the Mickey Balloon buckets are the must-have item but you can also get a Millennium Falcon-shaped bucket, Simba from The Lion King and Figment, a classic Epcot character. Changing every year, these character buckets have become a cult item for Disney fans and the never-ending supply of popcorn isn't bad either!
44. Throw some shade on your day
Central Florida can get hot in the summer but there are fun places in every park to hang out and cool off. With kids, aim to find an indoor show to watch during the hottest hours of the day, where you can enjoy the air conditioning and a nice sit down. Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy is a good option at Hollywood Studios and at Animal Kingdom, head to Festival of the Lion King, which is an epic Broadway-style musical you won't want to miss.
45. See the World of Avatar at night
As well as places to hide from the sun, some areas of Walt Disney World are best enjoyed at different times in the day. If you have the time, visit Pandora: World of Avatar after dark. Here, the magic really comes alive at night with a bioluminescent floor and the floating mountains lit up to spectacular effect
46. Watch Simba take to the skies
Catch the stunning Disney KiteTails show at Animal Kingdom's Discovery River Theatre, where you can watch big, colourful 3D kites in the shape of Simba and Zazu or Baloo and King Louie, bob and soar through the air over the lagoon to the sound of original worldbeat arrangements of the best tunes from The Lion King and, The Jungle Book.
47. Get a cake from an ATM
Sprinkles at Disney Springs has a unique cupcake vending machine, distributing cookies and cakes 24/7. Just swipe your card and collect a cake from the tray within seconds. How sweet is that?
48. Drive on water
Have you ever ridden in a car that is also a boat? Well, now is your chance, with a tour in a vintage Amphicar, leaving from dry land at Disney Springs and heading straight into Lake Buena Vista. Wow!
49. See the Cirque de Soleil Drawn to Life show
Also at Disney Springs, you can see the brand new performance by Cirque de Soleil, Drawn to Life. This beautiful show is a collaboration between Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering, performed by the world class acrobatic performers of Cirque de Soleil.
50. Love to hate the Disney villains
Fantasmic!, is returning to Disney’s Hollywood Studios this year. This fan-favourite show tells the story of good versus evil, with appearances from some of Disney’s favourite villains. Featuring 50 performers and a whole host of Characters, water effects, pyrotechnics and show stopping songs, Fantasmic! is guaranteed to be a holiday highlight.
And remember: the key to having a wonderful experience at Walt Disney World Resort is to enjoy every moment. Individual attractions, shows or events are not as important as immersing yourself in the Disney magic and making lasting memories that you and your family will remember for a lifetime. Enjoy!
About the author
Helen Wright is a travel writer, mum of 2 and veteran of more that 30 visits to the Orlando theme parks. She has travelled around the world as a blogger, as well as writing for National Geographic Traveller, Lonely Planet, The Times, The Sun, Mirror, Marie Clare and Cosmopolitan. Helen is passionate about getting more parents to plan adventures with their children. You can read more about Helen’s travels with her family at passportstamps.uk
Helen Wright is a travel writer and mum of 2. She has travelled around the world as a blogger, as well as writing for National Geographic Traveller, Lonely Planet, The Times, The Sun, Mirror, Marie Clare and Cosmopolitan
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