The idea behind Walt Disney’s innovative theme parks was to create a place where both children and adults could go to have fun. As his vision began to unfold with Disneyland in California, Walt began to look for ways to improve it and to create an even bigger and better experience for his guests. With no room to expand the California park, Disney secured 300,000 acres of land in central Florida. His idea for a new park was to go beyond the concept of a “land” and create a new “world” where guests could be completely separated for the outside world. At the first rope-drop in 1971, the park consisted of one park, Magic Kingdom, and 2 resort hotels. Today, it’s become the most visited theme park resort in the world and encompasses four major Disney theme parks, two water parks, six golf courses and the Downtown Disney (recently renamed Disney Springs) dining/shopping/entertainment complex. Total visitation in the four Disney theme parks is more than 700 million guests. There are 28 individual Disney owned resort hotels, plus a totally different kind of new-age community called Celebration, also an outgrowth of Walt Disney’s original Florida dream.
The centerpieces of Walt Disney World are the four theme parks: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Walt Disney World also has two of the world’s three most popular water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Two shopping and entertainment districts, Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk, provide extensive shopping, dining, and entertainment options. If none of that strikes your fancy, check out some of the lesser-known activities: golf, tennis, boating, race car driving, spas and health clubs, backstage tours, sporting events, character dining, and much more.
Simply put, there is always something fun to do at Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World can be divided into five distinct areas—one for each of the four theme parks, plus Disney Springs. The various resort hotels, and the attractions and restaurants found within, are grouped with the nearest park.
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The Magic Kingdom — Based on the original Disneyland in California, this is the oldest and most popular park of the complex; in fact, with over 17 million visitors annually, it’s the most-visited single theme park in the world. This is the park people think of first when they think of Walt Disney World, a place where adventure meets fantasy and history meets the future. The Magic Kingdom has the most kid-friendly attractions and most of the classic rides beloved by kids-at-heart.
Epcot — A sort of “permanent World’s Fair”, Epcot is dedicated to both international culture and technological innovation. The park is a combination of two disparate ideas. World Showcase takes you on a trip around the world as you visit themed pavilions filled with the art, architecture, people, and products of eleven different countries. Future World explores human achievements in pavilions dedicated to communication, imagination, conservation, and more. Not far from Epcot is Disney’s Boardwalk, a collection of restaurants, gift shops, and nightlife spots themed as a 1920’s Eastern Seaboard boardwalk.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios — This park represents the “Hollywood that never was,” with attractions themed around movies and television. You’ll find a variety of live shows and attractions based on Disney, Pixar, and Lucasfilm productions. The ESPN Wide World of Sports complex is nearby.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom — Not your average zoo, Animal Kingdom is a combination of live animals, foreign cultures, and traditional Disney magic. With an emphasis on understanding and conservation, Animal Kingdom is the largest and most diverse of the theme parks. Blizzard Beach, a water park themed as a melting ski resort, is nearby.
Disney Springs — For more “grown-up” activities, Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) has shopping, nightclubs, restaurants, and unique entertainment. This is where the most action is after dark. Disney Springs is divided into four sections: The Marketplace, The Landing, West Side, and Town Center, each offering a slightly different mix of retail, food, entertainment, and nightlife. Typhoon Lagoon, a massive water park, is nearby.