The kids’ dream – Walt Disney World Resort
It is, by far, the most popular theme park resort in the world. Some visitors describe it as a place of magic, wonder, and fantasy; others speak of fun, excitement, and relaxation; and still others complain of crowds, artifice, and unrelenting tackiness. As with most things, the essence of Walt Disney World lies near the intersection of those three views. The Orlando area is home to Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, and SeaWorld Orlando. Over 48 million visitors came to the Orlando region in 2004. Walt Disney World, located in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando, is the flagship of Disney’s worldwide theme park empire. 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, both heavily themed. Two shopping and entertainment districts, Downtown Disney 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. SeaWorld Orlando is a large park that features numerous zoological displays and marine animals alongside an amusement park with roller coasters and water park. Universal Orlando, like Walt Disney World, is a multi-faceted resort comprising Universal Studios Florida, CityWalk, and Islands of Adventure. The Wet ‘n Wild water park is another famous attraction. SeaWorld Orlando also comprises more than one park, alongside Aquatica and Discovery Cove. Orlando attractions also appeal to many locals who want to enjoy themselves close to home. Hotels Orlando has the most hotels, and the second largest number of hotel rooms in the country (after Las Vegas, Nevada), and is one of the busiest American cities for conferences and conventions. Accommodations in Orlando historically catered to the budget-conscious family and few luxury hotel options existed outside of Walt Disney World property. With the expansion of the Orange County Convention Center in 2004, luxury hotels began opening in the city. This started with the opening of the JW Marriott Orlando and the Ritz-Carlton Orlando at Grande Lakes. As of 2010, Orlando offers several 4 Star hotels throughout the market. The newest luxury hotel to open in Orlando is the Waldorf Astoria-Orlando, completed in 2010. It is the first Waldorf Astoria built from the ground up since the flagship hotel opened in New York City in 1931. The Theme Parks & Downtown Disney Walt Disney World can be divided into five distinct areas – one for each of the four theme parks, plus Downtown Disney. The various resort hotels, and the attractions and restaurants found within, are grouped with the nearest park. Magic Kingdom The Magic Kingdom – 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. Magic Kingdom is one of four theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort. 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. The first park built at the resort, Magic Kingdom opened Oct. 1, 1971. The park map lists 46 attractions in six themed “lands.” Designed like a wheel with the hub in front of Cinderella Castle, pathways spoke out across the 107 acres (0.43km2) of the park and lead to these six lands. The Walt Disney World Railroad runs along the perimeter of the park and makes stops at Main Street, Frontierland, and Fantasyland. Epcot Epcot – A sort of “permanent World’s Fair”, Epcot is dedicated to both international culture and technological innovation. 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. At Epcot, you can visit Mexico, France, and China, all in the same afternoon; survive crash tests in an experimental car; soar over California with the wind in your hair; and learn all about human achievement and international cooperation. Future World is an almost park-like setting, with broad expanses of grass and/or water separating the impressively large pavilions. Each pavilion is a monument to one area of human innovation, from communication and imagination to energy and transportation. Inside the pavilions you’ll find some combination of a showcase ride, a theater presentation, and/or an activity area with a number of smaller hands-on exhibits. Each pavilion can be done in 30-90 minutes, depending on crowds. Spaceship Earth – Yes, the ride really does go all the way up to the top inside that giant “golf ball”, the geodesic sphere that is the icon of Epcot. This pavilion is centrally located because its focus is on human communication, without which all of the other innovations in Future World would be meaningless. Disney’s Hollywood Studios 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. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can help Indiana Jones escape from the Nazis, take a wild limousine ride through Los Angeles, get shrunk to the size of a gnat, and learn all about the behind-the-scenes process of creating films and animation. This compact but fun-filled theme park is located at a major crossroads in the Walt Disney World Resort, with plenty of thrill rides and effects-laden shows. The ESPN Wide World of Sports is nearby. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Something of a mix between a zoo and a theme park, Animal Kingdom features naturalistic live animal exhibits alongside more traditional Disney amusement rides. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can learn how tough it is to be a bug, dig for dinosaur bones, challenge the mysterious Himalayan yeti, and view hundreds of live animals in authentic settings. Walt Disney World’s fourth and newest theme park opened in April 1998. When it first opened, park advertising used the faux-African word “nahtazu” (“not a zoo”) as a slogan to emphasize that it was not just a collection of animals in small iron cages. The animals here spend their days in expansive habitats that are as close to their natural environments as possible, with subtle and camouflaged barriers keeping them away from guests (and each other). At night, they sleep comfortably indoors in the park’s extensive housing area backstage. Although the animals are nominally the main attraction, they may finally have been overshadowed by the park’s newest thrill ride, Expedition Everest. Towering 200 feet over the surrounding terrain, this mini-mountain is visible from some distance away and even threatens to overtake the Tree of Life as the park’s most visible icon. The Tree, perhaps by contrast, is most impressive up close, where its size and detail can truly be appreciated. Nearby is the second-most-popular water park in the world, Disney’s Blizzard Beach. Downtown Disney Downtown Disney – For more “grown-up” activities, Downtown Disney has shopping, nightclubs, restaurants, and unique entertainment. This is where the most action is after dark. Downtown Disney is divided into three sections. Downtown Disney Marketplace has several shopping and eating establishments and is tailored towards a family setting. Pleasure Island is a more adult oriented section, with upscale restaurants and even a cigar bar. Finally, Downtown Disney West Side is home to AMC Theatres, House of Blues, and the exclusive Cirque du Soleil show La Nouba. Typhoon Lagoon water park is nearby. At Downtown Disney, you can design your own T-shirt or marvel at the biggest Disney store in the world; enjoy the fine cuisine of Wolfgang Puck or eat amongst the dinosaurs; visit a virtual-reality theme park or see incredible acrobatic feats; and in general just get away from the Disney parks for a while. An outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment district in the southeast corner of Walt Disney World, Downtown Disney comprises the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island, and Downtown Disney West Side. Although it’s geared primarily for adults looking for something to do away from the parks, kids will find several things to occupy their attention as well. Nearby is the most popular water park in the world, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, as well as several resort hotels and golf courses. Surprise your kids – book the life-long memory trip with Altair Travel!