Disney Parks Basics
I have always been a Disney lover. In Kindergarten my matching backpack and lunch bag proudly displayed the Little Mermaid. My childhood bedroom was decorated with the magic of Aladdin and his pals Genie, Abu, and Jasmine. My dance class filled with ballerinas performed a carefully choreographed routine to the "Circle of Life" song from The Lion King. When the 101 Dalmatians live action movie came out in 1996 it was the first ever parent-free movie that saw with my friends. Disney is weaved throughout my childhood life at home.
As a kid growing up in Pennsylvania I was lucky to travel to both of the Disney Parks. I visited Walt Disney World, in Florida, a few times throughout my childhood. Since I've got an Uncle on the West Coast I also made it to Disneyland, in California, as a kid and later to Disney's California Adventure as a teenager.
Even as a "grown up" I have been to the Disney Parks in both Florida and California in the last few years. My family in PA includes 5 kids who are currently between the ages of 11 and 15 and we've been to Orlando twice with a varying cast of Grandmas, Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins to support and enjoy the Disney Magic for ourselves. My husband is from California and his family lives within an hour of the parks. When we were just dating I demanded we visit Disneyland on my first trip to his hometown and he obliged! Since then we've made a handful visits over the years with friends and family.
Maybe you, too, love Disney. Maybe you don't but your kids are begging for a trip to the parks. Maybe you go often and can't stop reading reviews like this one for just one more nugget of information. Here are a few need to know basics regarding Disney Parks that will be useful for you in considering or planning a trip to the MAGICAL Disney Parks.
Parks and Locations
Within the USA:
Walt Disney World (WDW) in Florida
Walt Disney World (WDW) is located in Orlando, Florida. There are 4 Disney Parks there: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), and Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is the quintessential Disney park where you'll find Cinderella's Castle, It's a Small World, Main Street, and the famous teacup ride. (There are also 2 water parks that I've neither been to nor will be included in this post.)
Visiting the Florida parks is a huge production as there are more parks, they're much bigger than those in California, and are surrounded by shopping centers, hotels, and an entire culture dedicated to the magic. You'll see families visiting from across the USA decked out in matching shirts made just for their BIG TRIP to Orlando. You'll experience more shows and parades, plus more logistics and modes of transportation to and from park to park (boats, monorail, shuttles, etc).
Disneyland in California
Disneyland is located in Anaheim, California. There are 2 Disney Parks there: Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. Disneyland is the original Disney Park and where you'll find Sleeping Beauty's Castle (sorry - I'd previously and incorrectly claimed the castle as Snow White's), It's a Small World, Main Street, and the West Coast Tea Cups.
While smaller than WDW, Disneyland is nestled inside the City of Anaheim. The feeling at Disneyland is a bit more laid back with Californians visiting from nearby counties, fewer Disney hotels, and a generally simpler set of logistics to get into the park and throughout your day.
Around the world:
Disney has parks scattered around the world! In China there's Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disneyland, in Japan there's Tokyo Disneyland, and in France there's Disneyland Paris.
I'd love to get to ALL OF THEM someday and have started with just one. Check out this post on Disneyland Paris and another one here on the differences between it and our US parks.
You'll need to purchase a ticket for each person for each day at a Disney Park. The best resource for ticketing is the Disney website. I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance of your visit so that you can breeze past the ticketing line and directly into the park. I promise you'll spend plenty of time waiting in lines later :)
The cost of a ticket for a Disney Park begins just under $100. The price per day decreases based on how many days' you'll be visiting. The tickets (and a Disney trip overall) are not cheap although buying for multiple days at a time will save you a bit of money.
Often times Disney will have a special offer for online ticketing. The current WDW offer is save $20 when you purchase a 3-day ticket (or longer) while earlier this year I took advantage of a buy a 3-day ticket and get the 4th day free promotion.
Once you've decided how many days you'll spend at the parks you can then chose between admission to 1 park per day or a park hopper option.
One Park Per Day Tickets
Park Hopper Tickets
Each park has a website that lists the hours for each day so you can carefully select which days to maximize your time in each park based on opening and closing times.
Both Sam's Club and Costco Members can purchase Disney Gift cards at a slight discount. These gift cards can be used for just about everything in the parks including tickets, food, shopping, and so on. You can use a gift card to buy your tickets in advance of your visit, although it often requires a phone call rather than an online purchase.
Just after parks and ticketing, in order of importance, comes SHOES. Disney park days are filled with magic and fun but they're also very long days where you spend the majority of your hours standing in lines or walking. I'm not going to tell you what to wear that will make you most comfortable as we're all different BUT I encourage you to take your footwear choices very seriously. The last thing you want is to be stuck wearing the wrong shoes for 12+ hours. Here are a few tips to keep your feet happy.
Break in your New Shoes
Do not wear brand new shoes. If you're buying new shoes for your trip be sure to wear them a few times in advance of your visit break them in and/or to make sure they're right for you.
Change it Up
Rotate your footwear. I'm someone who's just as comfortable in flip flops as I am in sneakers although I always plan accordingly so that I'm not wearing the same shoes for two days in a row. Your feet will be sore every night when you finally make it back to your bed regardless. I've found it to be less painful when my feet are rotating between differing support options. In WDW I rotated between a really soft and supportive pair of Nikes and a slim, casual pair of Vans. In Disneyland's two parks I wore supportive sneakers one day and my comfiest flip flops another day. It really helps to change it up and there's a good chance your shoes may get wet on a ride and need a day to dry out.
Disney does food right. They have truly thought of everything when it comes to eating in the parks. There are meal plans, quick service food spots, "table service" restaurants that take reservations, meals with Disney characters, and so, so, so many foods shaped like Mickey! Don't go to a park without a strategy for eating. Any combination of the following will set you up for success.
Pack Snacks and Refillable Water Bottles
A day at a Disney park is very long. Snacks and water will keep everyone sane and hydrated. Stock up on snacks before you go and bring refillable water bottles from home. You can snack in lines and between meals and avoid wasting money on overpriced bottles of water.
Have Breakfast Outside the Park
Grab a few boxes of cereal and a gallon of milk if your hotel room or vacation rental is equipped with bowls, spoons, and a refrigerator or swing by a Denny's, IHOP, or quick restaurant before you enter the park.
Off Peak Meal Times
If you like to decide where to eat in the moment and enjoy quick service dining options the best advice I have for you is to eat your meals outside of traditional meal times to avoid long wait times. Don't go for lunch right at noon or dinner between 5 - 7 pm and you'll spend less time fighting the hungry crowds in lines or for seating for your gang.
If you like to plan your meals and timing in advance you can make reservations for a "table service" Disney option. Our group at WDW last year was 12 hungry tween-agers and adults and we made reservations for dinners which were CRUCIAL for our hunger and happiness. We didn't wait at all to be seated and we could all rest and eat together without fuss.
Disney is NOT just for kids. There are adult beverages in all of the parks except for Magic Kingdom in WDW and Disneyland in California!
While there is so much more to cover, this should get your wheels turning about your next trip to Disney! A natural next step would be to read the guide to Decoding Disney.
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A blog fueled by food and travel, Figs and Flights is a resource for curious travelers, foodies, yogis & book worms
Hello, I'm Angela
I'm a food obsessed blogger and world traveler
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