Tips for visiting Florida theme parks

Many thanks to the owners of the Windsor Palms Owners Group for submtting the following tips.

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World
Tips for visiting Animal Kingdom
Tips for visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios
Tips for visiting Epcot
Tips for visiting Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Tips for visiting Seaworld Orlando
Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida
Tips for visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure
Which Disney World theme parks are the best for young children?
Happily Ever After/Illuminations fireworks without a park ticket

 

 

Tips for visiting Walt Disney World

  • Besides saving money, one big reason to purchase tickets in advance is so you can make FastPass+ selections.
  • If you are going to visit a park more than once in a year, look into buying an annual pass. Most include discounts on food, merchandise and parking and some can pay for themselves in as little as two visits.
  • Download the My Disney Experience App it’s AMAZING!
  • Fast Pass- schedule your first 3 fast passes for the morning in one park, then after you finish you can use the app or visit a kiosk to schedule your next three in the evening at the same park or a different one.
  • Riders Switch Pass- have little ones that can’t or don’t want to ride? Have one parent and said child wait outside while the rest of the party walks through the queue as normal. Then let a cast member know you are doing Rider Switch. They will give you a Rider Switch Pass (like a Fast Pass). You simply enjoy the attraction as normal and exit. Then, you hand the person waiting with the child outside the Rider Switch Pass and they go through the fast pass line with up to 2 additional riders. This way everyone gets to ride and you DON’T have to wait in line twice!!
  • Stay away from the EXTRA Magic Hours Parks- the parks with Extra Magic Hours for Disney Hotel Guests tend to be the busiest the entire day.
  • Get to the park early to be sure you can get on your favorite rides before the park gets too crowded.
  • A sidewalk that travels past Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (or Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts) and the Swan & Dolphin connects Epcot (through the International Gateway) to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Walking between the two parks takes around 30 minutes and can be faster than any other transportation between the two parks.
  • Uber is significantly cheaper and more efficient than taxis.
  • If you want helpful books to carry with you in the parks, the two best options are The Easy Guide to Walt Disney World 2018 and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2018. 
  • Free Wi-Fi internet is available in the theme parks.
  • The Electric Water Pagent is a cute little (unpublicized) light parade on Bay Lake outside the Magic Kingdom.
  • If you want to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside the park, the best location is from the Ticket & Transportation Center, to the right of the ferry launch.
  • Walt Disney World counter service restaurants will give you a free cup of water (ask for a large cup!) or a free cup of hot water.
  • PhotoPass Cast Members will take (free!) photos of you with your camera, so don’t be afraid to ask! Make sure your settings are dialed in before handing them the camera, as they will not typically adjust settings.
  • Chances are, it will rain/sprinkle at least once during your trip. Throw-away ponchos at Walt Disney World are almost $10/each. Purchase packs of throw-away ponchos before your trip for ~$1/each.
  • Attractions don’t close when the parks close, meaning that you can get in a 90-minute line at 10:59 p.m. when the parks close at 11 p.m. and be in the park well past closing. This is a great way to experience rides with perpetually long lines, like Frozen Ever After, Avatar Flight of Passage, or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train without wasting “valuable” time.
  • The bridge connecting Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club to Disney’s BoardWalk Inn is a decent place to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from outside Epcot.
  • Character meet & greet lines are typically shortest in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and typically longest in the Magic Kingdom.
  • Select attractions have single rider lines that will save you a lot of time if you don’t mind splitting up from your group. The best of these is Test Track, where it’s not uncommon to save an hour or more on the posted standby time.
  • If you give a PhotoPass photographer a (discrete) heads up, they generally can help you capture photos of your proposal.
  • Walt Disney World offers numerous tours that range in price from free to super-expensive. A great, inexpensive tour is the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot.
  • Make all of your dining reservations 6 months in advance- you can make reservations on the My Disney Experience App, online here Walt Disney World restaurants and reservations or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
  • Adults can order kids meals at Disney- whether you are health conscious or trying to stay on budget ordering off the kid’s meal can be a great choice. There are a number of healthy options available and the portion sizes were just right for me.
  • Mobile Food Ordering- Nothing is worse than being hungry and then having to wait in line. Lucky for you, Disney has rolled out Mobile Food Ordering directly from the My Disney Experience App. Simply place your order, head to a specially marked window and pick up your yummy food.
  • Free water! Yes it sounds silly, but any of the drink stands with a fountain will gladly pour you a big cup of ice water for free. Some of the bottled water snobs may not approve, but Disney's water tastes fine to me.
  • When you park, take a picture of your row with your cell phone (everyone has them with camera's, right?) Helps that exhausted memory at the end of the day.
  • You can get in for free on your Birthday
  • When getting fastpasses, make a plan what you want to do while you wait for your fastpass time. This can include eating, seeing a show, or waiting in a shorter line somehwhere else.
  • If you have valid, unused FastPasses that you won't use, give them to people in the back of the queue.
  • Most character meals are $5-$10 per person cheaper at lunch. Lunch is usualy served until 3:45, so eat late lunch/early dinner and save up to $40 per family of four.
  • You don't have to be a DVC member, Annual Pass Holder, or have a Disney VISA to get a discount on Behind the Scene Tours. If you're a member of AAA, you get the same discounts, but you have to ask.
  • If you hate riding the WDW buses like I do minimize it - the monorail can take you from Magic Kingdom to Epcot, and at the back of Epcot you can take a boat to Hollywood Studios.
  • When going to a water park, go when they open up and leave by 1 or 2 o'clock when they get crowded. Also hit the slides first .
  • If traveling with kids, having them look for hidden mickeys is a great way to keep them occupied especially when wating in lines or just resting.
  • Don't let rain put a damper on your day- Florida rain usually lasts for a short period of time, and then stops, and then starts again a while later.
  • If your kids love meeting characters, allears.net has a great page that shows where all the characters will appear. Its an easier way to find that special character at WDW.
  • Free Parking at Downtown Disney, two Busses will get you to any park.
  • When dining with Disney, you will immediately be asked if you are using the dining plan. If you are, tell them so and add that you ARE aware that gratuity is not included and you plan on tipping accordingly. Note the service difference!
  • Pick at least one day or one meal per day to destress yourself by eating only "grab and go" foods, bypassing the excruciating waits for sit-down restaurants. Our family lives off turkey legs and McDonald's fries! And we avoid the headaches!
  • When Park hopping park at Magic Kingdom and use the monoral or one of the buses to go to one of the other three parks first then once the other parks are closed you can hop a bus or monral back to magic kingdom and enjoy.
  • Drawstring Bags are a great object to bring to a park. You can put all your stuff in it when going on roller coasters and wear it as a backpack.
  • Buy your tickets through this site.
  • If you lost your hat/keys/sunglasses during a ride, it's possible that you'll be able to find it at Lost & Found the next day. Even if you are already back home, call and if they have the item, they will likely courier back to you free of charge.
  • Have a large snack about ten o'clock, then don't have a meal until middle of the afternoon. That way you avoid the rush between noon and two o'clock.

Tips for visiting Animal Kingdom

  • Get to the park early to be sure you can get on your favorite rides before the park gets too crowded.
  • There is a second, less frequented entrance to the theme park at the rear of the Rainforest Cafe gift shop. This is a great way to avoid early morning lines at the main entrance.
  • Go in the morning if you want to spot the most animals on the Kilimanjaro Safari jeep ride; however, go in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. We arrived at the theme park at 2 p.m. when many people were ending their visit, and by 5 p.m. the wait times on popular rides were under 20 minutes.
  • It’s reported that there are 27 hidden Mickeys in the park.
  • There are approximately 320 animals carved into the Tree of Life, which is not a real tree of course.
  • The Boneyard  and DIG site is a giant playzone in DinoLand U.S.A. that’s ideal for toddlers to let off some steam and run around and have fun.
  • Very nice place to sit is behind Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom. Just follow the path to the left of the counter. There is a lot of covered seating with ceiling fans. It was 90 degrees and we stayed very cool.Very nice place to sit is behind Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom. Just follow the path to the left of the counter. There is a lot of covered seating with ceiling fans. It was 90 degrees and we stayed very cool.
  • Expedition Everest is a very popular attraction at the Animal Kingdom, so lines are often very long. Look for the single rider line. It’s located to the right of the Fastpass return
  • Use the lockers for Kali River Rapids. There is no longer storage for belongings on the ride.
  • Experience Animal Kingdom at night. It is magical! Don’t miss it & make sure you visit Pandora at night. At night Pandora offers a totally different experience.

Tips for visiting Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Are you visiting Disney World with a Star Wars fan between the ages of 4 and 12? Then Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a must do on your next trip.
  • Get your score up on Toy Story Midway Mania:  On each screen you can open up special scoring areas if you hit certain items:
    Hamm’s screen – shoot the horse in the barn and then hit the mice. Get them all and lots of mice appear. Alternatively, just keep shooting the fox and the hens in the corner, then hit the pigs right above it and the cat that appears behind the pigs (it eventually is worth 2000).
    Volcano screen – hit the lava (1x, then 2x, then 3x). Then hit the meteors in both corners (3x). Hit the red balloon in the center of the meteors that comes down to score big.
    Army screen – hit the two plates that fly up from the valleys on either side of the center. A tank will appear and throw plates worth 5000 each – and 4 plates worth 2000 each appear on both sides.
    Alien screen – hit the 7 aliens before they pop back up (in the center of the screen). Then shoot into the mouth of the big alien that appears – initially worth 100 each, but eventually worth 2000 each.
    Old West screen – open up all the targets and then close them all. Then all the targets open up with 2000 points each.
    Moving to the mine car: shoot the two 500’s and a 2000 appears.
    Mine cars – don’t forget to get the bats above the cars (1000 then 5000). Also, hit every car and the last ones are worth 5000.
  • Want to be the rebel spy in Star Tours: The Adventures Continue? Don’t put your 3D glasses on until the ride actually starts. This will increase your chance of being picked!
  • When going to see Muppet Vision 3D at Disney's Hollywood Studios, work your way down to the lower waiting area. You still get a good view of the pre-show and when you enter the theater, you are sitting closer to the screen and you get to enjoy more of the special effects. But when the doors open to enter the theater, let few people go in front of you. The first people in have to move all the way across and this will leave you a seat in the middle. If it isn't crowded, usually they'll just let you sit in the middle.
  • On Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, when you enter the first staging room (the library), immediately go to the far corner (furthest away from the door you enter the room in). After the TV presentation, the wall opens up there to the rest of the ride. At that point, choose the left line – it’s quicker.
  • It takes a long time to get into Fantasmic, but if you eat at one of the restaurants with the Fantasmic Dining Package at Hollywood Studios (Brown Derby, Mama Melrose, and Hollywood & Vine), they offer Priority Seating for the show so you don't have to wait in the line to see the show
  • At the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, the shops stay open one hour after the last attraction has closed- so you can save your last minute shopping to the very last minute and not miss any late night rides!
  • Don’t Miss Fantasmic! This nighttime spectacular takes you on a journey through the dream world of Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Show up to Fantasmic at least 1 hour prior to showtime. You can find some good counter service at the All American Cafe by Tower of Terror or inside the Fantasmic area
  • Make Dining Reservations in Advance. The Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, 50’s Prime Time Café, and the Hollywood Brown Derby are the most popular table-service eateries at the park.
  • Utilize Water Taxi’s If you’re looking to park hop, the water taxi at Hollywood Studios takes you directly to Epcot.
  • Reserve FastPasses For Signature Rides. The most popular rides here are The Tower of Terror, Toy Story Midway Mania! and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. They have the longest wait times no matter what time of day.
  • Don't get fastpasses for live shows! Just get there 30 + min. Before it starts. Fastpasses are pretty usless for these.
  • Take Children to Shows- They’ll Love Them! The live shows here are phenomenal! Disney Junior Live on Stage is one of the best for youngsters. Kids will be on their feet participating in the song and dance all around them. For those looking to kick back and relax, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage and Voyage of The Little Mermaid are great options. Each performance runs 20-30 mins and brings to life these classic Disney stories.
  • Use the single rider line at Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

Tips for visiting Epcot

  • Many people believe that it's best to go to Epcot early in the week, when others are at Magic Kingdom.
  • Being one of Epcot's most popular attractions, Soarin always has a long line. Schedule a FastPass+ to ride here and at Test Track. If you forget a FastPast for Soarin' your best chance for a reasonable line is just before Illuminations.
  • If you go to Epcot at park opening resist the urge to queue for Spaceship Earth first. The wait is much shorter in the afternoon.
  • CHECK FOR FASTPASS CANCELLATIONS OFTEN. If you are unsuccessful in getting a Fastpass for Frozen Ever After initially, all hope is not lost. Sometimes Fastpasses do become available, either because another guest cancels a trip or decides to visit another park for the day. Check early and check often.
  • BOOK AN EARLY EPCOT CHARACTER BREAKFAST. If Fastpass+ booking for Frozen fails you, another key to riding without the wait is to beat everyone else to the queue first thing in the morning. The only way you can do this is to be in the park before the masses, namely by booking an early morning character meal at Akershus. This restaurant in the Norway pavilion right next door to Frozen offers reservation times starting about an hour before park opening. If you can eat and snap princess pictures quickly, you can be in line before anyone else enters the park.
  • Frozen Ever After RIDE IT LATE! While so many Disney experts advise Fastpasses and early morning ride times, I have seen less strategizing around trying to ride Frozen Ever After later in the evening. On my last Disney visit earlier this month, I tested this strategy out in person and found it worked amazingly well. As my family entered the park at 7:00 p.m. on an evening where Epcot closed at 9:00, we monitored the wait time on Frozen Ever After using the My Disney Experience App. It was over 120 minutes long. We continued to watch wait times fall as park closing time neared. Finally, we noticed the posted wait time was 50 minutes as of 8:50 p.m. With cautious optimism, we hopped into the ride’s line at that time. About 12 minutes later, we boarded our boats to Arendelle. The posted wait time was simply much, much longer than the actual wait time for the ride.
    I suspect that the wait times for Frozen Ever After in the evenings may remain artificially inflated to discourage too many guests from getting into line right as the park is closing. At Disney, as long as you enter a queue before the official park closing time, you are guaranteed the ride will remain open for everyone. Disney obviously doesn’t want to keep Frozen open for an hour or more past park closing if it doesn’t have to. So, call the app’s wait time bluff and get in line right before 9:00 p.m.
  • When riding Soarin' try to get in the front row as its the best ride by far. Second row you can see everyones feet dangling and the third row you can see the bottom of the screen too.
  • Ride Soarin' at night just before the Fireworks as there is no queue.
  • If you want a great place to cool off go to the Cool Club. Inside they offer free samples of soft drinks from around the world.
  • If you are looking for a late meal/snack and want a good Illuminations viewing area, grab a chair and a bite at the Cantina de San Angel at Mexico World Showcase around 30-45 minutes before showtime.
  • Epcot is a great park to go to if you know its going to rain all day. Most of the park's attractions are indoors!
  • If you seek great attitude and personable castmembers, visit the World Showcase upon opening at 11:00 AM. Hardly anyone goes in that early and the castmember's will give you the real Disney feel along with a taste from their country.
  • Wait to get your Autographs at Epcot rather than Magic Kingdom where the lines are much shorter, and all the Characters are found together
  • The best water fountain at EPCOT (coolest water) is down the main bridge behind the fountain to world showcase on the right, near the water play area. The water there is Ice Cold!
  • The friendship boats travel across the World Showcase Lagoon, there are two boat docks at the base of the world showcase lagoon (one near Mexico and one near Canada), one in Germany, and one in Morocco. If you're not in a hurry, using these for transportation can provide a rest from all the walking and provide a pleasurable trip while taking break.
  • Be sure to catch the performance of The Voices of Liberty for a stunning American Adventure pre-show. The a capella group showcase the struggles of a young country as it grew into its independence through classic song.
  • Illuminations is a great nighttime show. A good view of the center of the World Showcase Lagoon is important. Avoid standing with the wind blowing in your face, because that's also the direction the smoke and debris will travel.
  • Twice a year Epcot goes from regular theme park fun, to International Festival location. In spring gardeners will love attended the Epcot International Flower and Garden Show, and in the Fall food rules with the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Both of these special events offer extra themed programing that's including in the cost of your theme park ticket, as well as a selection of special ticketed showcases and programs. If you head down for a festival you may want to add a couple of days to your trip just to take in these special events!
  • Several times a year you can find concert series happening at the American Gardens Pavilion at Epcot. Well known acts or high end tribute bands participate, and concert seats are included in the cost of your theme park ticket. After a day of touring the parks you can spend the night rocking to the beat of some great musicians. Check in advance to see who may be playing while you're there.
  • Collect Kidcot passport stamps in World Showcase. Kidcot Fun Stops keep kids motivated to travel to each World Showcase pavilion so they can collect stamps from each of the 11 countries at Epcot: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada. Children of all ages enjoy coloring a cardboard cut-out of Duffy the Bear at these designated stations. They can also learn to say hello in the host country's language at each stop.
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Tips for visiting Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

  • The My Disney Experience App is your essential guide to wait times, maps, showtimes & a lot more. Plus you can reserve Fastpass+ & make dining reservations on the App.
  • Avoid Extra Magic Hours. The park will be busier.
  • Spend more than one day at the Magic Kingdom.
  • Arrive for Rope Drop.
  • Save your Fastpasses until after 11am.  As I mentioned above,  it pays to get to the park early as lines are minimal.
  • Shop at the end of the day.
  • Consider skipping the parade & fireworks. Want to ride more attractions? Queues will often be quieter during parades and fireworks.
  • Use the Walt Disney World Railroad – With all the bells and whistles going on elsewhere in the park, most families don’t even give the Walt Disney World Railroad a second thought.  However, I am a huge advocate and find it to be a brilliant way to get around in the parks.  Making stops at Main Street, Frontierland, Storybook Circus in Fantasyland and then back to Main Street USA,  it is a fantastic way to beat the crowds and rest your weary feet.
  • Stay for the Kiss Goodnight- As soon as the “Happily Ever After” evening fireworks have finished, the tendency is for families to join the throng and all descend to the bus ranks at the same time – meaning outrageous lines.  Instead, linger for a bit. The park stays open an hour after the fireworks have finished to let everyone out.  Though the rides will be closed, you can do a bit of last-minute shopping at the Emporium.  people watch and if you’re lucky you’ll get to check out the Magic Kingdom’s Kiss Goodnight. 
  • Can't find anywhere to sit in Columbia Harbor House? Try upstairs! Many do not know that this resturant is actually two floors!
  • Do not go on Sunday or Monday. These are the days after which guests check into the WDW resorts, and want to go to Magic Kingdom. Save this park for the middle of the week
  • Parade time is excellent for shorter waits on popular rides like Space Mountain or Splash Mountain. Enough people line the walkways to watch the parade, that the wait time is substantially reduced.
  • When going to the special events (Halloween Party, Christmas Party, etc.) enter the park at the earliest time (4pm usually). You get more time in the park for your money!
  • Want to escape the streching room first on the Haunted Mansion? Stand under the portrait of the woman on the tightrope.
  • Don't be fooled; the total trip time from the TTC to the park gate is the same for the monorail and the ferryboat. If you see a ridiculously long line for the monorail, don't hesitate -- relax and enjoy the cool breeze of the Seven Seas lagoon!
  • If you forget what section you parked in, try to remember the time you came there, because Disney will be able to use that to determine which lot was being parked around that time, so your search will be narrowed down somewhat.
  • Although you can technically get down Main Street U.S.A. Through the stores, don't try it at closing time. A lot of people get this idea, and the stores are packed with people trying to buy that last souvenir. Just walk down the street instead.
  • When watching the parade, watch it near Splash Mountain. This way you can quickly ride it after.
  • Two Words: Arrive Early!
  • When Park hopping park at Magic Kingdom and use the monoral or one of the buses to go to one of the other three parks first then once the other parks are closed you can hop a bus or monral back to magic kingdom and enjoy.

Tips for visiting Seaworld Orlando

  • Head to the Rides First. With all the exciting stuff to do at SeaWorld Orlando, it’s hard to choose what to experience first. The first of our tips on visiting SeaWorld Orlando is to head straight to Manta when you pass through the gates. This mind-blowing roller coaster is located right near the entrance, making it the perfect opportunity! Note that most rides at SeaWorld Orlando require you store your personal belongings in a locker prior to riding. This is for your safety, the safety of others, and the safety of your electronics and personal belongings.

  • Bring a sweater. It might be hot outside, but inside, the attractions and aquariums can get quite chilly. Blasts of cold air maintain the underwater environment for the comfort of the animals. In the case of attractions such as Wild Arctic or Antarctica: Empire of the Penguins, the park helps re-create a natural environment for your encounters with these cold-weather creatures.

  • Wear quick-dry clothing. Spending the day with sea life in their watery world, you’re bound to get a little wet … or even soaked! Either bring along some rain gear or wear quick-dry clothes — especially for the kids. Maybe stuff a small fast-drying towel or camping towel in your pack instead of sopping yourself off with paper towels or standing under the hand dryer afterwards.
  • Arrive at shows early. In order to make sure the animals get the rest and play time they deserve for performing such amazing feats, some of the SeaWorld Orlando shows have a limited number of times and tend to fill up quickly. This is especially true for the dolphin show, Dolphin Days, and Shamu’s close-up, One Ocean. Plan to arrive 20-30 minutes prior to show time, especially on busier park days.
  • Stay charged. Seaworld has two free charging stations in the park for guests to recharge their electronic devices. You will need a power cord and U.S.-compatible outlet plug. Charging stations can be found near the Nautilus Theater and between the Antarctica area and the Dolphin Theater.
  • Kid-Friendly Areas throughout SeaWorld. For families visiting with children, have confidence knowing there are plenty of activities and rides for your youngsters at SeaWorld Orlando. Shamu’s Happy Harbor is home to a myriad of rides, activities, engaging areas, and more for kids — and kids at heart.
  • When purchasing merchandise, you can use the free package pickup service where your purchases are sent to the main gift shop at the front of the park. This allows you to enjoy the park without carrying your shopping bag all day.
  • Its a great idea to grab a map with a timesguide on the back to make sure you get to see all the great shows seaworld has to offer

Tips for visiting Universal Studios Florida

  • Figure out if you need Express Passes. If you haven’t been before, Express Passes allow you to skip-the-line (or at least join the shorter Express Pass queue), similar to Disney’s FastPass+ system except you don’t book them in advance. Express Pass is used in Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure (Volcano Bay has their own system.) Express Passes can be used on many — but not all — rides (unlike at Disney where you book 3 FastPasses and then can add more after that). They do not give you an assigned time, you can go whenever you want and join the shorter Express Pass queue.
    With a standard Express Pass, you can only use it once per ride. With an Unlimited Express Pass, you can go back and use it as many times as you like. Here is my tip — go through the website and see what rides you think your family would want to ride. Then, download the Universal Orlando mobile application. Start to look at the average wait times at different points of the day for the rides you want to go on. If the lines are usually longer than you want to wait, then an Express Pass is the way to go.
  • Park-to-Park Tickets (or not). If you are a Harry Potter mega fan, or if you only have one day to spend in Universal, the Park-to-Park ticket is a must. The only way you can ride the Hogwarts Express between Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure is if you have a Park-to-Park ticket. And, a Park-to-Park ticket lets you visit both parks in one day.
  • Join the Jimmy Fallon Virtual Queue. The latest ride in Universal Studios, Race through New York starring Jimmy Fallon, also uses some of the latest technology. This fun (and funny) simulator ride uses a Virtual Queue. You can join the queue from the mobile app and you will be assigned a time to show up. Simply scan your phone on arrival and in you go!
  • Visit Diagon Alley early (and late). Diagon Alley can feel REALLY crowded in the middle of the day. Also, some of the interactive spells don’t work as well in full sunlight (like the water feature over the bathrooms). I like to be there either early in the morning and/or in the evening. I find there is a really special feel to Diagon Alley in the evening. The light adds to the magic and when the dragon breathes fire, it is even more impressive.
  • Ride Hogwarts Express both directions. If you have a Park-to-Park ticket, you should ride the Hogwarts Express in both directions as they are two different experiences. And don’t miss the visual effect when people walking through the wall to Platform 9 ¾ in Kings Cross.
  • Don’t wear sneakers on water rides. That seems obvious right? But on rides like Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges you will get soaked and you have to wear shoes. So even if you just bring a cheap pair of flip flops in your bag, switch out your shoes before the water rides. Oh, and there are “people dryers” if you really need them.
  • On Men in Black, aim for the light at the top of the car on the other side of the track when you are turned face-to-face with it, and do not forget to hit the red button on your dashboard when it flashes and you are told to hit it.
  • If you love Men in Black and Hate the long lines, you can ride an insane number of times by using the single riders line
  • When riding the mummy in the first few hours that the park is open the single riders line is extremely fast and saves a great amount of time.
  • When on Men in Black aim for the red light on your OWN vehicle. You will hit it every time and you get MAJOR points. Also, don't keep squeezing the trigger; just hold it down.
  • If your a fan of a great hamburger than go to margaritaville (in citywalk) and have a cheeseburger in paradise.
  • On the Men In Black ride hold IN the red button at the end of the ride while shooting the giant aliens eyes. You'll earn another 100,000 points!
  • For a glimpse at nostalgic Universal, go behind the Woody Woodpecker coaster near the Curious George play area. There rests a barracaded version of the old Hard Rock Cafe restaurant still in tact. It is currently used as a staging area for the park.
  • Go to The Simpsons Ride when the park opens.
  • Do Shrek 4D first to save time then you can do the other attractions after that.

Tips for visiting Universal's Islands of Adventure

  • Buy your admission tickets in advance.The number one easiest way to save money and a heck of a lot of time is to purchase your theme park tickets and Express Passes in advance.
  • If you want to miss a big part of the crowd, head to Islands of Adventure early in the morning.
  • It may be a good idea to eat at off-hours so you can hit up all of the busiest attractions, such as The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and the Incredible Hulk.
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. No trip to Islands of Adventure is complete without a magical journey to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. This star attraction is exceptionally busy but is well worth the wait. A highlight of the Wizard World is surely Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a ride through the Hogwarts castle replica.
    The lines may be long, but you’ll be entertained with talking portraits, holograms of beloved Harry Potter characters and a walk through professor Dumbledore’s office. Guests also have the option to wander off to Hogsmeade, where they can shop for things such as magic wands, chocolate frogs, extendable ears and much more. There are numerous attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • The week before a holiday is the best time to go.
  • Yes, If at Universal's Islands of Adventure dining at Mythos Resturant is a MUST. The food is awesome and the resturant decor is great!!!
  • Never carry your shopping bags when you are in the park for a day or so.. Just put your name on the card and send it to trade co. Of IOA which is near to the gate. You can always get your shopping bags and still enjoy the rides without lockers

Which Disney World theme parks are the best for young children?

The parks with the most child-friendly rides and attractions are the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Disney's Animal Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios offer a greater number of rides and attractions geared toward big kids and adults.

For families traveling to Walt Disney World with babies and young children, it can be challenging to decide which of Disney's theme parks to visit--especially if there is not enough time to take in all four.

Each Disney park was designed to appeal to families. Nonetheless, each park has its own unique character, and some parks are more kid-friendly than others.

The Magic Kingdom is the world's most popular children's park, modeled after the original Disneyland park but on a grander scale. A variety of rides and attractions grows with children as they mature. Wee tots will enjoy Fantasyland's classic Dumbo, Small World, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, and Cinderella's Golden Carrousel rides. Tomorrowland offers the tame Tomorrowland Transit Authority ride, which offers a view of Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, and the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway. Kids can take a grand tour of the Magic Kingdom on the slow-moving Magic Kingdom steam train. Frontierland is home to the Country Bear Jamboree, where one family member can sit in air conditioned comfort with the little ones while bigger kids brave Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain with another member of the party. Adventureland features the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, which is similar to the Dumbo ride but with a shorter wait time. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride might not appeal to children who are afraid of the dark, but most children love this classic Disney attraction. The Jungle Cruise and Swiss Family Tree House are other tame rides. Liberty Square is home to the Haunted Mansion, another classic Disney ride. Although some children might be frightened of the supernatural sights and sounds, others will be rocked to sleep by the Doombuggy's surprisingly soothing movements. Children will also enjoy the many Disney characters found throughout the Magic Kingdom park.

Epcot has been labeled an adult park, but it is actually the easiest park to negotiate with young children. The park's wide walkways enable families with strollers to navigate the crowds better than at the Magic Kingdom, which could use crossing guards (especially in Fantasyland in the daytime). Lines are often shorter than at the other three Disney parks, and there is a surprising number of rides suitable for young children.

In Epcot's Future World, try Spaceship Earth, a long, dark, nap-inducing ride that ends with a fun, interactive computer animation piece that incorporates rider input and photographs. The Seas with Nemo and Friends (formerly the Living Seas) is a large aquarium with Nemo-themed activities and a ride. The Living with the Land boat ride at the Land pavilion has a relatively short line and offers families with young children an alternative to Soarin', the thrill ride located next to the tame boat ride. The Imagination pavilion has a 3-D movie that could be frightening to young children, but the Journey Into Imagination with Figment ride is fun and typically has a very short line. Kids of all ages will enjoy playing with the interactive fountains outside the pavilion, and the indoor playground is small but fun. Kids who love dinosaurs will find the Universe of Energy ride to be more kid-friendly than Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur ride (see review below). While the big kids play at Mission Space, little ones will enjoy the indoor Mission Space playground. Test Track offers an indoor auto-themed showplace and gift shop that will entertain young kids while the big ones ride Test Track.

In Epcot's World Showcase, little kids will enjoy the characters found at many of the different international pavilions. Plus there are several rides and movies that will please young children. Mexico's Grand Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros is a tame boat ride featuring Donald Duck and friends. Norway's Maelstrom boat ride is more adventurous, featuring a small drop similar to the one at Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom. Young gymnasts perform daily outside the China pavilion, and the panoramic film inside is child friendly. Germany is home to Disney's best garden railway display. Kids can color masks and collect different stamps and charms at each international pavilion, with a special gift for each completed mask. America hosts the largest animatronic show at Epcot (also a good nap-inducer for kids who need one). Kids will enjoy watching the large koi collection at Japan. Genie, Aladdin, and Princess Jasmine greet guests at Morocco. The Impressions de France film in the France pavilion features classical music that will appeal to young children, and kids who do well can be rewarded with a treat from the patisserie outside the theatre. Beauty and the Beast can be found in France as well. The United Kingdom has a nice little toy shop that features toys kids can play with, offering a nice break from the stimulation of the park. Canada has a fun film with Martin Short. Kids will also enjoy the Friendship I boat ride that takes guests from one side of World Showcase to another. One of the main reasons that Epcot can be more enjoyable for families than Disney's other parks is the slower pace. There is no need to rush from one ride to the next. Instead families can take their time strolling around Future World, visiting excellent shops and restaurants at World Showcase, and enjoying Epcot's beautifully manicured outdoor surroundings.

Disney's Animal Kingdom is the newest Disney theme park. Imagineers continue to build new experiences for guests. Disney's Animal Kingdom is home to such thrill rides as Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids, and Dinosaur, which rocks guests violently in dark, loud surroundings with very realistic dinosaurs. The ride snaps guests' photos, and young kids are typically shown clinging to their parents or each other. This is not a ride for young children. The Triceratop Spin is a better alternative. It is a dinosaur version of Dumbo with a very reasonable line. The dinosaur-themed playground nearby can be frightening for parents, because if you do not literally follow your child down the long slides, you will quickly lose sight of him or her. The playground is designed so that children can travel from one large section to the next, out of sight of parents. (The Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground at Disney's Hollywood Studios also makes it hard for parents to keep up with their children.) The Kilimanjaro Safari ride is very bumpy, but it offers a beautiful view of Disney's African savannah. Stroller parking and return is hectic, though. Cast members will yank your stroller away from you before you can get all of your belongings out of it, and then you are stuck carrying them. Stroller parking is more challenging at Disney's Animal Kingdom than at the other parks. Disney's Animal Kingdom involves a great deal of walking from one section to the next, with few opportunities to sit through a short ride or film to relax. It is still a work in progress.

Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) is the least kid-friendly Disney park. It consists primarily of shows and thrill rides, with little that appeals to young children. The shows require long waits that impatient babies and toddlers cannot stomach. Many of the shows feature violence, hot flames, explosions, and other frightenting sights and sounds that can drive your otherwise well-behaved child to scream and cry. The Great Movie Ride, for instance, bombards riders with animatronic mummies, snakes, the creature from Alien, shooting bandits, and--perhaps most frightening of all--the Wicked Witch of the West. Big kids and adults will love the park's creative roller coasters and thrill rides, but there is very little for young children to do at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Young children will want to return to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot again and again. If your family does not have the time to attend every Disney park on one visit, save the more sophisticated parks for a later visit when your children are older. The parks will grow with your children. New rides and attractions are added frequently. In the meantime, savor the memories you will make with your young children at Disney's kid-friendly parks.

Happily Ever After/Illuminations without a park ticket

Restaurants
There are many restaurants around the Seven Seas Lagoon outside of the Magic Kingdom that provide excellent viewing locations for the nightly fireworks show. These restaurants are often very sought after locations, so it is recommended that you make dining reservations 180 days in advance of the night you plan to dine. Some of these dining locations, California Grill in particular, allow any guest who has dined in the evening to come back and enjoy the fireworks from the restaurant, which is a great opportunity for those who would rather not eat so late in the evening.

California Grill: The California Grill is an excellent place to view the fireworks from outside the Magic Kingdom. This restaurant is a signature dining establishment, which means that it requires 2 table-service credits for those on the Disney Dining Plan. This restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort, offers great views of the fireworks and even pipes in the music from the show. For an extra special viewing experience guest can book the Celebration at the Top experience.
Ohana: Ohana is a restaurant at the Polynesian Village Resort that offers excellent views of the fireworks. This restaurant is lined with floor to ceiling windows. At this all-you-can-eat restaurant the music for the show is piped in and guests can enjoy the fireworks as they explode around Cinderella Castle.
Narcoosee’s: This signature dining restaurant offers views of the fireworks from the Grand Floridian Resort. This restaurant is right on the waters of the Seven Seas Lagoon. Here the music for the fireworks is played in the restaurant.


Other Viewing Locations
The fireworks at the Magic Kingdom can be viewed from locations other than restaurants outside of the theme park. Here is a list of a few great locations to watch the fireworks outside the parks.

Ticket and Transportation Center: The Ticket and Transportation Center is a transportation hub in Walt Disney World, and also the location of the Magic Kingdom guest parking lot. Its convenient location across the Seven Seas Lagoon from the Magic Kingdom makes it an excellent place for watching fireworks outside the parks.
Beaches around the Seven Seas Lagoon: Both the Polynesian and Grand Floridian Resorts offer beaches with great views of the fireworks. A popular option is to get a famous dole whip from Pineapple Lanai at the Polynesian Resort and then enjoy the fireworks from the beach.
The Ferryboat: If timed just right, it is possible to watch the fireworks from the ferryboat as it crosses back and forth between the Ticket and Transportation Center. This is quite the Magical Moment. Simply climb to the second level on the Ferryboat and enjoy the show.
Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Party: This unique but expensive option is a fantastic way to celebrate a special occasion. With this special treat, guests are able to watch Happily Ever After from their own private boat in the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage: This experience is great for the entire family. With this special event, guests are treated to Pirate themed activities and snacks. Afterwards it is “Ahoy Mateys!” as everyone climbs aboard to sail across the Seven Seas Lagoon and watch Happily Ever After from a boat.


The secret to watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth for no cost is location, location, location. Disney's Boardwalk offers some wonderful views towards the World Showcase Lagoon. The downside with watching Illuminations outside Epcot is that you can't see any of the low-level effect (the globe, the water displays, the fire barge, etc.). This being said, you can still see (and hear) quite a good show. I have stayed at the Dolphin and watched Illuminations from the Boardwalk. Similarly, I have stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort and watched Illuminations from the Port Royal docks. In both cases, I could pick out the music (it wasn't piped in, but you could hear it in the distance).


Now if you'd like a more exclusive experience, you can book an Illuminations cruise or even Breathless II. These are boats that leave from the Yacht Club and park in the World Showcase lagoon during Illuminations. Like the Grand 1, these can get expensive. For rates and available times, call 407-WDW-PLAY.


If you really want to experience these nightitme spectaculars to their fullest extent, it's best to be in the park. However, if you're looking for a more relaxing, intimate or romantic option, than consider finding a quiet stretch of beach or a cruise. Have fun!

 
 

 

 

 

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