Central Florida Guide - Your Disney Vacation Resource

Florida attractions, Central Florida travel, Orlando, Kissimmee, South Florida, North Florida, beaches, hotels, vacation, tourist, maps

Welcome to our Central Florida Guide. Here you will find information for vacation planning on your magical gathering in Florida! Here you will find information on a wide range of subjects, all relating to vacationing in the WDW area.

Magic Kingdom at Disney World


It’s All About Timing
Besides seasonal considerations, certain days of the week are slower at the theme parks, usually Tuesday through Thursday. Arrive early to avoid crowds – timing your arrival can set the mood for the whole day.

Strategy-planning begins before you enter the gate. Study Web sites and maps to plot your priorities. Pre-purchase theme park attraction tickets if possible (multiple-day passes and Orlando Flex Tickets save time and money). Keep in mind that weather, crowds, ride availability and other factors can affect your plan, so be flexible. Do the most popular rides early in the morning, moving to the back of the park first. Use peak times in the early afternoon for eating, shopping and shows. Recharged, you’ll step out into the park ready for more thrilling fun. Ride lines often slack off toward late afternoon, so save the big attractions you missed in the morning for later.

Disney parks issue a FASTPASS outside some of the best rides (available to all guests at no extra charge). FASTPASS tickets set an appointed time for you to return to an attraction via special, shorter lines. Universal’s similar program is Universal Express (available at an additional charge; or free to guests at Universal Resort properties). Universal Express allows you to take the “express” line to some of the most popular rides, and does not require that you come at an appointed time.

If you’re willing to split up your group, opt for quicker Single Rider lines. Afterward, comparing the thrills of the ride with your family and friends is almost as much fun as the ride itself.

Mickey and friends at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Mickey and friends at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Comfort & Safety
Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and quick-drying clothes. Consider dressing small kids in swimsuits underneath their clothes so they can enjoy the wet play areas. Rather than a purse, a small backpack is a good easy-carry option. If you love the “soak” attractions, bring towels and extra clothes, and rent a locker. Ask store clerks about the convenience of free package pickup or delivery at some theme parks. You’ll want to be unfettered as you enjoy the parks’ attractions.

The Family Way
Before entering the park, prepare your little ones. Explain that, just like in cartoons, most of what the theme parks have in store is not real. If you have children who tend to race ahead or wander off, pin information about the parents/guardians (and a cell phone number) to their clothing. As you enter the park, decide upon an easily identifiable landmark where you can meet should anyone in your family get separated or lost. If you do decide to split up, set up a meeting point that is easy to get to and has comfortable seating in the shade.

Don’t try to do it all with young kids, or everyone ends up cranky. If you’re staying at a nearby hotel, take a mid-afternoon break from the park for a meal or swimming and return later. Don’t forget to get a hand stamp for free re-admission. A relaxed pace makes for a relaxed day.

Don’t push your kids when they’re reluctant or scared. At any age, most children can sense what experiences they will be comfortable with. Let them explore at their own pace. If this is their first time, everything is wonderfully new.

Best Beaches For...

With 1,100 miles of beaches, it’s no wonder Florida has one to suit every visitor.

Best Beach for Birding: Shell Key, St. Pete Beach
More than half of the 180-acre Shell Key is a bird sanctuary, but the beaches are accessible to human visitors. There are no buildings, no trash, no cars or telephone lines, just coconut palms, Australian pines, white sandy beaches lined with gentle, clear emerald surf and dunes topped with sea oat whiskers.

Best Tropical Beach: Bahia Honda State Park
In this paradise of a Models love South Beach Robin Hill park, palms wave in the breeze over pristine, sandy beaches. Widely considered to have the Keys’ best beaches, Bahia Honda Key is a sheer tropical heaven, with mild, clear water and more than one lush and cosy beach from which to choose.

Best Beach for Surfing: Sebastian Inlet State Park
Sebastian Inlet, south of Melbourne Beach, is the capital of East Coast surfing. The waves along this three-mile stretch of beach divided by the Sebastian River are consistent, hollow and fast. If any surf is breaking on the East Coast of Florida, it will be at Sebastian Inlet.

Best Beach for Feet: The Beaches of South Walton
If you plant your soles on the glistening sands of the beaches of South Walton County, you will instantly become a spoiled-rotten sand snob. The grains are so fine, so white that you’ll feel you are on packed sugar. The sand’s secret is that it’s almost pure quartz, washed down from the Appalachian Mountains over the years.

Best Beach for Treasure Hunting: Vero Beach
A Spanish fleet cracked open upon the reefs of Florida’s East Coast in 1715, spilling its treasure into the sea. Sea Grape Trail in Vero Beach has proved lucrative for treasure hunters combing its sands. Finding a gold doubloon is rare because they are often so encrusted by the sea that it’s hard to recognize them.

Best Beach to See a Millionaire: Palm Beach
Rent a Jaguar and drive to Palm Beach if you really want to see how “the Donald” lives. This 14-mile stretch has a well-deserved reputation as a playground for the rich and famous. But you don’t have to be a millionaire to tan beside one here, second home to the likes of the Kennedy clan.

Best Beach for Shelling: Sanibel Island
With more than 400 varieties of shells, Sanibel Island is so popular with shell seekers that it holds an annual three-day Sanibel Shell Fair and Show in the spring and has a name for the shell seeker’s posture: “The Sanibel Stoop.” Sanibel is equally respected for its beauty and the community’s commitment to preserving it.

Best Beach to Find Sharks Teeth: Venice Beach
Venice Beach is the spot for finding fossilized shark’s teeth from thousands of years ago. The beach concessionaire even rents out metal mesh scoops to aid in the process. Small teeth, the size of a Chihuahua’s, are easy to find while walking along the shoreline and larger teeth by snorkelling along a ridge just offshore.

Best Beach to Be Pampered: Ponte Vedra Beach
Ponte Vedra Inn and Club is one of the best places to find delicious spa treatments along a Florida beach. The resort sits on a beach lined with high dunes and towering palms. The roaring surf makes for exhilarating body surfing or a comforting bedtime song after a day of pampering.

Best Place to Feel Small: Canaveral National Seashore
The Canaveral National Seashore, 24 miles of undeveloped coast, is lined with dunes, beaches and a range of wildlife. It’s not unusual to see a blue heron on the seashore while a bald eagle soars over the shoulder-high marsh grasses. Bordering Kennedy Space Centre, the seashore may also allow you to glimpse an equally astounding flight.

Best Snorkelling Beach: Dry Tortugas
For colourful fish and living coral reefs, pack your snorkelling gear and head to the Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, reachable by ferry or seaplane, but well worth the trip. This cluster of seven islands, made of coral and sand, includes Garden Key, home to historic Fort Jefferson.

Best Beaches florida

Best Beach for a Getaway: St. George Island

A remote beach that comes with the comforts of Southern cooking, personal service, rocking chairs and a view of the Gulf, the St. George Inn is a quaint inn with double-decker verandas only minutes from what may be the most uninhabited beach in Florida, Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park.

Best Boardwalk Beach: Hollywood Beach Boardwalk
An Atlantic City-type boardwalk, the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, just south of Fort Lauderdale, is a 2.5-mile-long, 27-foot-wide concrete promenade bordered by shops, hotels, game rooms, taverns and an outdoor amphitheater. Often live music competes with the surf. The beach is certified as "Blue Wave" for its outstanding cleanliness and safety.

Best Beach for Romance: Lovers Key
On Lovers Key, explore the mangrove wilds of the west coast Florida by kayak or foot in Lovers Key State Park. Lounge beside a waterfall in a lagoon-style pool at the Lovers Key Beach Club & Resort, a posh all-suite resort. At sunset, dine overlooking Estero Bay. Soak in the spa tub-for-two in your suite.

Best Beach to Watch a Sunset: Naples Municipal Beach & Fishing Pier
Naples Municipal Beach & Fishing Pier (built in 1888 as a freight and passenger dock) shines as an all-time sunset favorite. When the sun begins to set low on the western horizon, beachgoers, fisherman, locals and tourists fill the narrow pier in anticipation of the daily show as the sun melts into the Gulf.

Best Beach for a Drive: Daytona Beach
You can watch surfers catch a wave as you drive along the sands of Daytona Beach. The 18-mile stretch of firm sand along Daytona Beach is one of the few remaining beaches in Florida where cars are still allowed. For $5, cruise it all day, but don’t floor it: The speed limit is 10 mph.

Best Beach to Loaf: New Smyrna Beach
New Smyrna Beach is a laid-back beach town, where Orlando co-ed's come for sun, and top surfers come for waves. There are no high-rises along the beach, only low-rise motels and condos giving it a comforting feel. These 13.2 miles of beach is so relaxed even the currents are laid back here.

Best Beach for a History Lesson: Fort Pickens
At Fort Pickens, brick archways and fortifications topped with cannons, a piece of American history, hug the white sand and aquamarine waters the Gulf of Mexico. This massive fort has protected America from the early 1800s until after WWII. During the Civil War, Union soldiers occupied the fort to prevent Confederate shipments into Pensacola.

Best Beach for Paws: Fort De Soto Park
Fort De Soto Park is a canine paradise – beaches are undeveloped, except for a former fort that can be explored by paws (as long as Rover is leashed), dogs can roam freely along a prime stretch of beach near the park's pier. There's also an adjacent fenced field complete with dog facilities – fire hydrants and garden hoses with spray nozzles.

Best Beach to Giddy Up: Amelia Island
On Amelia Island, fulfil that fantasy of riding along the beach, with your windswept hair tickling your face as your horse leaves hoof prints in the sand. At Kelly Seahorse Ranch, experienced riders can canter their steeds along the waves, and actually go into the surf with their horses. These are freedoms most stables won't allow.

Best Beach for Kids: Siesta Public Beach
When it comes to family beach spots, nothing tops Siesta Public Beach in Sarasota – gradual slopes, shallow waters, lifeguards, a playground, gentle waves, fine white sand and translucent waters. It continually makes several of America’s Top 10 lists of best beaches based on sand, water quality and facilities.

Best Beach to See and Be Seen: South Beach
If you enjoy a beach scene, go to South Beach, and look in any direction. Lounge on the beach among serious sunbathers in European-style swimsuits who are as likely to chat in French or German as in English. Watch shirtless guys prove themselves on the sand volleyball courts. On the other side of Ocean Drive there are pastel Art Deco buildings house sidewalk cafes, trendy nightclubs, posh shops and groovy hotels.

Family Restaurants

If you live in the USA you will already be familiar with most of the names of these businesses and how the system works, be patient with us as we try to explain them all to our international visitors.

One of the more popular categories of restaurants, this section will give you an overview of those that cater to family dining.Family Restaurant definition - Basically, a restaurant that is 'kid' friendly. Catering for the family group as a whole. Usually a very relaxed atmosphere with no specific dress code, other than you having some, at least!

Kids are usually allowed & encouraged to 'do their own thing' as long as you keep them under some sort of control. They will usually have a special menu for the younger party members with some inclusive deals.Among some of the favorites are the Ponderosa Steak Houses and Golden Corral Restaurants both offer a reasonably priced buffet. More information on these restaurants can be found under our Buffet sub-grouping

There are also Denny's Restaurants, Perkins Restaurants and Shoney's Family Restaurants among others throughout the area. Some hotels also have a major franchise restaurant 'on-site'. We know of at least one that has a Shoney's as part of their Amenity Package.

No matter where you stay in the area, you'll always find a restaurant of this type nearby.For some good old 'Country Style Cooking', two restaurants come to mind, Bob Evans and the Cracker Barrel Country Store. Both are well known for their Southern Hospitality and the quality of their offerings.

One of the area restaurants sometimes overlooked is the Morrison's Cafeteria, located in the Osceola Square Mall. This is a restaurant that is definitely worthy of your attention. The selections are usually first-class and are relatively reasonably priced.

Yet another family favorite of the area is the International House of Pancakes, commonly referred to as IHOP. But don't let the name fool you, though they may specialize in pancakes and related items, they also serve up a pretty good selection of American favorites for both lunch and dinner.

In a similar situation are the area Waffle House Restaurants. Though the name implies their specialty, they do offer other American favorites. The atmosphere here is a little less cozy than some of its counterparts, as its environment is more suited to the traditional 'diners' of the past. But if you're on a tight budget, it may be a place that you'll want to explore.

For those who remember the USA of the 50's - 70's HoJos' is now known by it's family name of Howard Johnson's.

Steak Restaurants

First, let's mention that most restaurants that are clearly Steak are also some of the finest Seafood establishments. On this page we will concentrate on Restaurants that advertise themselves as Steak...

Steak Restaurant Definition - Specializing in or seeing the sale of Steak based meals as the primary business of the restaurant. Offering a selection of cuts cooked to order, to you personal preference.There are a variety of different types of Steak Restaurants - The more traditional Steak House will be based on the a la carte' format while many of the Buffet style will offer 'all you can eat' menus.

Many of these restaurants will offer a variety of meal choices, which may include a separate buffet offering an assortment of family style entree, including several variations specific to breakfast, lunch and dinner. All will offer steak as one of the main entree during the afternoon and evening hours.The more traditional steak houses in the area include: Cattleman's Steakhouse, Kissimmee Steakhouse, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse, Longhorn Steakhouse and the Outback Steakhouse.Reservations are recommended.

Among the national chain restaurants that offer steak as part of their specialty are - Black Angus Restaurants, Ponderosa Steakhouses, Sizzler Restaurants and Western Sizzling Steakhouses.

All offer a buffet in addition to an individual selection of various steak cuts. The 'steak' in your meal will not be part of the buffet, it has to be ordered separately as an Entree?and it's purchase will usually include access to the buffet...

Quality and selection may vary, as they are not as specialized as the more traditional steakhouses.

With their family-type dining environments, these restaurants will generally offer a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet. For this reason, more information on these types of restaurants will be found in our Buffet section.

If your looking for a really good steak, you would be well advised to keep with the traditional Steak Houses.

Seafood Restaurants

Though there are many Steak and Seafood restaurants throughout the area, in this section we will attempt just to focus on those restaurants that specialize in the Seafood side. This restaurant type is more likely to be privately owned than part of a national chain. The quality of service is often very high...As you travel around the Orlando area you will probably see the roving landmark of the Boston Lobster Feasts - 'Larry' the Lobster, a 12-foot caricature who sits atop a Volkswagen Beetle and roams the tourist corridors. One of the few restaurants that specialize in 'Maine Lobsters', the Boston Lobster Feast is actually a wholesaler to many of the area restaurants.

Naturally there are other restaurants including Red Lobster - always an American favorite. For something a little a more local there's Shells Seafood Restaurants, which operates a chain of restaurants from Daytona Beach all the way to both the WestCoast of Florida and on the east side of Miami.

Nearby you can also find Calico Jack's Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, which is located in the La Ramada Plaza.

A hidden treasure in Kissimmee and housed in an unassuming location is Pounders Fresh Fish and Lobster House, just off of West Vine Street on Central Avenue - Over 10,000 lobsters can be viewed here, which all adds to the dining experience.

A little further east, and just down the road in the quaint community of St. Cloud you can find some additional favorites. Among these is a local gem called Evelyn's New England Seafood Restaurant, which features a décor to match their name not to mention great food at prices you can afford.

A personal favorite of our American editor, this place is so good - we will give it a recommendation. Evelyn's can be found as you enter St. Cloud. Look for the Checkers restaurant on the left, and the restaurant will be found approximately ½ block off the highway, on the opposite side.

For another local landmark, there's also the Catfish Place Seafood Restaurant, which specializes in fresh caught catfish from Lake Okeechobee - Florida's largest lake (and the third largest in the USA). In addition to this, you'll also find local game specialties that include frogs legs, gator, turtle and fried lobster. All of which are part of their southern-style selections.We must mention the Sea Queen Restaurant as you near the outskirts of St Cloud, as this restaurant has long been another area favorite of the local residents.

Bar & Grill Restaurants

There are Sports Pubs, British Pubs and the traditional American Bar & Grills to choose from in the area, we'll try to cover just a few of the tourist related ones in this section.

Some are a little more specialized on the beverage side while offering food such as Buffalo wings, fish n' chips, light sandwiches or an assortment of appetizers.

Others may provide you with a wide variety of appetizers and entrées.

Many are local favorites such as Chili's Bar & Grill and TGI Friday's. Of special note is the Roadhouse Grill, which provides you with free peanuts that you simply shell and throw on the floor (Why not, your on vacation). To say the least, it does provide a unique experience!

For British Pubs, there are several - London Bridge Tavern, Scottish Corner Pub and Harry Ramsbottom's, located in Liberty Village just east of Polynesian Blvd on US192.For our American viewers, here's a good opportunity for you to try some authentic British Fish N' Chips.

Sports Pubs are dotted throughout the area, most are found either on West Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy. or in the West Vine Street area.

They specialize in bringing televised sporting events to their patrons and will also act as hosts to the area darts competitions. They play an important role in providing a celebratory meeting place following an Area Sporting Event.Area bowling alleys could also provide you with a similar location.

For a truly unique environment, you might just want to stop in at the 'Big Bamboo Lounge', just east of Hwy. 535 on the north side of 192.This area landmark was one of the few businesses that was located on US192 prior to Disney's introduction to the area and the commercial development that followed it. This lounge has truly stood the test of time and it still remains a novelty among the businesses of the area. They don't serve food but you can bring a 'Carry Out' with you...

Buffet Diners

Buffet Diners defined - Many restaurants will choose to advertise a buffet as an 'all-you-can-eat' experience, while others may call it an 'all-you-care-to-eat' experience, which sometimes takes on the same meaning and sometimes not.

Some of the other area restaurants will ride on this popularity by advertising an 'all-you care-to-eat' entrée

They are all just trying to say the same thing using slightly different words. They are simply referring to a very hearty meal.

We thought we knew at one time which one was which but lately, we're not sure! It can be quite confusing, so the best thing to do is to ask.

Generally, if a restaurant is advertising a buffet, it usually means an 'all-you-can-eat' menu, which may vary from a few main entrées to an unlimited selection. The actual Buffet will be a bar, or series of bars, where you can choose from the traditional trimmings - potatoes, breads, salads, a selection of specialties (Mexican, Italian etc.) and fruits as well as unlimited beverages. Oh yes, don't forget desserts.Though their prices can be quite enticing, please keep in mind that the quality of the food and the experience can vary greatly from location to location, even within the same chain.Just to confuse the situation even more, many restaurants will also offer either a 'one-plate' selection from the salad bar or an 'all-you-can-eat experience', which becomes a meal in itself.

This is one of our American editors favorites. Healthy, and one of the better values available to you -

Restaurants that offer this are numerous but the salad bar at many Pizza Hut Restaurants is well worth a visit...Probably the best known of the area buffets are the Ponderosa Steakhouse and Golden Corral Restaurants but there are many more to choose from. We are attempting to put together a comprehensive list of them all.

There are a lot of Chinese Buffets, probably the former location of Splendid China is helping in this. There's China Pearl, Dynasty Buffet, Emperor's Wok and the Pagoda Restaurant. Further East there is the Regent Chinese Restaurant, located at the east end of Irlo Bronson Memorial just before the Florida Turnpike, on the south side of the road. See our Ethnic section for a more detailed view...

For a more American choice, you can consider the Las Vegas Buffet. Though a little more expensive, the variety that's offered here is a sight to behold!

Additionally, restaurants such as Boston Lobster will also offer the 'all-you-can-eat' experience. In this particular example, lobsters and seafood in general.Breakfast - All You Can Eat.

Can't forget the first meal of the day...

You will find even more places that serve unlimited breakfast than the major locations e.g. Ponderosa & Golden Corral. Many hotels and larger motels will have an 'all you can eat breakfast' that is open to none residents.

Use them wisely -

Eat well here and skip lunch at the theme parks to save money! Usually! Kids under 10 eat free with a paying adult. Watch out for seasonal specials.There's much more waiting to be discovered in the area. These are only a few examples.

Pizza Restaurants

This section will try to encompass the many, many pizza joints and pizzerias of the area.A fiercely competitive segment of the restaurant sector, most offer free delivery to your home or hotel. Though these businesses may provide a delivery service, it is important for you to know that it is customary in the US to tip the driver a least 20% of the total purchase.

Many places will also offer a barrage of weekly specials and coupon offerings, which can be found in the myriad of coupon booklets for the area. We hope that in time, we will also be able to list a few of these offers here ...Most of the areas pizza restaurants will generally specialize in either take-out or delivery service with very few of these offering sit-down facilities

However, an exception to this would be the Pizza Hut Restaurants as well as some of the other larger pizzerias.

One to offer a full service is the Pizzeria Uno Chicago Bar & Grill Restaurant serving a full menu of other items such as steak, chicken, fish and 'baby back' pork ribs, which they claim in their advertisements "just fall off the bones". Ummm….

Pizzeria Uno is located just west of the junction of Polynesian Blvd, but there are also several others to choose from with names like Guiseppes's Italian Restaurant & Pizza, Mickey's Pizzeria and Romano's Pizzeria.

Of the more traditional take-out and delivery service restaurants (no sit-down service available), are the Godfather's Pizza, Flippers Pizza and Hungry Howies Pizza shops. More dominant of these (at least judging by the number of their locations) are the many Dominos & Papa Johns Pizza that dot the 192.

There always seems to be one of these close by, regardless of where you are staying.


Fast Food Restaurants

When it comes to fast food choices, you certainly have a lot to choose from in the USA. No different when it comes to the US Hwy 192 area.

In this section we'll try to give you an overview of the selections available.Most predominant in this section will be the many Hamburger restaurants, which will include all the famous names- McDonald's, Wendy's Restaurants, and Burger King. Plus our local 'Checkers'.

Although mostly known for their burgers these restaurants generally do offer an additional selection such as chicken or fish sandwiches - some even offer salads and other specialty items.

A few even offer breakfast, such as McDonald's and Burger King.

Most will always offer a daily special which may include 2 sandwiches for $2.00 or just a $.99 special on one of their featured items. Though the offers may change from time to time, the concept does not. If you're looking for Seafood specialties, Long John Silvers is the place to go. You'll find them located on West Vine Street just west of Hwy 441.

When it comes to Chicken specialties, there are two area favorites that take the top honors, Popeye's Fried Chicken and KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken).

Popeye's Fried Chicken can be found only on West Vine Street, whereas KFC outlets can be found throughout the area.For a little more taste that's south of the border, try the Mexican specialties of the Taco Bell restaurants. These can also be found along US Hwy 192.


Ethnic Restaurants

Foods from many parts of the world are showcased in the Kissimmee area. We'll try to list a few of these here.

Chinese Restaurants

There are many Chinese Restaurants in the area.

Some offer buffets, some offer delivery and take-out service, but all offer an oriental environment to please any palate. Egg Rolls, Won Ton Soup; Chicken, Pork & Beef Chow Mein and Fried Rice Dishes to name but a few.

You'll find names such as the China Pearl Restaurant, Emperor's Wok, Regency Chinese Restaurant, Taste of China and Twin Dragons Restaurant.

Italian Restaurants

Several come to mind-

Probably the largest of these is the Olive Garden Restaurant, a popular local favorite.

There's also Carrabba's Italian Grill at Formosa Gardens.

Antonio's at Celebration, also known as the Café D'Antonio, is on Front Street overlooking the lake.

For a local family owned and operated restaurant, you may want to try Francisco's at the junction of Hwy. 535 or Pacino's Italian Ristorante, located directly across from Old Town...

There are many more to choose from. We'll try to list them all here in time.

Japanese Restaurants

There's the Kobe Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar located near Interstate 4 and Parkway Blvd, the Take Japanese Restaurant located at Maingate West or the Yoji Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar located approximately 1-mile east of Hwy. 535.

Other restaurants for this section include - Middle Eastern, West Indian and East Indian Restaurants.

We will include them all here in the fullness of time...

Travelling With Kids

Having travelled with kids, here are just a few tips we found made our holiday that little more relaxing. Disney caters for everything for children, there are Baby Services – private rooms with seating and low lighting for nursing mothers, feeding rooms with highchairs, bibs, plastic spoons and nappy changing rooms. Baby-care products such as disposable nappies, pull-on rubber pants, formula and teethers are for sale - remember these will be US milk and “diapers” so whilst great for an emergency, obviously have your own supply.They even have nappy changing areas in the men’s room so no excuses for Dads!In-park stroller rental ($6 a day plus $1 refundable deposit) makes travelling through the theme parks easy so no need to worry about taking your buggy, although you will have to carry your child from the car park.Take a swimsuit and possibly a change of clothes for the kids to the parks, kids will love playing on Donald's Boat & in the water fountains around all the parks, & will inevitably get very wet! "Kid Switch" policy gives both Mom and Dad a chance to enjoy the latest attractions without the wait. Here's how it works. One parent waits in line with a small child while the other parent rides the attraction. The first parent returns to the loading area and takes the child while the second parent rides. Make sure your child knows what to do if he/she gets lost - tell them that cast members wear name badges & to go to one of them immediately if he/she gets lost; or for older kids arrange a place to meet if they get lost. Introduce them to one of the Cast Members, they are always happy to chat to the kids to make them feel at ease and tell them to come straight to someone who wears the same uniform as them. If your child has pockets put their name on a piece of paper just in case. Disney does has special name tags for very young children. Guests can get them at - City Hall or Baby Care Center (Magic Kingdom); Guest Relations or Baby Care Center (Epcot); Guest Relations (Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom).If you do lose your child, report to Guest Relations/City Hall, Baby Care Center, or tell a Cast Member. Character Meals are great for youngsters – make sure they eat all their food otherwise the characters won’t visit with them!!!! Works wonders for those fussy eaters.If your son hates having his haircut, wait until your holiday and take them to Harmony Barber Shop on Main Street, Magic Kingdom.Be prepared for the Florida sunshine. Bring extra sunscreen, a hat, umbrella, plus a jacket/cardigan for chilly, air-conditioned theatres. Buy an autograph book for your child to get character's autographs and a big pen for the characters to hold – there hands are too large for small pens and always have the autograph books open ready to save time for everyone.Try to get your child used to the different characters before you get there by watching Disney movies. Explain that the characters will be bigger than them & there's no need to be scared. If your child does get scared when meeting a character, don't force them into it just because you want a picture of them with Mickey Mouse! So many parents seem to push their kids up the characters when it is obvious they are terrified – don’t worry, they do grow out of this practically the next year. Kids under 3 are admitted to the parks for free. Kids over the age of 9 are considered adults in Disney's eyes, & so have to pay adult rates for tickets & passes.And don’t forget when they get tired, take them back to the villa for a nap and return later.



Magic Kingdom Overview The Magic Kingdom theme park -- Disney's first theme park in Florida -- has seven themed lands featuring attractions built around wonder, fantasy and fun. It also features food locations and merchandise locations. History The Magic Kingdom Park opened Oct. 1, 1971, and soon after was dedicated on Oct. 25. Many celebrities were on hand for the festivities, as well as Walt Disney's entire family. Arthur Fiedler conducted the World Symphony Orchestra at the base of Cinderella Castle. Roy O. Disney stood with Mickey Mouse in Town Square and read the dedication plaque. The park opened with six themed lands: Main Street, U.S.A.; Adventureland; Frontierland; Liberty Square, a land originally planned for Disneyland; Fantasyland; and Tomorrowland. (Mickey's Birthdayland was created in 1988 to honor Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday, and eventually changed its name to Mickey's Starland in 1990. In 1996, the land changed again to Mickey's Toontown Fair.) Eventually, all the lands came together with their own unique themes. Ordinary buildings were cloaked with intricately designed exteriors and interiors. Details were installed and the final coats of paint were put on. Imagineers used an architectural trick called "forced perspective" to make buildings look taller than they actually are. They shrunk windows, balconies and even furniture on the second floors and shrunk any third floors even further to achieve the illusion of tall buildings climbing far into the sky. To complete the feeling of being in a three-dimensional movie, background music was created for each particular land, as if it was part of any film's soundtrack. In the end, it took more than 9,000 workers to build the world's most famous vacation resort. Location The Magic Kingdom park occupies 107 acres. It is located off Interstate 4 on Walt Disney World Resort property, Lake Buena Vista, Fla., approximately 22 miles southwest of Orlando. Dining & Merchandise Food locations are situated throughout the Magic Kingdom park, with character dining opportunities located at The Crystal Palace at Main Street, U.S.A.; Liberty Tree Tavern at Liberty Square; and Cinderella's Royal Table at Fantasyland. Priority seating for full-service restaurants can be made at City Hall on the day of visit or in advance by calling 407/WDW-DINE. Merchandise locations offer quality items from clothing to collectibles.

Major Attractions

Main Street, U.S.A.
Current attractions
Walt Disney World Railroad
Main Street Vehicles
Town Square Theater
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Current attractions
Jungle Cruise
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
Pirates of the Caribbean
Swiss Family Treehouse
Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
A Pirate's Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Current attractions
Splash Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Country Bear Jamboree
Frontierland Shootin' Arcade
Tom Sawyer Island
Walt Disney World Railroad
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Liberty Square
Current attractions
The Hall of Presidents
Haunted Mansion
Liberty Belle Riverboat
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom

Current attractions
Cinderella Castle
It's a Small World
Mad Tea Party
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Mickey's PhilharMagic
Peter Pan's Flight
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid
Ariel's Grotto
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
The Barnstormer featuring Goofy as The Great Goofini
Casey Junior Splash 'n' Soak Station
Pete's Silly Sideshow
Walt Disney World Railroad
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Princess Fairytale Hall

Current attractions
Astro Orbiter
Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
Stitch's Great Escape!
Space Mountain
Tomorrowland Speedway
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
Tomorrowland Light & Power Company Arcade

It is impossible to take in all the live entertainment at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in a single day. To experience both the attractions and the live entertainment, guests should allocate at least two days to spend in this park.

Following is a short list of daily events, all included in your park admission:

The afternoon parade, usually staged at 3:00 p.m., features floats and marching Disney characters. Festival of Fantasy Parade has an original score and floats paying tribute to The Little Mermaid, Brave, and Frozen, among other Disney films. Many of the floats’ pieces spin and swing to extremes not normally found in Disney parades: The Tangled platform has characters swinging wood hammers from one side of the street to the other. The most talked-about float is Maleficent (the villain from Sleeping Beauty) in dragon form—she spits actual fire at a couple of points along the route.
Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire brings to life beloved Disney stories, both classic and contemporary, on the castle forecourt stage. Tiana, Naveen, and Louis from The Princess and the Frog have traveled from New Orleans to be with their friends; Rapunzel and Flynn Rider from Tangled are the special guests of Daisy Duck; while Olaf, Anna, and Elsa from Frozen bring some icy magic to the party.
A number of characters are usually on hand to greet guests when the park opens. They snarl pedestrian traffic and stop most kids in their tracks! More characters are found throughout the park.

Flag Retreat is held at 5:00 p.m. daily at Town Square (railroad-station end of Main Street). It’s sometimes performed with great fanfare and college marching bands, sometimes with a smaller Disney band.

Don’t miss the Happily Ever After fireworks show. The 18-minute presentation combines memorable vignettes from popular animated films with a stellar fireworks display. The show comes with a brand-new soundtrack and replaces Wishes, the popular firework spectacular that ran at the Magic Kingdom October 2003–May 2017. The amazing new show projected on the castle is best viewed right in front of it.

The Dapper Dans perform soulful a cappella Americana at the Magic Kingdom. Make sure to see the Main Street Trolley performers as they put on a show for whoever is wandering the street.

The legendary Main Street Philharmonic performs tunes from classic Disney films, mixed with ragtime and swing, at several locations in the park. Citizens of Main Street U.S.A. offers funny characters who can be spotted along Main Street throughout the day.  The Royal Majesty Makers give little princes and princesses “lessons” in horse riding, swordsmanship, and more in Fantasyland.  Check the Times Guide for the schedules and showtimes.

The Move It! Shake It! Dance and Play It! Street Party starts at the railroad end of Main Street, U.S.A., and works its way toward the Central Plaza. This short parade incorporates about a dozen floats, Disney characters (including Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from Zootopia), and entertainers. An original tune called “Party Up!” serves as the theme song, and there’s a good amount of interaction between the entertainers and the crowd.

The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History is a hilarious interactive experience that takes place at Liberty Square, in the upper windows of a building next to The Hall of Presidents. Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, The Great Gonzo, and James Jefferson (the town crier of Liberty Square) bring to life American history, the Muppet way! The tales include the midnight ride of Paul Revere and the Declaration of Independence. Check the Times Guide for showtimes. The building hosting the Muppet mayhem is also home to the new, second Guest Relations building.

In the Once Upon a Time Castle Projection show, Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast shares bedtime stories with Chip, taking guests on a magical trip through the most adventurous scenes from favorite Disney films like Cinderella, Peter Pan, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Alice in Wonderland. Videos and special effects are set to music and projected on Cinderella Castle. Disney regularly updates the show’s content to keep it fresh. While the show’s soundtrack is invariably excessively sentimental, the visuals more than make up for it. We rate this as not-to-be-missed.

Ending the Happily Ever After fireworks show is Tinker Bell’s Flight. She no longer opens the show, and she’s no longer a special effect either—a real Cast Member now flies high above Cinderella’s Castle.

Just outside the park, do not miss the Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon Electrical Water Pageant. Performed at nightfall (at about 9:00 p.m. most of the year) on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, this pageant is the perfect culmination of a wonderful day.


The idea for a park based on favorite movie themes originated with Walt Disney more than 40 years ago when “backlot tours” were limited to a privileged few. He first considered a park on his own backlot, then looked across the river from the Disney Studios in Burbank on land adjacent to Griffith Park. Lack of enough land combined with potential traffic problems caused him to look elsewhere; namely, Anaheim. The result was Disneyland. In the mid '80s, a greatly expanded production schedule for the Walt Disney Company demanded more facilities. Rather than buy expensive land in California, the company realized it had plenty of land in Florida and the opportunity to combine its new production facilities with a chance for Walt Disney World guests to see behind the scenes of movie and television production.

Current attractions

Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood Boulevard is lined with shops selling Disney merchandise and food. While parades are a major attraction today, the area was not originally built to handle parades, and an appropriate sound system and other facilities had to be retrofitted after initial construction. Michael Eisner, who had a major part in the park's creation ever since the earliest development, demanded the opening land operate on the same principle as Main Street, U.S.A. — a street lined with shops and food, but in a style more fitting to Hollywood.

Echo Lake
Action on the set of Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!
Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, a 3D motion simulator ride, set in the Star Wars universe.
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, a live-action movie stunt performance re-enacting various scenes from the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, a musical stage show retelling the story of the film.
Star Wars: Path Of The Jedi, a film retelling of Star Wars, located at ABC Sound Studio, the former location of Sounds Dangerous!
Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple, a live show based on the teachings and practices of the fictional Jedi Knights from the Star Wars films,depends heavily on audience participation, focusing on children. Each participant is given a lightsaber and Jedi robes and is taught a routine set of sword fighting moves.

Grand Avenue
The entrance and exterior of Muppet*Vision 3D
Muppet*Vision 3D, a 4D film experience starring The Muppets.
Toy Story Land (Opening June 30, 2018)
Slinky Dog Dash
Alien Swirling Saucers
Toy Story Midway Mania!
Pixar Place
Toy Story Midway Mania!, an interactive 3D shooting gallery featuring characters from the Toy Story films.
Animation Courtyard
Star Wars Launch Bay, an interactive walkthrough attraction featuring Star Wars character meet-and-greets, memorabilia, games, and a gift shop.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid, a live performance using puppets, lasers, movies, human actors, and water (mist). The show recreates the animated musical film of the same name, in an abbreviated form.
Disney Junior – Live on Stage!, a live performance featuring television characters from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
Mickey Avenue
Walt Disney Presents, a museum-like walk-through attraction that explores Walt Disney's life and legacy through photos, models, rare artifacts, and a short biographical film narrated by Julie Andrews.

Sunset Boulevard
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a thrill ride which drops guests in an elevator in a randomized set of four sequences each involving multiple high speed drops and ascents.
Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, an indoor roller coaster in the dark with three inversions and a high-speed launch.
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, a simplified version of the film. Appeared on Hollywood Boulevard until the Theater of the Stars moved to Sunset Boulevard in 1994.
Sunset Showcase, a theater that houses different residency events that will not be included in admission. Currently, the theater hosts Club Villain on select nights, a $129 hard ticket dinner show with Disney villains.
Fantasmic! — held in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, this live show serves as the parks nighttime spectacular; however, due to inclement weather and other scheduling situations, it is not held every night.
The Music of Pixar Live!, performed on the same stage as Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage. A full symphony orchestra performs selections from the scores of Pixar films, including all three Toy Story films, the Cars films, The Incredibles, Up, Monsters, Inc., and Finding Nemo. Features appearances by costumed Pixar characters and pre-recorded appearances by John Lasseter, Cruz Ramirez, and Dory.

Live Entertainment

Little children will love Disney Junior – Live on Stage! as the show features characters from the Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Never Land Pirates, Doc McStuffins, and Sofia the First.

At the Theater of the Stars don’t miss The Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage show. This shorter version of the popular Broadway show is well worth your time.

Right next to Star Tours young padawans will enjoy participating in the Jedi Training Academy. The show is staged several times daily. If your child wants to teach Darth Vader a lesson visit the sign-up area at the ABC Sound Studio (across from Star Tours) as soon as possible. Ask a cast member to confirm the signup location upon entering the park. Keep in mind if you have a little one who wants to participate, this show fills up fast and you must have your child with you in order to sign up.

Another live show is Voyage of the Little Mermaid. Highlights of the popular movie are told through a mix of puppetry and live actors.

The temple ruins from Raiders of the Lost Ark are the backdrop for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! It is a fabulous live show with lots of stunts and special effects as well as audience participation.

The Hyperion Theater is home to For the First Time In Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration. If you have Frozen fans in your family consider using FastPass+ for this attraction as it grants you access to a preferred seating section near the front of the stage.

There are also plenty of possibilities to meet Disney characters. Some, such as Green Army Men, Lightning & Mater, Mike & Sulley, Phineas & Ferb, and Sofia the First; can only be met at Disney Hollywood Studios.

At night make sure to see Fantasmic! Mickey Mouse, as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, using the power of his imagination brings to life characters, good and evil, from Disney classics such as Pocahontas, Cinderella, Peter Pan and The Lion King. It is a fantastic, must see show involving pyrotechnics, laser lights and images projected on water. The show is held daily, once or twice, at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, behind the Tower of Terror.

As you can see there is still quite some action going on at Disney Hollywood Studios. If you are an annual pass holder, with multiple visits to Walt Disney World planned, by all means go to Disney Hollywood Studios. However, if you have only a certain amount of time and resources available I recommend you delay your visit to The Studios till Star Wars Land and Toy Story Land open. Let’s hope that this is not in a time far far away.


Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, opened in 1982. It was conceived by Walt Disney to "take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry." This concept is best exemplified by Spaceship Earth, the glistening geosphere that has become Epcot's icon. Epcot consists of two themed areas, Future World and World Showcase


Guests on this ride first spend time in a pre-show room with computer screens where you build your own car. You then proceed to the ride area and board a car. Once boarded, you ride a convertible car through various car tests, ending in a high-speed lap outside. Many people are confused about how their designed car relates to the ride itself. If you look on the screens throughout the ride (after every car test), you should see the car you designed and how it performs compared to the cars designed by other people in your ride vehicle. The exit area of this ride allows you to do other things with the car you designed, including driving it on a virtual track. You can also pose with various real cars with virtual backgrounds to get your picture taken and emailed to you.

Soarin' is one of the most popular rides in all of Disney World and a very unique experience. You sit in a ride vehicle that lifts you in front of a huge screen and then you glide through many popular landmarks from across the world, often smelling various things you see on screen.

Revamped in 2017, this attraction is a simulator that lets you feel like an astronaut and takes you from launching pad on 1 of 2 missions: the family-friendly Mission Space - Earth (with a 40 inch height requirement) and a Mission Space - Mars (with a 44 inch height requirement). Once on the selected mission, each rider is assigned 1 of 4 jobs to do (in reality, it just means you push a blinking button when it lights up in front of you).

This gentle boat ride takes you on a tour of some of the greenhouses to see how things are grown at Disney World.

Inside the golf ball is this attraction which is an easy ride through time to see how far we've come. Your picture is taken at the beginning of the ride and your head is put on illustrated characters throughout, including in the exit area where you can see your head up on the screen.

Located in the Imagination pavilion, this ride takes you through an exploration of your senses. The exit area is a fun play area for little ones.

The Seas pavilion includes a ride that gets you into the building called The Seas with Nemo and Friends which allows you to view the water with real fish in it as well as animated characters from Finding Nemo. Once inside, you can explore the various exhibits and see some of the shows which include dolphin demonstrations and a show called Turtle Talk with Crush.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends is an attraction that allows you to view the water with real fish in it as well as animated characters from Finding Nemo.

Turtle Talk uses the same technology that is used at Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor in Magic Kingdom which includes an actor voicing the character while also controlling the live animation on the screen. This fun show includes many of your favorite characters from Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. The technology always amazes me.

Located right by Innoventions West, Club Cool is where you can sample various sodas from around the world. The Beverly drink is notoriously bad and many people like to trick their travel companions into trying it.

Located in the Imagination pavilion inside the Magic Eye Theater, this 4D movie experience includes 3 animated shorts from both Disney and Pixar Studios.

The main attractions here are Colortopia, an exhibit which allows guests to use interactive technology to play with color and SpectacuLAB which is a fun, interactive show that includes demonstrations and experiments with real scientists.

A fun drum line that utilizes trashcans to beat out popular tunes.


This dimly-lit pavilion opens at park opening and is a pyramid that contains various shops and a ride called Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros! Entertainment in this area includes music available several times a day, 7 days a week (available outside unless the weather is bad and they move inside).

A cute, gentle boat ride that is sort of like its a small world, but instead of being the world it is only focused on Mexico.

A fun and festive mariachi band that performs the traditional folk music of Jalisco, Mexico.

The Norway area which looks like a quaint, Norwegian town square, is now home to the popular Frozen Ever After attraction as well as the Anna and Elsa character meet. There are also places to eat (try the school bread at the bakery) and shop (smells so good inside!).

A beautiful & gentle boat ride with all your favorite Frozen characters. While the World Showcase as a whole opens at 11, this attraction is available for guests to ride at park opening.

China is a gorgeous pavilion with the main attractions here being a 360 CircleVision movie called Reflections of China that is shown every 30 minutes and The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats which appear outside toward the front of the area several times a day.


A 360 CircleVision movie on China

Food and shopping are the main attractions in the Germany pavilion. Using snack credits for caramel treats at Karamelle-Kuche is 1 of our favorite things to do here. A German band appears about once every hour for 25 minutes inside the Biergarten restaurant.

Shop, eat and enjoy the architecture in the Italy pavilion. There's also a juggler named Sergio that appears in this section and a flag show called Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro that appears daily.

Sergio is a master juggler and mime that entertains guests in a lighthearted, old Italian piazza-style juggling show.

This colonial-style pavilion is home to a few great entertainment options: the Voices of Liberty (an a cappella group that sings patriotic songs in the rotunda), American Adventure (a show in the theater upstairs), and American Music Machine (a capella group that performs at the American Gardens Theater).

An a cappella group that sings patriotic songs in the rotunda.

A show in the theater upstairs of the American Adventure pavilion that highlights the history of the United States.

The Japan pavilion is not only beautiful, it also happens to be my favorite. The food is great, the large Mitsukoshi Department Store has a lot to see (including the option to pick a pearl) and the architecture is fantastic. Entertainment here includes Matsuriza (drummers that can be heard from a long way).

A live performance of Japanese Taiko drums which includes both rhythmic beats and choreographed moves.

Beautiful pavilion with great food options. There's live music and belly dancing inside Restaurant Marrakesh.

A 3-piece ensemble plus a belly-dancer that performs a variety of traditional and modern Moroccan music.

Ahhh, France. Such a beautiful area. Fine dining and great shopping are located throughout this pavilion. There is a 20 minute show here called Impressions de France which features the sights of France. Entertainment here includes Serveur Amusant, a funny juggling act that lasts for about 20 minutes and appears most days of the week.

20-minute show which features the sights of France, shown in a plush air-conditioned theater.

FRANCE - Serveur Amusant
A funny juggling act that lasts for about 20 minutes and appears most days of the week.

Shopping, fun entertainment and a pub are the main attractions in the U.K. pavilion. There's also a butterfly garden and a hedge maze to walk through.

The British Revolution covers a variety of crowd pleasing favorites from British bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones.

An acoustical quartet that plays authentic Scottish, English and Irish songs.

A gorgeous and a great advertisement for the Canadian tourism industry. It's also home to one of the best World Showcase movies, O! Canada, and a fabulous steak restaurant called Le Cellier.

A fun movie narrated by Martin Short that highlights some of the best parts of Canada.

A fun activity to do throughout the World Showcase that involves getting a phone device from various kiosks (or using your own smartphone) and solving clues that you are given. The devices activate things in the pavilions in the World Showcase so secret doors might open or things will start moving.

A nighttime show on the lagoon in the World Showcase section that includes fireworks and a globe on the water with imagery projected onto it.


Animal Kingdom is the largest of all of the theme parks in terms of acres but has the least amount of attractions. The park icon is a the big man-made tree called The Tree of Life.
As the park's name implies, there are lots of live animal attractions here, but there are some good non-animal attractions as well (including the 2 best live shows in all of Disney World).

Safari vehicles that are driven by guides who really do drive (no tracks) and they are very knowledgeable about the animals. As you go, the drivers give you lots of info based on what you see along the ride and sometimes have to stop to wait for animals to clear the path.

Walking tour that allows you to see birds, fish, gorillas and hippos.

This big, fun, Broadway-style show lasts for 30 minutes and is 1 of the best shows at Disney World. There is lots of music, dancing, stilt walkers and acrobats, featuring music and stories from The Lion King.

Expedition Everest is a fantastic roller coaster (my favorite ride at Disney World, in fact). It starts off like a pretty normal coaster and then stops and goes backward before heading forward again on a thrilling ride.

A river raft ride that has a very high chance of soaking you. I really love this ride but many people really dislike it. Watch the video below to see if you think it's something you'll want to do during your trip.

A walking path through "ruins" that allows you to see tigers, Komodo dragons, giant fruit bats and other exotic animals.

This new entertainment experience (which replaces Flights of Wonder) offers guests the chance to see Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and his furry friend Dug as they discover species of birds from around the world.

This ride takes you on a rough ride through history where you see lots of dinosaurs along the way. I've never taken a ride photo on this ride where I wasn't covering my face.

A jerky, spinning, coaster ride.

Dumbo but with dinosaurs.

A Broadway-style show featuring super talented performers who sing and control puppet-type versions of the characters. Really great show and I feel like it keeps getting better.

Carnival games themed for this section.

Pllay structure that's great for letting little ones run around and burn off some steam.

These trails go all around Discovery Island (hence the name, right?) and you have a chance to see Galapagos tortoises, African crested porcupines, lemurs and tamarins.

This 3D show is inside of the Tree of Life and features characters from "A Bug's Life." As you're looking at The Tree of Life from the front of the park, the entrance for this show is located just to the right side, near the paths that you'd take to DinoLand, U.S.A.

DiVine is a vine-covered character performed by a performance artist. She's mesmerizing to watch. Check the daily times guide so you know when to look for her.

A petting zoo area with animals like goats, sheep, donkeys, cows and pigs.

A behind-the-scenes look at the care provided for the animals in the park. What you will see will vary depending on what's going on that day but could include watching surgeons operate on animals, experts presenting various wildlife and veterinarians who are available to answer questions.

Outdoor trails in the Rafiki's Planet Watch section where you can see cotton-top tamarins.

This train departs every 5-7 minutes (though lines to board the train can be lengthy) to take people to visit the Rafiki's Planet Watch section.

A gentle boat ride through the bioluminescent rain forest complete with a spectacular encounter with a Na’vi shaman.

Unlike any other attraction at Walt Disney World, guests mount their own "virtual banshee" to soar above the Valley of Mo'ara.

At night you can watch the Tree of Life "awaken" and come to life with flickering fireflies and magical animals. This show uses the same projection technology as Celebrate the Magic and has 4 different shows that rotate through the evening.

rivers of light boats 16x9 - A guide to all Animal Kingdom rides and attractions


Introduction to Universal Studios

Universal Rides

Kang and Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl
This aerial carousel hurtles kiddies along at a breathtaking 13 miles per hour at the dizzy height of 10 feet.

Shrek 4D
A laugh-out-loud chase to save Princess Fiona from the evil Lord Farquaad.

E.T. Adventure
This fun, gentle ride is in the dark which might explain the required attendance of a grown up. Trust me, it’s a lovely ride for anybody and has a heartwarming finale that will bring a smile to everyone’s faces. I think this might be one of our favorite Universal rides!

Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster
This is a junior coaster with gentle twists, turns and dips for kids over 36” in height with an adult, or 48” unaccompanied.

Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
A 3D fun for all motion ride with lots of minion mischief. Your chance to become an actual Minion. Awesome!

Transformers: The Ride – 3D
An exhilarating motion based ride that has you trying to save the planet under a sensory overload of effects and visuals.

The Simpsons Ride
One of several Universal rides that are motion simulators. This allows children up to 40” with an adult in tow, but single riders must be over 48”. Hop on board for an intergalactic spin through Krustyland. Look out for familiar faces as you zoom along this Universal rides favorite.

Men In Black
Alien Attack is an interactive rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ ride against alien rascals for heroes of 48” or 42” with an adult sidekick. Keep your finger on the trigger as you zip through New York aiming at aliens. Look out for the alien sitting on a bench reading a newspaper – if you manage to shoot it, the newspaper will lower to reveal an alien Steven Spielberg, hit him too for bigger points.

Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
This is a supremely clever 4D dark roller coaster ride for anyone over 48”. Children over 42” must be with an adult. This has to be one of our favorite Universal Rides. Don’t worry if the wait appears to be long, the line snaking past the Gringotts’ bankers is all part of the fun.

Revenge of The Mummy
Is an exciting, white knuckle roller coaster ride in the dark, understandably with a required minimum height of 48”. Even the walk through the tunnel to reach the start of the ride is not for the faint hearted.

Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon
The latest addition to Universal Studios. You’ll enjoy an action-packed race through the Big Apple against Jimmy Fallon himself. You’ll be completely immersed in the world of America’s favorite talk show – “The Tonight Show.”Universal Rides - Race Through New York with Jimmy Fallon. This is the first Universal ride to feature the Virtual Line. It means you can “virtually” wait in line, while enjoying other attractions around the park. Just download the Universal App, select the Race Through New York ride, enter your details then enjoy the park until your ride time.

Hollywood Rip Rockit Ride
With your choice of music intermingling with your gasps and cries, you’re taken vertically to a height of 17 stories before launching into a 65 mph adrenalin rush. This is one of the Universal rides that is not for the squeamish. But it is a scream….. literally! Riders must be between 51” and 79”.

Hogwarts Express
Leaves from King’s Cross Station next to Diagon Alley before carrying passengers (watch for them disappearing through the wall at Platform 9 ¾) through the British countryside, terminating at Hogsmeade Station in Islands of Adventure. The return trip takes you on a different journey so it’s worth riding both ways.


Introduction to Islands of Adventure

Islands of Adventure Rides

Cat in The Hat
Caro-Seuss-El, a colorful merry-go-round for those over 48” or accompanied by an adult if smaller.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
This gentle jaunt takes the riders on the backs of some amazing flying fish.One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

High in The Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride
This trundles slowly along its’ track above Seuss Landing and the other attractions below. Passengers on the train must be over 40” and accompanied by an adult if under 48”.

Pternodon Flyers.
This prehistoric flying reptile, suspended from a wire, gently weaves its way high over the surrounding area of Jurassic Park. It is designed for children from 36” to 56” who must be accompanied by an adult. However, any potential rider over 56” in height must be accompanied by a child over 36”. In other words, it’s not for adults on their own.

Flight of The Hippogriff
Over at Hogsmeade, the family friendly Flight of the Hippogriff is a junior coaster that dives and twists past Hagrid’s hut for riders over 36”.

Harry Potter Forbidden Journey.
This exciting and amazing trip was voted Best New Attraction 2010 and Best Dark Ride 2011. Once you’ve been on it, you’ll understand why this fantastic ride was awarded these accolades. The wait in line takes you through the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and is so entertaining, the time will fly by.

Storm Force Accelatron
A speedy and spinning ride that shouldn’t be attempted shortly after eating too much.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.
This 4D motion based dark ride is restricted to riders over 48” or 40” if accompanied. The surprise ending will take your breath away or have you grabbing the rider next to you for safety!Amazing Adventures of SpiderMan

Hulk Coaster.
From zero to 40 mph in 2 seconds. Follicle challenged dads should hold onto their hairpieces as they reach speeds of 67 miles per hour. The height restriction is 54″ on this one.

Skull Island: Reign of King Kong.
A battle of the beasts will have you jumping out of your seat as Kong reigns as king.

Dudly Do Right's Rip Saw Falls

Popeye and Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges
This is an exciting river rapids ride for anyone over 48” or 42” if accompanied.

Jurassic Park River Adventure
This is a shoot the chute ride for those 48” and over or 42” if accompanied.

Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall
Rockets you 185 feet into the air before plunging back down to earth.


Introduction to Sea World

This popular 200-acre marine park explores the mysteries of the deep in a format that combines wildlife conservation awareness with plain old fun. While that's what Disney is attempting with its latest park, Animal Kingdom, the message here is subtle and a more inherent part of the experience.

Port of Entry
The main entrance of the park features a Florida-inspired theme with tropical landscaping and a large artificial freshwater marina with a Shamu-themed iconic lighthouse.

Sea of Shallows
This area showcases most of the shallow water sea animal exhibits at the park as well as the Dolphin Theater. In addition, the Manta rollercoaster travels through this section and Turtle Trek, a dome theater show also reside here. All of the Key West at SeaWorld area is inside of the Sea of Shallows. It is designed to mimic the appearance of the city of Key West, Florida with architecture and landscaping reminiscent of the area. Animal exhibits in this portion of the park include cownose rays, southern stingrays, green sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, greater flamingos, West Indian manatees, American alligators, and brown pelicans. The stingray and dolphin habitats offer opportunities for guests to feed the animals.

Sea of Legends
Journey to Atlantis, a boat ride with roller-coaster elements, bases its story from the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. Also found here is Kraken, a floorless roller-coaster.

Sea of Ice
Sea of Ice, originally named Antarctica, is themed around the Antarctic continent. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is the sole attraction in this area. The ride exits into the penguin exhibit area.

Sea of Delight
Sea of Delight includes a sub-area named The Waterfront, which resembles a seaside Mediterranean village. The park's Sky Tower ride is also here, it was integrated into the theme of The Waterfront village when the area opened in 2003. The only land animal show at the park, Pets Ahoy, is located here inside of the Seaport Theater. Outside of the Waterfront is where the Sea Lion and Otter Stadium viewing area stands

Sea of Mystery
The Sea of Mystery houses the Shark Encounter exhibit and the Shark's Underwater Grill, as well as the Nautilus Theater, which is currently used for seasonal shows and events. It also includes the Sea Garden, a landscaped area with themed structures that are made from trash found on beaches. Mako, a Bolliger & Mabillard steel hypercoaster opened in the area on June 10, 2016,[2] The current shark exhibit and the surrounding area has been renovated to become Shark Wreck Reef.

Sea of Fun
Formerly Shamu's Happy Harbor, Sea of Fun is a children's area hosted by Shamu, the park's orca mascot. The area is located adjacent to Shamu Stadium and features family activities including Shamu Express (a junior rollercoaster), a net climbing structure, and a water play area. Signage here still refers to it as Shamu's Happy Harbor, although management and the map use the updated name.

Sea of Power
Sea of Power is host area of the SeaWorld's killer whale shows. The Shamu Stadium is located in the center with the Wild Arctic indoor pavilion nextdoor. Wild Arctic is a combined attraction which includes a motion simulator followed by an indoor animal exhibit hosting beluga whales, Pacific walrus, harbor seals, and formerly polar bears. Shamu Stadium currently hosts "One Ocean" as its main show with "Shamu Celebration: Light up the Night" and "Shamu Christmas Miracles" showing seasonally.



African-themed animal theme park located in the city of Tampa, Florida. Busch Gardens Tampa is owned and operated by SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and is their 2nd largest park in terms of attendance behind SeaWorld Orlando. The park officially features 8 roller coasters and 2 water rides amongst other rides and animal attractions. Its newest roller coaster, Cobra's Curse, was opened in June 2016.

Alongside sister waterpark Adventure Island (30-acre (12 ha)), Busch Gardens is the anchor of Tampa's 365-acre (148 ha) amusement multiplex. Currently Busch Gardens competes with other such parks in Florida and charges comparable fees.


Montu Roller coaster · Egypt · 54 inches to ride
Cheetah Hunt Roller coaster · Crown Colony Plaza · 48 inches to ride
Myombe Reserve Walk-Through Exhibit · Nairobi
Jungle Flyers Swing ride · Jungala · 48 inches to ride
Sesame Street Safari of Fun Playground · Bird Gardens
Walkabout Way Walk-Through Exhibit · Bird Gardens
Serengeti Express Railway Track Ride · Nairobi
Lory Landing Walk-Through Exhibit · Bird Gardens
Congo River Rapids Rapids Ride · Congo · 42 inches to ride
Skyride Aerial tram · Egypt
Aviary Walk-Through Exhibit · Bird Gardens
Phoenix Swing ride · Pantopia · 48 inches to ride
Edge of Africa Walk-Through Exhibit · Egypt
Sand Serpent Roller coaster · Pantopia · 46 inches to ride
Animal Nursery Walk-Through Exhibit · Nairobi
Wild Surge Drop Tower · Jungala · 38 inches to ride
Opening Night Critters Animal Show · Pantopia
Kumba Roller coaster · Congo · 54 inches to ride
Falcon's Fury Drop Tower · Pantopia
Cobra's Curse Roller Coaster · Egypt · 42 inches to ride
SheiKra Roller coaster · Stanleyville · 54 inches to ride
Tree Top Trails Playground · Jungala
Grand Caravan Carousel Carousel · Pantopia
Scorpion Roller coaster · Pantopia · 42 inches to ride
Ubanga-Banga Bumper car · Congo · 42 inches to ride
Stanley Falls Flume ride · Stanleyville · 46 inches to ride


What to Pack

If you've never been to a Florida rental home before, you may be tempted to pack too much!
You don't need loads of clothes as most people in Florida dress 'casual'. This means shorts or a thin skirt and T-shirts during the day in summer and perhaps some trousers and a sweater or cardigan for the evening in spring, autumn/fall or winter.
Your rental home will have a large washer and dryer available for your use. The wash cycle is much shorter than in UK washers so you can have things washed and dried within a short time.
Leave some space in your suitcase as you'll probably want to buy clothes which are cheaper in USA such as jeans, T-shirts, etc. You won't want to have to buy another suitcase to get them back home in!

The one thing you will want to pack is at least one pair of comfortable shoes! If you're visiting the theme parks, you'll do a lot of walking (you won't notice as it's so interesting) and comfortable shoes are essential. If you find trainers comfortable, these would be ideal.
You don't need to take towels with you (check if your rental home also includes pool towels, otherwise you can take your own or buy them in Florida) or face flannels/washcloths as these are generally provided for you.
You may not need to take hairdryers as some rental homes have these provided too (check with your rental home owner).

Don't take food as you will sign a Customs declaration that you don't have any with you when you enter Florida. Almost all foods available in UK are also available in Florida and you will find a huge selection at the supermarket. You may find that your Florida rental home owner can arrange some welcome supplies for your arrival in your home so please ask them if this is available. If you have a special diet, ask your Florida home owner if this type of food is available, i.e. goat's or soya milk is available in Wal-Mart and other large supermarkets.
You'll need personal items, shampoo, sun tan lotion, etc as these are not supplied but you don't need to take loo paper as at least an initial roll is supplied and UK 'thick and fluffy' toilet paper is not good for American plumbing, which is half the size of that in the UK.

So, don't pack the kitchen sink (there's one provided for you!) in your suitcase and, if you've any doubts about whether something is supplied already or not, just ask your Florida home owner! They will be an expert on what's available in their home and in Florida as they will probably have been there many times.

Don't forget your essentials and make sure these are in your hand luggage - any medication you are taking and a written note of what this is (your GP's repeat prescription request form is ideal if you have these), your passport (which should have 6 months to run after your return), your airline tickets, your car rental vouchers, your travel insurance policy (make a photocopy of this and leave the photocopy at home), travelers' cheques (make these the US$ type and it's useful if at least two of you have a supply in case of emergencies), your credit cards (almost everywhere accepts these) and your driving directions to your Florida home or where you will pick up your home keys.
Last of all, remember to have a great time in your Florida rental home!

Tips For Your Trip

Don’t forget to pack your address book – for all those postcards. My aunt always takes printed labels with her – now that’s organized! There are lots of places with internet access now so remember to make a note of any people you may want to email – you could always send virtual postcards from Innoventions in Epcot.
Pack any tablets you may need and many people like to take aspirin about a week before they travel, this helps prevent DVT – check with your Doctor if you can take this with any other medication you may be on. Buy some bottled water at the airport to take on the plane to ensure that you stay nice and hydrated for those gaps when either the airline staff are busy.
Ensure one of your hand luggage is a small back-pack, essential to carry bits and pieces when you are in the parks. Unfortunately, Dad always ends up carrying this.

Camera – no need for spare films etc but ensure you have your camera and any flash tools etc.
Some villas do not provide Beach Towels, so you may need to pack some.

Pack Beach Shoes - those rubber-soled stretchy shoes for the water parks –the ground can get very hot and this stop you getting any nasty foot infections that may be lurking! These can often be bought in UK at very cheap sale prices at the end of the summer ready for next year.

If you wear contact lenses - make sure you bring a spare set and your glasses.

Hats - straw, baseball whatever...something to keep the sun off.

Insect repellant – if you do suffer with bites, this will help but it is useful to also have some anti-histamine tablets and cream with you.
In the cooler months (ie September to April) – pack some warm clothes for the evening, it can get chilly.

Lip Stuff - like Blistex or Chapstick - with sunscreen!

Portable CD player and CDs – great for passing the time on the flight but also around the pool at the villa.

Travel Insurance documents, in the event you do unfortunately fall ill, you will need to produce these.

Sensible shoes -- Comfy, well-broken in shoes are essential. This isn't the time to try a new pair of shoes. If you must get new shoes for your trip, be sure to break them in well before you depart for Florida.

Sunglasses – even for the kids –the sun in Florida is very strong

Tickets and airline numbers – always best to check with your airline a couple of days before returning home that your flight is still at the allotted time

Toys - for the kids on the plane – DON’T even think of traveling without lots for them to do.
You can buy pretty much everything in America but planning ahead always helps.


Shopping is not a spectator sport, but with Orlando’s tourist throngs coming out en masse to sack the city from outlet mall to retail mega-center, it can sometimes be a contact sport. The cool part? Venues such as the Buena Vista Factory Stores and Orlando Premium Outlet on International Drive are often microcosms of sorts – modern day bazaars where travelers from distant lands, speaking different languages come to buy the things they need. Of course, True Religion jeans and Nike cross-trainers – for most of us, anyway – are not necessities, but they sure are fun to score on deep discount. More traditional malls, the indoor, climate-controlled variety, are in no short supply, either. Luxury shoppers will find themselves easily sated at the beautiful Mall at Millenia while Altamonte Mall – and it’s lovely adjacent oasis of Cranes Roost Park – give divided parties two different ways to spend the day. They can meet up for dinner and a movie later. Mixed-use venues continue to proliferate. Winter Park Village is among the prettiest. Its streets, benches, flower pots and fountain create a village-like atmosphere. So much so that many choose to live in the on-site apartments and enjoy the dining and entertainment venues in their tiny “town.”

Orlando Premium Outlets at International Drive.
Both the locals and the throngs of tourists visiting Orlando every year love a bit of outlet action, and this giant store on International Drive is one of the best. In fact, many will make entire road trips from nearby states just to grab a bargain at Orlando Premium Outlets, with discounts offered on a huge range of brands, including Adidas, Victoria Secret, Hugo Boss, Diesel, Levis, Nike, Quicksilver, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger – and about 100 more! With items plucked straight from the factory, expect discounts of up to 50%. Do note that there is another Premium Outlets store further down International Drive at Vineland. The one mentioned here is next door to Universal and closer to the downtown area.

The Mall at Millenia
For some slightly more high-end shopping in Orlando, the Mall at Millenia is your answer. The indoor, multi-level shopping space is about half the size of The Florida Mall, with stores here focusing more on the upscale brands such as Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Prada, Chanel, Cartier, Tiffany & Co, and Gucci. The building itself looks and feels the part, with spacious walkways, bright atriums and a glass roof all bringing Millenia more up to date than some of Orlando’s other malls. Located south of downtown, major actions such as Universal, SeaWorld, Disney and the international airport are all just a few minutes away.

The Florida Mall
With over 250 stores and a whopping 20 million visitors every year (about the same as how many go through Universal’s gates), The Florida Mall is easily the biggest and most popular place to shop in Orlando. There’s over two million square foot of space here, packing in everything from mid-range fashion chains to luxury designer brands, electronics, homeware, accessories and health and beauty. Look out for the enormous Toys “R” Us and Target stores, as well as the comprehensive range of dining options, with pretty much every big-name fast food joint in the country taking a spot at Florida Mall. As part of the same complex, there is also the huge 510-room Florida Hotel.

Orlando Premium Outlets at Vineland Avenue
If the sea of shoppers and designer brands at Premium Outlets International Drive becomes all a bit overwhelming, you can always head down the road to ‘Premium Outlets at Vineyard Avenue’ for more, well… shoppers and designer brands. Actually, the outlet stores here do see smaller crowds (it’s further away from downtown and not right next to Orlando), while the range of brands and discounts is almost identical, continuing the same outdoor community mall kind of vibe.

Disney Springs (Downtown Disney)
If you’ve come to Orlando with the kids for one thing and one thing only – to see Disney World – then you simply cannot leave empty-handed without at least a few Disney souvenirs. Located in Disney Springs (Formerly Downtown Disney) you don’t need any kind of ticket to get into this shopping mall, or to enjoy the range of restaurants and bars in the surrounding area – it’s all free to get inside. As for what to buy, expect everything from branded apparel, accessories, soft toys, home décor, and memorabilia, as well as a cool ‘create your own souvenir’ section where you can customize your own accessories.

Winter Park Avenue
This cute collection of local boutiques, stalls and diners is located is a leafy suburb just north of the main metropolitan area, and well worth a visit for a more ‘local’ shopping experience in Orlando. The quaint cobbled streets take you back to a time well before Disney, Universal and the hordes of tourists arrived, although that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get a table at some of the bars and bistros here on the weekend. On the shopping front, expect local fashion designers, art pieces, homeware, handicrafts and accessory boutiques dotted around the main Winter Park Avenue and adjacent lanes, all easily explored on foot.

East End Market
For something completely different – away from the world of malls, outlet stores and Disney – head over to Orlando’s quaint East End Market just a few minutes’ drive northeast out of the downtown area. Open every day apart from Monday, this two-story market-cum-arcade aims to showcase the best of what Central Florida has to offer in terms of cooked food, art, and fresh produce. The market also features some world-class restaurants, a large event space, a live-cooking area and office space.

Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores
Another dose of factory or ‘outlet’ shopping in Orlando, this time at Lake Buena Vista. This one follows the same theme as the two ‘Premium Outlets’ around International Drive – rows of shops set around an outdoor space, all offering big discounts on apparel and homeware taken straight off the factory line. The choice here is smaller, but so are the crowds. Stores include Reebok, Crocs, Calvin Klein, Justice, Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland, Fossil, Nike and a few dozen more. Discounts range from 20-70% off RRP.

Mount Dora
Another out-of-town shopping hub, Mount Dora presents an excellent range of shops and dining options, all a short stroll away from its picturesque namesake lake. The delightful town center was once known as the ‘Antiques Capital’ of the region, and while many fine antique and collectable stores remain, the shopping options have diversified somewhat, with plenty of art galleries, fashion boutiques, gardening stores, home décor, jewelers, and wine cellars – all making this a highly-recommended area to spend the afternoon browsing the shops. Most of the stores are found around 3rd-7th Avenue, which comprise the main town center.

Vineland Pointe Shopping Mall Orlando (open in mid-2018)
Vineland Pointe is Orlando’s largest shopping mall. It’s home to the largest selection of goods, and the go to spot for high-end fashion, sporting goods and technology. Many stores have huge discounts running throughout the year, so you can really pick up a bargain here. There’s also a great value food court. Located on International Drive next to many of I-Drive’s popular tourist spots, this is one of the most convenient shopping spots for those staying in and around Disney and Universal.

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