Walt Disney World: what MUST we do?

This seems poll-ish, so in IMHO we go.

In August, my wife and I will be going to Walt Disney World in Florida, courtesy of her father (which totally rules, by the way). She’s been there before, but I’ve never even been to Florida.

So, I’m sure we have people who live right next door and go to WDW upwards of 10 times a month, so I’m looking for personal experiences. Who’s got advice? What stuff MUST we do/see/ride/eat? The only thing on my “must” list right now is MuppetVision 3D, because Jim Henson is my idol. What else? Tell me everything! I need to know!

It would help to know a few details. Staying on or off site? Kids? Ages?

Spend the afternoon in one of the water parks. Spend an evening in Downtown Disney (shop the Lego store!). Buy a Birnbaum guide, it’s a great help. Don’t worry about seeing it all, you can’t in 3 or 4 days. It’s hard in 6 or 7. So relax, hit your high points, don’t stress out. Spend a couple of hours just sitting around Epcot watching the parades and fireworks and strolling through the gardens. More advice after the details are in…

I heartily second Unix Geek’s suggestion of a Birnbaum guide.

I’ve always wanted to do the beer tour around the world thing in Epcot but last time I went I was 17.

As far as eating goes, I highly suggest Ohana on top of the Polynesian; it is definitely worth the cake. Even better if you get reservations around the time they do the parade across the lake (if they still do that thing).

Oh and buy a fan at the Mitsokoshi store in Japan. You’ll thank me later. The teppan place in Japan is ok but pretty much standard Benihana faire.

I’ll think of more, later.

If you plan to eat at Epcot, make your reservations early in the day. Sometimes there is upwards of a two-hour wait! I really enjoyed the Mexican restaurant there, with the volcano on the back wall. The Italian restaurant was AWFUL - maybe it was just a bad night, but the food was mediocre, the service was abrupt and distracted, and the place was LOUD.

WDW is a LOT of parks. Unless you have small kids or a real hankering to revisit your own childhood, steer clear of the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom - that’s mainly kiddie rides. DO see the Pirates of the Caribbean (the movie is based on the ride) and the Haunted Mansion.

Go to MGM! The Great Movie Ride is made for old fogies like me who don’t like to be jostled about. The Rock’n’Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror are great rides if you’re OK with stuff like that (I’m not) - be aware that the Rock’n’Roller Coaster goes from zero to sixty in a split second - you’ll come out with your hair standing on end and your neck a little sore.

At Animal Kingdom, see the “It’s Tough To Be A Bug” show IF YOU DO NOT HAVE LITTLE KIDS - it’s way too scary for the under-six set.

Huh - I had an excellent experience there this past summer - fairly quick service, decent food, not too crowded.

Granted, I was on the brink of literally passing out from dehydration/heat stroke, so pretty much any non-sunny place where I could sit down and they handed me ice water seemed like heaven at the point.

Regardless: EPCOT definitely gets my vote. I think that the ‘screaming children’ ratio was way lower than you’d get at the other parks, and some of the stuff really was neat.

I really think eating choices at Disney World can make or break a day, especially if you have a couple of young ones in tow. We found there’s really no way to go on the cheap since a burger at the counter service window cost about $7, and most of the time it was worth the extra few dollars to sit at a restaurant table, order real food and be tended to while we tended the children and planned the next leg of our Amazing Adventure.

Whether you like things planned down to 15 minute blocks of time (like my husband) or prefer to go spontaneous and see what you see (like me) you may want to have a plan loosely based on restaurant reservations you’ve made in advance…excuse me. They call them ‘priority seating bookings’ not ‘reservations’ which simply means you are on the list and will be seated soon, unlike the dozens of disappointed families who didn’t call ahead and will carry their screaming children away from the podium while you wait for your table.

Since we had two little ones on our most recent trip, (we went as a childfree couple about 10 years ago…the contrast is stark) we hit a bunch of character meals. The benefit of going to character meals with your children is that you can tell them that standing in line for a two hour wait to get a character autograph in the park will not be tolerated. I was aghast at the hundreds (thousands?) of families willing to do this!

Crystal Palace Buffet – fantastic. The food was outstanding, the theming was flawless, and the Pooh characters were a big hit with the kids.

Chef Mickey’s Breakfast – I’d do it again. Great food, fun atmosphere, and you’re literally under the monorail so if you book your table early enough in the morning you can make a fast escape directly into the MK as the gates open.

Liberty Tree Tavern – Okay. Family style meals made this one a little easier. Fun classic characters like Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale.

Restaurantosaurus – Breakfast buffet. Really stupid name, but it was a great way to start the day at Animal Kindom.

We also had dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table in the castle. While this isn’t technically a character meal, it seems to be the only way one can meet Cinderella, so it’s wildly popular among families with young girls. The downside is that it is shockingly overpriced, the menu isn’t very kid friendly, the food is miserable and tasteless, and the service sucked princess ass the night we ate there. M’Lady thinks next time we’ll book our table so we can wait in the Grand Hall and chat with Cinderella, but change our minds about eating before we’re taken to our seats! (nice way to model integrity for the kiddoes, right?)

Eating at Epcot can be a nightmare…or a great treat. Again, plan way ahead and plan wisely. If you book a table at the Rose & Crown, ask for terrace seating, and time your meal right (the reservation staff will help you with this) you can be finishing your pint just as Illuminations starts right in front of you.

The Coral Reef restaurant in the Living Seas building was also a hit with our family, since the baby goes ape over fish and there we were, seated next to the room-size window of a building-size aquarium.

The Rainforest Cafe in Animal Kingdom was also pretty good, and I’m sure there were more but this is turning into a guidesite.

And speaking of guidesites, we dug around fan sites and used the official Disney site to plan our trip. As a compromise to our vastly different and often conflicting approaches to time management, my husband and I agreed on a tri-fold sheet of paper that acted as our daily planner for each day. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. Each block had priority seating bookings we had to hit (or a counter service option) and our list of must see attractions in the vicinity.

So, I guess we kind of ate our way through Disney, but it worked very well. Mind you, we were there for 14 days :eek: while FarmMan attended a symposium.

Four major parks, two waterparks, nightclub complex, shopping, 100 restaurants, 99 holes of golf, great resorts, Cirque du Soliel. What turns your crank? How many days are you going to be there? We go for a week every few years and seldom get everything done we’d like to do.

I’d recommend calling 90 days out (now pretty much) for dinner reservations instead of waiting until you get there. You can always change your mind.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.
We pillage, we plunder, we rifle, and loot,
Drink up, me 'earties, yo ho.
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot,
Drink up me 'earties, yo ho
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

Take the hint? :slight_smile:


It’s dull.

Skip EPCOT? That’s foolish. EPCOT is the most interesting place in the whole she-bang.

We’re frequent guests at Disney. Once per year pretty much.

  1. Stay on Disney property. The benefits WAY outweigh any cost concerns.
  2. Get the deluxe fairhopper pass and stay on Disney property. You’ll get these ‘Magic Wish’ points that you can spend at the expensive restaurants so there’s no ‘cash out of hand’ for those. Some will cost you 2 points each but most cost 1.
  3. The Cinderella Restaurant in the second floor of the Castle does have very good food. I had a steak there last fall that was great.
  4. The restaurant at ‘The Living Sea’ in EPCOT is terrific for seafood if that’s your thing.

I second Crique du Soliel - I saw it two weeks ago and loved it. If you are not sticking firmly to Disney - Discovery Cove was expensive but worth every dime - an experience I will never forget. One of the biggest surprises of my visit was the food. Lunch is included in the price and I was expecting a sandwich and bag of chips - my chicken was excellent and hubby’s salmon was some of the best I’ve ever had.

The Norwegian restaurant at Epcot was surprisingly good.

As for rides, my favorite is Mr. Toad – nothing is more fun.

Dude, Mr. Toad is no longer with us. They changed it into a Winnie ther Pooh ride. Sorry. It’s pretty much the same ride, though.

JC, what are “Magic Wish” points?

And Max, figure out how to use FastPass to maximise your ride to wait ratio.

Also, re Fantasyland, I think that the “Mickey’s Philharmagic” thing is pretty cool, and often there is no wait or very short wait there.

I might have the name wrong but it’s SOMETHING like “Magic Wish Points”.

If you book a package with Disney (get the room on site and the park-hopper pass and so forth) you get a certain number of these points. They can be exchanged for meals, souveniers, what-have-you. We used most of ours for meals. Over 5 days last time I was out about $30 for meals for five (one an infant so four eaters) and we ate at the better restaurants. They’re even usable at Downtown Disney. We did Planet Hollywood that way.

But FTR, I wouldn’t recommend Planet Hollywood for anyone who:

A) Has small children
B) Is an adult

Cirque if you can afford it.

My favorite trick: ask an attemdant if you can ride in the front seat. It’s free, and they almost always say yes, but it’s by-request only.

Cirque if you can afford it.

My favorite trick: ask an attemdant if you can ride in the monorail front seat. It’s free, and they almost always say yes, but it’s by-request only.


Stay at the Caribbean Beach (sic). Get up early in the morning and take your complimentary big ol’ mug over to the food court for your Mickey waffles and coffee. The mist will be rising from the lagoon, and the Island Bridge will be quiet, damp, and mysterious. My favorite time of the day at the World.

Eat in **Norway ** at EPCOT (do NOT skip EPCOT! Sheesh!). Have the Rice Cream for dessert.

Do the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. It takes off from a standing start - no painfully slow climb up a big freakin’ hill, just zooom!

Do Pirates; do Small World. They’re icons, and you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t.

I understand they removed the Chair-lift ride. That’s too bad - I always liked that one for a cool-down.

When you take the mono-rail, ask a uniformed person if it’s possible to ride in the front car with the driver. If you’ve got a kid, have the kid ask. The answer? Of course it’s possible, and right this way! But it’s first come-first served, and there’s not a whole lot of seats in it.

Why furt, was that *you * next to me in the front car?

Our favorite place was Epcot. We went for our anniversary last year had spent more time in Epcot than the other parks. It is great if you have no kids with you. If you are a beer drinker start at the Canadian pavillion (catch the band Off Kilter, they were great) & have a beer at every country (except France) We had a blast doing this. Luckily we could just walk (stumble) to our hotel.

Some restaurants we liked were Flying Fish at the Boardwalk, Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, The Italian Restaurant in Epcot. A previous poster didn’t like, but we did. The Polynesian Luau at the Polynesian Hotel was great. Our kids loved this when we took them.

You MUST go on the water ride in “Asia” at the Animal Kingdom (I forget the name). It’s one of those raft rides where you get soaked, so be warned! Also, if you do a safari, do it early in the morning - the line is shorter and you’ll be more likely to see more animals b/c it’s cooler. They’ll be hiding more midday, especially in August. Also, the rides in the dinosaur section are great, but the one inside (again, forget the name) is pretty scary with a lot of animatronic (and very realistic) dinosaurs, so it might be scary for some kids. The roller coaster right next to it is fantastic - it’s a revolving coaster. Each cab has four seats, and the cab spins as you go up and down. It’s really great, we went on it three times in a row b/c the line was so short - we didn’t even have to get out of our cab, the guy running the ride just let us stay in.

I’ll second the rockin’ roller coaster and the suggestion for Fast Passes - you pick up fast passes (they’re free) at certain rides. The pass designates a time for you to come back and wait for that ride. You still may have to wait in line, but it will be significantly shorter than the regular line. Since Disney has them for almost all of the popular rides, we hardly waited at all.

My fiance and I are going there on our honeymoon, and I’ve been with my family 5 or 6 times, so I’m a big fan. Not necessarily of the character stuff, but they’ve got great rides and a lot to do. My favorite Disney parks are MGM and Epcot. The countries in Epcot are fun, though they can be boring for kids - there’s a lot of shopping and restaurants, but very few rides. Most of the rides are in the other half of the park (Land of Tomorrow?).