If you’re making a pilgrimage to Florida, I’ve got 6 suggested things to do at Disney World that I just don’t think You should miss
When thinking of Disney World, the very first that comes to mind is the iconic Cinderella Castle. The fairy-tale like structure is the calling card for the ‘Magic Kingdom’, one of four (!) theme parks in the entire complex. Together with the other three, they comprise the entire Walt Disney World Resort.
It is said the resort is the most visited place in the world, and naturally, the list of things do at Disney World is endless. Mapping out what’s new, what you’d like to see and where you would love to stay is a great way to prepare your trip to Disney World. After all, it’s considered the must-see’s in American culture.
A word on the different things to do at Disney World
There are very few things to do in Disney World besides the parks, and why should you? The complex is truly enormous with four theme parks, two water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, a few golf courses, a camping resort and Disney Springs which is a stand-alone shopping and entertainment centre.
Chances are you aren’t going to visit longer than a week, and most visitors stay around four to five days. This gives you enough time to see the four theme parks and even spend a second day in your favourite one. Plus, the longer you stay, the cheaper the day passes become.
Whatever the length of your stay, under no circumstance should you give in to the tendency of packing in too much in those few days. Chances are you will pay too much or family fatigue sets in, and I do not recommend either one of the two.
Best time to visit Disney World in 2017
October is a great time to be visiting Disney World and I would argue September is even better, since the kids have just returned to school and the park will have considerably fewer visitors.
Within the remainder of 2017, the best times to visit Disney World are most of the weekdays in October, all weekdays in November but make sure to dodge Thanksgiving. All weekdays in December work great too, but stay away from Christmas and New Years Eve to avoid unusual amounts of guests.
Pro tip: There is a universal way to get the most our of your Disney World visit. We highly recommend getting to the parks at the opening hours, and taking a break when the parks are at its very busiest – in the afternoon. If you make use of the wait-time apps and the Taputapu wearable (more on that below), you will quickly see that even at the very busiest days, a visit to Disney World suddenly becomes manageable is is a far cry from back in the days, when it seemed like you spent 75% of your time waiting in line while your ice cream melted on your hands and shoes.
1. New in 2017 – Legoland Florida resort
Essentially, coming to Disney World is something you do for the children, so why not go all out and stay at the most toy-themed accommodation you can find, the Legoland Beach Retreat? With 166 brand new rooms and 83 beach-themed bungalows, the accommodation puts a huge emphasis on the famous Danish building bricks.
I sort of left Legos behind when I turned 11, with a brief relapse when my little brother got into it, but generally speaking I haven’t followed all the new ranges the company came up with.
So Ninjago Lego doesn’t really mean anything to me, but its one of the best-selling Legos right now with its very own TV-show, and 2017 features an entire park built around it with a variety of rides and other attractions. Or to put it in the words of Disney themselves; ‘think like the ninja, move like the ninja and train like the ninja’. Naturally, there are tons of Lego sets on sale as well in the different gift shops.
2. New in 2017 – Universal’s Volcano Bay
Growing up, one of the strongest memories I have from the different theme parks I visited were the waiting lines. As a kid, pretty much everything involved ‘waiting’ and I distinctly remember my early youth as being bored out of my skull most of the time. When we get older that feeling disappears and time tends to go faster and faster.
But as a little kid at a theme park, the queues and their daunting signs notifying you of ’60 more minutes after this point’ were truly horrific. Theme parks have been aware of this for quite some time, but until very recently there was no real solution at hand. A theme park where the majority of your time is spent waiting simply sucks.
But new technology like wearables allows for ‘virtual lines’. You reserve a spot, and an app tells you it is your turn to ride. In theory, the idea is great but in practice it is often a high-tech solution applied to an old concept. Which translates to walking ridiculous distances in a park to catch that 10-minute window when it is your turn to ride. Not so at Universals Volcano Bay, where the entire park is designed around the TapuTapu wearable.
Altogether it creates a much more pleasurable experience, where you simply make reservations from your wrist, and other functions are expected to be rolled out in the future. For now, you can also use the waterproof wristband to trigger the cameras on the various rides, and it is rumoured to activate a variety of interactive features.
In a waterpark, the possibilities could be numerous, and one of the functions I read about is that it allows you to spray unsuspecting strangers with water.
I truly believe this is going to be a game changer and future generations will eventually associate theme park visits with apps or bracelets that conveniently let you map out your entire stay without a single waiting period. For this reason alone I’d like to try Volcano Bay as soon as possible.
3. New in 2017 – Race through NYC starring Jimmy Fallon
If you are looking for things to do at Disney World for Adults, do check out the Race through New York. This ride is a 3D-motion similator, housed inside a replica of the New York Studio where the tonight show is usually taped. The introduction and the rest of the musical pieces are played by The Roots, and Steve Higgins announces the guests of the show, which coincidentally happens to be you.
Nowadays it is not uncommon to have a 3D ride like this set up in the back of a shopping mall, but the sophistication of this ride is on another level.
Of course there is the standard smell effects and the spraying of water, but the way in which it is all integrated really makes for a smooth and immersive experience for yourself and 75 other passengers. For New Yorkers, fans of the Tonight Show and/or the Roots, this is one of the special things to do at Disney World.
4. Dining in Disney World in 2017
I think it is a fair assessment that Disney World is mostly for the kids. But at the end of the day, having dinner at a great accommodation makes things infinitely better, and 2017 will see a variety of new restaurants and entertainment venues open up.
By now, most of them have had their opening festivities, but night venue ‘The Edison’ hasn’t opened yet. It is highly anticipated though, and it is rumoured that there will be a dress code and an adult only policy. Expect this to be one of those things to do at Disney world for adults.
Other recent openings are the ‘Planet Hollywood Observatory’, think burgers and sandwiches a la Americana, the Paddlefish for seafood and the Polite Pig with a variety of grilled meals.
Next to The Edison, ‘Maria and Enzo’s will open by the end of the year, matching the feel of its neighbor and it is safe to say guests are expected to have dinner in one of the places and drinks at the other.
5. Opening November 2017 – Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
This is another massive franchise the Disney corporation has bought into and I have to admit, I read the Harry Potter books as well. Instead of focussing on my thesis, I was hanging out in a bookstore in Germany called Hugendubel, where you could buy a Cappuccino and read as many books as you wanted.
So visiting a theme park with a massive Harry Potter show could be an interesting trip down memory lane, although I couldn’t help thinking that ‘Christmas’ does sound very seasonal. What about the rest of the year? Will there also be special things to do at Disney world?
As it turns out, I was onto something. Basically this special ‘holiday experience’ runs from November 18th until January 6th every year and it is a very atmospheric addition to an already cosy-looking ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ that has been opened since 2010. Key elements of the books like Hogwarts Express™, Diagon Alley™, and the Leaky Cauldron™ wizarding pub are all present and it is safe to say no corners were cut.
Instead of a stationary wagon, the Hogwarts Express™ is an actual train traveling from another station, and the entire school was built as well, consisting of several attractions and rides as well, all with prominent roles in the books. So in case you have enjoyed the books yourself or your kids are about that age, paying a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter makes total sense.
Have dinner at the Three Broomsticks, and you are pretty much guaranteed to generate lasting memories for yourself, but especially for your kids. First off, the decor, the costumes and carefully chosen architecture all work exceptionally well, but when you are young, you simply don’t look through the illusion as easy as you do when you get older.
6. Opening November 2017 – Universals Holiday Parade
Building on the parks long-existing Macy’s Holiday Parade, this re-imagined version of the old parade opens the same day as the Christmas theme for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and will feature newer characters from Dreamworks like the key characters from Shrek, the animals from Madagascar and the minions. I am pretty sure Santa is going to be in there somewhere as well too, so for a unique Christmas experience that your kids won’t forget anytime soon, seriously consider Orlando?
Conclusion – What’s coming to Disney World in the future?
So this is the bad part for me personally; since Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise for a whopping four billions US dollars, they are determined to ‘use the force’ and start generating revenue on this investment. As such, some very, very cool projects have been announced by the mother company. And with 14 acres planned, this is going to be the largest section of Disney World to date. Mickey Mouse is not messing around with this one.
A Millennium Falcon ride is planned, where visitors get to pilot the ‘fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy’. To continue the whole space theme, there will be a Star Wars battle attraction as well, with the resistance pitted against the first order, putting visitors inside a star destroyer. I am sorry for non-SW readers but this is all very exciting for someone who grew up with these movies.
And it doesn’t stop there, as Disney intends to go beyond the Star Wars universe with a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction as well.
My absolute highlight would be the planned Star Wars hotel, which Disney describes as their most immersive experience as of yet. Similar to Westworld (the TV show), where visitors get to play out storylines, Disney intends to set up individual storylines for its guests as well. Without revealing too much detail, a two-day narrative was mentioned, which plays itself out during a stay at the resort.
Unfortunately, these attractions are not available anytime soon, with none of the Star Wars-themed attractions opening up before 2019. Until then, hard core fans will have to make due with Hotel Sisi Driss in Tunesia. As the original set for Tatooine, the former movie set has been converted to a very basic bed & breakfast, where the occasional hard core fan turns up. Reviews are a mixed bag at best, so don’t expect the Sisi Driss to be listed on Hotelquickly.com anytime soon.
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Sacha Albarda is an copywriter/online media expert living in South-east Asia for the better part of a decade. Asked what he likes best about living there, he usually answers that it’s “the tightly organized anarchy”.