I recently went to Disney World recently for the first time and had no clue what to expect going into my vacation. Living in Southern California, I’ve always been a Disneyland fan and a sometimes annual pass holder. I love Disneyland so going to Disney World seemed like a natural thing to do.
Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, and a shopping area. I opted to skip the water parks and spend more time in the theme parks for my first trip. So here are my best to worst Disney World parks.
Epcot was my favorite park by far because of one thing – the food. Granted, I did go during Food and Wine festival when there’s an even greater variety of food and food-related things to do. It was great just to walk around World showcase and see Disney’s representation of the different countries. Every shop had something unique and interesting.
The rides in this park were great as well. I absolutely loved Test Track, it seemed so much more interactive and thrilling than Radiator Spring Racers. Frozen Ever After too felt like it really deserved the hype it gets just for the amazing animatronics. Mission Space was also really thrilling and unique. And unexpectedly Living with the Land was one of my favorite rides. Though it’s slow at times, I like the pace of it since it gave me time to relax in the air conditioning. And the farming aspect of the ride was so interesting! I loved seeing all the different kinds of crops.
2. Animal Kingdom
I loved Animal Kingdom! Out of all the parks it felt the most unique. I felt like it was somewhere in between a theme park and a zoo. There are so many exhibits and animals to see, and I loved their emphasis on conservation. I especially loved watching the river otters play and the up close experiences you can get at Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Flights of Wonder, the bird show, was also hilarious and entertaining.
The rides were really fun too and I enjoyed every ride that I went on. Pandora – the land based on the movie Avatar – was a highlight of the park. I was amazed by how long the lines for Flights of Passage were, but the ride itself was truly awe-inspiring. Kilimanjaro Safaris was everything I hoped for and more! I went on it four times during my trip and loved it each and every time. No two rides were the same and we got to see a huge variety of different animals. Expedition Everest was almost too thrilling. It’s super well themed and definitely fun for the more adventurous rider. And though the ride track is exactly the same as Indiana Jones, Dinosaur was much scarier and a little more fun.
In terms of food, Animal Kingdom has a lot to offer. Satu’li Canteen in Pandora has to be one of the best quick service restaurants in Disney World. Everything we had was really unique and delicious. Flame Tree BBQ was another quick service restaurant that felt very worth the meal credit. The ribs we got were really tasty and the portion sizing was perfect for two people to share one serving. And if you’re looking for a place to just relax and wind down, I really liked the Nomad Lounge with it’s indoor and outdoor seating and super comfortable lounge chairs.
3. Magic Kingdom
Some people might be surprised to see the Magic Kingdom so far down on this list, but I think what detracted from it for me was how similar the Magic Kingdom is to Disneyland. A lot of the rides are extremely similar if not exactly the same and I couldn’t help but compare the two parks. Maybe it was just the weather when I was there, but everything at the Magic Kingdom really reminded me of the travel commercials I used to watch in the 90s with their super blown out color scheme. And it was hot. So hot.
Magic Kingdom for me felt kind of like Disneyland on steroids with a dash of soulless corporate marketing. Everything felt very commercial and crowded, and sadly not very magical. And this park is huge.
Not to say I didn’t enjoy my time in the park. I still had a great time. It was great to see the Disney World versions of classic Disneyland rides like Space Mountain and the Jungle Cruise but also experience their unique rides like the Seven Dwarves Mine Train and the People Mover. I loved the People Mover, especially the part where you go through Space Mountain, absolutely amazing.
Magic Kingdom definitely had the most rides and the most things to do. The Festival of Fantasy Parade was really great. I especially loved the Maleficent Dragon float! And you really can’t miss the Happily Ever After fireworks! The projections on the castle were really beautiful.
And lastly, the food. One of the best table service restaurants I had at Disney World was the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen in Adventureland. The name is definitely a mouthful, but get a reservation there! The restaurant is full of the punny, terrible dad-jokes that you get on the Jungle Cruise. And the food was so good! I had the steak, and I have to say it was one of the more delicious steaks I’ve had (that’s saying a lot since I had the steak at Le Cellier the night before). Another tip from me, make sure you grab the cinnamon glazed almonds from one of the snack carts before leaving, they are so worth it.
4. Disney Springs
I know Disney Springs isn’t actually a theme park at Disney World. But I put it on this list since there’s so much to see and do here. Of course the big attraction in Disney Springs is the shopping. They have typical shops you might find at a mall at home like Alex & Ani or UNIQLO as well as Disney stores you won’t find anywhere else like the Star Wars Trading Post. Compared to California the sales tax in Florida is a little cheaper giving tourists like me a little extra incentive to do our buying here instead of at home. Plus many of these shops carry Disney World exclusive merchandise you can’t find anywhere else.
The food is another reason to take a trip to Disney Springs. This place is filled to the brim with restaurants, bars, and food stands to try. There’s Morimoto Asia run by famous Iron Chef Morimoto Masaharu, known for their sticky ribs. And the Daily Poutine with its selection of amazing poutine creations. And be sure to stop by Amorette’s Patisserie for their famous Mickey Mousse, a beautiful chocolate mousse cake decorated to look like the Mouse himself. Very Instagram worthy, very delicious.
5. Hollywood Studio
And last on my list is Hollywood Studios. Yes, I prefer Disney Springs over a theme park. And here’s why. Hollywood Studios is a small park to begin with but with all the construction going on in the park there are only four working rides in the whole park. Toy Story Mania and Star Tours can both be find in almost exactly the same format in Disney California Adventure. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith is really extreme for a Disney coaster. I’m normally pretty good with roller coasters and I don’t get motion sick easily but the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was a little difficult for me to handle. I think the ride I enjoyed most was the Hollywood Tower of Terror and that mostly because of pure nostalgia now that the ride in California Adventure has been re-themed to Guardians of the Galaxy. I like that the ride vehicle actually moves on a track and doesn’t just go up and down, it adds that extra little element.
Hollywood Studios has a lot in the way of entertainment. At night we watched Disney Movie Magic and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular back to back. It was pretty enjoyable but I can’t say that they were the best projections or fireworks I’ve ever seen. We only watched one show – Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage. And I must say this is a hard pass. I understand it’s difficult to condense a feature film into a 30 minute stage show, but my gosh it was awful. It’s essentially every musical number in the film with huge parts of the plot cut out. The acting is really terrible too. The actors might not be entirely at fault given what they have to work with, but I have a feeling we can’t completely blame the bad dialogue either.
In terms of dining we didn’t find much in this park. 50’s Prime Time Cafe is worth looking into, as well as the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant for its unique theming. Overall, we would rather wander over to the Boardwalk or Epcot for better dining options.
And that’s my impression of the Walt Disney World parks. I hope you enjoyed reading and found some of it useful! Leave a comment with your top five Disney World parks in the comments down below!