Why EPCOT and Animal Kingdom Are Such Important Disney Theme Parks

When I think of Disney World, I admittedly picture Cinderella Castle, the iconic landmark at the heard of Magic Kingdom. Disney World, however, is so much more than the castle and fantasy that Magic Kingdom provides. EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are two of the most important Disney theme parks, arguably across the world. Why you ask? Let me explain.

If you have never visited Disney World, it’s important to explain what makes these two parks unique. EPCOT houses the World Showcase, a section of the park filled with 11 different Country “pavilions.” These countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada. Each of these countries is modeled to resemble the country itself, houses unique dining and experiences in line with the country, and introduces cast members who are native to the countries to interact with the guests. Having 11 different countries to explore in a day is an important interaction that shouldn’t be dismissed. Allowing guests to fully immerse in the different cultures of these countries provide a well rounded, education experience that would lack in that area with another theme park.

Travel west of EPCOT and you will hit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of the four Disney World theme parks. Similar to EPCOT’s World Showcase, Animal Kingdom is split up into individual lands to immerse the guests in a unique experience. Here, guests can visit the Africa area and the Asia area. Like EPCOT, these two sections of the park truly involve the guests in the culture of these continents and are home to cast members from these locations. The music, entertainment, food, and overall style of these two sections of the park truly make guests feel as if they are a part of the culture.

The importance of these two parks really can’t go unnoticed or underappreciated. While this experience is important for kids and adults alike, families are especially lucky for this experience within the parks. A family with kids is unlikely to have the financial ability to visit the various countries represented, and I imagine overseas trips with kids to a brand new country comes with a handful of difficulties. But in Disney World, any child can get the chance to experience new cultures and then meet Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse in the same day. Sprinkling in the chance to learn about other countries and experience them within Disney World is a great way to keep kids attention and promote learning in a fun, friendly, exciting environment.

I know that there is no comparison to traveling the world. The France Pavilion in EPCOT cannot compare to taking a trip to France and visiting the landmarks, speaking with the people, and learning about the history. But, for those of us who simply cannot afford to visit a different country each year, the importance of the Disney World parks including a world traveling type of experience is one that truly makes EPCOT and Animal Kingdom two of the most important and special Disney parks.

Best Ways to Enjoy Disney World Without Hitting the Parks

A trip to Disney World can sound intimidating to many because of it’s high cost. Want to know a little secret? The most expensive part about taking a Disney World vacation is the admission to the parks. Okay, so it’s probably not a secret at all. Theme park tickets in Disney World are extremely expensive. While I personally thing that every last penny is totally worth it, it can be really intimidating to buy, say, a 4-day park hopper pass for about $500+ each. So while it’s pretty clear that theme park tickets in Disney World can be expensive, what you may not know is that there are plenty of ways to enjoy Disney World without having to spend your savings to get into the parks.

I’m a sucker for the Disney World resorts. I know, I know. It may seem like its way too expensive to afford. But, honestly, if you want to get the feel of that Disney magic, staying at a resort is a great option! You don’t have to visit the theme parks at all, but you can still take advantage of the free bus to Disney Springs other non-theme park locations. For comparison, during times of the year when special deals are going on, some of the Disney World Value and Moderate hotels can range from about $120 to less than $200 a night. If you’re planning to visit Orlando anyway, you can get a little taste of the Disney World vacation by spending a few days (or all of them) at one of the Disney World resorts.

If you don’t want to stay at a resort, I can’t totally blame you. If I were staying at a Disney World resort and not visiting the parks, I think I would have some serious FOMO. That being said, you can do so much more outside of the parks and resort stay, too.

If you want to visit a fun, crazy water park one day, take a trip to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon. Disney World finds a way to throw it’s Disney magic into water park form with both of these spots. You’ll experience wild slides and fun attractions all while spending a day in the water and soaking in the sun. Water park tickets are significantly cheaper, and it’s still a great way to experience Disney World without having to invest too much into your vacation.

Beyond the water parks, there are a few other recreation activities you can take part in on Disney World property. Interested in a few rounds of mini golf? Disney World has two different miniature golf locations on property with 36 holes each to enjoy. And, just like Disney does, it’s not just your regular mini golf course. Each of them is themed to that high level Disney theming that we all know and love. Mini golf definitely won’t fill up an entire day, but it’s a nice way to be on Disney property and feel like you’re enjoying the Disney magic while on your Orlando vacation. Want to take mini golf a step further? You can actually golf on property, too. And, if you’re like me and not a very skilled golfer, you can play foot golf too. Basically, you’ll be playing golf with soccer balls. It’s harder than it looks, so make sure you set aside a good chunk of time to play foot golf if you’re interested!

Last, but certainly not least, you can visit Disney Springs and use that as your hub to travel wherever you wish on Disney property. If you just want to shop for some Disney souvenirs and enjoy some delicious food, stay at Disney Springs for the day! There is more than enough to do there, and buying a couple pieces of Disney merchandise is something you can continue to cherish after your Orlando trip ends. Want to do a little more? Disney Springs is a great hub to get other places on property. Buses to each of the Disney resorts have a stop at Disney Springs. Want my suggestion? Take a bus from Disney Springs to either The Grand Floridian, The Polynesian, or The Contemporary. These three resorts are Disney Worlds “monorail resorts” and all have access to the Disney World monorail. Take a trip around the monorail loop to get some great views of the Magic Kingdom. Stop off at the Ticket and Transportation Center, and take the EPCOT loop to get views from the inside of the park over in EPCOT. The best part? Monorail trips are completely free! When you get back to the TTC, take the Magic Kingdom monorail back to one of the 3 hotels on the loop and take a bus back to Disney Springs.

With all these things to do in Disney World that aren’t theme park related, I do want to leave you on this note: Disney World is Disney World because of the theme parks. If I REALLY couldn’t afford theme park tickets at all and wanted to visit Orlando, I would absolutely do at least one, if not all, of the options above. However, for me, It would be very hard to not take advantage of the theme parks at all. But, Disney World knows how to get people coming on property even if you aren’t planning on visiting the parks. They know what they’re doing, and they do it the best!

How I Like to Pack for Disney World

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Packing for Disney World requires a lot more preparation than you may think. Disney World is in the heart of Central Florida. So, of course, it’s going to be hot, right? That means just throw some shorts and t-shirts in a checked bag and you’ll be on your way. Well, my playbook for packing is a little bit more in depth.

The most important thing to me is that you ALWAYS have some sort of carry on bag. Even if you are checking 1, 2, or maybe even more bags through your airline. Why? It’s not that you need the extra luggage space, necessarily. On your way to Disney World, if you stay at a Disney World resort, they will handle all of your luggage for you. As soon as you drop it off at the counter at your hometown airport, it will be handled by a bunch of other people to get it from your airport to Orlando airport and then to your Disney World resort. If you’ve never been a person who has had their luggage lost, consider yourself lucky. But, take the advice from someone who has. ALWAYS have a carry on bag with at least 1 day worth of clothes for your entire group or family. There is nothing that would bring my mood down more than getting to Disney World so excited to back and realizing that somewhere, my luggage was misplaced and it won’t get to me until the next day. If you didn’t have that carry on bag, you’d be scrambling trying to piece together how to make it work. The carry on totally solves that problem.

Bring a backpack! I have no idea how my family used to survive our long Disney World trips with just fanny packs back in the 90’s-early 2000’s. On my most recent trip, both my boyfriend and I had our own backpacks and they were usually full or close to it. Yet somehow a family of 4 was able to survive in fanny packs? The times have definitely changed. Especially with the increased prices of everything. The last thing you want to do is have to buy snacks, drinks, and clothing items every park day because you didn’t come prepared with what you need in your backpack. Having an extra sweatshirt, your trusty water bottle, and some ziplock bags full of snacks helps you save any money that you may have HAD to spend on those necessities. Your backpack is your right hand partner on a Disney World vacation to help you be the most prepared day after day.

Lastly, make sure you leave some space in your checked bag(s). We all tell ourselves that we’re not going to overspend on souvenirs. But have you seen the new World of Disney at Disney Springs? You tell me how you take even one lap around that place and don’t pick something up. Seriously, tell me how you do that. i really need to stop walking by everything I see, touching it, and going “aw this is cute.” It’s a problem. I’m working on it… (Okay. No, I’m not.) Disney Springs has really evolved into such a great shopping center that it’s become a must-do of any Disney World vacation. When it comes to how shopping at Disney World has changed since I was a kid, Disney Springs is really it. It’s no longer about buying just Disney merchandise. There are so many great stores and shops in Disney Springs that you may just walk into one because something you’ve been needing or wanting is there. So, now, you have to plan for your Disney merchandise as well as a normal shopping day. The extra space in your checked bag will save your life.

Of course, this is just a general overview of how I like to pack for Disney World. There’s a lot more that goes into it. How do I decide what outfits to wear and bring? What if it’s going be hot during the day buy cool at night? I want to have options, but how do I fit it all in my bag? What essentials must be on my packing list? All of these things will be discussed over time on my blog, and I’ll continue to give you the best advice on planning, preparing, and packing for your Disney vacation. Have any specific questions about packing? Comment below or contact me!

My Top 5 Disney World Rides for Grown Ups

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This blog is going to be exclusively about your standard “grown up” rides in Disney World. As you may know from previous blogs of mine, I really don’t believe that any rides are exclusively from grown ups nor do I believe that any rides are exclusively for kids (unless height restrictions come into play.) However, there are rides that are “typically” more popular amongst older crowds. Below, I’m going to run through my top 5 “Disney World Rides for Grown Ups.”

5. Dinosaur

Dinosaur is not for the faint of heart. Every aspect of this ride makes it a great “grow up” ride. It’s absolutely pitch black once you enter the dinosaur age. You can’t see where you’re going and you can’t see where you’ve been. There is always something about not being able to see what’s going to happen next that makes a ride a little bit more thrilling. You are also driving through the time where dinosaurs ruled the world. From personal experience, I can tell you that I was absolutely TERRIFIED of this ride when I was a kid. Now, that’s coming from a kid who was afraid to cross a bridge over water in a thunderstorm because I though I was going to die of electrocution, but that’s a story for another time. The dinosaur animatronics are about 50x less scary when you grow up. Heck, I was smiling at the dinosaur in one of the photo pass pictures on dinosaur on my last trip. Lastly, not only are you moving on a track, but your jeep is jerking you around. Multiple forms of movement on a ride definitely increases the thrill-o-meter. If you add all of this up, this is a great #5 grown-up ride.

4. Expedition Everest

I don’t want to pretend with you guys. The first time I ever rode Expedition Everest I was about 11 years old. The roller coaster aspect? Piece of cake! I had a blast. The “yeti gets in my face and I think I’m going to get my head eaten off” part? Yeah, 11 year-old me was less a fan of that. Nowadays, I’m trying to shake his hand. Honestly, he’s a legend. I would be HONORED to shake his hand. And the roller coster track is a really great one. As someone who hadn’t ridden the ride in years, it was easy to forget how steep and fast that big drop out of the mountain was. That drop alone qualifies this ride as one hell of a grown-up ride if you ask me.

3. Tower of Terror

This ride makes it on my list for so many reasons. You have a thrill, you have a creep theme. You have a show that most kids probably know nothing about. Mix those three things up in a bowl and you have my #3 grown-up ride. There is always something about “creepy” themed rides in Disney World that automatically qualify it as a grown-up ride. Even for the kids who LOVE it, most of them probably walked through the queue line a little bit worried their very first time. This is also a high intensity thrill ride. I mean, you’re being pulled up and down and elevatory shaft at high speeds. And the theming of the ride is “Twilight Zone.” I don’t want to act like I’m some aficionado on “Twilight Zone,” but at least I know what it is! There’s probably a lot of younger kids who get to the pre show and have to turn and ask “what’s the Twilight Zone?” That, in itself, qualifies this to be a grown-up ride.

2. Flight of Passage

Flight of Passage is an incredible ride. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it except that eventually I had to get off of it, and that made me sad. I know that any kid who is tall enough is waiting in line and riding this ride with their family. If this ride were themed any other way, it would not make this list. The fact that this ride is themed based on the movie “Avatar” is the exact reason it made it. Avatar was an INCREDIBLE movie. And, unfortunately, a lot of kids probably haven’t seen it. It’s a really long movie. But it happened to come out in theaters in the prime of my life. I was 14 years old and going to movies was the cool thing to do on the weekend Avatar was hyped BIG TIME, so I went to see it in theaters. I have seen it a handful of times since then, and I can honestly say my experience on Flight of Passage was shaped by the fact that I knew and understood the story of Avatar. I can’t imagine that 7+ year-olds are going out of their way to watch Avatar before riding flight of passage. Do you have to? Of course not! But, the fact that many people my age and older had the chance to watch the movie before experiencing Flight of Passage really helped me bump it to my #2 grown-up ride.

  1. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

I’m sure you knew this was coming. There was no way Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster was going to be left off this list. To be honest, I didn’t really know this was my #1 choice until I started writing this blog. Everything together makes this my absolute FAVORITE grown-up ride. Fast start, upside down, darkness, and a soundtrack of Aerosmith. This is one of the most, if not the most, intense thrills in all of Disney World. It’s the only roller coaster in Disney World to go upside down, and it is one of the fastest rides on property. And if that’s not enough to qualify as a grown-up ride, you get the sound of Aerosmith in your ears. Similar to my thought on F.O.P I think it’s so important that I know and enjoy a lot of Aerosmith music. This ride is cool no matter if you know the music or not. But, being able to sing along and enjoy some music you love and have listened to since you were a young kid is an awesome addition to an awesome ride.

Disney World has done a lot to make a name for itself and ensure that it is not a theme park full of rides for little kids only. Upping the speed, thrill, and theming of rides has really lead to a lot of options for adults to enjoy. Disney World has a way with making people of all ages enjoy their parks, and these 5 rides are a big reason why.

Choosing Your Disney World Hotel on a Budget

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Part of being a 24 year old Disney lover is understanding that I just don’t have the money to sustain consistent trips to the happiest place on earth. Not only that, but the trips I do take have to follow a very strict budget. At 24 years old, I’m not making a “through the roof” salary to spend freely. The hotel options I can afford are limited, the timing of the trips is crucial, and it’s important to find creative ways to maximize my time when I’m there.

Disney World doesn’t make visiting on a budget TOO difficult to make work. With different hotel ranks, it’s pretty easy to pick out the hotels that you can afford with your budget. Value and moderate resorts tend to be the only options I look at when planning a trip. Will I browse through the deluxe resorts and deluxe villas in my free time? Yes, because I’m a Disney World addict. But, when I’m really in vacation planning mode, I won’t even touch the surface of those. It’s important to be realistic when I actually sit down to plan my vacation.

Value resorts are the lowest end resorts on the Disney World property. The rooms are smaller, the theming isn’t as extravagant, and the resort itself is not going to have a lot of extra “frill” to enjoy. The value resorts include the 3 All Star resorts (All Star Movies, All Star Sports, and All Star Music), Pop Century resort, and, I believe, they include Art of Animation in there as well. Pop Century resort just received a face lift in it’s rooms, and I can tell you from personal experience that it’s been well done. And, according to Disney Tourist Blog, the All Stars will be receiving a similar face lift until about midway through next year. While the overall resort theming will seemingly stay the same, the rooms really needed an upgrade to step out of the 90’s. These upgrades will likely cause for an slight increase in price, but the value of these resorts as an option on a budget is still fantastic.

The moderate resorts come with a slight price increase, but they are more well themed and the rooms are larger. The moderate hotels include Caribbean Beach, Coronado Springs, Port Orleans French Quarter, Port Orleans Riverside, and the Cabins at Fort Wilderness. These hotels have a very concise theme, and it really brings you into the Disney World feeling. Deciding to choose a moderate hotel is really about your personal preference. Something to keep in mind is that the lower end moderate hotels (Coronado Springs and Caribbean Beach) are VERY large resorts. But, that doesn’t mean you’re forced to walk from the main check in area all the way to your building every night. There are multiple bus stops around the resort to take you as close to where you need to be. There really is something about the added theming and the larger, more decorated rooms that makes the moderate resorts a really great option if you have some more wiggle room with your budget.

Deluxe resorts are not something I’m going to get into here, as most people my age probably can’t afford that quite yet. But, if you can, please let me know how you do and how I can too!

Magic Kindgom

We finally did it! We have come to our 4th and final Disney World theme park overview! Magic Kingdom is the center stone of Disney World. When I think of Disney World, I think of coming up on Cinderella Castle through Main Street U.S.A. My tagline for this blog is “A Disney World Guide For Young Adults & Kid at Heart.” Magic Kingdom is definitely one park that every young adult needs to embrace their inner child.

Most of my overview blogs have been about what young adults can enjoy in the theme parks. Thrill rides, alcoholic beverages, dining, and more. I’m going to be honest with you, though. My best advice to young adults at Magic Kingdom is to ditch the whole “mature” thing. Take a whirl on Winnie the Pooh and dance along with the Brier Patch crew on Splash Mountain. Be a kid again, because that’s the absolute most fun you will have at Magic Kingdom. You’ve now spent time at 3 other parks riding the thrills and being an adult in Disney World. It’s time to set your inner kid free!

That being said, don’t think that thrill rides DON’T exist in Magic Kingdom. The mountain rides will never disappoint. Splash Mountain brings you the joy of some catchy music, awesome animatronics, and 6 different drops. Splash Mountain is my idea of the pinnacle Disney World ride. It has everything that a young adult & kid at heart, like me, can enjoy. Big Thunder Mountain can be a heck of a thrill if you can snag a back row. You’ll be whipped around an get the feeling of coming out of your seat. Space Mountain is a classic. Even though this ride is one of the slowest coasters in Disney World, being surrounded my darkness really makes it feel like you’re zipping through space. Lastly, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the newest coaster to arrive at Disney World. I know it’s not technically a “mountain,” but it basically falls into the same category. With mine carts that swing back and forth during the ride, this is definitely considered a thrill ride.

No matter what, the best park about visiting the Magic Kingdom as a young adult is getting to embrace being a kid again, and I promise you there are plenty of rides and attractions for just that. Take a ride on Dumbo and soar high in the sky. Take a quick trip to Neverland on Peter Pan. And, of course, don’t forget the classic Disney World staple of It’s a Small World. Magic Kingdom has a way with making you embrace all that it means to be a kid at heart. Even as a 24 year old, who loves a good thrill ride and an adult beverage, my boyfriend and I easily spent our most time of our recent trip at Magic Kingdom. Yet, still, it feels like we could’ve spent days more there if we had the chance.

Magic Kingdom is a no shame, judgement free zone. You can be whatever age and still enjoy everything that it has to offer.

EPCOT

Where else can you go to visit the future and travel around the world all in one day? EPCOT is Walt Disney’s original idea. EPCOT was originally set up as Walt Disney’s “city of tomorrow.” What it is not is a division of Futureworld and World Showcase. What’s crazy, to me, about EPCOT is that Futureworld and World Showcase are two concepts that may seem so different. Futureworld is there to embrace the future of technology and advancement in society, while World Showcase is there to embrace the history of the world and various countries. Yet, somehow, Disney World found a way to make these two polar opposite themes flow together seamlessly.

One way they are able to do this sits right inside the parks icon. Have you ever seen pictures of the “golf ball looking thing” at the very entrance to the park? Yeah, that thing is actually a geodesic sphere with it’s own unique attraction right inside. Spaceship Earth takes riders through the history of communication around the world and the advanced that communication has made. While still a futuristic looking attraction, the concept here ties in very well with World Showcase by harping on history.

Futureworld is also home Soarin’, another ride that combines futuristic technology with world exploration. On Soarin’, you will get to feel like you’re hang-gliding all over the world. You’ll soar (see what they did there) over historic landmarks like the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt, and so much more. Soarin’ has a great way of being an exciting and thrilling ride while also giving you the urge to adventure and explore. What better place to do that than ride next door at World Showcase?

World Showcase is compromised of 10 different countries (11 if you count the American Adventure.) Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, U.K., and Canada make up the countries. Each country has its own attraction, show, or entertainment. Here, you can really get a glimpse into what it would be like to visit these countries. Disney World really doesn’t do anything halfway. To prove it, they have real people from each country there as representatives. Each country also has it’s own food and drinks native to their country for you to try and enjoy! For a young adult like me, this is really one of the most fun parts of visiting Disney World. Want to have a beer in Germany? What about a margarita in Mexico? As long as you’re 21+, there are 11 countries worth of food and “adult beverages” to enjoy. What a way to spend a day! Honestly, if you can’t travel the world, World Showcase is the best way to get a small glimpse.

EPCOT is completely unique, entertaining, and educational while not giving up what it means to be considered a “theme park.” A feat that many theme parks would find intimidating to try to achieve, Disney World has done to perfection.