Disney World in Orlando Florida is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. There are countless iconic rides, shows, and other attractions. But how do you figure out the best things to do Disney World for your next vacation? I have personally been to Disney World multiple times in my life and have just recently finished a Disney family vacation in September 2021. In this must do at Disney World guide, I will be showing you my favorite things to do at both the parks as well as the entire Walt Disney World resort. If you are looking for a guide to the best rides at Disney World, you can find that on my blog post here. I hope you find this blog post informative for your next trip!
Must Do At Disney World in Orlando Florida
Table of Contents
1. Get Pictures Taken With Your Favorite Characters
One of the big draws to a Disney vacation is all of the characters that you can see throughout the parks. Children of all ages will absolutely love seeing their favorite characters from their favorite movies in person. You will see many classic characters like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Pluto. But, you will also see princesses and many other characters.
At the time of writing this, due to the coronavirus pandemic, character interactions are still reduced. Instead of character meet and greets, you will see the characters walking around and on parades where you can take pictures of them. Hopefully, as the coronavirus pandemic is starting to become more controlled, the characters will begin to have normal meet and greets once again. The meet and greets were certainly a highlight during my trips as a child.
2. Visit the Many Disney World Resort Hotels
With over 25 different theme hotels at Disney, there is certainly plenty to explore. The best thing is that visiting the resort hotels is entirely free and open to the public. You don’t have to be staying at one of the resorts to visit. Many of the resort hotels have restaurants that you can also attend. The resort hotels are each individually themed and very beautifully done. The hotels range from kid-friendly to middle ground and some even are very fancy and high-end.
My absolute favorite hotel at Disney is the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Themed with authentic African style, it is one of the most ornate of all the resort hotels. Some other great hotels to visit are the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Beach Club, and Riviera Resort hotels. While many of these don’t have actual attractions, walking around all the themed areas can be a great way to spend a day when you have a down day away from the theme parks. Also, this is a great option for people that are staying off Disney property but still want to experience the magic of the hotels. Check out my full blog post about the best Disney World Resort Hotels.
3. Drink Around the World at Epcot
For visitors 21 and older, a very popular must do at Disney World is to drink around the world showcase at Epcot. The World Showcase at Epcot has many different pavilions themed after countries from all over the world serving up food and drinks from these regions. Another great option for those who don’t drink alcohol is to eat your way around the world. You can get small bites or appetizers from each pavilion and taste so many flavors of unique dishes.
Drinking around the World is a very fun activity to get a glass of wine, beer or a cocktail from many different countries and walk around the world showcase. Obviously, you probably won’t be doing this in every country in one day since there are 11 different countries represented. But if you can have 11 drinks in one day then more power to you.
4. Visit Disney Springs
Disney Springs, once called Downtown Disney, is a major shopping and dining area that is completely free to enter. Here you will find over 100 stores, over 60 restaurants, live entertainment and more. You will find some great shopping at Disney Springs with very well-known big brand stores alongside smaller boutique shops. Also, at Disney Springs you can find lots of Disney-themed merchandise that you can’t get anywhere else not to mention the largest Disney store.
Along with all of the shopping, Disney Springs has some fantastic dining options with every type of cuisine you can imagine. Some personal favorites here at The Boathouse, Paddlefish, and Raglan Road. I put together an entire blog post about Things to Do Disney Springs in Orlando Florida which you can find here.
5. Eat at a Character Dining Restaurant
Similar to getting your picture taken with the many Disney characters throughout the theme parks, there are several themed character dining options. At these restaurants, you not only get a meal but get to interact with the characters as well. During these experiences, your favorite characters will come around to your table and interact with you and your children while you eat your meal. It is a really thrilling experience for many children. Some of the most popular character dining restaurants are Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Ohana at the Polynesian Resort, and Be Our Guest restaurant.
At the time of writing this, many of the character dining meals have been altered due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instead of coming up to your table and interacting, the characters will simply make an appearance in the restaurant during your meal. This does, unfortunately, make the experience a little lesser in my opinion Typically character meals are on the pricier side so when the characters don’t actually even interact personally it is hard to warrant the price. But hopefully, full character dining will be coming back soon.
6. View the Animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
As already mentioned, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is my favorite resort hotel and there’s a good reason for that! At the lodge, you can see real live African animals such as giraffes, zebras, antelope, and many more favorites directly from your balcony window. It is a really magical experience. But the best part is that you don’t even have to be staying at this hotel to enjoy seeing the animals.
If you come to the lodge, you can see all the beautiful animals yourself from an observation area. While this isn’t the same as looking out your room window and seeing animals, it is the next best thing. There are multiple locations to view the animals throughout the resort at both the Jambo House and Kidani Village areas. Also, be sure to head over to the pool area at Jambo House to see dozens of gorgeous flamingos in a special area. This is also a great area to view even more animals. Visiting Animal Kingdom Lodge is definitely one of the best things to do Disney World.
7. Visit a Disney Water Park
Disney World in Orlando Florida is home to 2 water parks in addition to everything else they already offer. These two water parks at Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Blizzard Beach is themed like a ski resort that suddenly melted, leaving all the previous snow activities as water slides. Blizzard Beach is a much more thrilling water park with fast water slides and a much higher energy style park.
Typhoon Lagoon is a much more laid-back water park. While they do have thrilling water slides as well, the main highlight of Typhoon Lagoon is their wave pool. It is the largest man-made wave pool in the country and is super fun to splash around in waves. You can even take surfing lessons here at special times. In addition to the wave pool, Typhoon Lagoon also has a fantastic lazy river for if you’re in the mood to just chill out and float the day way. Typhoon Lagoon is definitely my personal favorite water park at Disney.
8. Ride the Many Iconic Disney World Rides
Some of the best things to do Disney World is to ride the many iconic rides. Disney World is famous for its amazing rides that thrill children and adults of all ages. With so many countless iconic rides such as Space Mountain, It’s A Small World, Splash Mountain, and many many more there is certainly something for everybody. While you won’t find many high thrill roller coaster rides at Disney, what you will find is much more family-friendly.
The majority of the rides at Disney are storybook style rides where you enter a vehicle of some sort and get taken through your favorite movies. Everything from Peter Pan to Frozen and Winnie the Pooh, there is a storybook ride for any movie you could want. These rides are great for the entire family because all ages from toddlers to grandparents can handle them without them being too scary or thrilling. This was the original vision of Walt Disney when creating this park, to create a place where the entire family can enjoy the rides. And that vision holds true today. I have put together an entire list of the best rides at Disney that you can find here.
9. Watch a Parade
One of the must do at Disney World activities is to watch one of the many parades going on throughout the theme parks. But these are not like some small-town parade floats. The parades at Disney are some of the most elaborate I’ve ever seen. With incredibly detailed floats, tons of characters, music, and dancing, the parades are fun for everybody in the family. You can check the Disney app for times for all of the parades. Or you could get lucky and just happen upon one of them.
Along with the many parades, there are lots of different shows that happen at the theme parks. If you get to the Magic Kingdom when they first open, there will be a small show put on by the main characters by the train clock tower. And be sure to be on the lookout for live shows at Cinderellas Castle stage. There are lots of options at the Magic Kingdom to see characters and live performances. I know that my family always enjoys these parades.
10. Watch the Fireworks
When you think of the best things to do Disney World in Orlando Florida, you would probably think of fireworks, right? Disney is famous for its incredible fireworks shows that happen every single night. The fireworks shows at Disney World are some of the most elaborate I have ever seen. The fireworks show is a must do at Disney World. Not only does this include some of the best fireworks, there is an entire production behind it. If you are Magic Kingdom, the entire Cinderella Castle comes to life for a one of a kind light and projection show. The castle is illuminated with your favorite characters and beautiful music. They change the show every few years so be sure to check the main Disney website for the latest.
But Magic Kingdom isn’t the only theme park that has a fireworks show. Both Epcot and Hollywood Studios do their own fireworks displays. The Epcot fireworks show includes an illumination show as well that showcases cultures from all over the world projected into the night sky. Animal Kingdom obviously cannot have a fireworks show because they house live animals and the fireworks would scare the animals too much. Instead at Animal Kingdom, they have a night show called Rivers of Lights. This light show showcases beautiful illuminations on a floating globe in the middle of the lake of animals from all over the world with theme music. It is absolutely beautiful.
11. Attend a Festival at Epcot
Along with the usual thrills of Epcot, many times throughout the year there will be special events happening. These are at no extra cost to enter, but you simply pay for whatever you consume. The most popular of these festivals is the Food and Wine Festival, but there is also the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring. These festivals have stands set up all over the park with different offerings.
During the Food and Wine Festival, the international cuisine at Epcot goes on overboard. You can taste food and wine from not only the usual 11 countries around the World Showcase, you many many others. Every year they add new and exciting countries to the cuisine list. The Flower and Garden Festival is somewhat similar. But, in this case, Disney creates beautiful topiaries and works of art through gardening that can be viewed all over the theme park. It is a really fun addition to this already fantastic theme park.
12. Ride the Monorail
While the monorail is just a method of transportation, there is something iconically Disney about it. The monorail goes around the Magic Kingdom resort area. You can take it from the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary resorts to the Magic Kingdom. The monorail also is a main method of transportation to get from the main parking lot at Magic Kingdom to the theme park. It is a very fun way to start a magical day at the Magic Kingdom.
For a more relaxed ride, you can take a ferry from the parking lot area to the Magic Kingdom. This option is usually much less crowded and a very quick and beautiful way to get to the park. On our recent trip, we rode the ferry for the first time and it was a very nice experience with great views all around the Bay Lake area. I highly recommend this option as well for your next trip.
13. See a Live Show
Another must do at Disney World in Orlando Florida is to see one of their many live shows. At all four of the theme parks, you can see live performances from the characters and incredibly talented performers. While there have been fewer live shows available recently due to the coronavirus pandemic, these shows will definitely be making a comeback. The most noteworthy live show is the Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom where you get to live the story of the popular film The Lion King. Some more great live shows at the theme parks include Finding Nemo The Musical, Fantasmic, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and more!
14. Attend a Special Ticketed Event
For an additional cost, Disney throws special ticketed events around certain holidays throughout the year. These events are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party which usually starts in late August until Halloween. Then there is Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party which usually starts just after Halloween and goes until Christmas. These events are highly themed parties with special shows, special food and drinks, and you even get to see your favorite characters dressed in their holiday best. This is a completely different cost than your usual theme park ticket though. I have never been to any of these parties but from everything I’ve heard if you are at the parks around the time of it then it’s a must do at Disney World in Orlando Florida.
I hope you found this must do at Disney World guide to be helpful and informative. These are all just my personal opinions and choices from my own experiences. Obviously, there is no bad way to do a trip to Disney World. Whatever you like the most is what is best for your family. What are some of the best things to do in Disney World in Orlando Florida in your opinion? Let me know in the comments below! If you enjoyed this content, consider sharing it with your friends and family for their next Disney vacation as well. Thank you so much for coming to my blog!