It’s easy to suspend disbelief at Walt Disney World, Orlando where immersive storytelling and innovation are key.
When you experience Walt Disney World, which covers an area twice the size of Manhattan, you realise just how deeply Disney is in the DNA of family life. As you wander the four theme parks and two water parks, the enormity of its cultural significance is clear. There are literally hundreds of characters bursting out of the Disney catalogue that have a meaningful place in our hearts from Mickey Mouse to Hans Solo.
Walt Disney World is joyful and creative, with the most incredible attention to detail. Disney nerds are happy to tell you the number of hidden Mickey’s they’ve ticked off around the park and you could be forgiven for thinking you really were in a Tibetan village as you head for Expedition Everest rollercoaster in Animal Kingdom were it not for the Mickey ears and Florida sunshine. Walt Disney’s original vision for the park was for it to be flawless. No gum on the seats; no views of the real world. And this still rings true.
Walt Disney World taps deep into your nostalgia with gentle rides like Peter Pan’s Flight in the Magic Kingdom dating back to the 1971 opening where families sit in cute galleons and set sail over a mini London landscape, yet keeps pace with technology too with incredible virtual reality rides such as the new Avatar Flight of Passage attraction in Pandora where you will believe you’re flying on the back of a banshee. You can even feel this magical creature breathing as you soar and plummet on this thrilling ride. Equally, Disney can be life affirming and educational with rides like Space Ship Earth taking you on a journey through time, bringing moments in history alive such as Michael Angelo painting the Sistine Chapel and Steve Jobs in his garage.
Dining at Disney is a revelation too and all part of the spectacle. It’s worth paying for a display table at Teppan Edo Japanese restaurant where playful chefs artfully prepare your meal on a hotplate in front of you, finding time to incorporate a pepperpot juggle and a moving Mickey made of vegetables.
At Be Our Guest restaurant set in the Beauty and the Beast castle ballroom at Magic Kingdom you can meet The Beast and order the Grey Matter for dessert. New restaurants include Woody’s Lunch Box at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a space themed restaurant at Epcot next to Mission: SPACE with an intergalactic view.
With Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary coming up in 2021, there is much afoot in the park that never rests on its laurels.
Planning ahead is crucial. Work out what you all want to see to avoid arguments once there. You can easily spend a day in each park. A robust boost to WIFI encourages families to share their experiences. Download the My Disney Experience App, which has all the show times, and wait times, lets you book FastPass+, and shows you all photos and videos of you on rides which you can buy. A new Play Disney Parks app will allow you to compete with family members on rides.
Use your Fast Passes wisely and keep an eye on what’s available. There are only a limited number available. Queues for popular rides can be up to 3 hours. You can reserve fast passes up to 60 days in advance with the purchase of your tickets. If you are staying at a Disney resort hotel, you can reserve fast passes 90 days in advance.
Getting to the parks early is key. Stay in a Disney resort hotel to take advantage of earlier and later park access.
If you can afford the hefty £317 per hour (min 7 continuous hours) fee, book a VIP Disney Tour Guide for up to 10 guests who will sail you past all the queues, guide you in through back lots and offer an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Disney.
Best multi-gen resorts: Art of Animation has suites for up to six; Disney Vacation Club offers three-bedroom suites with kitchens,
See The Avengers at the new Dolby Cinema at Disney Springs AMC theatre which literally shakes.