Disney Area, Florida Travel Guide

Introduce your inner child (and your real child, too) to a Walt Disney World vacation, where dreams come true every day – or at least they're supposed to! The magic wears off fast when you’re not prepared, though. With the help of our detailed Disney trip guide, you can steer clear of Disney distress and enjoy a fun, cheap, and effortless Disney World family vacation instead. When it comes time to book, choose one of our Disney villas for your stay. If you've got ideas on how we can improve and update our guide, please send us tips!

What to Do in Disney World, Orlando

Cinderellas Castle Magic KingdomDisney World is all about doing. So, don't miss out on even a fourth of the magic; visit the four main parks! Make sure to set aside several days for your Disney holiday so you can soak up the resort in all its splendor, without feeling rushed!

Magic Kingdom – the Disney World family vacation hub

Magic Kingdom is a wonderland for the little ones, whose eyes will widen on the “it’s a small world” cruise and Cinderella’s Golden Carousel. But parents won’t feel left out, either. If your family is made up of wannabe buccaneers and lasses, immerse yourselves in the swashbuckling adventure that is Pirates of the Caribbean. If it’s thrills you seek, go for a ride on Space Mountain or Splash Mountain! In the late afternoon, take a break with Mickey and watch him lead the Dreams Come True Parade. Or hang out with Ariel in her grotto! When the sun goes down, Magic Kingdom becomes even more magical with the “SpectroMagic” Parade and a stunning fireworks show at Cinderella’s Castle. Whether it’s an educational journey through the Hall of Presidents or a spooky tour of the Haunted Mansion, the many Magic Kingdom attractions will make everyone in your group smile. A day spent at Magic Kingdom is sure to tire, though, so turn into a family vacation rental in Disney World after it’s over.

Epcot – Grown-Up fun

Couldn’t afford that trip to Paris this year? No worries; check out the France pavilion at Epcot! While you’re at it, stop by Canada, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, and the United Kingdom, shopping and eating like a local. Epcot’s not just a cultural experience, though – it’s got lots of rides! Take a simulated flight over California on Soarin’, rediscover the past and imagine the future on Spaceship Earth, see Nemo and Friends on the clamobile, and sit back (but don’t relax) at the 3-D special effects show “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” And wherever you go in Epcot, keep an ear out for live music throughout the park, performed by talented artists, like the a cappella singers Voices of Liberty and the Mexican folk musicians Mariachi Cobre. At nighttime, everyone gathers at the Showcase Lagoon for a laser light, pyrotechnic, and musical extravaganza, called IllumiNations: Reflections on Earth. If you listen close enough, you might hear hearts stir. Epcot is worth at least one day of attention, but teenagers and up will find themselves spending much more time there.

Hollywood Studios – Lots of thrills

Twilight Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios is where movies come to life and everyone, including you, can be a star. At the American Idol Experience, opening in 2009, show off your vocals or sit in the audience and judge other vocalists. If you’re the most popular singer of the day, you might win a chance to audition for the real American Idol.

Meanwhile, Indiana Jones fans are treated to stunts and special effects at the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular. If your child prefers light sabers over stunts, take him or her to the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy.

Hollywood Studios is also a favorite hangout for the more adventurous Disney World visitors – the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, Star Tours, and the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror are sure to get the adrenaline pumping. The kiddies have plenty to do, too. At Movie Set Adventure, they can explore a larger-than-life playground right out of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. They’ll also get a kick out of the Muppet Vision 3-D show. But Toy Story Mania, a 4-D interactive, action-packed ride, will likely be the family favorite! (So will your Disney vacation rental.)

For a behind-the-scenes look at the movies, check out Magic of Disney Animation, where you can tour an actual animation studio! While you’re at Hollywood Studios, don’t miss out on the Beauty and the Beast stage show or the Block Party Bash parade.

The real star of the park is, of course, Mickey. Root for the mouse as he squares off with Disney villains you love to hate in the epic nighttime spectacle, Fantasmic! If Hollywood Studios sounds like your thing, consider booking one of our Disney World vacation rentals that are close to its entrance.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Disney World magic meets nature

From tame petting zoos to African safaris, get up close to exotic plants and wildlife, including elephants, tigers, giraffes, monkeys, and Komodo dragons. Mother Nature and manmade rides go together like Mickey and Minnie here. Enjoy a prehistoric odyssey on DINOSAUR the ride, find the animal carvings on the Tree of Life, and help celebrate the “Festival of the Lion King,” a half-hour Broadway-style musical.

Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach – Disney’s water parks

There’s a reason Florida’s called the Sunshine State! To beat the heat in Orlando, make a splash at Disney World’s fun-filled water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Speed slides, raft rides, wave pools, surfing, and even scuba diving await guests of Disney World vacation rentals who are looking to cool off. Typhoon Lagoon – the more family-oriented of the two – is closed for refurbishment until March 22nd, 2009, but Blizzard Beach is up and running.

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Where to Shop and Eat in the Disney Area

Downtown Disney – Disney restaurants and shopping at their best

For an enchanting shopping and dining experience, head to Downtown Disney – a city unto itself that’s managed to become as much of a must-see as Magic Kingdom. Catch a movie at the dazzling AMC Pleasure Island Theater; enjoy virtual adventures at the DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park; listen to live music at the House of Blues; and if it’s in your budget, buy tickets to see Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, which runs Tuesday through Saturday at 6 and 9 pm every week.

When your tummy starts to growl, grab a bite to eat at one-of-a-kind restaurants, like Bongos Cuban Café, Rainforest Café, Wolfgang Puck Café, Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant, and T-Rex Café (coming soon).

For many, shopping at the Downtown Disney Marketplace is the main appeal. Get lost in the brilliant World of Disney, where all kinds of Disney merchandise and collectible items are on display. At the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, little girls can even sign up for a Disney Princess makeover! If it’s just toys you’re after, look no further than Once Upon a Toy, which offers up a vast collection of exclusive and classic Disney toys. The LEGO Imagination Center, the Art of Disney gallery, Cirque du Soleil Shop, Disney’s Candy Cauldron, Magic Masters, Pooh Corner, and many other Downtown Disney shops, are also worth a visit.

Disney’s Boardwalk – A taste of Florida’s past

If you’re at Disney World, you’re not at a Florida beach town – you’re in urban Orlando. But at Disney’s Boardwalk, all bets are off, as it looks just like a 1930s seaside village! For a dueling piano show, check out Jellyrolls, but for a solid night out on the town, the Atlantic Dance Hall is the place to go. Perhaps the most impressive feature of Disney’s Boardwalk is the ESPN Club, where sports lovers come together to eat, drink, shop, and watch the game of their choice. While you’re visiting Disney’s coastal town, make sure to try some seafood at the Flying Fish Café and browse the latest beach fashion at the Thimbles & Threads store.  

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Beyond the Mouse

Disney World Golf Resorts

Disney’s Wide World of Sports – Feeling sporty?

If you’ve got a sports enthusiast in your group, check out the Atlanta Braves Spring Training camp, amateur games of every sport under the sun, as well as special athletic events at the remarkable Wide World of Sports Complex.

Disney Golf – Take a swing.

Some of Florida’s very best golf courses are located in and around the main Disney World area – it’s just another reason a Disney World family vacation is so doable; it includes everyone, even Dad. The Osprey Ridge golf course is the cream of the crop and it’s where the most discerning golfers play. Lake Buena Vista, Palm, and Magnolia are also outstanding courses. If you’re interested in a more relaxed game, take it easy on the Oak Trail. And don’t forget about mini golf! The whole family will love competing against each other at the Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course and the Winter Summerland Miniature Golf Course.

Spa – Take a time out.

Walt Disney World vacations don't have to be so busy. When you think of Disney World, words like “whirlwind, “exciting,” and “hectic” may come to mind… but once you consider the spas conveniently located near our Disney vacation home rentals, “soothing” and “relaxing” join the vocabulary. Facials, massages, aromatherapy, fitness centers, yoga classes, and more, can be found at the Grand Floridian Spa and Health Club, the Mandara Spa, the Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs, and other spots around the park. Another great place to relax amidst a frenzied Disney vacation? Your own Disney vacation rental.

Everything Else

If you’re the athletic, outdoorsy type, Disney World has lots to keep you busy. Lakes are scattered throughout the resort and they’re primed for boating, tubing, parasailing, waterskiing, and fishing. Hiking trails welcome walkers and joggers with beautiful scenery. If you really, really love the outdoors, book a Disney vacation home on the outskirts of the resort with a view of a lake or forest.

If you’d rather speed past your surroundings as fast as possible, though, then experience the resort NASCAR-style with the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where you can race around the Walt Disney World Speedway. Tennis and volleyball courts are also located near your Disney vacation rental.

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What to See at Disney World

From Cinderella’s Castle to the Epcot Globosphere to the Tree of Life, Disney vacations are full of wondrous sights and sounds. Stroll along Disney’s Boardwalk and look out at the beautiful water, watch the daring acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil, fit in a few of Disney World’s famous fireworks and parades into your busy schedule, and if you get the chance, explore the exciting city of Orlando. Disney World vacation home rentals put you in the middle of all the activity, so why not see and do as much as possible?

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When to Visit Disney World

Disney World Spring Break VacationDisney World is the place to be any time of year! But some days, weeks, and months are more interesting or just plain cheaper for a Disney World family vacation. When should you plan your Disney World getaway? Attend special events, benefit from great Disney World discounts, and/or enjoy the best Florida weather possible by carefully choosing your Disney World vacation dates. And whatever you do, book your Disney condo rental now, not later.

January and February 

These are great times to come to buy Disney tickets if you’re looking for less crowds and more deals. However, it can get a little cold at times. As well, Disney World doesn’t put its best face on this time of year, so you’ll miss out on some parades and nighttime events.

Spring Break

Broadly defined as late February to early April, Spring Break is an immensely popular time for a Disney World family vacation, so if you’ve got a romantic getaway or a laidback trip in mind… now’s not the best time to nab your Disney World tickets. However, if you’re hoping to catch lots of parades, fireworks, and nighttime spectaculars, you can expect everything to be up and running during Spring Break. Not to mention, Epcot’s breathtaking International Flower and Garden Festival is underway March 18 to March 31st. Another big advantage to visiting Disney World in the spring is that the weather’s warm, but not too warm – once summertime hits, you’ll be sweating.

Summer

June to August sees huge crowds every day. That means you’ll have trouble finding great deals on airfare or Disney rental rates – after all, it’s peak season! As well, Orlando can get miserably hot. Luckily, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are here to refresh you. A plus is that all those Disney World extras – like Fantasmic! – will occur every night. To make up for some of the minuses, Disney World hosts an annual Summer concert series. If the Florida sun is glaring down on you too hard, make use of the pool at your Disney rental.

Fall

As the kids go back to school in September, the crowd sizes decrease, but the Florida heat can still be a problem. On top of that, it’s hurricane season in Orlando, so make some back-up plans for a rainy day. If you stay in one of our luxurious Disney vacation rentals, you’ll always have a great place to hang out when the weather turns sour.  

It’s a great idea to book your rental in October, because of the cooler temperatures and thinner crowds. Also, for Halloween, expect a special treat at Magic Kingdom – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party!

Disney World Christmas

Winter

November is the start of the holiday season around the world and at Disney World, too. But, with the exception of Christmas week, the park isn’t terribly crowded and Disney World vacation rentals are easy to book this time of year! That’s because the weather isn’t ideal for going on a safari in Animal Kingdom or waiting in line for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (in other words, it’s cold). However, you can look forward to many magical events! Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Holidays Around the World at Epcot, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights at Hollywood Studios, Festival of the Seasons at Downtown Disney, the Atlantic Dance Hall New Year’s Eve at the Boardwalk, and Mickey’s Jingle Jungle Parade at Animal Kingdom, are all highly-anticipated Christmastime events.

Free Admission On Your Birthday!

Another item to keep in mind for 2009 is that Disney World will grant you free park admission on your birthday, as long as you’re at least 3-years-old! How’s that for a deal? You can upgrade your ticket if you wish to visit the park for more than a day (and you probably should).

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What to Bring to Disney World

Check the weather forecast for the dates you’re visiting Orlando and pack appropriate attire – a poncho or an umbrella, or on the other hand, a misting fan and sunscreen, will come in handy for various weather.

Make sure to pack as many necessities now, rather than shopping for them at Disney World later. Why? You’ll spend more money on simple items like diapers in the Disney area than you will at home. Same goes for Mickey Mouse merchandise and autograph books. Don’t let you or a loved one fall victim to Disney World inflation!

Other great items to have on hand are Disney area restaurant menus, park maps and guides, a camera (with batteries), good walking shoes, and a light tote bag.

Research your Disney vacation rental as well as you can and make sure linens, towels, and other supplies like paper towels, eating utensils, and dish soap, will be there when you arrive. If you’re planning to bring along small children on your Disney World family vacation, ask if the rental owner about high chairs and other kid-friendly amenities.

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What to Know - FASTPASS, Extra Magic Hours, and More

Disney RentalsDon’t just buy one Magic Your Way Day Ticket; there are 3-day, 7-day, and 10-day discount Disney tickets, too! Not only can you explore the parks more fully by staying at them for a long time, but the tickets get cheaper as you purchase them for more and more days. For an extra cost, add on options to your ticket package. The Park Hopper Option allows you to explore the four main parks as you wish; without it, you’ve got to stick to one park per day. The Water Park Fun & More Option grants you access to not just Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, but to the water parks, Wide Word of Sports Complex, and DisneyQuest.

Another insider tip is to use Disney’s complimentary FASTPASS service. Simply go to the entrance of a ride and check out the FASTPASS section, which will display a “Return Time” for the ride. If you’re okay with exploring the rest of the park until this return time, print out a FASTPASS ticket and return to the entrance at the designated ride time – with a FASTPASS ticket, you’ll be rushed to the front of the line.

When crafting your Disney itinerary, find out the "when and where" of special events, like parades – that way, you can make it in time to stake out a great viewing spot. Also, keep in mind that every day, one of the Disney parks has “Extra Magic Hours,” meaning it’ll open up early or close late… you don’t want to be the last one in on this!

Other great things to know ahead of time are height requirements for different rides, and disability info (if it applies to anyone in your group). Minimize surprises on your Disney World getaway.

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Getting Around Disney World, Orlando, Florida

There are a variety of car services available for transportation from the Orlando International Airport to Disney World. Depending on where your Disney vacation rental is located, you can rent a car and take 528 West to I-4 West and then exit Epcot Center Drive. From there, the ubiquitous road signs will point you in the right direction! If you live in the area, save money on airline tickets and make a road trip out of it.

Orlando rental cars are helpful but they’re not necessary and in fact, if you rely on a rental car to get you to the parks, you’ll pay a hefty parking fee. Once you’re in the Disney area, the free Disney busses will shuttle you around from park to park and they’ll make enough stops along the way so that you’ll always be a quick ride from your Disney vacation rental. Just keep the bus schedule handy.

You can even board a Disney boat to get to your destination; however, it's more of a scenic commute than a fast one.

So, you know all about the parks… but where are they? Magic Kingdom sits at the northern tip of Disney World, with Animal Kingdom to its southwest and Downtown Disney to its southeast. Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Boardwalk are in the center of the park, while Blizzard Beach, Typhoon Lagoon, and Disney’s World Wide Sports Complex are located at the southern end of the park.

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Disney Area Services

Disney World is the king of family fun and its staff doesn’t want anything to spoil your experience. That means you can rely on top-notch child care and babysitting services as well as child activity centers for those times when you need to get away from the kids! Pet sitters and kennels are also easy to use, and along with our pet-friendly Disney vacation rentals, you and Fido will be set. Bike rentals, watercraft rentals, locker rentals, and unique guest services like delivery of Disney merchandise to your home, all help to make Disney World a truly amazing place. Just make sure to do some research ahead of time. You may need ATM’s, business centers, dry cleaners, churches, cleaning services, and more, during your trip, so find out their locations and hours.

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Why Disney Vacation Rentals?

Disney resort hotels are hard to resist when making Disney World vacation plans. However, cheap Disney condo rentals and vacation homes are just as close to the fun and they’re also bigger and packed with more family-friendly amenities, like wireless internet, cable TV, and a kitchen. In fact, you can even stay in a private Disney resort rental if you choose. All in all, Disney World vacation homes promise a lot more value and a lot more fun than their counterparts – tired and old hotel rooms. Disney trips really can be affordable and relaxing, as long as you've got a rental on your side.

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