Walt Disney World can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced planners. There is so much to take in consideration and most websites assume you know the basics. This is a breakdown of all the ins and outs of Walt Disney World in Orlando so you can get the general overview of each park and what it has to offer to better plan your next trip! 

For each park, I will include a general overview, number of attractions, number of thrill rides, number of restaurants, lists of the most popular attractions and restaurants and finally some personal recommendations of my favorites in each park. We will then be taking a look at some other basic things you need to know to plan the ultimate Disney trip including, Dining Reservations, Park Reservations (COVID edition!), Fastpasses and Resorts. This will be the beginning of a Disney planning series on the website so be on the lookout for some articles covering specifics hotels, restaurants and other offerings! 

MyDisneyExperience App

Let’s get started! 

Here are some terms you’ll see often while planning your Disney vacation: 

My Disney Experience: This is an app you MUST download. It will keep track of all your plans, reservations, park passes and fast passes. During COVID it will also be how you order food from the Quick Service dining locations. 

Park Passes: During COVID, Disney World has implemented a park reservation system. That means you will have to make a park reservation after you buy your theme park ticket. This is very straight forward on the Disney app or website but make sure you check to make sure the park has availability before buying your tickets! 

Park Hopping: If you add-on the park hopper option to your Disney pass, you can use it to enter multiple parks on the same day. If you have a short trip, this might not be a good use of money as each park as a lot to offer! To note: During COVID you can only park hop after 2pm and it is subject to capacity limits- though park hopping has been available every day for each park as of April 2021! 

Quick Service– this is a cafeteria style food stand. The prices range from $10-20 per meal and do not require reservations. During COVID you can only “mobile order” through the app and pickup at the counter. There will usually be seating but it will be first come first serve and will sometimes be outside and uncovered! 

Quick Service Meal- Columbia Harbour House (MK)

Table Service: A sit down restaurant. These will almost always require reservations and are on the pricey side ($15-35 per meal). These vary in quality so I would do my research before booking! 

Signature Dining– the most upscale dining in Disney. These will always require reservations and can be very expensive ($35-100+ per meal). These are all very high quality and bring unique offerings to a theme park vacation! 

Fastpasses: This is a free service that allows you to “pre-book” 3 rides at a time in one park. You can book these 60 days out with a Disney Resort Reservation or 30 days out without a resort reservation. You will need active tickets on your account to book. This service has been discontinued during COVID so we will see what it looks like if it comes back! 

DAS: Disability Access Pass. This will allow someone with a diagnosed disability to walk up to the cast member at the ride and get a return time to ride the ride (instead of having to physically wait in line). Keep in mind- this doesn’t typically apply to a mobility disability as most ride cues are able to accommodate wheelchairs. To request this pass- see the guest services booth at the front of any of the parks. You will only need to do this once per trip and everyone in your party can ride at the same time, but make sure they are all present when you request the pass. 

The Parks 

Magic Kingdom 

The iconic Disney World park, Magic Kingdom truly has fun for the whole family. Boasting the most attractions of any other park, Magic Kingdom is a wonderland for all ages. You won’t find the most intense rides here, but it does have a couple of (Disney style) thrill rides. Thrill rides in Magic Kingdom include: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Magic Kingdom (MK) also has the iconic themed rides that aren’t packed with thrill but are arguably just as entertaining as the coasters. Those include: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan and of course, It’s a Small World. 

Food options at this park are notoriously lacking but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something great! Our favorite spots include: 

Quick Service:

  • Sleepy Hollow: Spicy Chicken Waffle or Nutella Fruit Waffle 
  • Pecos Bill: We get the chicken nachos and load up on toppings for a cheap meal (that we split!)

Table Service (Reservations HIGHLY Suggested):

  • Skipper’s Canteen- a little out of the box, but the best sit down restaurant in our opinion. 

**There is no alcohol served in Magic Kingdom except at Table Service/Signature Dining! 

Magic Kingdom Breakdown: 

General Vibe: Playful, Classic Disney

Total Attractions: 40 (including shows!)

# of Thrill Rides: 4

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train 
  • Peter Pan 
  • The “Mountains” (Space, Big Thunder, Splash)

Dining Options: 38 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 7

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table 
  • Be Our Guest (Dinner) 

Animal Kingdom 

Animal Kingdom is an oasis during a busy theme park vacation. While there are a number of thrill rides (including: Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest), this park also offers a unique option of relaxing nature walks and moments of peace and quiet among some amazing flora. When making your way around Animal Kingdom, make sure to take in all the intricate details embedded in every aspect of this park. The park has 4 sections including: Asia, Africa, Pandora- The World of Avatar and DinoLand USA, each offering its own incredible theming in rides, food, and attractions!  

The food really varies here, but is some of our favorite on property. You’ll find a little bit of everything in this park! 

Quick Service:

  • Satu’li Cateen- Make your own bowls with rice, salad or a potato hash and top them with your choice of meat! 
  • Nomad Lounge: Although this started as a well kept secret, it has definitely grown in popularity. You won’t find too much food here but the bread service is to die for! It also has some of the most well-balanced drinks we’ve found in the Disney parks! 

Table Service (Reservations HIGHLY Suggested):

  • Yak and Yeti- a beloved restaurant in the Asia portion of the park. It has some of the more basic Indian type foods you’d find, but they are prepared very well! 

Animal Kingdom Breakdown: 

General Vibe: Relaxed, Outdoorsy, Unique 

Total Attractions: 24 (including animal exhibits!)

# of Thrill Rides: 4

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Flight of Passage 
  • Expedition Everest 
  • Kilimanjaro Safari 

Dining Options: 33 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 7

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Yak and Yeti 

Hollywood Studios 

The continuously evolving Hollywood Studios is the home to the newest addition to Disney World, Galaxy’s Edge. Based on the Star Wars universe, this park is truly immersive with every corner riddled with interactive games and missions. Here you’ll find stormtroopers wandering, Chewbaca fixing his ships and even Kylo Ren continuously searching for the Resistance! It is truly one of a kind. In the other corners of Hollywood Studios, you’ll find Toy Story Land, Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard; which all have their own unique offerings. Hollywood Studios also offers the most thrilling rides of all the parks. 

I’ll be honest, we haven’t experienced many of the sit down restaurants in this park, but we’ve done a lot of bars and lounges! We will usually just walk over to EPCOT or try out spots on the Boardwalk (connects Hollywood Studios and EPCOT). Remember, you’ll need a park hopper if you plan to jump over to EPCOT. The boardwalk does not require a ticket! 

Quick Service:

  • Docking Bay 7- Galaxy’s Edge unique dining experience. We love the breakfast here! 

Table Service

  • 50s Prime Time- set in a 50s theme living room, the waiters play on the “manners” of the 1950s so don’t be surprised if you get heckled! 
  • Sci-Fi Diner- The fair is basic American but you sit in a “drive in theater car” themed table while a Sci-Fi classic plays on the giant screen. Definitely a fun stop! 


  • Oga’s Cantina- A Star Wars themed bar with the most unique drinks on property. Most of the “seating” is standing at tables and there is almost no food offered though! 
  • Tune-In Lounge- Attached to 50s Prime Time Restaurant, you can get comfort classics like Meatloaf and Fried Chicken in a 50s themed living room bar 
  • Baseline Tap: This spot offers great snacks and craft beer

Hollywood Studios Breakdown: 

General Vibe: Adventurous, Thrilling, Nostalgic

Total Attractions: 17 (including shows!)

# of Thrill Rides: 5

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Rise of the Resistance (see below for details)
  • Slinky Dog Dash 

Dining Options: 32 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 5

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Oga’s Cantina 
  • Sci-Fi Diner 

Special Note about Rise of the Resistance:

This is the only ride in Disney World where you cannot physically stand in line to ride. You must get a digital boarding pass to be able to ride. You have to get the pass the same day you have a reservation for Hollywood Studios and they are released twice a day (7am and 1pm). They go VERY fast- like within a minute. If you get a pass, you’ll get a return time and be able to walk on to the ride then!

You don’t have to be physically in the park to try for a boarding group but to be eligible for the 1pm slot, you had of of scanned into the park (you have to have been in the park earlier in the day). For this reason, I suggest making your Hollywood Studios day on a weekday if possible. Weekends are always going to be busier so this gives you a better shot!


The most “adult” of all the Disney World Park, EPCOT is a combination of two different themes. The first theme is futuristic, space travel and the second is a “world showcase” which boasts 11 themed pockets of different counties. The countries include: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Japan, Morocco, Italy, USA, France, UK, and Canada. Each “Country” offers its own dining experiences, shops and cultural exhibits. EPCOT is also home to the Land and Seas Pavilions. Here you will find some quality learning opportunities including an aquarium and a tour of one of the greenhouses that Disney World actually uses for its restaurants. EPCOT is currently under construction, so some of the Future World sections may be inaccessible. 

EPCOT definitely has the most food choices of any parks. Below I’ll drop some crowd favorites for Table Service dining but with all the food carts around, it might be better to plan to “snack around the world” at this park! 

Quick Service:

  • Sunshine Terrance- This is in the land pavilion and is great if you have picky eaters who won’t enjoy the offerings in the World Showcase. 
  • Les Halles- this is a true hidden gem. The pastries are great and the prices are VERY low (in Disney Standards). I mean a glass of wine under $7? That just doesn’t happen at Disney World!

Table Service

  • Rose and Crown- this is a fun play on a British Pub serving up Fish and Chips with other British favorites (including a great beer selection) 
  • Via Napoli- Hailed as the best Pizza in the Parks, this is a must do if you are craving a crowd pleasing pizza!

EPCOT has a rotating schedule of festivals which add some fun food booths, scavenger hunts, entertainment and themed merchandise. They do not require any extra admission costs, but you may want to book additional offerings (like cooking classes) that are offered at additional charges. Check Disney World’s website for more information on those! 

Festival of the Arts- focused on performing and visual art, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, meet the artist series and additional art galleries with prints and original works for sale. Typically runs Jan-late Feb.

Flower and Garden Festival- focused on the amazing topiaries Disney creates around the work, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, butterfly gardens, and a scavenger hunt. Typically runs Mar- May (It goes through June in 2021!)

Food and Wine Festival- focused on fine food and wine, this festival includes almost 40 food booths, a concert series and many additional offerings (cooking classes, wine pairings, etc.) Typically runs Aug- late Oct or early Nov.

Festival of the Holidays- Focused on holidays around the world, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, the Candlelight Processional, and entertainers in each country that explain their Christmas traditions. Typically runs Nov- Dec. 

EPCOT Breakdown: 

General Vibe: Foodie, Educational, Cultural

Total Attractions: 40  (including cultural points in the World Showcase!)

# of Thrill Rides: 2

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Frozen Ever After
  • Test Track. 
  • Soarin’

Dining Options: 59 (not including festival booths!)

# of Table Service: 16

# of Signature Dining: 4

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Le Cellier 
  • Via Napoli 
  • Rose and Crown 

Now that you’ve got the basics, its time to start booking! As I continue to add to my Disney World Guidebook, I’ll add the links down below!

Value Vs Moderate Resort

Drinking Around the World in EPCOT

Disney on a Budget

1 thought on “Disney Decoded- A Disney World Beginner’s Guide

  1. Pingback: Disney -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial