Walt Disney World is widely considered to be the “happiest place on Earth”. This massive complex of amusement parks, resorts, and shopping centers located near Orlando, Florida has been delighting kids of all ages since 1971.

What began as one fun park centered around Mickey Mouse has evolved into four amusement parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), over a dozen themed resorts, two water parks, a giant sports complex, and an extensive shopping and entertainment center.

A family can travel to Disney World 50 times and never have the same experience! From the fun and exciting rides to the outstanding food to the unique accommodations, a trip to Walt Disney World is always an unforgettable experience.

The Orlando area has built up around the Disney parks over the last forty years, and there are hundreds of hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals nearby. Most offer discount deals and free transportation to the parks. Every large and small hotel chain is represented, and offer great options and amenities. However, staying on Disney property is the ultimate way to transform your trip to a few theme parks into a full-on Disney experience.

There are three levels of resort on Disney property: value, moderate, and deluxe. Each resort within that category has a specific theme, on-site pools, restaurants, and free round the clock transportation to every square inch of Disney property.

The value resorts are the lower-priced option on Disney property. The rooms are a bit smaller, and the pools aren’t as fancy, but you still receive stellar Disney customer service and amenities. Resorts such as the Pop Century Resort, featuring mid-century pop culture decor, is a fun and colorful place to stay. The All-Star resorts, feature music, sports, and movie themed grounds and guest rooms. The newest value resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, is a loving tribute to the most popular animated Disney films.

The moderate resorts are the middle tier on Disney property. The rooms are more spacious than at the value resorts, the pools are larger and more unique, and there are great family activities available. The Coronado Springs resort creates the feeling of the beaches of tropical Mexico, with decor reminiscent of the ancient ruins. Port Orleans will put you right in the middle of New Orleans, both the French Quarter and the mansions of the Old South. The Caribbean Beach resort is like taking a cruise on land, with seven beaches on property and a fun atmosphere.

The Deluxe resorts offer both luxury and outstanding amenities. Spacious guest rooms and suites, five-star restaurants, family activities, and gorgeous decor make these resorts worth every penny. Animal Kingdom Lodge is situated near the Animal Kingdom Park, and from nearly every vantage point, you will see giraffes, zebras, kudu, and other African creatures roaming and grazing.The Grand Floridian is a love letter to the south, with ornate south decor and sweeping views of the lagoon.

Other resorts, like Old Key West, the Contemporary, and Wilderness Lodge feature their own unique personalities.

Dining at Disney is almost as much fun as riding the rides in the parks. There are award-winning restaurants in the resorts, such as Victoria and Albert’s, located in the Grand Floridian. There are fun themed restaurants like the Sci-fi Dine-In Theater, located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where you can dine in a convertible at a drive-in at night. The Yak and Yeti, located in Animal Kingdom, will make you feel as if you are dining at the foot of Mount Everest. The detailed and faithful decor is only topped by its selection of tasty Asian dishes. The World Showcase at EPCOT is renowned for its dining. Each country has restaurants that serve authentic cuisine, including Morocco, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Italy, and France.

For the kids, character dining is a fun and unique experience. Many of the restaurants throughout the parks and some of the resorts feature character breakfasts and lunches. For a flat fee, a family can dine at an extensive buffet, while Disney characters circulate and greet everyone. They take pictures, sign autographs, and give out plenty of hugs. There is a Winnie the Pooh themed dining experience, as well as a Disney Princess themed experience in Cinderella’s Castle (and at NOrway in EPCOT), one devoted to Chip and Dale, and several featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald Duck. Kids and adults alike love the character dining experience.

In a word, everything! Ride the rides at the parks, including the Aerosmith Rock n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Expedition Everest, Dinosaur, Test Track, Soarin, and of course, Space Mountain. The new addition to Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom nearly doubled the size of the park, and features plenty of fun for little (and big) princes and princesses.

Cool off at the water park, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. Go mini-golfing, or take up a real game of golf at one of the championship courses on property. Visit Downtown Disney and shop, eat, see a movie, go bowling, or take in a showing of La Nouba by Cirqu du Soleil.

And, of course, relax at the resort. Sit by the pool, go down a water slide with the kids, rent a pontoon boat, or go fishing. Kids will enjoy the activities that many of the resorts offer free of charge, including dance parties, scavenger hunts, and marshmallow roasts by the campfire.

Summer is the busiest season at Disney World, rivalled only by the Christmas holidays. It is also oppressively hot and humid, so be prepared to stand in long lines and sweat profusely. April and May (after Easter) and September and October are less crowded and more temperate.

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