At over 20,000 acres, Walt Disney World is by far the largest of the six Disney Resort Parks around the globe. It also has the most expansive offering of separate theme parks and lands within its borders. Made up of four theme parks, two water parks, one outdoor mall area (Disney Springs), a sports complex (ESPN), two mini golf areas, over thirty on-site hotels, and over 300 dining and beverage options, this Disney property certainly lives up to it’s title of “World”.
While terminology is sometimes interchangeable and can often be confusing, the entirety of Walt Disney World is referred to as a Resort, Park, or Theme Park. Within Disney World, there are four main parks, and each of these parks have their own areas or “lands” within them. Disney hotels are also referred to as Resorts, and each have different theming and Disney-related benefits (Extra Magic Hours, free bus transportation to the parks, etc.).
The Walt Disney World Parks
There are currently four parks in Disney World:
- Magic Kingdom
- Hollywood Studios
- Animal Kingdom
Magic Kingdom was the first to open in 1971, followed by EPCOT in 1982, Hollywood Studios (originally know as “Disney–MGM Studios”) in 1989, and Animal Kingdom in 1998.
Though it is the smallest of the four in acreage, Magic Kingdom happens to be the biggest park in terms of the amount of “lands” it offers. The Magic Kingdom (MK) is comprised of six main areas or lands – Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland. Each of these areas are laid out in a circle/spoke pattern around Cinderella Castle.
Visit the Magic Kingdom Overview page to learn more about this park.
The second largest park in Walt Disney World is EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and is based off of an idea that Walt himself had for an ever-growing community. EPCOT is divided into two main sections – Future World and World Showcase. Future World is located at the front of the park, nearest to the entrance, while World Showcase is located further away from the entrance at the back of the park. There are currently two entrances to World Showcase, which are through Future World at the front of the park and through the International Gateway near the France Pavilion toward the middle area of EPCOT. The bridge/path known as International Gateway is connected the the Disney Boardwalk area which sits adjacent to EPCOT.
World Showcase features specially themed areas that represent various countries from around the world. There are currently eleven countries around World Showcase which are laid out in a circle pattern surrounding a large lagoon. While standing at the back edge of Future World and facing the entrance to World Showcase, the country pavilion around the lagoon traveling clockwise are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America (The American Adventure), Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.
Visit the EPCOT Overview page to learn more about this park.
Hollywood Studios opened in 1989 under the name Disney’s MGM Studios. In 2008, the name of this park was changed to Hollywood Studios (not to be confused with Universal Studios, which is not a Disney Park or owned by Disney but rather owned by Universal). Hollywood Studios is divided into seven main areas, which are Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, Animation Courtyard, Echo Lake, Commissary Lane, Grand Avenue, and the newly added Toy Story Land. Hollywood Studios will once again expand in 2019 when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge officially opens as an eighth area.
Hollywood Studios is home to several of Disney’s most iconic rides, including Tower of Terror, Rock “n” Roller Coaster, and Star Tours. This park also features several fan-favorite shows, such as Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular!, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, and the incredibly popular Fantasmic! show featuring Mickey Mouse and an impressive list of Disney characters.
Visit the Hollywood Studios Overview page to learn more about this park.
Opened in 1998 at around 500 acres, Animal Kingdom is the largest of the all the Disney Parks and features a unique design as it is part traditional theme park and part zoo. This park is currently divided into seven main areas: Oasis, Discovery Island, DinoLand U.S.A., Asia, Africa, Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Animal Kingdom is home to the famous Tree of Life, fan-favorite rollercoaster Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, and Kilimanjaro Safaris. Also found here are two musical productions, one based on Disney Pixar’s Finding Nemo and the other based on a 1990’s Disney classic, The Lion King.
Visit the Animal Kingdom Overview page to learn more about this park.