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  1. #1

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    First trip to WDW

    Hi!
    My boyfriend and I just booked our first trip to WDW for Sept. 2014 for 3 days, and we need some advice. We will be going to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios; one day per park. What are the must sees at these parks? We have annual passes to Disneyland, but are there any attractions that are a MUST for the Magic Kingdom at WDW? Also what are some good food stops? We most likely will do one nice sit down restaurant, and the rest just quick service; so any suggestions are greatly welcomed.
    We will also have one free day, with no parks at all, before we leave. Any suggestions around WDW area that are interesting to check out?
    As you can see I'm jumping the gun by already planning, and we're very excited about this trip. Thank you so much for anyone willing to give some advice!

  2. #2

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    My family just spent a couple days at Disney World this past summer. We live 15 miles from Disneyland and have been there many times, but this was our first trip to Florida.

    We only went to two parks: Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Animal Kingdom is beautiful! We started the day with a character breakfast at Tusker House restaurant, our reservation was almost an hour before the park opened, so we actually got to go in the park early. The breakfast was wonderful and lots of fun! As soon as we were finished eating, we hopped on the Kilimanjaro Safaris (which are next to the restaurant), because it was recommended to us that we do this early in the day. It was good advice, and this was a great way to start our day.

    After that, be sure to take some time exploring the many trails at Animal Kingdom. Just soak in the beauty, see the shows, ride Expedition Everest... and put everything in the Dinosaur area at the very bottom of your priority list.

    Epcot was just okay. I've wanted to go there ever since I was a child and it first opened... perhaps I had built up a lifetime of unrealistic expectations, lol.

    But one of my favorite things was the afternoon my wife and I just explored the resort. We rode monorails, gaped at the Contemporary Hotel, got a Dole Whip at the Polynesian Resort, and had dinner at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney, which was just amazing. by the time we got to the Boardwalk hotel, we didnt' have much time, but that looks like it might be a nice place to spend some time, too.

  3. #3

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    I would NOT pass up Epcot. Really. I'd rather skip DHS and do Epcot instead.

  4. #4

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Curious, are you staying on property or off property? 3 days...are they actual full days or are you arriving on one day and then spending half a day at a park. Because if you're checking into a hotel on day one you're really only doing a park half a day and if you're checking out of a hotel on the last day then you're doing another half day park.

    So... curious as to what your hotel stay situation is like before I or others offer a bit more detailed advice. Thanks
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  5. #5

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    We decided to skip Epcot, because we're more interested in going on rides; Epcot didn't seem to have as many. We will be arriving in Florida on a Sunday, going to the parks Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Thursday will be an empty day, and going home on Friday. So we will have 3 full days in the parks, but one day per park.
    We also will not be staying on property, but our hotel is just a 10 minute drive to WDW.

    Thank you so much for your advice everyone!


  6. #6

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Ditto on EPCOT. Even with it's fall from former glory, it's still a unique and wonderful park. World Showcase is spectacular. Spaceship Earth is one of my all-time favorite Disney attractions.

    That said, some of my Magic Kingdom favorites: POTC, HM, Big Thunder, Country Bears, People Mover, and Jungle Cruise. Even though most of these are attractions we have here, they are different versions, and therefore offer different experiences. As a DIsneyland local, I found it really made everything fresh and gave me an opportunity to reexperience it all as a newbie again.

    At DAK, the big attractions for me were Kilimanjaro Safari, Legend of the Lion King, and Dinosaur. Honestly, it wasn't a big deal for me to see exotic animals, since we have a pretty top notch zoo nearby.

    At the Studios, I liked the Beauty and the Beast show, the Indiana Jones stunt show, and the Great Movie Ride. As has already been said, the rides that both parks share are near clones (except for the queue areas), so if you're pressed for time, they may not be worth your while. FYI, I wasn't impressed AT ALL with their Fantasmic (except for the bleacher seating), so I may skip that, if I were you.

    As far as table service restaurants, honestly, almost anything in Epcot's World Showcase will be excellent, especially the restuarants in France, and United Kingdom. Germany was alos a lot of fun.

    In Magic Kingdom, I always loved the Liberty Tree Tavern. There is also the new Be Our Guest restaurant, but I haven't eaten there.

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Not sure if you are into shows or not... if you aren't then I would think Animal Kingdom can be done in half a day, if you are using park hopper tickets you could use the other half of that day to go to Epcot. Animal Kingdom is one of those parks that you will either love (if you are really into animals) or hate (if you aren't into zoos)... I think in the past 6 trips we made to Orlando we only bother with Animal Kingdom twice, and once it was just a half day so we could watch a show and ride Everest...

    Also, I'm not sure when you are going to be there in Sept... but if your trip is late enough in the month you might be there when one of the Halloween Parties is going on. If it is going on, I would suggest you buy a special ticket for it and do it... While MK doesn't do the overlay stuff that DL does with any rides, the party is better than the one in DL. If you are going in one of the September dates then you are pretty much going to just walk on to rides compared to DL where you are often as crowded as a busy weekend. They also have a much better halloween parade than DL does.

    Not sure what type of food you want, or if you want to do any of type of character meal for your one sit down meal... If you think you might want to do the sit down meal that is also a character meal, then I would suggest 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian at dinner... it probably has the best food of any of the character meals... If you are one of those that wants to eat in the castle, then realize you are doing it for the ambiance and not the food, it is probably one of the worst place in terms of the food.

    If you want to do something non-Disney on your free day consider Universal if you are into more thrill rides... if not you might want to simply add another day at Disney.

    Oh, and make sure you take a poncho for rain. We have been to Disney World in every season and no matter what time of year we always get rained on at some point... and when you are going the rains that you will see will likely be down pours but only last 15 minutes to an hour... So enough to insure you are soaked but then gone soon enough that it doesn't actually cool the place off much.

  8. #8

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    I also recommend going to Epcot. Despite what I said in my previous post, it really is quite unique and so unlike what we have here in southern California, whereas Hollywood Studios has a lot that is duplicated at the Disneyland Resort. And if you like shopping, you'll love visiting all the different pavilions in World Showcase. So even though Epcot wasn't quite​ as cool as I was expecting, I'd still recommend it over Hollywood Studios.

  9. #9

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Quote Originally Posted by DannyB View Post
    I also recommend going to Epcot. Despite what I said in my previous post, it really is quite unique and so unlike what we have here in southern California, whereas Hollywood Studios has a lot that is duplicated at the Disneyland Resort. And if you like shopping, you'll love visiting all the different pavilions in World Showcase. So even though Epcot wasn't quite​ as cool as I was expecting, I'd still recommend it over Hollywood Studios.
    agree 100% on the shopping angle. Epcot is probably the only place in a Disney park in the US where you actually find things you can't find somewhere else outside the park.

  10. #10

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    I agree that Epcot is wonderful but I'll actually try to answer your original question

    *Magic Kingdom-you've already done a lot of MK's rides at DL. The original-to-MK rides that you should check out are Monster's Inc Laugh Floor (Turtle Talk-like interactive show), The Peoplemover (!!!), Carousel of Progress, Hall of Presidents, Country Bear Jamboree, and even Stitch's Great Escape...even though it gets a lot of flack on here, it's truly a one-of-a-kind experience and it's kind of neat the first time.

    The real bulk of your day at MK will be rides you've already seen before in some incarnation. The Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, and Splash Mountain are all undeniably superior at WDW. In my personal opinion, MK also has the superior Space Mountain, which is a lot more out-of-control in Florida, with a lot more fun drops and bigger G-forces. Pirates is better at DL but it's still worth checking out, and BTMRR is a wash, as are the Fantasyland attractions.

    For dining, check out Be Our Guest, or if that's too busy, the Liberty Tree Tavern--great food in a unique environment. Good counter service at MK is Cosmic Ray's (typical burgers and chicken, but special because of the singing AA alien in the dining room) and Harbor House which has some pretty solid seafood. The Sleepy Hollow stand is also great for snacks like funnel cakes and chicken & waffle sandwiches.


    *Hollywood Studios - one of my favorites, but the ride options are very similar to that of DCA's. Definitely check out the Great Movie Ride, what is IMO the best slow-moving Disney dark ride of all time. Also, the Indy stunt show is worth a look and Lights, Motors, Action is a blast (if you only had time for one, I'd say go for LMA but that's the more unpopular opinion here...I just like that it feels newer and the stunts are pretty neat). The Walt Disney exhibit is also a great way to cool down and learn some Disney stuff. The best (unique) ride at DHS is Rockin' Roller Coaster, which is a lot more thrilling than CA Screamin and actually has a theme. That launch is incredible.

    Star Tours and TSMM are essentially identical to their California counterparts so don't waste time on them. Tower of Terror is leagues better at DHS than DCA, not only because of superior theming but because of a random drop cycle in which each profile is a.)different, and b.)much more intense than the CA version's. Fantasmic is, IMO, a waste of time and inferior to DL's.

    DHS is my favorite park to dine in, because there are a lot of great sit-down options. Sci-Fi Drive In has the best atmosphere of any restaurant I've ever been to. Prime Time Cafe has good homestyle cooking with funny servers and another neat atmosphere. I've heard great things about the Brown Derby as well, and Hollywood & Vine has a GREAT buffet. As for counter service, the Backlot Express has some good options with a refill-able soda fountain which is a plus. Everywhere else is pretty standard.


    *Animal Kingdom - one of Disney's most beautiful parks. Honestly, you could make a full day of simply walking through it admiring the theming and animal exhibits. It's incredibly immersive. The rides they do have are stellar, though. Dinosaur! is one of my favorite rides on property, and even though it's apparently identical in layout to the far superior Indy, the theming and ride profile is different enough to warrant a visit. Expedition Everest is also a great roller coaster with immaculate theming and a solid length and thrill level. And of course, you have the Kiliminjaro Safaris, the most unique theme park attraction in the world...definitely don't miss this ride. Festival of the Lion King is also a very, very good show you'll want to see (unless you've seen it on Broadway in which case you can save your time) and I've heard decent things about Finding Nemo.

    It's Tough to be a Bug is the same with a superior setting (good way to cool down), and Kali River Rapids is inferior to Grizzly River Run, although with better theming. Maybe worth a look. AK also has Primevil Whirl, which is a spinning version of Goofy's Sky School...it's painful and I hate it, but if you like those types of rides then check it out.

    Dining at AK is tricky because I don't do it much. The only sit-down restaurants are Yak & Yeti (can't comment as I've never been) and Rainforest Cafe (you know the deal there). I also believe there is a breakfast buffet in the Africa section. The counter service includes Pizzafari (generic gross Disney pizza) and Restaurantosaurus (again, just decent). The real treat is finding the little carts, some of which sell delicious boneless chicken wings, ethnic Asian food, and jalapeņo cream cheese pretzels. Good stuff. But AK is definitely not the best park for dining.


    Hopefully that helps a bit. Have a great trip!

  11. #11

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Thank you so much for everyone's input. Since everyone is telling us to check out Epcot, we decided to put it on our list, with a park hopper. Either mixing it up with AK or HS, we will see.
    Reading all this advice has made me even more excited for my trip, if that is all possible. Now just a little less than a year to go!

  12. #12

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Quote Originally Posted by Valmist View Post
    Thank you so much for everyone's input. Since everyone is telling us to check out Epcot, we decided to put it on our list, with a park hopper. Either mixing it up with AK or HS, we will see.
    Reading all this advice has made me even more excited for my trip, if that is all possible. Now just a little less than a year to go!
    I would go to Animal Kingdom in the morning, knock out the rides and the major animal trails, and then head over to Epcot...that's where you will want to have dinner, and it's a beautiful park that takes more time to see than Animal Kingdom does.

  13. #13

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Here's my advice. Now that I know you have 3 full days.

    If your main goal is to hit Magic Kingdom, My favorite park by the way, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios ONLY- thus skipping Epcot, then skip Epcot.

    Leave Epcot for a future trip. Something to pull you back for a future, possibly longer extended trip. Epcot is always a big must do for people here because of their views on Magic Kingdom and how somewhat similar it is to Disneyland's "Magic Kingdom". Thing is they've been there and done it. This is your first trip so embrace Magic Kingdom and the parks you originally chose.

    Magic Kingdom - This park is indeed a full day park. It doesn't matter what you've rode in Disneyland, ride everything you can at Magic Kingdom. It's hard to do sometimes but ride everything. I don't really care that the Little Mermaid is an almost exact replica of the DCA version but the theming outside is intense and it's like riding the "same" ride brand new again. So use that notion when riding "like" rides that both parks have. Plus you can say that you've done both versions when people ask for your opinions on what to do and what to skip.

    Be Our Guest is a MUST MUST MUST MUST DO. A must do. You've got plenty of time to book a table this far in advance. Remember, you can book 180 days before your arrival date so find out what day that is by calling Disney Dining and be up and ready to call the minute the lines open. Once you have your reservation for "dinner" then you can let them know you're celebrating an "anniversary" so you can get some of that "grey stuff" that they only serve on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Request a room on the day you check in at the park at the front of the bridge if you want to be seated in a specific room because they'll seat you wherever there is space open. You really only have 2 choices, The Ballroom or the West Wing. The 3rd room is blocked off at Dinner. Plus at dinner you get to meet the Beast after dinner. This is the BIGGEST MUST of Magic Kingdom.

    Oh, if you just can't get a table for Be Our Guest and you're not intent on trying every day until you get one... then my recommendation for a replacement choice is The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, it's indoors, quaint and cute for couples but small. Or if you want to dine outside of a restaurant on Main Street because there's nothing better than having Main Street's hustle and bustle as your backdrop then you have to dine at Tony's Town Square Restaurant. Both are table services that required booked reservations. Gaston's Tavern is a quick service and eating inside or outside of his tavern is nice and an experience. Gaston will usually wonder through the tavern between his meet and greets interacting with people eating there. He'll even grab you for a meet and greet to come outside and be the first of a line that is already waiting for him.

    Now when you go in Sept you may have the choice to attend a hard ticketed Halloween party so be sure to check for the dates of 2014 party dates only because you'll have to leave the park by 7pm while the party goers have the park until midnight. So your full day has gone out the window. Usually the tickets run from 62-76 bucks a night. Also you may be there when Snow White's new coaster ride has already opened in the New Fantasyland. Then that would be the epic MUST do when you get there.

    As for the rest of the park. If you have a full day then you can pick and chose what to do. Being your first time I would just arrive and grab a map and then focus on a land to visit first, most likely New Fantasyland first to get those rides out of the way, short waits early in the morning and then of course meet Gaston in front of his tavern. Record your meeting with him because couples get a hilarious meet and greet with him.

    After Fantasyland is done then venture out to your next land, area. Pin trade, do random character meet and greets near you. Grab a fast pass for a big ride. Let the mistakes and errors of your first full day at Magic Kingdom a learning lesson for your next bigger trip. Remember, no regrets if you are not able to do everything you want at the Magic Kingdom your first trip out.

    You also have to be well aware of firework times, parade day and night times if those are a must for you. These will absorb good chunks of your day. There should be a new parade by the time you get there for Magic Kingdom and who knows if MSEP is still running at night in Sept 2014.

    Since you're not staying on property you won't be able to utilize extra magic hours. Bummer. If you do end up staying on property then you can hopefully pick a day where the Magic Kingdom is open late in the evening. Since you're staying off property I would suggest parking at the Transportation Station where the ferry and the monorail locales are so you can arrive in style. I love arriving on a ferry, on the 2nd story, it's just a great memory. Monorail's are fun but Disneyland just doesn't have a ferry arrival magic moment.

    Talking Mickey meet and greet is now daily on Main Street. I forget the building's name he's housed in but there are fast passes on the side of the building to skip the long lines to meet him. I can't wait to meet him for my December trip. Disneyland doesn't have that, at least not yet.

    If you are approaching Magic Kingdom with leisure then I would take a break mid day to use the monorails to visit the Grand Floridian Hotel and The Polynesian hotel. Walk the main lobbies, check out the shops, the exterior views. One time I caught a wedding party taking photos and the bride crying happy tears. Both hotels are a MUST walk through.

    If you do want to dine inside Cinderella's Castle for breakfast or dinner, remember, you have to pay upfront in full. That too you can book 180 days in advance. I requested a table near the back windows so we could view Fantasyland while we ate. These are character dining experiences and you'll get Princess signatures if that is something you're after without having to wait in long lines in other areas of the park. Be our Guest dining does not require you to pay upfront, just a credit card to hold the reservation, Cinderella's Royal Table, you'll need to pay in full upfront.

    My December trip I thought I would book a table but the cost for just one person is upwards of 60 dollars and then I figured I'd just spend that towards a ticket to Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party for the same price. 5 hours of Christmas party versus maybe an hour of eating in a castle... the party won out. You may have the same choice or problem when deciding if you want to do half a day of Magic Kingdom and then spend the other half at the Halloween party. Those 3 days you're visiting, one of those days may almost fall on a Halloween party date.

    If that happens you may have to do half a day visiting a smaller park like Animal Kingdom and then the 2nd half going back to the Magic Kingdom for the Halloween party. This way you still get a full day at Magic Kingdom. I love the Halloween and Christmas parties. I have to go to at least one every year.



    Animal Kingdom - I'll update tomorrow for advice here.


    Hollywood Studios - I'll update tomorrow for advice here.


    Epcot - My advice or reasoning for saving this for a future trip. Epcot really deserves 2 full days, I'll explain after the first 3 parks.
    Last edited by Micoofy Duck; 11-14-2013 at 11:17 PM.
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  14. #14

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    Re: First trip to WDW

    Oh, if you are not going to be staying on the Disney property then I highly recommend you buy your tickets through triple A so you can get a AAA preferred parking pass. It wont eliminate the cost of parking, but it will give you access to parking places that are much closer to the gates such that when we have used them we never even bother to use the trams in the parking lots because it is close enough to the gates that you can walk faster than waiting for the trams.

    Also you will want to familiarize whoever is driving with the area well before you get there. Unlike most places in the US the roads around WDW seem designed to confuse and befuddle anyone daring to drive themselves from one point to another in that area. With the biggest problem a lack of signage in advance of where an exit or turn for a road actually is until it is too late to make the turn or exit.

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