Our 2021 Ultimate Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners is a great starting point to plan your vacation if you are a newbie to Walt Disney World or an experienced Mouseketeer. Remember, even if you have visited Walt Disney World before, there are many changes to how you plan your vacation in 2021. Walt Disney World is still reopening with some attractions and services closed, suspended, or even canceled. In addition, the knowledge you need to plan a perfect Walt Disney World Vacation has changed considerably. Our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners contains all the essential information you need to know, including the latest tips, hints & hacks.
We update this guide several times a year, with the latest update completed in September 2021. Our latest Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners contains the latest information on the 50th Birthday Celebrations.
A lot changed when the Walt Disney World parks reopened in July 2020. Many of our regular tips and tricks on how to plan your Walt Disney World Vacation were no longer valid and still aren’t. However, one thing that has not have changed is the need to plan your vacation.
The creation of this guide has been a big challenge. It is likely we will have provided some information that is either incorrect or soon out of date. If you feel there are any corrections, please leave a comment.
If you are looking for specific information to help plan your Walt Disney World Vacation, click on these handy jumps to take you straight to the advice:
- Walt Disney World Reopening The Basics all the key information about the reopening of Walt Disney World
- Walt Disney World The Basics including the history of Walt Disney World & New Attractions Coming Soon to Walt Disney World. Plus, we update you with the latest information on Walt Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebrations.
- Initial Research & Reserving your Walt Disney World Vacation things might be different, but you will still need to plan your vacation
- Essential Walt Disney World Knowledge FastPass+ is not returning, but there are new things you need to know to replace it.
- Where to Stay When Visiting Walt Disney World
- The Walt Disney World Theme Parks All about the big 4 theme parks at Walt Disney World: The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom.
- Other Venues at Walt Disney World
- Walt Disney World Transport how to get around the resort
- Dining at Walt Disney World Disney has plenty of dining options but there are changes in 2021
- Special Events & Festivities at Walt Disney World in 2021
- Walt Disney World News & Rumors. How to keep up to date with the latest changes
Walt Disney World Reopening The Basics
On March 16th, 2020, Walt Disney World Parks closed due to COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the resort is now open and welcoming guests.
Since the resort reopened, there have been some significant changes to experiences at Walt Disney World. As we approach the end of 2021, the resort is returning closer to normal operation. However, the following changes remain in place:
- You will need to reserve a place to visit your first park each day. Park attendance is managed through a new park reservation system. To access the park, you must have a valid ticket and reservation.
- Face masks are currently required indoors, including in all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in enclosed transportation. Face coverings are optional in outdoor areas. The advice on face coverings have changed several times are likely to change again.
- Improved sanitation accross the resort.
- Improved use of technology throughout the resort to reduce contact.
- Cashless transactions will be encouraged, including mobile food ordering.
- The Disney Dining Plan is suspended.
- Typhoon Lagoon remains closed.
- Parades and some nighttime spectaculars and shows remain suspended
- Character greetings are suspended
- The majority of tours and special experiences are unavailable.
Also, you should note that the following will not be returning to Walt Disney World:
Also, Disney will be introducing new services to Walt Disney World, including replacements for Extra Magic Hours and FastPass+. We will discuss all these changes later in this guide.
Walt Disney World The Basics
Most first-time visitors are not aware of the size of Walt Disney World. The resort is similar in size to San Francisco! In standard years, it is the most visited vacation resort globally, with 52 million guests. However, the number of guests in 2021 will be significantly less.
The resort opened on the 1st of October 1971 and will be celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Today, Walt Disney World has four theme parks, two water parks, several golf courses, numerous hotels, Disney Vacation Club Resorts, a camping resort, and other entertainment venues.
- Visit our Brief History of Walt Disney World if you want to learn more about the developments at the resort.
- Did you know that Walt Disney World has more than 200 restaurants, more than any other single-site vacation destination in the world? If you want to learn, more Walt Disney World Facts visit our dedicated page.
New Attractions in 2021 at Walt Disney World
2019 was a busy year at Walt Disney World with a large number of new attractions.
Initially, there were planned to be several big new attractions opening at Walt Disney World in 2020. Unfortunately, only Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened at Hollywood Studios due to the resort closure. Inevitably the 2020 crisis has led to some construction projects at Walt Disney World being canceled. Learn about the attractions that will now join Neverland instead of Walt Disney World.
However, we now know that 1 Big New E-Ticket attraction, 2 new nighttime shows, plus several smaller attractions will debut on 1st October at Walt Disney World. The attractions will open as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th Birthday celebrations:
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure should have opened in 2020. The attraction will be opening in Epcot on October 1st. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure already exists at Walt Disney Studios Paris and is a guest favorite. The attraction is in 3D and uses a trackless ride system. During the ride, you shrink to the size of a rat and cause mayhem in Gustav’s kitchen.
A new nighttime spectacular at the Magic Kingdom is always something to celebrate. This new spectacular will launch on October 1st featuring music, enhanced lighting, stunning fireworks, and, for the first time, immersive projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A. Disney is promising guests will be taken “on a journey filled with adventure, wonder, and empowerment. Inspiring everyone to believe in magic.”
The long-awaited Harmonious should have debuted at Epcot in 2020. However, now it will be part of Walt Disney World’s 50th birthday celebrations. The show on World Showcase lagoon features pyrotechnics, fountains, lighting, and media in new ways. It is the largest nighttime show produced for Walt Disney World. “Harmonious” will feature new interpretations of classic Disney songs, reimagined in more than a dozen languages by a diverse group of 240 artists from around the world.
Walt Disney World’s 50th Birthday Celebrations
Walt Disney World loves a big party, and for a time, we thought the 50th birthday celebrations would not happen.
The festivities will start on October 1st and will run for 18 months. Disney is calling the 50th birthday celebrations “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” In addition to the 3 big new attractions, several smaller attractions will launch on October 1st. However, as the celebration progresses, expect more attractions to be announced, including the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Visit our Guide to Walt Disney World’s 50th Birthday to learn more.
Initial Research & Reserving your Walt Disney World Vacation
Booking a Walt Disney World Vacation in 2021 will be different than in previous years. Traditionally, the first steps of arranging any Walt Disney World Vacation are researching, setting your budgets & making your initial reservations. While much of your planning will not have changed, there will be travel restrictions and park reservations to consider.
However, you should continue to follow these initial steps:
- Set what your maximum budget is. There will be additional expenses as you come closer to your departure date, make sure you can still pay for them. We have created a free Walt Disney World Budget Planner among our selection of Walt Disney World Planning tools. If you have a strict budget, print out our budget tool, and start filling it in as you start your initial planning. Remember, there will be additional expenses when you arrive in Orlando, e.g., gratuities and souvenirs.
- Consider where you would like to stay. There are plenty of accommodation options at Walt Disney World, but there are other more affordable options offsite.
- Research flights. Prices for flights do vary, and the best time to book does differ from country to country. Have a look at travel forums to find out when the best time to book is.
- Are you going to book the vacation yourself or use a Disney Vacation Planner/Travel Agent?
- Research Walt Disney World via online media(including this site!), guidebooks, etc. Look into when historically offers are released for Disney World Vacations.
- Do you want to visit Universal Orlando or other Orlando parks?
- Pick your dates & get any annual leave requests arranged.
The above is only the starting point of planning your Walt Disney World vacation. Remember, at this time, everything is subject to change, and you may need more flexibility than usual.
Important information Foreign Visitors to Walt Disney World
Currently, there is a restricted entry for many international guests visiting the United States. Make sure you check the latest guidance before booking any vacation. While entry requirements might change in the coming months, make sure you can cancel all reservations without penalty.
The majority of Foreign Visitors must obtain a Visa before entry to the United States. However, certain International visitors may be entitled to enter via the Visa Waiver Program, but they must first obtain an ESTA.
All guests are recommended to apply for visas and ESTAs well in advance of their travel plans. You can find out more about Visas to the United States here.
How long do I need at Walt Disney World?
Before answering this question, it is worth reflecting that the new park restrictions make this question even more difficult to answer. Currently, some park attractions and resort experiences are not available. Also, park opening hours are shorter than normal.
Usually, we recommend that most first-time visitors consider allocating a minimum of 2 days for all parks. However, you can have a great time at Walt Disney World even if you only visit for a weekend.
We have created a guide on how to decide the length of your Walt Disney World Vacation. However, this guide was created before current changes, and you should read the advice with caution.
Should I use a Disney Vacation Planner or Travel Agent?
Authorized Disney Vacation Planner Agencies are specialist authorized Disney Travel Agents. They operate in the United States only and can plan every aspect of your vacation. There is no charge for their services, and the income they earn is a commission from sales.
Usually, we can’t see the benefit of using a Disney Vacation Planner. However, we think they might be of great benefit during this time of change. It is likely they will have access to all the latest information and rumors. Read our Guide to Disney Vacation Planners to learn more.
When should I visit Walt Disney World?
We previously created a guide to help you decide when you should visit Walt Disney World in 2020. This advice would usually be fairly consistent for the following years.
At this time, deciding whether you even want to visit Walt Disney World is a complex decision. We recommend you consider carefully before visiting during 2021. You will have a fantastic time, but it will be a slightly different experience.
Walt Disney World Tickets
When Walt Disney World initially reopened, there were significant restrictions on the availability of tickets. However, tickets are now available, and park hopping has restarted.
One change that appears to be remaining is the Disney Park Pass Reservation System. To enter any park, you must have a reservation in addition to a ticket. We strongly recommend checking the availability of reservations before buying your ticket.
We have created a guide that explains everything you need to know when buying Walt Disney World Tickets.
Walt Disney World Weather
While it is implausible to visit Orlando and not encounter a fair measure of sunshine, it can undoubtedly be offset with plenty of rain and the occasional storm. Hurricanes are something that worries many first-time visitors, but it would be unusual for them to ruin your vacation.
We have created a Guide to Orlando Weather which has further information.
After your initial research, you will want to start putting down your vacation plans in writing. Our Free Walt Disney World Planners are a great resource that can help create a perfect Walt Disney World Vacation Plan.
We have redesigned these planners for 2021, and they include:-
- A vacation overview
- A Disney World budgeting planning sheet
- A weekly Walt Disney World planning sheet
- Park Pass Reservation planner
- A dining planner
- Daily planners
Make sure you download this free resource.
Essential Walt Disney World 2021 Knowledge
Planning your Walt Disney World Vacation is an essential activity. Planning your vacation is still essential in 2021, but there are significant changes in how you do this. Traditional key booking windows at Walt Disney World, including how you make dining reservations, have now changed.
We will guide you through all the Essential Disney World Knowledge you need to plan & enjoy your vacation. Keep checking this guide as the information is likely to change regularly.
Keeping Guests safe at Walt Disney World
At the moment visiting any theme park is not without some degree of risk to your health. Disney has made clear that “By visiting Walt Disney World Resort, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
When Walt Disney World reopened, there were several changes introduced to keep guests safe. However, there has been a relaxation of many of these policies. One thing you must still have is a face covering. The guidance on face-coverings has changed several times, but currently, they must be worn in all indoor locations, regardless of vaccination status. This includes entering and throughout all indoor attractions and indoor queues and in Disney buses, monorail, and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. Face coverings are optional for Guests in outdoor areas.
All face coverings should:
- Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
While most social distancing has been removed, increased use of technology and increased sanitation remains. Guest no longer are temperature screened before admission. You should note that this is subject to change; this has already happened with the reintroduction of face-coverings.
Disney Park Pass Reservation System
Just turning up at a Walt Disney World is no longer possible. In its place is a new park reservation system.
Disney introduced Disney Park Pass during the reopening of Walt Disney World. Disney Park Pass allowed Disney to control the number of guests entering a park each day. To access a park at Walt Disney World, you need to prebook a reservation through the new Disney Park Pass System. To access a park, guests have to present both their park reservation and a valid park ticket. Guests who do not have either of these will be refused entry, and this includes if you have a dining reservation.
A limited Park Hopping option, which we describe below, has now been introduced. However, Guests must confirm their first park entry each day through a Disney Park Pass Reservation.
To learn more about the Disney Park Pass System, visit our dedicated guide.
Park Hopper tickets allow guests to visit more than 1 park at Walt Disney World each day. Park Hopping allows increased variation and spontaneity in your vacation, but tickets do cost a little extra.
When Walt Disney World reopened, Park Hopping was suspended. Guests were restricted to visiting just one Walt Disney World Park a day. However, Park Hopping has now been reintroduced.
Guests will still need to make a Disney Park Pass Reservation for their first park each day, and they must enter this park before trying to enter another. Guests will then be able to enter a second park during Park Hopper Hours. Park Hopping Hours are subject to change, but currently, they are between 2 pm to close at all parks. Park Hopping will be subject to park capacity, and Disney advises you to check My Disney Experience for the latest information.
Visit our Guide to Park Hopping to learn more.
Important Holywood Studios Reservations
We will discuss Advance Dining Reservations later in this guide, but there are several important reservations required for Hollywood Studios.
Do you want to have a drink at Oga’s Cantina in Galaxy’s Edge? Or do you want to build a droid or lightsaber? You need to secure a reservation for the following:-
- Oga’s Cantina
- Droid Depot
- Savi’s Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers
Guests may make reservations for dining and other experiences up to 60 days in advance. In addition, Disney Resort hotel Guests can make reservations up to 60 days in advance plus the length of their stay (up to 10 days). Visit My Disney Experience for further information.
Early Theme Park Entry
Early Theme Park Entry will start on the 1st of October. This new benefit, which replaces Extra Magic Hours, will be available for all Walt Disney World Resort guests and other select hotels. Guests will be able to gain 30-minute early entry to any theme park every day. However, you will need a Disney Park Pass.
We never used to think Extra Magic Hours was a great benefit. However, due to the removal of FastPass+, we think both Early Theme Park Entry could be a great benefit.
Extended Evening Hours
Extended Evening Hours is a new unmissable benefit for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts. Guests staying at one of these resorts will be able to enjoy extended evening hours on select nights in select theme parks. A valid Disney Park Pass will also be essential for guests taking advantage of Extended Evening Hours. However, guests may visit with a Park Hopper option as long as the park where they made their reservation earlier in the day.
Walt Disney World Park Hours & Closures
Park hours usually get released around 6 months in advance. However, they often change as you come closer to the actual date! Hours have been reduced in all parks but have slowly been increasing. Click the link to get all the latest Walt Disney World Park Hours.
Walt Disney World is constantly changing, and it is almost inevitable there will be some attraction refurbishments & closures whenever you visit. During the initial reopening of Walt Disney World, you may find more attractions than usual that are not open. Visit My Disney Experience for the latest information.
My Disney Experience is a free online guide to Walt Disney World that allows guests to plan their vacation. Through this free service, you can:
- Keep track of your plans & reservations, including those of your family & friends.
- Make Dining & Ticket Reservations
- Use the new Disney Genie service icnlduing Disney Genie+
- Order in advance and pay for your food at Quick Service Locations
- Access maps, wait times, showtimes, park hours, and much more essential information via the app.
- Grab a spot in the virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance.
Walt Disney World encourages all guests to have downloaded the latest version of My Disney Experience on their mobile device before entering parks during the reopening period. Also, they recommend having location services and notifications enabled.
During the reopening of Walt Disney World, My Disney Experience has been enhanced to promote social distancing and reduced contact.
Our Guide to My Disney Experience provides more information, including how to get the App.
Disney Genie hasn’t arrived yet at Walt Disney World, but it will be soon. Through My Disney Experience, the Disney Genie service will maximize your park time. It is promising to create personalized itineraries to design the perfect seamless days. Some of the benefits Disney Genie promises to bring include:
Get Itinerary Updates from Morning to Night: Disney Genie will continue to update your itinerary throughout your day, so you can be more spontaneous and go with the flow.
Find Your Favorites at a Glance: Create your very own personal tip board to instantly see your favorites. It will display current AND forecasted future wait times, helping you predict when you might experience quicker entry to attractions.
Enjoy More Flexibility and Fun: Disney Genie brings existing planning features together in one place. Join a virtual queue at certain attractions, make dining and experience reservations, mobile order food at many locations, get help from a virtual assistant and more.
Our Guide to Disney Genie has more information.
FastPass+ isn’t returning to Walt Disney World and in its place is a new service called Disney Genie+. However, unlike FastPass, this service isn’t free. Disney will release further details soon, but this is what Disney has announced to date:
Disney Genie+ service (available for purchase): For the price of $15 per ticket per day at Walt Disney World Resort and $20 per ticket per day at Disneyland Resort, choose the next available time to arrive at a variety of attractions and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. You can make one selection at a time, throughout the day – from classics like Haunted Mansion to thrill rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and newer favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run (attractions subject to limited availability). This convenient option is the next evolution of the fan-favorite Disney MaxPass service from Disneyland Resort. Disney Genie+ will also include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories – augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort and unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads from your day if you are visiting Disneyland Resort.Disney Parks Blog
Disney Genie+ will not include the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World. For these, you will have the option of paying an additional fee to access Lightning Lane. Cost is rumored to be as high as $24 for the biggest E-Tickets.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
You need a reservation to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The rules of how virtual queue reservations are distributed have changed several times and may change again with the introduction of Disney Genie, but the current rules are:
Guests with a valid ticket or annual pass and a Disney Park Pass reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be able to request access to the virtual queue starting at 7:00 AM on the day of their reservation. This can be done before you leave your Disney Resort hotel or on your way to the park. The virtual queue will reopen daily at 1:00 PM for anyone inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios who wasn’t already able to join a boarding group earlier in the day.
Guests must be inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios to access this second virtual queue opportunity, and access to a boarding group is subject to availability and not guaranteed. Only Guests with a Disney Park Pass reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be able to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Guests visiting from another theme park will not be able to request to join the virtual queue.Walt Disney World
Ensure you are logged on to My Disney Experience before these times and be quick reservations go quick! If you are park hopping to Hollywood Studios, please note that you will not be able to join the Rise of the Resistance Virtual Line.
You must have a Disney Park pass for Hollywood Studios to join the virtual queue! Guests who are Park Hopping are not able to book a reservation.
Play Disney Parks App
Available through both the App Store and Google Play is the Play Disney Parks App. The App makes waiting in line fun, with a list of challenges the whole family can play. Plus, at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the app becomes the Star Wars: Datapad providing you with additional adventures.
Rider Switch & Height Restrictions
While Disney World appeals to families of all ages, some attractions are not suitable for young children. Many of the attractions have height restrictions for safety purposes, and they are enforced strictly.
However, if the kids are too small to ride, it does not mean adults and older siblings can’t. Rider Switch, also sometimes known as child swap, allows guests with small children to take turns riding while another adult stays with the child.
The Single Rider Line is back!
Happy to ride on your own? Don’t want to pay extra for the Lightning lane? Then the Single Rider Line is available at Expedition Everest, Millennium Falcon – Smuggler’s Run, Test Track, and Rock N Roller Coaster. Often, but not guaranteed, these lines will have a shorter wait than the regular line.
To learn more, read our Guide to The Single Rider Line.
PhotoPass allows you to keep the highlights from your Walt Disney World Vacation. There is no charge to have pictures taken at Walt Disney World or to see them online, but you are charged to download them.
Memory Maker is a package that allows you to download and keep all the pictures you have taken in a 30-day window, including ride photographs.
You can learn more about PhotoPass & Memory Maker in our guide
These rubber bracelets act as your park tickets, room key, room charge card; they store your photographs and manage your dining reservations. Our Guide to MagicBands has further information.
MagicBands have become a key part of the guest’s Walt Disney World Vacation in recent years. However, this is changing as resort guests no longer receive a complimentary MagicBand. Many of the interactions are now available via the My Disney Experience App through the new MagicMobile service.
If you don’t want to use a MagicBand or fancy trying something new, opt for Disney MagicMobile. Available in the My Disney Experience app, Disney MagicMobile service is a convenient and more contactless way to access MagicBand features, including:
- Enter theme parks (with a valid theme park reservation and valid admission)
- Connect Disney PhotoPass images to your account
- Gain access to join a virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Charge to your Disney Resort hotel folio during your stay
Visit our guide to learn more about Disney’s MagicMobile.
Finding characters during the reopening period
Walt Disney World wouldn’t be Walt Disney World without characters. Unfortunately, currently, there are no official meets, parades, and very limited character dining available. However, there are still be plenty of opportunities to see the famous Disney Stars.
Characters continue to make unannounced appearances across the parks, including unique special cavalcades down the Magic Kingdom park parade route. At some locations, you can even get a socially distanced selfie. However, autograph collecting remains off-limits at this time.
Character Dining is currently modified and only available at select locations. To learn more, visit our 2021 Guide to Walt Disney World Character meals.
Walt Disney World provides extensive facilities for all forms of disability. We have created a Guide to Disabilities at Walt Disney World, which has further information on the adaptions & services available in every park.
Walt Disney World Tips & Tricks
Planning your visit to Walt Disney World is an essential activity, although it can initially feel overwhelming for the first-time visitor. We have created numerous guides here on Modern Life is Good, which provides tips on how to plan the perfect Walt Disney World Vacation.
If you are visiting in 2021, you might find the following guides particularly useful:
- Our Top 10 Walt Disney World Tips for 2021 & A Few New Ones
- All-New Walt Disney World Mistakes to Avoid in 2021
- Disney World Park Bag What You Really Need
- Guide to Planning a 2021 Vacation
- 201 Walt Disney World Hacks for 2021
Sometimes it is difficult to find the answers to all your questions before your Walt Disney World Vacation. You will find many of the answers in our Walt Disney World Information section. Information you will find includes:
- Tipping at Walt Disney World
- Guest Relations at Walt Disney World
- Theme Park Rules & Prohibited Items at Walt Disney World
- Dress Code at Walt Disney World
- Strollers at Walt Disney World
- Locker Hire at Walt Disney World
- What you should pack in your Walt Disney World Park Bag
- Walt Disney World Tours
- Disney’s VIP Tour Services
- Walt Disney World Firework Cruises
- Specialty Cruises at Walt Disney World
- Payment for Goods at Walt Disney World
- Baby Care Centers at Walt Disney World
- Lost Children at Walt Disney World
- First Aid at Walt Disney World
- Accessing the Internet when visiting Walt Disney World
- Lost & Found at Walt Disney World
- Smoking at Walt Disney World
- Charging your Mobile Phone at Disney World
- Celebrating birthdays at Walt Disney World
- Walt Disney World’s Celebration Buttons
- Gifts, Flowers & Cakes at Walt Disney World
- Ears to the World, Disney Show Translator
- Additional Information for guests who are not fluent in English
- Ricoh Business Centers
- Pregnant at Walt Disney World
Where to Stay When Visiting Walt Disney World
There are numerous accommodation options throughout Orlando. Accommodation options include luxurious villas, budget motels & 5-star hotels. Many hotels include free transport to Walt Disney World.
However, do you want to stay near the action? Nothing beats staying in a Walt Disney World Resort. Walt Disney World Resorts provide unique theming, accommodation to suit a range of budgets, several perks & the opportunity to stay in the middle of the action. No matter who you are traveling with, there will be an accommodation option that will suit you, but it is more expensive than staying off-site.
All Walt Disney World Resorts will be open by the end of 2021. While there has been some recent loss of benefits, all guests will have access to Early Park Opening, and Deluxe Resorts will have access to Extended Evening ours.
We have created 2 guides that will help you decide which, if any, Walt Disney World Resort you want to stay in:
- Our 2021 Reopening Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has all the information.
- If you want to learn more about a specific resort, Our Guide to Walt Disney World Resorts has information on all the resorts at Walt Disney World.
The Walt Disney World Theme Parks
There are 4 theme parks at Walt Disney World, each with its unique ambiance. All 4 parks are large and have traditionally taken a minimum of 2 days to complete. The majority of attractions have now reopened, but some shows and evening entertainment remain suspended.
Admission to all parks is with a park reservation and a valid ticket. You will not be allowed access without both of these in place. Currently, a limited park hopping option is available after 2 pm.
It is essential to download and access the My Disney Experience App, where you will find park maps and up-to-date information.
The Magic Kingdom was the first theme park to open in Walt Disney World on the 1st of October 1971. Today it is the most popular theme park in the World. Visit our Guide to the Magic Kingdom for further information.
Epcot opened on October 1st, 1982. It covers 300 acres and is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom.
Epcot was undergoing a multi-year enhancement project before resort closure. The project includes many new attractions but also the closure of some historic attractions. There have been several changes to these planned including delayed or canceled construction projects. However, you will encounter significant building work when you visit.
You can learn more about Epcot in our Beginners Guide.
Dedicated to Show Business, the park opened on 1 May 1989. Disney launched the theme park in response to Universal Studios opening in Orlando.
Hollywood Studios has been undergoing massive renovations in recent years and now has some of the best attractions in Orlando. Don’t miss Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.
Read more about the park, including tips and tricks in our Guide to Hollywood Studios.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom was the 4th park to open at Walt Disney World on April 22, 1998. It is the largest park in Walt Disney World, covering more than 400 acres.
Read more about the park, including tips and tricks in our Guide to the Animal Kingdom.
Other Venues at Walt Disney World
Water Parks at Walt Disney World
There are two water parks in Walt Disney World; Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. However, Blizzard Beach is currently the only park operating. Reservations are not currently required.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach, themed around a ski resort, opened on April 1st, 1995. Legend has it that a freak snowstorm in the area led to Florida’s first ski resort. When the snow eventually melted, it was converted into a water park. The majority of the major attractions at the park are hosted atop Mount Gushmore, an artificial hill with an elevation of 90 feet. Only the bravest guests will ride the park’s flagship attraction Summit Plummet. The attraction stands at 120 feet tall, and the near-vertical drops create speeds up to 60 miles per hour.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon themed around a storm-damaged tropical bay, opened on June 1st, 1989. It is the 2nd most-visited water park in the world. The park includes one of the World’s largest wave pools. The park included two shark reefs where guests could snorkel, but this attraction closed in 2016.
Entertainment Districts at Walt Disney World
There are 2 main entertainment districts to discover at Walt Disney World: Disney Springs & Disney’s Boardwalk.
Disney Springs consists of over 150 stores, restaurants, and entertainment locations. Previously known as Downtown Disney the conversion to Disney Springs was completed in Spring 2016.
You can learn more in our Disney Springs dedicated guide.
The Boardwalk is a quarter-mile promenade containing a smaller selection of dining, shopping, and nightlife options. It is also the home of the Boardwalk Inn & Villas. It is designed to look like a Mid-Atlantic seaside village from the early 1900s.
Golf at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World is the home to 3 Championship Golf Courses and a smaller nine-hole walking course. Arnold Palmer Golf Management manages the Disney golf courses. Golf and FootGolf are open and available on a regular schedule at Walt Disney World golf courses.
There are also two themed miniature golf complexes called Fantasia Gardens and Winter Summerland. Each compound has two separate courses.
ESPN Wide World of Sports
The ESPN Wide World of Sports opened in 1997 and is a 220-acre athletic complex. This state-of-the-art facility houses over 60 sports and holds thousands of events every year. The 2022 Special Olympics USA will be held at the Wide World of Sports. The complex was used by both the NBA & MLS during this time.
Disney’s Wedding Pavilion
Disney’s Wedding Pavilion opened in 1995 and is located at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.
The site can hold up to six weddings a day, but there are also additional wedding venues at Walt Disney World. To learn more about weddings at Walt Disney World, click this link.
Additional activities at Walt Disney World
Unfortunately, there remain significant changes to events, tours, recreation, and other experiences at Walt Disney World. Some events have been modified, but a number are temporarily postponed or canceled.
We recommend checking the Disney World Website and My Disney Experience for the latest information.
Walt Disney World Transport Options
Getting around Disney World is easy. Walt Disney World has its own fantastic internal travel network, and most services are now running again. However, you may find that capacity remains reduced on some services. Currently, face coverings are required at all times on Disney buses, monorails, and Disney Skyliner. We recommend checking My Disney Experience for the latest information.
It is worth remembering that direct routes are not available to all locations, taking longer than driving. You will usually have to change at either a Theme Park or Disney Springs to travel to another resort.
To learn more about transportation options when visiting Walt Disney World visit our Guide to Walt Disney World Transport.
Driving at Walt Disney World
Many guests choose to hire a car when in Orlando, and if you are staying in a villa, this is your only realistic option. Orlando roads are good and well signposted.
Parking is not free at Walt Disney World unless you have an annual pass or are a Disney Vacation Club Member. Complimentary parking is no longer free for Disney Resort Guests, who now have to pay a daily rate at their resort, but this does include theme park parking.
In my opinion, you don’t need a car when visiting Walt Disney World. We have created a guide to navigating Walt Disney World Without a Car which shows just how easy it is
Dining at Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World serves a lot of food, an awful lot of food. There are over 6,000 food items available at more than 475 different locations. Since the resort reopened, there have been several significant changes to dining.
Perhaps the most significant changes are the suspension of the Disney Dining Plan and a new 60-day Advanced Dining Reservation window. Also, not all locations are currently open, and venues have reduced capacity. Additional changes include mobile check-in, promoting mobile ordering, digital menus, and encouraging contactless payments.
We have created a Guide to Dining at Walt Disney World in 2021, with all the latest information.
We also have two additional guides which contain useful information:
- Mobile Ordering at Walt Disney World. Perhaps the greatest time-saver at Walt Disney World, order your food in advance at quick-service restaurants. Disney is encouraging all guests to use this during the reopening period.
- Food Allergies and Intolerances when visiting Walt Disney World.
Special Events & Festivities at Walt Disney World in 2021
Usually, Special Events & Festivities are scheduled at Walt Disney World throughout the year. These special events help make every Disney Vacation extra special.
Unfortunately, many of these events were canceled or postponed in 2020. An increasing number of events have been scheduled in 2021, but often these have been slimmed down versions.
The 4 annual festivals in Epcot are starting to return to a more normal structure. Hopefully, in 2022 the following full festivals will be held:
- International Festival of the Arts.
- International Flower and Garden Festival.
- International Food and Wine Festival.
- Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
This year the traditional Christmas and Halloween parties at the Magic Kingdom will not be getting held. However, in their place are the following hard-ticket, after-hours events:
- Disney After Hours Boo Bash
- Disney Very Merriest After Hours(which will feature the first parade to return to the Magic Kingdom)
2021 also is the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Birthday celebration. Read our dedicated guide to the celebration to learn more.
Walt Disney World is constantly changing, and every month there are announcements of new developments or rumors of changes to the resort. The rate of change in 2021 is faster than ever.
Visit our Walt Disney World News Section for all the latest news & rumors.
Read More about Walt Disney World
We will be further updating our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners in the coming months. Please keep checking back and let us know of anything you would like to see included in future editions of this guide. If you have spotted any errors, please let us know.
Are you planning to visit Universal Orlando? Our Guide to Universal Orlando Resort is a great resource to help your planning.
Happy vacation planning!