This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Looking for the best things to do at Disney World? You won’t have to look very far! From riding thrill rides and watching parades to meeting your favorite characters, these are some of the experiences that make Disney so magical!
We have been Disney fans for as long as I can remember! Even before we lived in Florida, we’d taken a couple trips to the Disney World theme parks. However, once we moved nearby, we started coming every chance we could get!
Is Disney expensive? Well, it’s definitely not cheap. However, if you look at everything that you can experience at the Disney parks, it’s all relative. A full day theme park ticket starts at $109, which is a whole lot less than what I paid for Taylor Swift tickets (and that lasts just a few hours).
There are plenty of ways to make a Disney trip more budget friendly too. For example, we used to bring a small lunchbox with sandwiches and water. Then we could totally splurge things like Mickey pretzels and Dole Whips.
Plus, there’s no other place that you can get all the magical experiences that Disney has to offer. I mean, where else can you meet Disney princesses or hitch a ride with a friendly ghost in a Haunted Mansion?
So whether you’re planning a day at the parks or an extended family vacation, these are things you won’t want to miss…
Ride A Thrill Ride
There are so many things to love about Disney World but the thrill rides are one of our favorites! Sure, I love the classics like Small World and Pirates Of The Caribbean but you just can’t beat a good roller coaster.
From Space Mountain in Magic Kingdom to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios, we can’t get enough! It was a huge milestone when my youngest finally became tall enough to ride them all…and she’s been screaming with delight ever since!
There’s more than just coasters though. Another favorite of ours is the Tower Of Terror. This Twilight Zone themed ride features a “haunted” elevator that drops you down several floors at top speed. If this ride doesn’t make you scream, nothing will!
Here’s where you’ll find all the best thrill rides:
- Space Mountain – MK
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – MK
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – MK
- Tron: Lightcycle Run (opening April 2023) – MK
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster – HS
- Tower Of Terror – HS
- Guardians Of The Galaxy Cosmic Rewind – Epcot
- Expedition Everest – AK
Of course since it’s Disney, they’ve even made thrill rides with the little ones in mind. Check out the Barnstormer at Magic Kingdom and the Slinky Dog Dash in Hollywood Studios. Both are perfect for small children that want to do all the big kid stuff!
Tip #1: Want to shorten your wait times for two of the most popular rides? If you don’t mind being separated from your party, you can use the single rider lines for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest.
Tip #2: Have a photo pass? Be sure to scan your Magic Band or card at the photo kiosks because ride photos are included (and are usually pretty funny!)
Visit An Immersive Land
One of the coolest things about a trip to Disney World is wandering through their amazingly detailed immersive lands. It always feels like we’ve been transported to an entirely different world and I discover something new every time.
It’s hard to pick a favorite but Pandora, located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is completely mesmerizing. Based on the first Avatar movie, you’ll feel like you’ve been dropped right into their world.
From the floating mountains to the waterfalls and lush tropical greenery, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen!
Of course, it wouldn’t be Disney without rides! Take a peaceful journey down the Na’vi river or fly on your own banshee in Avatar Flight Of Passage. Some say that Flight of Passage is the best ride in the park so it usually has long lines. However, I can tell you from experience that this is one ride worth waiting in line for!
There’s even plenty to see while you’re waiting in line too, making it a completely immersive experience from start to finish.
Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge
Galaxy’s Edge is a must-see for Star Wars lovers but you don’t have to be a fan of the movies to appreciate how amazing this land is. As soon as you walk in, you’ll feel like you really are in a galaxy far, far away!
The building are designed to look as if you’re on the faraway planet of Batuu. You’ll find signs in the Batuu language, droids and even multiple spaceships. At the center of it all is a life size model of the Millenium Falcon.
Be careful though…Storm Troopers are always lurking about, trying to find anyone who may be part of the resistance. You may even see other characters such as Rey or Chewbacca (our favorite!!!).
Rides include Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, where you’ll fly Han Solo’s famous ship. What makes it fun is that everybody plays a part, from flying the craft to shooting at the enemy. You also can’t miss the groundbreaking Rise Of The Resistance, which puts you in the center of the action, escaping Kylo Ren and the Storm Troopers.
Be sure you’ve got your camera out as you’re captured by the Storm Troopers. You won’t want to miss this shot!
You can also build your own droid or light saber. When you’re done, pop into Oga’s Cantina for a drink!
Based on the tavern from the original movie, it’s lively and fun and an experience that my whole family loved. There’s even a “live” DJ spinning the hottest new space tracks!
Even the Galaxy’s Edge food is themed. When you’re done in Galaxy’s Edge, you can walk right next door for an entirely different experience in…
Toy Story Land
Worlds apart from Pandora and Galaxy’s Edge, this bright, colorful land is based on the Toy Story movies, with Woody inviting you right into Andy’s backward.
This land features three rides, Toy Story Mania, an interactive ride reminiscent of a giant carnival game, Alien Swirling Saucers, where you go for a spin, literally, in an alien spaceship, and the Slinky Dog Dash, a fun coaster that’s built with both the kids and adults in mind.
For me, it’s the details that make this land so much fun! Everything is designed to look like giant toys, from the buildings to the attractions. The quick service restaurant is shaped like a giant lunchbox, ride height signs are shaped like Candyland pieces, benches look like dominos and even the merchandise carts look like toy trucks.
Everywhere you turn, you’re surrounded by more toys!
Sometimes you’ll even stumble across “live” toys. We never get tired of the green army men that wander through the park playing their drums (they may even make you drop and give them 10!). See the full video and get the Complete Guide To Toy Story Land here.
These lands are all so different and each is amazing in it’s own right. I honestly don’t even need to ride anything…half the fun is just exploring all the secret nooks and crannies in each one (and of course taking selfies at all the best Toy Story Land Instagram walls).
If there’s something Disney really knows, it’s how to pay attention to detail…and they prove it in each of these fantastic lands!
Meet Disney Characters
It’s not a trip to Disney World unless you take pictures with Mickey, Minnie and friends! In fact, one of my all time favorite pictures is when my youngest met her first Disney character. The sheer joy in her face at meeting Daisy Duck makes me smile to this day.
If that’s not Disney magic, I don’t know what is!
Both my girls were all about the princesses too! It took us multiple trips but we met every single one and still have the autograph books to this day.
What I love most is that these aren’t just photo ops. The characters always take the time to make the kids feel special, engaging them in conversation and showering them with kindness.
My favorite example is when Keira was little. She absolutely LOVED Chewbacca she’d make a special card for him every time we went to Hollywood Studios. When she gave it to him, he’d take the time to really look at it and make her feel like it was the best gift he’d ever gotten! I can’t even tell you how adorable and sweet it was…every single time!
These character meet and greets have always been one my favorite things to do at Disney! Though my teen is now at that stage where she thinks she’s “too old” for them, my youngest and I still love them.
Here are some of the different ways to see your favorite characters:
- Meet and greets (the best way to get one-on-one time with your favorites)
- Character dining experiences
- Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom (characters greet you from the train platform)
- Flotillas at Animal Kingdom
- Live Shows (such as Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire)
Sometimes you’ll even get lucky and spot your favorite characters wandering through the parks or popping up in random places. You just never know, so be sure to keep your eyes open!
Watch A Parade
Nothing beats a Disney parade and we always make time to watch the Festival Of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom.
Not only are the floats spectacular but it’s also one of the best ways to see the Disney characters without having to wait in line. It’s also a great way to see favorites that aren’t usually available for meet and greets.
There are also smaller parades that pop up during the day, like the Adventure Friends Cavalcade, so be on the lookout for those too.
Tip: If you’ve already seen the parade, this is a great time to ride attractions. The lines are always shorter when there’s a parade or fireworks.
Take In A Show
If you’ve been to Disney before, you already know that they put on some some pretty cool shows too. Entertaining and fun, stopping to enjoy the show is also a great way to relax and let the little ones have a break from walking.
Here are the shows you won’t want to miss:
- Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire (Magic Kingdom) – Mickey, Minnie, Goofy dance and sing along with characters from the movies Tangled, The Princess And The Frog, and Frozen.
- Beauty And The Beast (Hollywood Studios) – Condensed Broadway type performance of the classic Disney movie
- Frozen Sing-A-Long Celebration (Hollywood Studios) – Disney performers tell the tale of Anna & Elsa as they invite the audience to sing along with the tunes from Frozen (if you’ve never heard a theater full of little kids singing Let It Go, be prepared for cuteness overload)!
- Festival Of The Lion King (Animal Kingdom) – With favorite songs from the movie, giant puppets, acrobatic monkeys and more, it’s a fun show for the whole family
- Finding Nemo…The Big Blue And Beyond (Animal Kingdom) – Stage show featuring live performers and puppets set against a colorful underwater themed backdrop.
- Disney Concert Series (Epcot) – Taking place during festivals such as the Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Festival, the concert series features popular performers such as Rick Springfield, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, 98 Degrees and more!
- Disney On Broadway (Epcot) – Favorite Broadway performers are featured in this series which takes place during the Festival Of The Arts
Tip: If you’re visiting in the summer, save the indoor shows for the middle of the day. It’s a great place to get out of the sun and enjoy a little air conditioning (and maybe avoid those pop-up afternoon thunderstorms too)
Attend A Festival At Epcot
There’s nothing like a festival at Epcot! From flowers to food, here’s the lowdown on their most popular events.
Epcot Food & Wine Festival – By far the most popular of all the Epcot Festivals, the Food & Wine Festival is not to be missed! Like the name implies, it’s all about the food and drink and I love tasting all the different foods from around the world.
I love my girls but usually leave them behind for this one! It’s a really fun event to go to with friends so that you can enjoy drinks from around the world too! If you really want live it up, stay at the Riviera Resort and you can just hop on the skyliner to get back!
Flower & Garden Festival – Focusing on beautiful gardens and Disney character topiaries, this festival is the one my girls have always loved most.
They’ll tell you that their two favorite activities are searching for Spike The Bee (the annual scavenger hunt) and hanging out in the butterfly house.
Of course, with a delicious variety of food and drink similar to Food & Wine, this is a fun one for the adults as well.
Festival Of The Arts – Billed as a celebration of art and cuisine , this festival features visual arts experiences, the Disney on Broadway concert series, amazing food and drink and more.
You’ll see street performers, watch artists at work and maybe even get the chance to show off your own creative side. As you wander through the park, be sure to keep an eye open for all the fun photo ops too!
Honestly, the Epcot festivals are so much fun, you’ll want to put them ALL on your schedule! The dates for 2023 are:
- Festival Of The Arts: January 13-February 20
- Flower & Garden Festival: March 1-July 1
- Food & Wine Festival: Not yet announced but last year it started in July and ran through November.
Party In The Streets
Sometimes the fun of Disney is just strolling through the streets and taking in all the sights and sounds, including the street performances.
The Dapper Dans – This fun barbershop quartet is an institution so be sure to look for them on Main Street! A combination of amazing harmony and bad dad jokes, I have to stop and watch them every time!
- Sergio The Mime – A combination of mime act, juggling and lots of humor, you can find Sergio entertaining the crowds in Italy
- Mariache Cobre – Traditional mariachi band that can be found performing in Mexico
- Jeweled Dragon Acrobats – This acrobatic troupe wows the crowds in China with it’s gravity defying performances.
- Command Performance – You’ll find this awesome band playing in the United Kingdom gazebo. A mix of British rock from the 60’s-90’s, it’s a blast from the past!
- JAMMitors – The percussion band’s instruments include trash cans and other clean-up related items.
- Harambe Village Acrobats – Always a hit, this performance includes tumbling, drumming, dancing and even human pyramids
- Tam Tam Drummers – Kids love dancing to the beat of these African drummers as they perform in Harambe
- Viva Gaia Street Band – If you’ve ever wanted to be part of a Caribbean street party, this is your chance!
Citizens Of Hollywood – You never know what you’ll get with this 30’s and 40’s themed street performances but you can bet it’s going to be funny (and you may even be part of the show)!
Experience The Magic Of Disney At Night
We love Disney World any time of day but at night it’s truly magical!
In Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s castle is completely transformed during the Beacon Of Magic projection show. It looks different at different times of the year (for example, a Halloween version in the fall) but it’s always amazing!
No trip is complete without watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks. There’s no better backdrop than Cinderella’s castle, especially during the holiday season!
Tip: The biggest crowds tend to leave right after the fireworks and there are long lines to get on the ferry and monorail. If you watch the fireworks from the front of the park, near the exit, you can beat the crowd.
Over at Animal Kingdom, Pandora glows with gorgeous luminescent lighting…it’s a can’t miss!
It’s the best reason I can think of to stay late in Animal Kingdom!
After that, head to the Tree Of Life and watch as it comes alive with adorable animated creatures frolicking about (also a can’t miss…it’s one of our favorites!)
At Hollywood Studios, you’ve got Fantasmic, with special effects, stunts and pyrotechnics galore, set against a backdrop of water.
I’m also a big fan of the Wonderful World Of Animation. Set against the backdrop of the Chinese Theater, it’s a visual history of the most popular Disney films over the years, from the original Mickey Mouse to Encanto.
Finally, if you’re in Epcot, you’ll want to check out Harmonious, a nighttime spectacular featuring giant screens, moving fountains, lights, pyrotechnics, and lasers set to Disney music.
Staying true to the theme of Epcot, it shows how the Disney magic unites us by featuring cultures from around the world.
Take Disney Transportation
With Disney, getting there is half the fun and the monorail is iconic! The first time we went, my girls thought it was one of the rides (some would argue that it is). If you want an extra magical experience, stay at the Contemporary Resort, where the monorail goes right through the building!
Then there’s the ferry. When you board, you can see Cinderella’s castle far away in the distance and it’s always fun to see all the kids get excited as it gets closer and closer into view.
My personal favorite? It’s definitely the skyliner! After it debuted in 2019, I couldn’t wait to hop aboard one and was finally able to when I stayed at Disney’s Riviera Resort.
It didn’t disappoint! Connecting Epcot and Hollywood Studios to several Disney resorts (the Riviera Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, Pop Century and The Art Of Animation), it’s the most convenient and most scenic way to get around. The views just can’t be beat, especially if you ride at sunset!
This one wasn’t actually on my list as I started writing this post. However, as I searched for pictures to include, I realized that this is the most magical reason of all to visit Disney World.
I went down a rabbit hole looking at photos and remembering all the special times we’ve had at Disney World. From Ashling shyly hugging her favorite princesses to Keira battling Darth Vader in an epic battle (and talking for weeks afterwards about how she’d defeated him), we’ve made so many amazing memories.
Even though my kids are much bigger now (insert crying emoji here), we still never get tired of a family trip to Disney World!
It doesn’t even have to be a family vacation. Disney is also perfect for a magical couples getaway…
or a fun girl’s trip!
These are just some of the things you can do at Disney World but there’s so much more. From the special holiday parties to the Keys To The Kingdom Tour, there are a gazillion excuses to go back. But the best excuse of all is the Disney magic!
So grab the kids, put on your Minnie ears, and go make some awesome memories!