A Beginner’s Guide of Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World can be overwhelming, even for the most experienced planners. There is so much to take in consideration and most websites assume you know the basics. This is a breakdown of all the ins and outs of Walt Disney World in Orlando so you can get the general overview of each park and what it has to offer to better plan your next trip! 

For each park, I will include a general overview, number of attractions, number of thrill rides, number of restaurants, lists of the most popular attractions and restaurants and finally some personal recommendations of my favorites in each park. We will then be taking a look at some other basic things you need to know to plan the ultimate Disney trip including, Dining Reservations, Park Reservations (COVID edition!), Fastpasses and Resorts. This will be the beginning of a Disney planning series on the website so be on the lookout for some articles covering specifics hotels, restaurants and other offerings! 

Let’s get started! Updated Decemeber 2022

Here are some terms you’ll see often while planning your Disney vacation:

My Disney Experience: This is an app you MUST download. It will keep track of all your plans, reservations, park passes and fast passes. During COVID it will also be how you order food from the Quick Service dining locations. 

Park Passes: During COVID, Disney World has implemented a park reservation system. That means you will have to make a park reservation after you buy your theme park ticket. This is very straight forward on the Disney app or website but make sure you check to make sure the park has availability before buying your tickets! 

Park Hopping: If you add-on the park hopper option to your Disney pass, you can use it to enter multiple parks on the same day. If you have a short trip, this might not be a good use of money as each park as a lot to offer! To note: During COVID you can only park hop after 2pm and it is subject to capacity limits- though park hopping has been available every day for each park as of April 2021! 

DAS: Disability Access Pass. This will allow someone with a diagnosed disability to walk up to the cast member at the ride and get a return time to ride the ride (instead of having to physically wait in line). Keep in mind- this doesn’t typically apply to a mobility disability as most ride cues are able to accommodate wheelchairs. To request this pass- see the guest services booth at the front of any of the parks. You will only need to do this once per trip and everyone in your party can ride at the same time, but make sure they are all present when you request the pass.


Genie+ has recently replaced the FastPass system at both Disney World and Disneyland. Genie+ allows you to skip the regular standby line and costs $15/day per person. You can buy this add-on as early as midnight the day of your park pass (and you will have to buy it each day.). Rumor is they will begin to limit the number of Genie+ services they allow to purchase each day but that hasn’t happened yet! Seems simple but it can get quite complicated- here’s the breakdown:

The Basics: This new system has two tiers of passes. Genie+ is the actual system you use to book access to the Lightening Lane for many (but not all) of the attractions at the park. If you buy the Genie+ system, you can book one attraction at a time starting at 7am. Once you scan into the attraction, you can book another. For example: If you wake up at 7am to book Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom and the pass is at 9:40am, you can book another as soon as you get to Space Mountain and scan your band for the ride. There’s a more advanced way to use Genie+ but I’ll save it for a little later down because it can be confusing!

Individual Lightening Lane vs Genie+: The second tier of Genie+ is the Individual Lightening Lanes. As of now, there is one attraction at each park that is not included in the Genie+ service and is separately priced. These are typically the most popular rides at each park. The Individual LL rides can be purchased ALONG with Genie+ or without Genie+ (they are completely separate). These are usually priced at around $10-15 per person, per ride so they get quite expensive.

Genie+ Advanced Strategies: The other thing you can do with Genie+ LL passes is you can do what’s called “stacking” them. The idea is while you can only make one LL selection at a time, you can actually make another selection every 2 hours whether you scan into your attraction or not. By making a selection every 2 hours, you can “stack” your passes for late in the day. For example, your day could look like this:


7am- wake up and get a pass for Space Mountain for 11:40-12:40pm and buy an Individual LL pass for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for 1:20pm

Park opens at 8am (wait two hours for to make another selection) so at 10am you make a Splash Mountain for 2pm

You have a slow morning and breakfast at the resort, get to Magic Kingdom at 12pm

12pm- You book a pass for Big Thunder Mountain for 3pm while walking to Space Mountain

So now you have all the biggest rides “stacked” in the afternoon. This works really well at smaller parks like EPCOT if you plan to do a majority of the morning/afternoon at one of the festivals. You can also book Genie+ passes (and Individual Lightening Lane passes) at other parks as long as you have a park hopping ticket- just keep in mind it can take an hour to get park to park!

**The picture on the left is from Disneyland, but it works the same way. This is what it would look like.

Quick Guide to In Park Dining

Quick Service– this is a cafeteria style food stand. The prices range from $10-20 per meal and do not require reservations. During COVID you can only “mobile order” through the app and pickup at the counter. There will usually be seating but it will be first come first serve and will sometimes be outside and uncovered! 

Table Service: A sit down restaurant. These will almost always require reservations (which open at 6am EST, 60 days before your trip) and are on the pricey side ($15-35 per meal). These vary in quality so I would do my research before booking! 

Signature Dining– the most upscale dining in Disney. These will always require reservations and can be very expensive ($35-100+ per meal). These are all very high quality and bring unique offerings to a theme park vacation! 

These are all Quick Service Examples

The Parks

Magic Kingdom

The iconic Disney World park, Magic Kingdom truly has fun for the whole family. Boasting the most attractions of any other park, Magic Kingdom is a wonderland for all ages. You won’t find the most intense rides here, but it does have a couple of (Disney style) thrill rides. Thrill rides in Magic Kingdom include: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Magic Kingdom (MK) also has the iconic themed rides that aren’t packed with thrill but are arguably just as entertaining as the coasters. Those include: Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan and of course, It’s a Small World. 

Food options at this park are notoriously lacking but that doesn’t mean you can’t find something great! Our favorite spots include: 

Quick Service:

  • Sleepy Hollow: Spicy Chicken Waffle or Nutella Fruit Waffle 
  • Pecos Bill: We get the chicken nachos and load up on toppings for a cheap meal (that we split!)
  • Casey’s Hot Dogs- I am OBSESSED with the corn dog nugget meal for $10- I think it’s the best deal in Disney right now.

Table Service (Reservations HIGHLY Suggested):

  • Skipper’s Canteen- a little out of the box, but the best sit down restaurant in our opinion. 

**There is no alcohol served in Magic Kingdom except at Table Service/Signature Dining! 


General Vibe: Playful, Classic Disney

Total Attractions: 40 (including shows!)

# of Thrill Rides: 4

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Individual Lightening Lane+)
  • Peter Pan 
  • The “Mountains” (Space, Big Thunder, Splash)

Dining Options: 38 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 7

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table 
  • Be Our Guest (Dinner) 


Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom is an oasis during a busy theme park vacation. While there are a number of thrill rides (including: Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest), this park also offers a unique option of relaxing nature walks and moments of peace and quiet among some amazing flora. When making your way around Animal Kingdom, make sure to take in all the intricate details embedded in every aspect of this park. The park has 4 sections including: Asia, Africa, Pandora- The World of Avatar and DinoLand USA, each offering its own incredible theming in rides, food, and attractions!  

The food really varies here, but is some of our favorite on property. You’ll find a little bit of everything in this park! 

Quick Service:
  • Satu’li Cateen- Make your own bowls with rice, salad or a potato hash and top them with your choice of meat! 
  • Nomad Lounge: Although this started as a well kept secret, it has definitely grown in popularity. You won’t find too much food here but the bread service is to die for! It also has some of the most well-balanced drinks we’ve found in the Disney parks! 
Table Service (Reservations HIGHLY Suggested):
  • Yak and Yeti- a beloved restaurant in the Asia portion of the park. It has some of the more basic Indian type foods you’d find, but they are prepared very well! 

General Vibe: Relaxed, Outdoorsy, Unique 

Total Attractions: 24 (including animal exhibits!)

# of Thrill Rides: 4

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Flight of Passage (Individual Lightening Lane+)
  • Expedition Everest 
  • Kilimanjaro Safari 

Dining Options: 33 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 7

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Yak and Yeti 

Hollywood Studios

The continuously evolving Hollywood Studios is the home to the newest addition to Disney World, Galaxy’s Edge. Based on the Star Wars universe, this park is truly immersive with every corner riddled with interactive games and missions. Here you’ll find stormtroopers wandering, Chewbaca fixing his ships and even Kylo Ren continuously searching for the Resistance! It is truly one of a kind. In the other corners of Hollywood Studios, you’ll find Toy Story Land, Sunset Boulevard and Hollywood Boulevard; which all have their own unique offerings. Hollywood Studios also offers the most thrilling rides of all the parks. 

I’ll be honest, we haven’t experienced many of the sit down restaurants in this park, but we’ve done a lot of bars and lounges! We will usually just walk over to EPCOT or try out spots on the Boardwalk (connects Hollywood Studios and EPCOT). Remember, you’ll need a park hopper if you plan to jump over to EPCOT. The boardwalk does not require a ticket! 

Quick Service:
  • Docking Bay 7- Galaxy’s Edge unique dining experience. We love the breakfast here! 
  • ABC Commissary- the menu was recently updated and I think it is excellent.
Table Service
  • 50s Prime Time- set in a 50s theme living room, the waiters play on the “manners” of the 1950s so don’t be surprised if you get heckled! 
  • Sci-Fi Diner- The fair is basic American but you sit in a “drive in theater car” themed table while a Sci-Fi classic plays on the giant screen. Definitely a fun stop! 
  • Oga’s Cantina- A Star Wars themed bar with the most unique drinks on property. Most of the “seating” is standing at tables and there is almost no food offered though! 
  • Tune-In Lounge- Attached to 50s Prime Time Restaurant, you can get comfort classics like Meatloaf and Fried Chicken in a 50s themed living room bar 
  • Baseline Tap: This spot offers great snacks and craft beer

General Vibe: Adventurous, Thrilling, Nostalgic

Total Attractions: 17 (including shows!)

# of Thrill Rides: 5

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Rise of the Resistance (Individual Lightening Lane+)
  • Slinky Dog Dash 

Dining Options: 32 (this includes things like popcorn stands!)

# of Table Service: 5

# of Signature Dining: 1

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Oga’s Cantina 
  • Sci-Fi Diner 


The most “adult” of all the Disney World Park, EPCOT is a combination of two different themes. The first theme is futuristic, space travel and the second is a “world showcase” which boasts 11 themed pockets of different counties. The countries include: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Japan, Morocco, Italy, USA, France, UK, and Canada. Each “Country” offers its own dining experiences, shops and cultural exhibits. EPCOT is also home to the Land and Seas Pavilions. Here you will find some quality learning opportunities including an aquarium and a tour of one of the greenhouses that Disney World actually uses for its restaurants. EPCOT is currently under construction, so some of the Future World sections may be inaccessible. 

EPCOT definitely has the most food choices of any parks. Below I’ll drop some crowd favorites for Table Service dining but with all the food carts around, it might be better to plan to “snack around the world” at this park! 

Quick Service:

  • Sunshine Terrance- This is in the land pavilion and is great if you have picky eaters who won’t enjoy the offerings in the World Showcase. 
  • Les Halles- this is a true hidden gem. The pastries are great and the prices are VERY low (in Disney Standards). I mean a glass of wine under $7? That just doesn’t happen at Disney World!

Table Service

  • Rose and Crown- this is a fun play on a British Pub serving up Fish and Chips with other British favorites (including a great beer selection) 
  • Via Napoli- Hailed as the best Pizza in the Parks, this is a must do if you are craving a crowd pleasing pizza!



EPCOT has a rotating schedule of festivals which add some fun food booths, scavenger hunts, entertainment and themed merchandise. They do not require any extra admission costs, but you may want to book additional offerings (like cooking classes) that are offered at additional charges. Check Disney World’s website for more information on those! 

Festival of the Arts- focused on performing and visual art, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, meet the artist series and additional art galleries with prints and original works for sale. Typically runs Jan-late Feb.

Flower and Garden Festival- focused on the amazing topiaries Disney creates around the work, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, butterfly gardens, and a scavenger hunt. Typically runs Mar- May (It goes through July in 2022!)

Food and Wine Festival- focused on fine food and wine, this festival includes almost 40 food booths, a concert series and many additional offerings (cooking classes, wine pairings, etc.) Typically runs Aug- early Nov. (Starts mid-July in 2022!).

Festival of the Holidays- Focused on holidays around the world, this festival includes extra food booths, a concert series, the Candlelight Processional, and entertainers in each country that explain their Christmas traditions. Typically runs Nov- Dec. 


Total Attractions: 40  (including cultural points in the World Showcase!)

# of Thrill Rides: 4

Most Popular Rides: 

  • Guardians of the Galaxy- Cosmic Rewind*
  • Frozen Ever After
  • Test Track 
  • Ratatouille (was also utilizing a virtual queue but that has been suspended as of Jan. 2022)

Dining Options: 59 (not including festival booths!)

# of Table Service: 16

# of Signature Dining: 4

Hardest to get Reservations: 

  • Le Cellier 
  • Via Napoli 
  • Rose and Crown 

A Special Note about the Guardians of the Galaxy ride*

This is the only ride in Disney World where you cannot physically stand in line to ride. You must get a digital boarding pass or Individual Lightening Lane to be able to ride. You have to get the pass the same day you have a reservation for EPCOT and they are released twice a day (7am and 1pm). They go VERY fast- like within a minute (at least in the morning). If you get a pass, you’ll get a return time and be able to walk on to the ride then!

You don’t have to be physically in the park to try for a boarding group but to be eligible for the 1pm slot, you had to be scanned into the park (you have to have been in the park earlier in the day). There are some days where I have seen the virtue queue still open past 2pm (and therefore open to park hoppers!) but that is not a guarantee. For this reason, make sure one of your park passes is for EPCOT if you want to ride Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Now that you’ve got the basics, its time to start booking! 

Travel Agent costs are built in to the cost of your Disney Vacation so if you aren’t using a Travel Agent, you’re leaving money on the table! Thankfully we started a travel agency specifically for Disney vacations. As you can see, there is a lot of details when planning a Disney vacation (and this is just scratching the surface!). Contact us today to take the stress out of your dream vacation and start planning today!

Meet the Bargers

Bruce and Shelly are a 30-something couple always on the lookout for cheap eats, wildlife sightings and a good brewery. They started traveling together ten years ago and haven't looked back. They travel internationally at least three times a year and have been to 42 states, all while holding those pesky 9-5 jobs. They hope you can take these travel tips and live the life you've only dreamed about!

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    Your article helped me a lot, is there any more related content? Thanks!

    • Shelly and Bruce

      Yes! Head over to Magic Pass Travel and we can help you out 🙂


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