There’s no denying that a visit to Walt Disney World is a truly magical experience. With so much to offer, not just in the theme parks, but beyond them, in each Disney Resort hotel, the Disney water parks and Disney Springs, that you’re in for a wonderfully busy vacation when visiting Lake Buena Vista.
When you’re a regular Guest in the Walt Disney World Resort though, it’s often too easy to focus on the attractions, experiences and restaurants, including those found on Disney’s Boardwalk, that are you and your family’s favorite. This is especially true if you are visiting for a weekend or a short, mid-week break. Even during short visits to Walt Disney World, it’s hard to skip by some of the beautiful Disney Resort hotels, such as Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness.
During our recent visit to Walt Disney World, we noticed that there’s an area of each Disney Park that we often, unintentionally, forget about. It got us thinking about why we don’t visit them regularly, and if we should make more of an effort to visit them during future vacations. Let’s take a look at the areas of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks that we often miss…
This colorful area is located at the very back of Magic Kingdom as part of Fantasyland. Once known as Mickey’s Toontown Fair, Storybook Circus is now inspired by Dumbo (1941). As the name suggests, this part of Fantasyland is themed around a circus and is home to 5 attractions and one merchandise location:
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- The Barnstormer
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Casey Jr. Splash ’N’ Soak Station
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow
- Big Top Souvenirs
But why shouldn’t we skip this area of Magic Kingdom Park?
This part of Fantasyland is perfect for families with younger Guests and for Guests who are a fan of Dumbo. This is also a great spot to board the Walt Disney World Railroad, using the Fantasyland Station when it is in operation. We love to meet Donald Duck, Goofy, Minnie Mouse, and Daisy Duck in Pete’s Silly Sideshow and are very much looking forward to the return of the character appearances to this venue.
We have to say though that when it comes to sweet treats, we’d prefer to visit Main Street Confectionary on Main Street, U.S.A. rather than stop by Big Top Souvenirs. There’s something about the classic shop located near the entrance to Magic Kingdom Park that draws us in every time.
We find that while we often skip this Magic Kingdom land during a regular visit, we definitely venture here during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. This is usually the place to see some of your favorite Disney pals dressed in their seasonal attire.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Located at the back of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is accessed from Africa by the Wildlife Express Train. Guests take the Wildlife Express Train to and from Rafiki’s Planet Watch to access unique experiences including:
- Affection Section, where Guests can pet a variety of unique, domesticated animals and interact with animal care experts
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station, where Guests can take part in an animation class and learn how to draw their favorite Disney characters that are inspired by animals
- Conservation Station where Guests can get an in-depth look at animal habitats from around the world and see the expert veterinary care that the animals receive at the Walt Disney World Resort
- Wilderness Explorer Badge stations
So why shouldn’t we skip this unique part of Disney’s Animal Kingdom?
Rafiki’s Planet Watch offers Guests the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how Disney cares for its animals, beginning from your journey on the Wildlife Express Train. This is often a quieter place to visit, allowing Guests to escape the crowds and take things a little more slowly yet still enjoy the Disney experience. It’s not every day that you get to learn about and pet unique animals!
The easiest way to access the Wildlife Express Train is to enter Africa from Discovery Island and head towards the exit of Kilimanjaro Safaris. If you’re coming from Expedition Everest, follow the walkway along the edge of Discovery River until you get to Africa.
The only thing we feel is missing is the character meet and greets that Rafiki’s Planet Watch used to be known for. We’d love to see Chip and Dale, and of course, Rafiki, to return once more!
Commissary Lane and Grand Avenue
Both located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, these areas are small in comparison to the other popular destinations within the Disney theme park, including Sunset Boulevard, Toy Story Land, and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. That being said, they both offer a variety of Guest experiences.
Commissary Lane is known to be the destination for:
- ABC Commissary
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
- Meet Disney Stars at Red Carpet Dreams
- Meet Olaf at Celebrity Spotlight
Grand Avenue is where you will find:
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano
The lack of rides in these areas of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the reason why we find that we don’t stop by. It is, instead, their dining locations that are the reasons why we should definitely visit unless we’re looking to meet some favorite Disney characters. Of course, we love to experience Muppet Vision 3D every once in a while; it’s a great place to enjoy some AC and a short line time too.
Located next to World Nature (previously known as Future World) in EPCOT, the Imagination Pavilion is the place to find Figment. While a ride on Journey Into Imagination With Figment is fun every once in a while, the smell that you experience on that ride is enough to keep us away during most visits to the Disney Park. We much prefer to enjoy the smells of Spaceship Earth and Soarin’ Around the World!
We also don’t often stop to see ImageWorks – The ‘What If’ Labs. We love the idea behind this place to learn but unless you’ve got younger Guests in your party, we feel that once you’ve experienced this once, you don’t need to rush back again.
We do love the addition of Winnie the Pooh to the lawn to the right of the Imagination! Pavilion though, and hope that he sticks around for a while. He’s one reason why we journey a little off the beaten track that runs between The Land and World Showcase!
Do you find that you forget about these parts of the Disney Parks too? Or do you have other areas that you skip without realizing? During your next visit to a Disney Park, having secured a Park Reservation, why not go and seek out those areas to see if you discover something you’ve been missing out on?