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Top 10 Experiences First-Timers Must-Do At Walt Disney World

1. Stay at a Disney resort

If your first-time trip to Orlando is focused exclusively on visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, staying at a Disney resort is a must. For first time guests, staying on property means that you’ll have Disney cast members on hand to help 24/7 so you’ll be able to ask questions about any part of your Disney vacation anytime you need to. You’ll also be right in the middle of the magic, with complimentary transportation to the parks, and you’ll be surrounded by immersive theming right at your resort. Moreover, Disney resort guests enjoy exclusive benefits like Extra Magic Hours, early FastPass planning, and complimentary package pick-up.

2. Rope drop Magic Kingdom

Getting to the Magic Kingdom when the park opens is truly a special experience. The cast members are so welcoming as you enter the park, the castle stage show creates a memorable start to the day and it’s just a special feeling being among the first guests to enter. You can get lots of photos with only a few guests in the background or run off towards your favorite attraction before the park really fills up towards the middle of the day.

3. Meet Mickey

Every first-time guest should make a point to meet Mickey (in whichever park they’re visiting). A lot of first-time guests do not realize how special character meet and greets can be until they experience it for themselves, and what better character to be the first one to meet than Mickey himself? If you don’t want to spend the time meeting characters at meet and greet locations you can always make a reservation for a character dinner.

4. Watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade

Another classic Magic Kingdom experience that first-timers should have is watching the afternoon parade. The Festival of Fantasy parade is beautifully designed with unique costumes and a host of characters. It takes place daily, making it easy to work into your plans, and you can see it away from most of the crowds by watching the parade from Frontierland instead of from Main Street.

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5. Taste your way around World Showcase

First time guests should definitely visit Epcot’s World Showcase so they can eat (or drink) around the world (bonus points if your trip is during one of Epcot’s festivals!) Exploring World Showcase with your taste buds is a great way to experience all of the different countries represented, and it’s an experience that is uniquely Disney.

6. See Fantasmic!

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, first-time guests should not miss Fantasmic! This show encompasses all the elements of classic Disney storytelling with villains, Mickey, princesses, and an awe inspiring finale. Thinking of using a FastPass to get the best seats? You may prefer to book a Fantasmic dining package instead– using a FastPass for a nighttime show means you won’t be able to make additional selections since the park will be closed when the show is over.

7. Buy an ear hat or headband

You may not want to go too crazy buying souvenirs on your first trip, but ear hats and headbands are probably at the top of your list. They’ll look nice in photos and they’re something that you can really only get at Disney. Some guests even find ways to display them at home when their trip is over!

8. See the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

So many guests visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom without seeing most of the animals in the park. Rides are obviously a priority when visiting a theme park, but definitely make sure you experience at least some of the animal attractions and walking trails. Animal Kingdom is nothing like your local zoo and seeing the animals here can really make your entire trip.

9. Journey to Pandora: World of Avatar

While in Animal Kingdom, be sure to experience Pandora: World of Avatar. The park’s newest land boasts two attractions, a bar, quick service, restaurant, shop and a whole environment that is truly authentic to the landscapes you see in the films. Try to arrive early (when the park opens) if you can’t get a FastPass for these attractions, and be sure to spend some time taking in all of the details in Pandora.

10. See Happily Ever After

Happily Ever After, the Magic Kingdom’s newest fireworks spectacular is the perfect way to cap off a first time trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. Get your spot on Main Street early for the best view, as this show features lots of castle projections in addition to fireworks. Take your time leaving once the fireworks are over so you aren’t stuck in the bus, monorail, and boat lines, and instead take the few extra minutes to do some shopping or get some last minute photos in front of the castle.

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a graduate of St. Anselm College, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in History. She completed two Disney College Programs, one at Dinoland U.S.A., in Animal Kingdom, and one at Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Hollywood Studios. She is the author of “Brittany Earns Her Ears,” a memoir about her experiences on the college program, and she currently resides in Massachusetts.