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Deciding which Disney World Park is best can be a hard decision. Especially if you have kids. Which park should you choose? The Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, or Hollywood Studios? What’s the most popular park at Disney World? To help with your decision about which Disney World Park to visit, here are some tips on making that choice:
1) Start by deciding which parks your family wants to visit and which rides they want to go on – this will narrow down which of the four parks at WDW is best for you.
2) Next, consider the age of your children – if they are under 8 years old then a theme park like The Magic Kingdom would be great but if they are older then Animal Kingdom which has a variety of attractions would be better.
3) Lastly, which park is best for your family’s vacation style? If you want to go on a lot of rides at a theme park then the Magic Kingdom which has about 27 popular rides and attractions might be for you. But if you enjoy shows and movies with travel themes at a theme park then Animal Kingdom which has Expedition Everest or Hollywood Studios which has Muppet Vision 3D might be more for you.
In this article, we will discuss Walt Disney World and the most popular park at Disney World. Can you guess which one it is? We will help you decide which is the best Disney World Park for your family including descriptions and overviews of the main Disney World Parks (see also ‘What is Better, Disney World or Disneyland?‘). Once you have some ideas about which Disney Park is best for you, then we will talk about the best time to visit Disney and what is a good age for Disney World.
To find out more about planning a fun, easy, stress-free, and magical vacation to Walt Disney World with your family, check out The Disney World Planning Guide with Printable Worksheets.
What is Disney World?
The Walt Disney World Resort (WDW) opened on October 1, 1971, in Orlando, Florida. It is owned and operated by the Walt Disney Company. The property spans nearly 25,000 acres. Currently, in 2021, there are special celebrations for the Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration which will last for 18 months.
Disney World has four major parks which are themed after different aspects of life under the sun: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios. Each park has rides that appeal to different people with different interests. There are also plenty of shows at each Park which will make your vacation more enjoyable!
In addition to the theme parks, Disney World also has two water parks, 27 themed resort hotels, a camping resort, golf courses, nine non-Disney hotels, entertainment venues, and the outdoor Disney Springs which is popular for shopping and dining.
Visiting the Disney World parks is a popular vacation destination for families, especially those with children seeking the magic and nostalgia of Disney World USA. So which Disney World park should I go to? Well, choosing which Disney World park to visit can be hard but hopefully, this article helps make that decision a little easier!
Most Popular Park at Disney World
Every year, millions of people visit Walt Disney World and it is the most visited vacation resort in the world. In fact, prior to the pandemic, WDW had an average annual attendance of more than 58 million visitors.
Magic Kingdom is the most popular park at Disney World and it is the biggest of the four main Disney World theme parks. It can accommodate more visitors and features all the magic and fantasy of Disney.
According to the Global Attractions Attendance Report in 2019, the annual attendance for each of the Disney World Parks was:
- Magic Kingdom 20.9 million
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom 13.8 million
- Epcot 12.4 million
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios 11.4 million
In 2020, annual worldwide theme park attendance dropped by 67%. These attendance declines were largely due to restrictions limiting operating days and capacities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual attendance for Walt Disney World in 2020 was less than 20 million visitors.
In 2021, despite the pandemic, WDW is operational again but with limited capacity. Certain parks, hotels, restaurants, and other offerings may be modified or unavailable. Even with such restrictions, this is an ideal time to visit Walt Disney World with kids and avoid some of the crowds (see also ‘How Far is Universal Studios From Walt Disney World?‘). Read this article to learn more tips and tricks for Disney World.
Which Disney World Park is Best for My Family?
Are you wondering how to choose which Disney World Park to visit? It depends on the age (and height) of your children and the interests of your family members. The length of your vacation and the number of days you have available to visit the parks will also determine which Disney World Park is best for you.
Ideally, your family will want to visit all four of the Disney World parks. When visiting Disney with a toddler or children I would recommend spending a whole day at each park. There is so much to do and see at the Disney World Parks. Trying to squeeze in more than one park each day will feel like you missed out and didn’t get to experience everything that’s available.
When you plan a Walt Disney trip I would allow at least 2 days at Magic Kingdom with children. I would also factor in a rest day or two where you plan to spend some time relaxing at your hotel. Day after day at the Disney parks is exhausting for kids (and adults), and it’s more fun for everyone if you allow some time to rest.
Planning a Disney World vacation can feel overwhelming, especially if this is your first visit to Disney. Read our guide to planning your Disney World Itinerary. Find out everything you need to do (and know) BEFORE you visit Walt Disney World with kids. And our tips and tricks for Disney World will help make your life easier inside the Disney parks.
Disney World Park Descriptions
So, what is there to do at each of the Disney World parks. Let’s take a look so you can decide how to choose which Disney World park to visit.
The Magic Kingdom is number one on most kids’ list of which Disney World parks to visit. It has the most theme park rides, with about 27 popular rides which include Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Space Mountain will give you an out-of-this-world experience and Splash Mountain which lets your family enjoy water splashing all around. The Magic Kingdom even has its own fireworks show which is held every night above Cinderella’s Castle!
If you have younger children who are interested in princesses then visiting Magic Kingdom at Disney World would be fun for them too. There are regular Disney character cavalcade processions throughout the park. What is a Disney cavalcade? Think of it as a mini-parade where groups of Disney characters walk by, or ride on a float or on horseback, in an organized parade with music to greet guests at a safe distance. During the pandemic, the cavalcades are the best way to see many of the Disney characters.
There are options to see some popular Disney characters at the Character Dining experiences. However, these are currently modified due to the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, and hopefully again in the future, guests had the opportunity to meet and greet Disney characters in person at various locations around the Disney parks.
Disney Toddler Rides at Magic Kingdom
If you are planning a Disney World toddler itinerary then Magic Kingdom is definitely at the top of your list. Magic Kingdom has the most Disney toddler rides of any of the Disney World parks. Little ones will enjoy Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and spinning in giant teacups at the Mad Tea Party. There’s Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh where you travel through the Hundred Acre Wood in an oversized honey pot.
There are plenty of dining options at Magic Kingdom. Use the My Disney Experience app 60 days in advance if you want to make reservations for character dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table or the Be Our Guest Restaurant with Beauty and the Beast. These are popular Disney dining experiences that fill up soon after the dining reservations open.
Our favorite casual dining restaurant at Magic Kingdom is the Jungle Navigation Co LTD Skipper Canteen which serves a selection of African, Asian, and Latin cuisine. Also, make sure to stop by the Aloha Isle quick-service restaurant to pick up a Dole Whip cup as a sweet treat.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
As a mom of two, I’m always looking for new ways to entertain my kids. And when it comes to theme parks, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has some amazing activities which are perfect for kids!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to the largest theme park in the world which features more than 1,000 animals on 600 acres of land. This means that you’re never too far from an animal experience which makes it great if your little one loves animals. The park is dedicated to animal conservation and the natural environment. There are many walking paths that allow you to explore the park and see all sorts of different wildlife including giraffes, zebras, gorillas, and cheetahs.
There are about 8 main attractions which are rides that include Kilimanjaro Safaris which is an open-air safari tour featuring exotic animals. You can take a guided safari ride led by trained safari guides who are experts in animal behavior. If your children enjoy getting up close with animals then this is a must-do at Disney. This popular Disney ride provides riders with an African safari adventure that they will never forget!
Plan to get to Animal Kingdom early so you can see the animals first thing in the morning while they are more active. The animals tend to rest later in the day to avoid the heat. We always plan to do Animal Kingdom after a rest day so the kids are ready for an early morning.
The Disney Animal Kingdom Best Rides
For older children, who are at least 44″ tall, there are two thrilling rides at Animal Kingdom – Avatar and Expedition Everest. The most popular ride at Animal Kingdom is the Avatar Flight of Passage, and this likely has the longest wait time so get in line early to avoid the crowds. It is worth the wait to fly on the back of a mountain banshee during an exhilarating 3D ride. Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain is where you ride a speeding train through the Himalayan mountain while avoiding the Yeti.
For those who want to cool off the Kali River Rapids is a wet raft ride that travels through the turbulent river of a jungle landscape. Or for a calmer ride with the whole family try the Na’vi River Journey through the rainforest. Board a rustic train to discover Disney’s long-term commitment to animal care and conservation and head to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. Enjoy this exhibit where you can encounter animals, watch scientists at work, and caring for the animals.
The park is located away from the resort’s other properties and theme parks to minimize disruptions to the animals. Therefore, Animal Kingdom’s evening show features no fireworks so it does not disturb the animals.
Animal Kingdom Dining Options
And if you’re looking for dining options at Animal Kingdom then stop by Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Africa for a Colossal Mickey Cinnamon Roll, Chocolate Twist, or an African Coffee with Amarula Cream Liqueur for Mom and Dad! The Rainforest Cafe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers unique themed dining. Don your safari hat and bring an elephant-sized appetite as you go wild with a feast in the middle of a tropical rainforest. Or for a quick-service restaurant visit Satu’li Canteen to indulge in the art and culture of the Na’vi while dining inside the former RDA mess hall at Pandora. Here you will find options for healthy food at Disney World that includes a selection of rice bowls with protein and vegetables.
We love watching all of the live shows which are presented at Disney parks. There are several live shows which take place daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom which feature music, dancing, and singing which is sure to delight guests of all ages. ‘The Festival of the Lion King’ is a larger-than-life show featuring characters from The Lion King franchise which include Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and more! ‘It’s Tough to be a Bug’ is a 3D film inspired by A Bug’s Life with some creepy-crawly moments in the dark!
Become a Wilderness Explorer by completing challenges and earning 25 badges as you work your way around the Park! These Self-guided activities range from learning important wilderness skills to animal observation. This is an interactive adventure at your own pace and the kids will love it!
If you’re looking to take your kids to a Disney theme park that features all sorts of fun and educational activities, then Epcot is the one for you!
What is Disney Epcot? Epcot which means “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” was Walt Disney’s original vision of an experimental city of tomorrow. Today it has evolved into a showcase that represents countries from around the world.
As part of this experience, there are two main attractions which are rides that include Soarin’ which takes guests on an exhilarating ride around the world while they enjoy beautiful vistas. Or Living with the Land which is a boat tour through greenhouses where they can see how food is grown in different climates.
In Future World which is located at the front of Epcot guests can learn about technology and how it will contribute to a better world in the future. The Seas with Nemo & Friends is an indoor aquarium that features characters from Finding Nemo including clownfish, sea turtles, and more!
Epcot Attractions for Kids
The Disney World Rides for Kids which are best at Epcot include The Seas with Nemo & Friends Attraction. The Sea Base is a 5.7 million gallon aquarium where you can surround yourself with thousands of beautiful live fish, sharks, sea turtles, and more. Test Track by Chevrolet is where you put a virtual concept vehicle through the paces on the exhilarating hills, hairpin turns, and straightaway of the Test Track circuit. For fans of Olaf, Elsa and Anna then don’t miss Frozen Ever After. Head to Norway and board a wooden Viking ship and sail through the fantastic world of “Frozen”.
New at Epcot for 2021 is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. This 4D ride experience with Chef Remy will captivate your senses as you dash, zip, and scurry through Gusteau’s famous Paris restaurant. A virtual queue is required for this attraction.
Kidcot Fun Stop
The Kidcot Fun Stop is a very popular activity at Epcot that gives kids the chance to learn about 11 different countries. Pick up a memorable memento with facts featuring the culture and traditions of each country. At the Kidcot Fun Stop stations, which are located in World Showcase, kids can draw, color, and collect a postcard with a sticker from each country. This scavenger hunt activity is a great way to engage children and offers something to do between attractions or while waiting on a dining reservation. Kids will love trying to find the Kidcot Fun Stop in each country, and once they have collected all 11 cards they can receive a small prize.
When planning which restaurant to eat at when visiting Disney’s Epcot you have the opportunity to dine in different countries including Mexico, the United Kingdom, China, Italy, and more! Whichever country you choose to eat will be sure to delight your taste buds! If you visit during the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (typically August to mid-November), then you are in for an even bigger treat! Explore the world’s finest food and wine at Epcot. With authentic cuisine and drinks from different countries, you can take a taste tour at eclectic marketplaces from around the world.
One of the best parks at Disney World which includes magic, thrills, and famous characters from beloved movies is Hollywood Studios! What is Disney Hollywood Studios? This park which has been known as Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park before 2008 celebrates movie-making which features attractions themed after some of your favorite films.
The most popular rides here include Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which takes guests on a ride where they drop 13 stories down inside an abandoned hotel that was once used for filming which is truly terrifying and thrilling! Guests can also scream while riding on Disney’s Hollywood Studios famous roller coaster, the Rock ‘n Roller Coaster which features Aerosmith. This ride has the tallest height restriction of all the Disney parks attractions, at 48″.
Star Wars fans will be captivated by the main attraction at Hollywood Studio – Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Find yourself in the middle of a battle between the First Order and Resistance. I have never experienced anything like this ride, it was remarkable! The popularity will be reflected by the LONG wait times, which from our experience seemed to be shorter later in the day (after around 4:00 PM). The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run allows you to fly the fastest ship in the galaxy while hurtling through space.
Hollywood Studios Kid Friendly Rides
Hollywood Studios is geared more towards tweens, teens, and adults. A lot of attractions here have a height restriction of 38″ or 40″ which doesn’t make it the best choice of Disney parks for families with toddlers or younger children. However, Hollywood Studios does offer attractions for all ages, even if a lot of rides are better for older children.
For younger kids who may not be big fans of scary drops and thrills, there are a few kid-friendly rides at Hollywood Studios. Disney rides for younger children include Toy Story Mania which is a 4D interactive midway-style die that guests can play along with their favorite characters from Toy Story. Slinky Dog Dash is a family-friendly coaster with twists and turns. And a big favorite is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway where guests can burst into a cartoon world on a wacky train trip. Experience the magic of the Muppets with Muppet Vision 3D where you get to see characters from Sesame Street.
One of the highlights of our recent Disney trip was attending Hollywood Studios’ For the First Time in Forever: A “Frozen” Sing-Along Celebration. This is a must-do attraction for any Frozen fans. My 5-year-old was delighted to see Elsa and we had the best time singing along to our favorite Frozen songs. Due to the limits on meeting Disney characters, due to Covid restrictions, this was the only way we were able to see Elsa. This alone made it worth visiting Hollywood Studios with our kindergartener.
Dining at Hollywood Studios
There is a wide selection of dining experiences available at Hollywood Studios. Star Wars fans can enjoy snacks and drinks at Oga’s Cantina as you quench your thirst for intergalactic travel. Or stop by the Milk Stand in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to try the popular Blue Milk or Green Milk – a plant-based blend of Coconut and Rice Milk. Mom and Dad may want to try the Blue Milk Cooler with a little extra kick!
For a quick service dining option at Hollywood Studios check out the ABC Commissary. There are lots of healthy options and they had the best Frozen Apple Cider with green apple boba balls (a Halloween exclusive)! If you are looking for a Character Dining experience Hollywood & Vine offers a Disney Junion Play n’ Dine. Join popular Disney Junior stars for a fun-filled breakfast. Or you can see Minnie and her friends at delightful season dining parties for lunch or dinner.
Best Time To Visit Disney World?
Now that you have some ideas about which Disney World Park is best it’s time to consider when to go! The seasons will affect which Disney World Park is best. Is going in the summer when it’s hot and crowded or in September which tends to be the least crowded most ideal for you?
If you’re planning which Disney World Park is best it’s also important to plan which days your family will visit which parks. If your kids want to go on all of the rides then going to a single park for an entire day will be more ideal. But if they aren’t as interested in which Disney World Park (see also, ‘How Many Days for Disney World?‘) to visit and might get bored staying at one place all day then splitting days between two different parks would work great too!
To learn more, read our posts about The Best Time to Visit Disney World, and find out what is the best age to go to Disney World. Personally, I think it’s best to visit Disney World with a 5-year-old, or when they are more than 44″ tall. They will be big enough to do the majority of the rides, won’t need a nap during the day, are young enough to still believe in the fantasy and magic of Disney, and will likely be able to have memories from your Disney vacation in the future. Read this article to learn more about What is the Best Age for Disney World.
How to choose which Disney World Park to Visit
Ultimately, it depends on the age of your child(ren), the main interests of your family, and the length of your visit. Decide on the main attractions that you must do during your visit and that will help guide which Disney Park(s) to choose. If this is your first visit to Disney World with children then Magic Kingdom is a must-do for all the rides, Disney characters, cavalcades, magic, and fantasy of Disney. And who doesn’t want to have the iconic family photo made at Cinderella’s Castle?
If your children love animals and want to take a safari to see lions, elephants, and giraffe up close then Disney’s Animal Kingdom is amazing. Festival of the Lion King is a larger-than-life 22-minute show for the whole family. The Avatar Flight of Passage and Expedition Everest are the main attractions for those over 44″.
Fans of Nemo and life under the sea will love the Sea Base aquarium at Epcot, and Frozen Ever After is a sweet ride for little ones. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened in October 2021 during the 50th Anniversary Celebrations. My personal favorite of our entire visit was Soarin’ Around the World and my kids loved doing the Kidcot Fun Stop and watching the spectacular fireworks at Epcot.
If you have the extra time little ones will love Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios. The bigger kids (and adults) will enjoy the Star Wars attractions, the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror for the thrill-seekers visiting Hollywood Studios.
So, which Disney World Park is Best?
You can’t go wrong at any of the Disney World Parks. Ideally, you want to plan a visit to Orlando to allow for at least 5 park days. This will give you one day at each Disney park (Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios), and two days at Magic Kingdom. Read this article to learn more about how to plan a Walt Disney trip.
Get our Disney World Planning Guide with Printable Worksheets to help your family plan a fun, easy, stress-free, and magical vacation to Walt Disney World. The 78 printable pages include a selection of Disney World vacation planning information, vacation planner templates, and printable worksheets.
We hope this article has helped you get a clearer idea about which Disney world park is best for your family (see also, ‘15 Best Staycation Ideas for Families to do on Your Travels‘). We want you to plan a stress-free Disney vacation and enjoy the magic of Disney World with your children!
And remember, let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.
Until next time,
For more about family travel check out these posts:
Planning a Disney World Itinerary: What You Need to Know
Tips and Tricks for Disney World with Kids
How To Start Saving For A Vacation With Kids
Best Fall Break Destinations For Families
Multi-Generational Travel Ideas For Families
Top Family Vacation Destinations in the US