I Plan Vacations to Disney World — Favorite Things to Do and See There

  • I grew up going to Disney parks every year, and now I help plan vacations there for a living.
  • I love the Carousel of Progress, “Finding Nemo – The Musical,” and Expedition Everest attractions.
  • I always recommend scheduling a rest day and taking time to admire the details on Main Street.

I grew up going to Disney almost every year, and now that I am a parent, I’ve passed that tradition on to my children.

I loved organizing Disney vacations so much that I even became a travel planner at Marvelous Mouse Travels, specializing in Disney destinations.

There’s always something new to see at Disney, but part of the joy in going each year is checking my favorite traditions off my list.

Read on for the 13 experiences I never miss at Walt Disney World.

I love riding back in time on the Carousel of Progress

Some might call the Carousel of Progress a “dated” attraction, and I get it. It was built by the original Disney Imagineers for the 1964 World’s Fair, and at first glance, it might feel antiquated.

Take a closer look, though, and you’ll discover the charm and ingenuity of the classic show. I challenge you to exit the building without singing the attraction’s catchy theme song.

Plus, there’s hardly ever a line, and it can be a great air-conditioned respite on a hot Florida day.

Dole Whip is an iconic Disney snack for a reason

One of the toughest decisions every trip is deciding which Dole Whip flavor to try.

The classic pineapple flavor is one of my top picks, but I also love the raspberry swirl and coconut.  If I’m really feeling wild, I go for the pineapple float, which combines Dole Whip with pineapple juice.

I make time to enjoy a regal breakfast at the Grand Floridian Cafe

The food is great, and so is the setting.

Kari Becker

The Grand Floridian Cafe’s breakfast is an absolute delight.

The tables are set with beautiful dishes, the warm biscuits and butter are served upon arrival, and the eggs benedict and hash-brown casserole are what dreams are made of.

Snag a seat by the window and enjoy the beautiful grounds of the Grand Floridian Resort while you savor your meal.

‘Finding Nemo – The Musical’ has some of the most talented performers on property

It might be partly because of my musical-theater background, but when it’s running, I think “Finding Nemo – The Musical” is a must-see every time we go to Animal Kingdom.

The music and performances are breathtaking. I never leave the theater with a dry eye.

And for all the parents, my kids are so drawn in by the storytelling that they don’t make a sound or move an inch for 45 minutes, which is a total win.

Expedition Everest is my favorite ride on the property

I can’t get enough of Expedition Everest, from the theming in the line to the exhilarating ride up the mountain.

The last time we were at Animal Kingdom, we rode it seven times in a row.

The backward part still gets me every time. For someone who likes pretty tame coasters, this one gives me a thrill.

We always make a point to properly experience Magic Kingdom at night

Everything is even more magical when it’s all lit up.

Kari Becker

There’s something electric about Magic Kingdom after dark. It comes alive with a unique energy when the sun goes down and the park lights up.

Before snagging a spot for the fireworks, we stroll through each land to see how it transforms at night.

One of my family’s traditions is to end the night with a ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. You can see the whole park lit up from the very top, and it’s pure magic.

The Garden Grill is an underrated spot to savor a good meal

The Garden Grill is a nostalgic pick — I remember eating here with my family as a child — but it still hits all the right notes for me.

I love the old-school Epcot feel of the Land Pavilion, and the rotating restaurant gives you views of the classic Living With the Land attraction below. Inside, there are stellar character experiences and absolutely delicious food to be found.

I also enjoy that some of the food is sourced from the greenhouses on the property.

No Disney trip is complete without a ride on the iconic monorail

You can get some fun views of the property.

Kari Becker

Even if we’re not staying at one of the hotels on the monorail path, I still have to find a time to take a lap on the elevated train.

It’s such a nostalgic part of Disney for me, and my boys love to ride it as much as I do. Even though they’re older now, there’s still wonder in their eyes when we pass through the middle of the Contemporary Resort.

We usually stop at each of the hotels for some shopping or food and dream about where we want to stay on our next trip.

You’re missing out if you’re not hitting up Tower of Terror and Haunted Mansion after dark

Tower of Terror and Haunted Mansion are two of my all-time favorite rides.

Although you can certainly check them off your list during the day, there’s nothing like riding them at night. I believe it’s how they were intended to be experienced.

Waiting in the queue in the dark and listening to the creepy music and sounds sets the stage for spooky enjoyment.

I always schedule a rest day so I can relax by the pool

Park days can be tiring, so rest time is crucial.

Kari Becker

You don’t have to open and close down the parks every day of your vacation. Take a day to enjoy your hotel and relax by the pool.

The Disney resorts have some great pools including Stormalong Bay at the Yacht Club, which is my family’s absolute favorite.

Enjoy a drink poolside, grab some snacks or a meal, and bask in the Florida sun.

I think the Memory Maker package is totally worth it for families

We get the Memory Maker photo package every trip. Some people don’t think it’s worth the money, but the key to making it work for you is seeking out the photographers at the parks.

There are so many great shots to get, and it only takes a few minutes at each stop.

Don’t forget to ask the photographer if they have any magic shots available — you might be surprised to see a few beloved Disney characters photobombing your picture.

We often leave with 200 to 300 pictures, and our whole family is in each one, which is totally priceless.

There’s so much to see up and down Main Street USA

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that so much of Disney is in the details.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the rides and shows, but taking your time to stroll down Main Street in Magic Kingdom is not to be missed.

Walking in and out of the stores to check out the newest merchandise or grabbing a snack is a nice break, but looking at all of the details in the storefronts is just awe-inspiring. I find something new every time I go.

We also take our time strolling around Epcot’s World Showcase

My kids love watching all the different performances around the showcase.

Kari Becker

We usually dedicate a whole day — or at the very least an evening — to the World Showcase at Epcot.

We walk from country to country checking out the different shops, food, and entertainment experiences in the 11 pavilions.

Instead of making sit-down reservations on these days, we try as many snacks and drinks as possible from the different countries.

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