In 1955, Walt Disney built his first theme park called Disneyland at Anaheim in California but it soon became clear that there was not enough room to expand the park in the way that Disney wanted.
The Disney company therefore bought up 27,500 acres of swamp and rough bush land near Orlando as the home of the second Disney theme park, the Walt Disney World Resort.
The first Walt Disney World park in Orlando, Magic Kingdom opened in 1971 and building has been going on ever since.
Visitor numbers to the Walt Disney World Resort in 2016 were down around 0.5% on average across the four main parks, compared to 2014 with a total of just under 54 million visits.
Some 60 years after that first park, Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is the largest tourist attraction in the world covering some 47 square miles (121 sq. km) and including:
- four theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- two water parks — Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon
- Disney Springs with shops and restaurants
- a sports complex - ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
- over 20 Walt Disney World Resort hotels
- golf courses and a campground - Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground
- and even a cruise line
Today there are other Disney parks at:
- Disneyland at Anaheim in California
- Tokyo Disney
- Disneyland Paris
- Hong Kong Disneyland
- Shanghai Disney Resort (opened in June 2016)
According to TEA/AECOM, in 2016 they estimate that the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando took 4 out of the top 5 spots for most visited attractions in the whole of the USA, namely:
- Magic Kingdom — 20.4 million (–0.5%, down from 20.5 million)
- Disneyland at Anaheim in California — 18.0 million (–1.8%, down from 18.3 million)
- Epcot — 11.7 million (–0.7%, down from 11.8 million)
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom — 10.8 million (–0.7%, down from 10.9 million)
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios— 10.8 million, (–0.5%, down from 10.9 million)
If you are staying in one of the onsite Disney resort hotels then you will be able to take a free Disney motor coach shuttle bus or water taxis to the various attractions. If you do take your car then parking is free for Disney resort residents.
Many offsite hotels also offer complimentary shuttle buses to the parks.
Do not underestimate how tiring it can be for small children. Strollers (push chairs/buggies) can be hired in all the parks but be aware that they are often ‘borrowed’ by other guests when you leave them in the special parking areas outside each attraction.
Try tying something distinctive to it to help identify it (the dirtier the better !!). If your stroller does disappear just ask a Disney cast member to help you (make sure you hang onto your receipt).
We recommend you read our Walt Disney World Resort general information page for all the background information on strollers, guests with special needs, FASTPASS etc.
You will also find useful tips on many Disney pages - just check the side panels.
In 2005, Walt Disney World introduced a new ticket package called Magic Your Way which gives you more flexibility in tailoring your theme park tickets to your own specific needs but can be quite confusing at first glance.
Following on from the success of Disney’s Happiest Celebration on Earth which commemorated the 50th anniversay of Disneyland in California, Disney announced the new “Year of a Million Dreams celebrations which actually ran from October 1, 2006 to December 31, 2008 (over two years) in both Walt Disney World Florida and Disneyland California. This was then superceded by the “What Will You Celebrate?” promotion in 2009.