Essentials Planning What’s the Difference?

Four Parks: What’s The Difference?

Some people don't know that Disney isn't all one park, do you know the difference between the four Walt Disney World theme parks?

Photo Credit: Disney

Walt Disney World is big – really big. As in, “big enough to legally qualify as it’s own city” big. As in, “approximately the same size as the city of San Francisco” big. As in, “big enough to be home to 34 hotels, 3 championship Golf courses, 2 Water Parks, 2 mini-golf courses, A shopping district (Disney Springs), a sports district (ESPN Wide World of Sports), and 4 theme parks” big. Yes, you read that correctly. Along with everything else, Walt Disney World is home to 4 different theme parks, despite the common misconception that it is all one park. Each park is unique in their own way, in theming, in experiences, or even in the types of attractions offered, making each of them completely different from the others.

Note: I’ll admit, writing this article is surprisingly difficult for me – as a regular Disney Parks fan the differences seem so obvious to me, so they’re difficult to put into words. I try to explain the parks as simply as I can, but feel free to shoot me any questions you have after reading this! 


Magic Kingdom

Map Credit: WDW Info

Icon: Castle (Cinderella Castle)

Overall Theme: Disney Magic, Classic Disney

Major Attractions: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumbo The Flying Elephant

Magic Kingdom is the park you probably think of when you think of Walt Disney World. The first of the four parks, Magic Kingdom splits itself into six distinct areas, each with its own adventures to experience and characters to see. Some of the most classic Disney rides, like The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Dumbo The Flying Elephant can be found here.

Many people consider this to be the “kiddie” park, which is not entirely true. Magic Kingdom definitely has an abundance of attractions little ones can enjoy, but that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing for older kids or adults. Magic Kingdom is also home to some bigger thrills, such as log-flume ride Splash Mountain, and roller coasters Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain.



Map Credit: WDW Info

Icon: Globe (Giant Golf Ball  Spaceship Earth)

Overall Theme: Future, International Travel

Major Attractions: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, Soarin’, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Mission Space

The second Disney park, Epcot, has a heavy focus on the future with a bit of international flavor. In Future World, rides with bigger thrills demonstrate the technology pushing us into the future, while in World Showcase, you can spend the afternoon strolling through and taking in the authentic culture of eleven different countries, each one only a few feet away from each other.

Most of Epcot’s rides can be found in Future World, which includes the popular attractions Test Track, where you design and test a virtual vehicle, and Soarin’, a hang glider ride around the world. World Showcase, on the other hand is only home to two attractions, one of these being Frozen Ever After, the popular boat ride based on the animated film Frozen.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Map Credit: WDW Info

Icon: Tower (The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror)

Overall Theme: Old Hollywood, Adventure

Major Attractions: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Star Tours, Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a mixed bag of thrill rides, epic shows and experiences yet to come. Hollywood Studios pays homage to Old Hollywood and the magic of filmmaking. Originally a working studio with experiences that allowed you to explore what goes into Hollywood’s biggest industries, now Hollywood Studios places you in the middle of the action.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, while still open, is considered to be the “under construction” park. If you’ve heard of a project called Star Wars Land, this is where that will be located once it’s open. Many things in Hollywood Studios closed to make way for this and the now-open Toy Story Land, leaving the park a little empty.

If you’re looking for thrill rides, Disney’s Hollywood Studios hosts two of the biggest thrills in Disney World: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (The only coaster in Disney World to go upside down) and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (A free-fall drop ride that sends you plummeting 13 stories). If you’re looking for something a little more your speed, along with a few tamer ride options, Hollywood Studios’ stage shows are some of the best in Disney World, from a Frozen sing-along show, to an Indiana Jones – themed stunt show, to even a nighttime fireworks and projection show themed entirely to Star Wars.


Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Map Credit: WDW Info

Icon: Tree (Tree of Life)

Overall Theme: Animals in the Wild, Exploration, Conservation

Major Attractions: Expedition Everest, Kilimanjaro Safaris, Flights of Passage, Na’vi River Journey, Dinosaur

Animal Kingdom is often overlooked because most people see it as a “zoo with rides”. While that is partly true, Animal Kingdom offers a glimpse of animals in the wild rather than keep them in confining spaces. Here you can explore the different species that make up the wildlife of the Earth, while also getting the chance to explore wildlife we may not see every day like dinosaurs or an entire alien species!

Animal Kingdom is generally a pretty tame park with many of its attractions being slow-paced or even just walking trails. However bigger thrills can be found with roller coaster Expedition Everest and the newer addition Flights of Passage in Pandora: The World of Avatar.


Thanks for reading! Today’s further reading is Disney For Thrillseekers 101: Moderate to Extreme Thrills in the Disney Parks. Now that you’ve read about which thrill rides are found in each park, read some more about what exactly each entails!


Everyone's Guide To Disney is an advice and planning blog for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Jada, who has been visiting Disney for now 12 years (and counting) writes from her personal experience, and hopes to help others have the best Disney trip they possibly could.

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