Walt Disney World is simply huge. Housing four theme parks as well as golf courses, water parks, and many other recreational activities, Walt Disney World is a place where one could vacation for a month and still not see everything. Nevertheless, three days will allow you plenty of time to see all of the highlights of all four gated theme parks. Careful planning is required, however.
With three days to see the parks, it is generally best to see two parks on each of the first two days, then spend the third day seeing the things that you missed or re-visiting old favorites. In order to visit two parks per day, it is necessary to maintain a quick pace and concentrate only on your must-see attractions. The third day will allow you to relax and pay more attention to the details that truly set Walt Disney World apart.
Animal Kingdom and Epcot Center
Arrive early at Animal Kingdom, at least an hour prior to park opening. Enjoy The Awakening, which is a lighthearted show that takes place 15 minutes before opening each day. Then make your way directly to Kilimanjaro Safaris for an early morning ride with active animals and low crowds.
After the Safari, explore the park as you see fit, making judicious use of Fast Passes. Try to keep moving in a circle rather than backtracking or criss-crossing the park. Animal Kingdom is the largest of the Walt Disney World parks in terms of square footage, so remember to move quickly to cover the distance. However, Animal Kingdom is a half-day park in number of attractions, so with a reasonable pace you should be able to visit all of the major attractions by 2 pm.
Make your way directly to Epcot. Grab lunch from a counter service restaurant (the food court at The Land is highly recommended) and continue your touring. Remember that pavilions at Epcot Center are huge, and most contain several small attractions in addition to a major attraction, so keep an eye on the time. Future World is open until 7 pm, while the World Showcase closes at 9:00. You should be able to finish the major attractions in Future World by 6 pm if you maintain a steady pace.
Illuminations can be seen from anywhere around the World Showcase Lagoon, so simply start at one end and continue around. You will likely not have time to see all of the attractions, but simply walking through the pavilions will provide you with a great sense of the flavor of the represented country. Get dinner from a counter service place just before Illuminations starts and watch the show from the restaurant’s outdoor seating area.
Disney-MGM Studios and Magic Kingdom
Start your day at Disney Hollywood Studios, arriving at least an hour prior to park opening. When the gates open, make your way directly to Sunset Boulevard, where Tower of Terror and Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster are across from each other. Get a Fast Pass for one and then ride the other.
Many of the attractions at Disney-MGM Studios are shows, so showtimes will determine much of your touring plan. Be sure to get a Times Guide (show schedule) before the gates open and plan your day. Try to avoid unnecessary backtracking, but since the park is relatively small, backtracking is not nearly the issue that it is in the larger parks.
You should be able to finish Disney-MGM’s major attractions by 1 pm. Make your way over to the Magic Kingdom and grab a quick lunch. Casey’s Corner is fun and well-themed, the service is usually fast, and the food is great.
After lunch, turn left into Adventureland or right into Tomorrowland. Try not to backtrack, instead finishing the attractions in each land as you arrive at them. Realize that you will not possibly be able to see everything, so have a list of the attractions that you definitely do not want to miss.
Skip the parades and enjoy reduced wait times at popular attractions. Just keep in mind that the parades bisect the park, so be sure that you are on your preferred side of the route before the parade starts.
Wishes is a popular nighttime fireworks show, and many people save spots for an hour or more. Rather than taking time to do that, simply keep touring the park until the five minute warning then find a spot near where you are. Your view may not be perfect but you will be able to see.
This is your free day to do the things you missed previously or re-visit favorites. Day three is a great time for a table service meal or shopping expedition as well. Start the day early and plan to stay out late, and you can cover quite a bit of distance. Feel free to visit all four parks during the day. Take some time out to simply stroll around and enjoy the details that make Walt Disney World a consistent leader in the theme park industry.
Three days is plenty of time to see the best of what Walt Disney World has to offer. You will not be able to visit every single attraction in that time frame, but you will be able to see the highlights and even some of the smaller details. Start your days early and end them late, do not take time out for afternoon breaks, and carry small snacks with you to minimize the time spent waiting in line at snack carts. Remember to enjoy your vacation rather than getting so wrapped up in must-sees that you forget to relax. Above all, have fun!