Walt Disney World Resort – Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.

The Most Popular Resort Destination on Earth

Still the pacesetter for theme parks around the globe, the brainchild of enter­tainment giant and genius animator Walt Disney is an ever-expanding universe of make-believe and escapism, celebrating magic, technology, nature, and, of course, Mickey Mouse. In the 30-plus years since it opened its doors, the 30,000-acre former cow pasture has developed into four distinct main theme parks, each of which nurtures its own personality.

The Magic Kingdom (opened in 1971), the lighthearted fantasy world that revolves around Cinderella’s Castle, is home to two of Disney World’s most famous (and very different) attractions: It’s a Small World and Space Mountain. Epcot (1982), the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is an educational theme park where thrills are mostly of the mind, with attrac­tions such as the very popular Spaceship Earth. At Disney-MGM Studios (1989), visitors walk right onto a “Hollywood that never was and always will be” movie set that blends nostalgia with high-tech wonders (don’t miss the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror).

The 500-acre Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1998) is Disney World’s largest and newest theme park, with more than 1,000 animals (from giraffes to lions) roaming in a natural, Serengeti-like setting. Three themed water parks fill out the Worldly options.

There are countless less expensive (and less fantastical) hotel options in the Orlando area, but make the magic last by staying in one of the Disney-owned and-run hotel/resorts. The benefits are numerous, including sheer logistics:They’re close to the principal attractions and are linked by complimentary boats, buses, or monorail.

Of Disney’s luxury options, the re-created gabled vintage of the Victorian-style Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is one of the most elegant and least contemporary in atmosphere, evoking the breezy days of a turn-of-the-century summer resort.

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