Walt Disney World is a huge place. There are four theme parks, two water parks, hundreds of restaurants, thousands of shops, millions of people ... How does everyone get around? Are things close enough to walk? Are there buses? What's that monorail thingy? Where does it go? What about boats? I'm always seeing pictures of boats at Disney World. And the big one, how do I get from the airport to the parks?
How does one get from point A to point B in the 47 square miles of Disney World?
Walt Disney was fascinated with transportation. He developed some interesting transportation technologies when he was building Disneyland, so it's no accident that Disney World has a very large transportation infrastructure that's capable of moving over 15 million guests per year all around the property. That's a whole bunch of folks.
How they do it (and how you should do it, too!):
When Disneyland first opened, Walt introduced the world to the monorail, and in 1955 the monorail was unique. Today, over 50 years later, riding on the monorail is still a thrill. The monorail at Disney World has two loops. Both originate at the Transportation and Ticket Center. One goes to the Magic Kingdom, one goes to Epcot. The Magic Kingdom loop has an express rail and one that stops at the Polynesian Resort, the Grand Floridian and the Contemporary Resort. The monorail routinely moves over 100,000 guests per day all in air conditioned comfort.
The Bus System
Walt Disney World has one of the worlds largest bus systems. Disney has buses that will pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. They have buses that will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the theme parks. They have buses that will pick you up at your hotel and take you to Downtown Disney. (They don't, however, have buses that will pick you up at a theme park and take you to Downtown Disney.) They have buses that will pick you up at Downtown Disney and take you to your hotel. The bus system runs from about 2 hours before the parks open until about 2 hours after the parks close. You can get just about anywhere on a bus at Disney World -- ask the staff at your hotel to help you if you get confused.
Coming to and from the airport, you can use the Disney's Magical Express Service for free, though you'll want to make a reservation at least 10 days in advance.
Disney has one of the world's biggest fleets. Yep, it's true. All of the theme parks, except for Animal Kingdom, are accessible by boat. The biggest of the Disney World boats serves the Magic Kingdom. There are two huge ferries that ferry (because that's what ferries do, right?) guests from the Transportation and Ticket Center across Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom. There are also little (20 passenger) boats from the hotels, like the Disney Wilderness Lodge, across Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake to the Magic Kingdom. Boats also serve Disney Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Downtown Disney.
Walt was fascinated with trains. He has a miniature train in his back yard that was big enough for the family to take a ride on. Because of his fascination, you'll find steam train rides in both The Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom.
The best part? All of the above transporation is completely free -- just hop right on and go! But while Disney does a marvelous job of moving huge crowds of guests, at peak times getting from point A to point B can be somewhat frustrating. So in the end, the easiest way to get somewhere at Disney World? Drive your own car.
-- Carl Trent of Dad's Guide to Walt Disney World
[Photo credit: Express Monorail/Flickr]