ABCs of WDW: Learning the Lingo

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Walt Disney World has a language all its own. When you are trying to research and plan your trip, it can be hard to keep up if you are not familiar with all the unique words, phrases, and acronyms.

When Walt Disney started developing his theme parks, he wanted visitors to feel as if the whole experience was a giant show being put on for them. This informed a lot of the terminology used to describe different elements of the parks (Cast Members, Backstage, etc.).

Over the past 50+ years, more terms, shorthand, and acronyms (so many acronyms!) have developed and also become part of the standard lingo, but if you are new to the wonderful world of Disney, it can all sound like a lot of confusing jargon.

Below is a comprehensive list of common Disney World lingo that should help you get started. Use this as a resource, and you’ll be speaking Disney in no time!

 

A

Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR): Reservation made for a meal at a sit-down (Table Service) Disney World restaurant. Used to be able to make ADRs 180 days in advance. Currently can make 60 days in advance.

Animal Kingdom (AK): Disney World’s fourth theme park, opened in 1998. (Sometimes referred to as DAK, for Disney’s Animal Kingdom.)

Annual Pass (AP): Year-long ticket for Disney World. Different annual pass levels provide different perks.

Arrival Day: The day you arrive at Disney World. Yay!

Attraction: A ride or show.

Audience: The people experiencing an attraction.

Audio Animatronic: Term for a lifelike robotic person or animal that is programmed to move and speak simultaneously. This technology was developed by Disney for the theme parks.

B

Backstage/Behind the Scenes: Areas just for employees (Cast Members), out of view of customers (Guests).

Base Ticket: Refers to a ticket that is valid for entry to one theme park per day. Can be for anywhere from one to ten days.

Boarding Group: When signing up for a virtual queue via the My Disney Experience app (currently only Rise of Resistance is using a virtual queue at Walt Disney World), you will be assigned a boarding group number. When your number is called, you may enter the attraction queue.

C

Cast Member (CM): Any and all Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort employees.

Character: A Cast Member who is dressed up as a Disney character for a meet & greet, stage show, parade, or other form of entertainment.

Character Dining: A restaurant experience where you also have the opportunity to meet one or more Disney characters during the course of your meal. There are many character dining options throughout Disney World.

CityWalk: The shopping and entertainment district at Universal Orlando, connected directly to the two theme parks.

Counter Service/Quick Service:  Dining experience where you order and pick up your food at a window.

Crowd Calendar: TouringPlans.com’s data-driven resource for predicting what the crowd level will be at each park on any given day.

D

Dark Ride: A ride, such as Peter Pan’s Flight, that takes place indoors (often in at least semi-darkness).

Day Guest: Someone who is visiting Disney World during the day, but is not staying at a Disney World resort hotel. Also referred to as the general public.

Deluxe: The highest level of Disney World resort hotel classification. This type of hotel generally has the best amenities, activities, location, theming, and dining, and the highest price.

Departure Day: The day you are leaving Disney World. Boo!

Disability Access Service (DAS): A service to accommodate guests who can’t wait in regular standby lines.

Disney After Hours (DAH): A hard-ticket event taking place on select nights at select parks where guests can enjoy the park for a few hours after normal closing with minimal crowds (and minimal waits). Not currently running.

Disney Cruise Line (DCL): Disney’s own cruise company, launched in 1998.

Disney Dining Plan (DDP): Disney offers 3 different prepaid dining plan options that you can add on to your ticket or travel package if you choose. Not currently being offered.

Disneyland (DL): The original Disney theme park, opening in 1955 in Anaheim, California.

Disney Mountains: Shorthand for a trio of Magic Kingdom attractions – Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (some might also include Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS): Disney World’s third theme park, opening in 1989 (then called MGM Studios). Also just referred to as Hollywood Studios or the Studios.

Disney Springs: Disney World’s massive shopping and entertainment district (formerly called Downtown Disney).

Disney Springs Resort Area (DSRA): Refers to 7 chain hotels located near Disney Springs that are not Disney-themed but do offer some of the same perks as staying at an official Disney resort hotel.

Disney Transportation System (DTS): The system of buses, boats, monorails, and gondolas that help transport guests throughout Disney World.

Disney Vacation Club (DVC): Disney’s time-share program where members purchase points annually to then use to pay for their Disney World accommodations.

Downtown Disney: The former name for Disney Springs, Disney World’s massive shopping and entertainment district.

Drinking Around the World: A common phrase used to describe guests sampling different alcoholic beverages at several of the countries around World Showcase in EPCOT.

E

Early Morning Magic: A hard-ticket event taking place on select mornings at select parks where guests can enjoy certain areas of the park for a few hours prior to opening with minimal crowds (and minimal waits). Not currently running.

EPCOT: Disney World’s second theme park, opening in 1982. It stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was Walt Disney’s original vision for the park.

E-ticket: Word used to describe the biggest, newest, and best attractions. It’s a holdover from a long-gone ride classification and ticketing system.

Extra Magic Hours (EMH): Historically, a perk offered to resort guests, allowing them to enter a given theme park one hour early per day or stay two hours past closing. Not currently running.

 

F

Face Character: A character whose face is visible and can talk with guests, like Cinderella or Mary Poppins.

FastPass+: A system that allows you to make reservations for certain attractions prior to your trip or while in the parks, so when you arrive to those attractions at your designated time, you will enter through a separate Fastpass line with minimal waits. This system is not currently being used.

Festival of the Arts: EPCOT festival celebrating the arts through food, performances, and arts & crafts. Usually runs in January & February.

Festival of the Holidays: EPCOT festival celebrating winter holidays around the world, including food, music, storytelling, and more. Usually runs in November & December.

Flower & Garden Festival: EPCOT festival for all things green and growing, featuring gardens, topiaries, speakers, and food. Usually runs March through June.

Food & Wine Festival: EPCOT festival celebrating food and drink around the world through demonstrations, tastings, and lots of food stands. Usually runs August through November.

Fur Character: A character whose face is covered by a large head like Mickey Mouse or Buzz Lightyear.

 

G

General Public: Someone who is visiting Disney World during the day, but is not staying at a Disney World resort hotel. Also referred to as Day Guest.

Guest: Anyone visiting Disney World.

H

Hard-Ticket Event: An event at the theme parks, usually before or after hours, which requires a separate admission ticket beyond your normal day pass, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

Hidden Mickey: Mickey Mouse-shaped icons, with two small circles for his ears and a larger circle for his head, which can be found hidden everywhere throughout the parks and resorts, from the carpeting to the floral arrangements to the fireworks.

Hub and Spoke: A theme park model created by Disney, which uses a central hub (i.e. Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom) in the center of the park, with other lands branching off it as spokes.

I

I-Drive: International Drive, a major roadway through Orlando.

Imagineer: A term coined by Walt Disney (as a combination of “imagination” and “engineer”) to describe the people who dream up and create everything that is put into the Disney World, including the parks and resorts.

Islands of Adventure (IOA): One of the two theme parks at Universal Orlando, opened in 1999.

J

K

Key to the World Card: A credit-card-sized card which can serve as your admission ticket, resort room key, FastPass+ identifier, link for your PhotoPass photos, and more. You may also use a MagicBand or MagicMobile for some or all of these purposes.

L

Lines App: Touring Plan’s app which allows you to view and update your plans and access accurate, crowdsourced wait times.

M

MagicBand: Rubber wristband the size of a watch which contains an RFID chip and can be purchased, linked to your Disney account, and function as your admission ticket, FastPass+ identifier, hotel key, and credit card (if you choose).

Magic Kingdom (MK): Disney World’s first theme park, opened in 1971.

MagicMobile: New system being rolled out by Disney to allow you to use your smartphone to perform many of the functions of your Key to the World Card or MagicBand.

Magic Shot: Digital enhancement available when getting your picture taken by a Disney PhotoPass photographer, such as adding in a Disney character’s image to the photo or capturing a moment from 360-degrees.

Magical Express: Service that picks resort guests up from MCO airport and brings them directly to their Disney resort hotel. Ending December 31, 2021.

MCO: Designator for Orlando International Airport, the largest airport in Orlando and the one most visitors use when flying to Disney World.

Memory Maker: An add-on you can purchase which allows you digital access to all photos and videos taken by PhotoPass photographers, including on-ride photos and Magic Shots.

MGM Studios: The former name of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Opened in 1989.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP): A hard-ticket after hours Halloween event taking place select nights at Magic Kingdom from August through October. Includes special entertainment, character greetings, and food. (Note: For 2021, this event has been replaced by Boo Bash, an after-hours event.)

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (MVMCP): A hard-ticket after hours Christmas event taking place select nights at Magic Kingdom from November through January. Includes special entertainment, character greetings, and food.

Mobile Order: Special feature available at select counter service restaurants allowing you to place your order and pay via the My Disney Experience app, then pick it up at a special window, skipping the line.

Moderate: The middle level of Disney World resort hotel classification. This type of hotel generally has some amenities, activities, theming, and dining options, for a median price.

Monorail: Part of the Disney Transportation System, linking the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC), Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and a few of the resort hotels near Magic Kingdom. It’s like a subway in the sky.

Mousekeeping: How Disney guests sometimes refer to housekeeping at Disney resort hotels.

My Disney Experience (MDE): Your Disney World account, accessible via website or app, which is where you make Advanced Dining Reservations, Fastpass+ reservations, access your PhotoPass photos, link your ticket and hotel information, and more.

 N

 O

Off-season: Times of year when Disney World is typically less busy, causing resort rates and single-day admission ticket prices to be lower.

Off-site: Staying somewhere other than a Disney World resort hotel.

On-site: Staying at one of Disney World’s many resort hotels.

On-stage: Any area of the parks in view of guests, where everything should look “show ready” and Cast Members are expected to be ready to serve guests.

P 

Park Hopper (PH): An add-on option to your base ticket which allows you to visit more than one Disney theme park per day.

Park Hopper Plus (PHP): Another add-on option to your base ticket which not only allows you to visit more than one Disney theme park per day, but also gives you access to other Disney recreation, such as water parks and mini golf.

Park Pass Reservation: A system currently being used, requiring guests to select which theme park they will visit each day of their trip via My Disney Experience. You will only be allowed to enter that park if you have a valid admission ticket and park pass reservation.

Peak Season: Times of year when Disney World is typically most crowded, such as holidays and summer vacation, causing resort rates and single-day admission ticket prices to be higher.

PhotoPass: Photos taken by Disney photographers throughout the parks, which can be added to your My Disney Experience account. You can purchase Memory Maker to be able to download all of these photos, or you can view them and pay for only the ones you want to keep.

Preshow: Part of the attraction that takes place before the attraction itself, often setting up the story.

 

Q

Queue: A fancy, British way to say line. This is what you wait in before experiencing an attraction.

R

Reservation Finder: TouringPlan’s helpful online tool that helps you score that hard-to-get Advanced Dining Reservation.

Resort Guest: Someone who is staying at one of the Disney World resort hotels.

Rider Switch: Feature available at many attractions allowing adult guests to take turns waiting with a youngster unable or unwilling to experience a ride, while the other adult rides.

Rope Drop: Refers to the time when guests are allowed to start heading to attractions. There used to be an actual rope that would drop. Now, there is usually either a rope that is walked back to the attractions or a human wall of Cast Members, to help avoid a stampede.

S

SFB: Designator for Sanford International Airport, a much smaller airport located a short distance northeast of Orlando.

Simulator: A type of attraction that includes the ride vehicle moving in conjunction with a video being shown, making riders feel as if they are part of the action, though they are not actually traveling.

Single Rider: A separate line available at some attractions for those who are traveling solo or don’t mind being split up from their party. They are used to fill in empty seats so the ride can run at full capacity, and single riders usually have a shorter wait.

Skyliner: Disney World’s newest form of transportation. An elevated gondola system that connects Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and several resort hotels.

Spinner: A type of ride that simply takes guests around and around in a circle, like Dumbo.

Standby: Term for the “regular” non-FastPass queue for attractions.

Disney Skyliner Station 

T

Table Service: Dining experience where you are seated at a table and served by a waiter/waitress.

Tangled Bathrooms: The best-themed restrooms at Disney World, located in the Magic Kingdom, between Fantasyland and Liberty Square.

Touring Plan (TP): A step-by-step outline of your day at a theme park, designed to maximize attractions and minimize waits. Can use one of several field-tested plans from TouringPlans.com proven to save you up to 4 hours in line, or customize your own plan.

TouringPlans.com: Awesome website featuring touring plans, crowd calendar, reservation finder, and many more valuable trip-planning resources, plus ratings and reviews for every attraction, restaurant, and resort hotel.

Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC): One of the major hubs of transportation at Disney World, includes the parking lot for Magic Kingdom, monorails to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, monorail service to select Disney resort hotels, and ferry service to Magic Kingdom, as well as bus transfers.

U

Universal Express: A “skip-the-line” system available for free to guests at select Universal Orlando resort hotels, or available for purchase for day guests, which allows guests to enter a separate queue for most attractions at any time.

Universal Orlando Resort (UOR): Resort complex including two theme parks, a water park, shopping, dining, entertainment, and several hotels. First opened in 1990. Disney’s biggest competition.

Universal Studios Florida (USF): One of the two theme parks at Universal Orlando, opened in 1990.

Unofficial Guide (UG): Series of travel books for various destinations, including the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, brought to you by the same folks at TouringPlans.com, and updated annually.

Utilidors: System of tunnels below Magic Kingdom (combination of “utility” and “corridors”) used for park operations such as trash removal and Cast Member transport.

V

Value: The lowest level of Disney World resort hotel classification. This type of hotel generally has the fewest amenities and dining options, may be further away from the parks, and comes with the lowest price tag.

Virtual Queue: A system currently only being used at Walt Disney World for Rise of Resistance, where in order to ride, guests must sign up via My Disney Experience on the morning they are visiting Hollywood Studios. When their boarding group is called, they may enter the attraction’s queue.

W

Walt Disney World (WDW): The most magical place on earth! Opened on October 1, 1971. Encompasses all theme parks, water parks, recreation, shopping, dining, entertainment, and resort hotels.

X

Y

Z

 

One final note: People like to acronymize everything on the internet, including every attraction, restaurant, and resort hotel (like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad = BTMR, or Art of Animation resort = AoA), but it was impractical to list all of those here, so if you see an acronym that you are unsure of, try to think if one of those might fit or ask in the comments!

 

Are there any terms we missed? Let us know in the comments, and keep checking back as we update this article over time!

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Amy Crockett

Amy Crockett is a native Michigander who works at a library by day and dreams of Disney by night. Planning Disney trips is her favorite thing in the entire world to do (apart from the trip itself)! In addition to all things Disney, she loves reading, musical theatre, playing tennis, traveling, and cheering on the Detroit Tigers.

2 thoughts on “ABCs of WDW: Learning the Lingo

  • June 29, 2021 at 4:19 pm
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    Another term is “Friend of”, such as “Friend of Mickey”. This is a person who actually becomes the character when they put on their costume. So when they’re in costume, the “friend of Mickey” IS Mickey.

    Reply
    • June 29, 2021 at 7:26 pm
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      Oh, good one! Thank you!

      Reply

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