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Disney Definitions: How to describe Parks, Resorts and Hotels

Resort, Hotel, Park, it’s all very confusing. There are many terms thrown around when you’re booking a Disney vacation. There are dictionary definitions for each of these words, but they don’t really reflect their meaning when it comes to Disney vacation vocabulary. I would even argue that some of these words change definition depending on where you look, even on Disney’s own webpage. While I’m not a lexicographer, I think I have a basic definition for each, and I’ll explain them to you starting with the word “park”.

I’m not sure if Disney uses the words “theme park” to describe any of their theme parks. They just seem to simplify it to “park”. People in the vacation and theme park business also might refer to parks as “gates”. What these describe is the actual place where the rides and other attractions reside. The collection of fun things to do that often fit into a theme. Animal Kingdom in Florida is a park, as is Tokyo Disneyland. It’s the place where you can buy a ticket (or pay an entrance fee) then go inside and have a “magical day”.

It should also be noted that there are secondary “parks” as well. Most notably are the water parks. They are also parks, but they’re not really full-on parks. They’re often not as big, and very often they have very specific themes, like having fun with water. There are also shopping districts, they’re kind of like parks, but they’re often free to enter, and their focus is on shopping, not rides, characters and experiences.

This should seem like an easy definition, but it does get a little more complicated, as you’ll see later on. Hotels are the place where you stay overnight, or in some cases get a meal. In many cases there are two kinds of hotels associated with Disney. They have their own hotels, which are often themed, have easy access to the parks, and are often the most expensive. 

There are also Good Neighbor Hotels, these hotels are not owned by Disney, but they’re often close and can be a lot cheaper. The Good Neighbor moniker is used most often in California where Disney is surrounded by other hotels, but many of the other Disney’s also have hotels close by but might use a different term for hotels they support.

This is one of the more complicated definitions to explain, and the word that’s thrown around a lot. As far as I can tell a Disney Resort refers to a cluster of parks and/or hotels in a geographic area. For example, Walt Disney World is a resort, it contains parks like Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Magic Kingdom. It also contains hotels like the Disney All Star Movie Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Grand Floridian. Disney also has resorts away from its parks, like their Hawaiian resort called Aulani.

But this is where things get a little muddled up, because sometimes within the definition of resort I’ve given above, Disney might label one of their hotels as a resort. Actually, the Grand Floridian is officially called the Grand Floridian Hotel and Spa Resort. So, a resort could mean the collection of parks and hotels, or it could mean a specific hotel that often offers more of your typical resort amenities like a spa or other activities. 

It’s actually all very confusing, but I think you’ll figure it out.

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