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Walt Disney World Guide Maps

Jack Spence Masthead

I suspect that I could take a great many of you, blindfold you, drop you into one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, and you would be able to identify which park and which land you had been deposited in. I suspect you could do this because you would use your other senses. You would use your ears to listen to the themed music and the sound effects of the area and you would use your nose to detect telltale odors in the air.

Donald on Main Street

But you could only perform this feat of clairvoyance because you were already thoroughly familiar with the parks. You have visited so many times over the years that you know all of the thoroughfares, large and small. You know all of the nooks and crannies. You know the short cuts to get from point "A" to point "B" on busy days. You know where every restroom is located. And you subconsciously (or consciously) know all the nonvisual cues that identify each environ of the parks.

But what about first-time visitors? If we were to drop one of these newbies into the middle of a park, they'd probably have a panic attack. They'd walk around in circles trying to get their bearings. And once they stopped circling, they'd have a difficult time trying to determine what is what.

Take a look at these next three pictures taken at the France Pavilion in Epcot.

Impressions de France

Souvenirs de France

Boulangerie Patisserie

Most of us immediately recognize the structures. We know that the first picture is of an attraction, Impressions de France. The second picture depicts a shop, Souvenirs de France. And the last picture reveals everyone's favorite spot for a snack, Boulangerie Patisserie (recently relocated). But how do we know this. The buildings themselves only give minimal clues. We know these things because we have visited the France Pavilion many times.

But how would first time visitors know what was behind each of these doorways? They wouldn't. To find out, they might use the trial-and-error method. They'd have to stick their head into every building in an effort to discover what lies beyond each portal. Although there is a lot of fun to be had by non-structured exploration and discovery, this isn't always the best method. Take for instance Impressions de France. Walking into this building reveals very little of interest. It's simply a waiting room for the movie. But not knowing this, some guests might take a quick look around, see nothing compelling, and leave. What a shame this would be.

Impressions de France Waiting Room

That's where guide maps come into play. These handy pieces of paper are chockfull of useful information. They don't answer every question, but they're a great beginning.

Guide maps for the four WDW parks are available just past the turnstiles. They are offered in the following languages: German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Portuguese, and English.

Guide Map Stand

Guide maps are also readily available at all of the shops within a park. And at Guest Relations, guide maps for all of the Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, and Downtown Disney can be obtained.

Let's take a look at these guide maps in detail. First, there is the cover. More often than not, the front page will reveal something new or recently upgraded in a given park. Disney is always looking for ways to promote their latest-and-greatest. The biggest thing to happen at WDW in quite a while is the expansion of Fantasyland. So of course, this is what graces the Magic Kingdom guide map cover.

Magic Kingdom Guide Map Cover

Magic Kingdom Guide Map Cover

Over at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney is currently promoting Star Tours. This attraction underwent a major refurbishment back in May of 2011. Although this was over a year and a half ago, it still represents the most recent change to the Studio and marketing wants to capitalize on this upgraded attraction for as long as possible.

Studio Guide Map Cover

Interestingly enough, at the time of this article's writing (January 16, 2013), the Epcot guide map was not touting its most recent change, the re-Imagineering of Test Track. Instead, Soarin' is displayed on the front cover.

Epcot Guide Map Cover

Nothing of any significance has happened at the Animal Kingdom for a while, so Disney is currently advertising the park's most popular attraction, Expedition: Everest.

Animal Kingdom Guide Map Cover

Special events are also taken into consideration when selecting a front page picture. For example, during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival and the Flower & Garden Show, the front cover of the guide map will reflect these annual events.

The front of the guide map also reveals other bits of information. For example, the resort's latest motto "Let the Memories Begin" is seen on the front of each brochure. Also, each park's map invites you to enter with a special catchphrase. These are:

Magic Kingdom: Fantasy Reigns
Epcot: Discover the Wonder
Disney's Hollywood Studios: Where Action Takes Center Stage
Disney's Animal Kingdom: Adventure Awaits

For many years, the front of the guide maps also displayed a small plug for Kodak, the company that sponsored these useful handouts. On the back of the guide maps, a full page advertisement for Kodak could be found.

Kodak Ad

Kodak Ad

Unfortunately, the Great Recession and Kodak's slow entry into the digital world hurt the company badly and they were forced into bankruptcy. As part of their cost-cutting measures, Kodak ended sponsorship of all Disney attractions, guide maps, Photo Spots, and park stores on December 31, 2012. Along with Coca-Cola and Carnation (Nestle), Kodak was one of the remaining original sponsors that ushered in Disneyland in July of 1955. However, their sponsorship was not continuous and there were gaps in their presence in the parks over the years.

As we unfold the current guide maps one page, we begin to discover some useful information.

Inside the Guide Map

Let's take a look at this material piece by piece.

I know it's hard to believe, but there are people who do not know about Disney's FASTPASS Service. Granted, the vast majority of these people are first-time visitors, so this section of the guide map provides abbreviated instructions about how to use this time saving system.

FastPass Information

Just in case you're one of the handful of people who are unfamiliar with FASTPASS, here's how it works.

Find an attraction that offers FASTPASS. This can be determined by locating the following symbol next to the attraction's description on the map portion of the guide.

FastPass Symbol

At the attraction's FASTPASS kiosks, a return time will be display. This will be your "appointment" time.

FastPass Return Time

To secure a FASTPASS, simply insert your admission ticket into one of the machines. It does not matter what way the ticket faces.

FastPass Machine

This is what a FASTPASS looks like. It has your one-hour return time clearly marked. It also tells you when you will be eligible to secure another FASTPASS. As the rules regarding another FASTPASS can be convoluted, just read what the ticket tells you.


At one time, Disney allowed guests to return any time after the stated end time posted on the FASTPASS. For example, on the above ticket, guests could return well after the 11:50 end time. Guests were not restricted to the one hour window. However, last year, Disney clamped down on this. Although guests may be given a couple of minutes leeway if they arrive late, FASTPASS no longer provides them with an open-ended ticket.

Next on the guide are instructions for Disney's PhotoPass Service. This perk isn't as widely understood as FASTPASS, although it's just as easy to use.


Guests simply find a PhotoPass photographer. They're located just about anywhere characters and a good background can be found.

PhotoPass Photographer

Have your picture taken. The photographer will give you a PhotoPass card. Keep this card with you and present it to other PhotoPass photographers as you tour the parks. Each time you have your picture taken, they will add the information to your card.

PhotoPass Front

PhotoPass Back

To view and order your photos, just stop by one of the PhotoPass Centers. In the four theme parks, the centers are all located near the entrance, on the left side as you exit the park. You can also view and order prints via the internet.

So why should you use PhotoPass?

One of the best reasons is to get everyone into the picture. No longer will one member of your party be missing from all the shots.

The PhotoPass cast members know the proper lighting and camera settings for their given location. You're sure the picture will turn out.

The cast members know just how to pose you to get the best shot.

The PhotoPass service can digitally add Disney characters into the picture.

There is absolutely no obligation or pressure to buy any photo you have had taken.

Below the PhotoPass section of the guide map you'll find the "Rules & Regulations" section of the handout. Here Disney asks you to supervise your children, show common courtesy to others, wear a shirt and shoes at all times, and follow all written, verbal, and audio instructions. I doubt that any of you have ever read this section of the guide map before.

Rules & Regulations

Rules & Regulations

Rules & Regulations

Rules & Regulations

Before Kodak ceased sponsorship at Disney parks, another advertisement for this film giant appeared below the "Rules & Regulations."

Kodak Ad

On the most recent guide maps, the space once occupied by Kodak has been filled with an advertisement for an app called My Disney Experience. This app provides estimated attraction wait times, GPS-enabled maps, and the ability to make dining reservations.

App Ad

Another page of the guide map is called "TIPS & Information." This section provides information on the following topics:

Wheelchair & ECV Rentals
Readmission Policy
Area Closings
Travel Tips
Payment Options
Shopping Tips
Guest Relations

And let's not forget the advertisement for Disney Vacation Club.

Also on this page, in very small print, you'll find the following disclaimer:

Entertainment and attraction availability subject to change without notice.

This is Disney's very polite way of saying, "Don't ask for a refund because you didn't get to ride Space Mountain or see Mickey Mouse."

Tips & Information

Okay, now for the best part - the real reason we pick up these handouts when entering a park - the MAP.

Guide Map

The current map page actually offers four different segments. The first is the map itself. This gives us a graphic illustration as to where everything is located - the pathways, buildings, and the names of each land. This is also the most fun segment to peruse as it brings the magic to your eyes in bright colors and familiar shapes.

Magic Kingdom Map

Of course, no map is worth its salt without a legend. The Disney guide maps have two. The first briefly describes all of the attractions, counter service and table service restaurants. Quick service food stands and shops are not listed. Attractions on the map are indicated by numbers, restaurants by letters.

Guide Map Legend

Besides a brief description of the attraction or restaurant, additional information is provided with the help of small icons. This is where the second legend comes into play. Located on the right side of the page, this legend is divided into four sections, Guest Amenities, Attraction Info, Devices Available at Guest Relations, and Dining. It's once you start studying this legend that you realize how much information is packed into these guide maps and how many services Disney offers to their guests.

Guest Amenities

Attraction Info

Devices Available at Guest Relations


The last segment of the map is a relatively new addition. Disney now "advertises" their parades and shows on the guide maps with large colorful inserts scattered around the page. Note, the times for these events are not given. More on this later.


Guides have change a lot over the years. The first in my collection represents the Magic Kingdom in 1983. If you notice, its overall shape was a little different than later iterations. Rather than a long and skinny handout, this one is more "book" shaped.

In fact, in the early years, they were referred to as guide "books," not guide "maps." This particular guide book contains 24 pages.

1983 MK Guide Book

If you study the above picture carefully, you might notice that Polaroid was the handout's sponsor, not Kodak. Inside the guide book, Polaroid presented a two-page spread discussing how to take the perfect picture. For those of you old enough to remember Polaroid, you'll notice the familiar border surrounding the pictures found on this page.

Polaroid Ad

Each land was given a two-page spread in this 1983 handout. In addition, shops were also discussed, something not done today.

Two-Page Spread

Next let's take a look at a guide book from 1988. It now has the long, slender look we're familiar with today. It also uses a glossy paper where earlier versions used a less expensive stock. However, this guide book still retained a book-like appearance when its 12 pages were opened.

1988 Guide Map

1988 Guide Map

1988 Guide Map

Older guide books also provided a lot more narrative when describing the parks. Let's take a look at several attractions and compare today's description to that of 1988.

Space Mountain

Today: Indoor Roller Coaster
1988: Experience a winding, soaring, race through space on a roller coaster-type ride.

"it's a small world"

Today: Musical Indoor Voyage
1988: Join hundreds of singing, dancing international dolls on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

Liberty Belle Riverboat

Today: No description provided - only the name of the attraction.
1988: Cruise down the Rivers of America aboard an authentic steam-powered stern-wheeler.

Besides discussing the Magic Kingdom, the 1988 guide book also presented information about other aspects of WDW, like EPCOT Center, the dinner shows, golf, the WDW Shopping Village, and coming attractions.

1988 Guide Book

I couldn't find a date on this next guide map, but I suspect it was in circulation sometime around 1994 as "Legend of the Lion King" graced the front cover and as we know, Disney always promotes their latest attractions.

1994 Guide Book

This guide discarded the book-like structure and used a "fold-out" approach.
When initially opened up, this guide map was five panels across. When opened completely, it featured a ten panel map measuring 17"x20". It was easy to read, but difficult to handle when walking about. This new design was an obvious attempt by Disney to try and cut down on the amount of paper used in order to curb costs, but still retain a maximum amount of information.

5 Panels

10 Panels

A year later, the Magic Kingdom cover design was changed again. In addition, the guide map change from a 5/10 panel configuration to a 4/8 panel configuration to create a more convenient size.

1989 Guide Map

Here is the guide map issued on October 1, 1996, WDW's 25th anniversary. Notice the Birthday Cake (Pepto-Bismol pink) castle. This guide map also used the 4/8 panel configuration.

25th Anniversary Guide Map

For many years, guide maps also included park hours, parade times, and other ever-changing information. This meant that the guide maps would only be good for a week or two before requiring a revision (see the dates on the above handout). This created a lot of waste. To remedy this, Disney stopped including park hours and show times on the guide and started printing a separate Times Guide. The Times Guide was printed on a single sheet of paper, roughly the same dimensions as the guide map. In addition, the Times Guide paper was a lower grade stock from that used on the guide map. This change allowed the guide maps to have a much longer shelf life and cut down on waste.

Time Guide

Another companion piece to the guide map was recently introduced to the Animal Kingdom. This Animal Guide lists all of the animals on exhibit in each of the park's lands. This will help guest realize and find all the amazing creatures that can be found here.

Animal Guide

Guide maps make great souvenirs. They're free and they give you something to scrutinize between vacations. Here is a frame picture I created using these wonderful handouts. It contains guide maps from all eleven Disney parks. Among these are Disneyland's 50th Anniversary, WDW's 25th Anniversary, Hong Kong Disneyland's opening day guide map, and a guide map entitled Euro Disneyland, not Disneyland Paris.

Framed Guide Maps

Alas, this picture will be out-of-date in a few years when Shanghai Disneyland opens. I guess I'll just have to get it reframed.

Guide maps also are a wonderful way of tracking Disney history. When viewing the maps over the years, you can see how attractions have come and gone. One of the most recent transformations is currently taking place at the Magic Kingdom. Take a look at these next three pictures. In the first, we can see Mickey's Toontown Fair has been removed. In the second picture, we can see that a portion of Storybook Circus has replaced this former land. And on the third map, we can see that Storybook Circus has been completed and a large portion of the New Fantasyland has opened. Also notice how Disney uses "greenery" to disguise the construction areas.

Fantasyland Under Construction

Fantasyland Under Construction

Fantasyland Under Construction

Guide maps are great fun. As I mentioned earlier, they are free and they can offer hours of dreams between Disney visits. So even if you know the parks like the back of your hand, you should still pick up one of these handy manuals on each and every visit. If you haven't already started your own collection, do so soon.


**Animal Kingdom's Animal Guide in Depth

1976 Magic Kingdom Guide Book

The previous post in this blog was Flame Tree Barbecue.

The next post in this blog is It’s Over My Head - Part One - Magic Kingdom.

Comments (34)


What an interesting article about such a seemingly mundane subject. Thanks for brightening up my Monday morning, Jack.

Mackenzie D.:

Thanks for the great blog, Jack! My Disney memorabilia collection actually started with maps! I started with a 1962 map of Disneyland (not a guidebook, the like 4 foot wide collectable map), and followed it up with a similar 1974 Disney World map!. After that, the collection just kind of exploded! I love bringing home new maps and comparing them to the old ones!

Richard M.:

Another "collectible" I have been gathering pretty regularly through the years are the travel agency books. These are fairly thorough sales brochures (say, maybe 20 pages or so) for WDW and Disneyland. They can be picked up at your local travel agent (if you can find one). They are "updated" yearly. In fact, I just realized I need 2012! Another home run, Jack.

Edgar S:

Hello Jack.

Why didn't you go over the Mobile Magic portion of the guide map?

Jack's Answer:

LOL I write my articles over a period of days -- an hour here, an hour there. I had every intention of mentioning Mobile Magic as I use it myself. I just forgot between writing sessions.


hey Jack
I love looking at old guide maps and seeing the changes that have occured throughout the years. right now I am trying to find one from the year I was born to add to my collection as well as the opening day guide maps from the other parks. can't wait for your next blog and as always keep up the great work.


What a terrific article! So much time and love was put into this. I'm so thankful you wrote it. This will go down as one of my faves!


What a wonderful article,Jack! I love collecting guide maps. I found the original Epcot guide book (which I remember from when I was a child) and a very early Magic Kingdom guide (early 70s when they still had ride tickets) on eBay. You would have thought that I hit the jackpot finding these maps. I was so excited! I also collect Disney travel books from various years.


I have saved "mint" copies of the guide maps since 1991. It is so much fun to compare them. Recently I found the guide booklet from my honeymoon in 1977. I had forgotten how in depth it went but there was only one park. These are my favorite souvenirs and they are free!


Dear Jack,

I know that when McDondalds pulled their sponsorship, all of their logos were removed on the attractions. Is this the same for Kodak? They sponsor (or at least sponsered) almost all of the 4d films.

are they gone now?

Jack's Answer:

I don't know if all of the Kodak logos have been removed by this date. But if not, they're not long for the world.


Maps? We don't need no stinkin' maps! Actually we pick one up every time we enter the park and have a pretty good collection now, including a map from the old Magic Kingdom Club that's framed on the wall. I also have a cast member map that's very ... instructive.


Few things remind me of being at WDW like the park guides, perhaps more than any one purchased souvenir could ever manage. I am partial to the solid color style map of the mid-80s. I most certainly miss the more elaborate descriptions and book-like guides. It just made the parks seem all the more wonderful (and made the longing to go back all the stronger when I would read them over and over again). I wish they could bring more of that spirit back.

In any case, thank you for highlighting a part of WDW so near to my heart.

Hi Jack -
Loved this week's blog! I too collect the guide maps - not only from my visits, but I ask anyone I know who's going to WDW to bring me back any Maps, Time Guides, Brochures, etc. they can. In fact I have an order in now from a friend (a fellow WDW Fan) who arrived at WDW yesterday.

I've noticed that over the years, even though there are the same number of panels on the Guide Maps, the sheet size has shrunken, though the size seems to have remained consistent the past few years.

The various Brochures are also fun to collect - like the "Disney-MGM Studios - Where Show Biz Is" advertising booklet that was out in the 90's in the other parks (and out of the World), showing many then current TV and Movie stars working at the Studio as well as detailed descriptions of the shopping, attractions and restaurants. The overall Resort book is also great as are the Water Park brochures and the DVC sponsored "Transportation Guide Maps." Perhaps a future topic...

Dave Adams:

That was a great article Jack! We've always used and saved several guides, like lots of people, as keepsakes. Now that we're snowbirds we make sure to get them and mail them home to our grandkids. They love them. What we do is get the foreign langauge ones for them, then send mom the English ones.
Keep the great articles coming!!!


Thanks for another great explanation, Jack.

We always enjoy the maps and I really wish we had started a formal collection of them a long time ago.

We just returned from the World about two weeks ago and we have left a Magic Kingdom map on our kitchen counter ever since (and have read through it several times)! Somehow it just seems to draw out the trip.


I love this! My husband thinks I am crazy when we arrive and I get 3/4 copies of the maps for each park. He thinks we only need one..um NO! I need ones I can actually "use" and at least two sets to bring home that have not been used! One I keep and the other I give to co-workers who might be visiting the world. This way they can plan the attack:)

Very good Jack.

You took an ovelooked part of the experience (to most people) and made it seem really interesting.


*dons proofreader hat*


Hey Jack, you just brought back a memory. When I was a young girl in the late 70s/early 80s, my family could only afford to go to Disney a few times, despite the fact that we lived (and still do live) only an hour away. My mom took a large MK illustrated park map - I think it was more of a souvenir map than the actual guide - and hung it on the wall. I stared at that map for hours, retracing the steps of our last visit and dreaming ahead to the next one.

Today we go so often and know the parks so well that I haven't picked up a map in years (well, other than our last visit a few weeks ago as we navigated the new Fantasyland). I'm not much of a collector, but I do so miss that old map!

Deb Ragno:

I thought it was interesting to see the changes to the Speedway over the years.

Last night I was thinking that I need to see a new MK map before our next trip so I can already have the new Fantasyland layout in my head. I am good at retaining directional stuff and I so dislike pulling out a map while we are in the park. My husband was amazed on our first trip (2007) that I knew where everything was. Well, I had studied the maps!

Loye Schulthess:

Hi Jack!
As a Cast Member, I'd like to add that at Disney, we are constantly looking for ways to be "green". When the guide maps are redesigned, the old ones are sent to groups in economically challenged areas where they make beautiful necklaces, earrings, etc. for sale in the Africa, (or what was to become Africa...) section of EPCOT.

Jenny Sperandeo:

Hi Jack! Thanks for a great blog!


I really want to play this game! Can I come down and you blindfold me and leave me somewhere in the "world?" Thanks.


I love that they introduced an Animal Kingdom Animal Guide!

Great article, Jack!

You might also want to mention that there are specialty versions of the guide maps available for Guests With Disabilities; these maps provide additional details of interest to those with Mobility, Visual, and Hearing disabilities, as well as information for those with service animals.

They can usually be found on the map racks in the parks and resorts, but if you don't see them, go to Guest Relations and look at the larger map racks, which have more than just the park maps available.

Karen Smith:

Hi Jack!
Great blog once again!
If you dropped me blindfolded on Main Street I would absolutely know where I was, based on the the bakery smell they pump out!
I'm a little scared of the Starbucks addition coming this spring. I'm hoping the Main Street Bakery will still be serving their own pasteries (dinner plate sized cinnamon buns) and just adding Starbucks coffee. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Jack's Comment:

I have no idea about the pastries that will be served. We'll have to wait and see. But having a brand-named coffee maker on Main Street is nothing new. Hills Brothers sponsored a restaurant at Disneyland's Main Street for at least 20 years.


Great article! I love that you write about Disney World history instead of just what's new and changing. Seeing the guidebook from the 25th anniversary brings back a ton of memories, not just of being there, but of pulling out that guidebook all the time when I was a kid. Glad to hear that I'm not the only Disney junky that has to pick up a map even though I know the parks like the back of my hand.

Doreen Russell:

Great article! I am going to Disney World in April and your blog makes me wish I were going right now! Haven't been in over five years. I can't wait to see all the new changes. I will definitely pick up multiple guide maps when I am there.

Wendy Crober:

Hi Jack,

Loved your framed picture of the maps - I get mint copies every year to take home and I've never thought of framing them.

I also ask friends to bring them back whenever they go. I'm often asked for tips for an upcoming trip and it's nice to have copies of all the maps to give someone to help with their planning.



Great blog post again, Jack. I love the maps because I usually stick them in my suitcase with everything else while packing back up after our trip and it usually falls to the bottom of the bag and I forget about it until I unpack. I find a little surprise in the bottom of the bag, usually let out a big sigh, and then start planning my next Disney trip!

Elizabeth Goodman:

I enjoyed looking at your versions of all the older maps. Although, I never really thought about collecting them, I guess I actually have done that in some way on all my trips. When we get home, we always end up with numerous copies of various guide maps, some of which I have kept and put in my "Disney box" along with maps of the various resorts we have stayed in. I even have a map of the Pepto Bismal pink castle. That was the first visit that we took my then 3 year old daughter to Disney! Thanks for the enjoyment of the article!

Wendy :

Great blog! (as always ) My family, too, has loved the maps and souvenir guide books from the parks. We could afford to go to WDW only one time between '75 and '90 and as a result us kids nearly tore the guide map and souvenir book apart from constant handling. My mother finally taped the pieces together to keep our park mementos intact (she still has them even now, I think.) I know what you mean about knowing your way around the parks blindfolded, though. I was telling a soon-to-visit-WDW friend about knowing the parks so well that I could find every restroom without a map and she didn't believe me. Big mistake! She had to listen to me list the location of every one of the MK's restrooms off to her moving from the front gates (including the ones just outside it) going clockwise around the park and back again. She'll never doubt ME again!

Jack's Comment:

It's funny you mention restrooms. Not only do I know where all of them are, I think I've used them all too. LOL

Lu-HUUV the framed guide maps. So cool.

Mark Hardy:

Remember the original, circular EPCOT map that spun and revealed each land under a cut-out? I thought that was pretty cool.

Jenn F.:

I always take several maps, one to keep and the others to use in scrapbooking.


Does anyone remember when the layout map of MGM looks like Mickey's face in the guide book?

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 28, 2013 7:37 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Flame Tree Barbecue.

The next post in this blog is It’s Over My Head - Part One - Magic Kingdom.

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