Sunday, May 26, 2024
HomeAnimal KingdomDisney for Teenagers (and Tweens, too)

Disney for Teenagers (and Tweens, too)

Galaxy's Edge Hollywood Studios

**Updated as of May 2022**

Welcome to the third installment of Disney for…Everyone! (But specifically broken down into guides of Disney for: Little Kids {Toddlers and Preschoolers}, Kids {Grade-schoolers, age 5-11}, Teenagers, and Adults-Only). If you missed the first two blogs in this series and would like the full introduction, or if you are traveling with Little Kids, click here for full details, and if you are planning a Disney vacation for grade-school age Kids, click here for the guide. If you are looking to jump right into the best tips for going to Disney with Teens and Tweens, you’re in the right place! 

In this blog, we will cover: 

How to Prepare Tweens and Teens for a Disney Vacation

The Best Attractions at Each Park for Teens and Tweens

Strategies for Fun, Successful and of course, Magical Days at the Parks

But first:

Cinderella Castle Night 50

Why Disney is Still Magical for Tweens and Teens

While Disney has always been a beloved place for people of all ages, teenagers sometimes seem like the most difficult to please (on any vacation, Disney or not Disney). But when you really think about it, Disney is just as perfect a destination for tweens and teens as it is for toddlers, and here’s why:

1. Teenagers struggle with leaving their little kid selves behind, but at Disney they don’t have to. Everyone is allowed to feel like a kid again at The Most Magical Place on Earth, and teenagers can relive childhood memories by taking a spin on their favorite rides. And if you’re taking a tween or teen to Disney for the first time? They get to feel the first-time-magic of rides like “it’s a small world” and Flight of Passage at an age when they can truly remember every moment of the experience. 

2. Tweens and teens want independence, but don’t yet have the sense of responsibility necessary for everything they want to do on their own; at Disney, the parks and resorts are safe and protected. Depending on the age (and personality) of your teenagers, with a few ground rules and a meeting time and location, teens can get a bit of the independence they crave, while staying safe and preserving your peace of mind as parents. 

3. Tweens and teens (most of them anyway) seem to be on an endless quest for thrills and fun. What better place for fun and thrills than at the world’s most Magical amusement park? With the wide range of attractions available across the four parks, plus the shopping at Disney Springs and of course the water parks, there is no shortage of adventure and excitement at Disney. 

How to Prepare Tweens and Teens for a Disney Vacation

Disney Springs

Plan With Them and Schedule Around Them

Between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, sports, school concerts, theatre shows, dance, cheer, babysitting, after-school jobs, SATs, midterms, finals, etc., the list of events on a teenager’s calendar is neverending. A vacation to Disney (or anywhere else) won’t seem like a vacation if they have to worry too much about what they’re falling behind on in their day-to-day life, or if they miss their best friend’s Sweet 16, or if they miss the championship game they’ve worked years to get into. While trips outside the confines of school vacations may have been possible with younger kids, you may (or still may not, depending) have to reconsider as your kids move into their tween and teenage years; though it may be hard to swallow, the heightened prices and crowds during school breaks might be easier to deal with than a surly teenager who feels like their life is ruined after they get the lead in the school play, but it happens to go up the same week of your Disney family vacation. 

With their jam-packed schedules, tweens and teens often feel like they have little freedom to make their own choices (even if they chose the activities they’re involved in, practices and rehearsals are made by coaches and teachers), so asking for their help in making decisions about vacations will be key to tweens’ and teens’ enjoyment and fun on your trip, and will also show them that you value their thoughts and opinions. Allowing them to help you choose which days to go to which parks, for instance, or researching menus of different restaurants together, will help make them feel invested in the vacation, give them something to look forward to, and most importantly, will make them feel seen, heard and valued. 

The Best Attractions at Each Park for Tweens and Teens

By the time your kids are tweens and teens, they have probably reached and exceeded the height restrictions on most rides, so instead of listing every single ride in each park that is available to them, I’ve included a Top Ten List of Attractions for Tweens and Teens at each park. 

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom may very well be the most Magical park in Disney for so many reasons, not the least of which is how it appeals to every age group. Think your teenagers are too old for Magic Kingdom? Think again. Magic Kingdom has the perfect mix of big rides that (depending how often you visit) your teenagers may not have been tall enough for before (think Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain), and old favorites that make your teenagers nostalgic about their early memories of Disney (whether from the parks or their favorite childhood movies). 

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Here are the Top Ten Attractions for Teenagers in Magic Kingdom (in alphabetical order with my personal tried and true favorites starred to help you prioritize):

1. *Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland (classic roller coaster with medium drops, must be 40 inches to ride)*

2. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland (a laser-firing space battle, great for some fun competition)

3. Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square (a slow moving ride in the dark with spooky characters and elements)

4. *“it’s a small world” in Fantasyland (classic boat ride and song, not to be missed)*

5. Jungle Cruise in Adventureland (newly refurbished boat cruise ride)

6. *Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland (classic slowly flying boat ride over London, but usually very high wait times, so plan accordingly)*

7. Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland (slow moving boat ride with small drops in the dark)

8. *Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland (perfect roller coaster for tweens not wanting something as big as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, must be 38 inches to ride)*

9. Space Mountain in Tomorrowland (one of the bigger roller coasters at Magic Kingdom, with big drops in the dark, definitely a ride for kids comfortable on more thrilling rides, must be 44 inches to ride)

10. Splash Mountain in Frontierland (soon-to-be-refurbished waterslide with small drops to start, and a very large drop at the end, must be 40 inches to ride)

Splash Mountain

Entertainment Available at Magic Kingdom:

Parades, shows, and fireworks are great for people of all ages! Here is a list of current entertainment at Magic Kingdom (for exact showtimes on any given day, check your My Disney Experience App):

  • Cinderella Castle: A Beacon of Magic, illuminations on the castle, showtime at 8:30pm (subject to change daily)
  • The Dapper Dans, Main Street, U.S.A., showtimes throughout the day
  • Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, Main Street, U.S.A. (and also meandering throughout the park), showtimes throughout the day
  • Disney Enchantment, Fireworks show at Cinderella Castle, showtime at 9:00pm (subject to change daily)
  • Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, through Fantasyland, showtimes at noon and 3:00pm
  • Let the Magic Begin, Park Entrance, showtime at 8:55am
  • Main Street Philharmonic, Main Street, U.S.A., showtimes throughout the day
  • Mickey’s Celebration Cavalcade, Main Street, U.S.A. (and also meandering throughout the park), showtimes throughout the day
  • Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire, character show in front of Cinderella Castle, showtimes throughout the day

Characters Available to Visit in Magic Kingdom (because no one is too old for a picture with their favorite character): 

Of course, don’t miss Character Visits, complete with hugs, autographs and pictures! Here are the characters you and your tweens and teens can see in Magic Kingdom (and don’t forget, you can use Genie+ to get access to the Lightning Lane for character visits that are set up with Standby and Lightning Lane options):

  • Anastasia and Drizella in Fantasyland at the Cinderella Fountain
  • Belle in Fantasyland at Maurice’s Cottage
  • Captain Jack Sparrow in Adventureland on Adventureland Stage
  • Chip and Dale in Fantasyland at Storybook Circus
  • Cinderella in Fantasyland at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Elena in Fantasyland at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Mickey on Main Street, U.S.A. at Town Square Theater
  • Princess Tiana in Fantasyland at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Rapunzel in Fantasyland at Princess Fairytale Hall
  • Stitch in Tomorrowland at Rocket Tower Plaza Stage

As more characters become available to visit, this list will be updated, so check back frequently!

Hollywood Studios

With some of the biggest rides throughout the parks, Hollywood Studios is definitely a favorite among the tween and teen crowd. And if your teenagers are Star Wars fans, you might even want to plan for more than one day at this park if you can!

Galaxy's Edge Hollywood Studios

These are the Top Ten Attractions For Tweens and Teens at Hollywood Studios (again, listed alphabetically with my personal favorites starred):

1. Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage (a Broadway-style rendition of the classic tale, a must-do if your tween or teen is a theatre kid, showtimes run throughout the day)

2. *Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (classic stunt show with elements of fire and escaping danger, almost like what tweens and teens do in video games, but in real life! Showtimes throughout the day)

3. *Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (an immersive train ride experience, super fun for people of any age)*

4. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (an interactive mission with moderate drops, darkness and loud noises, must be 38 inches to ride)

5. *Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (large roller coaster with big drops, loud music and high speed, must be 48 inches to ride)*

6. *Slinky Dog Dash (family-friendly roller coaster with small drops, great if your tweens and teens don’t love big rides, must be 38 inches to ride)*

7. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (a 3D, motion-simulated space flight with small drops, must be 40 inches to ride)

8. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (hugely popular thrill ride with small drops, darkness, and loud noises, must be 40 inches to ride; in order to ride, you must secure a boarding group through the standby queue on the My Disney Experience App)

9. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a haunted elevator ride with huge drops in the dark, meant to be thrilling and scary, must be 40 inches to ride)

10. Toy Story Mania! (a carnival-style shooting game great for those with a competitive spirit)

Tower of Terror

Characters Available to Visit at Hollywood Studios (lots of Star Wars characters to see, as well as many favorite originals, too):

  • Chewbacca in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sightings around Batuu
  • Chip and Dale on Hollywood Boulevard, sightings on Brown Derby Lawn
  • Daisy and Donald Duck on Hollywood Boulevard, sightings on the Front Entrance Balcony
  • Doc McStuffins at Animation Courtyard
  • Fancy Nancy at Animation Courtyard
  • First Order Stormtrooper in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sightings around Batuu
  • Goofy on Sunset Boulevard, sightings on Tower of Terror Balcony
  • James P Sullivan (Sulley) at Animation Courtyard
  • Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sightings around Batuu
  • Mickey and Minnie Mouse on Commissary Lane at Red Carpet Dreams
  • Olaf at Echo Lake in Celebrity Spotlight
  • Pixar Pals Motorcade on Hollywood Boulevard, showtimes throughout the day
  • Pluto at Animation Courtyard
  • Rey in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sightings around Batuu
  • Vampirina at Animation Courtyard
  • Vi Moradi in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, sightings around Batuu

Between the attractions and the characters, Hollywood Studios is bound to be a favorite among your tweens and teens!

Animal Kingdom

Visiting a park with animals is always fun for all ages, but tweens and teens will likely be able to ride the biggest attractions in the park, and if you have fans of Avatar, they will absolutely love Pandora, especially if you stay until dark when the plants and flowers light up just like they do in the movie. 

Pandora Animal Kingdom

These are the Top Ten Attractions for Tweens and Teens at Animal Kingdom (in alphabetical order with my personal favorites starred): 

1. *Avatar Flight of Passage (a 3D simulated ride lets you fly around Pandora on the back of a banshee in a thrilling adventure, must be 44 inches to ride; wait times for this ride are typically the longest in this park, so plan accordingly if you’d like to ride, which you totally should because I personally rank it as the number one best ride ever)*

2. A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King (a musical show celebration of The Lion King, again, great for theatre fans, showtimes throughout the day)

3. Conservation Station (get up close with some of the animals and caregivers in the park, great for tweens and teens who love animals and might want to work with them, accessible by Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch)

4. DINOSAUR (a thrilling ride on a Time Rover through the prehistoric age with small drops, darkness and scary elements, must be 40 inches to ride)

5. *Disney KiteTails (huge and elaborate kites soar in shows inspired by The Lion King and The Jungle Book)*

6. *Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (roller coaster ride through the Himalayan mountains with big drops, darkness and backwards riding, must be 44 inches to ride) 

7. Kali River Rapids (water river raft ride through the jungle with small drops and spinning, must be 38 inches to ride)

8. *Kilimanjaro Safaris (a real-life safari with a variety of animals strolling near your open air vehicle)*

9. *Na’Vi River Journey (a slow moving boat ride through Pandora’s rain forest)*

10. Wildlife Express Train (ride around the park to Rafiki’s Planet Watch on a rustic locomotive, great for tweens and teens who like train shows)

Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

Characters Available to Visit at Animal Kingdom:

Animal Kingdom features Character Cavalcades down the river, and characters to visit with as well. Here is the list of characters to see at Animal Kingdom:

  • Discovery River Character Cruise in Asia, showtimes throughout the day
  • Goofy and Pals Set Sail in Asia, showtimes throughout the morning
  • Kevin on Discovery Island, sightings on Discovery Island
  • Mickey and Friends Flotilla in Asia, showtimes throughout the day

As with the other parks, as more characters become available for visits, these lists will be updated, so be sure to check back before your trip!

EPCOT

EPCOT is an awesome park for teens and tweens because they get to show off how much they know about everything represented in EPCOT, from technology to world culture. By the time your kids are tweens and teens, it’s likely that they will have studied many of the different places around World Showcase, and be excited to see them in real life. And whether your tween or teen is a techie or a nature lover, there is something for everyone within the four worlds of EPCOT (World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature, and World Showcase).

EPCOT Spaceship Earth

Here are the Top Ten Attractions for Tweens and Teens at EPCOT (listed alphabetically, and with my personal favorites starred):

1. Bruce’s Shark World, Coral Reefs, Sea Turtles, and Sea Base in World Nature (the same way people of all ages love zoos, almost everyone loves aquariums, too, so this could be a bit of a rest and place to cool off while being entertained by fish swimming by in giant tanks)

2. *Frozen Ever After in World Showcase at Norway (mostly slow moving boat ride through Arendelle, a must do for Frozen fans, but very high wait times, so plan accordingly)*

3. *Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in World Showcase at Mexico (slow moving boat ride through the Mexico Pavilion)*

4. *Living with the Land in World Nature (slow moving boat ride through greenhouses that grow crops from around the world; seems unlikely, but this is actually a favorite of my kids, even my tween, and usually has low wait times)*

5. *Model Trains in World Showcase at Germany (although not an officially listed “attraction,” these model trains can keep kids of every age entertained for a long time, especially if you frequent train shows in your home area, just make sure everyone is sunblocked and hydrated because there isn’t much shade around this area)*

6. Mission: SPACE in World Discovery (choose a mission to Mars with spinning and darkness, or a less intense orbit of Earth for your simulated space ride, must be 40 inches to ride)

7. Project Tomorrow: INventing the Wonders of the Future in World Celebration (an interactive play area for all ages with challenging games and engaging displays)

8. *Soarin’ Around the World in World Nature (a simulated hang-gliding “soar” over some of the world’s most recognizable sights, must be 40 inches to ride)*

9. *Spaceship Earth in World Celebration (slow moving ride through EPCOT’s iconic globe)*

10. Test Track in World Discovery (design and test drive a vehicle on a super fast speedway with sharp turns, must be 40 inches to ride)

Test Track

Characters Available to Visit at EPCOT

There are so many Characters available for visits at EPCOT that you should definitely plan to spend some time letting your tweens and teens get to know some of their favorite characters in person (no matter how old your kids get, there is still something special about getting to hug and take a selfie with the characters they grew up watching). Here are the Characters to see and visit with at EPCOT:

  • Alice in the United Kingdom (World Showcase)
  • Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus in Norway (World Showcase)
  • Belle in France (World Showcase)
  • Disney Pals (usually Goofy and Pluto, but can include Mickey, Minnie, Donald & Daisy) at the EPCOT Main Entrance
  • Donald Duck in Mexico (World Showcase)
  • Joy at Imageworks in Imagination Pavilion
  • Mickey Mouse at the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival (World Celebration)
  • Minnie Mouse at the start of World Showcase (near Mexico)
  • Mulan in China (World Showcase)
  • Princess Aurora in France at the Fragrance Garden Gazebo (World Showcase)
  • Princess Jasmine in Morocco (World Showcase)
  • Snow White in Germany (World Showcase)
  • Vanellope von Schweetz at Imageworks in Imagination Pavilion
  • Winnie the Pooh in World Celebration, sightings in the Garden near Imagination

All in all, EPCOT has a great combination of attractions that appeal to all ages and interests, from the most modern technology in World Discovery, to honoring the world’s oldest cultures in World Showcase. And don’t forget to stay for the fireworks; catch Harmonious nightly at 9pm!

Strategies for Fun, Successful and of course, Magical Days at the Parks

Dole Whip

Now that you have all the information you need to plan and choose attractions with your tweens and teens, here are a few tips to make your days at the parks as magical as they’re meant to be:

1. Set Screen Time Rules Ahead of Time

It’s no secret that many tweens and teens are attached to their phones, screens, and social media. As parents, finding the balance between fostering a healthy social life (even if it is through a screen these days) and fighting the addictive nature of being on a device, is fast becoming one of our most difficult jobs. And after months of planning and saving for a family vacation to Disney, it’s frustrating and disappointing to argue constantly with your tween or teen about getting off their device to spend time with the family. Therefore, it’s recommended to set some ground rules about screens during vacations before leaving home, with gentle reminders as needed throughout your trip. Those rules can be things such as unlimited time on camera to take pictures throughout the day, but only posting to social media once back at the hotel for the night, or conversations with friends and/or playing games are only allowed while waiting on line for rides, or whatever else works for your family. 

2. Have a Souvenir Plan

As with grade-school kids, tweens and teens are likely to fall into a chorus of “I wants” as they make their way through the parks. Decide on a plan before leaving for your trip, whether it’s allowing one souvenir per park, or a total amount you are willing to give them to spend and it’s up to them how to divy it up, or even, if they earn allowance or are old enough to have a job already, decide how much of their own money they are allowed to bring to spend how they choose. Whatever you decide, having a plan in place beforehand should reduce some of the “I wants” and “But I needs” and give you more time to enjoy the parks and each other throughout your stay. 

Ears for Sale

3. Consider Bringing a Friend or Traveling with Another Family

The social life of tweens and teens is usually either at the top of, or at least pretty high up on, their priority list. As parents, it can be frustrating and disappointing (to say the least) when we work so hard to save and plan an incredible Disney vacation for our family, only to have our tweens and teens texting their friends every minute of the day, or worse, when we spend the whole time arguing with them not to (though hopefully prepping them for screen time limitations on vacation as described above helps). If it is at all possible, consider either bringing a friend or traveling with family/cousins or family friends. Having a friend there “in real life” should hopefully cut down on the need to connect with friends through devices, and may even give parents a break to relax every now and then. Speaking of which…

4. Build in a Bit of Freedom

As mentioned earlier, Disney is a closed-off and protected environment, and therefore generally safe to let teenagers (maybe not tweens in this case) flex their freedom and earn some responsibility credit when they follow through with meet-up times. This generally works better when they have a friend or cousin to buddy up with, though some teenagers do enjoy some alone time (even if it is just to spend an hour texting their friends back home). Maybe there’s a ride they want to go on that no one else is particularly fond of, or maybe they want to explore the resort on their own, or even spend some time by the pool (depending on how strong they are as swimmers of course), giving them a set amount of time (even just 15-30 minutes for us anxious parents) and a specific location to meet up will help give them some breathing room and the ability to reset themselves. Don’t forget: most families are generally not used to spending 24/7 together; tweens and teens have school and their myriad of activities, siblings typically don’t spend every moment together, and parents work or are busy running the household. As much as everyone looks forward to vacations together, it really is important to build in some time for everyone to reset their own batteries, even for just ten minutes a day (as many of us learned a few years ago at the start of the pandemic when we were all thrown together every minute of the day). 

5. Remember What You Were Like as a Teenager

Though it may seem like forever ago to some of us (and yesterday to others), we were all teenagers once, and we may have revolved our lives around our friends a little too much, just like our tweens and teens do; and we may have insisted on choosing our own clothes, just like our tweens and teens may refuse to take part in the matching family shirt tradition; and we may NOW look back at the family vacations our parents took us on with gratitude and a deep understanding of how much work and saving it takes to make an amazing family vacation happen, just like our tweens and teens one day will as well. Underneath the attitudes and the trendy clothes and the raging hormones, our tweens and teens want what we all want (in the words of Glennon Doyle): to be both “held and free.” And sometimes, figuring out that balance as a parent requires a bit of Magic, and there’s no place like Disney when you need a little Magic.   

Do you have tweens and teens that you now feel confident taking to Disney? I would love to help you plan your next Disney Vacation to make the most out of it with your teenagers! Click here for your free quote from me, Gina Pantina, a proud member of the Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Agent team! 

Disney for Teenagers and Tweens

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Most Popular

Recent Comments

Julie Fredericksen on About Me
jamier@innovativespaces.com on About Me
Larkin Smith on About Me
jamier@innovativespaces.com on What to Pack In Your Disney World Park Bag!
jamier@innovativespaces.com on What to Pack In Your Disney World Park Bag!