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Disney for Kids (Grade-School Age 5-11)

Disney for Kids (Grade-School Age 5-11)

Slinky Dog Hollywood Studios

***Updated as of May 2022***

Welcome to the second installment of Disney for…Everyone! (But specifically broken down into guides of Disney for: Little Kids {Toddlers and Preschoolers}, Kids {Grade-School Age 5-11}, Teenagers, and Adults-Only). If you missed the first blog in this series and would like the full introduction, or if you are traveling with Little Kids, click *here* for full details. If you are looking to jump right into the best tips for grade-school age kids, you’re in the right place! 

In this blog, we will cover: 

How to Prepare Kids for a Disney Vacation

The Best Attractions at Each Park for Kids, Ages 5-11

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

When picturing taking kids to Disney, many parents envision their children somewhere in the 5-11 age range; for kids at the younger end, the Magic is still very much real, and for those toward the older end of this range, some of the bigger rides will begin opening up to them based on their height, and they will be able to experience a whole new level of thrills within the parks.

Luckily, with kids this age, preparing them for an upcoming Disney vacation really can be as easy as jumping up and down and shouting, “We’re going to Disney!” They will more than likely be jumping right along with you! However, the following tips will help you better prepare them to make your whole family’s experience as magical as possible. 

How to Prepare your Kids (Grade-School Age 5-11) for a Disney Vacation:

Let Your Kids Help You Plan

Involve your kids in the planning process as much as possible. Children spend a lot of their time on someone else’s schedule, whether it’s their parents’ schedule at home or their teachers’ schedule at school, so therefore most kids crave the ability to make their own choices and be in charge of themselves whenever possible. As parents trying to plan the “perfect” vacation, packed with fun thing after fun thing, we sometimes forget that having to follow yet another schedule won’t feel like a vacation at all for our kids, so avoid that by planning WITH your children instead of FOR them. Of course, planning a Disney vacation can also be a bit overwhelming (which is why having a travel agent like me is essential to keep your family immersed in the fun instead of the stress), but there are still ways to make even kindergartners feel like an important part of the process. For example, when making decisions about attractions, narrow your choices down to two per park, and then let your child choose what attraction to do first! Planning with your kids is a great way to prepare them for what’s coming on the trip (even if it’s still months away), give them a sense of control, and get them super excited about going to Disney!

Model Flexibility

The flip side of getting your kiddos to plan with you is that they may get their heart set on a certain ride or character meal experience, and then be disappointed if reservations are full or if a ride breaks down. Therefore, it’s important to model flexibility, starting with the planning process. That might sound like: “Space 220 is a great first choice, but just in case that restaurant is full, where else are you excited to eat while we’re at EPCOT?” Being able to bounce back from disappointment is difficult, even for adults, but it is also one of life’s most necessary skills, and it’s a learned skill, not an inherent one. Therefore, by modeling flexibility as you plan with your child for your Disney Vacation, everyone benefits in multiple ways: first, your trip gets planned; and second, your child learns the important life lesson of being flexible after (third) practicing decision making skills by choosing attractions with you! Bonus!

The Best Attractions for Kids (Grade-School Age 5-11) at Each Park

Magic Kingdom

Disney Pals at MK Entrance

As the most quintessentially “Disney” of all the parks, Magic Kingdom is bound to be a favorite among every age group. Many of the attractions in Magic Kingdom are suitable for all ages, but there’s a reason they are labeled ALL ages: part of the magic comes from feeling like a little kid again, so even though your bigger kids may see some toddlers and preschoolers on rides like Dumbo and Peter Pan, these rides are still fun for people of every age because of the nature of the ride, and also because climbing into the boat on “it’s a small world” will bring back the memories of riding it for the first time, and create that warm feeling of nostalgia that is often felt on Disney vacations and holidays spent with family at any age. 

Here are the Attractions that Kids of Grade-school Age (5-11) can enjoy at Magic Kingdom (in alphabetical order, with my personal tried and true favorites starred to help you prioritize):

  • Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland (slowly revolving spaceships)
  • The Barnstormer in Fantasyland (a very tame roller coaster with small drops, must be 35 inches to ride)
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Frontierland (classic roller coaster with medium drops, must be 40 inches to ride)
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland (a laser-firing space battle, great for some fun competition)
  • *Dumbo the Flying Elephant in Fantasyland (slowly revolving flying elephants)*
  • The Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square (audio-animatronic show of the 45 presidents, great for budding history buffs, or for a cool place to get off your feet for a bit)
  • Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square (a slow moving ride in the dark with spooky characters and elements)
  • *“it’s a small world” in Fantasyland (classic boat ride and song, not to be missed)*
  • Jungle Cruise in Adventureland (newly refurbished boat cruise ride)
  • Mad Tea Party in Fantasyland (spin as much or as little as you choose as your teacup glides around a large gazebo)
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin in Adventureland (slowly revolving flying carpets)
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in Fantasyland (a tour through the Hundred Acre Wood)
  • *Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland (classic slowly flying boat ride over London, but usually very high wait times, so plan accordingly)*
  • Pirates of the Caribbean in Adventureland (slow moving boat ride with small drops in the dark)
  • *Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland (classic carousel ride close behind the Castle)*
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in Fantasyland (perfect roller coaster for kids wanting a step up from The Barnstormer, must be 38 inches to ride)
  • Space Mountain in Tomorrowland (one of the bigger roller coasters at Magic Kingdom, with big drops and in the dark, definitely a ride for kids comfortable on more thrilling rides, must be 44 inches to ride)
  • Swiss Family Treehouse in Adventureland (great space to get some energy out by climbing around an old-fashioned treehouse)
  • Tom Sawyer Island in Frontierland (accessible by log raft, a great place to explore and let out some energy)
  • Tomorrowland Speedway in Tomorrowland (racetrack-style ride that goes slowly, but kids love it because they can be in the driver’s seat, must be 32 inches to ride)
  • *Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in Tomorrowland (classic slow moving ride with great views of the park)*
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid in Fantasyland (slow moving ride through scenes from the movie)
  • Walt Disney World Railroad in All Lands (classic train ride with usual stops in every land, except during the current refurbishment, though the train is still parked in Fantasyland and available for photos if your kiddos love trains)
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland (slow-moving ride with animatronics displaying the technological advancements of the 20th Century, usually a low wait time and good break from walking and the heat if needed)

Space Mountain Magic Kingdom

Entertainment Available for Kids in Magic Kingdom

Parades, shows, and fireworks are great for kids 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

And, of course, don’t miss Character Visits, complete with hugs, autographs and pictures! Here are the characters you and your kids 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 (Fantasyland, Cinderella Fountain)
  • Belle (Fantasyland, Sighting at Maurice’s Cottage)
  • Buzz Lightyear (Tomorrowland, Sighting at Rocket Tower Plaza Stage)
  • Captain Jack Sparrow (Adventureland, Sighting at Adventureland Stage)
  • Chip and Dale (Frontierland, Sighting on Country Bear Jamboree Balcony)
  • Cinderella (Fantasyland, Sighting at Princess Fairytale Hall)
  • Elena (Fantasyland, Sighting at Princess Fairytale Hall)
  • Mickey Mouse (Main Street, U.S.A., Sighting at Town Square Theatre)
  • Princess Tiana (Fantasyland, Sighting at Princess Fairytale Hall)
  • Rapunzel (Fantasyland, Sighting at Princess Fairytale Hall)
  • Stitch (Tomorrowland, Sighting at Rocket Tower Plaza Stage) 

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

Hollywood Studios

Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios

Definitely a favorite park as kids grow, Hollywood Studios offers a perfect mix of attractions for the 5-11 age group, featuring the beloved Toy Story characters we all know and love, as well as the excitement of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Disney’s immersive world designed to impress the world’s biggest Star Wars fans. A number of thrilling rides will open up to your kids as they grow to meet the 38 inch clearance that many of the bigger rides require, and of course riding a few familiar favorites will never disappoint. 

These are the Attractions Your Kids of Grade-school Age (5-11) Can Take Part In at Hollywood Studios (again, listed alphabetically with my personal favorites starred):

  • Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage (a Broadway-style rendition of the classic tale, showtimes run throughout the day)
  • *For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration (of course a must-do for any Frozen fans)*
  • *Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! (classic stunt show with elements of fire and escaping danger, not to be missed if your kiddos are okay with watching some thrilling adventures, showtimes throughout the day)
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (an immersive train ride experience)
  • 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)
  • *Muppet*Vision 3D (a fun and funny 3D film for kids of all ages)*
  • Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith (large roller coaster with big drops, loud music and high speed, must be 48 inches to ride)
  • *Slinky Dog Dash (family-friendly roller coaster with small drops, must be 38 inches to ride)*
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue (a 3D, motion-simulated space flight with small drops, must be 40 inches to ride)
  • 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)
  • Toy Story Mania! (a carnival-style shooting game great for those with a competitive spirit)
  • 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)
  • Walt Disney Presents (the gallery of artifacts and short documentary on Walt Disney, may not be super entertaining to your kids, but can provide a cool, quiet break if needed)

Galaxy's Edge Hollywood Studios

Characters Available to Visit at Hollywood Studios:

    • 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
    • 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

Hollywood Studios is an awesome park for Grade-school-age kids because, although the differences between a 5-year-old and an 11-year-old can be great, the park covers them with lands from Toy Story to Star Wars.

Animal Kingdom

Visiting a park with animals is always fun for all ages, but as your kids grow, both taller and old enough to watch the movie Avatar, the world of Pandora opens up to them in a way they may not have appreciated when they were younger. Between the animals and the floating mountains, your grade-school kids will be entertained all day at Animal Kingdom.

Animal Kingdom Giraffe

These are the Attractions for Kids ages 5-11 at Animal Kingdom (in alphabetical order with my personal favorites starred):

  • Affection Section (an outdoor petting zoo reached by taking the Wildlife Express Train ride to Rafiki’s Planet Watch)
  • Animal Encounters: Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight (a bird show animal experience)
  • *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)*
  • The Boneyard (a little-kid-specific open-air play space made to look like a dinosaur dig; may be best suited for the younger of this age range )
  • A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King (a musical show celebration of The Lion King)
  • Conservation Station (get up close with some of the animals and caregivers in the park, accessible by Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch)
  • 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)
  • *Disney KiteTails (huge and elaborate kites soar in shows inspired by The Lion King and The Jungle Book)*
  • *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) 
  • Fossil Fun Games (dino-themed carnival games in DinoLand U.S.A.)
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug! (3D film inspired by the Pixar movie A Bug’s Life)
  • Kali River Rapids (water river raft ride through the jungle with small drops and spinning, must be 38 inches to ride)
  • *Kilimanjaro Safaris (a real-life safari with a variety of animals strolling near your open air vehicle)*
  • *Na’Vi River Journey (a slow moving boat ride through Pandora’s rain forest)*
  • TriceraTop Spin (slowly revolving flying dinosaurs)
  • Wilderness Explorers (complete challenges and earn badges around the park)
  • Wildlife Express Train (ride around the park to Rafiki’s Planet Watch on a rustic locomotive)

Animal Kingdom boat cavalcade

Also, 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!


Like all the parks, there’s something for every age group at EPCOT, but throughout grade school, as kids are learning about the sciences of nature and technology, and as they begin studying the different cultures throughout the world, is the PERFECT time to visit EPCOT. With EPCOT’s new set up, featuring the four worlds: World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature, and World Showcase, kids will be excited to see places and concepts they recognize, as well as learn some new ones, too. 

EPCOT Spaceship Earth

Here are the Attractions Suitable for Your Grade-school Kid at EPCOT (listed alphabetically, and with my personal favorites starred):

  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along in France (15 minute film with songs from the movie, good place to cool off on the long World Showcase walk)
  • Bruce’s Shark World, Coral Reefs, Sea Turtles, and Sea Base in World Nature (almost all kids LOVE fish tanks, especially huge ones, so this could be a bit of a rest for parents while keeping kiddos entertained)
  • Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 in Canada (newly updated 12 minute Circle-Vision show)
  • *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)*
  • *Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in World Showcase at Mexico (slow moving boat ride through the Mexico Pavilion)*
  • Harmonious, Fireworks show from the water in the middle of World Showcase, nightly at 9:00pm
  • *Journey Into Imagination With Figment and ImageWorks – The “What If” Labs in World Celebration (slow moving tour of the Imagination Institute with an interactive play area after the ride)*
  • Kidcot Fun Stops throughout World Showcase (collect a memento from each country while giving kids something to look forward to at each stop throughout the showcase)
  • *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 kiddos, and usually has low wait times)*
  • *Model Trains in World Showcase at Germany (although not an officially listed “attraction,” these model trains can keep kids 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)*
  • 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)
  • Project Tomorrow: INventing the Wonders of the Future in World Celebration (an interactive play area for all ages with challenging games and engaging displays)
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends in World Nature (slow moving ride looking for Nemo, who got lost, again, in the ocean)
  • *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)*
  • *Spaceship Earth in World Celebration (slow moving ride through EPCOT’s iconic globe)*
  • 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)
  • Turtle Talk With Crush in World Nature (real-time question and answer session with Crush the Turtle)

Test Track EPCOT

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 child get to know some of their favorite characters in person. 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.

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

Everest Animal Kingdom

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

1. Don’t Ditch that Stroller

Even though your child may not ride in a stroller very much anymore, or even at all, and even though they may give you that, “You’re-crazy-I’m-never-getting-in-that-thing” look when you add it to the pile to be packed, chances are your kid will be crawling up into that stroller before you break for lunch on your first park day. As fun and exciting as park days are, they can also be long and exhausting, too (in the best way possible, of course), and you will be able to get to many more of the attractions on your list if those little feet and legs have a place to rest between rides. And don’t worry about how big or old your child is (I’ve known parents who haven’t given up the stroller as their kids hit double digits), when your tired child sinks down into that stroller and gets off their achy feet, you can breathe a sigh of relief too, since you won’t have to hear “I’m tired” on repeat for hours, or wind up giving a piggy-back ride to your exhausted “big” kiddo. 

2. Strategize for Long Wait Times

Maybe you plan on getting Genie+ and Lightning Lane to minimize wait times, but at any amusement park, you are bound to wind up waiting for something, whether it’s food, a broken down ride, or a line that has a wait longer than the one posted. Be prepared for wait times by having a few go-to activities up your sleeve (or in your backpack). It could be as simple as playing “I Spy” or a rhyming game while standing in line, or maybe your child needs something more interactive than that, like a fidget spinner, Rubik’s cube or small activity book. Travel games make great activities for long lines, because often the games are magnetic, so pieces don’t get lost – Tic Tac Toe, anyone? Even Hang-Man can be played on a phone if necessary. And of course, a device to play a game or watch a show may be what saves you at the end of a long day, even though many of us try to use that as a last resort, sometimes the need for last resorts is real, and standing in front of us complaining that they can’t spend another minute on line (oh, the irony, right!?). 

3. Have a Plan for Souvenirs 

Mickey Ears

Theme parks have no shortage of merch; in fact, after most rides (and especially the best rides), you have to walk through the “gift shop” related to that ride before you get to the exit, and just like the candy at any store counter, everything seems to be placed at exactly the right height for your child to see it, grab it and exclaim how they can’t live without it. Despite our best efforts to raise non-materialistic children, theme parks are designed to make our kids want all the things, and without a plan, the “I wants” can feel like an uphill battle. Decide whatever will work for your family and budget, and let your kids know the rules before you start your trip. Maybe you’ll allow one souvenir per park, or one per day; maybe if your child is old enough, you can give them a total dollar amount to spend and it’s up to them to choose carefully (and practice some math skills while they’re at it); maybe their allowance for the few months leading up to the trip becomes their Disney spending money (and maybe you can get your floors swiffered a few more times than normal and have a nice clean house to come back to); do whatever works for your family, but having a plan before you arrive is key. 

4. Get In the Pictures, Get On the Rides, and Share All the Snacks

Dole Whip

As much as our kids yearn for independence as they get older, part of them still, and always will, just want time and attention from Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom, or Dad and Dad, or just Mom, or just Dad, whatever your family situation may be). Sometimes just being with us is all our kids need; so after all the planning and preparing (and saving for and spending) that went into your Disney Vacation, don’t forget to be fully present and enjoy every moment that you worked so hard for with your kids. Don’t count steps or calories or worry about bathing suit size, just get in the pool, give (air) hugs and high fives to your favorite characters, get on the rides and throw your arms in the air (or grip the safety bar for dear life, that counts, too), get your own Dole Whip so your whole family can Dole Whip Cheers!, taste your way around the world at EPCOT, and smile or silly face your way through all the pictures. Do. All. The. Things. Because doing everything with YOU is what your kids will remember most. And when they grow up, like for real grow up into adults, and look back at pictures of family vacations, they will see as clearly as you do now, that the Magic didn’t need to come from fairy dust, because it came from each other all along. 

Do you have kids ages 5-11 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 kiddos! Click here for your free quote from me, Gina Pantina, a proud member of the Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Agent team! 

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