I don’t think there is any one specific age that Disney is best! ?The magic happens at all ages, just with different perspectives. ?As adults, we enjoy the magic for many reasons, possibly through the eyes of our overly excited children, or maybe it’s the enjoyment of a good thrill ride, maybe the details and impeccable service that is Disney, or even reliving our own childhood Disney memories.
As children, the excitement can come from seeing their favorite characters come alive, or experiencing the grandness of their first view of Cinderella’s Castle, parades and shows can be just as exciting as their first Disney ride!
Reliving old Disney memories of our own, and making new ones with our children each trip is all part of the Disney magic. ?I personally did not visit Walt Disney World for the first time until I was in the 10th grade. ?It took a lot of persuading of my Dad to convince him that I was not going to outgrown this wish. ?Was I too old? ?No not at all! ?I enjoyed every single minute of it. ?In fact, I cried when I reached Main Street USA and thanked my Dad endlessly for finally bringing me! ?He thought if he just waited long enough, I would grow out of wanting to visit, but obviously I never did! ?Would going at a younger age have been better? ?Only because I would have experienced it sooner!
My children?have visited the parks as young as 6 months, all the way up to age 17, and our trips have always been perfect! ?Disney World is after all, designed to be a family park, where children and parents can have fun together, at any age! ?Of course a trip with your young children will look much different than a trip with older children. ?Both trips however, will be magical in their own special ways!
In every park:
There are many things in the parks for all of us to see and do, but what is best for the smaller guests? Obviously you know your children best! ?These are simply my suggestions based on trips I have taken with my children. ?My girls are pretty adventurous and don’t mind a little bit of scary, so please keep this in mind while reading.
Slow Down! – I would say taking it slow and taking it all in is a huge part of the magic. ?When reaching the different parks, don’t rush in and straight to your favorite rides, slow down and enjoy the immediate splendor that each park has upon it’s entry!
Meet characters! ?Yes I realize they are well, um, characters… let’s just leave it at that. But I promise you, your children will enjoy every ounce of getting to see their friends come alive! ?Disney characters are awesome at interacting with you! ?Don’t rush up, get your picture taken and walk off! ?Stop and have a conversation with them! ?Get their autographs and enjoy the time! ?It’s a crazy thing, but as an adult you will find yourself just as excited to meet these beloved friends! ?Yep, seriously! ?I promise, you will! ?Don’t forget your autograph book and pens!
Ride Rides – This kinda goes without saying, however at Disney World there are rides for everyone! ?High flying thrill rides and slow, take-in-the-story kind of rides. ?Do them all! ?You will enjoy sharing the classics like “It’s a Small World”, “Peter Pan’s Flight”, and “Winnie the Pooh’s Great Adventures” with your children, but don’t forget about yourselves! ?Disney has an awesome treat for parents traveling with young children! ?The rider swap! ?That means one adult rides while the second adult stays with the kids, then they swap. ?Best part is, you only wait in line once! ?If you’re traveling with a mix of ages, everyone except for the swapping adults gets to ride twice and only wait in line once! ?Pure Disney genius! ?For added fun, give your children the choice of what’s next! ?They will be delighted to be able to design their own day!
Must do’s by Park:
You will notice in my Magic Kingdom line up that there are not too many attractions left off. ?This is because Disney has done an amazing job of truly creating a park for families! ?The rides are only part of the fun, enjoy the sights, the characters and the entertainment too! ?It’s what makes Disney, well Disney!
Throughout the Park:
- Eat Mickey Mouse Ears ice cream at least once!
- Walt Disney World Railroad?- A great place to rest and take in the park at the same time- good for later in the day! (You can get off and get on at Main Street, USA, Fantasyland, and Frontierland)
- Character Greetings – ?I highly recommend taking them all in, but at the least, make sure you see Mickey Mouse and your other favorites!)
Main Street, USA:
- Magic Kingdom welcome show – This is the show that opens the park each morning. ?One family is always selected to unlock the park and get the days festivities started. ?It takes place outside the park at approximately 20 mins before park opening. ?Be there 45 mins before park opening to get a front row spot and maybe even get picked!
- Buy a balloon, yes a $12 balloon, on Main Street! ?(at least once!) Watch the balloon handlers weave their fingers through the many strings to unwind your balloon, never even coming close to loosing one! ?(note: if your balloon pops, or floats away, no worries, it will be replaced no questions asked!)
- The Main Street Philharmonic Band?- I love watching them march down Main Street USA and then stopping to perform! ?There is something just All American about it! They perform several times throughout the day. ?Check the daily schedule for when.
- Parades – Seriously, the best parades you will ever see! ?Watch them all! ?You won’t be disappointed! ?If anything, you’ll wish there were more!
- Wishes Fireworks – A spectacular show over Cinderella’s Castle. ?Make sure you watch for Tinkerbell to fly from the Castle into Tomorrowland!
- Celebrate the Magic Light Show – The entire evenings line up of shows are a must see! ?I tear up every time I watch Celebrate the Magic! ?It’s an amazing light show projected onto Cinderellas Castle, that highlights the years of Disney! ?It’s truly a tribute to the amazing magic of Disney!
- Enchanted Tales with Belle – If you have a Beauty and the Beast fan this is a must! ?The attraction is interactive and gets the kids?involved in the story line. ?At the end, you get to meet Belle!
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – A classic ride full of fun for the family! ?Bonus – while waiting in line, your children can play in a play park and you will be paged when it’s time to get back in line!
- Mad Tea Party – Honestly, this is NOT a ride I enjoy or will even get on! ?It makes me completely sick! ?However, my cousin recently told me that it was one of her all time favorites, and she could not wait to take her children on it! ?She wanted them to have the same awesome memories she had as a child. ?So for this reason, I include it on the must do list! ?Ride it, IF your stomach can handle it!
- Under the Sea, Journey of the Little Mermaid – A great, slow clam shell ride, complete with all of our favorite Little Mermaid Music and characters! ?And of course, the theme-ing is fantastic!
- 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, 38″ tall to ride – a fast pass must! ?If your kids are tall enough, this is a great family coaster! ? If not, there is always rider swap
- It’s A Small World – one of the first attractions at Disney World, and a must every visit! ?Great for small children and parents alike!
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh -?It’s Pooh and friends. ?What else needs to be said?
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic – A great 3D movie for all ages!
- Peter Pan’s Flight – We LOVE this ride! ?It is awesome to “fly” through the ride, looking down on the different story lines of the classic story Peter Pan.
- Prince Charming Regal?Carousel?- There is nothing overly special about this carousel, other than being in Disney World and viewing Cinderella’s Castle every time you whirl around!
- The Barnstormer, 35″ tall to ride – Goofy’s roller coaster and a great one at that! ?It’s short and fun, and perfect for first timers!
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – It’s like being in the middle of a video game! ?Fun for all ages, especially the little’s!
- Splash Mountain, 40″ tall to ride – This is a great break-in roller coaster! ?Meaning, if your children are leery of a “big” ride, this one will break them in easy! ?The boat ride through the story is fun for kids, with one big drop at the end! ?It is sure to be a favorite!
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, 40″ tall to ride – If your kids like coasters, this one is great!
- The Haunted Mansion – A classic! ?Remind your children that if they are afraid, they simply can close their eyes!
- Eat a Dole Whip!
- Pirates of the Caribbean – This ride maybe scary for younger children because of the dark environment. ?Simply remind your children they can close their eyes!
- Swiss Family Tree House– There is just something spectacular about a giant tree house! ?Note: this attraction requires a lot of stair climbing, but it’s fun to see Magic Kingdom from the top!
- Jungle Cruise -?a little boat ride through the jungle, Disney style!
Hollywood Studios is a great mix of wild “big” kid rides and great shows for all!
Throughout the Park:
- Parades! ?- They are at the top of my list in every park! ?You simply should NOT miss them!
- Character Meet and Greets – scheduled throughout the park, simply a must at every age!
- Jedi Training Academy – If your kids love Star Wars, this is sure to please! ?If your lucky, your kids might get chosen to participate!
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular – An action filled adventure show that shares how movies are made. ?The kids are sure to enjoy the adventure!
- For the First Time in Forever, Frozen sing along – A great show all around! ?Kids love seeing their new favorite Frozen characters and singing along to the well loved music, adults will enjoy the humor, and of course singing along too!
- The Great Movie Ride – Your kids may not get all of the movie references in this ride, but they are sure to enjoy the sights as you take in all the great movie memories! ?This show has been recently updated and I am eager to see what’s new myself!
- Toy Story Mania! – ?A fastpass must! and a must for kids of all ages! ?Don’t miss this entire area of the park! ?Watch out for Andy’s Army men to get your picture taken!
Streets of America:
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set, playground – This is fun for everyone! ?A ?chance for the kids to run around and climb on life size bugs and blades of grass! ?It will be even more fun if you have the kids watch the movie before you arrive at the parks.
- Jim Hensen’s Muppet Vision 3D – A great 3D show for all ages!
- Lights, Motors, Action! ?Extreme Stunt Shows – They have added cars characters to this movie making how to stunt show. ?I think this helps the appeal for small children. ?My girls weren’t too interested in this, but young boys who really enjoy cars, fire lit flying cars too, may really enjoy this!
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid – Small children will enjoy this show, however as an adult Disney has far better shows in my opinion.
- Disney Junior?Live on Stage– Take in all of your kids favorite Disney Jr. characters with opportunities to meet characters throughout the day.
- Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage – This is a quick version of the Beauty and the Beast story. ?The kids are sure to love the live music and elaborate costumes.
- The?Twilight?Zone Tower of Terror, 40″ tall to ride, a fast past must– Our family’s all time favorite ride! ?I have made each of my children ride this ride with the promise that it’s only once if they don’t like it. ?Needless to say, no one ever rides it just once! ?We LOVE this ride! ?Obviously it is not for small children by any means but as soon as yours are tall enough, it’s time to head back into the Twilight Zone! ?And of course, there is always rider swap so mom and dad can enjoy what the kids aren’t big enough for!
- Fantasmic! -?My second favorite night time show, next to Magic Kingdom’s. ?Watching Mickey whip up his magic throughout the show to fireworks, music and projected scenes on water is simply amazing! ?My favorite part… Steamboat Willie driving his boat at the end of the show. ?It’s a must see!
Throughout the Park:
- Character greetings – I think you know how I feel about this by now! ?Go see them!
- Parade – yep, you know about this one too! The Parade at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not currently running due to some construction and updates throughout the park.
- It’s Tough to Be a Bug – A 3D show in the base of The Tree of Life. ?This show is fun and thrilling, but all in the dark. ?It has some special effects that can scare small kids, but really it’s an awesome show! ?Try to prep your kids for this and remind them that it’s all pretend! ?Bonus: As you wait in line, you weave around the tree. ?Try to pick out as many animals carved into the tree as you can!
- The Tree of Life – this is an attraction in itself! ?Enjoy it and make sure to take the Discovery Island Trails to see more of it!
- Kali River Rapids – This is a fun, family water rapids ride. ?You may get wet, so if you don’t want to, then simply wear a poncho! ?No need to miss the fun!
- Kilimanjaro Safaris – This is a great safari adventure right in Disney’s backyard. ?Your guide will point out animals along the way, complete with a Disney story line!
- Festival of the Lion King – This is a live Lion King show that you don’t want to miss! ?The music and costumes are amazing!
- Tricera Top Spin – a fun dinosaur ride that will rise you above the treetops.
- Finding Nemo Show – This is a wonderful puppet show, and not the kind of puppet show you think of! ?Large,?gorgeous?puppets with amazing music! ?A must see for sure!
Throughout the Park:?
- Yep, you guessed it – characters! ?They’re everywhere in EPCOT!
- Circle of Life Show – A?narrated?show about the circle of life, complete with our Lion King?friends.
- Test Track, must be 40″ to ride, fastpass must! – build your own car, and then race it around the track!
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends – A clam shell ride with Nemo through the seas. Afterwards, you can wander through Disney’s aquarium. ?Outside, don’t miss the Nemo setup complete with the “mine, mine, mine” seagulls!
- Soarin’, must be 40″ to ride, fastpass must! – Soar through the skies of California as you para-glide through the skies!
- Spaceship Earth – a slow ride inside the EPCOT ball, enough said!
- The world showcase is large and can not be completely experienced in one day! ?For small children, it is probably the least exciting place to be at Walt Disney World. ?Disney has made it a little more fun for the youngsters by providing them with a check-in spot “Kid-cot” fun stops, in each country. ?They will get a Duffy the bear stick puppet to color at the first stop, and then can get it stamped by each country?along the way.
- Illuminations – EPCOT’s night time show. ?It plays in the World Showcase area over the water. ?If in EPCOT, it’s a must see!
Things to consider:
Routines – Let’s face it, most of us are used to our daily routines, especially our children. ?Vacation is a nice break in the daily grind for us adults, but that routine change can be difficult for children, especially when they are “planners” like my oldest daughter. ?Don’t assume your children will just immediately adapt to the change. ?Sleep deprivation can ruin vacation for all of us! ?Make sure that you schedule sleep in there somewhere, even if it means sleeping in late, going to be early, or leaving the parks for a nap somewhere in between. ?We typically let our children nap in the stroller, but we know that works for us. ?Be flexible in the plans, knowing that everyone will be happier in the end! ?You can’t do it all in one Disney World trip, so don’t make your selves miserable trying! ?Do you research, have your priorities and then take in whatever else works!
Budget: ?We all love to get a little something on our vacations, but obviously we can’t have it all! ?It can be very exhausting to us parents for our children to repeatedly ask for something at every turn, forgetting about the item they “had to have” not just 10 minutes ago. ?Also, it’s not much fun to repeatedly say “no” when we’re wanting to provide that ultimate Disney vacation for our children. ?Depending on the age of your children, it can be very beneficial to give them their own spending money at the beginning of each day and then put it back on them to make their own spending decisions. ?The budget will vary depending on your overall trip budget and what is comfortable for your family, but do keep in mind that you can’t buy much for less than $10-$15. ?Yes, you can find things, but not the items that tend to attract the attention of younger children.
Alternative?Souvenirs?- Alternative souvenirs that you can collect along the way, instead of shopping in the store. ?Our family loves to collect smashed pennies everywhere we go! ?It started with a summer trip to NY when I was in college. ?I just so happen to get my first smashed penny on top of the World Trade Center towers the summer before they fell. ?At the time, I was just collecting a little something for my “not yet” step-son. ?Obviously, the 51 cent penny is now quite a treasure! ?Disney World has pressed penny and pressed quarter machines all over the park! ?It is a fun and inexpensive thing for you to “get”!
Plan – Have a plan, Disney is far to large and complex to just wing it, ?but don’t be so rigid in the plan that you are causing you and your family stress! ?If it’s not working, skip something, or stop and do what the moment dictates!
Stroller – For families with toddler age children a stroller is a no brainier! ?But for those of us with slighting bigger children (mine are 6 and 8) we feel like we have out grown a stroller. ?I agree, we never use one, except for at Disney World! ?It is a great place for your still somewhat small children to rest throughout the day and a great place to stash your stuff. ?I know that I am completely exhausted at the end of a Disney day, I can only imagine what little feet feel like. ?Without fail, both of my children nap each day/evening in the stroller and I also push them out of the park asleep each evening! ?The stroller gives us the option to say as late as we want without the fear of a complete breakdown! ?Just because we bring along a stroller does not mean we push it all over the a park! ?Often times we ditch the stroller in the section of the park we are playing in and come back for it when we need it again. ?There are plenty of places to rent a stroller in the area, however I do not recommend renting one in the parks for two reasons; the onsite strollers do not have any storage, and more importantly you have to leave them in the park which means you will have to either carry out or drag your overly tired kids to whatever means of transportation you are using. ?Not a good end to a long day at the parks!
I hope that helps you prioritize your plans at the different parks when travling with younger children. ?I intentionally left off some of my favorite rides, simply because youngsters are not tall enough to ride. ?Don’t let that discourage you though, remember, there is always rider swap! ?Grab a Mickey ice cream for your youngster waiting, let them rest in the stroller, and take in a big kid ride!
Let me know if you have any questions! ?I am always happy to help!
See ya real soon!