There’s no doubt that Disney = pure magic. Whether it’s a movie, cartoon, or even just going to the Disney Store, little imaginations are easily fueled by Disney wizardry — inspiring and enchanting kids’ hearts and minds everywhere. A trip to Walt Disney World is the #lifegoal of pretty much every child out there, so needless to say we had to visit the happiest place on earth when we planned our Orlando family vacay.
Armed with our day passes, our two kidlets (four years old and 10 months old) and their three older cousins (plus numerous cups of iced coffee), we braved one fun-filled and enchanted day in Walt Disney World (WDW).
WDW is comprised of four different parks (and have recently also opened the new Pandora – World of Avatar exhibit). During our pre-planning, we knew we wouldn’t be able to fit all four parks in one day, so we decided on visiting two; Animal Kingdom and of course, Magical Kingdom. And Kingdom, indeed! Both parks were equally large and full of numerous attractions and rides that we could easily enjoy with all the kids.
We started our day in Disney’s Magical Kingdom, the original theme park that started it all, complete with the rides and attractions that made WDW so popular. We headed straight to Cinderella’s Castle to make reservations for our four year-old daughter at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. While waiting for her appointment, we were able to ride some of the classics in Fantasyland, including “It’s a Small World”, “Peter Pan’s Flight”, and of course, the “Mad Tea Party”. The lineup for all three rides were fairly long, but moved quickly.
After the three rides, it was nearly time for our daughter’s appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, so we waited for her “Fairy Godmother” to pick her up and bring her into the salon. If you have a daughter that lives and breathes Princesses (Disney or not), this is definitely worth the splurge. The 30-minute “transformation” from kid to “Princess” is definitely magical and even the most skeptical (including myself) will realize how magical it is for the child. In addition to getting the full royal makeover (hair, nails and face), they also leave the boutique with a pink backpack full of makeup and hair accessories and a little pink sash. We’re still trying to get the glitter out of her hair, but it was definitely worth the appointment!
After the Princess transformation, we took the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland, which was easily one of the family’s favorite rides, thanks to the witty tour guide and the realistic-looking animals! We were also able to catch a show in the Enchanted Tiki Room. There was no wait and the show itself is only about 10 minutes long. It was a really fun, musical attraction that the kids will love, especially if they’re fans of Moana.
After a late lunch, we ended up walking right to the Festival of Fantasy Parade on Main Street. If you are able to fit a parade into your Disney World itinerary, we recommend you do; this is a great opportunity for the kids to see nearly all the Disney Characters in one show! The kidlets literally “oohed,” “ahhed” and waved to the Princesses, Villains and costumed dancers as they sang Disney tunes alongside their favorite characters, while they waved and floated by. It was a pretty surreal moment for the kids (and the parents)!
We took the complimentary (air-conditioned!) Disney bus service to Animal Kingdom. As expected, it was busy by mid-afternoon, but we had done our research ahead of time so we knew exactly what we wanted to see (and we recommend you do the same). The rides that we were able to enjoy were pretty awesome and definite must-do’s for families visiting Animal Kingdom!
Our first stop in Animal Kingdom was Asia, where the older kids braved Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain. This thrill ride through the Forbidden Mountain is definitely not for the young or faint of heart. And as if the Forbidden Mountain wasn’t heart-pumping enough, the Kali River Rapids was a wet, whitewater adventure ride that definitely cooled off the older cousins! We ended our day in the Africa section with the amazing Kilimanjaro Safaris. Rhinos and cheetahs and giraffes (oh my)! Suitable for all ages and definitely one of the top highlights for this park, we really enjoyed riding through the sanctuary seeing real-live African animals.
The amazing thing about Animal Kingdom is that every pavilion in the park is a different continent or location, and you feel like you’re in that actual place. From the amazing detail in each pavilion setting and attractions to the food stations and even the background music, you will be treated to a very authentic experience. Needless to say, if we could spend more than one day at Disney World, we definitely would. Our action-packed day left us wanting more and we’ll definitely be returning to the happiest place on Earth!
Here are 10 helpful tips to keep your Walt Disney World visit a simple one:
- Pre-planning your trip to WDW is key in order to know which rides, activities and experiences you want to check out based on the age, height and interests of your child(ren).
- You can only use the Fast Pass for one park per day so if you plan to visit multiple parks in one day, you’ll need to plan your day to minimize your wait times at the park where you can’t use the fast pass (i.e. go early morning or late afternoon, when the crowds might be lower).
- The Walt Disney World parks area is HUGE (someone told us it was the size of San Francisco, and after visiting, we believe it!). If you are park-hopping, you need to plan for travel time (including wait times if you are using the Disney shuttle service).
- You can track wait times on the My Disney Experience app for a couple of weeks before you go to see how the wait times vary during the day for the activities and rides on your must-do list. This will give you an idea of how to plan your day and fast passes to minimize your wait times
- Even though we did manage a one-day visit, we felt our day was very rushed. Trying to do multiple parks in Disney World in one day will be tough, especially for families with younger kids.
- Leave the selfie sticks at home or in your hotel. If you have one, they will make you return the stick to your hotel room.
- We suggest bringing your own reusable bottles (they can fill your bottles up with water for free at any food stand) and any snacks that do not require heating to save time and money, but we do recommend buying your larger meals at the parks to cut down on having to pack too much stuff with you.
- The rides can be fairly loud, especially for infants. If you are bringing an infant with you, make sure to pack baby ear muffs in the baby bag, because they will use them often.
- Infants are able to ride many of the rides in the park – we found it easier (and safer) to ride when he was strapped into the baby carrier.
- For rides with age or height guidelines, there is a Rider Switch option, which allows one parent to wait with the child unable to ride and then board the attraction without waiting in line again.
Images provided by Walt Disney World