Disney has just completed a large part of their most ambitious renovation and expansion of a Disney park in their history with the opening of several features of the new and much larger Fantasyland. So I decided to update my post of Going to Disney World with Little Children.
No matter how old you are you will never forget your first visit to the Magic Kingdom and even if you have been there multiple times such as I have you will discover something new each time you visit the Magic Kingdom. When you are visiting the Magic Kingdom with little children it is even more magical.
The Magic Kingdom covers a lot of acreage and traversing it all on foot can be a trying ordeal even for an adult. I recommend taking or renting a stroller for younger children up to five years old. In addition to providing transport for your children a stroller comes in handy for carrying extra bottles of water, diapers, your ponchos, and the souvenirs that you will purchase. If you are driving to Disney World taking your strollers with you doesn’t present much of a problem. Renting strollers at Disney World is quite expensive; the current rental rate is $15.00 for a one day rental of a single stroller and $31.00 for a double. You can save a little by getting a multiple day rental. The multiple day rental rate is $13.00 for a single stroller and $27.00 for a double stroller.
Upon entering the Magic Kingdom you are faced with the dilemma of what to do first. There is so much to see and do, especially on your first visit that it can be quite bewildering. One thing I would recommend is to purchase an autograph album for the kids upon entering the park. One of the greatest joys for kids is meeting their favorite Disney character in person, posing for pictures with them and getting their autographs and there are a myriad of places in the Magic Kingdom where kids can meet their favorite Disney characters. As you enter the park you will see the Town Square Theater on your right. Here the kids can have their first meet and greet with Mickey, Minnie and a few of the Disney princesses. If you do choose to make the Town Square Theater your first stop at the Magic Kingdom you will also have your first encounter with the Disney PhotoPass service and Disney’s Fast Pass service. The Disney PhotoPass offers photos taken by Disney’s own photographers. After your trip you can then go online and order prints, photo cd’s and more. Of course any items you order will be quite expensive and I feel they are only worth the money if you don’t take any pictures yourself. Even so I recommend getting the PhotoPass; it is free and comes with one great benefit – as you make your way around Disney World you will find the Disney PhotoPass photographers everywhere; at all the character greeting locations and at the spots where you can get the best shots of scenes such as Cinderella’s castle, even if you don’t plan on purchasing any items you should still get the PhotoPass because without exception the photographers will willingly take a picture of you and the kids at the best locations using your own camera. All you need do is, after they take a picture of your group with their camera simply ask if they would mind taking a picture of your group with your camera. I have never had one refuse to do so and the result is that I get the same great pictures on my camera that Disney wants me to purchase.
One other thing you will encounter first at the Town Square Theater is the Disney Fast Pass service. Wait times at Disney World’s most popular rides and attractions can reach up to two hours at certain times during the day. Some years ago Disney came out with the Disney World Fast Pass. Fast Pass allows you to bypass the longest lines at the most favorite rides or attractions. On attractions that use the Fast Pass service you will see a Fast Pass distribution kiosk close to the entrance of that attraction. Simply insert your admission card and the machine will spit out a Fast Pass telling you when to return and receive express entrance to the attraction. The ticket will have your return time printed on it with a time period such as 1:00 P.M. to 2:00 PM. During that time period simply walk up to the Fast Pass line and be ushered right in, thereby avoiding a long wait. You are only allowed to have one Fast Pass active at a time so you can’t run around the park and get Fast Passes for all of the busiest attractions. The bottom of the ticket will tell you when you are able to get a Fast Pass for another attraction or ride. Be forewarned there are only a limited amount of Fast Passes issued each day. Once that amount has been issued there will be no more given out. We have gotten to the Fast Pass kiosk at some attractions around noon only to find that no more Fast Passes were being issued for that ride for the rest of the day. Before entering the park each day we usually decide upon which ride or attraction that we want to use our first Fast Pass on; we then all give our admission cards to one person who runs ahead and gets Fast Passes for us all. We then meet up later at another attraction or ride where the rest of us have gotten into line and wait to meet up with our runner. A tip for those of you with Verizon smart phones is to download the free Disney’s Mobile Magic app. This app will give you all sorts of information about wait times, Fast Pass distribution and more; it is a definite must have for those of you with Verizon smart phones and can be a great help in using the Fast Pass system.
As you leave the Town Square Theater make your way down Main St. where you will get your first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle, if this is your first time at the Magic Kingdom it is an experience you will never forget. Try to resist the urge to go into all the shops lining Main St. There is plenty of time for shopping later and you will find opportunities to spend your souvenir money everywhere. If you just can’t resist at least looking in one store, make the Emporium your first stop. You can enter at the lower end of Main St., take a casual stroll through the store and exit further up Main St. A tip about shopping in Disney World: each park offers a service where you can have your packages sent to the guest service station at the exit of each park. You then pick them up on your way out of the park and avoid carrying your packages around all day. It gets even better if you are staying at one of the Disney resorts. Disney will magically make sure your packages arrive safe and sound at your resort for you to pick up at your leisure.
As you reach the end of Main St. you will see a Disney PhotoPass photographer in the middle of the street; be sure to stop and have your picture taken with Cinderella’s castle in the background. On your left, at the end of Main St. is the Crystal Palace restaurant where you can have your first experience with Disney’s character dining. The meal is buffet style with multiple visits from Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet; a nice stop if the kids like Winnie the Pooh and company. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time. While we are at the end of Main St. I will mention two of the most popular shows at the Magic Kingdom; the Main Street Electrical Parade and the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade. Both parades are excellent and I highly recommend them for little children, especially if this is their first visit to the Magic Kingdom. However there are a couple of caveats. First, in order for little children to get a good view of each parade you need to stake a claim to a space on Main St. up to two hours ahead of time during the busiest seasons. If you do decide to camp out for a select spot do it near restrooms where one adult can shuttle the kids back and forth while the rest of your party guards your territory and guard it you must. People compete quite fiercely for the best spots. The Dream Come True Parade is in the middle of the afternoon and during summer months can mean making little children sit for up to two hours in full sun in near one hundred degree temperatures. We bypassed this parade during our 2010 trip with our grandchildren. Opting instead to head back to our resort around one or two in the afternoon where we spent the hottest time of the day enjoying the resort pool. If you are at Disney World during periods of such high temperatures I would recommend skipping this parade until a future trip when the kids are a little older. If you and/or the kids have never seen the Main Street Electrical Parade, don’t miss it. It is fantastic! Last year instead of camping for two hours on Main St. like we did in 2008 we spent the time on rides and when it got close to time for the parade we made our way down to Main St. Twenty minutes before the scheduled start of the parade we couldn’t even get onto Main St. so we settled for a spot about twenty people deep around a corner off of Main St. I hoisted my grandson upon my shoulder so he could get a glimpse of the parade and what happened shortly after the parade started will forever be etched in my memory. After a few floats had gone by my grandson leaned over, grabbed my neck and said “Grandpa, this is the best vacation ever.’ I don’t remember what float was going by at that moment but I will never forget my grandson’s remark at that time. That moment in time was worth every penny we spent on this trip.
While you are standing in front of Cinderella’s castle make a note for future reference. There is a baby care and first aid station to the left as you face the castle. It is tucked away just as you pass the Crystal Palace restaurant, on the path towards Adventureland.
Once you have had your fill of gazing at Cinderella’s castle head around the castle to the right and make your way to the new and much improved Fantasyland. The old Fantasyland was nice, but it was small and therefore extremely crowded. When there on our trip with the grandkids in 2010 we noticed that ground had been broken on what is perhaps Disney’s most ambitious revamping and expansion of Fantasyland. Mickey’s Toon Town is gone, as is Pete’s Garage, Goofey’s roller coaster and the little playground where kids could play.
As we go by Cinderella’s castle I will mention Disney’s most expensive of the character dinning experiences – Cinderella’s Royal Table. It is kind of neat having a meal inside of Cinderella’s castle, but a bit pricey. One of the things included in the higher price is that upon entering the castle your little princess will have her picture taken with Cinderella on her throne. The meal is a full service meal while most of the other character dining experiences are buffet style. Cinderella, Aurora, Belle, Snow White, and Jasmine will come to your table and spend a lot of time with your party, sign autographs and pose for all the pictures you want. Even though this dining experience is expensive it is almost always filled to capacity and I recommend making your reservation online long in advance of your trip. My personal recommendation for character dining at the Magic Kingdom is to make this day the day you eat at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary hotel. You can make it a pleasant break in your day at the Magic Kingdom. The Contemporary is only minutes away by the monorail and it is even accessible via a walkway from the magic Kingdom.
Once you arrive at the new and expanded Fantasyland you may have difficulty deciding what to first. Some of the features at the new Fantasyland include Dumbo’s Storybook Circus; a new and much larger Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride; a new train station; a new roller coaster geared for kids and grandpas such as me. Near the train station is the Casey Jr. Splash & Soak Station where kids can have a ball cooling off in refreshing dancing water spouts. The Dumbo ride is one of the most popular of all the rides in Magic Kingdom and in the past there were excruciatingly long wait lines. But now Disney has taken a cue from the restaurant industry and will provide patrons with one of those little electronic devices that will start beeping when it is your turn to board the ride. In the meantime there is now a large entertainment area where little children can be entertained while waiting to board the ride. All of the aforementioned features opened this summer. And are in themselves enough to make me want to schedule our next trip to Disney World. But, even more exciting features are scheduled to open this holiday season!
Scheduled to open this holiday season are several attractions that will make Fantasyland more popular than it has ever been. Scheduled to officially open on December 6, 2012 are: Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid, a ride where you will board a clamshell and take an enchanted journey through Prince Eric’s castle. Also scheduled to open this Dec. 6th is the Be Our Guest Restaurant which is a faithful recreation of the inside of Beast’s castle, where you can dine in one of three dining rooms in Beast’s castle. Based on my past experience with the more popular Disney restaurants, I would recommend that you make reservation for the Be Our Guest Restaurant far in advance o your trip. You can make dinner reservations for Disney dining experiences online or by phone at (407) WDW-DINE. There is also a meet and greet with Belle at Enchanted Tales with Belle. Maurice’s cottage recreates Belle’s father’s workshop. There is also a meet and greet with The Little Mermaid herself in Ariel’s Grotto.
The future has even more in store for the new Fantasyland. 2013 will bring the Princess Fairytale Hall where aspiring princesses can meet actual Disney princesses. 2014 will be the year marked by the opening of Disney’s newest mountain roller coaster – the Seven Dwarfs Mine ride. For up to date information on the new Fantasyland go to http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/parks/magic-kingdom/new-fantasyland/ .
Getting the kids to leave the new Fantasyland may well prove to be impossible, but if you can get them to leave let’s head on over to Frontierland. While on your way to Frontierland you will encounter some of the most favorite rides in Disney World for little Children. The first is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It is immediately on your left as you exit Fantasyland. It is a fun filled, gentle ride geared for little children. On our last trip, my grandson made me take him on the Pooh ride four times in a row while his sister and my wife spent my money in the souvenir shop next door. Around the corner after you leave the Pooh ride is the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. It is nice, but some little children don’t get excited about carrousels. But they will be excited about the next ride you encounter. On your right after you leave the carrousel is probably the most favorite ride in all of Disney World – It’s a Small World. If you have never been to Disney World before be sure not to miss It’s a Small World. But, be forewarned, the theme song of the ride plays over and over during your ride and you will have it stuck in your head for days. After leaving It’s a Small World you will notice Peter Pan’s Flight. It is an o.k. ride but definitely not for little children. Save the Peter Pan ride for a future trip when the kids are older and let’s head on to Frontierland.
Frontierland will have the least appeal to little children. The only attraction in Frontierland that will be of interest to little children is the Country Bear Jamboree (one of my favorites). Frontierland does have two attractions which are extremely popular with older children; they are Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain which are coasters that are extremely popular, but very small children will not be allowed to ride them because there is a 40” height requirement that is strictly enforced. Tom Sawyer Island is o.k. but it is another attraction that can be skipped until some other time. After a short stop in Frontierland head to Adventureland which has much more to interest little children.
In Adventureland you will find the Tiki Room with its infectious music, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, the Jungle Cruise, and Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride as well as the Swiss Family Treehouse. Don’t miss the Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise: little children will love both. The Jungle Cruise can have wait lines up to one hour or more during the busiest times at the Magic Kingdom so you might want to consider using your first Fast Pass of the day at the Jungle Cruise. The Pirates of the Caribbean ride is nice but can be scary to little children, including my grandchildren who will not go on it after their first time, so use your discretion on this one. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride looks as though little children might be afraid of it but it is pretty benign and my grandchildren loved it. The Swiss Family Treehouse is nice but can be skipped if you want to budget your time in order to be sure to see the best attractions during this visit.
After leaving Adventureland you will enter Liberty Square where you will find the Hall of Presidents, the Liberty Square Riverboat and the Haunted Mansion. The Hall of Presidents will be of no interest to little children and the riverboat is another attraction that can be put off until later or another trip. The Haunted Mansion is another of my favorite rides but my grandchildren refused to go in it on both trips. If you do decide to go on the Haunted Mansion ride be aware that after you enter the mansion you will be taken to a boarding area for the ride that can be tricky with little children. You have to board a constantly moving car for the ride. You walk along the car and have to hop on board while the car is still moving. Some years ago during a trip to Disney World that my wife and I took by ourselves we were behind a woman with three children in tow. She tried valiantly to board the car with all three children but was unable to get all three of them in and left a little girl who was maybe three years old standing alone on the platform. We scooped her up and took her with us in the car directly behind her mother and siblings. We yelled to the mother that we had the little girl and would return her at the end of the ride. This proved to be a pleasant experience for both us and the little girl because the little girl had a great time and kept us entertained during the whole ride.
After visiting Liberty Square head over to Tomorrowland which is home to Space Mountain and other rides more suitable for older kids and adults. One attraction in Tomorrowland that the kids love is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. The Monster Inc. Laugh Floor is an interactive comedy club geared towards children of all ages. You and the kids will get a kick out of this show. This is a another Fast Pass show that you might want to put on your Fast Pass list. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a Fast Pass ride in Tomorrowland that is popular but may not be suitable for the littlest children.
I’ll end our visit to the Magic Kingdom with a note about the fireworks show. There is a nightly fireworks show that is great. It is visible from most areas of the park and you don’t have to camp out like you do for the parades. The times of the show vary with the time of the year that you are visiting Disney World. You can check for the show times as you enter the park. Once nice thing about the fireworks show is that it can be seen from anywhere throughout the park and you don’t have to worry about staking a claim to a seat like you do for the Electrical parade. The Magic Kingdom is the most popular of Disney’s theme parks and I am sure it will be the favorite of you and any little children that you take to Disney World. You may even find that you want to spend more than one day of your trip at the Magic Kingdom. After going there for more than Thirty years I am still enthralled with all the Magic Kingdom has to offer.
Next stop – EPCOT.