Since we’re headed to Walt Disney World soon, with two little ones in tow, I thought it would be a good time to review attractions that we can enjoy as a family. If you check out attraction ride requirements that should tell you with some certainty what is acceptable for kids under three, right? Wrong! The fact is, every child is different. While I think it’s awesome to expose your children to as much Disney as they can stand, as early as they can stand it, head to Florida with the understanding that you may have to sit out of attractions you didn’t quite expect to. Emotional scars from Disney vacations are completely avoidable. You will have a much better vacation if you watch for cues that your child is joyful and jubilant or just plain scared.
Here’s part one of my list and includes Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom attractions. Check back next month for Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
At the Magic Kingdom, a green light goes to Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, Carousel of Progress and “it’s a small world.” All four of these attractions are mellow enough, even for our newborn. Keep in mind that while these won’t send your toddler running for an exit, you can’t leave while any of these attractions are in motion, so make potty pit stops before getting in line. We often make things interesting on attractions like the PeopleMover and Carousel of Progress, by playing quiet games of “I Spy” if someone gets a little antsy on these longer attractions. Those are some of the most memorable moments of our vacations.
Proceed with caution to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Mad Tea Party, Magic Carpets of Aladdin, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. With the exception of the last two listed, all these have something in common…they move a lot faster than the attractions in the previous section. It’s important to know what your child can handle. During our daughter’s first trip (on her first birthday) Space Ranger Spin and PhilharMagic left her clinging to us, while peeking from underneath her favorite blanket. On subsequent trips she seemed a bit more willing to enjoy herself on those rides and Mad Tea Party, which she vehemently refused on the first trip. While recommended for preschoolers, she still will not ride Dumbo or Aladdin’s carpets because they “go up in air.” Test the waters with the milder attractions and move up to these when you think your child is ready.
Red light goes to Haunted Mansion and pretty much anything I haven’t mentioned. Use your own judgement, here. Haunted Mansion can be very dark and scary for little ones, even though it is obviously slow enough for them to ride. While we know it’s just comic mischief, it isn’t fun explaining “happy haunts” to a child who wakes up at 2:00 am because they are still afraid that a ghost will be riding home in the car with the family. I didn’t think there was a need to mention Space Mountain here, but I have actually seen a family arguing with a cast member over whether their toddler would be able to ride. No matter how much you disagree, Disney will not let children who are too small ride certain attractions.
There aren’t as many attractions at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as there are at the Magic Kingdom, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. Green lights go to all of the exploration trails, treks, or exhibits (including Kilimanjaro Safaris) that have live animals that your family can view. Be cautious when checking out any of the attractions that allow you touch the animals or see them up close. If you are near a local zoo (you could even visit the county fair), see if meeting new animals appeals to your child before waiting in lines for hands-on encounters at the park. Wildlife Express Train and Finding Nemo – The Musical also gets the green light for preschoolers. Sitting for a few minutes to ride a train or to watch a dazzling musical can do wonders to cheer a child, not to mention give your feet a welcome break from all the pavement pounding.
There is only one attraction at Animal Kingdom that gets a caution flag for preschoolers and that’s “It’s Tough To Be A Bug.” Any show with a larger than life 3-D screen can be scary for children, but add spiders, stink bugs, evil grasshoppers and giant ants can be downright traumatizing.
No red lights here, except those that do not allow small children to ride. Remember that you are on vacation, too. Get a Fast Pass and use Rider Swap so you don’t miss out on Expedition Everest, Dinosaur and Kali River Rapids.
The best Disney vacation is when the entire family heads home having realized their dreams. For parents of children under age three, that dream is a merry, memorable and meltdown free vacation. Keeping in mind your children’s tolerance on attractions will make sure you have the green light to visit again real soon!
Lottie is thrilled to be a mom to two little princesses who may or may not ride Mad Tea Party ever again. Catch up with her on Twitter, @CrunchyDisneyMa to get tips on Disney vacationing and natural parenting. All photos in this post were taken with Lottie’s camera.Share