4 Disney World “Musts” for Kids
A few weeks before Christmas, Ted and I packed the kids into our mini-van and headed down to Orlando. Our destination? Yep, that would be Walt Disney World. After a year of talk and months of planning, we were finally on our way!
During our ten days there, we did a ton. Not too mention, learned a lot. But stories are for later. For now, I offer you what I consider four Walt Disney World “must-do’s” for families with elementary-aged kids.
#1. Enchanted Tales with Belle at the Magic Kingdom
When the new Fantsyland was added to the Magic Kingdom in 2012, with it came Enchanted Tales with Belle. In my opinion, Disney has outdone themselves with this one. It’s not to be missed. This attraction provides an intimate venue for children and parents to engage with one of their classic tales. From Maurice’s cottage, visitors are transported through a magic mirror into the Beast’s castle. There, they are invited to play roles in a story told with Belle. On this visit, our four girls were cast as the Beast, Phillipe, Mrs. Potts, and Chip. Just get in line for it early — it’s popular. Afterward, be sure to eat lunch at the Be Our Guest Restaurant. During the day, it’s causal dining. And don’t let a long line for the restaurant deter you, it moves fast and is worth the wait.
#2. Wilderness Explorers Program at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Honestly, I never fully appreciated Disney’s Animal Kingdom until this trip. And I had been there several times over the years. What happened? Well, it’s all because the girls set out to become Wilderness Explorers there. You know, like Russell in Up. Participants are given a Wilderness Explorers Handbook and are able to earn 30 badges (a.k.a. stickers) throughout the park at a variety of stations. This activity (which we did over a two-day period) helped us slow down and ease our way through the park, taking us places we had overlooked in the past as we raced from ride to ride or show to show. One of our favorites was the bat badge. Even though it is time-consuming, this is an activity that’s at the top of my list for the next time we go. I’m not sure who enjoyed it more — the kids or me!
#3. Jedi Training at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
If your kids are anything like mine, they love Star Wars. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, kids ages 4-12 can sign up for the Jedi Training Academy. They’ll learn how to operate a lightsaber as they train to be a padawan — and, they’ll even get to battle against Darth Vadar. This was the second time our kids participated. They had a blast … although, our five-year-old was a bit scared of Darth Vadar — not that you can tell that from the picture below! This is another attraction that you have to head to early, but it’s worth it. Like Enchanted Tales with Belle, the Jedi Training Academy makes Walt Disney World feel a bit smaller and more personal.
#4. World Showcase Passport at Epcot
As a homeschool mom, I’m constantly on the lookout for opportunities to reinforce what we’ve learned in our daily studies — whether it’s with films, museums, theatrical plays, or historic sites. Epcot’s World Showcase fit into our World History lessons perfectly! Many of the countries there — such as Norway, China, Japan, Germany, Italy, France, and England — are ones we’ve covered in the last year or two. While I realize that these areas are just “snapshots” of culturally rich and diverse nations, they are a great way to give kids an overview of these countries. To help us make the most of our time there, we bought a World Showcase Passport to share as a family. It’s available at stores throughout the World Showcase. At the Kidcot Fun Stops in each country, we met one or two individuals from that homeland, had them write a special note in our passport in their native tongue, and got the passport stamped. This was another activity, like the Wilderness Explorers Program, that helped us slow down. We also loved the Kidcot Fun Stop activities! We did this along with the passport.
These four “must-do’s” are just a few of the fun attractions, shows, and experiences we had on our trip to Walt Disney World. So why did I choose to highlight them in particular? Because each one encouraged us to slow down and really enjoy the parks together. As a family. They also made our experience that much more personal. And, for those two reasons, when we do venture back in a few years, these are four things I can’t wait to experience again.