Planning A Walt Disney World Trip with the little ones in mind
Infants pick up on sounds and sights, but are probably just as fascinated by your local shopping mall as they are by the highly themed environments at the Magic Kingdom. Thus, do not feel compelled to visit the Magic Kingdom just for the sake of your infant—they may not even particularly enjoy it. That said, the Magic Kingdom has many rides that can be enjoyed with an infant in your arms, which cannot be said for all the other parks. If visiting attractions together as a family is a priority for you, rather than splitting up to hit the thrill rides, then the Magic Kingdom for infants may be the right place to go.
When booking your Walt Disney World vacation packages and you have small children we suggest booking Disney World hotels instead of vacation home rentals. These hotels offer free shuttle service every thirty minutes to all the Disney parks and this is a huge benefit so you can take your child back to the room for their afternoon nap.
Every restroom in the Magic Kingdom is equipped with a changing table in the form of dedicated counter space with some raised edges to prevent roll off. There are sometimes paper towels provided as well, but not diapers or baby wipes. Diaper disposal is done directly into the regular trash cans, which are changed often. Without fail, the changing tables in women’s restrooms are more in demand than in the men’s, so if it’s possible, you may want to arrange to change diapers in the men’s room.
The child care center is a godsend for parents with infants. At the Magic Kingdom, it’s located at the end of Main Street, just to the side of the Crystal Palace. Here is a room with rockers, into which only nursing mothers may go. Also in the center is a space set aside for changing tables, a play area for older siblings (it includes a TV playing Disney movies), bathrooms and training potties, and a shop selling baby products like diapers, wipes, creams, and clothing. Just about everything you could possibly need is sold here.
In addition to the baby center, mothers may nurse anywhere in the park. No one will ask nursing mothers to stop or move. Many mothers choose a bench and simply use a blanket to cover up while nursing (not all use a blanket, but not doing so will draw additional attention). Because outdoor Florida is too hot in summer and sometimes too cold in winter, many mothers choose to find a spot in climate-controlled indoors. Good spots in the Magic Kingdom restaurants (especially Pecos Bill’s or Pinocchio Village Haus) or even dark theater attractions like Mickey’s Philharmagic or Carousel of Progress .
Younger infants who cannot sit up need to be kept in car seats all day, so the assumption is that such children traveled to Orlando with those seats and a personal stroller. Older infants who can sit up may also have their own strollers along for the trip. If not, strollers can be rented near the Main Entrance, including double strollers to hold two children. These are hard plastic, highly durable pieces of equipment, so comfort is not the first concern. Stroller theft is almost unheard of. Sometimes rented strollers are taken by accident, so don’t leave valuables behind. If that happens, replacing the rental is easily accomplished, so keep the receipt.
A good many parents bring or rent strollers for children who can walk, planning to let the child use the stroller only later in the day when he or she becomes tired. Also, a stroller becomes a useful cart for holding personal items like purchases, jackets, or bags.
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Since infants don’t particularly care about their surroundings (it’s all new to them), this list will focus on rides that you can ride with your infant in your arms (or in a snugli), presented in subjective order of importance, starting with rides infants seem to like the best.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority – an open-air ride through Tomorrowland’s second floor. Never a wait.
- Cinderella’s Golden Carousel – a standard carousel.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – a favorite for many, with a drop in the dark that is more likely to scare adults than young infants. The catchy song here will make everyone hum for hours.
- Haunted Mansion – immersive and memorable. Contains some of the best special effects in the park. Toddlers may be scared, but infants usually are not. There are some dark spots.
- It’s a Small World – a ride full of dolls of children, geared for children. Adults may cringe at the repetitive song, but kids love it.
- Walt Disney World Railroad – everyone loves a real train, operating under steam power. May be used to transit from one side of the park to the other.
- Main Street Vehicles – streetcars and other vehicles, like an omnibus, that only travel up and down Main Street.
- Buzz Lightyear – a dark ride merged with a shooting gallery.
- Winnie the Pooh – a successful and cute dark ride with special car motion
- Peter Pan’s Flight – a dark ride where the vehicles dangle from the ceiling. Be sure to use FASTPASS and avoid the long line.
- Snow White’s Adventures – a dark ride with modest success.
- Mad Tea Party – spinning teacups, at your own pace.
- Jungle Cruise – the corny jokes on this boat ride may or may not be appreciated, but there is lush foliage and animatronic animals to look at.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – a big sternwheel riverboat, with little action but great scenery and atmosphere.
- Swiss Family Treehouse – a walkthrough of an oversized treehouse, based on the Swiss Family Robinson. Tons of stairs, however.
- Fantasyland Play Area or Donald’s Boat these two play zones include ground-level jumping fountains and very small slides. Sometimes overrun with energetic toddlers.
- Country Bear Jamboree – a musical show with robotic performers.
- Enchanted Tiki Room – robotic bird performers sing, but the show suffers from attempts to be modern and hip. Infants, however, won’t mind and will like the colors and action.
- Mickey’s Philharmagic – an enthralling 3-D animated film recapping great moments and songs in Disney movies.
- Dumbo – this spinner is a favorite, but always has long lines.
- Aladdin’s Flying Carpets – another spinner, but with much shorter lines than Dumbo.
- Astro-Orbiter – another spinner ride, and this one placed intriguingly high in the Tomorrowland sky. But the line takes forever and barely moves, so ultimately the extra view is not worth the wait.
At the other end of the spectrum are the rides you shouldn’t bother with. This list is also subjective, and refers to attractions that you may wish to skip because infants chafe at the lack of action or the darkened environment, and may become noisy:
- Hall of Presidents – stage show of robotic versions of the U.S. presidents.
- Carousel of Progress – a musical show with robotic performers, it’s historically significant as a show Walt himself supervised, but too slow and talky for some infants.
- Tom Sawyer Island – here you’ll find caves to explore, a rope bridge, a barrel bridge, and a wooden log fort of massive proportions. Older kids love it, but there’s nothing here for infants and little for adults.
Then, there are rides that you will either have to skip, or ride without your infant.
- Space Mountain – roller coaster with a height requirement
- lSplash Mountain – log ride with a height requirement
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – roller coaster with a height requirement
- Tomorrowland Indy Speedway – older kids can drive their own cars, but infants are not allowed.
- Stitch’s Great Escape – a scary show in the dark with a height requirement.
- Barnstormer – a kid-sized roller coaster; height requirement of 35 inches.
It comes as no surprise that the rides to get busy the fastest in the morning are the roller coasters. Visit those either first or last, or use FASTPASS for them (see below). The Fantasyland dark rides get surprisingly busy even by mid-morning, especially Peter Pan’s Flight and Dumbo.
The rides will minimal wait times all day long include Tomorrowland Transit Authority, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Mickey’s Philharmagic, and Country Bear Jamboree. Slightly longer waits are typical at It’s a Small World and Jungle Cruise.
Be sure that you prioritize your choices. Many families ride only 10-12 attractions per day, so plan to spend a second day or to knowingly skip many.
There are two entertainment experiences many folks will not want to miss at the Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, both take place after dark, meaning that most infants will be asleep in their strollers. The Wishes fireworks show is impressively set to music, and is a real joy to behold. Views are best from Main Street or the lands surrounding the castle, but don’t be behind the castle. One caution: the fireworks are loud and may scare children unused to high-decibel sounds. Just as often, however, infants sleep right through the fireworks.
Taking place just before the fireworks (though sometimes after it for a second show, on busy days) is SpectroMagic, a nighttime parade where the floats are illuminated by colored lights. The parade route runs from Frontierland to Liberty Square, out to the castle, and down Main Street. Decent spots can often be found, even without much wait time, in Frontierland. Naturally, if there is a second show, visitors are much more sparse and good seats abound. Note that in non-peak seasons, SpectroMagic only runs on selected days of the week.
There are other entertainment options, most visibly a daytime parade and a show at the forecourt of Cinderella Castle. Both are perhaps best classified as “harmless.” Infants will almost certainly not care, so this becomes a decision for the adults.
If you’re looking for fast food (hot dogs, burgers, pizza), there are several choices with many service counters: Casey’s Corner in Main Street, Pinocchio’s Village Haus in Fantasyland, Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland, and Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland. At these and the table-service locations (Tony’s or Plaza Restaurant), there are highchairs available simply for the asking. None of the restaurants sell baby food; you’ll have to purchase this at the baby center.
Many visitors seek to combine dining with meeting characters and taking adorable vacation photographs. Particularly renowned among the Character Dining is Cinderella’s Royal Table, a restaurant deep inside Cinderella Castle. Reservations are a must, and won’t be available unless you make them on the very day they open up, on a rolling 180-day schedule (simply call 407-WDW-DINE). The other Character Dining location is called the Crystal Palace, and while it also takes reservations, those don’t sell out quite so quickly.
In addition to the Character Dining mentioned above, you can find costumed characters that simply walk around (check with a Cast Member to locate the schedule for any particular character). Additionally, there are some structured character meeting areas:
- Meet Mickey – after touring Mickey’s house, parts of which are interactive, you can meet with him directly in the “Judge’s Tent.”
- Ariel’s Grotto – near Dumbo is a play area with fountains, and a secluded spot to meet Ariel.
- Toontown Hall of Fame – the central tent in Mickey’s Toontown Fair is part store, part character location (with a rotating crew of characters to meet)
- Storytime with Belle – in a secluded alcove between the castle and Tomorrowland, you can get almost personalized attention.
At all the character interactions, as well as key photogenic locations, you may run across park workers offering to take your picture and “put it on a card.” This is a free service and ideal for vacationers. On your first such encounter, you’ll get a card. On all future encounters, hand over the card and they’ll swipe it, making sure that whatever photos are taken get added to your account. When you return home after your vacation, you can view the pictures online, and order prints of any that you desire, with no pressure whatsoever.
Here are a few experiences that don’t draw nearly as many crowds, but may be of paramount importance to your particular infant (pick and choose as your preferences dictate):
Splash Mountain play area – near the exit to Splash Mountain, this small themed area is better geared for crawling infants than for toddlers. It’s a great area to wait for someone on the ride.