Magic Kingdom for Preteens
Children that are older than toddlers but younger than teenagers are pretty much the exact target audience of the Disney theme park in general, and perhaps the Magic Kingdom in particular. This is an age when children are tall enough to ride ALL the rides (or will be soon), so there is usually nothing off-limits to them in the park. And yet they are young enough that they still qualify as Disney’s target audience, and are still excited by the Disney product (this may be the last age where that is still true).
Disney World Rides for Preteens
Your preschoolers or school-age child may be interested in shows but cares primarily about Magic Kingdom attraction rides. Here are the rides they shouldn’t miss, arranged in order of importance.
- Space Mountain – roller coaster in the dark with a height requirement of 44”
- Splash Mountain – log ride with a height requirement of 40”
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – an outdoor roller coaster with a height requirement of 40”
- Haunted Mansion – immersive and memorable. Contains some of the best special effects in the park. Not generally scary for children older than preschool.
- Pirates of the Caribbean – a favorite for many, with a drop in the dark that is more likely to scare adults than children. The catchy song here will make everyone hum for hours.
- Tom Sawyer Island – there are bridges to cross, caves to explore, and trails to run down; ideal for pre-schoolers through middle-school kids.
- Mickey’s Philharmagic – an enthralling 3-D animated film recapping great moments and songs in Disney movies.
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – a dark ride merged with a shooting gallery.
- Peter Pan’s Flight – a dark ride where the vehicles dangle from the ceiling. Be sure to use FASTPASS and avoid the long line.
- It’s a Small World – a ride full of dolls of children, geared for young children. Adults may cringe at the repetitive song, but young kids love it.
- Tomorrowland Speedway – older kids (52” or taller) can drive their own cars on this miniature freeway, with cars on a guide rail.
- Swiss Family Treehouse – a walkthrough of an oversized treehouse, based on the Swiss Family Robinson. Tons of stairs.
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority – an open-air ride through Tomorrowland’s second floor. Never a wait.
- 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.
- 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 for adults. Preteens, however, often find it worth their time.
- Barnstormer – a kid-sized roller coaster; height requirement of 35 inches
- Mad Tea Party – spinning teacups, at your own pace.
- 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.
- Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – a successful and cute dark ride with special car motion.
- Country Bear Jamboree – a musical show with robotic performers.
- Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management – robotic bird performers sing, but the show suffers from attempts to be modern and hip.
- Main Street Vehicles – streetcars and other vehicles, like an omnibus, that only travel up and down Main Street.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – a big sternwheel riverboat, with little action but great scenery and atmosphere.
- Hall of Presidents – stage show of robotic versions of the U.S. presidents. Not enough action for some kids.
- 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 children.
Rides Most Preteens Do Not Enjoy
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 if your preteen is older and cannot stand “baby” rides:
- Cinderella’s Golden Carousel – a standard carrousel
- Fantasyland Play Area or Donald’s Boat – these two play zones include ground-level jumping fountains and very small slides.
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant – this spinner is a favorite, but always has long lines.
- Magic Carpets of Aladdin – another spinner, but with much shorter lines than Dumbo.
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.
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. 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.
Here is an article that goes more in-depth about the Magic Kingdom character meet and greet .
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 preteen (pick and choose as your preferences dictate): Main Street Exhibition Hall – tucked behind a camera shop on Main Street’s Town Square is a large theater showing old Disney movies with comfortable seating and air conditioning, and never more than one or two people in it. Interactive Fountains – at Pooh’s Playground are low-level fountains ideal for toddlers, while the squirting jets in Adventureland attract older kids. Tomorrowland Arcade – video games in a theme park may not be an adult’s vision of paradise, but for some preteens, it is.
If you are planning a Disney World vacation and you have teenagers or pre-teens we suggest booking one of our Disney vacation pool homes. These homes get you a lot more space and multiple bathrooms which comes in handy in the morning. In addition, all of our vacation homes near Disney have their own private pools which is always a huge hit.