With the Disney Social Media Moms Conference fast approaching, lots of my friends will soon be en route to my second home: Walt Disney World! With them in mind, I thought I’d put my expertise to good use, and post a few Disney-centered lists.
This particular post was inspired by my friend, Stephanie, who–together with her husband–will be taking their two little girls to Disney World for the very first time. She asked me what I recommend that they absolutely MUST SEE during their visit. It’s not an easy task–narrowing all those possibilities down to measly list of ten–so I kind of cheated a little: I made two lists. Tomorrow, I’ll publish my list of top 10 free must sees. Today’s list, though, represents what are, in my opinion, Disney’s best and brightest offerings, without regard to cost. I tried to include a little bit of everything because, as any Disney enthusiast will tell you, the magic lives in the details. If this installment were being rated by the Motion Picture Association, it would fall under the “G” rating for general audiences. It’s tough to do an all-encompassing must see list without knowing the specifics of your traveling party, so this one is geared towards guests ranging in age from 1-101.
While I couldn’t include these in my top 10, the following should definitely be experienced, if time allows: The American Adventure (World Showcase – Epcot), The Kitchen Sink ice cream sundae (Beaches ‘n’ Cream – Disney’s Beach Club Resort), surrey bike rental (various resorts).
10. Pirates of the Caribbean
One’s Disney trip is simply not complete without a rousing rendition of Yo Ho! with everyone’s favorite swashbuckling pirates. ‘Nuff said.
9. The Pirates League – Magic Kingdom
Speaking of pirates, the Pirate League is the more economical counterpart to Disney’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Open to boys and girls alike, it’s where buccaneers-to-be go for a makeover unlike any other. Jayce visited the Pirates League in October and we found it to be an excellent value. To compliment his “new look” he was given a bag full of pirate treasure, a sword, certificate, rotten removable teeth and bandanna. If you’re looking for an economical way to give your child a unique experience, this is it!
8. Mickey’s PhilHarmagic
I know this one wouldn’t make a lot of people’s lists, but it’s a big hit with my bunch. It’s a 4-D show in Fantasyland that takes viewers on a musical journey through Disney’s most beloved films. The experience goes beyond 3-D, by also engaging the viewer’s senses of smell and touch. And for that reason, it’s an attraction we must see during every visit.
7. Fort Wilderness
We stayed at Fort Wilderness a couple of years ago and fell instantly in love with the rustic charm it offers. There are a plethora of activities in and around Fort Wilderness, including: inexpensive pony rides, beach volleyball, bike and boat rentals, carriage rides, fishing, nature trails, and even a nightly sing-a-long/campfire with Chip and Dale. For guests looking to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks, Fort Wilderness is just what the doctor ordered.
Like I said, any true Disney enthusiast will tell you that the magic lives in the details. Rushing through the parks will cause you to miss out on some of the best parts! There are wandering street performers in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. Each of their acts are fun and unique and add such an authentic feel to the theme of each park. While Epcot, too, has great performers, they’re less spontaneous, but equally memorable. Also, take a time-out to enjoy an ice cream cone or box of popcorn while you wander the park. There are thematic details and little surprises just waiting to be uncovered!
5. Pin Trading
Pin trading is a favorite park activity for my kids. They wear their lanyards into the park each day and by the time we’re ready to head out in the evening, they’ve traded for a whole different set of pins that the ones they started with. While you do have to buy pins for trading, the actual act of trading is completely free. Not only does it give kids an opportunity to collect a set of memorable souvenirs, so too does it allow them to interact with the Cast Members, who often have interesting tips to share.
4. Epcot’s World Showcase
Strolling along the World Showcase promenade is one of my absolute favorite parts of a Walt Disney World vacation. We love to peruse deep into each country’s pavilion, exploring the sights. The serene settings, together with the music and native Cast Members and specialty shops lend to the illusion that you’re actually experiencing a foreign country–all without even requiring a passport! We like to taste our way around the world, stopping in each pavilion for a regional snack.
3. Toy Story Midway Mania
This relatively new attraction is a MUST SEE. It’s unlike any theme park attraction I’ve ever seen before in that it’s totally interactive. Disney’s Imagineers completely outdid themselves when they brought this experience to life; it leaves guests of all ages laughing, and wanting to try it again as soon as possible!
2. Hoop Dee Doo
This long-running dinner show takes place in Pioneer Hall at Fort Wilderness. Not only does it include an all-you-care-to-eat menu, but so, too does it feature the hilarious antics of the Pioneer Hall players. The show is chock full of audience participation so don’t be surprised if you find yourself on stage should you decide to visit. Disney has been performing this dinner show so long that they’ve perfected the pace of the meal; you won’t feel rushed at all. The show and the meal are totally family-friendly. We took Jayce when he was two and he had no trouble at all sitting through the entire show.
1. Extra Magic Hours (AM ONLY!)
One thing I know for sure is that the easiest way to experience the most attractions in the shortest amount of time is to be at the gate thirty or so minutes before the park opens. The thickest crowds start filing in around ten or eleven in the morning, but if you play your cards right, you could easily be 2/3 of the way through your day by that time. To gain even greater advantage? Make good use of those Extra Magic Hours for resort guests, which will afford you a full hour of play time before the park opens to the general public. I won’t fib and tell you that we’ve never slept in on our vacation, but what I will say is that our most stress-free park days have started long before our sleepyhead counterparts even consider rolling out of bed.
Click here to see my list of Top 10 *Free* Must Sees!
Tell me: have you been to Walt Disney World? What would your Top 10 look like?