We’re just coming off of our third trip to Disney World in two years. When we went the first time, Ladybug was just over a year old. D had just graduated from law school. As a present to ourselves for making it through school, we saved up for three years in order to go. Aside from planning where to stay, when to go, and how to get there, we did very minimal planning. We had a great time.
Six months later, we went again… this time it was an impulsive, spontaneous trip to celebrate D’s new job and the fact that we made it through almost a year of unemployment without blowing all of our savings. Again, we did very little planning- only buying tickets and finding a place to stay. We also had a great time.
This time, I spent the two months leading up to our trip planning as much as I could so we could get the most of our vacation. We were able to pack in way more than we did the first two times we went and even had time to go back to the hotel to cool off during the middle of the day. True, we still weren’t able to do everything we wanted to do but I’m amazed at how much we accomplished with a baby and a preschooler in tow.
Although we still would not consider ourselves experts in Disney World knowledge, we’ve been enough times now to have built up a list of our favorite things to do while we’re there.
10. Ride the Walt Disney World Railroad all the way around the park
This is a must-do multiple times for us. Ladybug loves trains and it is one of the things she talks about most now that we’re home. Riding the train is a great way to see the park. We also use it as a rest option. When the kids are tired, we hop on the train and let them relax as we ride once, or even twice, around the park. It’s great because we can stay on as long as we want so, really, if one of the kids is napping, there’s no need to get off and risk waking them up just to wait in line again. We just keep riding until the kid wakes up.
9. Trying new foods at the World Showcase
This is one of my favorite things to do. I love the variety of restaurants and food stands. I could spend every meal of our trip there and not get tired of it. On this last trip, we had Moroccan food for lunch and it was amazing! I can’t wait to go back just for the food.
8. Listen to Mariachi Cobre
We stumbled on this fun mariachi band in the Mexican pavilion of the World Showcase on our first trip to Disney World and we’ve had to listen to them during our Epcot day every time since. Neither D or I are into mariachi bands but this one is so good that we make an exception for them. Buddy loves music and was really engaged during the whole performance- smiling and gasping with excitement and winning a lot of attention from the band members. After the performance, many of the band members came up to us and told us how impressed they were at how engaged he was. It is one of our favorite memories of this trip. Mariachi Cobre has some big time fans in this family.
7. Casey Jr. Splash n’ Soak
Ladybug hasn’t been a fan of splash pads until this summer so I was a little surprised that she had so much fun. It was one of her favorite things this trip. Any time she needed a cool down, we’d head over there and let her run around for awhile and get her wiggles out. Then, we’d hop on the train at the Fantasyland station and ride the train around the park for a break.
6. Swim at the resort pool
The first time we went to Disney World, I thought it was all about the theme parks. The more time we go, I realize more and more that there are so many fun things to do around the resorts. One of our favorite things to do is to kick back and relax at the pool. The last two trips, we’ve stayed at Shades of Green, the military sponsored resort. Ladybug loves the Mickey-shaped pool. It’s especially great because there is a splash pool, specifically for kids under 10. We can spend hours swimming and lounging around poolside.
5. The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Ladybug loves Nemo. She’s actually only seen the movie a handful of times in her lifetime but she has a Nemo that we bought for her the first time we came to Disney World and he’s become her comfort item. She sleeps with him every night and he goes everywhere with us. So this ride is a must-do every time we come just so she can “say hi to Nemo.” The really great thing about this ride is the aquarium at the end. We have to schedule at least an hour and a half just for the aquarium. It’s really cool seeing all the sea life up close.
4. Kilimanjaro Safaris
This is a ride we have to go on every time we go to Disney World. It’s so fun seeing the different variety of animals and the guides are delightful.
3. Splash Mountain
This is not actually a family favorite- it’s my number one favorite ride at Disney World. Every time we go, I have to ride it multiple times. D doesn’t like getting wet so he has no desire to ride it and our kids are two little so I ride solo. But you know what? I have no problem riding by myself. In fact, being a young mom with hardly any time to herself, it’s actually a great way for me to get a break.
Usually after lunch or dinner when the kids need a rest, I leave them with D and get in line. I’ve only ever had a fast pass once for this attraction because I really don’t mind waiting. I talk to the people around me sometimes or I just wait quietly, basking in the ability to be left with my own thoughts. Then, when the ride is over, I’m ready to head back for some more fun with my family.
2. Main Street Electrical Parade
We originally planned to watch this parade for only one of the two nights we spent at Magic Kingdom but Ladybug loved it so much the first night that she kept asking to watch it again. She loved seeing all the characters come by and waved to every single one, squealing in her high-pitched excited voice, “Look! There’s Tinker Bell! Look! There’s Mickey and Minnie! Look! There’s Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother!” And I loved watching her get so excited. This is definitely one we have to see every time we go.
(Update: As of October 2016, The Main Street Electrical Parade is no longer running at Walt Disney World.)
1. Meeting characters
A couple months before our trip, I talked with Ladybug about Disney World and she asked what we would do there. I explained that we would ride some rides, watch parades and fireworks and see some characters. She excitedly asked if we could meet some princesses. So the priority for this trip was to meet as many characters as possible. We spent the weeks leading up to our trip deciding which ones we wanted to meet (but really, she told me who we were going to meet). We scheduled when we would meet each one, talked about what to say to them and drew pictures to give to them.
While meeting the characters, she was so starstruck she didn’t smile but I could tell she was so excited and couldn’t wait to meet someone else. Even though we’ve been home for two weeks, she still talks about wanting to go back and meeting them again.
There you have it- our top 10 favorite things to do at Walt Disney World. Each time we go, it seems like we add to our list as our family changes. I’m excited for our next trip to see what new things make it on our list.
What’s your favorite thing to do at Disney World?
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