By Rachel Hoeing

Yesterday I wrote this blog of general tips that worked for my family when we took our trip to Walt Disney World. Today I wanted to focus more on individual theme parks and rides. Truth be told, we did not do any planning in advance as far as a daily schedule. What worked for us, was to all get together the night before we visited each park, and look over the park maps and discuss which rides we really wanted to hit and which ones were OK to skip if we ran out of time.

A friend of mine gave us a list of rides that she thought we should be sure not to miss, so we used her recommendations along with a few tips in the PassPorter’s Walt Disney World Book. It was nice because we weren’t stressed out about following a schedule, but we also had a general idea of what rides we wanted to hit. I hope that this list below can help you to do the same. If you are more of a planner and want a schedule while vacationing, check out our Disney category here in our Travel section for info on working with a Disney Planner!

I recommend trying to have one “chief” and everyone else needs to just follow along. Too many chiefs cause arguments about where to go next, whether or not we should get a fast past, etc. Just let one person lead and trust it will all work out in the end! There is no need to be grumpy at Disney!

Also take note on your park map as to which rides have a Fast Pass. I explained this in my “Tips for Disney – Part 1”  blog, so be sure to utilize this! Send one person to get Fast Passes while others head to the next ride.

Also, while walking around the parks or waiting in lines, always keep an eye out for Hidden Mickeys.

Magic Kingdom

Our family says don’t miss:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – great rollercoaster for young and old
Buzz Lightyear – kind of like a real-life video game
The Haunted Mansion – not scary, just fun!
Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor – show where someone in your family might get to be on camera!
Pirates of the Caribbean – my personal all-time favorite
Space Mountain – has been closed off and on, but hopefully will be open when you go
Splash Mountain – my littlest cried on this, so if someone doesn’t like big drops, skip it!
Barnstormer at Goofy’s Farm – mild rollercoaster

The rides that you just have to do, simply because they are a Disney Classic:
Dumbo – great for even the tiniest of guests
It’s A Small World – Nana’s favorite!
Mad Tea Party – skip if you get motion sickness!
Peter Pan’s Flight – you can fly, you can fly, you can fly …
Snow White’s Scary Adventures – depends on your child, but neither one of mine were scared. This was actually my daughter’s favorite (age 4).
Swiss Family Tree House – lots of stairs
Tomorrowland Transit Authority – never any line and an easy relaxing way to look at Tomorrowland
Tom Sawyer’s Island – nice change of pace from all the excitement. Take the time to explore the caves and bridges!
The parades – both here in the Magic Kingdom are terrific!

The Jungle Cruise is one that depends on your “tour guide.” If they have a great sense of humor, this ride is so much fun, but if you get a boring guide, not so much. Also, if you have tiny ones, there is much more to do that they would like such as Mickey’s Toontown Fair and Winnie the Pooh’s ride. One more highlight – look for the talking trash can in Tomorrowland. Hilarious! Oh, and get a Dole Fruit Shake as you head to Frontierland. Delicious!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Our family says don’t miss:
Festival of the Lion King – incredible live show where someone in your family might be picked to participate. I think this was everyone’s favorite show of the entire week!
Expedition Everest – this was my husband and son’s (age 6) favorite ride. I decided to give it a whirl and was honestly nauseous and light-headed for about 20 minutes afterward. So, if you get motion sick – don’t do it!
Finding Nemo – The Musical – another fabulous live show
It’s Tough to be a Bug – really cute show with a couple surprises!
Kilimanjaro Safaris – up close look at animals

Other comments on Animal Kingdom:
There is a section called Dinoland USA which has some really cute rides and interactive exhibits for the kids. Primeval Whirl was a fun roller coaster type ride in this section.
Flights of Wonder was closed while we were here, so if you have comments on that, please add!
Kali River Rapids looked like a lot of fun, but we did not bring a change of clothes and opted to skip this wet ride.
Camp Minnie-Mickey is a great place to get character photos and autographs if the lines are not long.
Animal Kingdom is also the shadiest of all the theme parks, so if you are expecting an overly hot day, you can get some relief under the trees.


Our Family Says Don’t miss:
Turtle Talk with Crush – hilarious!
Test Track – this was SO much fun and all seven of us loved it.
Soarin’ – this seems to be a favorite of many, so be sure to hit this first or get a fast pass!
Maelstrom – this is a boat ride inside the World Showcase building of Norway. Many people do not know it is here. We rode it at least three times in a row and the kids thought it was great.
Spaceship Earth – kids may be bored at first since it is educational BUT, there is a cool interactive part at the end that they will love. Be sure to smile for the picture when you first get on the ride!
Illuminations Light Show in the evenings

Other tips:
We loved our Princess breakfast in Norway. I talked more about this in my other blog. Great food, too!
The World Showcase with all of the countries is great for adults, but kids may get bored. This is something great to save for evenings when kids are pooped and can just hang in the stroller.
There is also a cute boat ride in the Mexico building.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Our family says don’t miss:
Beauty and the Beast – Fabulous live show
Rock N’ Roller Coaster – the thrill ride lovers in our group thought this was incredible, but beware that is takes off EXTREMELY fast and may scare young ones.
Toy Story Midway Mania – hands down, favorite ride in Hollywood Studios from our whole group.
Tower of Terror – another thrill seeker favorite, which of course means I sat this one out!
Indiana Jones Epic Stunt show – audience participation in this one

Other tips:
Hollywood Studios was our biggest challenge for a few reasons. None of us had been there before, so we weren’t quite sure about the layout and what were the best rides and shows. Secondly, many of the attractions are shows and films, which start at specific times. We would get to a show just in time to find out it had already started. My advice is to take a minute to look over show times right when you arrive and plan your day around the ones you do not want to miss. You can hit the rides in between shows and be sure to use your fast pass for Toy Story, Tower of Terror, and Rock N- Coller Coaster. Those three are always crowded and always have a line, but if you plan accordingly with a fast pass, you should be good to go!

I am sure I have forgotten something, so add your comments below! Anything not mentioned above, we think it would be OK to skip if you have to, but of course if you’ve got the time, hit them all! Since our trip was almost three years ago, I know more attractions have been added, so comment below if you have thoughts on those.

Have a MAGICAL vacation!