Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Post: Little Ones Enjoy the Little Things at Walt Disney World

I often get questions from clients wanting to know about which rides to ride for their young children. They are often concerned there won’t be enough to do for their little ones. They always want to know how many days they will need to spend when traveling to Disney World. It’s difficult to fathom how much there is to do while at the parks and looking at a park map alone can be a bit deceiving if you’ve never visited.

I was thinking about some of my family’s previous trips to Disney World and some of the highlights that my son has enjoyed over the years. Sure, he loves Test Track, Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain and plenty of other rides but here are some of his absolute park favorites that may come as a surprise.

Playgrounds: I used to get frustrated when I would have to literally drag him out of the play areas in the parks. Darn you, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, The Boneyard in Dinoland USA, and the former Ariel’s Grotto and Pooh’s Playful Spot! (Note: there will be a new play area in the new Fantasyland expansion and there is now the fun interactive queue at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.) Doesn’t my child understand we came to ride RIDES and not run around on playgrounds? Doesn’t he understand we could do that at home in Atlanta for free? It wasn’t until I stopped and allowed myself to see them through his eyes that I understood why he loves them so much. They aren’t your typical playgrounds. They are amazingly themed areas featuring cool slides, tunnels, water features, and more. While at the parks, kids are usually standing in line or are sitting on a ride so I’ve decided if he wants to go burn off some steam and run around like an absolute lunatic, it’s his vacation too so let him go for it.

Water: What do the spray ground and jumping fountains at Epcot, the squirting Tikis at Magic Kingdom, and the splash pad at Polynesian Resort all have in common? They are all areas my son has decided to spend unexpected hours running around fully clothed while on vacation. Sure he has gotten absolutely soaked but seeing the pure joy on his face having the time of his life has been priceless. I say let your kids have fun and get wet! If you’re staying on property, take time to enjoy the wonderful pool and water slides at the resorts. I’m pretty sure we spent just as much time at the pool at Wilderness Lodge as we did at the parks this past June because he‘s really into water slides at this time in his life. While my son went down the water slide for the 150th time, I was able to relax and sit on my patio while my little one took naps. A win win for all. I also enjoyed going down the slide quite a few times which my son thought was so cool. I know all too soon he more than likely won’t want mom in a bathing suit riding water slides with him so why not enjoy spending the quality time with him doing what he loves while I can (and besides that, they‘re fun)!

Tom Sawyer Island: May not sound very appealing to adults but I think most kids will find this island located in Magic Kingdom to be pure heaven. My guy loves to run around, going over the bridges, running through the tunnels, “shooting” at folks in the fort, etc. I think this attraction is often overlooked by parents and should be a do not miss for young children who enjoy adventure and what child doesn‘t have an imagination and enjoy some adventure?

Music: There are some different areas, particularly in Epcot where instruments can be found. My son will make a bee line for the drums every time.

Meet and Greets: I have mentioned this before but on our family’s first trip this is literally all my son wanted to do. Seriously. I waited in line after line getting autograph after autograph. I sure wish there had been a Fastpass option for Toontown Fair like there is at Town Hall now. There were times it wasn’t all that fun to be honest while standing in 100 degree humidity outdoors in September but seeing the pure joy on my son’s face when he got to hug and interact with the characters was worth every drop of sweat to me. He still talks about when Tigger took his blankie and covered his eyes with it and walked around pretending he couldn’t see. That was 4 years ago when he was 3.

Sometimes it really pays to just stop and enjoy the little things the parks have to offer. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Allow yourself more time when possible and don’t just rush by everything between ride A and ride B. You may find opportunities you didn’t expect that will make priceless memories for you and your children and to me that’s what a Disney vacation is all about and why my family continues to go back as regularly as we do.

What are some of your family’s favorites in the parks that aren’t rides?

Contributed by Corby C. of Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud wife and mom to Banks and Henley, a Disney Destination Planner with Travel with the Magic and one of our Minnie Moms.

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