Whether you’ve been to Disney World or not, you’ve heard people speak of the “Dole Whip,” often with a touch of love and longing in their voice. In this post we’ll cover some important facts about the Dole Whip, all the places where you can […]
I still remember when Epcot opened in 1982. It’s hard to imagine now, but back then “Disney World” was simply the Magic Kingdom, and it was a big deal that they were going to open this “new park” which was seemingly more serious.
Back then it was EPCOT, which stood for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it was based on Walt Disney’s unrealized dream of creating a land based on cutting-edge technology and cutting-edge technology.
EPCOT was a lot different then, with an emphasis heavier on education and lighter on Disney characters. World of Motion told the story of the evolution of transportation, from the invention of the wheel to modern automobiles. Body Wars was a simulator ride through the human body. The Living Seas didn’t have Nemo, and El Rio Del Tiempo didn’t have Donald Duck. One could argue whether or not the original EPCOT was better than what it’s become (and feel free to, in the comments), but either way, I find the evolution interesting.
Like I did in my post about the best Magic Kingdom rides, here I don’t presume to tell you which rides are “the best,” rank them in a certain order, or even give them a rating. Instead, I share the facts, offer a little of my opinion, as well as some opinions of others, and hope that will help you make an educated decision about whether that ride or attraction would be “best” for you and your family.
If you didn’t already know, Epcot is divided into two sections, Future World and the World Showcase. Future World is located in the front of the park, opens earlier than the World Showcase, and has more rides.
Soarin’ Around the World
Height: 40 inches
Type: Motion Simulator
Fastpass available? Yes, and highly recommended
Soarin’ is a “gentle thrill ride,” if such a thing is possible. You sit in a vehicle that lifts you in front of a huge screen and simulates hang-gliding as you “fly” over amazing locations throughout the world while hearing an epic score. The pre-show is hosted by Seinfeld’s Patrick Warburton, which is a nice plus in my book. 🙂
This is a ride that we always enjoy a lot and often ride twice. Even Rob, who gets motion sickness very easily, said that, at worst, it makes him “a little woozy for a few minutes.”
It’s worth mentioning that a new version of this ride came out in the summer of 2016. Where Soarin’ used to “take place” only in California, it now has you flying around the world, visiting places like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China.
We’ve seen both versions, enjoyed them both, and didn’t really analyze it too much past that. However, there are a lot of people who feel that this new “around the world” version is definitely sub-par, mostly because of the heavy use of CGI and the abrupt transitions. I suppose, now that I’m thinking about it, that I also prefer the original version.
If you didn’t have a chance to see “Soarin’ Over California,” or if you’d just like a little nostalgia, here’s a video for you:
Video: Soarin’ Over California
And if you want to compare for yourself — as least as much as you can without the entire simulator experience — here’s a video of the current version:
Video: Soarin’ Around the World
Obviously if you are afraid of heights, Soarin’ is a ride you may want to skip. But there is another factor to consider, even if you aren’t afraid of heights: Your feet are dangling in the air during the entire ride. This freaks out some people who would prefer their feet to stay on the ground, or at least a stable surface, thank you very much.
Just something to keep in mind if you’re trying to make the decision whether or not to ride.
Two Tips about Soarin’:
1) If you ask to be seated in the front row, you won’t see other people’s dangling feet during the ride;
2) Although Soarin’ does not have a single-rider line, you’ll probably get to ride faster if you’re alone, because they usually call for single riders to come forward in order to “fill holes.”
FP+ available? Yes, and highly recommended (it also has a Single Rider line)
Type: Fast thrill ride
Height: 40 inches
Design a SimCar, then board a six-seat ride vehicle designed to test your car’s performance through a series of tests. The ride culminates in going around an outdoor track at the speed of 65 miles an hour.
Test Track is Benjamin’s favorite ride at Disney World. He probably likes designing the car as much as the ride itself.
Some people who hate roller coasters and drops aren’t sure what to do with Test Track. If you’re one of those people, know that Test Track is a thrill ride, not a roller coaster.
GBShorts from the Disboards hates roller coasters, but really enjoyed Test Track:
I hate rollercoasters myself, so I will tell you that there is an uphill climb test-where they drive the car UP a hill as quickly as possible.
If you don’t like the feeling of “losing” Your stomach, it might be a bit of a shock, but it’s nothing bad.
I liked the outside go fast on a bank thing-because you get the feeling of going fast (I like that) instead of the feeling of going downhill fast (don’t like that). I even put my arms up-something I have NEVER done in a ride before!!!
One last word of reassurance, this ride is connected to a “track” at all time. That is to say, you’re never freefalling/coasting. There’s something pulling or pushing you and your speed is always controlled. It seems that way, anyway.
Fastpass available? Yes, and recommended
Type: Spinning Motion Simulator and Thrill Ride
Height: 40 inches for the Green version, 44 inches for the Orange version
Thrill ride that uses centrifugual design and standard motion to simulate being an astronaut sent on a mission to Mars. You’re given one of four “positions” on your ship, each with a job, but the “job” just consists of is pushing a button at a certain time, and it doesn’t matter whether you actually do it or not. (I almost always miss doing my “job” because I’m too busy shrieking.)
There are two versions of this ride: the original, which is now referred to as the Orange version, and the much more mild version Green version, which doesn’t use centrifugal force.
Rob rode the original ride back before there was a green version, and it made him throw up (after the ride, not during it) and feel so sick that he had to go back to the hotel and stay in bed for the rest of the day. So if you’re wondering if the Orange version is “really that bad,” the answer is: Yes. It is.
(If you’re also wondering why someone who gets motion sick during certain movies would be so
stupid adventurous as to ride Mission:Space in the first place, it’s because Rob is a huge NASA/space junkie and just couldn’t resist. He said he’s do it again, too. (I don’t mean ride the ride again — thankfully, he won’t do that — but he’d “do it again” if he went back in time, even knowing how sick he’d get.)
I once rode the Green version by mistake, where once I realized that I was in the wrong line, it was too late to switch. (Yes, I know that makes me sound like a complete idiot, and no, I’m still not quite sure how it happened, since I entered the line with an Orange ticket.) The Green version, in my opinion, was very boring — but keep in mind that there is nothing I won’t ride and that I have ridden Expedition Everest 3 times in one afternoon, so I’m that kind of person.
If you’re still not sure which version is right for, JaysMom4285 from the DisBoards has a detailed description that might be helpful:
My best description is that the orange side is intense. You experience the sensation of being launched and pressed back into your seat, and then the feeling of weightlessness as you clear earth’s gravity.
And then there the landing on Mars. The cabin that you’re in is part of a large pod that hangs from a long arm attached to a spoke, and there are other pods on other arms. When the orange side of the ride starts, the pods are swung by the arms in a wide circle. You don’t feel any actual spinning motion, but it does serve to cause the pressure that pushes you back into your seat as you’re “launched.” The pod will lean backward or forward in keeping with whatever is happening.
I’ve done it and I survived, although I will admit that I was a little shaky afterwards. A fair number of people find that lends itself to motion sickness, especially if you’re already prone to that.
The best tips for riding it the first time are to do it on an empty stomach and always keep your eyes open and focused straight ahead. If you close your eyes, you have no external reference point for what your body is feeling, and it can actually make things worse …
I do prefer the green side – it’s the same ride but the pod doesn’t swing around in the circle to create pressure – it just moves backward or forward a little.
In addition to getting motion sickness, some people have reported feeling claustrophobic on Mission:Space.
I like Mission:Space, but it will never quite be the same for me now that actor Gary Sinise is no longer in the pre-show. Sniff … I miss you, Gary.
Living with the Land
Fastpass available? Yes, but not recommended
Type: Slow-moving boat ride
A gentle boat ride that takes you on a tour of greenhouses and showcases the future of agriculture. It may sound horribly boring, but we liked it a lot, and Rebecca, who has always enjoyed science, was really into it.
What’s particularly fun is to ride Living with the Land and then eat at The Garden Grill upstairs. (You do need reservations.) Not only will you get to meet Chip and Dale, Mickey, and Pluto, but the restaurant slowly rotates and you get to see inside the Living with the Land ride. If you do eat there, keep an eye out for the farmhouse, which can only be seen from the restaurant, not the ride.
If you think Living with the Land is really cool and want to take it a step further (or if you just like your vacations to be as educational as possible), you might want to consider booking the one-hour Behind the Seeds Tour. It costs $25 per adult and $20 per child, and easy to book the tour on the same day. We’ve never taken this tour, but I’ve heard really good things about it. It’s apparently a very interactive tour, where you can ask questions, release ladybugs, and sample foods.
Fastpass available? Yes, and recommended
Type: Slow-moving indoor ride
The Golf Ball Spaceship Earth is a gentle ride through various audio-animatronics scenes depicting the evolution of human communication, while Dame Judi Dench narrates. At the end, partly as a distraction to the fact that you’re unloadng, there is a screen activity you do in your car about possibilities of what the future looks like.
I’ve always been a little surprised how much my kids have really liked this ride over the years, despite the lack of singing Disney characters, spinning, or heights. I think is both due to the fact that Disney did an excellent job with the details, and that it’s easy to not give kids enough credit for not needing “cutesy” things in order to be fascinated.
There have been rumors that
The Golf Ball Spaceship Earth will be closing for two years for an overhaul. As of this writing, it is nothing more than a rumor, but it seems pervasive enough to think that there is some truth behind it, and that, like the rumor about the ending of Illuminations:Reflections of Earth, it’s only a matter of time until we get a concrete confirmation.
You can read more about these rumors here.
Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
Fastpass available? No
Type: 4D movie
Three cartoon shorts shown in The Magic Eye Theater in 3D.
No, seriously. That’s it.
Consider just watching them on YouTube before your trip (although granted, they won’t be in 3D) and crossing this off your list.
The three cartoons are:
For the Birds
Get a Horse!
For the Birds (Pixar Short Film)
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Fastpass available? Yes, but not recommended
Type: Slow-moving indoor ride
A ride in a “clamobile” through an aquarium with the characters from Finding Nemo. The attraction uses high-tech magic to make it seem like the animated characters are swimming with live fish. It ends with a musical finale from Animal Kingdom’s Finding Nemo the Musical. At least as good as the ride itself are the sea life exhibits you can explore after you exit the ride.
Turtle Talk with Crush
Fastpass available? Yes, but not recommended
Type: Interactive show
An interactive screen encounter where Crush, the 153-year-old surfer-dude turtle from Finding Nemo, takes questions from the audience. I haven’t been to this in a few years, but I remember it being a lot of fun, and of course the interactive nature means that every show is unique.
Questions to Ask Crush
If your kids want some ideas of what to ask Crush, here are some questions that people on the DisBoards say got a really good response:
* Do turtles know how to swim?
* How many kids do you have, and what are their names?
* Do you like sushi?
* Are you married?
* Is turtle wax made from real turtles?
* Where do you stay when you go to Disney World?
* When is your birthday?
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Fastpass available? Yes, but not recommended
Type: Dark ride
It’s six minute dark ride that takes you on a tour of the Imaginzation Institute. You’ll see optical illusions, a room that defies gravity, an other brain teasers. When you exit the ride, there is an area where kids can experiment with various things involving the senses.
In all our trips to Epcot, we have never ridden this ride. Nothing we heard about it sounded that great, and none of us are particular fans of Figment, like some people are.
This is the third version of the of this ride at Epcot. The general consensus is that the original, Journey Into Imagination was great; the second one, Journey into Your Imagination, from 1999-2001, was pretty awful; and the current version with Figment is … just okay.
Original Journey Into Imagination Ride at Epcot
Fastpass available: No
An indoor collection of hands-on, walk-through exhibits.
Well, that’s what it used to be, anyway.
I remember in years past doing some sort of interactive game about fire safety, and different activities involving sound and light. Most recently, Sum of all Thrills, where you designed a roller coaster track and then rode it on a simulator, was really fun, as well as educational.
But unfortunately, Sum of all Thrills closed last year, and now Innoventions is, frankly, pretty sad — it’s almost become nothing more than a place to get into an air conditioned building and use the bathroom. According to Tom Bricker, the remains of Innoventions is expected to permanently close some time in 2019, and eventually be replaced with a garden area inspired by the Gardens of Imagination at Shanghai Disneyland.
However, until that happens, you can enjoy the one exhibit still left at Innoventions, which is Colortopia, sponsored by Glidden paint.
This exhibit has three sections. The “Power of Color Theater” explores the psychology of color. “The Color Lab” has two interactive stations: Color Mix ‘n Match and Spinning Spectrums. “Color our World” gives you a magic paint brush and allows you to paint on an interactive mural.
I haven’t really heard anyone raving about this one, but it sounds somewhat interesting if you have time to spare and want to get out of the heat.
Epcot’s World Showcase (which doesn’t open until 11:00am is more about walking around and taking in culture (and eating) than it is about going on a bunch of rides. However, there are several attractions, and two of them are bona fide rides.
In full disclosure, I have to confess that we never seen any of the World Showcase films. What makes that particularly amazing is that we homeschooled our kids for a decade. You’d think we would have seen something in the name of education, but nope … we’re the type of family who would rather spend our time at Disney World riding Test Track twice instead of sitting through a film. And there’s never enough time at Disney, it seems, to do everything you want to do.
The American Adventure
Fastpass available: No
Type: Indoor animatronic show
A 30-minute indoor, animatronic stage show featuring some key moments in American history. The Voices of Liberty singers perform in the lobby and are fantastic, as you can see from this video below:
Frozen’s “Let it Go” performed by Voices of Liberty in Epcot
I’ve always heard overwhelming praise for this show [she said as she hung her head in shame for never taking her family to see it].
The two negatives I’m heard are:
1) It’s too young for small children (and certain adults).
2) It’s a sanitized version of American history. (Which I think is kind of silly. This is Disney World. What kind of film are you expecting to see?)
Goofyernmost on the DisBoards had this to say:
American Adventure is a beautifully done show of slides, movies and anamatronics. It depict American History as much as a short presentation can. If you are a US citizen it will leave you a little verclempt. (sp?) Some criticize the historic accuracy of the past, I can only tell you that the part that I have lived through is pretty accurate. If you tell the little ones that the show is acted out by “robots” it might activate their attention a little. :rotfl:
Absolutely worth seeing at least once. I am amazed at how many have gone to Epcot and, in some cases, didn’t even know it was there. Put it on your list…I will go out on a limb here and say that I think you will be glad you did.
Frozen Ever After
Fastpass available? Yes, and highly recommended
Type: Slow-maving, dark boat ride
A boat ride in the Norway pavilion featuring characters from Frozen, with audio animatronics figures and fun songs. If you’ve been to Epcot in years past, this ride replaced the Maelstrom in 2014 and uses the same ride system, so the actual ride experience is the same.
Lines for Frozen Ever After can easily be 90 minutes or longer, so I would highly recommend getting a Fastpass reservation for it if at possible. Combining that with hitting Soarin’ as soon as you enter the park and using the single rider line for Test Track is a very efficient Epcot ride strategy.
If you can’t get a Fastpass or aren’t convinced you want to use it on this ride, you might want to consider skipping it and going to the Frozen Sing-a-Long Celebration in Hollywood Studios instead.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
Fastpass available: No
Type: Dark boat ride
A boat ride where the members of the Three Caballeros search for Donald Duck against the backdrop of Mexican culture The story is essentially a Three Caballeros concert gone awry.
This is probably the most underrated — or least forgotten — ride in all of Disney World. A lot of people don’t even know it exists, and the wait is virtually non-existent.
By the way, if you’re like I was and wondering who the heck the Three Caballeros even are, you can check them out below:
Video — The Three Caballeros
Impressions de France
Fastpass available: No
Type: Widescreen film
An 18-minute wide-format film highlighting the culture and natural beauty of France. Both the visuals and the musical score are stunning.
Disney photographer and blogger Tom Bricker describes it this way:
Impressions de France is the gold standard against which all over theme park travelogues should be judged. The impressionistic vignettes it provides of a culture and beautiful nation stick with the viewer, and the incredible detail in each scene gives the film infinite re-watchability.
Fastpass available: No
Type: 360-degree film
A 14-minute, 360-degree film narrated by Martin Short. There is often a Canadian trivia quiz outside the theater, so study up beforehand. (Hints: The capital of Canada is Ottawa, and the $1 coin is nicknamed the Loonie, after the bird engraved on it.)
This is considered the most entertaining, but least educational, film in the World Showcase. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a good or a bad thing.
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure
Fastpass available? No
Type: Handheld scavenger hunt
A handheld scavenger hunt through a single country in the World Showcase on your phone.
Okay, I’m not sure what this says about me, but I enjoy these scavenger hunts at least as much as the kids, if not more. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it if I was at Epcot by myself.
One of the neat things about them is that is gets you to explore and notice details about the World Showcase that I, at least, otherwise wouldn’t. And it’s done in a very clever way. I remember the United Kingdom hunt requires a specific interaction with a cast member that was fun, and the one in Germany has some neat visual effects.
Tip: If it’s raining, do the Mexico adventure, which is indoors. With any luck, the rain will be over by the time you’re finished.
Reflections of China
Fastpass available? No
Type: 360-degree film
A 14-minute, 360-degree film that takes you on a tour of China. The Tomb Warriors room nearby is an interesting place to explore while you wait for the film to begin.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Fastpass available? Yes, but not recommended
Type: Nighttime fireworks and light show
Epcot’s nightly fireworks and laser show over the World Showcase lagoon. You can get a Fastpass, which will put you in a special seating area between the tower gift shops at the World Showcase, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless either it is very crowded (say, New Year’s Eve) or you just happen to be able to snag a Fastpass at the end of the day.
The best places to watch Epcot fireworks
According to the Disney Tourist Blog, IllumiNations will be ending at the end of Summer 2019, to be immediately replaced by an interim show called “Epcot Forever” before a permanent nighttime show debuts in Summer 2020.
Rides Coming to Epcot in 2020 and 2021
As you tell from this post, Epcot is on the brink of a bunch of big changes, between Illuminations and Innoventions closing later this year and the rumors about Spaceship Earth closing for a 2-year refurbishment.
In addition, there are two new rides that will be opening in the next couple, and both of them sound pretty cool:
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure — Based on the popular ride in Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, this ride in the France pavilion will whisk around the kitchen making dinner in your “ratmobile.”
Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster — Scheduled to open in Future World in 2021, this will be one of the world’s longest enclosed roller coasters.
Now it’s your turn
What are your experiences at Epcot? Do you have any favorite rides, or tips and tricks? Let us know below in the comments!
So this guide to the best Magic Kingdom rides might be a little different than what you’ve seen before, or what you’re expecting. There’s no Top 10 Countdown, no ranking of all the rides. I didn’t give each ride a grade. There’s not even a […]
Quick! What is everything you need to pack for your family’s Walt Disney World vacation? The question is enough to make your head spin, especially if you have little people in your family that you need to “pack” for just to drive 3 miles around […]
Sometimes planning a trip to Disney World can be overwhelming, and the more people and age groups involved, the more overwhelming it can be.
I thought a quick list where you can see some of the best Disney hacks and tips at a glance would be helpful.
Let’s dive right in!
Click here to get a printable copy of my Disney Character Meal Cheat Sheet!
✅General Disney World Hacks
1. Check the Crowd Calendars before planning your trip.
This may seem obvious, but not everybody thinks to do this, and it can make a huge difference in how much time you spend waiting on line during your trip. Here is a detailed Crowd Calendar for 2019.
2. The Unofficial Guide to Disney World is a great reference for planning your vacation. I’ve bought 3 different versions of this book over the years, and have referred to them again and again. We’ve had times where our family sat together in the living room while I read sections out loud, and of course I’ve read it to everybody in the car as we’re driving down to Florida. Not only is it easy to read and a great wealth of information, but it is laugh-out-loud funny in places.
3. You can request a free wake-up call each morning from either Mickey or Stitch on the resort hotel phone.
4. If you decline housekeeping service at a Disney resort, they’ll email you a gift card for $10 each night of your stay. This has to be all nothing; you can’t, for example, decline service for just one day.
(On our last trip, my teenage daughters both gave me horrified looks when I asked them if we should take advantage of this. Needless to say, we ended up getting the housekeeping service.)
5. Sit in the middle of the monorail for quick and easy access getting out.
6. Arrive at the park before rope drop. Not only does this make a huge difference in avoiding crowds, but at the Magic Kingdom there is a sort of “mini-show” at rope drop that is fun.
7. If you are celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday or an anniversary, make sure to pick up a free celebration button at your resort hotel or in the parks from Guest Services. You may get a little special treatment if wearing the buttons. Don’t expect free food anywhere, though, unless you are really lucky.
8. Don’t let closing time at the park keep you from getting on line for an attraction. Even if you get on line one minute before the park closes and the line is 90 minutes long you’ll still get to ride.
9. Take advantage of the single rider lines. Test Track, Expedition Everest, and Rock n Roller Coaster all have a singer rider line. If you’re at least 7 years old and don’t mind sitting next to a stranger, this is worth considering if you couldn’t get a FastPass — or just want to ride a second time.
10. If you accidentally break a souvenir you bought, Disney will replace it for free. Just go to the nearest store that carries the item and you’ll get a brand new one.
11. Avoid going to a park on the day that they have Extra Magic Hours.
Extra Magic Hours sounds great … until you realize that it sounds great to everybody else too. Avoid Extra Magic Hours, and you’ll avoid the worst crowds for that day.
12. Your shoes and socks can make or break your trip. Believe it or not, you might walk up to 10 miles a day during your Disney vacation, and if you don’t have shoes that are up for the job, your feet will be hurting before the end of the day. Avoid cotton socks (I personally like to wear these sandals and avoid socks altogether, rub some Body Glide on your feet every morning, and wear some sturdy shoes that are not brand-spanking new. If you really want to be kind to your feet, bring two pairs of shoes so you can switch out every day.
I go into a lot more detail in my post where I review the best shoes for walking in Disney World, but you can at a quick glance below some of the specific shoes that I recommend.
Saucony Women’s Triumph ISO Running ShoeSkechers Performance Women’s Go Walk SneakerASICS Women’s Gel-Venture 5 Running ShoeASICS Women’s Gel-Venture 5 Running ShoeKEEN Women’s Clearwater CNX-W SandalTeva Womens Women’s W Original Universal Premier Sport SandalSkechers Performance Womens Go Walk Pizazz Flip FlopSanuk Women’s Yoga Sling 2 Flip FlopSanuk Women’s Yoga Sling 2 Print Vintage Flip Flop
13. If you’re staying at a Disney-owned hotel, you can have merchandise you purchase in the park sent to your hotel. This is so convenient, because the last thing you want is to be giant stuffed animals and bags of mugs around the park all day.
14. You can request to sit in the front row of Soarin. These are the only seats where you can enjoy the view without seeing people’s feet dangling in your face.
15. Go back to your hotel in the mid afternoon. I almost didn’t include this one because I think of it as common knowledge, but I’m sure there is someone out there that hasn’t heard this yet, and it’s an important one. We almost always go back to our hotel at around 2:00pm for a nap and/or a swim, then head back out again for the evening. I’m sure there are people who stay at the park for 10+ hours straight, but I know I would be miserable if I tried it.
16. Consider using Uber instead of the Disney buses. We’ve never done this, but there were certainly times on our last trip where I wished we had. The buses can run late, take forever with all the stops, and you may have to stand up for the entire trip. If that sounds miserable to you, it might be worth paying for an Uber instead.
17. Bring a portable phone charger. You don’t want to have to spend time looking for outlets — or worse, have your phone suddenly die when you’re about to take a great photos.
Anker PowerCore 20100 Power Bank PowerIQ Technology for iPhone, iPad and Samsung Galaxy and MoreAnker PowerCore Ultra-Portable Phone Charger for iPhone, iPad, Samsung GalaxyPoweradd Slim 2 External Battery 2.1Portable Charger for iPhones, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, HTC and More – BlueAnker PowerCore+ Mini, Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger, Compatible with iPhone Xs/XR, Android Smartphones and More
18. Take the time to learn FastPass strategies. Amazingly, there are people who go to Disney World without using FastPass at all, either because they don’t know about it or because they think it costs money, or you have to “be someone special” in order to use it. Spending just 30-45 minutes learning about how FastPass works, which rides are better to get a FastPass for than others, and making the reservations before your trip can save you several hours of waiting on line.
19. Kids under 3 years old don’t need a ticket OR a FastPass. This means if you’re planning ahead to when or if you should go to Disney with little kids, the ideal situation would be to go about a month or two before their third birthday and do everything you can to get them toilet trained before then.
20. Don’t forget about
Downtown Disney Disney Springs. (Sorry, old habit.) Disney Springs is particularly nice in the evening, when you’re had enough of the parks for the day. They have some great quick service restaurants (Wolfgang Puck Express and Blaze Pizza come to mind), several shops (my girls had fun shopping for clothes there on our last trip, while Benjamin always loves the Lego Store), and live music. We’ve particularly enjoyed taking the boat there and back when we stay at Port Orleans. It makes for a pretty and peaceful outing.
It’s worth noting that on our last trip, Rob borrowed my Frogg Togg towel for a while and then decided he wanted to buy his own. The parks sell a different brand of cooling towel, and he said that, while it was better than nothing, it definitely did not get as cool as my Frogg Togg did.
7 Tips to Stay Cool at Disney World
22. If you want to ride Flight of Passage in Pandora but don’t enjoy standing in line for 3 hours, get to Animal Kingdom 80-90 minutes before the park opens. Yes, that’s right — arrive over an hour before it open. (BTW, someone might have told you that the Disney buses don’t start running until an hour before the park opens. This is NOT true.)
23. Consider doing some Pin Trading. My daughter Rebecca got really into this on one of our trips. We bought this pin starter set from Amazon before our trip, and she was constantly keeping her eyes open for trading boards and cast members with pins. It made the trip really fun for her, was a nice way to interact with Cast Members, and is much cheaper to do it that way that to just buy pins you like at the park.
24. Buy things on Amazon and have them shipped directly to your hotel. This is particularly helpful if you’re flying and/or if you want to avoid paying a fortune for things on Disney property. Some items you might want to consider are food and baby supplies, but also things like rain ponchos or compact umbrellas, princess costumes, and stuffed animals.
Make sure to include “Guest” with your name in the shipping address.
Snow Queen CostumePrincess Belle Layered Costume DressPrincess Snow White CostumeDisney Pluto PlushDisney EeyoreDisney Baby Winnie the PoohDisney Mickey Mouse Plush ToyDisney Bambi PlushDisney Tigger Plush Toy
25. Be nice to all the Cast Members. There are a few good reasons for this. One is that they work darn and are sure to appreciate your kindness. A second is that you can have interesting conversations and perhaps learn a few things. One time we waiting for Duffy Bear to take his break during a character meet and greet and I saw that the Cast Member was from Cuba. I told him I been trying to learn Spanish and tried to converse with him a little (very little) in Spanish. He told me that when he was learning English fe found it helpful to practice by listening to the news. It was a nice way to pleasantly pass the time instead of being aggravated by the wait.
Click here to get my 28-page printable vacation planning bundle!
✅Magic Kingdom Hacks
26. The shops in the Emporium on Main Street are all connected. Walking inside through is a great way to travel down Main Street quickly, especially if it’s raining or you’re trying to beat the heat.
27. Sit on the left side of your boat in Pirates of the Caribbean to get the best views.
28. Take advantage of the Walt Disney World Railroad. This is a nice change of pace from walking all over the park, and is a ride in itself. There are stops in Adventureland, Fantasyland, near the front gate. When my son Benjamin was a preschooler, riding the train was one of the highlights of the trip for him (along with riding the monorail).
29. The parade is a great time to ride the most popular rides. On our last trip, we rode both Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain Railroad during the afternoon parade with hardly any wait time at all.
30. Ask the cast members at the Haunted Mansion what their bats are named. If gives you something to do while on line, and some of the names are clever, ie “Batness Everdeen..”
31. The “Lame Rides” are great for taking a break.
The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover (um, let’s just call it the PeoplMover) and The Carousel of Progress may not sound as exciting as some other rides in the Magic Kingdom, but they’re both a nice way to rest, cool off, and take a tour of Tomorrowland. Plus the lines for them are almost non-existent.
This is a pretty funny video by Jenny Nichols that talks about all the “Lame Things” she loves to do at Disney World:
Video: Top 10 Lame Things To Do At Disney World
Guide to the Best Rides at the Magic Kingdom
✅Disney World Hacks to Save Money
A Disney trip is almost never going to be a “budget vacation,” but there are several things you can do to make it less expensive.
32. See if you qualify for discounted tickets.
If you’re active military, a AAA member, or a Florida resident, you may be eligible for certain discounts. You can read more details on discounts here.
33. Skip Memory Maker. The PhotoPass photographers will be happy to use your phone or camera to take a picture for you, which makes it hard to rationalize spending $169 on Memory Maker.
34. Consider camping at Fort Wilderness. Um, yeah, I’m a city girl and am unlikely to do this any time soon (and one of my daughters would definitely raise holy heck if we even suggested it). But if you’re into camping, you can save a bundle and still get all the benefits of staying on property.
35. Buy Disney
gift cards entertainment cards at Target.
If you have a Target Red card, go to Target and buy up a bunch of Disney gift cards — you’ll get 5 percent off with your Red Card. (Target classifies these as “entertainment cards,” not actual gift cards. This can add up to quite a bit of money if you use the cards for merchandise, food, and parking.
36. Purchase your souvenirs at Disney’s Character Warehouse. There are two locations: one at the Orlando International Premium Outlet and the other at Orlando Vineland Premium Outlet. This can be a huge money saver on Disney merchandise; I have heard of families literally saving of hundreds of dollars by doing their shopping here.
37. Collect pressed pennies for cheap souvenirs.
There are many pressed penny machines around the park that crush a Disney-themed design into pennies. Not only is it fun to keep your eyes open for them, but it’s a way to get cheap souvenirs. You can use an empty M&M’s mini tube to stack layers of two quarters and one penny so you’re not fumbling around for change all day. If you like, you can buy a book to organize your pressed pennies after the trip.
38. Buy your park tickets from Undercover Tourist, an authorized seller of discount Disney World tickets.
39. Skip Park Hopper tickets. Don’t get me wrong — Park Hoppers are great, but definitely not necessary. Skipping them and just getting the Base tickets can easily save your family over $200 without creating any real hardship.
40. Save on multi-day stroller rental by prepaying online.
There’s a discount for prepaid multi-day Disney stroller rentals. Stroller rentals at Disney parks are $15 per day for single, or $31 for double. When you purchase online, your price drops to $13 per day single or $27 per day double.
41. Another alternative is to buy a cheap stroller and have it shipped to your resort. I know if I were flying to Disney World, I wouldn’t want to be hauling a couple stroller around the airport. Buying an inexpensive umbrella stroller and having it waiting for you when you arrive is cheaper and easier than renting (and the stroller they rent at the parks are cumbersome and uncomfortable-looking, anyway).
Disney Winnie-the-Pooh Umbrella Stroller with CanopyDisney Pink Umbrella Stroller with BasketKolcraft Cloud Plus Lightweight Stroller with Multi-Positon Reclining SeatWonder Buggy Jumbo Umbrella Stroller with Rounded Hood
The Best Double Strollers for Disney World
42. Pack a picnic lunch to bring into the park. You can save a bundle (and probably eat better, too) if you take the effort to pack a lunch, especially if have a large family. Things like string cheese, fruit cups, yogurt, baby carrots, bananas, grapes, and hard-boiled eggs are all foods that work well. Don’t forget to bring plenty of ziploc bags, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and plastic utensils, and pack it all up in a sturdy, reusable grocery bag.
Envirosax Mallorca Pouch, Set of 5 Shopping Reusable Grocery BagsEnvirosax Pouch Grocery BagEnvirosax Set of 2 Slingsax BagsEnvirosax Tropics Reusable Grocery BagEcoJeannie Nylon Foldable Reusable Bag Grocery Shopping Tote Bag with built-in Pouch
Some of the best spots to picnic at are Tom Sawyer Island in the Magic Kingdom (one of the most underrated attractions in Disney World), the picnic tables behind Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom, and various spots in Future World in Epcot.
43. Plan A Non-Park Day.
If your vacation will be, say, 6 days long, consider getting park tickets for only 5 days and having a “non-park day” in the middle. There’s plenty to do for an entire day without setting foot in a Disney park. In addition to hanging out at the hotel pool, you can go to Disney Springs, ride the monorail and visit various resorts, walk along the Boardwalk, and in the evening watch Wishes (the Magic Kingdom fireworks show) from the beach at the Polynesian Resort.)
13 Ways to Save Money at Disney World
✅Disney world Dining Hacks
44. Counter service meals on the Disney Dining Plan come with a drink, but you can ask for side or a snack in its place. This is especially handy if you have your refillable resort mug with you.
45. Signature Restaurants are a poor use of Disney Dining Plan credits. A Signature meal costs two Table Service Credits, but it almost never going to be twice the price of a regular meal if paid out of pocket. Just something to keep in mind.
46. If you want to have the amazing milkshakes at 50’s Prime Time Cafe but don’t want to eat an entire meal there, you can get just a milkshake at the Tune In Lounge located in the same building as the restaurant. These milkshakes are fantastic, but also huge, so I would recommend getting just one for two or three people.
47. You can get free unlimited soda at Epcot’s Club Cool. Located in Future World, Club Cool offers samples of different Coca-Cola products from around the world. It’s also air conditioned, which is a nice plus.
48. Ordering a kid’s meal or splitting a counter service meal between two people is a great way both to save money and avoid wasting food. There is no rule against an adult a kid’s meal, so you don’t have to be sneaky about it.
49. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you can order a regular OR a large fountain drink at counter service restaurants. They will automatically serve you a regular-sized drink unless you specifically ask for a large.
50. If you’re on the Dining Plan, don’t feel limited to ordering soda for your drink option. Not only are alcoholic drinks included in the Dining Plan these days, but you can usually also get a smoothie or a shake, which is both more interesting and a better value.
51. Don’t waste your snack credits on stupid things. I would personally define “stupid things” as bottled water, bananas, or Rice Krispie treats (although my kids might disagree with me on that last one.) Just a few of the much better choices would be a Napoleon at the France Pavilion, a Dole Whip in Adventureland, or a S’mores Cupcake at the Gasparilla Island Grill at the Grand Floridian Resort.
52. Some snack credit menu items are really more like a meal. You don’t have to use a snack credit on something sweet. The Fried Rice at the Yak and Yeti, Ham and Cheese Croissant at the Boulangerie Patisserie, and the French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese at Flame Tree Barbecue each would make a decent lunch.
✅Hacks for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is an annual food festival that typically runs from August or September to mid-November. (At the time of this writing, the 2019 dates have not been set yet.) You do not need to pay extra or get a special ticket; entrance to Epcot automatically gets you entrance into the Festival.
The Festival includes food booths in the World Showcase, live concerts, and culinary and beverage demonstrations.
Our family was at the 2018 Food & Wine Festival, but my kids were more interested in riding Test Track and Soarin’ for the second time and finding a good spot to watch Illuminations than they were in the Festival, so all I managed to grab were some Vegan Greek Nachos.
If, unlike us, you’re planning to truly “do” the Festival properly, here are some tips:
53. Bring a tray. Yes, this sounds totally dorky, but if you are going to be doing some serious eating and drinking, you’ll want a tray so you don’t have to constantly juggle all those little cardboard dishes all day long.
54. Make a plan of attack before you go. Get familiar with the layout of the Festival before you arrive, and consider going past the front, most busy booths and starting further back. Check out some of the menus beforehand and come up with a “must eat” list.
55. Use your snack credits if you’re on the Dining Plan. Some of the food booth samples cost as much as $8, which makes using a snack credit here a great value.
56. Get a Festival Passport. These are free and available all over Epcot. They include a detailed menu for each booth and stickers that you can use to keep track of which booths you’ve visited. Not only is it a great guide, but it makes a nice free souvenir.
57. Try to avoid the heaviest crowds. Easier said than done, but there are a few strategies you can take that will help. Visiting the booths from around 11am-noon, and then again from 4-6pm is probably your best bet. Also, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday will most likely be the least crowded days to visit.
✅Disney World Tips for Seniors
I hesitated to include this section because it seems a little condescending, as if all seniors are decrepit and incapable of either walking through the park or riding anything other than “It’s a Small World.” (Personally, I hope I’m still screaming my head off on the Rock n Roller Coaster in 20 years.)
I’m sure there are senior that can easily leave 30 year olds in the dust during a day at Disney. Being 65 years old (which, of course, is seeming less and less old to me as the years go by) doesn’t mean that you need a motorized car and a hearing aid — and, at the same time, there are plenty of 25 year old who needs to refrigerate their medicine and use the handicapped parking.
Still, with that caveat, I’m sure these tips will be helpful for someone out there, so take them for what they’re worth, regardless of what age you are.
58. Consider signing up for a behind-the-scenes tour, especially if you anticipate spending a lot of time waiting for the other people in your family to ride roller coasters. You find more information on them here.
59. Handheld captioning devices are available for the hearing impaired. You can pick up your handheld device at Guest Services and enjoy the captioning device free with a refundable credit card charge upon its return. You can even hang it around your neck for convenience.
60. Get a scooter if you need it. If you require a bit of assistance getting around the park – Disney rents electric scooters to park guests. There are also independent scooter rental companies in Orlando that will deliver a scooter right to your hotel, both on or off Disney property. If this sounds silly or unnecessary , keep in mind that you may be walking 10 miles a day in the Florida heat.
61. If you do bring a wheelchair or ECV of your own, most of the Disney buses can accommodate them. If a bus arrives that is not equipped, the driver will contact transportation on your behalf.
62. Special parking at Disney World’s theme parks is available for those with disabled permits.
63. All Disney Resorts have a small fridge in the room, which is helpful if you have medication that needs to be refrigerated.
64. All Disney Resorts have handicapped accessible rooms. If you have a special request, be sure to make it before arriving at your resort.
65. Take the heat seriously. The Florida sun can be brutal, especially in the summer months. Get plenty of water, take breaks, wear hats, and use plenty of sunscreen.
EltaMD Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive SkinBlue Lizard Australian Sunscreen – Water Resistant Sport Sunscreen SPF 30+Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+
Now I want to hear from you. What are some of your favorite Disney vacation hacks and tips? Let us know in the comments!
Ultimate Walt Disney World Trip and Travel Hacks List!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re trying to figure out where to eat during your Disney World vacation. There are well over a hundred restaurants on Disney property, and they range from burger places to buffets to character meals to fine dining. You can’t […]
The first couple times we went to Disney World we had toddlers, and I was more concerned about just figuring everything out and making everything work than I was with whether or not I was wearing a cute outfit. However, now that we’ve all gotten […]
If someone handed me several thousand dollars and told me that I must spend it all on one Disney trip (sadly, this has never happened), I imagine I would choose to stay at The Polynesian Village Resort, one of Disney’s Deluxe Resorts.
The ambiance is detailed and beautiful, it’s the closest I’ll get to a Hawaiian vacation anytime soon, the pools are considered to be some of the best at Disney, and being on the monorail line is a really nice plus when staying at Disney.
However, since The Polynesian costs $500 per night (and up), we won’t be staying there anytime soon. Instead, we have to simply “settle” for dinner at ‘Ohana and enjoy the atmosphere for a single evening.
Which, as you’ll see, is not a bad thing at all.
‘Ohana (which means “family) is a family-style table service restaurant. While they offer a breakfast character meal with Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, and Mickey Mouse (they do not serve lunch), this review will focus on our family’s recent experience, which was for dinner.
Is Ohana a buffet?
Nope. It’s better than a buffet, because you don’t have to keep hopping up to get more food. The hostess who seated it actually described it as “a buffet in reverse,” because the server brings the food to you in several courses, and you can have as much of it as your want. (This is what’s referred to as “family-style serving.”)
‘Ohana Dinner Entertainment
I have also heard that ‘Ohana has Coconut Races, but either we missed that or just didn’t notice it.
I was slightly apprehensive beforehand because I had read reviews describing ‘Ohana as “loud” and “chaotic,” and I was afraid it might be a little like a Hawaiian version of Chef Mickey’s. However, while I would describe it as “having a fun atmosphere,” I didn’t find it particularly noisy. Of course, that could be because we there at 8:00pm.
Does Ohana Have a Dress Code
However, if you want to have some fun, you might want to wear something Hawaiian-themed.
And if you’re really really have your act together, you can not only dress with a Hawaiian theme, but do it while matching your husband or boyfriend:
Cute Outfits to Wear to Disney World
Here’s what’s you’ll be getting, in this order, all of it fantastic:
Mixed Greens Salad with a Lilikoi dressing
Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce
Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings
Noodles tossed in a Teriyaki Sauce with stir-fried vegetables
Now at this point you honestly could say that you had a full, delicious meal … but guess what? That was just the warm-up.
Now it’s time for the “main course,” which is skewers of Szechuan Sirloin Steak, Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, and Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp, grilled over an oak fire in the middle of your restaurant and brought to your table one at a time. Peanut sauce and sweet and sour sauce is provided for dipping.
It’s a lot of food. Consider yourself warned.
‘Ohana Bread Pudding à la mode topped with Caramel Sauce and Bananas
‘Ohana’s bread pudding is sort of considered the star of the show — or at least the part of the meal that gets the most buzz, by far. It was quite amazing, as anything involving the words “ice cream,” “caramel,” and “bananas” is obviously going to be.
Since Benjamin is 12 years old, he got the “kids’ dessert” of a Rice Krispie Bar decorated with candy. Interestingly, he was happy to have that instead of the Bread Pudding. Those crazy kids.
Where Else Can I Get ‘Ohana Bread Pudding?
If you want to dig into this bread pudding but can’t, or don’t want to, have a full-blown dinner at ‘Ohana for whatever reason, you have a few options.
The easiest is to go to the Tambu Lounge connected with ‘Ohana and order a single serving of bread pudding to enjoy right in the lounge.
Also, I have heard many times that if you are eating at Kona Cafe (also at the Polynesian, and which we’ll discuss more in a moment), you can order the ‘Ohana Bread Pudding there, even though it’s not listed on the menu.
And if you’re lucky enough to be staying at the Polynesian Village Resort, you can order the bread pudding at any time via room service.
If you’re craving ‘Ohana Bread Pudding but are nowhere near Disney at the moment, you could try this recipe:
‘Ohana Bread Pudding Recipe Inspired by Disney’s Polynesian Resort
‘Ohana offers several alcoholic specialty drinks. I ordered the Tropical Macaw, which is made with Coruba Coconut Rum, Melon Liqueur, Pineapple Juice, and Cranberry Juice. I believe Rob had a Pina Colada.
‘Ohana Dinner Price 2018
Dinner is $46 per person, and the price for children ages 3-9 is $26.
So … you can see why, as a family of 5 “adults” who ordered a couple alcoholic beverages, we winced a bit when we got our bill at the end of the meal. (I honestly think that’s the biggest benefit to the Disney Dining Plan. You might not save money, but at least you’ll avoid all the “wincing” when you see the prices.)
Was it worth the hefty price tag? Your mileage might vary, but I would say yes.
How Long is Dinner at ‘Ohana?
In a sense we were lucky, because the only reservation we could get was at 8:00pm, which made “getting back to the park” a non-issue.
I would personally recommend not trying to squeeze in a FastPass after ‘Ohana. First of all, a big part of ‘Ohana is the “experience,” so you want to enjoy it and not get stressed out (as I would be) checking your watch every few minutes and worrying if you’re going to be late.
Second, things like that always take longer than you think they will (or at least they do in my world). Paying the bill will take longer than it should have. The monorail will run late. It will take you longer to get back to the park than you estimated. Someone will need to go to the bathroom. It makes me feel stressed out just thinking about it!
A third point that’s worth mentioning is that after eating at ‘Ohana, you’ll probably be so full that you can barely move, let alone want to go sprinting through Tomorrowland to go ride Space Mountain.
But to answer the question — I would say to allow 75-90 minutes for the actual meal, plus an additional 15-20 minutes to get seated.
Can I Watch the Fireworks from ‘Ohana?
Since The Polynesian is literally walking distance from the Magic Kingdom, it makes sense to assume that it’s a great place to watch Wishes, the nighttime fireworks show.
While that can work, the reality is a little different. You may very well not be able to get a window seat — and if you can, you may not be thrilled to have many new “family” members appear at your table.
While we have never tried this ourselves, I’ve heard that a better idea is to head to the Polynesian Beach (particularly an area called Sunset Point) after dinner to view the fireworks.
The Best Restaurants at Epcot to see the Fireworks
‘Ohana vs. Kona Cafe
Finally, the question often pops up as to which is better, ‘Ohana or Kona Cafe, which is another table service restaurant at the Polynesian. In fact, we originally had reservation for Kona Cafe and I ended up changing it to ‘Ohana just a couple weeks before our trip.
I’ve been to both (although never for breakfast), and while I was very impressed with our meal at Kona Cafe, I would recommend ‘Ohana if you’re trying to decide between one of the other.
However, I would tell you to choose Kona Cafe if:
1) You want your meal to be quicker;
2) The menu at ‘Ohana doesn’t appeal to you; or
3) You don’t like the idea of a ton of food.
The food [at ‘Ohana] really appeals to us and it is all you care to eat. There are also some greater benefits I think with a 2 year old. As I’m sure you know, eating out with a toddler isn’t always easy. Ohana is a much bigger restaurant if you need to take a walk and there are more distractions which may keep him entertained.
For starters, there are big windows looking outside if you are lucky enough to get sat close to one and not in the center section. They also have a guy that walks around singing and playing the ukulele as well as occasional activities for the kids such as pushing a coconut around the room with a broom.
Since it is all you care to eat you’ll get served food right away instead of having to order and wait. The servers bring the main course meats to the table on huge skewers which is fun. From experience, walking up to see the massive fire grills really helped us out with ours one time. And nothing to do with kids but the bread pudding is to die for …
Eating at quick service restaurants is practically a must when you go on a Disney World vacation. They’re relative cheap (in Disney terms), they offer a lot more variety than your basic “theme park food,” and since they don’t require reservations, you can easily work […]