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Tag: Disney World
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 them around your other plans for the day.
But the choices can be overwhelming. There are a huge number of quick service restaurants to choose from, and some of them are … not good. (I’m lookin’ at you, ABC Commissary.)
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So I reached out to some of my Disney blogging buddies again and asked them not only what their favorite quick-service restaurant at Disney World was, but also what their favorite meal was when they went there.
I didn’t put any additional exclusions or limits on it, so some of the restaurants are from Disney Springs, as well as from the Disney parks.
(Interestingly, not one person named a restaurant from either any of the Disney resorts or from Hollywood Studios.)
I organized the results in the form of a countdown. The restaurants with only one “vote” are at the top. When we hit Number Six, we get to restaurants that had two votes, continuing down to the clear Second Place and very clear First Place Winner.
So here we go!
14) Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot’s China Pavillion
The Lotus Blossom Cafe is in the China Pavillion in Epcot’s World Showcase. It’s menu offers “Americanized Chinese food” — basically, well-known dishes like egg rolls and pot stickers.
Angela from The Life of Spicers says:
My favourite quick service is definitely Lotus Blossom Cafe in Epcot. The Honey Chicken is amazing, and there is so much of it you could definitely share. The inside seating is also a welcome relief from the heat.
13) Tangierine Cafe in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion
Tangierine Cafe is a Mediterranean eatery that offers North African and American cuisine, as well as pastries and specialty coffee drinks.
According to Mickey Wiki, the restaurant gets its name from the Moroccan city of Tangier, which is known as the “gateway to Morocco, to the Mediterranean, and to North Africa.”
Lisa from Adventures in Familyhood says:
When I’m on vacation, I like to eat cuisines I normally don’t get to eat at home. My favorite place to get a quick bite is Tangierine Cafe in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion. Their vegetable platter has a little bit of everything including falafel, couscous salad, hummus and pita. It’s a light meat-free lunch that can easily be shared.
12) Breakfast and Lunch at Be Our Guest
It has three separate dining areas, themed after the ballroom, Rose Gallery, and West Wing from Disney’s 1991
animated film Beauty and the Beast. Its menu features French-inspired cuisine.
Kris from Nomad by Trade says:
I love the quick service meals at Be Our Guest! It’s the most beautiful restaurant on property and a dream come true for this girl who grew up loving the movie.
Though dinner service is sit-down style, breakfast and lunch are quick service and give guests a chance to experience the atmosphere without paying for an expensive prix fixe meal (though you do miss out on a chance to meet the Beast).
I love the Croque Monsieur for lunch (the very similar Croque Madame adds an egg at breakfast) and the fittingly named Feast a La Gaston is a breakfast of immense proportions.
You can’t leave without trying The Grey Stuff – served on the Master’s Cupcake for the quick service meals. I’ve tried the table service version of The Grey Stuff too, and in all honesty – the quick service version is better.
Even though breakfast and lunch here are quick service, you’ll still need reservations to visit, so make sure you plan ahead!
Tusker House Character Restaurant Review
11) Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe is located next to Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland in the Magic Kingdom.
The atmosphere is designed to make it feel like you’re dining at a western inn and it has a Tex-Mex menu. (Its menu was completely overhauled back in October 2015.)
Amy from The Mouse & the Monorail says,
My favorite quick service restaurant is Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. My favorite quick service item is the beef nachos. The toppings bar really takes this meal over the top, and you can get so much for your money!
10) Yorkshire County Fish Shop in Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion
The Yorkshire County Fish Shop, formerly the Harry Ramsden Fish and Chip Shop until 2006, was originally created because of the high demand for fish and chips at the nearby Rose & Crown restaurant.
Meredith from Mouse & the Monorailsays:
You may not be expecting seafood as a favorite walk-up quick service option, but don’t count it out!!
The Yorkshire County Fish Shop is delicious and serves up the most amazing fish and chips!
While a menu of only Fish and Chips might seem limited for some, it’s located in Epcot’s United Kingdom. That means that if your party doesn’t want fish, no worries! There are plenty of other great options for them too.
The fish itself is crunchy and perfectly battered while the chips (fries) are large and filling.
Top it all off with their lone dessert option, the Victoria sponge cake, and you’re sure to have a very happy belly!
9)Cooke’s of Dublin in Disney Springs
Sarah from ‘Dis’ Happy Home says:
If you are planning your first trip to Walt Disney World or are a long time veteran you already know that Disney Springs has some of the best offerings for food! What’s nice is the large variety of food that are available with no parking fees or a Disney Park admission!
So with all the wonderful quick-service restaurants available at Walt Disney World my favorite, as you guessed is located at Disney Springs. Drum roll please. It is … Cookes of Dublin!
Cookes (pronounced “Cooks” and not “Cookies”) of Dublin is a wonderfully delicious kind of hidden gem! Located in The Landing, it is often overlooked, as it appears to just be part of Raglan Road.
My favorite menu items are the Battered Burger & Chips with a side of Dubliner Irish Cheese & Bacon Dip.
The Battered Burger is a hand battered burger topped with garlic mayonnaise, tomato chutney and mixed greens. This burger is delicious and I really love that the burger is hand battered. This gives it a crunchy texture that makes this burger unique.
The main reason I go back again and again is for the Dubliner Irish Cheese & Bacon Dip! Now this may not look like much and is often overlooked when ordering, but trust when I say: “You need to try this!” I just want to drink it straight from the cup. This side compliments the Battered Burger because you can drizzle some inside the burger and dunk your chips (French Fries) in. It’s a cheese sauce you will crave and want to dunk everything in.
There you have it: Cookes of Dublin is one of my favorite quick-service restaurants at Walt Disney World. So if you are in town head over to Disney Springs now and “Beat it inde ya!” (which is Irish slang for “Eat that now!”)
8)Sunshine Seasons in Epcot
Sunshine Seasons is a food court restaurant located in The Land Pavilion of Future World in Epcot. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and includes an Asian Shop with noodle bowls and stir-fries, a Sandwich Shop, Soup & Salad Shop, Wood-Fired Grill Shop with meats, and a bakery.
Kait from Kait Around The Kingdom says:
My favorite quick-service restaurant at Walt Disney World is Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion at Epcot. Aside from it being located in my favorite Epcot pavilion, I love this restaurant because it offers a lot of different food options, which can make for an easy meal time with your whole party.
My favorite menu item lately has been their Chicken Corn Chowder, but my usual go-to at Sunshine Seasons is the Salmon with Cheesy Grits and Andouille-Corn Succotash.
They also have a great dessert selection, including specialty cupcakes. So it can’t hurt to swing in and check out what they’ve got after riding Soarin’ or Living With The Land!
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7) Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom
Patty from My No-Guilt Life says:
The one thing Disney World is not short on is good quick service options. If we plan a quick trip and forgot to make time for Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs), I don’t even worry about it anymore because we’ve got our favorite quick service options all figured out!
And they are even easier to navigate if you use the incredible Disney World Quick Service Dining mobile order option.
On a recent trip, we walked up to my favorite, the Columbia Harbour House at the Magic Kingdom, as the doors opened. There was already a line to order, so we stepped to the side, pulled up the app, and within 2 minutes were enjoying lunch!
For me, there’s nothing I want more on a hot day than the cold Anchors Aweigh Tuna Sandwich. My husband, however, is a fan of the Lobster Roll. Either way, we both agree that the House-Made Chips are delish!
And of course, there are the usual child-friendly options for kids who aren’t quite interested in seafood for lunch.
6) Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom
Ted at Parkeology says:
My favorite quick service restaurant at Walt Disney World is Flame Tree Barbecue. I would expect others might concur with me on this (and if not they should!).
Since opening day at Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree has been serving surprisingly good BBQ. My favorite form of it is in a Pulled Pork Sandwich.
Years ago they offered 3-4 different types of sauces. Now they are down to two, but no matter. The sweet BBQ sauce mixed with the smoky pulled pork piled up on a soft bun and served with views of Expedition Everest on the other side of the lake can’t be beat.
However, they also serve a shockingly good Smoked Turkey Sandwich. I had this with Shane [the other half of Parkeology] a while back while I was looking for a lighter option. The off-the-bone smoked turkey is some of the best I have ever had! And not just “best at Disney” or “best at a park,” but just plain best, period.
Stopping at Flame Tree is an absolute must while visiting Animal Kingdom and it may be worth taking a side trip from another park to grab some, for that matter!
Leah at The Budget Mouse says:
Our favorite Quick Service restaurant is Flame Tree Barbecue in Animal Kingdom.
The ribs are the best on Disney property and some of the best I’ve ever had! We usually get the St. Louis Rib Dinner ($18.29) which is a hearty serving of ribs with a side of coleslaw and baked beans.
This entree and the Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Sampler (also priced at $18.99) are fantastic uses of a quick service credit on the Dining Plan.
We like to wash it all down with a Safari Amber, because hey, we are on vacation!
5) Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza at Disney Springs
Although it’s not a restaurant unique to Disney, the Disney Springs location has been built to fit within its surroundings, made to resemble a refurbished sawmill from the 1850s.
Shane at Parkeology says:
I’m going to cast my vote for The Blaze at Disney Springs.
Pizza is my favorite food, and the pizza offerings around Disney range from bad to dreadful. Fortunately, the Blaze is not only delicious, it is also quite reasonably priced. I usually do the Make-Your-Own option.
I’m also a soda junkie, and the Blaze offers amazing Blue Sky Soda, which I had not previously tried (Black Cherry is the best).
Finally, their Blood Orange Lemonade is totally worth it.
Mark from Points on Neverland agrees:
When it comes to counter service meals, you want cheap, fast, and delicious.
Is that impossible at Disney World?
Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza at Disney Springs is a make-your-own-pie joint that won’t make you feel like you just handed over the kids’ college savings.
Order one of their favorites or build your own. Since each pizza is personal size, it doesn’t matter if your kid wants to ruin hers with pineapple; you’ll get the perfect pizza.
By the way, the perfect pizza is Pepperoni, Onion & Light Jalapeno with a Side of Ranch. Just sayin’…
4) Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs
Wolfgang Puck Express is located near Disney’s Days of Christmas store in the Disney Springs Marketplace. After placing your order at the counter, your food is delivered to your table.
Kimberly at Savvy Mama Lifestyle says:
Our family loves Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs!
The portions are large, the food is great quality, and the menu offers a variety of things for the whole family.
We love the Barbecue Chicken Pizza and the Caesar Salad.
They even offer a kitchen table if you want to be close to the action.
They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and they accept the Disney Dining Plan. One of the best bangs for your buck on Disney property.
Rebecca at The Pixie Dusted Planner agrees:
Hands down my favorite quick service restaurant in all of Disney World is Wolfgang Express in Disney Springs. It’s such a break from the overwhelming presence of hot dogs and pizza all over the parks!
More than that though, it is high class dining on a budget. Wolfgang Puck is a renown celebrity chef with very few locations, and most of them are at a much higher price point. Dishes here are a perfect balance of savory, crisp, and utterly satisfying.
Make sure to try the Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf (yum!) and luxuriously creamy Cheesecake!
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3) Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in the Magic Kingdom
The restaurant that we know as Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe was originally called Tomorrowland Terrace when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
According to Mickey Wiki, in 1994 when the restaurant was given both a new name and a new theme, the topping bar “featured oddly colored condiments such as blue mayonnaise, purple ketchup and green mustard.” (Thankfully, that didn’t last long.)
Tracey and Simon from Disney and Orlando Geeks said:
Situated in Magic Kingdoms ‘Tomorrowland’ section, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe truly is out of this world, for me it is one of my absolute favourite places to stop off and eat.
It has a great variety of food for both lunch and dinner, with classics such as the good old Angus Bacon Cheeseburger, hotdogs, nuggets, Rotisserie Chicken, Pulled Pork, ribs and many more including healthy options such as Greek Salads.
One of the great things about this restaurant is the Toppings Bar. Once you have received your order, be sure to head over to the there to add some of the succulent extras to your meal. They have things like Sauteed Onions and Mushrooms, Pickles, and toppings such as Lettuce, Tomatoes, Fried Onions, and various sauces.
One of my favourite things to order is the Grilled Chicken Club. This is a herb-marinated chicken breast topped with American cheese and bacon all in a bun. I get it with the fries, but green beans or mashed potatoes are also an option. Then I head straight over to the toppings Bar to add the delicious sauteed mushrooms and some lettuce and tomatoes. It really is delicious and I highly recommend it.
BUT, the highlight for me, and the thing that makes this one of my all time favourite places is Sonny Eclipse, the resident intergalactic Alien that performs all day, every day in the Starlight Lounge part of the restaurant.
Sonny Eclipse at Walt Disney World
He is extremely funny and his songs are great. The children find him highly entertaining, and his jokes are also aimed at adult sense of humour with some classic ‘Mother in Law’ jokes, so he is a great entertainer all round for every age.
Cosmic Ray’s has a huge seating area, including seating outside too, so if Sonny doesn’t rock your world then there is alternative seating around the corner from the ordering bays that have an amazing view of the Cinderella Castle. So you really can have excellent food with a view, or dinner and a show!!
The air conditioning inside is really good, so when it is very hot outside it also makes for a great place to have a pit stop and grab a drink to cool off and watch Sonny.
There are a few good desserts on the menu too.
So for me, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe makes an excellent choice for an all-around great quick service option, with fab food, fab entertainment, fab views and great seating.
Taryn at Lau Family Travels said:
We have always loved Cosmic Ray’s at the Magic Kingdom (even though it’s just your typical quick service location).
I think their Burgers are good and you can make them even better with the Toppings Bar!
But, my favorite part of the restaurant is getting a window seat near the castle!
2) Casey’s Corner on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom
Casey’s Corner was clearly in the Number Two spot, with 3 different bloggers claiming it as their favorite quick-service restaurant.
Located on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, it is themed to the “Casey at the Bat” segment of the animated feature Make Mine Music.
Casey at the Bat (1946)
James at Adventures in Familyhood says:
My favorite quick service restaurant at Walt Disney World is Casey’s Corner. My go-tos are the Foot Long Hot Dog or the Hot Dog Nuggets.
Plus, you can’t beat the baseball theming!
Michelle from Disney Tips and Trip Reports says:
Our favourite Quick Service restaurant is Casey’s Corner on Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom!
As Brits who visit Walt Disney World annually, nothing says All-American fare like a hot dog — and Casey’s Corner serve the tastiest ones around.
My husband and son often go for the Chili-Cheese Hot Dog, and my go-to dish is a portion of Corn Dog Nuggets – delicious!
Since we last visited the menu seems to have changed a bit, and I am definitely going to be trying the Macaroni & Cheese Hot Dog, because I am a Mac ‘n’ Cheese fiend!!
Ryan from Disney Pins Blog says:
My favorite quick-service restaurant at Walt Disney World is Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom!
Pretty much every trip I will stop for a hot dog. Although they do have a lot of specialty hot dogs, I go for the standard Hot Dog with Fries! I like to go to the toppings bar and put my diced onions and sauerkraut on it as well.
Their Shoestring French Fries are also delicious.
After I get my meal, I go outside to one of the standing table tops, have my lunch and people-watch with a wonderful view of Cinderella Castle!
Another plus is that they now serve the Mint Julep from Disneyland!
One thing no one mentioned about Casey’s Corner, but that I have to add, being a piano player myself … is that they has a live pianist outside.
Whenever we pass by, I always think what a cool job that would be. (Although I think having a mirror in front of my face while I’m playing would drive me crazy!)
Casey’s Corner Pianist at Disney World
1) Satu’Li canteen in Animal Kingdom
Satu’li Canteen in Disney’s Animal Kingdom was our clear WINNER, with 7 different bloggers eagerly naming it as their very favorite Disney quick service restaurant.
is located within the Pandora — World of Avatar area that opened in May 2017.
The story behind the restaurant is that it was once the main mess hall of the Resources Development Administration (RDA) base located in the Valley of Mo’ara. Now the canteen is owned and operated by Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) tour company and has been redesigned into a peaceful dining area adorned with Na’vi art and cultural items.
Jodi of Family Travel Magazine says:
My favorite quick service location at Walt Disney World is one of the newest spots. Satu’li Canteen, located right in Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, offers some delicious and unique healthy food options.
My favorites include the Cheeseburger Pod, which tastes just like a deconstructed cheeseburger.
There are also delicious and healthy Satu’li Bowls, which come with a variety of different proteins. My favorite is the Chopped Wood-Grilled Chicken Bowl.
For dessert, you can try the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse or Chocolate Cake.
There’s plenty of seating, but it does get busy, so I recommend going early.
Becka at DisneyKittee agrees, saying
My favorite Quick Service is the Satu’Li Canteen in the Pandora section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom park.
I LOVE the Cheeseburger Pod, and I also love the chips and quirky little salad they give you on the side.
Disney’s Pandora: Trying Cheeseburger Pods at Satu’li Canteen
Kristi from Disney Insider Tips adds:
When it comes to quick service restaurants, our favorite is Satu’li Canteen in the NEW Pandora section of Animal Kingdom.
It is a great place to cool off, unwind and refuel after waiting in the crazy lines for rides like Avatar, Flight of Passage!
My favorite thing to order there is the Slow Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef Bowl. It features marinated roast beef, crunchy vegetable slaw and boba balls. You can choose to have it with salad, rice & black beans or sweet potato hash.
You won’t find anything like it anywhere else in Disney!
Jessica at The Healthy Mouse give Satu’li Canteen yet another vote, saying:
My absolute favorite thing to get is the Vegetable Curry Buns! It’s hands down my favorite vegetarian entree at any Disney park!
My daughter likes the Kid’s Tofu Bowl (which I also enjoy myself if I’m in the mood for something small).<
Vegetable Curry Buns from Satu’Li Canteen
Photo courtesy of Jessica from The Healthy Mouse[/caption]
Sarah at The Mouse & the Monorail says,
Hands down, the best quick service food is found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Satu’li Canteen.
My favorite menu item is the Rice bowl with Chicken and Creamy Herb Sauce. The creamy herb sauce is probably the best topping I’ve ever had, and the chicken is always cooked perfectly with a nice chargrilled flavor to it.
I have to order it every time I visit Animal Kingdom!
Jenn at Touring in Wonderland had this to say:
One of my favorite quick service locations on Disney properties is Satuli Canteen in the Pandora land area of Animal Kingdom.
The food here is fresh, inventive, and unlike anything you can get at any other Disney World quick service restaurant.
You can’t go wrong with getting a customizable bowl. You have to try the beef — it is perfectly grilled.
For dessert, make sure to pick up the Blueberry Mousse, as this is one of the best desserts on Disney properties. Plus it looks awesome with all its shiny glaze.
Finally, TM Brown at Footprints in Pixie Dust had this to say:
This question is an easy one to answer. Hands down ~ my favorite quick service restaurant at Walt Disney World is Satu’li Canteen at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
They have the most unique options and some great bursts of flavor on their menu!
As for my go-to meal option, I am in love with the Slow-Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef Bowl with Red and Sweet Potato Hash as the base and Creamy Herb Dressing as my sauce. Mmmm…yum! I can eat that all day.
Another plus is that they are FANTASTIC when it comes to guests with food allergies and dietary restrictions, too! We know from personal experience (wink, wink).
Review of Satu’li Canteen in Pandora — World of Avatar
Now I want to hear from you.
Do you agree? Disagree? Any favorite quick service meal you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments!
Honestly, a part of me kinda miss the old days of FastPass at Disney World. I have fond memories of striding into the Magic Kingdom in September 2005 with my parents, husband, and two little girls all obediently following me, since I was the only […]
Epcot’s fireworks show, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” is a tribute to the nations of the world, involving not just fireworks, but also lasers, dancing water, and music. Premiering on October 1, 1999, it is Walt Disney World’s longest running fireworks show and, according to Wikipedia, […]
I have to be honest. Getting matching family shirts for our Disney vacations is something we’ve never done. In fact, it’s something we’ve never even thought about it when we do our Disney shopping and packing.
My husband always packs shirts like this that keep him cool. And I like to feel “pretty” when I’m at DIsney, so I look for outfits like this. (Which not only make me feel pretty, but alsohave the added benefit of helping beat the Disney heat.)
But I’ve been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and Etsy lately, and I see a LOT of really cute Disney shirts for the family. I think matching shirts would be a must for an extended family reunion at Disney World. But even if there are just a few of you, matching shirts are a great idea because:
1) It’s easier to stay together and not have kids get lost;
2) They look great in photos;
3) If you have a shirt for every day of the week, packing and getting ready in the mornings becomes super-easy;
4) They’re an automatic souvenir that you can use again and again and remember the fun you had on your trip.
5) You can use them to collect Disney character autographs (although I personally prefer using autograph books).
I did some research on Etsy and picked out the best shirts in each category. Which one is your family’s favorite?
Funny Minnie and Mickey Family Shirts
These are really cute … although interestingly, I don’t think the “matching shirt protester” in our family would be either my husband OR my son, but rather one of my teenage daughters, who I could picture saying they were “dorky” or “embarrassing.” Can anyone else relate?
I haven’t actually asked her, though, so maybe I’m selling her short.
Chevron Micky and Minnie Shirts
These shirts caught my eye because they have a unique blend of creativity and simplicity. If you look closely, you can see that the bow for the “girl Minnie” is slightly different than the “adult Minnie” to give her a little spunk. I love clever little touches like that.
Etsy Christmas Disney Shirts
If you ever have the opportunity to go to Disney World in late November or December, DO IT! The Christmas decorations are breathtakingly beautiful — plus the heat will be less of an issue. (One time we went in November and actually all to wear jackets when we headed back to Epcot in the evening to see Illuminations!)
Just be warned that that weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the worst weeks in the entire year as far as crowds are concerned, so try to avoid them — if you can.
Halloween Disney Family Shirts
Disney likes go all-out during the Halloween season too, between the oversized pumpkins decorating Main Street, Halloween parties, and the Happy HalloWishes fireworks show at Disney World. These shirts are great for an October vacation.
Family Star Wars T-Shirts
This would definitely be the shirt that my husband Robert and my son Benjamin would vote for, although it wouldn’t get me or my girls very excited. (Sorry, Star Wars fans.) I wonder — do families ever split it up, so that some members are wearing one type of shirt while others are wearing something different? I don’t see why you couldn’t.
Matching Birthday Shirt Ideas for the Entire Family
If someone in your family is celebrating a birthday during your Disney vacation (whether you’re wearing matching shirts or not), make sure you go to Guest Relations as soon as you enter the park and get:
1) A free “Happy Birthday!” celebration button for the birthday boy or girl;
2) Free “I’m Celebrating” buttons for everybody else.
You don’t have to be overly technical about this — you can wear these even if Joey’s birthday was last week, and you can wear them during your entire vacation, not just the actual day.
There are tons of great birthday shirts with all kinds of different themes. Here are my personal favorites:
Animal Kingdom Matching Shirts
These embroidered safari shirts are beautiful and would be perfect for your family’s day at Animal Kingdom. (And consider getting reservations for the Tusker House breakfast, one of our favorite character meals.
Matching Beauty and the Beast Shirts
Aw … this is for those of you who want a family Disney shirt that’s kinda romantic. And the “Chip” shirt, of course, is adorable!
Matching Disney Pirate Shirts
This is for you if your family loves Pirates of the Caribbean, and/or consider September 19 to be one of your favorite holidays. Ahoy, Mickey!
Edited to add:
It’s late June, and I couldn’t help wondering, “Hmm … are there Fourth of July Disney shirts?”
The answer is YES! These shirts come in three different styles.
I remember our family’s very first trip to Disney World, when little two year old Becca gave Chip (or was it Dale?) a great big hug and just hung on, so content and peaceful that it looked like she never wanted to let go. Then […]
I will always have special memories of our very first Disney World vacation as a family. My girls were ages 2 and 4, and my son didn’t exist yet. We went with my parents, whose idea it had been. (I had thought we would wait a few years before going to Disney, and am glad now that we didn’t.)
Even though we only went to two of the four parks, even though we didn’t have a single character meal … that trip was wonderful because the girls were excited about everything.
So if you’re getting ready for a Disney trip with little ones, you are in for a real treat.
And now I’m going to indulge in some nostalgia while I try to cover everything you need to know about taking toddler and preschool-age kids to Disney World — the questions I had, the things, we did right, and the things I would do differently.
Preparing Kids for Disney World
I’ve always thought a big part of the fun of going to Disney was the weeks leading up to it. I remember playing “go to Disney World” with the girls pretty much every day. We pretended the couch was the car and we “drove” there, and immediately upon arrival ran up to hug Winnie the Pooh (ah, if only it were that easy.)
Then they would “ride” various rides, including going down the slide on our backyard swing set, pretending it was Splash Mountain.
We also enjoyed snuggling up in bed together in the evenings and reading a section from this book, which gave us a general idea of what was where and got all of us excited for the trip.
It’s thorough, easy to read … and sometimes laugh out loud funny!
Other ways of building excitement (for yourself as well as the kids) include making or buying a Disney countdown calendar, watching your favorite Disney movies, or playing Disney games together as a family.
World of Disney Eye Found It Board GameCandy Land Disney Princess Edition Game Board GameWorld of Disney Eye Found It Card GameDisney Apples To Apples – The Game Of Goofy ComparisonsDisney Classic Characters Matching GameWonder Forge Disney Princess Surprise Slides Game
The Best Disney Parks for Toddlers
This is one of the most common questions people tend to ask, especially if they’re only able to go to the parks for a couple days.
Unfortunately, we totally messed this one up on our first trip. My NASA-loving husband was dying to ride Mission:Space at Epcot, and since we didn’t spring for the Park Hopper tickets, we were stuck there for the rest of the day. And in my opinion, Epcot isn’t the best park for an entire day with a 2 and 4 year old. Too few kid-friendly rides and too much walking.
Note: Personally, I still wouldn’t recommend getting the Park Hopper tickets when your kids are that little, especially if you’re concerned about saving money. Just make better decisions than we did about which parks to go to!
First Choice for Best Park: Magic Kingdom
In my opinion — and most people would probably agree — the Magic Kingdom is by far the best park for a toddler. They have a ton of rides perfectly suited for little kids, plus the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, which features characters from Tangled, Frozen, and Brave, among others. There are also a bunch of opportunities for character meet and greets, from Chip and Dale (my favorites!) to Belle and Gaston to Tinkberbell and Mickey Mouse.
In fact, I would argue that if you’re having only 2 days at the parks, it might be best to make an itinerary where you go to the Magic Kingdom twice rather than go to 2 different parks. Just something to think about.
Here are some of the best Magic Kingdom attractions for toddlers:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This is a great ride with a somewhat interactive queue. There is a 3 foot, 2 inch height requirement, so some toddlers won’t be tall enough. Others will be, but the ride will be too intense for them. (It is a roller coaster, even though it’s a tame one.)
If you do ride the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, you definitely want to get a Fastpass for this one OR hit it the second the park opens.
Peter Pan’s Flight
This was officially Rachael’s favorite ride after our first trip, when she was 4 years old. To this day, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is one of her favorite books.
The lines for this one are almost ridiculously long (although I think the queue is a really good one), so definitely get a Fastpass for it.
It’s a Small World
People love to hate on this ride, but your toddler will almost certainly love it. It features over 300 audio-animatronic children in traditional costumes from cultures around the world singing the theme song (which, according to
Wiki, is the most publicly performed song of all time.
POV Ride — It’s a Small World in the Magic Kingdom
Under the Sea — Journey of the Little Mermaid
This ride is easy to forget, especially since it’s in the very back of the Fantasyland, past Enchanted Tales with Belle (which is another good choice for toddlers). But it’s a great little ride, with short wait times and an interesting queue. Rob made sure we rode it on our last trip, proving that it’s not just for toddlers or females.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
This is another underrated ride, I think. Sure, a carrousel may not be unique in itself, but this is one of the most beautiful and intricate ones you’ll ever ride. It’s particular gorgeous at night when the lights are turned on.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
I love anything involving Winnie the Pooh, and this ride is no exception. Just a heads up: when Rebecca was 2 years old, the heffalump section frightened her a little.
Walt Disney World Railroad
This ride is great if a) You have a kid who loves trains; and/or b) The idea of traveling through the park without being on your feet appeals to you.
We usually get on the train at the Main Street station right at the entrance of the park and then get off at either Frontierland or Fantasyland. You can also choose to take a 20-minute scenic tour around the entire park.
Mad Tea Party
You have to be careful with this one. Some people (like my daughters) love it, while others (like my husband) would get sick as a dog from riding it.
It’s ridiculous that this ride offers a Fastpass, because there is hardly any wait at all. On our last visit, we literally walked up to the ride and got on immediately.
If you’re an Alice in Wonderland fan, like me, there are scheduled times when you can meet Alice and the Mad Hatter near this ride.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Boy, did we get gypped. Back when my girls were little, this ride only had one carousel, and the line had no shade and nothing to do, so you had to endure the heat while desperately trying to keep your kids entertained during the long wait.
Now, instead of having to wait in line, you get a pager and your kids can play in the Storybook Circus indoor play area until it’s your turn. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of kids like the play area better than the ride itself.
Inside the Dumbo Storybook Circus Queue at Magic Kingdom
This is a simulation of a riverboat cruise traveling down the major rivers of Asia, Africa and South America and passing audio-animatronic jungle animals. The tour is led by a Cast Member who gives a semi-improv narrative full of corny jokes. There’s a decent chance they’ll led your kid come up the front and steer for a couple minutes.
Pirates of the Caribbean
According to Wiki, this was originally envisioned as a walk-through wax museum attraction, but was changed to a boat ride concept after the success of It’s a Small World at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.
It sounds like it could be a scary ride, but it really isn’t. I think most toddlers would do just fine. (I would not, however, recommend The Haunted Mansion for real little ones.)
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
My daughter Rebecca commented on our last trip that this was one of the most underrated rides in the park. I like it because I always get a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle when I’m finished.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
I still call this the “WEDWay People Mover,” partly because I’m old enough to remember it by that name and partly because it’s a lot easier to say.
Some may call this a boring ride, but even if it is, who cares? You get to sit in an air conditioned area for 10 full minutes.
My son Benjamin, who was all about cars when he was little, loved this one on his first trip to Disney when he was 3 years old. If your child is too short to drive, he can still steer the car while you sit next to him and work the foot pedal. The cars travel at 7 mph and travel on a guard rail, so no skill is required.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
This is a combination of a dark ride and a shooting gallery. Sure, it isn’t as impressive as Toy Story Midway Mania in Hollywood Studios, but your 2 or 3 year old isn going to love it.
The Complete Guide to Magic Kingdom Rides
Second Choice for Best Park — Animal Kingdom
Another nice thing about Animal Kingdom is that you can get to meet some of the more obscure Disney characters, like Baloo and King Louie, Simba and Timon, and Russell and Dug.
Here are some attractions in Animal Kingdom that are good for toddlers:
This ride simulates an open-sided safari ride through the savanna of East Africa. Unlike the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom, the animals are real, not audio-animatronic. You’ll see zebras, wildebeests, giraffes, rhinos, and lions just roaming about, which is pretty fascinating, and never exactly the same “ride” twice. If your kid loves animals, this one is a no-brainer.
Kiliminjaro Safaris Full Ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Located near Kilimanjaro Safaris, this is also more “real life” than your typical Disney attraction. It’s simply walking along a pretty winding trail where you might see zebras, meerkats, hippos, and African birds. At the end of the trail is a gorilla exhibit.
This is a scavenger hunt where players earn “badges” (stickers) from Cast Members for completing certain activities throughout the park. (This Disney tie-in is that it’s based on Russell’s troop from the movie Up.) It’s intended more for ages 8-13, but Cast Members are apparently trained to modify the activities for different ages.
To play, you register near the bridge from The Oasis to Discovery Island, where you’ll be given an instruction book and a map showing where the different badge activities are.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Touring Plans says, “Rafiki’s Planet Watch isn’t really a “land” and not really an attraction either. Our best guess is that Disney is using the name as an umbrella for Conservation Station, the petting zoo, and the environmental exhibits accessible from Harambe via the Wildlife Express Train from Africa.
We only visited Rafiki’s Planet Watch once, when Benjamin was 3. He loved the train ride, and all of enjoyed being somewhere that was a little educational and (at the time) not crowded.
I really hate Dinoland USA (except for the ride Dinosaur, which I love). It’s garish, hot, and looks like a state fair as opposed to a Disney park. Plus the rides aren’t much to get excited about. Triceratops Spin is bland and unoriginal, and Primeval Whirl has a height requirement of 4 feet (plus an unofficial requirement that you have a good chiropractor waiting for you when you get back home).
Still, your kids will probably like Triceratops Spin and playing in The Boneyard, so I need to mention it here.
Na’Vi River Journey
Toddlers can certainly ride this attraction in World of Pandora, but I wouldn’t recommend knocking yourself out to do it. My family found it pretty, but underwhelming. We were there in late September, one of the lowest-crowd times, and the wait time without a Fastpass (which we had) was 120 minutes. Definitely not worth it.
Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo: The Musical
Would you believe we have never seen either of these? We’re just always too busy doing other things (like riding Expedition Everest 3 times), and no one in my family gets too excited about the shows at Disney. They want rides.
I’ve heard good things about both. If I ever made the time to see one, I would choose Finding Nemo:The Musical. But that’s just me.
How to Prevent Kids from Getting Lost at Disney
Disney cast members recommend that you take a photo of each child before arriving at the park that morning so that it will be much easier to look for them if they do happen to get lost.
Something like these waterproof travel ID bracelets are a good idea, or writing information on the inside of your child’s Magic Band with a Sharpie marker.
When you arrive at the park in the morning, point out to your kids that the cast members all wear white name tags, and drive home the fact that if anyone in the family gets lost or separated, they should immediately find the nearest cast member and ask for help. Tell your kids that they might have to go to the nearest ride, restaurant, or store to find a cast member; that way they aren’t aimlessly walking through the crowds and grow more panicked the longer they go without finding one.
A fun way to make it easier for the family to stay together and keep from getting lost is to wear matching family vacation shirts.
Your Toddler Needs a Stroller!
Fine, call me an indulgent parent with lazy kids. But Magic Kingdom is 105 acres (Epcot is 300!) and I do not want to find out what will happen when I tell an exhausted four year old who is past ready to go back to the hotel that we have to trek through the blazing Florida heat for another fifteen minutes first.
Other than their obvious purpose, strollers are also a convenient way to store the things you need to bring into the parks, like snacks, water bottles, sunscreen, sunglasses, wet wipes, etc.
I personally don’t recommend the Disney rental strollers, because they are fairly expensive, bulky, and the hard plastic looks uncomfortable. (Note that we have never actually used the rental strollers; that’s just my impression based on what I’ve seen.)
We just brought cheap umbrella strollers with no frills which worked pretty well. However, if you’re getting a new stroller for the trip, I would recommend getting an umbrella stroller with a canopy and a basket, especially if you have one or more kids still in diapers.
The Best Strollers for Toddlers at Disney World
An organizer attachment like this one isn’t a bad idea, either, for storing all the afore-mentioned snacks, wipes, etc.
Make sure that the stroller folds easily and, as funny as this may sound, practice folding it a few times before the trip. You don’t want to struggling with it, along with a cranky toddler and/or spouse, while you’re trying to board the monorail or Disney buses at the end of the day.
You’ll want to mark your stroller so that after you’re done riding Peter Pan’s Flight or Dumbo you don’t spend ten minutes trying to it again in the stroller parking lot. I go into much more detail in another post about how to make your stroller stand out at Disney.
Disney World Baby Care Centers
Other parents, however, may not be so lucky, or maybe be traveling with children even younger. Fortunately for them, there is a Baby Care Center located inside each of Disney’s four parks.
Baby Care Center Locations
Magic Kingdom — At the end of Main Street between Casey’s Corner and the Crystal Palace.
Epcot — The long brown Odyssey building heading to the Mexico Pavilion.
Animal Kingdom — Next to Pizzafari in Discovery Island.
Hollywood Studios — Immediately inside the front entrance, in the same building as Guest Relations
The Baby Care Centers have not only padded changing tables, but also a private nursing rooms complete with rocking chairs.
The kitchenette has a microwave, bottle warmer, sterilizer, and purified water, as well as a feeding area with high chairs.
There is also a kids’ play area so that your older kids have something fun to do while you change a diaper or nurse the baby. It has a TV, books and toys. One really cool thing is that the bathrooms are equipped with snap-on toddler potty seats,
There is also a small convenience-type store set up that sells diapers and wipes, baby food and formula, toddler snacks and juice, and even things like sunscreen, feminine products, cough drops, and hand sanitizer.
Walt Disney World — Baby Care Centers
Using Rider Swap at Disney World
Rider Swap (also known as “Rider Switch,” or, my personal favorite, “Baby Swap”) is for rides that you and your spouse want to ride, but that your child can’t — either because they don’t meet the height requirements and/or because they’re too scared.
The best way to explain it is with an example.
In this case, an example where there happens to also be an older child in the family, although obviously it works the same way whether you have an older child or not.
Example: You, your spouse, and your 9 nine year old all want to ride Space Mountain, but your 3 year old is with you and obviously can’t ride it. What do you do?
Go to Space Mountain and ask the cast member at the entrance of the line for a Rider Switch Pass. (Ideally you would have a Fast Pass, just to make life easier for everybody, but the FastPass is not required to us Baby Swap.)
Your spouse and your 9 year old go on Space Mountain while you and your 3 year old go split a pretzel at The Lunching Pad.
Then, when your spouse and 9 year old get back from the ride, you get to enter the FastPass line and ride Space Mountain along with your 9 year old.
Do you notice who really wins out here? The 9 year old! Just another example of how life is good to the first-born.
It’s a smart idea to do “practice runs” of the Rider Swap process when you’re at home so your toddler understands how it works and doesn’t get confused or scared, thinking they’ll be left behind. Little kids love acting out stuff like that anyway. If your kids are like my girls, they’ll want to practice it many more times than you actually care to.
Along those lines, before you go on your trip, measure your kids’ height, and let them know what they can or cannot ride so there’s no disappointment at the last minute when they discover they’re not allowed on something they were looking forward to.
What to Pack for Disney World with Toddlers
Right now I’m just going to focus on some items that are unique to having toddlers with you.
1. Toddler Leash
Years ago, before I even had children, a co-worker of mine who was a grandmother said, “I used to think people who used toddler leashes were horrible parents … until I had my third child.”
Hey, if you think your child is gonna be safer with a “leash” (or perhaps we should just call it a “safety wrist link,” then you go for it. If you haven’t already gotten used to people making horribel judgements of your parenting style, now is as good a time as any to get started.
I like how this one attaches at the wrist, instead of having a cumbersome harness. It got very good reviews on Amazon.
Kids get messy pretty much any time they eat, and the last thing you want to do is have to worry about changing clothes every time they eat a Mickey ice cream bar.
This particular bib is very clever for several reasons. One, it has a built-in pocket to catch food. Two, you can clean it just by rinsing it off, as opposed to having to throw it in with the laundry. Three, the beaded neckline makes it difficult for a kid to yank the bib off and throw it across the table.
3. Rash Guards (aka swim shirts)
These are so much more effective that trying to get sunscreen on every spot on the neck, shoulders, and back, invariably missing a spot, and then having it wash off in the pool anyway.
There are life jackets at the pools, but you might want to bring a pair of something like this as well:
This is really important, and just the kind of thing I tended to forget when my kids were little. Our first Disney trip was with my parents, who promptly bought both girls Mickey Mouse hats almost the second we entered the park because I was too dense to realize they needed something to keep the sun off their faces.
6. Sippy Cups
I probably don’t need to tell you this, since you’re used to taking them everywhere all the time and are used to seeing them spilling out of kitchen cabinet or finding them under the couch or on the floor of your car constantly. Just thought I’d mention it anyway. This Minnie Mouse cup is cute and got pretty good customer reviews.
The Best Glow in the Dark Toys for Toddlers
Buy your souvenirs before you leave home.
We personally never did this, but I decided to include it here because so many people swear by it and you can save a ton of money doing it this way. It also saves time, as you won’t have to wander around shopping for mouse ears when you could be riding Dumbo. However, there is something to be said for enjoying the shopping experience while you’re at the parks. It all depends on what your family enjoys.
Our girls never wore princess costumes to the park (they never asked to and I always thought they looked hot and uncomfortable), but if your little girls will want to do that, definitely buy them before the trip, preferably right after Halloween.
Another plus about shopping early is that you have a lot more choices. Of course you’re find plenty of mouse ears at the Disney parks, but you won’t find any quite like the ones on Etsy.
Arrive at the parks before they open.
Ideally you should allow yourself at least 30 minutes to get through transportation & security and still get there before rope drop, although we’ve rarely managed to arrive quite that early ourselves. When you’re in the Magic Kingdom (which is, of course, by far the best Disney park for toddlers and preschoolers,) make a beeline toward Fantasyland.
If your kids who are sensitive to loud noises (like mine were), but you still want to enjoy one of the Disney firework shows, consider getting these noise protection earmuffs created just for babies and toddlers.
In my opinion, this is absolutely critical and works nicely with #2 above. One of the perks of getting to the parks early is that you can leave around lunchtime, or just after, go back to your hotel room, and take a nap and possible a dip in the pool before heading back out to the parks for a few hours in the late afternoon and evening. This may seem like a time-waster, but it isn’t. Trust me, your kids will need a nap and so will you. If you take only piece of advice from this article, take the afternoon nap.
The Best Kids’ Shoes for Disney World
Come up with a “Must Do” List
No matter how hard you try, you perfectly planned schedule that looks great on paper (or screen) is going to get de-railed somehow. Trust me, I know. Things will take longer than you thought, or someone (not necessarily a child) will suddenly become very hungry and have to eat right now, no matter what your meticulously designed itinerary says.
That’s why it’s smart to have a “Must Do” list before you go. No matter how badly things go out of whack, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did the things people really, really wanted to do. Whether it’s getting your picture taken with Ariel, riding Dumbo, or eating a Mickey ice cream bar, find out what everybody is looking forward to the most and then stay focused on those things even if all else fails.
This may sound obvious, especially if you’ve never been to Disney World before, but sometimes it’s easy to think that you researched and planned this trip for months and it’s costing a ton of money so everything had better go perfectly. Allow for some flexible, don’t force your kids on attractions they don’t want to ride, and let your own inner child come out and play for a while!
Did you know that the average distance walked at Disney World is ten miles a day!?! That’s a lot of walking, and if you’re not prepared with sturdy, comfortable shoes that can handle it, you’re probably going to be unhappy. Wanna chat about shoes […]