April 9, 2012 5:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm being forced to visit Disney in September, for two and a half days. The rest of my family will be staying longer, so I get to pick what we do those two and a half days. My son is 5 and this is his first Disney "experience". What the heck do I select?

I know, I know ... first world problems. I'm also aware that I sound like a huge curmudgeon, but visiting these parks just doesn't sound fun to me.

The "Magic Kingdom" part isn't really interesting to me, and my son is not really familiar with most Disney property characters (Cars excepted). I accept, though, that he'll experience the Magic Kingdom with all the awe and magic that is intended, and I accept that one of my two and a half days will need to be spent visiting it. But what else do I choose?

I arrive late Friday night. My flight leaves at 6 pm Monday, leaving behind my husband and son and the rest of my husband's family to do stuff. The only thing that sounds somewhat interesting to me is the Animal Kingdom part but my in-laws (who have been to Disney many many times) have been pretty clear about how "slow" "crowded" and "boring" they think it is.

Thoughts? Disney veterans here? Help me enjoy this enforced vacation.
posted by anastasiav to Travel & Transportation around Orlando, FL (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm assuming that with the reference to Magic Kingdom you're talking about Disney World, not Disneyland, but could you specify?
posted by brainmouse at 5:47 PM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Why don't you ask your son or husband what they want to do? Seems like you don't care much, so why bother choosing?

Just don't be a curmudgeon while you're down there, undoubtably your son will think its pretty awesome. Look at it through his little kid eyes.

But to answer your question for real, I love the water parks. Lazy river for mom, splash park for kids&dad, it's win/win!!
posted by katypickle at 5:49 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The Hollywood Studios part is where the Tower of Terror and Star Wars rides are.

I really like going to Animal Kingdom, that safari ride is pretty cool for people who don't normally get to see wild animals in a more natural habitat than a small zoo enclosure.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:50 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Check out the tags - world, in Florida. OP, you have a 5 year old going to Disney. There is so much there I'm not even sure where to start. I guess it really depends on what your son likes to do otherwise. Everything from the hotels to the rainforest cafe has tons of cool little things in it. Others can perhaps give specifics, I say just let him have fun and run with whatever he likes.
posted by cashman at 5:51 PM on April 9, 2012

I don't like the characters all that much either, but I swear we all had a really nice time. It is clean, not too overcrowded, no one's drunk....
posted by k8t at 5:53 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Epcot. Epcot Epcot Epcot.
posted by BrandonW at 5:54 PM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I went to Disney World expecting to HATE it. My mom insisted on taking me and my daughters who were 8 and 11. My memories of it from when I was a child were sort of meh. I remember a lot of flies. But going with my kids was GREAT and I had so much fun and they and my mom did too.
If you are staying in the park- it helps to base your plans around the parks that open early to guests staying in the park- it made a big difference in terms of lines in our case.
We all loved the Toy Story ride at Hollywood Studios. We also found the places with shows to be a relief- the little mermaid one had water mist which cooled us off and smells that were pleasant and it was nice to have a break and sit down somewhere cool.
There are a lot iphone apps that help you plan your trip and help show where the crowds are.
Animal Kingdom was fun- the safari was great and the ants(or bugs?) show below the tree of life was good too.
We did one meal with the characters- it was fun but very pricey.
We also splurged on the photo pass, and that was worth it too, because the pictures are great and they will do cool effects as well. My girls also got into the pin trading, you can buy a set of pins and then trade with all the people working at disney. Some people pre-buy pins on ebay to save money.
I hope you have as much fun as I did and leave surprised at how much you enjoyed it. I still hate Disney and I am not sure if we will ever go back but the trip was great and I am glad I went.
posted by momochan at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: EPCOT! And dinner at Jiko.

Animal Kingdom is fantastic. Go. The Kiliminjaro Safari and Expedition: Everest are spectacular.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:04 PM on April 9, 2012

Best answer: Remember that kids love Disney. You may be new to this kind of thing, but Disney has been thrilling kids for a half a century, and they have gotten pretty good at it. So whenever you remember how you have been "forced" into an environment where your kids just might really have a good time, just tell yourself that it is about them and you might feel able to make the sacrifice.

That being said, the real kill joy could end up being hanging out with a large group in the park, like an extended family. If your five year old is still at napping age, you might use this as a time to have a personal respite frome the group back at your hotel alone.

Hotel pools in Orlando are generally pretty good compared to the lot. Are you staying at a disney property? This might also help others to answer this question. Good luck.
posted by boots77 at 6:20 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Animal Kingdom was neither slow nor boring when I went (and it wasn't any more crowded than EPCOT or Magic Kingdom, which we also hit while I was there), but was definitely awesome.
posted by scody at 6:35 PM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: EPCOT may be the most fun for adults, but I think it's probably the least fun for a 5 year old. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom hotel when we were there and woke up mornings to zebra and giraffe grazing just off our patio. It was pretty freaking awesome. If I only had 2 days with a 5 year old I'd probably go with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.
posted by COD at 6:49 PM on April 9, 2012

Nthing Animal Kingdom!
posted by Ochre,Hugh at 6:57 PM on April 9, 2012

Best answer: Disney World sounds like hell on earth to me, but a friend of mine who felt similarly went during March break with her kid and had a great time. She was impressed at how well they manipulated the environment and guests literally every second of every minute in such a way as to ensure a good time.

Having said that, her favourite part of the vacation was the Harry Potter thing at Universal Studios, which isn't a Disney property at all.
posted by looli at 7:01 PM on April 9, 2012

I have no children but I've been to WDW countless times. (Yes, I'm one of those people.) I was 6 when my parents first took me and my fondest memory of that trip is watching them laugh and enjoy themselves.

Of course, I think you should definitely hit the Magic Kingdom for one day. Toss him on a Dumbo elephant, take his picture in front of the castle, see if he can pull the sword out of the stone, ride Pirates of the Caribbean (not scary, but there is a drop at the beginning), see Mickey's Philharmagic (fun 3D movie) and ride Peter Pan. Take an afternoon break back at the hotel if you can, and get him back there at night so he can see the nighttime parade and fireworks.

On your 2nd day I'd suggest Disney Studios (formerly MGM). There's a whole area dedicated to Pixar now, plus a Pixar parade so your boy can get his Cars fix. If he's into lowercase-cars as well, there's a loud and flashy stunt show called Lights, Motors, Action! that features lots of cars and motorcycles zipping around and Lightning McQueen makes an appearance.

Toy Story Mania is a fun ride - get there first thing and either ride it or get a FastPass so you can come back at a designated later time and walk right on. Actually, get there first, grab a FastPass and then hop into line. That way you will go twice. The stage shows are peppy and fun. The Muppets 3D movie is hysterical and has nothing to do with the current movie. See if you can eat at the 50s prime time cafe. The cultural kitsch will be lost on him, but the waitstaff play the parts of your aunt/uncle/cousin and I've seen many a little kid dissolve into laughter watching their parents "get in trouble" at the table.

Animal Kingdom is great and I really enjoy it, but it is a slower-paced park, more meant for meandering and discovering. I don't know how meander-y your kid is. Everest is amazing, but it's a bit intense. The safari's fun. Kali River Rapids is fun and wet.

For your remaining half-day, I recommend a character breakfast at one of the Disney hotels and fun at your hotel pool.

(Sorry for length -- there aren't many topics on Ask that I can really REALLY answer! But try to have fun!)
posted by ladygypsy at 7:05 PM on April 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Each person is different, but Disney World has an awful lot to offer. I'm not totally clear on whether everything you do will be with the 5 year old, or if the family will be watching the child for some portions. Personally I try to never miss the EPCOT fireworks and pyrotechnic display, it is awesome! Videos don't do it justice, but that link will give you a little idea. There is a Segway tour you can sign-up for (if you've always want to ride one) that I enjoyed. Here's some other things I always enjoy in EPCOT:
* The Land "Soaring" (though lines are long)
* The Land Cafeteria
* Advance reservation for Canada Le Celier
And on Pleasure Island (Downtown Disney):
* Raglan Road Irish Pub
* The Lego store (near the enormous Lego sea serpent IN the lagoon)
Magic Kingdom
* Magic kingdom fish & chips Columbia Harbor House near haunted mansion entry line
* Liberty Tree Tavern near Hall of Presidents
And by all means get the refillable mugs!
posted by forthright at 7:26 PM on April 9, 2012

In addition to the other great suggestions, don't miss the fireworks at the end of the night at the Magic Kingdom. The Epcot ones are really cool too, as is the end-of-day show thingy at MGM, but the Magic Kingdom ones are really iconic and kid-friendly (MGM's show has a long-ass line, Epcot's is awesome but I agree with others' assessment that Epcot is probably the best for adults, least fun for kids park). Go early-ish to somewhere where you have a good view of the castle and watch them.

I think you'll have fun -- I went three years ago with nieces and nephews and a whole extended family situation, and my DH and I (we don't have any kids) enjoyed watching the children have a good time. My parents took me there when I was 5, and like your kid, I wasn't super into Disney characters, etc. They just made it a low-key event for me and didn't try to do everythingintheworldomg -- that's the worst, most leading-to-misery mistake parents make on Disney park vacations that I observed on my recent trip. Just pick a few things and be flexible -- if there's a 3-hour line for It's A Small World, just skip it and move on with your life.

I would also suggest a mid-day return to the hotel, if you are staying in the park, for a nap/regroup, then go back into the park (or a different park) and do something else. Break up the day, because it's very tiring, and there's a lot of walking, and it's hot -- a trifecta of crankiness induction for all ages. However, if you don't stay in the Disney parks compound, leaving and coming back is probably going to be a big production.

Also, Animal Kingdom is my favorite. If your kid likes animals, your family is wrong. If your kid isn't interested in animals, maybe not so much. It IS different from the other parks, but in a great way.
posted by pupstocks at 8:34 PM on April 9, 2012

I once was a cast member at Disney. This is what they call the employees at Disneyland and Disney World- since when I was in front of guests, I was on stage!

"They just made it a low-key event for me and didn't try to do everythingintheworldomg -- that's the worst, most leading-to-misery mistake parents make on Disney park vacations that I observed on my recent trip."

I agree with pupstocks. I worked at the ice cream shop on main street, which is open past the park closing at midnight. There was often a kid asleep in the stroller, and the parent would wake the kid up so they could eat their $6 ice cream cone.

When I go to Disneyland, I have the most fun when I take my time (I recommend a mid afternoon nap, if possible), and when I talk to cast members. The good ones like interacting with you, to make it fun for you. It made my day when I had a guest appreciate my silly joke or observation or my effort to make some magic for them.
posted by Monday at 1:34 AM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've always enjoyed the water parks at Disney World. They're really well done, the lines aren't crazy long, and there are a lot of different things to do.
posted by elmay at 6:09 AM on April 10, 2012

I'd do one day Magic Kingdom, one day Animal Kingdom, half-day Epcot (the part where you first walk in, not the international, adult-y part. My credentials: I took a little guy there when he was almost 3 and again when he was 5. But definitely consider switching in Disney Studios (for Epcot, I guess) if your little guy is crazy about Cars.

Here's the nice part: Your son is guaranteed to have an awesome time, as long as he sets the pace.
posted by troywestfield at 6:53 AM on April 10, 2012

I was coming in to say that the water parks are awesome for all ages. It was especially nice to do the day after a really long day at one of the other parks.

Also we have been in September, and it is a great time to go in terms of the crowds.
posted by maxg94 at 6:57 AM on April 10, 2012

What ever parks you chose you must go during opening. Be at the gates when they open. this allows you to do a lot of the rides before people get to the park. even if you have to drag your kids while they are sleeping.

This makes it a much better experience.

you can eat at boma (buffet at animal kingdom lodge) or Sanaa (also at animal kingdom lodge kidani village) jiko is an expensive steak house. these will allow you to go to animal kingdom lodge and view the animals there. they have giraffes ,zibras and other things. the 5 year old should like that.

also make sure you get your reservations NOW for dinning. I am going to disney world last week in sept and ohana is already booked solid for that week.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:44 AM on April 10, 2012

Epcot was the most interesting to me as an adult, especially the countries. You can sample food and beverages from different parts of the world and learn about their cultures.
posted by sybarite09 at 8:41 AM on April 10, 2012

Be sure to hit the Haunted Mansion, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Tower of Terror is fun, but a lot of people (IE, me!) dont like the 'drop' part much. If you yourself are bored and someone else has the tot, if they still do the Indiana Jones stunt show I find it worth going to.

Disclaimer: I have no idea which of these things are at what park.
posted by Jacen at 10:41 AM on April 10, 2012

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