I am a big proponent of any and all ages are the best age to visit Walt Disney World. In fact, I had a friend ask me yesterday, “What is the best age to go to Disney?” followed by “Shouldn’t we wait until he can remember it?” I realize that not everyone drinks the Kool-Aid and goes on multiple visits like my family, but I truly think that any age is a good time to go. At each stage in childhood your child will get something different out of the experience. Today I’m talking about toddlers and 9 awesome things for them at Walt Disney World.
9. The Playgrounds
Throughout the parks and the resorts you will find spots for your toddler to work off some of their energy with a little bit of time for them to play independently in a safe area. There are small playgrounds in various areas (like near Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom) and larger playgrounds (like the Boneyard in Animal Kingdom), there are splash play areas (like Casey Jr. in Magic Kingdom and a couple of spots in Epcot). In Epcot, my toddlers have always loved playing with the jumping fountains at the Imagination Pavilion. There are also “seasonal” play areas in Epcot during the Flower & Garden Festival. Most of the resorts have a playground area as well—a great place for an afternoon break to get the wiggles out.
My two year old LOVED staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge with a view of the savanna—sometimes he didn’t want to leave the room. Toddlers enjoy watching animals and there are some great places at Walt Disney World to do just that. Animal Kingdom is the obvious go-to spot for animal watching—the trails in Africa and Asia are wonderful with exotic animals, Kilimanjaro Safari is a great ride for toddlers, and the animal viewing areas in the Oasis are big hits. Even if you are not staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge you can visit the resort and take a look at the savanna there. In Epcot, the Seas with Nemo and Friends provides a wonderful opportunity to visit with our undersea friends—my little one is mesmerized by the jellyfish in the waiting area for Turtle Talk with Crush.
7. Live Entertainment
Toddlers love to dance and they lack some of those inhibitions that prevent us older people from letting lose and having fun. The live performances by bands like The British Revolution in Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion will let your toddler boogie down (and burn off energy again). In Epcot they can also marvel at the feats of the Chinese gymnasts. Then there are the stage shows like those at the Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom. In Hollywood Studios, the Disney Junior Live on Stage is perfect for toddler, and the Beauty and the Beast show is also a good one.
Toddlers love to swim and the pools at Walt Disney World are great for them. Most pool areas offer a “baby” pool that is just their size, and many have added a splash play area with a padded floor that is perfect for little ones. Several “big” pools have a zero entry area, so even little ones can touch the bottom, and you can get a life jacket float for them to swim out in the pool with you. This is the perfect way to spend a break day at the resort, or some of your afternoon break time.
Music, floats, characters, bright colors—what more could a toddler ask for? The parades at the Magic Kingdom are perfect for toddlers. Be sure to arrive early before the start time to get a front row seat so your child can see everything that is going on (buy some popcorn or another snack to make the wait time pass quickly). Once the parade starts sit back and watch your toddler wave to the characters on the float, smile and point at the colorful dancers, and squeal with delight when a character walks over to say hello.
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4. Rides (the tame ones)
There are some rides at Walt Disney World that can be too much for toddlers even though they aren’t “thrill” rides, but so many of the rides are perfect for them. Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan, It’s A Small World and Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid (except for the Ursula scene) in Magic Kingdom; The Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Gran Fiesta Tour and Journey Into Imagination with Figment at Epcot; Na’vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom; Toy Story Midway Mania at Hollywood Studios are all great for little ones.
Granted this can be a hit or miss, but with 2 out of my 3 kids the characters were a huge hit when they were toddlers (and the other one came around by the end of our first trip). There is nothing like seeing your child’s face light up when you round the corner and there stands Mickey Mouse—and then they run over and give him a great big hug. Melts my heart. Or when they talk to a princess, or have breakfast with Winnie the Pooh. This is definitely Disney Magic. If your child is intimidated by the size of the characters start them off with a parade or a stage show where they can see them at a distance, and work up to meeting them with you.
2. The Carousel
Who would’ve thought that the carousel would be so attractive with everything else at Walt Disney World? But there it is, out in the open with music playing and it draws little ones to it like moths to a flame. When we took my 2 year old without his brothers I don’t even know how many times we rode the carousel because that is what he wanted to do—and because he loved it of course we did too.
The quintessential toddler ride in all of Walt Disney World. A rite of passage for any little one. You simply can’t visit the Magic Kingdom without taking your child on this ride and taking multiple photos and videos while doing it. Of course there are other spinner rides that are great for toddlers—Magic Carpets of Aladdin also in Magic Kingdom and Triceratops Spin in Animal Kingdom—but Dumbo is the gold standard. And it is just so darn cute.
What is your favorite thing to do with your toddler when you visit Walt Disney World?