Top Ten Hands-On Happenings for Kids at Disney World
By Molly Elias
What would Disney be without kids? They are truly the heart of Disney. And Disney knows kids love all things hands-on. So it only seems fitting that there be certain interactions catered specifically to them. That’s right, something they can ACTUALLY touch! As I have now legally crossed the line into adulthood, I find myself wishing I could be young enough to play on the playgrounds and try out all of the games in Innoventions. So this is dedicated to the kids- and to the kids at heart- who never want to grow up.
10. Kidcot Fun Spots: This activity is a great way to keep the kids interested while families stroll the countries of the World Showcase in EPCOT. The Kidcot Stops are found somewhere in each country of the Showcase. Kids receive a mask to decorate. In the past, the masks included a simple design and a character like Perry the Platypus. Now Duffy, Mickey’s teddy bear, is the main object for kids to take around the World. Each station at the various countries has Cast Members who will stamp or write on the mask. Generally, they’ll write the kids name or a generic phrase like “Hello!” on the stem or back of the mask. If the child gets a stamp from every station on their mask, they get a special prize!
9. The Boneyard: Diggin’ in Dinoland, anyone? Unfortunately for most, this one really is just for the kids. The Boneyard is a giant outdoor playground for kids 10 and under. Located in Dinoland, USA in Animal Kingdom, this space gives the impression that you are on a dinosaur dig site and extremely important to discover “new” bones. There are plenty of fun things for kids to climb all over and explore. From a not-so-stable rope bridge to mysterious caves, there are plenty of things to do. If that’s not enough, the giant maze with tons of twisty slides was always my favorite. The dinosaur footprints that make noise and musical bones were fun, too. For the really little guys, or those who just like to get dirty, there’s the sandpit where they can excavate loads of dinosaur and mammoth bones. It’s a great break for the kids and the parents.
8. Magic of Animation: Staying true to the mission of Hollywood Studios, the Magic of Animation exhibit gives families a behind-the-scenes look into how Disney classics are made. To begin your experience, you view a short movie hosted by Mushu and a Disney animator giving you an introduction to the process. Then you walk into the interactive spaces, which include an Animation Academy, where you can learn to draw some of your favorite characters, the Sound Stage, the Digital Ink and Paint station, the Animation Gallery and You’re a Character, which is a quiz where Lumiere and Cogsworth tell you which Disney character you are most like. There are also some very special appearances from Mickey and the Incredibles and the latest Disney characters! Last time I checked the gang from Wreck-It-Ralph was hanging around the studio!
7. Conservation Station: This activity is not just for the kids, but it is a great experience for them. This is a fantastic opportunity for kids to learn about the many animals in the Animal Kingdom and how to take care of them and their environment. There’s so much to do in this space, from checking out the Veterinary Treatment Room to examining the Nutrition Center to glimpsing the creepy crawlers windows. There are also helpful experts around the area to answer any question the kids may have. Right outside of Conservation Station is Affection Station where kids can pet and feed all sorts of animals, including goats and a very sassy llama. This is all a part of Rafiki’s Planet Watch, which you can get to on the Wildlife Express Train near the FASTPASS entrance to the Safari.
6. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure: This site is another massive playground that allows kids to feel like they are a part of the action! As soon as you step onto this “set” you feel like you are the size of an ant. That’s right; Wayne Szalinkski has just shrunk you and left you in his backyard. Here kids are able to climb massive spider webs and avoid drops of water from a 52-foot long leaky hose. There are giant plant root mazes that kids can explore and feel like they are really underground! Plus a gigantic film case-turned-slide that for the bigger kids might be a bit lame but for the little ones is super awesome. Don’t forget the family dog whose gigantic nose is very interested in you… Just as a side note: Unfortunately this playground is currently closed for enhancements, but should be up and running soon!
5. Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure: Hey, where’s Perry? Let’s be real, Phineas and Ferb is not just for the kids. But this adventure is really fun for them (and the parents who are pretending not to LOVE it). Even though I was pretty bummed that they replaced the Kim Possible Missions with this, I am pretty happy to hear Perry’s famous sound throughout the park. This is a great way to get the kids excited about the different countries in EPCOT’s World Showcase. When you stop by one of the recruitment centers at its designated spot around the park, you receive a F.O.N.E., or Field Operative Navigating Equipment, that will be your means of communication with Phineas and Major Monogram. Then you and your team are given an assignment to travel around the world (showcase) to thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz’s “evil” schemes. MO-OM! Kids are having fun in EPCOT!
4. Sorcerers of The Magic Kingdom: Sorcerers has a fairly similar premise to Agent P’s Adventure, with a bit of an upgrade. When you sign up at either the Firehouse on Main Street or behind Ye Old Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square, you are bestowed with magical powers! You are given missions to accomplish from Merlin, yes THE Merlin, to stop Hades from building his summer home in Magic Kingdom. To stop Hades, you must find the four broken pieces of the Crystal of the Magic Kingdom before he does! Thankfully, you will have Merlin’s magic map and your very own Sorcerer Key card to help you navigate your missions. While this adventure really could take up your whole day, families can do as many of the missions as they please. It’s a fun and creative way to truly get into the magic!
3. Innoventions: Innoventions is a truly fantastic addition to EPCOT that some people might not even know exists. As a kid, I always thought of Innoventions as a never-ending space of wonder. It is broken into two separate buildings: East and West. There are so many separate activities in the buildings that you can easily spend several hours in the spaces. Between the Videogame Playground and The Sum of All Thrills (a make your own rollercoaster), the action never stops. These activities are not just for fun, though. They all use technology to teach important lessons of some kind. Kids and parents can learn about fire safety, storm readiness or financial investments, just to name a few.
2. Enchanted Tales With Belle: Is there anything cuter than little kids dressing up as Beauty and the Beast characters? I think not. In this interactive experience in the new Fantasyland, you are invited to literally step into the world of Beauty and the Beast. You wait your turn in Maurice’s workshop before stepping through the enchanted mirror into Beast’s castle where Lumiere greets you. The families sit in small group rows while the kids sit up front, eagerly awaiting Belle. When she does make her grand appearance, she tells everyone the story of how she fell in love with the Beast. But she needs help! She takes volunteers from the audience to play the parts of Chip, Mrs. Potts, soldiers and, of course, the Beast. It’s adorable.
1. Jedi Training Academy: Be honest, who didn’t want to be a Jedi at some point? This 20-minute experience does the trick. When Hollywood Studios opens, families are able to sign their 4-12 year olds up for the Academy. When they arrive 30 minutes prior, they will be given more specific instructions. The soon-to-be Jedis will be given brown robes and the guidelines on how to master the Force. Before you can say “Dark Side” there is a special appearance from none other than Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers. Make sure that Lightsaber of yours is ready because it’s time to test your skill! If you succeed in battling the evil Darth Vader you will receive a certificate decreeing you are a true Jedi Knight! And as Yoda would say, “Try not, do! Or do not. There is no try.” This is a must try-er, I mean do-for all!