Walt Disney World is a place of magic! Any Disney Park is. The parks are designed to help you leave the real world behind and enter a place that only exists in storybooks. Disney is a master at creating immersive environments that tug at our heartstrings. It’s become a haven for many who just need a break from life’s mundane walk. Although not always the most thrilling of places, compared to other themed parks, Disney Parks have a little bit of something for everyone, but what about teenagers?
Parents, you get it! Teenagers can be notoriously difficult. They can be picky, unnecessarily grumpy, and hard to please. Sometimes they can even seem ungrateful or downright nasty. It’s just the nature of being a teenager. We’ve all been there. I’m certain that I wasn’t the most pleasant person when I was that age either.
I’ve recently had several talks with parents who frequent Disney Parks. In these conversations, I’ve noticed a trend. As their kids get older, they stop going. Why? The general consensus is that Walt Disney World simply doesn’t impress teenagers. Although a few rides will get your heart pumping, Walt Disney World isn’t exciting enough for them.
“It’s made for kids.”
“It doesn’t hold their attention.”
“There aren’t enough real roller coasters.”
These are some of the complaints I’ve heard from the parents of these teens. Parents insisted that their teenagers aren’t interested in going to Walt Disney World when they can do other things. They value their time differently. While parents think of time spent in the parks as valuable, teenagers don’t see that. Their interests don’t align with stories they often feel are made for children much younger than themselves. Of course, this isn’t the case for every teenager, but it seemed to be generalized enough to discuss.
But as a father of my own kids–mostly teenagers–I felt it was a chance at an interesting case study. I can find out what they appreciate about our Disney trips and what they don’t. So I sat down with my kids, ages 13, 16, and 19, and discussed what they love and what they don’t enjoy about our frequent visits to Walt Disney World. I have to admit–their responses were heart-warming and very telling. It was an excellent way to try and understand how they see Disney from their perspective.
Before I go any further, a disclaimer: our Disney trips aren’t like most people who may be reading this article. We live relatively close to the parks, so we hang out with Mickey several times a month. Before we lived in Florida, we would visit around twice a year on average. Walt Disney World has been a primary vacation spot for us for years. Our familiarity with the parks may impact their opinions and attitudes about visiting Walt Disney World.
My youngest son, 13 years of age, was the most eager to sit down and help with this writing assignment, so much so that he sent a rather long email detailing his Disney experiences. He described an exciting experience from when he was younger that meant a great deal to him. He was eight then and finally agreed to ride the Tower of Terror. We stood in the queue outside the forboding Hollywood Tower Hotel, and you could tell he was getting nervous. He wanted to prove he was brave enough to ride but was understandably uncomfortable and anxious. In front of us, a group of boys, probably around the age of 16, noticed this and began talking to him. They spoke to him about their favorite video games and YouTubers, things they had in common with him. They were old friends by the time we got to the elevator shaft. They even asked to ride with him! And they did! They cheered him on the entire ride! It was one of those magic moments that can only happen at Walt Disney World!
He brought this up because he wanted to emphasize that at Walt Disney World, so many people just want to be nice to you. This is in sharp contrast to daily life. Of course, this memory overshadows the many times we’ve encountered rude guests or Cast Members. But it was substantial enough to help him enjoy the magic that Disney is known for. These are the real magical experiences that make this place unique.
He also went on to talk about how he feels visiting the parks nowadays. Getting frustrated with long lines is something he deemed essential to include.
“There’s nothing more boring than waiting in a long line.”
This isn’t exactly breaking news. Even as an adult, I can understand this.
“Your feet hurt, the sun is beating down on you, and people are crowding you like they’re going to get to the ride faster if they aren’t right up against you. Standing in line is the worst. That’s why I like lightning lanes.”
Yup! I agree with all of these observations! His older brother (16) shared similar thoughts about the long wait times for attractions.
“There’s just too many people. I remember when the parks reopened, and the worst thing was wearing a mask, but I could ride Expedition Everest back to back for hours.”
Realistically, we probably all wish fewer people were in the parks. I don’t think this is an exclusive thought for teenagers, but I could understand that they have less patience, which would equate standing in long lines to torture. This was the general complaint for my teens. Long lines and lots of people equal unnecessary stress. I can’t fault them for those feelings, as most of us have the same issue with visiting Disney.
Another interesting tidbit they revealed was that Disney’s Hollywood Studios was their favorite park. I had my hunch as to why this is, but they clarified.
“Hollywood Studios is just better. The rides are better, and they have Star Wars! The rides are scarier, and you don’t have to walk as much. That whole park is a vibe!”
Another studious observation. Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the place to go if you’re looking for thrills. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith and The Hollywood Tower of Terror are the scariest rides on the property. Plus, Rise of the Resistance remains unmatched in terms of overall experience. It helps that we’re all huge Star Wars fanatics. Compared to the fairies and princesses at the Magic Kingdom, a little excitement seems to go a long way for teens in the park. It’s also worth noting that in a world of increased technological marvel, boat rides with singing children, outdated opening day attractions, and costumed characters may not be their thing.
It wasn’t all negative. My kids showed great appreciation for the memories they have of the parks. As well, they were very thankful that we have the opportunity to visit so often. I must admit that my feelings would be hurt if they didn’t realize the privilege of visiting Walt Disney World so often. They quickly pointed out that a day at Magic Kingdom waiting in line for Space Mountain was better than sitting at home watching Netflix. This put me at ease. They insisted that although they’ve outgrown many fairytales, they still feel nostalgic walking through Fantasyland, especially once the sun’s gone down.
“It’s exhausting walking around the parks all day, but there are people who save their whole lives just to go once. I try not to forget that. I’m lucky to be able to go often and create new memories with my family. It’s also a great break from school and chores. I still get that feeling when I see Mickey Mouse. If there ever comes a day that I don’t, I’ll stop going.”
Let’s hope that never happens. There was much more to the conversation, but the general idea was that although teens will complain when they’re hungry, tired, or hot, there’s still a deep appreciation for the experience. Memories are still being made.
“That’s my favorite thing. Whether we see it or not, Disney is a big part of our culture. Seeing those films come to life with my family will stay with me forever, and I hope I get to do it with my children one day, but Universal Studios still has the better thrill rides.”