When you think about Walt Disney World and planning your time there the first things that come to mind are attractions and dining reservations. But there is so much to do on your Disney vacation that is just under the surface. Many of these activities are well worth incorporating into your itinerary and planning some time to enjoy. Hands-on activities for kids are a great way to include some fun activities that engage the whole family, and help you take the time to observe all the details that make Walt Disney World such a special place. I am here to tell you the top 10 hands on activities for kids to think about scheduling into your vacation:
10. Scavenger Hunts
My son LOVES a scavenger hunt. It doesn’t matter where it is or what you are looking for, he is in. You’ll find several around Walt Disney World, and most are available to participate (officially) for a moderate fee. For less than $10 you get a map with stickers to mark your progress, and a cute little prize at the end. EPCOT usually hosts at least one scavenger hunt during each festival (searching for Figment art, looking for Spike the Bee, tracking down Remy, or locating Chip & Dale). There is also a Scavenger Hunt Adventure at The Seas with Nemo and Friends in EPCOT. Right now, Animal Kingdom has a Lion King scavenger hunt (which is challenging), there is usually a character Easter Egg hunt in EPCOT, and others. And you don’t have to pay, you can always go on your own and find the hidden statues—but you don’t get the fun prize that way.
9. NBA Experience
If you are a sports fan you will want to check out the NBA Experience over at Disney Springs. This venue gives you a chance to try your hand at several basketball activities—so this hands on experience is for more than kids! There is an admission fee to the NBA Experience, but for that price you get 13 activities including: dribbling, shooting, dunking and other basketball skills; arcade games; trivia; Hall of Champions; being a ref; and theaters. This is a great way to take a break from the parks and experience a different kind of fun on your Walt Disney World vacation.
8. Wilderness Explorers
If you are spending the day in the Animal Kingdom I highly recommend that you make a stop on your way into the park to be sworn in to the Wilderness Explorers and picking up a book to participate in fun learning activities throughout your day in the park. You can pick up a booklet at any station in the park, but if you get it at the main station on the bridge before the Tree of Life you’ll be ready to earn as many stickers as possible. As you go through the Animal Kingdom you will see fellow Wilderness Explorer scouts in uniform with hands on activities to learn about animals, ecology, the environment, and conservation. My family loves these experiences, and we often fill up a book on your trips. Just be sure to check the times because some of the stations are not open the full park hours. Best part? This one is 100% free!
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7. Archery Lessons
I know, you’re thinking “Archery Lessons at Walt Disney World? What are you talking about?” But over at the Fort Wilderness Campground there are so many wonderful recreational activities that fit into the campground atmosphere. One of those things is an archery lesson. These do have a cost involved, and you will want to make a reservation ahead of time because space is very limited, and they do fill up. My husband and sons participated in this activity one year and they had the best time! The instructors were very patient and helpful with novices, and they walked away so excited about archery that one of my sons asked for a bow that Christmas. Some of these types of things are great for a day away from the parks and to really enjoy all that the “Vacation Kingdom” has to offer.
6. Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
Over at the Magic Kingdom there is a FREE game that kids can play in the park, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. You use “spell” cards to go around different lands of the park to help Merlin defeat villains and save the Magic Kingdom. To get started you need to stop in at the Fire Station on Main Street where they give each person with a ticket a free pack of spell cards. They will also give you a map and a starting location. You use your Magic Band to initiate the game at specific portals throughout Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Main Street USA. You can get additional (free) packs of cards each time you enter Magic Kingdom, so you can get quite a collection going. On our last visit my son spent an entire afternoon playing this game—so much fun for kids!
5. Resort Activities
I am a huge proponent of resort days. No matter where you are staying at Walt Disney World, the resorts have amazing amenities and such fun themes. Plus, a Walt Disney World vacation is not necessarily an R&R type of trip, so taking a break day is often key to survival. I advise all of my travel clients to schedule in a full day, or a couple of partial days to enjoy your resort. And all of the Walt Disney World resorts have awesome recreation Cast Members who lead various hands on activities and games throughout the day. During the day you can find a listing of craft activities like making tie dye shirts—when you check in the front desk should have a calendar of those activities and events for you. In the evening you can watch a movie under the stars, or for the hands-on element, you can participate in roasting marshmallows for S’mores—fun and delicious! Some resorts have fun run races that all ages can participate in as well.
4. Savi’s Workshop
Savi’s Workshop in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge provides an opportunity for kids of all ages to be immersed in Star Wars lore and create their own light saber. Through an elaborate ceremony you choose all of the elements for your light saber including the style and color. Then you actually build your light saber. And you get to take it home with you. This is not an inexpensive hands on experience, but for Star Wars fans it is a must do when you visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios to go to Batuu.
3. Captain Hook’s Pirate Crew
There are some hands-on activities at Walt Disney World that really make me want to be able to fake being a kid. Captain Hook’s Pirate Crew at the Beach Club Resort is probably number 1 in this category. Only open to kids ages 4-12, this evening kids club provides kids with dinner and an amazing activity searching for treasure including going out on a pirate ship (weather permitting). Parents drop the scalawags off at the Pirate Hideaway as early as 4:30, and then they are free to enjoy the evening until 8:30. My then 7 year old son did this last summer and he had so much fun—not only doing the scavenger hunt, but also meeting Capt. Hook & doing some other craft activities in the hideaway, so I highly recommend it for kids, and for parents to have a date night.
I love EPCOT. And I love the details of the World Showcase. And I love to shop. Kids—not so much. But if there is a hands on activity to keep them happy they will go along without too many complaints. The first step is to download the Play Disney Parks app if you haven’t already. Within the app there is a puzzle activity for the World Showcase that will lead you to the KidCot “stations” in each country. When you get there you’ll find a puzzle piece to scan with your phone that unlocks puzzle games to play later. But the KidCot stations are the best. Cast Members from the host country are there to interact with families and let you know a little bit about their culture or language. At your first stop you get a Ziploc brand bag “suitcase” and as you go around you collect sticker stamps to put on the bag. You also get postcards to color with some information about each country. My kids have always loved the KidCot stations—the interaction with the Cast Members, and even just the coloring and taking a break from touring. And, of course finding the stations gives me time to browse through the pavilions.
1. Droid Depot
Another big draw for kids in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is the Droid Depot. Here kids (or adults) can customize an R2D2 model or BB model droid. Once you’ve paid for your droid experience you get to go to a conveyor belt to pick out the pieces to build your new companion. You get to select both color and style/shape. Then you take your pieces over to the building stations where you construct the droid using a screwdriver, and he/she is activated for you. Of course, there are other add-ons you can purchase for your droid like sound chips & even more accessories for your R2D2 model. My son had the most fun doing this activity. Your droid interacts with various areas in Batuu, so I recommend building it early in your visit so that you can experience it throughout the land. And the last time I visited they had a little section where you can drive your droid around. So much fun!!
What are some of your favorite hands on activities for kids to incorporate into Walt Disney World Vacation?