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Disney Tips for Toddlers and Preschoolers at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
In my last article, I explored why the common wisdom of waiting until kids are older to take them to Disney World in Florida is not the best advice. There are many attractions that have no height restrictions and are fun for the whole family. Plus, children under the age of three can enter the park for free, making a visit with a younger child an economical choice.
I previously investigated the many great options for families with young kids when visiting Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. Now, let’s take a look at what options are available for younger children at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
This theme park has the least number of attractions that do not have a height restriction. A family who wants to spend the day together and who also has very young children may find that there are only a few rides that can be enjoyed together.
Toy Story Midway Mania!® is one of the newest and currently the most popular ride at Studios. The ride is fun from start to finish with an interactive line queue and carnival style, virtual reality games to play as the ride whirls through the attraction. Even if your young child is not able to play the game (shooting virtual cannons at targets), she will enjoy the characters, lights, twirls and general atmosphere.
Get A Fast Pass
The main problem with this ride is the wait. Sometimes the wait is two hours which is usually not possible for those with very young children who will grow bored and cranky. There is a FastPass option, but it is necessary to arrive early to the park and retrieve the pass as they are usually all given out by mid morning.
The FastPass option in general is a really convenient option for families with young kids at any of the main parks. You only need your park ticket (for all the ticketed members). You enter your ticket in a machine and receive a pass for a time window. Then, when it is your time, you can come back to the ride, enter through a special entrance, and ride with a time that is greatly reduced from those just standing in line.
Honey I Shrunk The Kids
The other best option for young kids is the Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure which is a giant playground with a theme from the Honey I Shrunk the Kids movies. From a very young age my kids loved the oversized bugs, the caves, the leaky hose that squirts water and the film roll slide. (Although I’m guessing very few kids these days know that film used to come in canisters!) The playground only has one entrance/exit so it made me feel a bit more secure even if I lost sight of one of them when they entered or exited a cave. My young kids could spend hours at this attraction and though it gets a little boring for the parents, it’s a good place to let them stretch their legs and play for a few minutes.
There are other attractions that don’t have height restrictions. My favorite attraction at any of the parks, The Great Movie Ride, may be okay for some little ones. But there are scenes from movies that have villains which may frighten younger children. The Studio Backlot Tour is interesting for adults and older kids. But if you have a squirmy toddler, he may not get what the fuss is about and want to move on from this slow moving attraction. Another popular attraction, Muppet*Vision 3D is not really scary, but I found that my young children did not want to keep on the glasses to watch the show.
So while Hollywood Studios is a fantastic park, families with young children may need to think about their options and choices before going there for the day.
This park has a lot more to offer for the younger crowd. Besides animals that you can see around the park and on the two different trails, there are plenty of attractions that are fun, easy to get to and can be enjoyed by everyone in your group.
One of my kids’ favorites was the Wildlife Express Train which takes you over to Rafiki's Planet Watch®. The train allows you to sit sideways and you can sometimes glimpse some of the animals that they are keeping behind the scenes. Once you get to Rafiki’s there are interactive exhibits and sometimes cast members are there with live animals that they will talk about. There is also an area where kids can pet and brush goats.
Another favorite is the TricerTop Spin which is basically Dumbo but with a dinosaur theme. This ride usually has very little wait and loads large groups at once so it can be a good option for children that are more active and have trouble waiting for long periods of time.
Near this attraction is another wonderfully themed playground, The Boneyard. Kids can slide, climb, dig in the sand and run around. This a great place for pictures and another great place to let kids stretch their legs and play.
Two More Possible Options
Two of the most popular attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris and It’s Tough to Be a Bug® (under the Tree of Life) do not have height restrictions. However, a more sensitive young child may not enjoy these as much. My children did not enjoy the bouncing around experienced on the safari and were generally uninterested in the animals because of their distance from them.
Funny Personal Story
In It's Tough To Be A Bug, which also requires 3D glasses, my children were so terrified of some of the giant bugs that I had to take them out in the middle of the show, stepping on about fifty people’s toes as I made my way across the theater with two howling kids.
It’s a funny memory now, but at the time they were traumatized and I was embarrassed.
Can You Really Go Wrong?
All four of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks offer fun for the whole family. Each child is different and what may be interesting for one may not be for another. Disney offers many attractions that are gentle and fun for the whole family. Bringing the kids when they are young can be a rewarding experience for everyone.