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 A Family's First Time at Disney World makes for some Magical Moments

Goodnight Mickey,” my eight year-old daughter genuinely replied to Mickey as we left Magic Kingdom heading for the hotel bus shuttle. This was one of the “magical moments” from my family’s first trip to Walt Disney World. 

There were other magical moments, like the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle and there were also some things I would do differently next time.  The goal of this article is to help other first timers find more magical moments and make the experience of Disney World even more enjoyable.

First of all, my kids were a perfect age to enjoy and remember Disney World.   My eight year-old daughter was young enough to still believe in the Disney characters.

On of the highlights for any young girl is getting to a Princess Breakfast.  My daughter was made to feel like a princess and what girl doesn’t enjoy being called a princess.   TIP:  If you want to book a breakfast at Cinderella’s Castle you might want to consider booking at least 6 months in advance. 
For my eleven year-old son the aim was to enjoy the few “thrill rides” at Disney. 

SPACE MOUNTAIN, TEST TRACK and ROCK ‘N’ ROLLER COASTER STARRING AEROSMITH are perfect for kids that like to scream and have fun.   The only new ride we didn’t attempt was Tower of Terror - maybe next time - I was kind of chicken.

Here is a quick synopsis of the different parks at Disney World:

ANIMAL KINGDOM- This was our family’s favourite spot. The KILIMANJARO SAFARIS, where you drive in a large jeep through an “Africa” environment is awesome. The animals are free to roam and after seeing lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes and more you really feel like you’re in Africa. The KALI RIVER RAPIDS is great but we did wish it was a little longer.  IT’S TOUGH TO BE A BUG in 3D is a “must see” and be prepared for surprises.

Animal Kingdom has 3 great shows and in case you don’t have time to see them all, here they are in order of excellence: 1) FESTIVAL OF THE LION KING 2) TARZAN ROCKS 3)POCAHONTAS AND HER FRIENDS.

Since it was a hot day we decided not to explore the walking paths and the train ride to the exotic animals.  We had been told that younger children may also not want to see the Dinosaur as it can be load so we skipped that as well.

Since we didn't spend the whole day at Animal Kingdom  we went back to the resort and enjoyed the pool and relaxed.   You also could book an early dinner at the RainForest Café.

MGM STUDIOS: You definitely will need a full day at MGM ending up with the spectacular light, fireworks and characters show, FANTASMIC.



A gentle ride on the GREAT MOVIE RIDE  brings back memories of the movie classics as you ride through some impressive sets and JIM HENSON’S MUPPET * VISION 3-D is fun for all ages. The ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’ show runs daily and makes for an entertaining half-hour.

EPCOT: For our children's ages, Epcot can be done in half a day.  There are some interesting cultural and scientific exhibits but afterall there is only so much a child will tolerate on their holidays.

The new MISSION:SPACE  and TEST TRACK are exhilarating.

TIP:  In MISSION:SPACE you are warned several times to leave if you experience motion sickness. You see this warning on several rides at Disney but this one you should take seriously!

HONEY I SHRUNK THE AUDIENCE is fun and THE LIVING SEA was cool as you get to see all the creatures from FINDING NEMO up close in a huge underwater laboratory.

While my wife and I would have loved to visit all the different countries at Epcot our kids had other things on their minds. This is where my wife and daughter went to the Princess Breakfast.

TYPHOON LAGOON: Our trip was in August and yes it was hot. This made our visit to Typhoon Lagoon very enjoyable.

The LAZY RIVER  takes you all the way around the awesome WAVE POOL stopping at attractions along the way.

Highlights were surfing the giant waves and snorkeling with the sharks and stingrays (completely safe as you stay on the surface and the wildlife on the bottom).

There were some great water slides but use caution with younger children as we found some a little rough for our 8 year-old daughter.

Typhoon Lagoon offers a mug and All You Can Drink for $9.99. You just scan your mug and drink all day - it is a great deal on a hot day.  Typhoon Lagoon could easily be a half day and could be a nice way to spend the afternoon after a morning at Epcot.

MAGIC KINGDOM: Of course I left Magic Kingdom until the end. My thoughts before arriving were it would be fun only for my 8 year-old but it really was fun for everyone.

SPACE MOUNTAIN is still the best ride at Disney and the classics like SPLASH MOUNTAIN, BIG THUNDER MOUNTAIN RAILROAD  and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN are still exciting for the young and a blast from  the past for the adults.

The SHARE A DREAM COME TRUE parade at 3:00 p.m. is a “must see” but prepare for the heat.  TIP:  Find the parade route and sit near the beginning so you won’t have to wait as long. The fireworks at closing time are well worth the wait.  In typical Disney fashion these are fireworks only Disney can do with stars and hearts exploding over Cinderella’s Castle.

BLIZZARD BEACH: We did not make it, however another family with children the same age enjoyed it.  It has a few more adventurous slides but no snorkeling.

FOOD: To our surprise the prices were quite reasonable.  There were  different deals and good food at most restaurants and fast food spots. 

Eating dinner proved to be most challenging.   Restaurants will let you make a reservation however call it “priority seating”. So even though you made a time for dinner, you may still have to wait.  A suggestion would be to find a restaurant that has a “character dinner” and have one person sit and wait while  everyone else goes to one more attraction. No sense everyone waiting 30-40 minutes.

Our best place for dinner was in Magic Kingdom at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The food was like “moms” at Thanksgiving and after eating a lot of fast food, it felt like a piece of home. The Disney characters visited throughout the meal.  This is a bonus as the kids loved not having to wait in line to get an autograph (make sure you get an autograph book for your kids).

TRANSPORTATION: If you are staying at a Disney resort, the monorail and shuttle buses are free.  The system is quite efficient and we had to wait 30 minutes only once with the average wait time about 10 minutes. The buses are clearly marked for one destination only making the system easy to use. The kids really enjoyed the monorail from Epcot to Magic Kingdom. 

If you want to drive, parking is also free (usually $9) if you are a Disney resort guest.   It is easy to find your way around Disney with great signage.

DISNEY CREDIT CARD: When you check in, you receive your Disney hotel room key and you can also use this card for all restaurants and shops at Disney. It comes in quite handy and  therefore you do not need cash (or credit cards) while you’re out in the parks.

FAST PASS: This is the best invention in years! Your fast pass is included with your park pass. How it works: 1) Go to the ride of your choice (not all rides have fast pass but most of the popular ones do)

2) Put in your park pass and get the receipt which tells you what time range you can come back and Fast Pass this ride (range is always 1 hour i.e. 10:40 a.m.-11:40 a.m.

3) Instead of waiting in line go and do something else until your time range comes up.

4) When it is time, come back to the ride and use the left FAST PASS line and march right pass all the people that have been waiting 30-45 minutes (it really is a great feeling).

5) You can use it all day long…but you can only have two rides reserved at a time. It will tell you right on the ticket when you can next use your Fast Pass.

HINTS: Use only on rides with big lines and always use before you go for lunch or dinner.  Times can be up to 2-3 hours away - enough time for a nice meal.


1) I would stay in one of the big  resorts right near Magic Kingdom  - Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Contemporary Resort.  Yes, it is extra money but you would really feel like you are AT Disney. 

My son commented that riding the bus to each park made it feel like he wasn’t AT Disney.  If you could book early enough to get a room with a view of the nightly fireworks and parade, it would be well worth the money.

If it is too expensive, there are hotels nearby. 

2) Take more time to relax.  Do some half days at Epcot and the Water Parks then come back and enjoy your own resort.

3) Visit  Downtown Disney only if you want to go out to dancing or out to a bar. The restaurants and ice-cream shops were a little pricey and there are plenty of shops at each park.

4) Spend a full day or more at Magic Kingdom

5) Bring more supplies. We ran out of disposable cameras and ended up spending too much at Disney. Having a supply of beverages for both adults and children in your room is a good idea.  Alcohol is not served in the park restaurants (only at the 2 water parks).

So all in all, our family's first trip to Disney was a huge success.  Disney World did not disappoint and we brought home many great memories. 8 and 11 proved to be a perfect age our kids to enjoy and explore all that Disney has to offer. Hopefully, this article gives you a better understanding of the size of Disney and some helpful tips to allow your family to have many magical moments at Walt Disney World.

BY Rob Scott


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