The idea of going to Orlando with your kids can be a bit overwhelming. I’ve seen people’s terrified reaction when I said I had taken my daughter a few times even before she had turned 4 years old.
People reacted that way because they thought 1) it’s too expensive to take young kids, 2) they won’t remember a thing and 3) it’s too tiring for the kids. My answer is always 1) it’s not like you’re going every month (even though it is expensive), 2) yes, they will remember bits and pieces and 3) usually parents make it tiring for the kids.
So with that in mind, I put together this 5-day itinerary which has worked for us since the first time we took our little one to enjoy that magic part of Florida!
Day 1 – Magic Kingdom:
If we have to pick only one park, this is the one for us. Apart from the iconic Cinderella Castle image, this park is huge on character Meet and Greet – and that is a big factor of our Disney visits! Think of any princess – or fairy!- and you will be able to meet some of them there, along with Mickey and Minnie. Also don’t forget the Flying Dumbo ride, which is a favorite (once we stood in line for nearly an hour!), and the Mad Tea Party, with the spinning tea cups.
One cool thing about this park is that on select times they host special parties, where the park closes at 6pm and re-opens at 7pm with a reduced capacity, which is really cool. In May 2009 we went for the “Mickey’s Pirate and Princess Party”, where they had “bead stations” and lots of Character DJ Dance Parties, along with main rides open and lots of character Meet and Greets. In December last year we went to “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party”, with the same concept, but instead of “bead stations” they had cookies and hot cocoa stations… really cool! The price for those special parties are reduced from the full admission and in my opinion totally worth it since you rarely have lines and you don’t have to deal with the heat; plus your little one will be happy to be able to go to sleep very late.
Day 2 – Animal Kingdom:
This is one of my daughter’s favorite! You can go on a “safari”, where you can see animals very close to you and you can also go on roller-coaster rides and have the whole character experience.
While you can feel a bit overwhelmed with so much to see, I found this park to be one of the most relaxing ones, especially when you go on the safari and seat back and enjoy the ride – and the sites!
Day 3 – Disney Hollywood Studios:
This park is a good one for day 3 because it is not a big one and you can enjoy it at a leisurely pace. Our favorite parts were the character encounters and the kid-friendly rides; another thing we liked was the cars stunt show and the parade where the Toy Story characters danced with the audience, really cool.
Day 4 – Epcot Center and Downtown Disney:
I know I should give Epcot Center another chance, and I will eventually, but the first time we went we spent less than 3 hours there. Maybe because our daughter was only 2, maybe because that giant silver ball was closed. But I would say based on my experience, combined with testimonials from people I know, that this is a park where you can go in early and leave early and you will see most of it. So my advice would be to arrive as early as possible and leave by mid afternoon.
For late afternoon, I think a stroll around Downtown Disney is a good bet. While it can be easy to just hop from shop to shop, buy lots of Mickey’s merchandise, it is also a lovely place to have an ice cream at Ghirardelli’s, go to the movies or even watch a Cirque du Soleil performance… or even better, watch a free performance of local and international talents in an open amphitheatre by the lake. Or you can also stop by Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique to watch your little one transform into a princess or a pirate.
Day 5 – Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure:
My advice here is to buy a 2 parks, 1 day ticket and visit both of them on the same day. This way works better for us since our daughter is not in a roller-coaster friendly age or height and because our focus is more around character encounters and less thrilling rides.
In both parks you’ll be able to ride some cool roller-coasters (like the Hulk one), meet the characters of “The Cat in the Hat”, Sponge Bob Square Pants and others, as well as visit the “world of Harry Potter”.
So those would be our itinerary to who is planning a few days in the land where dreams come true. It is not cheap, it is tiring, but the fun and great magical memories are worth it!
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