Space Mountain at Magic Kingdom is great for tweens and brave kids who don't mind riding in the dark.
Walt Disney World 5-Day Itinerary
When flying to Orlando, families can use ridesharing apps, like Uber or Lyft, as well as taxi services to get from the airport to Disney properties. The Mears Connectshuttle service travels from Orlando International Airport and Walt Disney World, Disney Springs, and Disney resorts; get into the magical spirit onthese coach buses, featuring four tropical animals as well as in-ride entertainment.
If your budget allows for it, stay at one of the on-site Disney hotels for easy transportation access to the parks. Depending on the locationand luxury level ofaccomodation, Disney resorts are connected by bus, boat, monorail, and the newSkyliner gondola to the various parks. It will make your lifemuch easier tousethese transporation options to get back and forth to your resort. Also, another bonus of the on-property hotels -- besides being plain adorable with cool amenities like character meals, gift shops, and fun activities -- includesextended hours atDisney parks on certain days for hotel guests (either entry or evening after-hours). Extended hours may tweak the order of your park itinerary so plan accordingly.
The free Disney Genieservice works with the My Disney Experience mobile app to create a customized Disney day inspired by your entire group—mappingout rides, updatingstandby wait times, and sending reminderswhen you're eligible to make dining and activity reservations in advance. Guests can purchase the Disney Genie+ service for an additional fee (prices vary by date), which offers more convenience and flexibility, with the luxury of the Lightning Lane access. Seriously, I HIGHLY recommend the Genie+ for the sole reason of avoiding insane standby times (when I was there most recently, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance had a standby wait time of 180 minutes!!). I would Lightning Lane everything at Disneyif it was an option (you hear me, Starbucks)!
Before you even arrive at Disney, check out the website and look to see which rides your family or group cannot miss, as well as confirming everyone is tall/brave/excited enough to ride these attractions. Once you create a priority list, this will help withLightning Lane requests and linking riders together through the app.
Related:Disney Celebrates 100 Years of Magic with Celebrations at Disneyland, Disney World, and More
"Try the gray stuff, it's delicious!" at Be Our Guest Restaurant.
Day 1: Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is the ultimate Disney park for young kids and kids at heart. The park is a great combo of sweet nostalgia and exciting thrills, so you really can't go wrong. And because of the breadth of rides, meals, and attractions at Magic Kingdom, we've recommended hitting up this one twice during your Orlando stay.
Avoid fatigue and general crabbiness by focusing on specific lands at a time. Try Fantasyland first and get yourself in line for the very popularSeven Dwarfs Mine Train for a fun roller coaster appropriate for kids of all ages (height requirement), then walk a few feet andgeta frostyice cream (with special Snow White themes) at Storybook Treats after. Peter Pan's Flight is ALWAYS crowded so if it's on your to-do list, get there early. Other classic Disney ridesinclude Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It's a Small World, and the carousel -- great for grandparents as well as toddlers. Make a reservation at Be Our Guest Restaurant, inside the Beast's enchanted castle, for lunch or dinner with a French vibe.
Make your way to Frontierland for Big Thunder Railroad and Tiana's Bayou Adventure(the revamped Splash Mountain opening in 2024), then cross right into Adventureland for the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbeanand entertaining Jungle Cruise. At this point, you NEED to fill up on a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle(I warn you that my itinerary is full of ice cream diversions).
If your feet and/or back need a rest, walk over to nearby Liberty Square and enjoy the air conditioned bliss of the Hall of Presidents. It may seem boring or outdated to some, but my children and I LOVED the fact you can enjoy 22 minutes of comfy seats and no lines (cards on the table, we took our sneakers off and closed our eyes at this attaction for a power nap). On your way through Liberty Square, you may catch one of the awesome parades rolling through Magic Kingdom -- use the Disney app for show times and locations.
Now that you've revived yourself with the help of our fine U.S. presidents or sitting on the sides of a parade, it's time to get back to work. Make your way across the park to Tomorrowland, where TRON Lightcycle is set to open in April 2023. This ride is part roller coaster, part motorcycle street race, and every kid who meets the height requirement (48 inches) is going to beg to ride it again and again. Until then, Space Mountain is always reliable for thrill seekers. Also, I highly recommend Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin for all ages -- besides enjoying a smooth ride, visitors shoot lasers at various targets to earn the highest point value. Another great attraction for any age is Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor, where guests are treated to a live comedy show that pokes fun at the audience.
As dinner time approaches and your feet ache, ride the monorail toChef Mickey's, located inside the Contemporary Resort. You definitely need to make reservationsat thisall-you-care-to-eat, character dining experience (also open for breakfast). Each table receivesan autographed card from Mickey and his friends, as well as the chance to meet, hug, and pose with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and the rest of the gang. If you have a late-night crew, return to the park; if your group is ready to pass out, head back to your hotel for a well-earned night of sleep.
The Disney Junior breakfast buffet at Hollywood & Vine features beloved characters like Vampirina.
Day 2: Hollywood Studios
Get to Hollywood Studios early for a full day of galactic fun! Start the day with a character breakfast--Hollywood & Vinerestaurant offers a Disney Junior breakfast buffet with characters like Fancy Nancy, Vampirina, and more.
The must visit of Hollywood Studios (in my family's opinion) is Star Wars: Galaxy Edge -- this intergalactic section has you harnessing your inner Jedi. Both Rise of the Resistance (ROTR) and Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run attractions are completely worth the hype.I'd even go so far to say ROTR, which is a cool combination of ride, live performance, and interactive experience,was my favorite rideof my entire trip! Fill up on blue or green milk just like Luke Skywalker or quick, out-of-this-world bites at Docking Bay 7. If you have a chance (and the budget of $119.99 per droid unit), make an advancedresesrvation at the Droid Depot to build your very own droid!Think of it as a robotic, Star Wars-esque version ofBuild-A-Bear--kids decide which type of droid they want, customize with components on the shop's conveyor belt, assemble at the build station, pairwith a remote control, then activatefor their sidekicks to come alive.
Step into the world of Star Wars at Galaxy Edge in Hollywood Studios.
Return back to Earth and get a snack at Comissary Lane (the popcorn buckets are worth it), before you "Let It Go" with Anna, Elsa, and the gang at For the First Time in Forever: A "Frozen" Sing-Along Celebration. This attraction is a fun combination of live entertainment, Frozen sing-along movie clips, and of course, ice princesses Anna and Elsa in the flesh (seriously, young kids are going to freak out with excitement). Because the theater lets in so many people each hour, I would recommend doing standby and saving your Lighning Lane for...
Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway!Everyone will love this adorable, family-friendly ride! Take a drive with Mickey and Minnie through a cartoon universe full of wacky twists and turns. This attraction was such a hit, we rode it multiple times (definitely worth the Lightning Lanes). There's lots of cute boutiques nearby, along Hollywood Boulevard, to grab a souvenir like Mickey Ears.
Make your grandparents proud and enjoy dinner at '50s Prime Time Cafe (reservation required), a blast from the past serving classic American dishes like fried chicken, meatloaf, pot roast, and more. Bring your sense of humor as the staff may have to schoolyour party about proper table etiquette!
After dinner, braveand/or older kids can let loose at the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (reopening Summer 2023), where riders race along the darkened freeways of Los Angeles in a stretch limo to the tunes of Aerosmith.The Twilight Zone Tower of Terroris another ridefor the brave of heart, as you plummet to your doom in this haunted elevator attraction.
*I've saved Toy Story Land for Day 5 (see below) so make sure to return to Hollywood Studios another day since that area is a wonderful spot for all ages and interests.
Let kids run around at Epcot's What If Labs situated after the Journey into Imagination with Figment ride.
Day 3: Epcot
Discover the world without leaving Orlando by spending the day at Epcot! My kids loved seeing the "giant golf ball" approach from the Skyrail, and we let loose right when our feet hit the ground. But with those feet hitting the ground, I must mention this disclaimer: Epcot is a MASSIVE park with no real physical shortcuts. If anyone in your group (we're talking to you parents and grandparents) has any injuries or weaknesses, it may be worthwhile to rent a scooter, take it slow, and double up on breaks (and anti-inflammatories).
First off, the MUST visit is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind for older kids and those who love an insane thrill (go before you eat anything).This is Disney's first ever coaster with a reverse launch and rotates 360 degrees with a killer soundtrack -- definitely one of the coolest, most innovative Disney World rides. While your thrill seekers areinWorld Discovery land, ride Test Track for another speedy adventure. Other fun spots are Soarin!, The Seas with Nemo &Friends, andTurtle Talk in the World Nature land.
Epcot's World Showcase offers varied, delicious, and plentiful food. Get tacos and a margarita (adults) in Mexico; fish & chips in Great Britain; sausage in Germany; crepes in France; and much more.
Speaking of France, finish your crepe then get a Lightning Lane (or be prepared to wait) for Remy's Ratatouille Adventure. This 4D culinary adventure"shrinks" riders andcaptivates your senses on an exciting French caper. Another awesome attraction for kids of all ages is in Norway--Frozen Ever After is awater ride reliving the beauty and music of the movie Frozen.
While you're in Norway, have a sit-down dinner with the princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (reservations required). This is a special dining moment in a picturesque medieval castle where guests encounter a royal promenade of princesses. Families will enjoy the Norwegian fare, but drop jaws over the passing princesses at every turn!
Finish a busy day at Epcot with Harmonious, a nighttime spectacular that weaves Disney music and visuals from a diverse group of global artists. The show happens at World Showcase Lagoon with an innovative combination of floating giant screens, choreographed moving fountains, lights, and more. This show runs until April 2, which will then be replaced by nighttime show, EPCOT Forever.
Tusker House features Donaldand friends dressed in their finest safari gear!
Day 4: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom is a fantastic hybrid of theme park and zoo, where rides blur the lines between entertainment, conservation, and flat out fun! Guests are greeted by the massive Tree of Life -- kids will love looking for all the animals carved into the trunk. In fact, It's Tough to Be a Bug 4D show is located right below the tree at Discovery Island. The area also houses lots of live animals throughout the park, including otters, lemurs, and more.
There are even more live animals to check out on Kilimanjaro Safaris, where guests tour an African savanna in an open-air vehicle--spotting live animals roaming free. This 18-minute expedition mayinclude elephants, zebras, rhinos, hippos, and more. Africa also features Conservation Station to educate guests about Disney's animal efforts, as well as the ultimate live show: Festival of the Lion King. This 30-minute show features music, dance, acrobatics, comedy, and amazing costumes.
Fill up on a bountiful buffet AND enjoy Donald Duck and friends at the TuskerHouse character meal (reservation required). Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this African-inspired buffet welcomes hungry families who can pose and hug safari-dressed Disney characters. Another fun spot to eat is the Rainforest Cafe right inside Animal Kingdom.There are lots of great spots to get quick meals and snacks, including fresh fruit, coffee and teas, Dole Whip twists, and more.
Pandora-The World of Avatar features the insanely popular Avatar Flight of Passage 3D attraction, where riders fly on the back of a mountain banshee--those with motion sickness might way to skip this one). Take a more timid route on Na'vi River Journey, a boat ride through a bioluminescent rainforest.
Head to Asia for Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (my personal fave) and Kali River Rapids (open starting in March). Take a self-guided, walking tour on Maharajah Jungle Trek, featuring Asian tigers, 50 species of birds, Komodo dragon, water buffalo, and more.
Before you leave, satisfydinosaur-obsessed kiddos by heading to Dinoland USA, with a carnival-themed section full of dinosaur rides and attractions like TriceraTop Spin (great for young kids), DINOSAUR (intense and great for older kids), and the new Finding Nemo: The Big Blue...and Beyond stage show (great for everyone). Then get a quick and easy dinner at Restaurantosaurus, with options like chicken nuggets, Impossible burgers, and drinks, at this dino-themed eatery.
The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique will make your little princess feel like a queen!
Day 5: Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios (either or both)
In my opinion, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios haveso much to offer it can be tough to cram everything into one day. If you purchase a Park Hopper option, guests can visit more than one park in one day, starting at 2pm; if you don't have the Hopper option, consider which Disney World park is the best match for your family.
Kids will love riding Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios with their friends and family members.
Toy Story Land is a guaranteed fun time for everyone! It's a colorful area with larger-than-life toy replicas surrounding kid-friendly rides, like Alien Swirling Saucers, Slinky Dog Dash, and my personal fave, Toy Story Mania (a 4D shooting game aboard a carnival-inspired tram). The photo ops alone will fill your phone up with adorable content!
If for some reason you weren't able to get on any of the Star Wars rides (specifically ROTR), or just want to ride again, make sure to take advantage of this second visit and get in the standby or virtual line this time around. Or enjoy live shows like Beauty and the Beast, a 25-minute, Broadway retelling of the classic tale, as well as the nighttime Fantasmic!, a30-minute show bringing Mickey's dream to life.
The stormtroopers at Rise of the Resistance inHollywood Studios areterrifyingly awesome!
Depending on what time you get here, enjoy a wholesome character buffet with Winnie the Pooh and friends at The Crystal Palace. This greenhouse-inspired, Victorian restaurant is located onMain Street USA and serves buffet breakfast, lunch, and dinner (reservation required).
Besides what was already mentioned for day one, there are other wonderful Magic Kingdom attractions that kids of all ages will enjoy. Under the Sea: Journey of The Little Mermaid is an entertaining, musical ride; The Barnstormer, where riders take flight on a junior roller coaster; and Princess Fairytale Hall, where kids can meet their favorite princesses -- all inside Fantasyland.
For your own little princess (or prince), splurge on the ultimate fairytale makeover by booking a royal transformation at BibbidiBobbidi Boutique! The various salon packages include hairstyle, makeup, nail polish, and even a Disney costume option. The Fairy Godmother's Apprentices pamper and primp kiddos, who get to roam the park the rest of the day in their royal looks.
If all these ideas are a bit overwhelming, don't worry -- work with an official Disney travel agent to help with planning and staying organized.
Photos by the author