When I think back to visiting Walt Disney World as a school-aged child, I remember the thrill of hurtling through the darkness on Space Mountain and the hair-raising creepiness of the Haunted Mansion. You know, big kid stuff. So when I decided to take my young preschooler to Walt Disney World for the first time, I was nervous. Was she too little? Would the rides be too scary? Would she even be tall enough to partake in all the fun?
I worried for nothing, because as it turns out, there are amazing attractions for preschoolers at all the Walt Disney World parks. And even though these rides were designed with young children in mind, they’re still fun for older sibs and parents too. Here are some of the best options.
Toy Story Land
Toy Story Land, open June 30,will dazzle kids’ imaginations by making them feel like they’ve become the size of a toy within the over-sized world of Andy’s backyard. (Just picture saying howdy to a 20-foot tall Woody the cowboy!) Preschool-friendly attractions include Toy Story Mania, the popular 4-D virtual shooting gallery ride, and the new Alien Swirling Saucers, a spinning rocket ride with a 32″ height requirement most preschoolers will beat, and the new Slinky Dog Dash, a family-friendly coaster with a 38 inch (97cm) or taller height requirement.
Littles love dinosaurs, so you can’t lose with this gentle carnival ride that allows kids to steer their Triceratops-shaped gondola up and down as it revolves around a Dino-mite center resembling a spinning top. Find it at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
Rafiki may be a cartoon baboon from Disney’s The Lion King, but he hosts some very real animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Kids can brush and feed goats at a petting zoo and have an animal encounter at the Conservation Station. To reach Rafiki’s Planet Watch, you’ll need to hop aboard the 7-minute long Wildlife Express Train. Live animals plus a choo-choo? That’s a preschooler’s dream.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Not only does this “clamobile” ride at Epcot tell the classic story of the lost little clownfish and his determined dad, but it also integrates the animated characters with real sea life swimming in a 5.7 million-gallon saltwater aquarium. After disembarking, make sure to stop by and see Crush for some “Turtle Talk”; he can answer all of your preschooler’s sea creature questions in a real-time Q & A show.
Frozen Ever After
Frozen fans will get chills of excitement on a magical boat ride from Arendelle (by way of Epcot) to Elsa’s ice palace featuring all the beloved characters and songs. Even if you’ve seen the movie too many times to count, you’ll still be wowed by this sparkling summer snow day.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
It’s hard for preschoolers to be patient, but they’ll love waiting in line for this charming storybook ride because the queue at this Magic Kingdom attraction is full of hands-on diversions like a digital finger painting wall—designed to look like dripping honey—and an interactive vegetable garden with pop-up gophers. From there, board a giant “Hunny Pot” and travel through the Hundred Acre Wood on a musical adventure with Pooh, Tigger, and the rest of the gang.
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
Become part of Ariel’s world during this faithful retelling of The Little Mermaid. Clever special effects, including cold air blasts and visual projections, create the illusion of traveling beneath the ocean’s surface to King Triton’s castle and Ursula the Sea Witch’s lair at this can’t-miss Magic Kingdom stop.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Your preschooler will never forget soaring into the night sky over glittering London landmarks on this classic Fantasyland ride in Magic Kingdom. Mermaids, lost boys, a not-too-scary Captain Hook, and Peter Pan himself are all there to guide your Never Never Land journey.