When most people think of Walt Disney World, they think Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle. But Disney World has grown over the years and there are now four major theme parks on property for guests to visit. This complicates matters. How do you divide your time between the parks? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Lots of factors, such as length of stay, the ages and abilities of your travel party, touring style, and even personal preferences – do you enjoy classic Disney attractions or can’t get enough of thrill rides – influence touring plans.
For a seven-day vacation, most families will have five days to tour the theme parks and two travel days. A safe bet is to spend two days at the Magic Kingdom and one day at each of the three remaining theme parks – Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, with work schedules and family obligations, a one-week vacation can be a luxury that I don’t always have. What if you have less time at Walt Disney World and need to prioritize the theme parks you’ll visit?
The excerpt below from the 2011 edition of my book, Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers, takes a look at the best theme parks for small children, ages 2-5.
Best Preschooler Theme Parks
Hands down, the Magic Kingdom is the most preschooler-friendly park and families should plan on spending at least two days there; this provides enough opportunity to experience the headliner attractions at a moderate pace while enjoying an afternoon rest period.
The second best park for preschoolers is a toss-up between Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. If your preschoolers love animals, my pick would be Animal Kingdom. The wonderful stage shows and ample opportunities to view animals put it over the top. If your child is a huge fan of Playhouse Disney and the Little Mermaid, Disney’s Hollywood Studios may your child’s favorite park after Magic Kingdom. Disney’s Hollywood Studios features more shows than rides for preschoolers; it also has one of the best playgrounds at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Epcot is often overlooked as a theme park for small children and it’s a shame. Although it wouldn’t be the first Walt Disney World theme park I would recommend for small children, it is worth a visit if you have more than four days to visit the theme parks, especially if your little ones are more adventurous and want to try the headliner attractions, Soarin’, and Test Track. The pathways are wider and this park is often less-crowded than other Disney World parks. Another benefit is the Character Greetings in World Showcase which feature popular characters with shorter waits than at Magic Kingdom. The Winter Holidays and the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring are great times to introduce kids to Epcot.
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Lisa M. Battista is the author of Beyond the Attractions: A Guide to Walt Disney World with Preschoolers When she’s not chasing after her little ones, you can most likely find her at the beach or in the kitchen trying her hand at a new recipe. You call follow her on Twitter @DisneyExplorer and Facebook.