From the thrill of meeting up with a real Disney princess to the excitement of riding Splash Mountain, Soarin”, Toy Story Midway Mania and Expedition Everest for the first time, Disney World‘s four theme parks present tons of magical moments for the first-time visitor. For the frequent fan, as well as the occasional family traveler looking to make a Disney World visit truly memorable, a wide array of Disney World tours promise excitement and lasting impressions for the whole family.
Written by Jackie Perrin
Package options range from Coach, which includes hairstyling, make-up and a sash, to The Castle, which features the â€œworksâ€ along with photos and a full princess costume. Boys can be transformed into knights, with a package that includes a sword, a shield and hair gel. If you"re on a tight budget, make an appointment at Harmony Barbershop on Main Street, U.S.A., where, for less than $10, they can get a dapper â€œdoâ€ with colored hair gel and â€œpixie dust.â€
Meanwhile, in Adventureland, kids and parents can join The Pirate"s League, a swashbuckling sea of fun featuring the chance to participate in a parade after a pirate-, empress- or mermaid-themed makeover.
At Disney"s Hollywood Studios, arrive early to sign your junior knights up for Star Wars: Jedi Training Academy. Recommended for children ages 4 to 12, the action-packed class in lightsaber maneuvers and warrior tactics is very popular. Yet more hands-on fun is in store with interactive theme park scavenger hunt challenges, including Phineas and Ferb: Agent P"s World Showcase at Epcot and A Pirate"s Adventures - Treasures of the Seven Seas and Sorcerer"s of the Magic Kingdom at Magic Kingdom.
Ticketed Adventures and Behind-the-Scenes Tours
At Magic Kingdom Park, Disney"s Family Magic Tour is a terrific action-packed option. The two-hour group scavenger hunt, recommended for children ages 4 to 10, challenges kids and kids-at-heart with the task of solving clues in order to defeat an â€œevilâ€ villain. Families will skip, hop and sleuth their way through the Magic Kingdom, enjoying front-row access to a select ride or attraction and photo-ops with some special Disney characters. Separate theme park admission is required. Participants under 17 must be accompanied by a paying adult.
Got older kids? For animal lovers, Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom and Epcot Seas Aqua Tour at Epcot offer fun and adventure for ages 8 and up. Another Epcot program, Epcot Dive Quest, is open to kids 10 and up who have SCUBA certifications. Teens can take part in even more animal and nature-oriented experiences, including Disney"s Dolphins in Depth (minimum age 13) at Epcot and Wild by Design (minimum age 14), and Backstage Safari (minimum age 16) at Animal Kingdom Park. Separate theme park admission is required for Animal Kingdom tours; Epcot tours do not require separate admission. For many experiences, an adult chaperone is required. Height and weight restrictions may also apply.
Dinner Parties with VIP Privileges
Seasonal and limited-run options include "Star Wars" Jedi Mickey Character Dining at Disney"s Hollywood Studios, a themed meal with Mickey and the gang decked out as Star-Wars characters and the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package, which features a frozen dessert party, limited-access "Frozen" parade and fireworks viewing, and a sing-a-long celebration.
For more dinner shows in and around Disney World, see 10 Best Themed Dinner Shows in Orlando.
Ticketed VIP Tours
Designed with families in mind, Ultimate Day for Young Families - A VIP Tour Experience and The Ultimate Day of Thrills - A VIP Tour Experience both offer direct access to rides without the wait -- for a price. For $299 per person (additional Magic Your Way Park Hopper pass required), your VIP tour guide is your â€œFASTPASSâ€ to the front-of the-line at rides at three of four Disney theme parks, as well as your ticket to lunch at a Disney World resort hotel.
In a single day (tours average six to seven hours), VIP tour guests get guaranteed access to popular rides, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Expedition Everest and Toy Story Midway Mania, as well as transportation from park to park on a private shuttle.
Ticketed Special Events
For young children, Mickey"s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (held select nights in September and October) and Mickey"s Very Merry Christmas Party (takes place select nights in November and December), both at Magic Kingdom, present magical moments and plenty of photo-ops.
Additional limited-run and annual ticketed events like Harambe Nights, an after-hours summer anniversary party at Animal Kingdom and Night of Joy, a contemporary Christian music celebration at Magic Kingdom, feature food and drinks (Harambe Nights), no-wait attraction access (Night of Joy) and celebrity entertainers.
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