If you’re trying to figure out the best Disney Fast Pass + selections for a seamless 2019 Disney vacation without waiting in long lines, then pull up a chair and start taking notes!
I truly love helping people plan their ideal Disney vacation. I’ve brainstormed with friends who are 2 years away from booking a trip, and I’ve jumped in to help friends who are leaving in a week and haven’t booked a thing.
The mistake I see again and again that makes me die a little inside is people not using Fast Pass! (Cue horror movie sound effects.)
Almost as bad- when people book Fast Passes, but they chose rides that really don’t warrant it or weren’t the best use of their selections.
Since you’re here, I know you won’t make any of those mistakes!
Disney Fast Pass FAQs
Let’s start with some of the questions I hear over and over again about booking Fast Passes.
Do you have to pay extra for Fast Pass?
No, no, and NO! Unlike Universal, Disney includes 3 Fast Passes per day for EVERY ticket. You don’t need to be staying on site and you don’t need to pay extra. And after you use those 3 (or let them expire), you can book more one at a time.
Is it really necessary to book Fast Pass ahead of time?
It not a requirement to schedule ahead of time, and most attractions will have Fast Passes available on the day of. However, if you want the best chance at those extremely popular attractions, you absolutely should book your Fast Passes as soon as you possibly can.
There are a limited number of Fast Passes for each attraction, and the most popular rides do run out of Fast Passes well in advance.
When can I book my Fast Passes?
If you are staying onsite at a Disney resort, you can book your Fast Passes 60 days before the start of your trip (and you can book your entire trip on that day). If you are staying offsite, you can book 30 days in advance. You will need to book each day of your trip one by one, abiding by the 30 day window.
The booking window opens at 7am EST, so sit down at your computer at 6:50 on the day your booking window opens and log on to MyDisneyExperience to book!
What’s the best time of day to schedule my Fast Passes for?
There are two schools of thought on this, and it depends on your touring strategy.
Personally I’m in the rope drop crowd (arriving before the park opens to take advantage of the early morning low crowds). With this strategy, I recommend booking Fast Passes starting at 11am. You can take advantage of the low crowds prior to that time while still having them scheduled early enough in the day to then use a 4th, 5th and 6th Fast Pass after your initial 3.
How can I get extra Fast Passes?
Once all your pre-booked Fast Passes have been used (or expire), you can book another using the MDX app or at Kiosks located throughout the parks. You may only book one at a time with this method. Once you use your fourth Fast Pass, you can book a 5th.
For 4th Fast Passes and beyond, you can repeat one of the attractions that you already FastPassed and you can choose a different attraction from the Tier One category. Just remember these are subject to availability so it’s not incredibly likely that those will be available. People do change plans and cancel Fast Passes last minute however, so it’s worth checking.
What’s this I hear about “tiers”?
At Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios, Fast Passes are selected within a tiered model.
This means you may only select ONE of the two or three most popular attractions in that park. You can then select two of the Tier 2 attractions. My recommendation is to choose your most desired Tier 1 attraction and use Fast Pass for that. You can then prioritize the other Tier 1 attraction to be your first ride of the morning if you arrive at rope drop, or your last ride of the night if you take the late shift (both good times to ride a popular ride without a Fast Pass).
Best Disney Fast Pass Selections For Each Park
Magic Kingdom (no tiers)
Top 3 Picks
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Other Solid Choices
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Peter Pan’s Flight (personally I think it’s overhyped, but the lines get VERY long so if you choose to ride, do it with Fastpass or at rope drop)
Winne the Pooh (slow load times = long lines)
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Meet Mickey at Town Square Theater (this is the Mickey that TALKS!)
Pirates of the Caribbean
Buzz Lightyear Spaceranger Spin
Tier 1 (choose ONE of these)
Frozen Ever After
Soarin’ Around the World
If you have a Frozen fan on your hands, go with that as the lines are longest. Otherwise, choose Test Track. Don’t miss Soarin’- ride it first thing in the morning or last at night, or grab it as a 4th Fast Pass if you’re lucky.
Illuminations is also a Tier 1 choice but nobody should choose it, there are plenty of spots all around the lake with great views of the show.
Also note-worthy is that Illuminations will be replaced by a new nighttime spectacular show at Epcot sometime in 2019. It remains to be seen whether or not this new show will alter the best choice of Fast Pass, but I will keep this updated if it does!
The addition of Toy Story Land has completely rearranged the Fast Pass tiers for this park. I imagine that, after the newness wears off, they will restructure the tiers again. For now, they look like this:
Tier One (must choose one)
Slinky Dog Dash
Alien Swirling Saucers
Toy Story Mania
Fantastic and the Beauty and the Beast Show are also Tier One options but are not a good use of Fast pass.
Your best bet is to get a Fast pass for Slinky Dog and try to ride the others standby or with a 4th Fast pass or higher. The wait times for Alien Swirling Saucers have died down recently so should be the most reasonable of the three. Also, the queue for Toy Story Mania is a fun one, which helps if you choose to ride it standby.
Tier Two Solid Choices
Rockin’ Roller Coaster
Tower of Terror
Still have Fast pass questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do another Fast pass FAQ in my next Disney post!
If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’m a Disney fan through and through. But when it was time to take my second child on a one-on-one trip with Mom, my Harry Potter superfan son had other ideas.
We ended up doing a split-stay between Disney World and Universal Studios Florida/Islands of Adventure. The combo turned out to be amazing, and through our experience I came up with these first-timer tips for visiting the Wizarding World with your Harry Potter obsessed kid!
Do all you can to minimize crowds
As much as I love theme parks, I absolutely hate going when the parks are stuffed with people. And my hyperactive 8 year old can’t STAND waiting in line.
While the crowds at Universal are more manageable than Disney crowds in general, the two Wizarding World sections (Diagon Alley in Universal Studios and Hogsmeade in Islands of Adventure) attract so many people, they almost always feel crowded. The design of the spaces with their narrow alleyways and small shops create bottlenecks all over.
I’ve written about how to beat crowds at Disney and many of the same principles apply to Universal. The most important of which is to go during a low crowd time of year!
We were there in September, which has the lowest crowds of the year, and it was fantastic. If at all possible, avoid going during holiday weeks like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. The whole summer also sees high crowds until the second of half of August.
Even minor holidays like Columbus Day will draw higher crowds at the parks.
The second best way to minimize crowds is to get there early! We had early park admission due to staying at a Universal hotel, so we were able to get in at 8am when the park opened at 9am. The crowds were non-existent at 8, and stayed low all the way until noon! This was when we enjoyed the parks the most.
If getting up early doesn’t appeal to you, staying late is another good plan. (Or do what we did, and do both!) Crowds start to die down around dinner time as people fatigue from the day. 8-9 PM was a wonderfully empty hour for us at Diagon Alley.
Finding Diagon Alley
Remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Hagrid takes Harry to Diagon Alley for the first time?
In case you forgot, it is located behind the Leaky Cauldron, an unassuming little bar found in between a bookstore and a music shop. And, it’s impossible to be found by muggles.
As authentic as everything in the Wizard World of Harry Potter, Diagon Alley is hidden from view when you’re walking through the section of Universal Studios that looks like London.
In fact, it’s so well hidden, my son and I walked back and forth about five times without finding it!
I think I was expecting a big sign or something, not realizing how authentic all the Harry Potter details are.
Eventually we noticed a lot of people walking into this indiscriminate brick opening which I had assumed to be a bathroom:
Once we passed through the brick opening, we found a completely hidden, bustling world that looked and felt completely different than what was on the other side. It literally took my breath away!
The stark contrast from the muggle world to the wizarding world is just the first of many times you will feel like you’re living Harry’s experience from the books.
The interactive wands are a must
Yes, paying fifty-some dollars for a plastic wand stings for a minute. But that interactive wand was the highlight of the entire trip for my son.
If your child dreams of becoming a wizard like Harry Potter, this will allow them to make magic!
Hopefully, you’ve followed the first tip and are there without huge crowds. It isn’t nearly as much fun to do a spell when 10 people in front of you have just done it.
Here you see my son in front of Ollivander’s, dying to get in and get his wand, yelling at me for stopping to take a picture!
This is why our FIRST stop of the morning was Ollivander’s to get Zari his wand. He was out and about casting spells before anyone else so they were truly a magical surprise for him.
Letting the wand choose you
Another reason we got to Ollivander’s first thing in the morning was because I really, really wanted my son to get picked for the wand show where “the wand chooses you”.
We did end up being in the first group of the morning to get in, but Zari was not picked. A brother/sister pair was chosen instead.
My son loved the experience anyway!
I had planned on getting back in line and doing the show again until he was chosen, but when the time came I decided this was a bad idea. Once I saw how my son was a true believer in the magic of the show, I realized it would completely spoil the magic for him to see it again and realize it’s the same every time.
As it turned out, my son was secretly hoping for Harry Potter’s wand (they sell a version of the wand for each character from the movies) so it was completely a non-issue.
Zari scouring over his wand choices before choosing his perfect one:
If you aren’t picked to have the wand choose you in the wand show, there are still other ways for your wand to find its way to you: Look for the wall that lists descriptions of personality traits and the corresponding wand that goes with them. The description that best matches you will lead you to your wand.
If none of those work for you, you can also be matched with your wand based on your birth month.
Or just go with Zari’s method and get the same wand as your favorite character!
When choosing a wand, be aware that the boxes with gold labels are interactive wands. Boxes with white labels have wands that are only for collecting and don’t have the ability to cast spells around the park.
Avoiding frustration with the wands
A bit of a warning if your child is inclined to get frustrated easily- making magic with your wand truly does take practice.
In fact, we actually returned the first wand to the store thinking it was broken. In reality, we just weren’t doing the spells exactly right.
By the end of the trip, Zari had mastered casting spells with his wands using these techniques:
Keep your arm out straight and only make the motion with your wrist. Kids tend to want to wave their whole arm around and it makes the motion too big. Think of it almost like writing with a pencil.
Be sure to stand right on the plaque on the ground or just slightly behind it. If you’re too far away, the spell won’t work.
If the spell isn’t working, look for the black square censor hidden in the display window (it’s usually visible). Aim for that.
Other factors like direct sunlight on the windowpane sometimes interfere with the censor’s ability to read your wand. Try again later in the day if you think that’s the case.
Grab a cast member nearby to help if you still can’t get your spell to work. There are typically some hanging around the areas with a lot of spells just for this purpose.
This is what the plaques on the ground look like, indicating where the magic spells are. If you have a hard time deciphering the map that comes with your wand, just look for these on the ground.
Here you can see the spell is called “Aguamenti” and you need to move your wand in a wave-like motion.
Riding the Wizarding World Rides
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter rides are some of the most unique and immersive I’ve ever encountered in a theme park. There aren’t many of them, so I’ll go through each one.
Escape From Gringotts
Get up close and personal with the Gringotts bank goblins in the queue for this ride!
A hybrid of roller coaster and simulator, this 3D ride is exciting and fun (and just a little bit scary). You do get jerked around a bit, but I did not experience any motion sickness.
It is required that you put all your belongings inside a locker to ride Escape from Gringotts. The locker room next door allows you do this for free while you ride. The machine is relatively easy to figure out and it has directions in many different languages.
Escape from Gringotts is the only ride in Diagon Alley, unless you count the Hogwarts Express (located at King’s Cross just outside the entrance to Diagon Alley).
The Hogwarts Express
This train is not only an attraction, it’s also your transportation between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade (inside Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, respectively). For this reason, you need to have park-to-park tickets to ride.
The train ride is quick but a lot of fun for Harry Potter fans, because it looks just like the train Harry and his friends take to get to Hogwarts in the movies. And instead of looking out an actual window, there is a virtual window showing some of your favorite characters and places from the books, while moving to make it feel like you’re looking out a real window.
If you look in the opposite direction at the divider on your train car, you see shadows of various people and creatures and hear their voices, making it seem like they are riding the train with you.
The experience is different in each direction, so ride it both ways if you can.
Get inside Hogwart’s Castle on this intense, in-your-face thriller.
Completely innovative, this ride is part virtual-reality and part being thrown around like a rag doll by a robotic arm. It is truly unlike anything I’ve ever ridden.
All of the scary aspects of Harry Potter including spiders and Dementors are way too close for comfort on this ride, which definitely frightened my sensitive 8 year old. And all the whipping around made me a little queasy.
But we were both still glad we rode it.
In fact we rode it again the next day! So put your fears aside, and just go for it. It really is that cool.
Flight of the Hippogriff
Right across from Forbidden Journey is a relatively small roller coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff. This ride is what I’d consider a family coaster (just a slight step up from Barnstormer if you speak Disney).
It’s a fun ride, and you get to see Hagrid’s hut, but it is very short. No big deal if you have Express Pass or the line is 5 minutes, but if it has a long wait I would probably pass it over.
Don’t Miss the Fire Breathing Dragon
The focal point of Diagon Alley is Gringott’s Bank, with its gigantic dragon on top. At various time intervals, this dragon shocks and awes all the guests by breathing a giant angry fireball.
As far as I could tell, there isn’t a specified time interval for you to be able predict when this will happen. One of the days we spent in Diagon Alley, it only happened once. The other day it seemed like it breathed fire every 10 minutes.
You may not be able to schedule your visit around it, but you will have a warning sign to take your camera out before the fire. The dragon starts grumbling and groaning about 30 seconds before it blasts. When you hear it starting to get angry, move yourself to a good vantage point and get ready!
Try ALL The Butterbeer Variations
If you’re planning a visit to the Wizarding World, you’re already planning on trying its signature drink, butterbeer. But did you know there are three variations of this marshmallow-meets-cream-soda deliciousness?
The regular butterbeer is carbonated like soda and comes with a marshmallow-y white topping. (Don’t try to order it without the topping- it’s a trademarked beverage so they will not serve it any other way even to accommodate allergies).
They also make a frozen version of butterbeer, with a consistency that’s more like a smoothie. This variety is great for cooling down on a hot day, but it isn’t carbonated so it seemed somehow less refreshing to me. Frozen butterbeer is also served exclusively with the white topping.
In the photo below you can see frozen butterbeer on the left, and the original on the right:
Lastly, there is butterbeer flavored soft serve ice cream. It’s very good, as long as you’re in the mood for something super sweet.
You won’t get butterbeer anywhere in the Muggle world, so live big and try all three varieties while during your visit to the Wizarding World! I wasn’t planning on doing so, but my son talked me into it and I’m glad we tried them all.
The Secret Spell Locations
This is truly NOT essential to enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, but if you have a spell-obsessed child like mine, knowing the secret spell locations will delight them.
Unlike all of the known spell locations, the “secret spells” are not found on the map that comes with the wands, nor are they marked by a plaque on the ground. (You can however spot the little black censor that you point your wand at, if you look closely.)
I can’t say for sure how many of these there are, but we can verify two in Diagon Alley:
Take a right at Gringott’s bank and walk a little ways down the alley. Just past the “Wingardium Leviosa” spell where you lift a feather, you will see this window (above).
Successfully cast a spell, and a secret message will appear on the scroll written in invisible ink.
When you walk into the main alleyway of Diagon Alley, look for a purple storefront on the left hand side called “Slug and Jiggers Apothecary”:
Through the store window you will see a big bowl full of brown mush (yup, that’s the dragon poop). Spin your wand in a small spiral motion, and the poop will rise up while a foul scent is emitted from the window.
As you can imagine, this spell was a favorite for my pre-pubescent boy!
So many photo opps
You could spend hours exploring every nook and cranny of the parks if you’re a big Harry Potter fan.
Even if you’re more of an Instagram fan, there are plenty of fun photo opps to enjoy. Here are just a few I got when I was able to pry my son away from casting spells:
The Knight Bus
The Hogwarts Express Train Conductor
If you get a minute to chat with the characters, they stay true to their roles and it’s very entertaining.
Perhaps the most classic of all the Disney boy names, Henry is the name of Cinderella‘s Prince Charming.
Sure he might just be a crab with anxiety in The Little Mermaid, but his name is pretty darn cool.
Milo Thatch is the main character in Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Milo would be a great not-so-obvious Disney boy name choice.
A classic name for a classic prince, Philip is the young prince who Aurora met once upon a dream in Sleeping Beauty.
Prince James might not be the first Disney prince that comes to mind, but he is the brother of Princess Sofia in Disney Junior’s Sofia the First.
Who can forget the well-loved good guy, Fix-It Felix from Wreck-It-Ralph? This name is on-trend and has a cool Euro vibe.
The sweet male fairy from Disney Fairies, Terence is a solid, underused name choice for the modern boy.
Whether you want to say he’s named after the spooky Jack Skellington or the charismatic Jack Sparrow, either Jack will do for a Disney fan’s son.
Clayton was the poacher in Tarzan who traveled to Africa with Jane to hunt gorillas. He may have been the villain in the movie, but his name is unique and classy.
Cute and sweet Toby was the turtle from Robin Hood as well as the basset hound from The Great Mouse Detective.
Raise your hand if you’re a fan of The Hunchback of Notre Dame! This strong, classic male name is both a character in the movie (one of the trio of gargoyles) as well as the author of the original novel, Victor Hugo.
If you’re looking for an adorable name with a middle eastern flare, Rajah is a super cute choice. It pays homage to Princess Jasmine’s pet tiger in Disney’s Aladdin.
Apollo, the god of the sun in Greek mythology, is of course found in the movie Hercules. The name Apollo has been increasing in popularity steadily since 2012.
Bet you didn’t think you’d find a name from Frozen on here! Do you recall the minor but memorable character Oaken from Wandering Oaken’s trading post? Not the friendliest guy, but definitely a cool name!
Nick Wilde is the con-artist fox from Zootopia who completely wins you over in the end. Maybe your little Nicholas would be similarly clever?
Elliott is the clumsy but kind dragon of Pete’s Dragon. The name is better suited for an intellectual type child than an animated dragon any day.
Ok, forget for a moment that this is the dog in Cinderella. It’s a totally underrated name!
Another animal from Cinderella with an awesome name. This was the chubby little mouse who palled around with the skinny mouse, Jaq.
Though he’s not named in the movie, the name of the prince in Snow White is actually Florian, though it was rumored to be Ferdinand. Florian is a much more on-trend name, so we’ll stick with that.
Another name that is on the rise in popularity, Arthur is the scrawny orphan boy who becomes King Arthur in the Sword in the Stone.
Who wouldn’t want a super cool kid with super powers like Dash from the Incredibles? He is mega fast, and I can see this name exploding after the recent release of Incredibles 2.
While still unique, Phineas isn’t as rare as it once was after Julia Roberts used it for her son (although with a different spelling). It is still a quirky name though, just like its Disney title character from Phineas and Ferb.
No one needs to know that your little one’s traditional yet whimsical name came from Rapunzel’s chameleon companion in Tangled.
Another animal from Tangled, this white palace horse was all business on his hunt for Flynn Ryder. The name has good versatility, with the casual nickname Max a nice alternative to the formal (and somewhat stiff) Maximus.
Arlo is the protagonist in the movie The Good Dinosaur and the name could not be any cuter.
Go ahead, name your kid after Peter Pan. Don’t we all want to be young forever?
Another classic name with solid roots, Thomas hails from the Disney classic The Aristocats. Smooth-talking alley cat Thomas O’Malley shows the rich sheltered cats the joy in a life of freedom.
The name Preston just sounds like it belongs to a rich person, so it’s quite fitting that the Disney character from Atlantis: The Lost Empire named Preston is a millionaire.
In contrast to Preston, the character Otto of Robin Hood is poor, hapless, and shown with a broken leg. That still doesn’t make the name any less adorable, however.
The courageous young Taran is the protagonist of The Black Cauldron. This simple-yet-different name is a great choice if you’re looking for something unisex.
Don’t let Disney make you associate this name with Dunkin’ Donuts by naming the doughnut cop Duncan in Wreck-It Ralph. Given the rise in popularity of names like Deacon and Declan, it seems likely that Duncan would be well-received.
Dinky and Boomer are a sparrow and a woodpecker constantly at work trying to catch a caterpillar in The Fox and the Hound. No one thought to use this name for a person until Michael Phelps named his son Boomer in 2016. Since then, it’s been popping up here and there.
Oliver is the orphaned kitten in the Oliver Twist-esque animated movie Oliver and Company. It’s also a very on-trend name for a little boy.
One of two con artists in Pinocchio, Gideon’s name is nicer than his character. (If you like old-fashioned baby names like this, you can find more here!)
Ok, so the bad-tempered old man Amos from The Fox and the Hound isn’t doing the name any favors. But if you’re looking for a name that everyone has heard of but no one has, this is IT.
Another name straight out of Greek mythology that appears in the movie Hercules, Achilles is a strong masculine name that will remind everyone of the hero with a weakness in his heel.
Louis, the alligator from The Princess and the Frog, just wanted to play his trumpet. While the character is a bit goofy, the name is a traditional favorite that will surely be exploding now after the birth of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s third child.
What’s your favorite Disney boy’s name? Let us know in the comments!
If you’re planning the ultimate kid-centered Walt Disney World vacation, you’ll definitely want to stay in one of the best Disney resorts for kids. You will also want to book dining reservations at the best Disney World restaurants for kids!
While it’s true that almost all restaurants in Walt Disney World cater to children, some dining spots are definitely better suited for the younger set than others. From elaborate theming to exotic menu choices or their favorite characters, here are the kids’ picks for best Disney World restaurants.
And by the way, the kids who shared their opinions below happen to be the children of some of the best Disney gurus on the web!
SECTION 1: CHARACTER MEALS
Character meals are a no-brainer for parents heading to Disney World with small children. The kids get to meet some of their favorite characters and get autographs without waiting in line. It’s perfect for kids who get restless at the dinner table as they will be up out of their seat and distracted by who is coming to their table next.
The drawback of character meals is that they can feel chaotic. It’s hard to relax with a larger-than-life character stopping by your table and thrilling your child every few minutes.
Another negative for some (but not all) character meals is that the quality of the food can be lacking. A lot of character meals are buffets, and many have the same kid-friendly go-to dishes that get redundant after a while.
We like to mix up our dining reservations to have a nice balance of character meals and regular sit down meals, which tend to have a slower pace.
So when I said character meals have lower quality food, this would be an exception.
The food at Tusker House is unique and delicious with an African flare. You can find things like carved bone-in ham, corned beef hash, potato and leek frittata, and the famous POG juice at the breakfast buffet. (In case you haven’t yet had the pleasure of drinking POG juice, POG = passion fruit, orange, and guava.)
Lunch and dinner feature carved meats, seafood, couscous and African stews and salads.
My kids loved meeting Donald, Daisy, Mickey and Goofy at Donald’s Safari Breakfast at Tusker House. Zari says his favorite part was “meeting Mickey with his explorer outfit on, eating waffles and the really good juice that was like… tangy and tropical.”
1900 Park Fare
My daughter Tiana loves the character dining at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. First of all she loves everything about that resort, since it’s “the most beautiful and fancy of all of them.”
If you go there for dinner, try to go on a Magic Kingdom day so you can take the monorail from the park to the resort. Get there a little early so you can walk around the lobby and explore a bit before eating.
She also loves the characters at dinner, especially Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella: “Lady Tremaine was mean just like in the movie. But not too scary. The stepsisters were fighting over my brother because because he was in a prince costume and they both wanted to marry a prince!”
Sarah from MomMoment.com agrees that 1900 Park Fare is great fun for kids. She says:
Our favorite Disney Restaurant is 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. We’ve hung out with the Evil Stepsisters for dinner, and stuck our tongues out with Alice and the Mad Hatter at breakfast. I’m usually not a fan of the buffets, but 1900 Park Fare has really delivered with good quality food every time. I also love the variety of Characters you can meet, including villains like Lady Tremaine and favorites like Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh.
Her son says, “I love it because it’s a buffet, but the food is really yummy. The characters are all ones that you can’t find at the park really easy. I’ve never found Mad Hatter at the park, and Alice in Wonderful is kind of hard too.”
Robin of Luxe Recess says her children’s favorite Disney dining option is Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom:
My kids consider Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom our family ritual. We have photos of Pooh, Piglet, and Eeyore from over the last 7 years that serves as our kids’ unofficial growth chart. We have always enjoyed an extended air-conditioned break for lunch, and the buffet offers lots of healthy options so that we can indulge in Mickey bars in the afternoon.
Bon Voyage Breakfast at Disney’s Boardwalk
Disney’s Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria Al Forno on the Boardwalk offers the unique opportunity to meet some Disney PRINCES! The character breakfast features Ariel, Prince Eric, Rapunzel, and Flynn Ryder.
We enjoyed meeting both princesses and princes. They did a formal announcement for each character while we were there which was really fun to see. Rapunzel and Flynn danced together which was absolutely adorable! They also did a character parade (happens once per hour) for all the kids to follow and dance with the characters together. Our food was delicious and presented in a very fun and creative way. I ordered Rapunzel’s Tower of Pancakes and it was so yummy! My little princess loved the pancakes too. She liked the powdered sugar sun off and ate nearly as much as I did!
This one technically qualifies as a character meal AND non-character meal, because it has characters at breakfast (typically Lilo and Stich, as well as Mickey and Pluto in their Hawaiian garb) and no characters and lunch or dinner. Both are great fun and delicious food, but I think the breakfast wins as the meal of choice for kids.
During breakfast, children are given maracas to do a little parade around the restaurant with Mickey.
The food is served family-style in a large skillet in the center of the table. It’s all-you-care-to-eat, so they will keep refilling it until you’re done. The breakfast starts with Hawaiian welcome bread and a side of fruit. Then the skillet comes out filled with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits, breakfast potatoes, and Mickey waffles.
If you’re not staying at the Polynesian, booking a meal at Ohana also gives you a reason to go check out the resort. The theming is exquisite and there are several great restaurants on site.
Hollywood and Vine
Truth be told, the food at Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine has never really impressed me much, but kids rate it one of their favorite Disney restaurants.
Hard to find characters are featured at the Disney Junior breakfast at Hollywood and Vine, including Doc McStuffins, Jake from the Neverland Pirates, Sofia the First and Roadster Racer Goofy.
Depending on the season, dinners at Hollywood and Vine feature Minnie in various holiday garb with friends like Daisy, Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
Shannon of BRB Going to Disney says her toddler daughter loved seeing the characters all dressed up for in their pastel best at Minnie’s Springtime Dine. She especially loved Minnie’s dress!
SECTION 2: NON-CHARACTER MEALS
50’s Prime Time Cafe
This Hollywood Studios restaurant is always a hoot, even if the nostalgia factor is appreciated by the parents more than the kids.
Adults will be blown away by the details in this restaurant where seemingly every tchotchke is the exact one from your grandparents house! Kids enjoy the interaction with the servers, especially when they give their parents a hard time.
I love how the Aunts and Uncles are your servers and they tell you things like “Get your elbows off the table!” One time my mom got yelled at for being on her phone and it was SO funny!
Randomly, I actually caught that incident on video so here it is:
The menu includes classic Southern comfort food like fried chicken and meatloaf, just like Grandma would make. Definitely a unique experience that is not to be missed.
Teppan Edo is a fun, interactive Hibachi restaurant located in the Japan pavilion at Epcot. It makes a great meal for families because it holds the little ones’ interest but allows the parents to get a break from the typical American casual cuisine and enjoy some yummy Asian food.
Gena from GingerCasa.com says, “My boys (4, 7, 9) all say Teppan Edo at Epcot! My youngest was celebrating his birthday and they gave him a chef hat and he loved it! The food is THE best and they were all so nice (of course!).”
My favorite Walt Disney World restaurant is Via Napoli. The pizza is heavenly! It tastes as if the chefs put Disney Magic into every pie they make. The margarita pizza is my absolute favorite. It’s the dough that makes the pizza so yummy.
My son loves Sci-Fi- Dine-In Theatre because of the unique car seating and awesome movie clips! Mama likes the fact that he’ll clean his plate here, too.
AJ, age 7, also loves Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre:
The Sci-Fi drive in movie restaurant is the coolest because you get to sit in these cool cars and you get to watch TV!
Some parents love Sci-Fi as well, however they caution that it can be very dark and difficult to read the menu. There is also the issue of the seats all facing the screen, so if two parents are seated with two kids you are not facing each other. The kids most likely won’t mind, but it can make it a little difficult to cut their food and address any needs they may have while they dine.
Darkness, noise, and animatronic animals might not be at the top of the list of characteristics adults look for in a restaurant. But for kids, the unique experience found at Rainforest Cafe and T-Rex (both owned by the same company) is about as thrilling as dining can be.
Lena, age 5 says: “We went to Disney Springs and I liked Rainforest Cafe. It looks like a real rainforest and kind of like a zoo!”
Most kids will go gaga for the theming if they are animal fans or dinosaur aficionados. However, if your child is easily frightened by darkness or noise (or thunderstorms!), they might not enjoy the experience.
The food at both of these is your standard American fare served with large portions and themed names like Prehistoric Pasta and Guac-asaurus burger.
With two Rainforest Cafe locations (Disney Springs and Animal Kingdom) plus T-Rex also at Disney Springs, these are one of the easier reservations to get in case you missed that 180 day mark when planning your trip.
Does your kid have a favorite Disney World restaurant?
Disney world: it’s fun, it’s magical, and… it’s expensive! Parents save and save just to get their kids there. Then you finally set foot inside the parks, and the kids have the audacity to ask for MORE! The reason? There are fun and exciting toys and souvenirs around every corner! The kids don’t stand a chance against the genius of Disney marketing. The key is to figure out which Disney souvenirs to buy and which to skip (or buy ahead of time for a better price!) Here are the 5 best Disney souvenirs, and 5 not worth your money.
Best Disney Souvenirs
Make your own light saber
A huge hit with all the Star Wars fans visiting Disney World! The price varies depending on how elaborate you want to get, with the simplest single blade design selling for about $25 and the most elaborate double blade designs (like Kylo Ren) going for around $45.
There are several locations in WDW where you can make your own saber. Tatooine Traders in Hollywood Studios can be very busy since it attracts most of the Star Wars crowd, so check out Once Upon a Toy at Disney Springs for the same experience with a shorter line.
Another cool option is the Build a Droid available at the same locations for about $15.
Here is a fun video showing the process:
Photo Autograph Book
This is an easy and inexpensive way to capture the memories of meeting Disney characters!
Instead of just getting the basic autograph book for characters to sign, buy one with slots to put photographs in. Then when you meet a character, snap a photo of the kids (or yourself, who am I to judge?) with the characters to put in the book alongside the autograph.
We actually filled two books with all the characters we met on our last trip, so we did one for just princesses and one with all other characters.
My kids ADORE looking through these! It helps to preserve their memories of the trip too. (Have I ever mentioned how I can’t stand it when people say not to take young kids to Disney World because they won’t remember it? Preschool age is an amazing and magical time for a Disney trip!)
Ok this one isn’t exactly the most Disney-esque of all Disney souvenirs, but it is probably the best bargain around for a truly lovely keepsake.
For only $10 per person you get TWO portrait silhouettes (the way they are cut leaves you with two copies, one facing left and one facing right).
They are done extremely quickly. We were in awe watching the process, and even our toddler was able to sit long enough to get hers done. It was shocking to me how wonderful they came out. They captured our children’s profile at that age perfectly. I absolutely cherish these silhouettes!
The carts selling silhouettes are stationed in several locations throughout WDW. We did ours in Liberty Square because we weren’t able to find the one on Main Street near Town Square (maybe the artist was missing that day?).
You can also get them done in Disney Springs and sometimes in the France pavilion at Epcot.
HOT TIP!Learn from my mistake and make sure to bring cash or credit card with you when you get these done!
We are so accustomed to just putting all expenses on our Magic Bands when we’re in WDW that we don’t even bring a wallet to the parks. But the silhouette makers are considered independent contractors and can not accept Magic Bands! I almost had to run all the way back to our hotel to get money after we had ours made, but luckily I was able to recite my credit card number for memory and they ran the transaction by typing it in.
My husband was a little alarmed by my ability to recite my entire credit card number, but that’s another story for another day 😜
Personalized Mickey Ears
The most classic of all Disney Souvenirs has got to be the Mickey Mouse ear hat. Go with the classic or pick your favorite character: Buzz Lightyear, Piglet, R2-D2, and tons more.
They have sparkly Minnie Mouse ears attached to a headband, an ear hat with a bride’s vail attached, and even light up ears that change color to the beat of the fireworks music. Prices range from $15-$25 depending on the style you choose.
While these may not be the most practical choice for theme park attire, there is just something special about a kid wearing them on their first trip to Walt Disney World. And it makes for all kinds of iconic photo ops.
One way to make these extra special is to have them embroidered with your child’s name on the back. Choose your font and stiching color, and within the hour your Mickey ears will have their owner’s name on them for only $3. You can also add two lines of text for $7.
You can get your Mickey ear hat embroidered at The Chapeau on Main Street of Magic Kingdom or at Disney’s Wonderful World of Memories in Disney Springs. If you want to order them ahead of time for your trip, you can order them through Disney Floral and Gifts.
All over the parks, restaurants, and Disney hotels you will see pressed penny machines. Normally this is the kind of thing I try to steer clear of, but when traveling to Disney World with small children it’s one of those tools to keep in your arsenal. When there is downtime, things like this are a great distraction for kids and they get SUPER excited about it.
Here is the book we use to store them in:
They love going back and inspecting each one to see the different characters and rides on them.
Disney Souvenirs Not Worth Your Money
I feel like such a Disney grinch saying this, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $12 on a souvenir that won’t even survive the duration of the trip.
While they will delight your kids for a moment, they will likely drift into the sky minutes later causing a flood of tears. Best case scenario, they end up tied to a stroller that gets parked somewhere for the day while you go on rides.
HOT TIP!If you are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge, they do not allow balloons of any kind on the premises. They are hazardous to the animals on property. Avoid disappointment if you are staying there and don’t try to bring one back to your room!
For the 12 inch (Barbie size) Disney Princess dolls, buying in the parks will cost you around $20. The same dolls are sold at any Disney Store nation wide for $10 when you buy two or more.
Delight your kids by taking that same $20 and buying two at home before you leave for your trip and surprise them when you get there 😃
Princess dress up dresses
One thing every little girl wants to do in Disney World is Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Girls get princess makeovers with hair, nails, and shimmering makeup by cast members called “Fairy Godmothers-In-Training”. The basic package costs a hefty $65 for the experience lasting 30 minutes to an hour. If you want the package that includes a new princess dress, it will set you back $200!
My advice would be to buy a dress elsewhere and stick to the basic package. Disney store, JCPenney, Amazon, Etsy, etc all have similar dresses.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a special experience due to the interaction with cast members and feeling of being pampered. It really doesn’t matter much where the dress comes from.
FYI: Without considering BBB, just to buy the dress alone that they sell in the parks goes for $70. This dress is considered “deluxe” meaning it is a bit more ornate than the regular Disney store dresses. But I truly don’t think most kids would notice the difference between that and the $45 Disney store dress that is still shiny, sequined, and has the Disney label.
Light up Toys
When the sun goes down in Walt Disney World, the light up toys come out. Glowing swords, necklaces, spin toys, etc are everywhere you look.
Of course every kid will want one and of course they are way overpriced. I have fallen for this one before but then I got smart and came equipped with this:
Then when it breaks or gets lost in an hour, it doesn’t ruin your night 👍
Large stuffed animals
Please try to talk your kids out of buying a big stuffed animal in Disney World.
First of all, you can get them anywhere. Choose a souvenir that is more unique to the Disney parks.
Secondly, what are you going to do with the thing while you walk around the park and go on rides all day??? Yes, Disney has thought of everything so they do offer the service of holding it for you or sending it back to your room. BUT, how many kids are going to be ok with shipping off the giant Mickey they just talked you into buying? Then you know who is going to end up carrying it around… MOM!