Kids young and old all love visiting the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida. But what happens when someone in your group is not tall enough to meet the height restrictions for a certain ride? Or what if a ride is too intense for your toddler or young child? These situations are all too familiar for our family, as we have visited the Magic Kingdom with toddlers for over five years now.
As Annual Passholders at Walt Disney World, we take our fair share of trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. On our first trip to the Magic Kingdom, we didn’t take our family’s variety of likes, dislikes, heights, ages, and adult preferences into account (and it was way before Disney’s apps and smartphones ever came out), causing us to waste a large bit of our time in the park waiting outside of rides when we never should have or ever needed to.
So here are my tips and suggestions for finding nearby alternative rides for some of the Magic Kingdom’s most popular, but also height restricted, attractions so that you can enjoy your time in the Magic Kingdom with toddlers and young children. While there are plenty of Disney World rides for toddlers in the Magic Kingdom, I have tried to list ones that typically have shorter lines because after all, we all know how much toddlers love to wait.
NAVIGATING MAGIC KINGDOM IN DISNEY WORLD WITH TODDLERS
IF YOU’RE IN TOMORROWLAND NEAR SPACE MOUNTAIN:
Space Mountain is one of Walt Disney World’s most iconic rides and sights in the Magic Kingdom. It is a heart pounding roller coaster that simulates outer space by operating in complete darkness. Not only is it an incredibly fun and intense ride, but you must be 44 inches (112cm) or taller to ride.
Space Mountain is a single seat ride, meaning that there’s no one flanking your side to cling to. This important detail was something I forgot about when my 5-year old and I happily approached the loading area after waiting in line for 45 minutes…meaning she had to ride solo on a ride she had never been on before.
The ride is also completely pitch dark with dips, sudden bursts of speed, and quick little jerks here and there. It is one of my favorite rides in the entire park that makes me giddy with laughter, but on this particular occasion it was a complete parenting fail on my part. My daughter survived, crazy roller coaster hair and all, but never fails to mention the experience or her Gilgamesh-esque bravery every single time we go to the Magic Kingdom. Not kidding.
Space Mountain Alternatives
So, if you have gun-shy kids, little ones not tall enough to ride, or those terrified of roller coasters in the dark, there are several nearby attractions for you to enjoy while waiting for the rest of your party to enjoy Space Mountain. If you’re looking to rest or escape the heat, humidity or rain (or the trifecta if you’re there on an especially swampy day), check out the Carousel of Progress. While some overlook this attraction, we love it. Everyone remains seated in a comfortable, air conditioned theater chair for the entire 20-minute show, and it provides great respite from the elements. You may even get the catchy It’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow tune stuck in your head as a free souvenir.
For a great overhead view of the park, hop in line for the Astro Orbiter, which circles high above Tomorrowland. Another great option is the Tomorrowland PeopleMover, which takes you on a leisurely 10-minute tour of Tomorrowland’s sights and a quasi behind-the-scenes look at Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. High above the crowd, this attraction offers great respite when you just need to sit down and take a break without feeling like you’re wasting precious time inside the park. If you have a wee little one that still nurses or bottle feeds, the PeopleMover and the Carousel of Progress are both great attractions to put your multi-tasking skills to use and give a little nutrition to your baby while also enjoying a ride.
IF YOU’RE IN ADVENTURELAND BY PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN:
While Pirates of the Caribbean has no height restriction for riders, its dark pirate scenes and loud cannon sounds can sometimes be too intense for toddlers (and my skittish 8-year old). One of Disney’s most popular attractions is the 10-minute Jungle Cruise ride and it is perfect for toddlers. And you can’t miss all the puns or the backside of that waterfall! A chance to see Adventureland from above is offered by the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, but be on the lookout for the camels that spit water at unsuspecting guests!
If the weather is inclement, there are two indoor, kid-friendly shows to pick from: the 10-minute show at the Enchanted Tiki Room where the room comes alive and the engaging hoedown at the Country Bear Jamboree, which lasts 15 minutes. Both offer fun songs, animals singing, giggles for the kids, and 10-15 minutes of air conditioned rest for adults. These two shows are great places to visit inside the Magic Kingdom with both toddlers and young kids.
IF YOU’RE EXPLORING FRONTIERLAND:
Both the twisting, fast roller coaster of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the large, wet drop on Splash Mountain require riders to be 40 inches (102cm) or taller. Luckily, there are two toddler-friendly options located between these two attractions.
If you have a longer wait as your party sits in queue for these two rides, I would suggest hopping on the Walt Disney World Railroad for the scenic 20-minute round trip around the park perimeter. The train arrives every 5-10 minutes and makes additional stops at Main Street and Fantasyland.
As you make your way to and from the railroad loading platform, you will walk past a small, toddler play area called The Laughin’ Place that is tucked underneath an overhang that keeps you shaded and dry. It’s meant for children ages 2-5 and is the perfect place to take a little parental rest on the short stone walls and try to catch a little breeze from the overhead fans while watching your little ones play. While it’s not listed in or noted on any maps, trust me, it’s there! Our 2-year old has clocked countless minutes playing here and never wants to leave. And if you need to use the restroom or change a diaper, facilities are only about 50 feet away.
IF YOU’RE NEAR LIBERTY SQUARE AND THE HAUNTED MANSION:
The Haunted Mansion at Disney World allows riders of any height but speaking from experience, it is not the best idea to take toddlers or young children along. Our girls still have bad dreams about being stuck in a house with “no windows and no doors” and the ghosts they saw in the mansion. Again, parenting fail.
Haunted Mansion Alternative
To spare your little ones the ghostly nightmares in the middle of the night, head to one of the most iconic and toddler friendly rides that is just around the corner. It’s a Small World typically has a limited line and it is the all-time favorite of all three of our children. Growing up in Southern California and going to Disneyland all the time, Walt Disney World’s It’s A Small World took some getting used to, being that it’s completely indoors. (It is partially outdoors over on the west coast at Disneyland.)
This past spring, It’s A Small World underwent a few renovations and they’re all really fantastic! Decades later, this is still one of my favorite rides of all time. Make sure to pay attention at the end of the ride. Disney doesn’t skip a beat and has now added personalization when saying “Goodbye.” So in addition to hearing children young and old butcher the phrase “Goodbye” in a multitude of foreign languages, there are a few new interactive treats. It’s A Small World is always a great way to spend time making lasting memories inside the Magic Kingdom with young children and toddlers.
IF YOU’RE IN FANTASYLAND:
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is Disney World’s newest roller coaster and currently the most popular ride. It typically has the longest wait time and it has a rider height restriction of 38 inches (97cm) or taller. The Prince Charming Regal Carousel is right beside the entry and exit point for Mine Train and is a great, albeit quick ride for toddlers. The line is usually short and our girls always run back to get in line to ride on it again.
Mine Train Alternatives
Because the wait for Mine Train is typically fairly long, I recommend walking over to the Storybook Circus Area to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant. Dumbo is a perfectly designed ride because inside the large tent waiting area, Disney has created a new version of “line experience” for guests. Here you can take a break from the sun, heat, humidity and rain and enjoy a seat in the air conditioning while letting the kids play before taking flight. Created for kids ages 2-12, it is fitted with a netted play structure and slides for young children and a designated play area specifically for toddlers age 3 and younger. It is the perfect place, if there could ever be one, to have to wait in a line with kids. It is also one of our kids’ favorite places to spend time waiting for the rest of our family to ride Mine Train or other height restricted rides that they are too small to ride.
Upon entering the play area, guests are presented with a pager that virtually holds your place in line, allowing you to let your kids play freely until it’s your time to take flight and board one of the magical elephants. And don’t freak out or worry if you or your little ones have to go potty while inside the tent. Just tell a Cast Member that you need to use the restroom and they will usher you out a side door and arrange for you to re-enter the tent without having to re-enter the line for the play area and feel like a salmon swimming upstream.
If the rest of your party is still delayed riding Mine Train or another height restricted ride, you can stay inside the tent and play a little longer before flying with Dumbo, or there is another Disney Train Depot nearby where you can catch the train for a 20-minute, scenic diversion.
GENERAL DISNEY WORLD TIPS FOR TODDLERS, BABIES, & YOUNG CHILDREN
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RIDER SWITCH
Some people may ask why you would bring a baby or toddler to the Magic Kingdom if there are multiple rides they can’t enjoy. To me, magic aside, the best answer is quite simply that it costs you nothing; kids younger than age 3 enjoy free entry to Disney World.
Disney has also established a wonderful process for families and groups that have younger kids but also have adults or older kids who can ride every ride. This concept is called Rider Switch. Basically, one adult can ride the ride with older kids first while the other parent or adult watches the toddler(s) or small children. After that, the other parent gets a FastPass+ ticket for an expedited wait to ride which can include the older kids again (up to 3 riders total).
Just tell the Disney cast member at the line entrance that you would like to do a rider switch. This is such an added convenience for those of us who visit the Magic Kingdom with toddlers and those too young to experience many of the rides.
UTILIZE THE BABY CARE CENTER
For parents that have babies and young toddlers still in diapers, there is a Baby Care Center located beside the First Aid center just off Main Street towards Frontierland. It’s nestled between the buffet restaurant, The Crystal Palace and the All-American eatery, Casey’s Corner.
The Baby Care Center is a parent-friendly haven that has padded changing tables, private nursing rooms, a feeding area with high chairs, a TV, books and toys for kids to play with, bathrooms (which are even equipped with potty training snap-on toddler seats), and a kitchenette fitted with a microwave, bottle warmer, sterilizer, and purified water.
They also happen to have a small convenience-type store set up that sells anything you might have forgotten to bring to the park with you or may have run out of like diapers and wipes, over-the-counter medicines, baby food and formula, toddler meals and snacks, children’s electrolyte replacement drinks and juice, changes of clothing, etc. The store is even appointed with items that not just little ones need, like petroleum jelly, sunscreen, hydrocortisone cream, feminine products, and creature comfort items like Blistex, cough drops, and hand sanitizer.
I am not ashamed to admit that I use this baby center every time we visit the Magic Kingdom. Whether it’s because we’ve run out of diapers, lost the diaper ointment on the most catastrophic diaper rash day
of the year, need to refill water bottles, or simply need to change a diaper and are in the area, we use this exceptionally clean and well cared for offering and are so thrilled that it is there.
Important Baby Center Fact
For us, the most important fact about the Baby Care Center is that it is where Cast Members bring children who have been separated from their parents, family, or companions while at the Magic Kingdom. Here they are kindly cared for until they are reunited with their families. And while a lost child is the worst heart-dropping nightmare imaginable for any parent, it is nice to know that if an unfortunate separation occurs and parents are not immediately rejoined with their lost child, kids are taken to such a comforting place like the Baby Care Center where they are thoughtfully cared for until a re-connection is made with their parents or party.
We always remind our kids of our Disney World family rule that if for any reason we accidentally get separated, the first thing they must do is look up and go to the first Cast Member they see to ask for help, whether they are at a ride, in a store, near a restaurant, or anywhere inside any of the parks. We would much rather our girls be safe with a Cast Member or in the Baby Care Center than wandering aimlessly around the park in tears eating popcorn off the ground while looking for us.
And the same goes for us parents in this situation: one of us goes to (or stays in) the last place we saw our missing child to look for her while the other goes to the nearest Cast Member for help, as a Code Adam Lost Child call is quickly made and shortly thereafter a subsequent call to all Cast Members is conducted. At this point, ALL ride operators and Cast Members (in costume, in uniform, and office staff in business attire) begin looking in the park for the missing child.
This article was originally published by Hilton Mom Voyage.