Orlando Bound? How to Do Disney World with a Toddler or Big Kid

Gradeschoolers (7 to 10)

• Keep in Mind: These are the thrill-seeking years, and kids may beg for rides that are too wild or intense for them. If you're unsure whether a ride is appropriate, check with a Disney staffer or try it yourself first. Most kids this age enjoy Splash Mountain (a five-story flume ride); Space Mountain (an in-the-dark roller coaster); Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a 13-story free-falling elevator); Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (an indoor roller coaster that goes upside down three times!); and Test Track, and Mission: Space (choose the less intense flight option, if you're unsure).

• Parks to See: The Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Typhoon Lagoon water park (but hit water parks early or late in the day to avoid crowds).

• Touring Strategies: Kids will have clear preferences, so tap into their interests. For example, an animal-lover may want more than one day in Animal Kingdom. Magic Kingdom and Disney's Hollywood Studios are extremely popular with this age group, since they offer the most thrill rides. Take advantage of the "FASTPASS," so you can ride popular attractions without a lengthy wait. If the parks are open late, you can plan on returning most evenings, since gradeschoolers have more late-night staying power than younger kids.

• Don't Miss:
In the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain; Splash Mountain; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; Mad Tea Party; The Barnstormer Featuring the Great Goofini; Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin; The Haunted Mansion; Pirates of the Carribbean; Jungle Cruise; Main Street Electrical Parade; Celebrate the Magic! Castle Projection show; Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks.

Disney's Hollywood Studios: Star Tours - The Adventures Continue (and the Jedi Training Academy, right outside it); Toy Story Mania!; The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow; MuppetVision 3-D; The American Idol Experience; The Great Movie Ride; Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular; Fantasmic.

In Animal Kingdom: Kali River Rapids; Maharajah Jungle Trek; Kilimanjaro Safaris; DINOSAUR; It's Tough to Be a Bug!; Finding Nemo -- The Musical; Festival of the Lion King.

In Epcot: Spaceship Earth, Test Track, Soarin’; Ellen's Energy Adventure, Phineas & Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure; Innoventions (save this technology arcade for after you've seen everything else, and set a time limit -- or you could be there forever); Kidcot Fun Stops, at each country in the World Showcase (kids can make cultural crafts and collect paper coins; IllumiNations nighttime laser and fireworks show (scout a viewing spot at least 30 minutes beforehand).

• Kids May Be Scared By: Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (fast, loud, dark, and goes upside-down); Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (a 13-story free-fall); Expedition Everest (goes backwards, through the dark, with a Yeti chasing you; must be 44" tall to ride)

• Meal Plans: Food-court meals offer finicky eaters lots of choices. Try Sunshine Seasons in Epcot's Land pavilion, featuring pasta, pizza, baked potatoes and more. Also seek out portable foods, like turkey legs and fresh fruit, located at carts throughout all three parks. Theme restaurants are also a big hit with this age group -- especially the Sci-Fi Dine-In in Disney's Hollywood Studios, where kids dine in cars and watch old science fiction movie clips. And you won't want to miss lunch or dinner in the new Beauty and the Beast–themed Be Our Guest restaurant in Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland.

• Best Bets for Character Meals: The Garden Grill Restaurant at Epcot's Land Pavilion, where Mickey and friends host breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Cape May Café buffet breakfast or dinner with Goofy and pals at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. Character meals give kids a leisurely opportunity to clown around with favorite characters, get autographs, and pose for photos.

• More Spots to Greet Characters: Enchanted Tales with Belle in Magic Kingdom's New Fantasyland; Scheduled character greetings in all parks (check park maps and boards for exact times).

• Places to Chill Out: Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak Station in New Fantasyland; Typhoon Lagoon water park; Animal Kingdom's Kali River Rapids (you get drenched on this ride!); Epcot's Club Cool (it looks like a gift shop, but inside you can sample Coca-Cola products from around the world); and Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros, a gentle boat ride with Donald Duck, Panchito the Mexican Rooster and Jose Carioca the Brazillian parrot; the Yacht Club Resort's Beaches & Cream Soda Shop (sundaes are enormous, so share them).

Hot Tips:
• Give kids fanny packs for holding autograph books, sunscreen and pocket money.

• At Epcot stores and carts you can buy a "passport" that kids can have stamped at each stop in the World Showcase.

Read more about: Preteens and Teens (10 and up)

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