Have you discovered these out-of-the-way play areas at Walt Disney World?

Before I knew better, I wondered why parents would spend time at the various playgrounds within Walt Disney World when there are so many other unique things to do only on Disney property. Now, after taking my own kids to Disney World for almost a decade, I understand — everyone needs a break!

You might have to look a little harder to find the playgrounds at Magic Kingdom these days. The two biggest play areas for young kids — Pooh’s Thoughful Play Spot and one in Mickey’s Toontown Fair — have been dismantled to make way for the new Fantasyland expansion, which begins rolling out this year.

But there are two great places where kids can climb, tucked out of the way at Magic Kingdom, and one at Epcot. (By the way, I’m not talking about the new interactive queues, like the one at The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, which really help pass the time in line, or the gigantic playground at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I’m looking for “hidden” spots where kids can get moving vertically — and burn off some of that pent-up energy.)

Under the Frontierland train station and adjacent to Splash Mountain is The Laughing Place, a cute playground designed for guests no taller than 40 inches. The main area looks like a room in the base of the tree, where characters from Song of the South live. Next door is a small house with a toddler slide. Every time I’ve walked past the play area, kids are climbing on the roofs, though I doubt that was what was originally intended by the Imagineers. The only thing I dislike about this play area is the lack of seating for waiting adults. (Jack Spence tells us more about the story of Br’er Rabbit at Disney World here.)

The next time your kids are exploring Tom Sawyer Island at the Magic Kingdom, be sure to climb to the top of the hill, where a small play structure awaits. It’s looks like a place where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’s imagination ran wild. A nearby area mimics one of the rafts guests ride across the Rivers of America; kids can stand at the helm to steer or ring a bell.

Over at Epcot, there is a fantastic interactive area inside the base of the Mission: SPACE ride. Enter through the gift shop and you’ll find the Advanced Training Lab, which includes several different types of video games, plus play tunnels and a kiosk to email space postcards.

Space Base features two levels of connecting tunnels and lots of interactive features like buttons, sounds and nets. A big plus: I have yet to see young kids become afraid and stop in the tunnels. I think most parents are happy to not relive their climbs to the top of fast-food play structures to rescue sobbing youngsters.

Expedition: Mars is a joystick-controlled video game, and Space Race is a team competition in which as many as 60 people work together to send their rocket back to Earth. (You can read more about Mission: SPACE on this AllEars page.)

Looking ahead, when Storybook Circus is completed at the Magic Kingdom, it will feature a different sort of play area, and it certainly won’t be “hidden.” The Casey Jr. Roundhouse is all about water and will feature mist and fountains. Plus, little ones can check out the monkeys, elephants and camels. It’s good to see that area of the park retain a water feature.

So, do you have some lesser-known play spots at Walt Disney World you’d like to share?

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9 Replies to “Have you discovered these out-of-the-way play areas at Walt Disney World?”

  1. In DHS, there is also a (not so hidden) playground — Honey I Shrunk the Kids. During the Epcot Flower and Garden show, they also set up different playgrounds in Futureworld (I remember one based upon Tinkerbell, on the path toward Canada, and two others in the area near Test Track.

  2. I chuckled when I read how you had never seen a child become afraid in the Space Base. Well…my four year old, who normally loves climby things like the Space Base and plays in one regularly at our gym, became very scared last summer when he reached the top of the space base. I think it felt too high for him. He started screaming in a way that made me scared that he was hurt or caught somewhere in the maze. I had to jump in and climb to the top to rescue him. The few minutes of relaxation that I was hoping to have while he was playing didn’t turn out as planned!

  3. There is a playground at Fort Wilderness, near Trail’s End. It’s a great place to bring the kids in the middle of a day at the Magic Kingdom (that and the pony rides).

  4. There is (or at least was!) a great interactive area in the Seas with Nemo and Friends. There is a big Bruce the Shark, part of the ‘submerged’ ship, and some interactive spots for kids to explore about sea life and scuba diving. Our kids had a blast playing there on our last visit.

  5. The stage area behind the United Kingdom section of EPCOT’s World Showcase is surrounded by a hedge maze. It’s a great place for older kids to run while the adults relax on the benches in this quiet area.

  6. My kids’ favorite part of the day when we were at Epcot during our WDW trip in December was when we sat on the manicured grass in between the France and Morocco pavillions and they just ran around with other children. They still talk about it. Isn’t it funny that it’s the little things they love. And it wasn’t even a play structure!

  7. My youngest son loves the play area by Splash Mountain. Last year he was tall enough to ride, which he enjoyed. When we talked about going on Splash Mountain a second time, he said, “This time I just want to go to the playground.” I like the fact that the one by Mission:Space has a climbing area for big kids and a separate one for little kids. It is true that the simple things at WDW are sometimes the things they like the most. Thanks for the article.

  8. After years of seeking out any playground for the kids to enjoy (AK’s Dinosaur playground is a must!), I can’t believe we never knew about the Space one at EPCOT! Just goes to show that you can go to WDW 30+ times and STILL always learn something new from reading these great blogs! Thanks so much – we’ll be checking it out in 9 days!

  9. Great blog. The play area near Splash is a must do for my little guys-we spend at least 30 minutes there. The boys are 2 and 1 and it may be their favorite attraction-well 2nd to Pooh Bear. Thanks for the great info-now we have a few more to check out.