Trips to Disney parks such as Disney World and Disneyland are wonderful, and it’s important to make your first visit especially memorable. So how do you make sure your kids get the perfect Disney experience the first time, one that’ll give them everything they wanted and so much more?
Here are some key attractions that you and your kids should ride as part of their “rite of passage” of visiting Disney for the very first time.
It’s a Small World
It’s a Small World is a wonderful, magical, inspiring rides in many, many different ways. First, this ride has rich and fascinating history even compared with other Disney attractions, dating back to before Disneyland. It originated as part of Walt Disney’s displays at the 1964-1965 World’s Fair, captivating an international audience with its colorful settings and merry message. The dolls and scenery also have a lovely backstory. They were the work of talented Disney artist Mary Blair, famous for her art for Alice in Wonderland and other timeless Disney classics.
Beyond its central role in Disney history, the ride is a genuinely fun ride, great for the whole family. The international dolls are all distinct and beautiful, meshing well with the colorful scenery from across the globe. There are even some fun animals, like a jaguar with an umbrella and a zebra beating some drums. And don’t worry about getting the song stuck in your head; that’s all part of the experience. In fact, one of the neat things about the ride is how all the different dolls sing their own version of the song, with the language changing between country until the grand finale. All-in-all, Small World is a definite must on your Disney trip.
Love the happiest cruise that ever sailed? Learn more about its history here!
Mad Tea Party
Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the Teacups are a terrific Disney attraction to experience, especially for your first trip. The colorful atmosphere and crazy spinning capture the whimsical madness of Wonderland. More than that, the real beauty of the ride is that you can control the spins. You crank the wheel in the center of the teacup to spin – the faster you pull, the faster you spin. So you can decide what level of spinning to do, letting you find the right balance for your family. Plus, it’s a great way to get the kids engaged in the ride, as they can contribute to the spinning.
Of course, Disney parks have also created newer attractions that take the concept of the Mad Tea Party and added new twists. For instance, Toy Story Land’s Alien Swirling Saucers throw in the extra gimmick of chaining the ride cars together – and having them swing at turns along the track. Even so, the Mad Tea Party, with its simplicity of design and fun theming, remains a classic hallmark at the Disney parks. You should definitely take them for a spin during your vacation. And don’t forget: if you watch the tea cups spinning before you get to enter the ride, you can spot an especially fast-spinning teacup to take once it’s your turn.
Take a spin on Magic Kingdom’s Mad Tea Party with AllEars TV!
This was one of Disney’s earliest rides, opening with Anaheim’s Disneyland. The ride is calm and straightforward, with no big dangers. But while it’s lacking in excitement, it’s certainly not lacking in laughs. Many of the animatronic scenes, from the safari party getting the “point in the end” from a rhino to Trader Sam with his “two heads for one of yours” deal, were specifically designed for comedic purposes. You can thank Marc Davis, famous Disney animator for Tinker Bell, Mr. Toad, Snow White, and more; he designed animatronics here as well as at other attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.
So the real appeal of the Jungle Cruise is its corny jokes, and you’ll get boatloads of them. The skippers are always coming up with new jokes. These jokes are often interactive, so try to be bold and bounce your own jokes off the skipper; you might take the comedy routines to a new level of fun. Just waiting in line at the admittedly long queue can be entertaining. Look around and you’ll see plenty of gags, from a hardly appetizing lunch menu to a poster asking someone to please adopt a “kitty” [tiger]. Plus, the music is interspersed with humorous skipper announcements like a “name the crocodile” contest. So Jungle Cruise can be hilarious – especially for your first ride, when none of the jokes have gotten old yet.
Love Disney trivia? Click here for five things you might not know about Jungle Cruise!
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Riding on Dumbo the Flying Elephant has been one of the timeless Disney experiences ever since Disneyland park opened in Anaheim. The ride is simple but exhilarating, taking you up into the air for a pleasant and fun spin. Like the Mad Tea Party, part of the fun is that you get to control your ride to a degree. Using the lever, you can fly high, dip low, or teeter back and forth. And since it’s just two people per car, you can make the ride into a personal bonding experience with your kid, sharing in the sense of wonder as Dumbo flies up high like magic.
If you like the Dumbo ride, you might want to check out the several other similar attractions at different parks. For instance, Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo DisneySea all feature Aladdin’s Flying Carpets, where you ride the Magic Carpet instead of Dumbo. But not only has Dumbo stayed popular over the years, but it has become even better than before. In Magic Kingdom, there are now two sets of Dumbo carousels, significantly cutting down on wait time. And kids will have a blast playing inside the circus-themed playground linked to the queue. Flying on Dumbo is something you’ll remember for a lifetime, so don’t forget to include it on your itinerary.
AllEars TV rides Dumbo at Magic Kingdom — come along!
Peter Pan’s Flight
Out of the many different dark rides at the Disney parks, Peter Pan’s Flight is possibly one of the most unique and magical of the dark rides. Unlike other rides that stay relatively grounded, this ride gives you the feel that you are flying, as your floating galleons seem to take you high above London and all the way to Neverland. A classic mainstay at the parks since Disneyland first opened, Peter Pan’s Flight may be short, yet it continues to capture the movie’s imaginative sense of adventure and magic.
To ensure you fulfill this rite of passage on your family’s first Disney trip, be sure to either get a FastPass or go to Peter Pan’s Flight right away when the park opens; otherwise, you’ll be in for a long line. Fortunately, even the wait is now a wonderful adventure at Disney World. The updated queue line takes you outside and inside the Darling household from the film, complete with many little callbacks to the original story. Plus, while you wait in the Darling nursery, Tinker Bell’s light will whizz around and make mischief by bringing toys to life. You can even play games with your shadow. The queue’s immersion combined with the timeless wonder of the ride make for an amazing experience that you and your family will always remember fondly.
Get more history of Peter Pan’s Flight here!
Rides for Older Kids
The rides listed above are fun for kids – and grown-ups – of all ages. However, other rides will have to wait until your children are a little older (or, in most cases, taller!). Ride heights are in effect for several of the rides below, but if your child meets the minimum height requirements and/or feel ready for thrills, they should get the full Disney experience with the following rides:
Splash Mountain- This is a terrific ride, just as long as everyone’s at least 40 inches high and doesn’t mind a sharp plummet at the end. Aside from the thrilling plunge into the water and briar patch at the end, the ride is pretty calm and fun. This is the only Disney ride themed after Song of the South (and while the live-action parts were racist, the animated clips remain classic Disney material). As a result, the fun-filled adventure, with tons of colorful, singing critters, remains a timeless classic at the Disney parks. Don’t forget to use the PhotoPass option in your My Disney Experience app to find the photos taken of your log during the plunge.
Haunted Mansion- If your kids don’t get scared too easily, you should all consider visiting the Haunted Mansion. While segments of the ride are certainly dark and spooky (such as the “pre-show” with the descending portraits), the ride overall is tons of fun. Every part of the mansion is filled to the brim with intriguing and hauntingly magical details, from portraits transforming into monsters to ghosts having a duel in the dining hall. And there are humorous portions, too, particularly in the graveyard portion of the tour. And you can also get photos of yourself from the end of the ride, complete with ghosts, making for a haunting but marvelous experience for the whole family.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror- If you and your children are at least 40 inches tall and ready for a real challenge, then put your guts to the test at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. With the spooky atmosphere of the cursed hotel, you’ll be tense even before you board the elevator. And once the elevator starts up, watch out! It will rise and fall unpredictably, throwing you off with shortened “false drops” at times. And at some point, you will always get a full drop down the 130-foot building at speeds of up to 39 mph. For those up for the test, this is a terrific thrill ride to make your first Disney trip memorable. Also make sure you get photos of your terrified faces afterwards via PhotoPass.
With the right planning and care, a person’s first Disney trip can be utterly amazing, filling them with wonder at the magic and inspiring their imagination. By taking part in these timeless rites of passage, you and your kids will make happy, fun-filled memories to last a lifetime.
What attraction do you think is the ultimate Disney Parks rite of passage? Share with us in the comments below!