An Interview with Noah (age 2 and 8 months) and Emma (age 4 and 10 months):
*All rides with an asterisk were so enjoyable to my children that we rode them more than once. I’m pretty sure we rode some rides more times than is legally allowed in the state of Florida.
Walt Disney Railroad:
What did you think of the railroad at the Magic Kingdom?
E: “Um, what train? Did you mean Thunder Mountain, because I don’t remember any other train.”
N: “I’ll show you on the map, Emma.”
RM: The train that we used some times inside the Magic Kingdom to get from one place to another.
E: “Oh, you mean the monorail?”
Assessment – Forgettable, but useful. The train is a clever and enjoyable way to get from one area of the park to another, but should not be a ride that you take time for if it does not serve a transportation purpose. We enjoyed using the train on our second day at the park to get from Main Street station in the front of the park to Mickey’s Toontown Fair in the back of the park without having to navigate the crowds or tire ourselves out walking at the start of our day.
E: “The only part I was really scared of was the cave because I was a bit scared of the snakes.”
RM: Did you like the ride?
E: “I kind of liked it.”
Assessment: We rode the Jungle Cruise because it is a part of Disney history, a part of my own childhood memories of the Magic Kingdom. However, it has changed quite a bit. The ride itself is the same, but the boat’s “driver” was a young man whose purpose on the ride was that of a stand-up comedian. He was loud, crude, and at times kicked the boat with the microphone next to his foot in order to make a large banging noise. He even heckled the riders periodically, all for a “laugh.” Regardless of the fact that the boat’s passengers were about 50% children, the driver continued on with his routine. Possibly Disney has decided that rather than update it’s old classic, it will simply spice it up with funny employees. However, I would have preferred to enjoy the ride’s original magic through the eyes of my children. If you’ve got small kids, I recommend you skip this ride.
The Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management:
N: “Oh yeah, I didn’t like that!”
RM: You didn’t like that?
RM: Why didn’t you like that?
E: “I like it!”
N: “Me, too! I liked the birds singing.”
Assessment: The Tiki Room song has long been a favorite of my kids, so I was excited to watch their reactions when they experienced the actual show. Although I still prefer the original version of the Tiki Room – without Iago and Zazu – once the music gets going and the birds and totems are singing, all of the magic returns. This is a “ride” without a long wait, a cool respite from the heat of day, and a chance to appreciate the magic of Disney’s animatronics.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin*:
E: “I liked that I could fly high and not let the camel spit at us.”
N: “I liked flying up super high like the Wonder Pets do. I’m making some pizza now.” *rolling a pillow*
Assessment: My kids LOVED this ride, even though it’s basically a version of Dumbo and Triceratops spin. You can move the flying carpet both up and down and tilt it back and forth, so it keeps the kids very entertained.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:
E: “I loved that ride! I liked it because it was a roller-coaster.”
RM: Was it scary?
E: “It was only scary when we went down hill.”
Assessment: You have to really know your kids well before you attempt this ride. This is a real roller-coaster with a couple of scary moments. However, my four year old who is sometimes too afraid to ride on a carousel horse loves roller coasters, and this one was no exception. It was well worth the time spent in line to see the proud look on my daughter’s face when she rode Thunder Mountain.
Country Bear Jamboree:
E: “I liked that. I really liked the pretend animal heads on the wall. I also liked the bear that sang on the swing from the ceiling and the three girl bears who sang together with a screen coming down.”
Assessment: This is a Disney favorite and I’ll enjoy it time and time again. We used this time for Noah to take a nap, so he clearly didn’t have an opinion of this attraction, but we sat three generations in a row all smiling and clapping along.
Tom Sawyer Island:
E: “Um, was that a ride?”
RM: No, we rode a raft to an island and played in a cave. We even lost Gram.
E: “That one I don’t remember – go to the next ride.”
Assessment: If you have enough time in your schedule to explore Tom Sawyer Island, it is a unique and fun aspect to the Magic Kingdom. As a former English teacher, this was especially entertaining to me. However, if you are on a tight schedule, this is one area of the park that you should skip.
Cinderella’s Golden Carousel*:
E: “I remember that and I really liked riding on a horse there.”
N: “Yeah, it was very good and I liked riding the horses and the benches.”
Assessment: Cinderella’s Carousel is a beautiful work of art, but it is, of course, a carousel not too unlike any other carousel. The lines for this ride move fairly quickly because it holds so many passengers and runs a very short period of time, so if your children enjoy carousels, then don’t skip this ride. After all, it is Cinderella’s carousel.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant*:
E: “I liked that ride! I really liked flying!”
N: “I liked making the elephants fly up and down. I really liked it.”
Assessment: Both of my children loved this ride so much that they begged to go on it again and again. Because the lines for Dumbo can be very long, be sure to ride it early in the day.
It’s a Small World*:
E: “What I liked about that ride is that I got to hear lots of music.”
N: “I didn’t like that ride.”
RM: That’s not true – you made us go on that ride four, or was it five times?
N: “I don’t know.”
Assessment: This will always be my family’s favorite, despite my grumpy interviewee. There was nothing like the joy and amazement on my children’s faces, especially my son’s, as we rode on “It’s a Small World” again and again. If Disney ever tries to change that ride, I’ll be the first name on a long petition.
Mad Tea Party:
E: “I really liked the teacups and they were really fun. They were spinny and really fast.”
Assessment: This is not a ride for little children, but my four year old loved this ride so much that she immediately wanted to ride it again. Mommy’s head was spinning, so we skipped it and enjoyed the rest of the park.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh*:
E: “The Winnie-the-Pooh ride was fun and it was on a boat type thing most of the time and we got to bounce with Tigger!”
N: “I didn’t like that ride. But I don’t know what I didn’t like.”
Assessment: I think that at times, Winnie the Pooh’s bright colors and movement can be a little too much for the smallest of Disney guests. However, my son did like it at the time, despite his recent review. My daughter enjoyed it enough to stand in line to ride it again, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun!
Peter Pan’s Flight*:
E: “That was a flying ride and I really like flying, so it was really exciting.”
N: “That was very in circles. We went left and right.”
Assessment: The lines for Peter Pan can be very long, so you may want to ride this one early in the day or use the Fastpass option. We all – age 2 to 63 – enjoyed this ride so much that we rode it three times, and I truly saw something different each time. The tiny details of this right are magical.
E: “That was really funny and I really liked when Donald came storming out.”
N: “It was really moving!”
RM: Did you like wearing the glasses and having it feel like things were flying at you?
N: “Um-hm. I liked the Toy Story ride.”
RM: That was somewhere else.
N: “Where was it? Can we go to Hollywood Studios? And go on the Toy Story ride? Four times? Pleeeeeeease?”
Assessment: This is the first of three rides/experiences that we enjoyed in Disney that used 3-D glasses, and it was definitely very overwhelming for Noah. However, if you want to take the entire family into this experience, you can simply skip the glasses for the little ones and still enjoy the show. The way that Disney utilizes all of the senses in PhilHarmagic is simply incredible. You will feel air blowing, smell the delicious smells of the food on the screen, and even get squirted with water. This is an experience that cannot be missed!
Mickey’s Country House/Minnie’s Country House*:
N: “Does Minnie have toys?”
RM: I’m not sure.
E: “I thought what was really fun about Minnie’s house was that we got to hear Minnie talk on the phone.”
Assessment: We visited these “houses” on two separate occasions, and they were a lot of fun when there was not a big crowd. The kids were able to wander happily through the rooms, and even interact with much of the exhibit in Minnie’s house. If you have more than one day in the Magic Kingdom and are able to begin your day in the back of the park, have fun exploring Toontown before the crowds arrive.
E: “That was really fast. It went down a big hill, and you could even see the tip of Cinderella’s castle.”
N: “It was really fast – it was rolling – into a pizza!”
Assessment: Do not be fooled – this is a roller coaster! The hill is mild and the ride itself is very short, but if your children do not like roller coasters, then you should avoid the Barnstormer. However, if your children are adventurous and like a thrill, even the littlest riders are allowed to try this coaster out. Both of my children rode the Barnstormer, but Noah decided that once was enough. Emma, on the other hand, rode the Barnstormer five times and would have continued all day if we had allowed it.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin*:
N: “It was really exciting!”
E: “I thought it was really cool that we could shoot at the Z’s.”
Assessment: This is a fantastic ride that allows the riders to interact with what’s going on around them by earning points for shooting lasers at targets. Even though Noah was not able to aim well and score a lot of points, he had so much fun trying that he didn’t even realize he wasn’t doing well. This is another ride that was equally loved by the members of our party from little toddler all the way up to senior citizen. It’s definitely worth utilizing the Fastpass to be able to ride Buzz more than once without wasting too much time in line.
Tomorrowland Indy Speedway:
E: “I thought it was really fun to drive a car.”
N: “What road did we drive on? Do you mean Buzz Lightyear?”
RM: No, they’re little race cars.
Assessment: This ride is just like any other amusement park speedway, and we honestly spent the time in line to ride it simply to please my motorhead father. Emma enjoyed having a turn driving a car, but I think it was tough for Noah to wait in this line only to ride around a track in a go-cart.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority:
E: “We just stood on the escalator – there were no stairs. It was more like a conveyor belt. It was really fun to go in the dark and then see something. I liked getting to see Buzz Lightyear on another ride.”
N: “I really liked that too, Mom!”
Assessment: This ride is worth the time because it is something you will only find at Disney, a glimpse into the mind of Walt Disney. While the adults certainly enjoyed this ride on a much different level than the kids, the whole family had a nice time.
E: “It was very fun to see a mermaid.”
Assessment: While Ariel’s Grotto is a fun place for kids to splash around in shooting jets of water, the main attraction is a chance to meet Ariel from The Little Mermaid. If it is important for your child to get to meet Ariel, you need to get to the back of the park and get in line first thing in the morning. At times the wait is up to an hour long, and not worth the time that you could be spending on other rides if you do not have an interest in meeting Ariel.
Storytime with Belle:
E: “I really liked getting to see a story be acted out.”
Assessment: Many of the Magic Kingdom’s most magical moments lie in hidden locations off the beaten path. Storytime with Belle in the Fairytale Gardens behind the castle is one of these treasures. Meeting with characters at meals is nice, but getting to see Belle share her love of books in front of a small, intimate audience was sweet and wonderful.
There are certainly rides in the Magic Kingdom that we skipped on our first trip to Disney because Emma at four was not interested in yet or was downright scared to try. One example is the much loved Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor, and when we return to Disney we will certainly try that ride.
The bottom line is that you need to know your own child’s interests and fears. Perhaps your child isn’t afraid of monsters, but is terrified to try a roller coaster. Your experience would then be very different from ours.
But the magic of Disney is that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And there’s always magic available around every corner, regardless of your interests.