For most parents, fall means back to school. For Walt Disney World, it means unique festivals, fewer crowds and offseason prices.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time, it is its own world after all. Traveling with children can also have its own set of challenges. But we have some backup. Lyndsey Paris, a woman who has a coveted spot on the Disney Parks Mom’s Panel. Here & Beyond recently chatted with Paris about traveling to Disney with preschoolers this fall. As moms and Disney experts do best, Paris happily shared advice, tips and essential information.
H&B: Besides slower crowds and shorter lines, why is autumn a great time to visit?
Paris: I adore visiting Walt Disney World Resort in the fall for several reasons. For starters, the weather is divine. Plus, many schools around the country are back in session, so a long weekend escape to Florida is our family’s ticket to lower crowds and a great value.
Seasonal magic is frighteningly festive at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (select dates Aug. 25-Nov. 1). This party allows guests to experience Magic Kingdom in a whole new way when the park shuts down to regular visitors and is only open for ticketed guests. Trick or Treat within the park, meet “rare” characters like Sandy Claws and the Seven Dwarfs, and feast on Halloween Treats while relishing the lower volume lines for attractions. Don’t forget your Halloween costume, as this is one of the rare occasions even adults will be admitted in full costume! My favorite part of this party is the Happy Hallowishes Fireworks show, which features its own spooky projection show and a fireworks blowout that will surround you in the magic.
Another popular fall attraction is Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (Aug. 25-Nov. 13). Guests can taste and sip their way around the World Showcase, experiencing artistic flavors and small plates, as well as partaking in tasting dinners, tours and more. This is a fantastic festival.
H&B: How does Disney make the experience for parents of preschoolers seamless?
Paris: As a parent of two young children, Walt Disney World Resort is my go-to vacation destination. Yes, I am a self-proclaimed “Dis-nerd,” but Disney offers parents so many tools to make vacations easier. For instance, high chairs are stocked in every eatery, complimentary bed rails and cribs are in each resort, you can find ample kid’s menus, and the family-friendly atmosphere really packs a punch. So many offerings can be found in the Parents’ Guide.
The Baby Care Centers are fantastic for all children under 5, since they provide quiet places to rest, change diapers, nurse, feed, or stock up on supplies like diapers, pullups, bibs and even baby food. I’ve stopped for wipes and some toddler-friendly snacks. Disney also has a wide array of preschool friendly offerings with over 80 attractions suitable for the preschool group.
The My Disney Experience app offers parents an at-a-glance planning tool, where they can see dining and hotel reservations, FastPasses, photos, profiles, directions and more. My family often uses it for directions or to find out what time Peter Pan is due to visit Fantasyland. Both the online site and the mobile app are great ways to streamline a vacation for any family.
Unique, safe and engaging child care services are available at Walt Disney World Resort, offering parents an opportunity for a date night while children over age 3 enjoy a highly entertaining afternoon or evening at the Sandcastle Club, Simba’s Cubhouse or my personal favorite, Lilo’s Playhouse. Children can choose dinner, meet characters, play, create, and learn all while having fun on property.
If there’s an attraction that children are too short for, but a family member is dying to experience, Rider Switch Service is available. Children are never alone, but grown-ups and older siblings can ride Tower of Terror and feel the thrills. Combine this service with the power of FastPass+ reservations, and families can pack more fun into their day. Guests can pre-schedule FastPasses for their must-do attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train to bypass the long line and get to the fun faster. I never ride Frozen Ever After without a FastPass!
H&B: What are the most popular attractions for preschoolers and their parents?
Paris: Remember those 80+ attractions that are best suited for a preschooler and their family? There’s more! After you enjoy Magic Kingdom offerings like The Barnstormer (a great first roller coaster), Dumbo and the Flying Elephant, many preschoolers and young children adore a magical transformation. Many parents know about Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, allowing Princes and Princesses to dress up and be pampered in royal style. Fairy Godmothers-In-Training spread pixie dust to children ages 3-12. If you are not the royal type, The Pirates League takes recruits for pirates, empresses and mermaids alike. And there’s no age cap. Buccaneers as young as 3 and their moms and dads can sign up for a transformation, complete with treasure room hunt, certificate and pirate’s ceremony. It’s a very cool experience, even for stand-by landlubbers.
Older preschoolers (4+) can sign up for Jedi Training, which allows young Padawans to train in the ways of the Force, battling evil villains and saving the galaxy. It’s extremely popular, so if you want to try the training, be sure to sign up early, in person, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
It can’t go without being said that lots of real magic is doled out in character meet and greets. From scheduled FastPass+ reservations available at Fairytale Princess Hall and Magician Mickey to small magic meetings with Alice or Peter Pan, children and adults alike will love to meet their favorite characters face-to-face. Make sure you elect Memory Maker and bring your autograph book so you capture those memories that will last a lifetime.
H&B: What special rides or attractions are available in fall, but not the rest of the year?
Paris: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival are the stars of the fall season. It’s true that Florida’s climate allows swimming and visits to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach for more months of the year, so our family will don swimsuits, even in September and October to patronize the splash pads. The Grand Floridian’s water play area is themed to the Mad Hatter and Alice in Wonderland, which is a personal favorite.
You may find that in fall, holiday decorations are everywhere! Mickey pumpkin wreaths and festival fall aromas abound in Magic Kingdom. Fall-inspired treats like caramel apples adorn candy shops and merchandise locations start displaying cozier options like sweatshirts. Magically, over the wee hours of early November, cast members are hard at work changing over the Halloween decorations to Christmas ones. The change is drastic and beautiful, so if you happen to Trick or Treat with Mickey in late October, keep your eyes on Magic Kingdom for its spectacular swap.
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