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This time of year at Walt Disney World means unique festivals, fewer crowds and offseason prices.
Meet Lindsey Paris, a true southern lady, mother of two and a do-it-yourself kind of girl. This self-proclaimed “Dis-nerd” was hand selected from thousands of applicants to serve as a panelist on the coveted Disney Parks Moms Panel. She is an expert on all things Disney– from trip planning to events– and offers great advice. Ask away!
H&B: Besides lower 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. 17-Oct. 31). 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 . Don’t forget your Halloween costume, as this is one of the few occasions 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.
Another popular fall attraction is Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival (Aug. 30-Nov. 12). Guests can taste and sip their way around the World Showcase, experiencing artistic flavors and small plates, as well as partaking in tasting menus, tours and more.
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, there are safe and engaging child care options and ample kid’s menus.
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.
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.
H&B: What makes fall and winter a special time at Walt Disney World Parks?
Paris: Holiday decorations are everywhere. Mickey pumpkin wreaths and festive fall aromas abound in Magic Kingdom. You’ll find fall-inspired treats like caramel apples and candy shops, and merchandise locations start displaying cozier options like sweatshirts. In early November, cast members change over the Halloween decorations to Christmas ones. the change is drastic but beautiful, so if you happen to Trick or Treat with Mickey in late October, keep your eyes on Magic Kingdom for its spectacular swap.
The winter season gets extra festive at the Disney Resort Hotels with lobby trees and lights everywhere. My son loves to see the Christmas trees in the Parks and explore each theme. Don’t forget a hidden Mickey hunt on holiday displays like the Grand Floridian’s giant Gingerbread House, handmade of the real thing.
Epcot gets into the merrymaking with the IllumiNations holiday end tags and the religious-themed Candlelight Processional with celebrity narrators. I enjoy taking my kids to Disney’s Animal Kingdom to see all the creatures on the giant tree as well as to learn about Diwali, the Indian festival of lights at UP! A Great Bird Adventure.
H&B: Anything new on the radar for Disney that you are looking forward to?
Paris: I can’t begin to list the amazing activities Walt Disney World Resort has in store as we approach the 50th anniversary. My visit to the D23 Expo in 2017 gave me a giant sneak peek at the Tron coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy’s addition to Epcot, the new Skyliner transportation method as well as the future opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. Disney Parks continues to create new attractions, cuisine, tours and experiences to make every season magical.
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