Passion Points: Family
You Asked: “I am traveling to Disney World in Orlando with two young boys over Easter Weekend—the specific dates are March 22nd-24th and we will be staying at the Wild Kingdom. I haven’t been there in 25 years. Do you have any advice? Also, should I look into hiring a Disney guide? ” B.P., New York
THE LAYOUT: Disney World is no longer just a singular entertainment center; rather there are a series of theme parks that includes the original Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom Park and two water parks—Disney’s Blizzard Beach and the Typhoon Lagoon. Each park offers a variety of options for children of different ages. For instance, Epcot Center, which might be popular with boys, has a “Test Track” roller coaster ride for older kids and interactive Nemo shows for younger ones.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Every day a specific theme park opens an hour early and a different one stays open three hours later for guests of Disney Resorts only. In order to take advantage of these “Extra Magic Hours”, you must have a theme park ticket for the particular park offering the hours (for that particular day). For an additional cost though, you can add a Park Hopper option to your ticket and visit as many parks a day as you please.
CHOOSING A HOTEL: Reserve rooms at the hotels in the parks where you will spend the most time. So, for instance, if you have little kids who will want to be at the Magic Kingdom, it is worth staying at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian or Polynesian, which are all on the monorail line. (See Finicky Traveler link below for more on Contemporary.) If you will want to spend most of your time in the Animal Kingdom, book at one of their lodges. In fact, if you are combining theme parks, you may want to consider switching mid-way through your stay with half of your time at Disney and another half at Universal, for example.
Extra Magic Hours For Your Stay (double check with the resort):Morning Hours (one hour before opening time):
- March 22nd—the Animal Kingdom
- March 23rd—Epcot Center
- March 24th—Hollywood Studios
- March 22nd—Typhoon Lagoon
- March 23rd—Magic Kingdom
- March 24th—Animal Kingdom
TIP: Many of the more popular rides offer a fast pass option. The pass, which you pick up at the ride’s entrance, contains both the estimated waiting time (if you were to get into line at that very moment) and a later time at which you can return (in order not to wait on such a long line). All the Disney maps indicate which rides have this option but you can also find out at www.kingdommagictravel.com.
TOUR GUIDES: VIP tours can be arranged for about $100/hour. If you sign up for one of these, a Disney guide will take you around (on a pre-arranged tour) and you’ll move to the front of any ride lines, get ushered through the back door of any shows you want to see, etc. These are great if you have a no-holds-barred budget but they must be booked in advance.
SPECIAL ACCESS: CHARACTER DINING
If your grandchildren are dead-set on meeting a specific character, you should consider arranging a character meal. Many of the gift stores sell autograph books so they can collect signatures from Winnie the Pooh, Cinderella, Mickey and the rest of the gang. Of course, you will want to bring your camera to get their photos with them too. Check in with Disney dining services ((407) WDW-DINE (939-3463) for which characters will appear at specific meals. The Princess breakfast in the castle in the Magic Kingdom is one of the toughest reservations to secure since all of the Princesses’ visit each table.
FOR GROWNUPS: Certain events and performances like Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba are appealing for people of any age. California Grill, which is located inside the Contemporary Resort, and Citricos in the Grand Floridian are some of the better adult restaurants.
DAY TRIP: Discovery Cove, the VIP Park at Sea World, has received a lot of high marks from our members though you might want to stick to Disney if you only have two days.
Read the Wall Street Journal’s Finicky Traveler on staying at the Contemporary
Read our insider report on Palm Beach
Read our report on the best family hotel in Miami
Read a member postcard on the Disney Cruise in the Bahamas
Read a member postcard on the Disney Cruise in the Mediterranean
Read about an Indagare family weekend at Sea Island
For advice or to learn about special trips or preferred rates at hotels, contact our booking department by calling 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry
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