This October, our family ventured to Walt Disney World on a shared vacation with good friends, and we spent a beautiful week with four kids between 9 and 11 years old. My two tweens had been to Disney World several times, but it was the other family’s first magical vacation and I wanted it to be special! I arrived with comprehensive two-day touring plans that would cover all of the attractions at Magic Kingdom, in order to give everyone the full Magic Kingdom experience. When it’s your first time touring, you want to see it all, right? As my experience showed, this approach turned out to be flawed.
You see, Magic Kingdom conjures up images of awestruck toddlers dressed in princess costumes waiting to meet their favorite characters, which definitely doesn’t appeal to self-conscious kids on the edge of becoming teens. When I made my touring plans, I forgot to take into account that a member of the fussy preteen demographic can go from elated to scowly in a split second if there’s even a hint of them being treated like a baby. “Just try it, you might like it,” is met with a fierce determination to prove me wrong. And when you add three more children of the same demographic to the mix, you don’t just quadruple the eyerolls, the compounding effect approaches infinity. (I’m sure it can be scientifically proven, I just don’t have time for that today.)
So, while my approach was a good one when my kids were in first and second grade, my efforts to expose the tweens to Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Dumbo for the sake of experiencing Magic Kingdom to its fullest turned out to be counterproductive. If I could rewind time, I would focus our touring on the “hits” and just repeat them, avoiding the “duds” for this age group. To help you avoid the same mistake, here are the “hits,” as decided by four tweens:
Best Magic Kingdom Attractions for Tweens
- The Mountain Trio: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (note that not all of the tweens would attempt Splash Mountain: the visible big drop can deter even the bravest kids)
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Mickey’s Philharmagic
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
- The Haunted Mansion
- Mad Tea Party (so glad we adults could just watch this one)
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (note that while Dumbo was seen as too childish, this Dumbo-like attraction was somehow cool enough to ride… ah, the mysterious tween)
- The Hall of Presidents (this was quite the surprise, but it was well-liked… and as an added bonus, has the best air conditioning in all of Magic Kingdom)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (it wasn’t up and running yet while we were there, but I’m certain it will be a big hit for my tweens when we return in August)
Those were the tweens’ favorites. For the TouringPlans official one-day touring plan for tweens, go here.
[Not to worry, parents, you are not doomed to spend the day on Space Mountain. If you fear that your tween’s fussiness will dictate your Magic Kingdom plans, you can institute the Parents Choice, requiring your family’s touring plans to include something for everyone to enjoy. Parents can add an attraction or two that the tweens wouldn’t choose themselves (like Carousel of Progress or it’s a small world, in my family’s case.) The best part of Parents Choice? No eyerolls allowed.]
Please welcome Trista VanderVoord to the TouringPlans blog team. Trista planned her first Walt Disney World vacation for her family four years ago and is currently planning for her fifth trip there from her home in Michigan.