Grandchildren’s Magic Kingdom and New Fantasyland at Disneyworld in Orlando

STORYTELLINGAs Floridian grandparents, Disney World is a great place for a multigenerational family vacation.  Our grandchildren have been there several times.  Our nearly seven year old granddaughter does not remember having been there two years ago.  Good to know.  But, in reality, when we take small grandchildren to Disney, it is more for us than for them.  Watching our youngest grandson, age two, say “WOW!” (yes, with expression of joy and wonder) his first time on “It’s a Small World” is worth every penny we spent.  Speaking of pennies, you can throw pennies in the water on the ride.  Our guide told us that Disney donates the money to children in need in the Orlando area annually.

In the Miami Herald, on June 23, 2013, it was reported that:

As usual, Disney’s Magic Kingdom near Olando was the most visited theme park in the country—and world—last year with 17.5 million visitors, according to a new report from the Themed Entertainment Association, an industry trade group.

 Okay, now I know why it is now the most expensive park to visit at Disney.

We always go to the Magic Kingdom with the grandchildren every trip to Disney in Orlando.  What a surprising wonderful multigenerational vacation place with grandchildren!  Now, it is in transition, and in some ways, looks like the construction zone it is.

If you kill yourself, breaking your group up to make the most of fast passes, you can do the Magic Kingdom in one day without a guide.  Two days would be better, unless you have the financial ability to hire a private guide.  A private guide is expensive but maximizes the time in the park, knowing exactly, based on the ages of the grandchildren, where to go and when and the shortest route.  It is having a fast pass to every ride, going on again and again in a row, as many times as the grandchild wants.  Our grandchildren want to go “again” (as the two year old says), and doing this with a fast pass even means waiting.  Going with a guide is no waiting, except on the fast pass line a second time.  What would take you two days takes one day—imagine what you save on lodging and food!  And, wear and tear on everyone is saved, especially the little ones who do not do well waiting on lines.  As you pay by hours packages, we do the early morning by ourselves when the parks are most empty, and meet the guides around 10-10:30 am.  We love the guides, Summer, Rene and Connie at:

GUIDES: VIP Theme Park Tours  e-mail: or call: 1-407-473-2498

If you are a Florida Resident, you can save with a 3-Day Play Pass*. This Pass includes three one-day, one-park admissions to any of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. It’s a 40% savings as compared to the price of a 3-Day Magic Your Way Base Ticket.  Plus, you can use your 3-Day Play Pass at your leisure. Use it for any three days you like for six months from first use with no blockout dates.  When you order Florida Resident tickets, you will receive an exchange certificate in the mail. Redeem the exchange certificate at any Walt Disney Worldr Theme Park ticket window by presenting the exchange certificate and valid photo ID.  Tickets are non-transferable, are only valid during regularly scheduled operating hours and exclude activities/events priced separately. No additional discounts apply. Proof of Florida residency for each adult required.  Florida grandparents can buy tickets for all grandchildren with them.

 When to go

 Check weather and look at the average monthly temperature in Orlando.  You will be surprised that you might need a winter coat in January and February (okay, I am a Floridian and wear a sweater when it is 75 degrees outside).  There are cold spells in Orlando!  The spring and fall are wonderful but expensive, as are holiday and school vacation times.  Summer time is the cheapest.  Do not be fooled by the forecasts that say rain in the summer – in the rainy season it will rain every day (however, weather change can bring rainless days) but just for a few minutes or a few hours at a time (see, bring ponchos below).  The afternoons tend to be cooler than you think.  If you plan a summer trip, remember to plan morning and afternoon in the park and midday napping or at your pool.

Where to Stay

Disney World is a convention magnet.  The best rates are convention rates.  Try to go with a professional, community, or church group or put together your own group and contact Disney for group package rates.   Walt Disney World Resort has a wealth of information. If you are a Florida resident, there are always specials on line for lodging and packages.  Airlines such as Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines have Disney vacation packages: and

Disney has its own vacation rental club.  Condo and home rentals are numerous in the Orlando and Kissimmee (yes, this place exists).  Try the major websites: Home Away and VRBO.  Also, Trip Advisor now features vacation rentals, some with amazing themes such as Jungle Safari Condo.

If you are traveling with very little grandchildren, staying at the Contemporary Hotel on Disney grounds is the best.  It is one monorail stop from the Magic Kingdom and a quick ride from all the parks.  When a grandchild has a meltdown due to overstimulation and exhaustion, the Contemporary’s location is wonderful and worth a splurge.  Also, Chef Mickey’s Buffet is there.  Go for breakfast.  It is the least expensive meal and can fill the family up for the day.  My children’s favorite hotel is the Grand Floridian.  Of course, it is the grandest and best hotel on the Disney grounds.  Boardwalk or Beach Club resorts  are also favorites.  You can find great deals at the Swan and Dolphin, it seems, year round.


Tip: The Guest Relations window outside the Magic Kingdom opens one hour before the park. On a 9:00 am opening day, business starts for Guest Relations at 8:00 am. Unless you want to sprint madly down Main Street, U.S. A. to make your breakfast reservation, consider some other options. You could exchange your Annual Pass voucher at Guest Relations in Downtown Disney the night before. This spot is typically open until 10:00 pm though check the hours before making a special trip. Another plan would be to make a slightly later reservation which would allow you time to pick up your pass at the MK the same morning.

Tip:  Most people are not aware that all Walt Disney World Parks have a unique “Opening Ceremony”.  Only the early birds get to witness these magical shows! The opening ceremonies occur right before the Park opens, usually about 5-10 minutes before the official Park opening time. I recommend that you show up 20 to 30 minutes before the official Park opening time so that you can go through the bag check and ticket stations and get to the area just inside the Park where the opening ceremony takes place.  So in your case, if Magic Kingdom is opening at 7 on the day you are going, then I’d arrive about 6:30 AM to make sure you  get there in time to see the singing and dancing at the Walt Disney World Railroad Station.  You’ll also see a special appearance of Mickey and friends, who arrive on a train to greet the guests.  You could even be the specially picked family that gets to help Mickey count down to open the Magic Kingdom.

Tip:  Everything is expensive in the parks.  If you are going to Disney in Florida’s rainy season, buy cheap ponchos on line for the entire family and bring them along.  You can get them in packages of twelve at about $1 each. Click here.  Also, stop at a supermarket (Publix is the best in Florida) and pick up bottled water by the case and snacks that you cannot bring in your suitcase.  Always bring cereal in small plastic bags to the park for snacks.  Bring cold packs from home.  Most Orlando hotels will provide a mini frig and maybe even a microwave if you ask.

If you are going on a hot day, pick up misting fans. These cost about $20 in the park! Click here to buy for about $8.50

However, if you are going with multiple grandchildren, I suggest spending a little more and buying them all in the same color (so they do not fight over color), and paying just a little more to guarantee color at $10 for blue click here.

Tip: Limit impulse buying and whining by giving the kids a certain amount of Disney Dollars for souvenirs when we enter the park. The bills, available from Guest Relations and the ticket booths, come in denominations of $1 (Mickey), $5 (Goofy) and $10 (Simba), and are accepted anywhere in Walt Disney World. When grandchildren were little, we could convince them that this was the only form of money the parks accepted.  Disney Dollars remain a multigenerational family tradition.   To save money and time, buy Disney themed souvenirs, stuffed animals, sweatshirts ahead of time on line at   Remember—grandmas always have gifts ready for grandchildren!  If you sign up for alerts, you can get great deals on line.  This Grandma also buys online at the Disney website and brings presents such as Disney themed pajamas.  There are always sale items and free shipping for spending a certain some at Disney Store.

What do Do and Where to Eat

Be sure to check the Times Guide the day of your visit for show times.

Remember, grandchildren four and under want to see characters and more characters so gear your travels through the Magic Kingdom to get to the locations for character interactions (Guides cannot help here so go early).  Grandchildren seven and older want excitement so gear your travels to exciting rides early in the day.  Everyone loses steam in the afternoon so consider a rest back at the Disney hotel if you are on the monorail.

If you have princess lovers, you must eat in Cinderella’s Castle.

“The second hottest ticket? Dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant will be a tough reservation to score if you are planning less than six months in advance. However, lunch is available as a counter-service meal, first come, first served, no reservations required. Lunch also features enhanced service, where you order your meal on a touch screen and it is delivered right to your table. No more juggling trays!”  The food here is French-inspired (remember, Belle’s from France?) and if you can get a reservation for dinner, you’ll sit in one of three areas: the Ballroom, the Rose Gallery, or the mysterious West Wing.  Eat lunch at Beast’s Castle, which sits atop Be Our Guest restaurant. During lunch hours, guests order at touch-screen kiosks and take radio-frequency devices to their tables. Once the pager is placed on the table, servers know exactly where to deliver the food. And voila, meals arrive within minutes via a glass-enclosed cart.

As a fun place to watch the fireworks, reservations for the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party can typically be made 90 days out. Sometimes this event does not open for booking until even closer to your desired date and sometimes you can reserve this party 120 days in advance.  When trying to reserve a table for the family about a year ago online at 180 day out date and every single day may show zero availability. This event books differently than restaurant meals and tends to open up three months ahead rather than six. Check at 120 days, but probably you will discover reservations will not be available until 90 days out.

Best Attractions by Age

Grandchildren ages 3 TO 7 Favorite Rides

● It’s a Small World

● Dumbo the Flying Elephant (Now there are two rides, and a playground)

● Meeting the characters at World Showcase

● Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.

● Walt Disney World Railroad

● Carousel

● Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid

Grandchildren ages 7 TO 11 Favorite Rides

● Pirates of the Caribbean

● Splash Mountain (bring a bathing suit and change into it before you go on this ride!)

● Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

● Space Mountain

● Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

● Tomorrowland Indy Speedway.

However, most websites list the following as the top ten rides:

Top Ten Rides:

1. Mickey’s Philharmagic. The 12-minute 4-D film comically weaves together Disney animated movies on a 150-foot-wide screen. With Donald Duck as our host, things naturally go horribly and hilariously wrong.

2. Hall of Presidents. An audio-animatronic roll call of all 44 U.S. presidents follows a patriotic film on the history of America.

3. Spectromagic. Disney characters ride aboard parade floats festooned with a half a million lights in a dazzling nighttime parade set to music.

4. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The runaway mine train roller coaster rushes around peaks and through canyons on the “wildest ride in wilderness.”

5. Haunted Mansion. Climb aboard your “doom buggy” for a supernatural journey through an ornate 18th century estate inhabited by 999 ghosts.

6. Space Mountain. The twin-track indoor steel roller coaster rockets riders through the pitch-black depths of outer space.

7. Wishes Fireworks. The choreographed pyrotechnics extravaganza set to Disney music turns every night into the Fourth of July.

8. Jungle Cruise. Comedian skippers take intrepid travelers on a nine-minute boat ride along dangerous exotic rivers and past audio-animatronic animals. Behold, the backside of water! (You’ll understand once you ride it.)

9. Pirates of the Caribbean. (The lazy boat ride past pillaged towns and pirate ships includes the jaunty “Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Pirate’s Life for Me” theme song.

10. Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Kids get to control the elevation and pitch of their own flying carpet in this update of the classic Dumbo ride.

Tips to maneuver Magic Kingdom

Do bring a stroller or rent one for any child six and under.  Do NOT stop in the stores on Main Street.  Hustle past that area by pointing out the castle ahead in the distance.  Head first for Fantasyland with the youngest grandchildren.  The older grandchildren may split off for Tomorrowland.  Everyone can do Adventureland and Frontierland together last.

Park Summary of Fantasyland.  Fantasyland is under construction, so here is a peek.

“it’s a small world”

Take the legendary boat ride around the globe on this musical tour of nations. Hundreds of international dolls sing and dance to the famous “it’s a small world” medley.

Cinderella’s Golden Carousel

Gallop along with Cinderella and her Prince Charming as you take a spin in the shadow of Cinderella Castle. This nostalgic kid-friendly attraction is inspired by the Disney classic “Cinderella.” It’s a trip toward your happily ever after.

Fantasyland Play Area

Slide, jump and splash at this new 6300 square-foot play area designed especially for toddlers! Ride the slippery slides, cool down in refreshing water fountains and crawl through a wondrous tree house filled with tables and chairs and other delightful surprises. Parents take a break on a hand-carved tree bench while they watch their children having the time of their lives!

Dream-Along With Mickey

Dreams really do come true! Join Mickey and friends in front of Cinderella Castle for a fun-filled, dream-inspired new stage show where exciting adventure and “happily ever after” come alive right in front of your eyes! It’s a celebration of the dreams we all have in our hearts, and one your family is sure to never forget.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Be dazzled by this immersive attraction that bursts forth with amazement from one of the largest seamless screens in the world! It stars Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and other beloved Disney favorites in a hilarious adventure through movies, music and mayhem. Experience Characters you love in a whole new dimension! This rollicking, frolicking 3-D “sym-funny” of surprises is guaranteed to delight the whole family.

Peter Pan’s Flight

Sail away aboard a flying galleon and follow Peter Pan on a whimsical journey into Never Land. Refuse to grow up as you navigate by the second star on the right to float above the glittering lights of moonlit London. Glide above mermaids, Indians and by Hook as he tries to escape the snapping jaws of an alligator


There are two new areas —- the Enchanted Forest, which focuses on Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid, and Storybook Circus, an area inspired by the Disney animated feature “Dumbo.”   New Fantasyland now has a splash pad, the Casey Jr. Splash `N’ Soak Station, which will come in super handy for those hot summer Florida months. Toddlers will love splashing in the water (with some assistance of course), so be sure to bring an extra set of clothes!

Enchanted Forest

Outside, to the far left of Beast’s Castle is Maurice’s Cottage, a provincial abode that houses an enchanted mirror. This was where Belle lived before she met the Beast, fell in love, got married, and moved into the castle. It spectacularly transforms into a portal whisking guests into the story of Beauty and the Beast. Must participate in the story and dress up to meet Belle.  Once in the Beast’s library, Enchanted Tales with Belle goes way beyond a typical meet and greet when Belle and friends invite guests to help act out the “tale as old as time.”

The hottest ticket is the storytime with Belle. It is a re-enactment of the Beauty and the Beast tale, with guest participation in a very small, intimate setting. This is destined to have huge lines. My advice is to make this your first stop before the crowds arrive. Enter the New Fantasyland just past the carousel and turn toward Maurice’s Cottage on the left.

Next door at Prince Eric’s Castle, kids and adults alike will enjoy Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid (almost identical to the Disney California Adventure version). After walking through an interactive queue, guests board giant clamshells as animation and animatronics retell Ariel’s story. To be part of Ariel’s world, you’ll board a clamshell for the Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid ride, which starts  at the shoreline of Prince Eric’s Castle, where waterfalls, cliffs and a shipwreck set the scene. Afterward in Ariel’s Grotto, guests score one-on-one time with the redheaded mermaid herself as she poses for photos and signs autographs.  “The only way to meet the Little Mermaid herself is at Ariel’s Grotto. (She is not a guaranteed character at any of the princess meals at Disney). She will be sitting in her clamshell all day, waiting for photographs and autographs.”

LATE 2013: The Royal Hall in Fantasy Faire is where little ones can meet princesses. The usual Disneyland queue must be endured to meet and be photographed with the duty princess in Royal Hall.

While the line may not look daunting, the waits can in fact be some of the longest in the park, with the line regularly reaching 45-60 minutes during the peak of the day.

If you’re intent on visiting, be sure to find out the exact opening time in the Times Guide, and show up at least 15 minutes beforehand. If you cannot make it first thing and are willing to wait, note that royal ladies don’t stay out late even when the park is open late: check the Times Guide to see when The Royal Hall closes.

The cast of princesses rotates during the day and has no set line-up, so you do not know who you’ll see when you get in line. The princesses that are usually in the rotation include Ariel (in human form), Cinderella, and Aurora.

Also note that Belle, Rapunzel, and Flynn Rider meet with guests after their Beauty and the Beast and Tangled shows nearby at The Royal Theatre.

Storybook Circus

This portion of the park includes a water play area, tame roller coaster and gift shop. The revamped Dumbo ride, with its new indoor queue lounge, is a crowd pleaser for parents who want to sit down for a bit and children who want to enjoy an elaborate playground. Guests receive a pager that virtually holds their place in line; it lights up when it’s time to board the ride. Another option is to grab a FastPass and wait in a traditional line outdoors.

There are now two Dumbo rides and they are now available as a Fastpass. This really makes this attraction much more accessible. If you decide instead to wait your turn, there is an air-conditioned play area queue that replaces standing in line. You are given a pager if you choose this option, and it will alert you when it is your turn to ride.

The area also includes the Barnstormer coaster featuring The Great Goofini, the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station water play area, Pete’s Silly Sideshow and the Fantasyland Train Station.


“SpectroMagic” Parade

(On special nights) Bask in the glow as your favorite Disney characters illuminate the night in this dazzling parade. Every conceivable form of illumination from rainbows of colored lights to dizzying arrays of fiber optics light up smiles for miles around. Marvel at the pageantry as Mickey and company star in this magical, glittering spectacle featuring half a million lights!

Category: Nighttime Entertainment
Location: Parkwide

Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular

Make a wish upon a star and then marvel as the nighttime sky comes to life in a musical firework spectacular that is uniquely Disney. Join Jiminy Cricket as he guides Pinocchio, Cinderella, Ariel, Peter Pan and other beloved Disney characters through this fantastic story told amongst the stars. Wishes™ features a dazzling array of never-before-seen fireworks and pyrotechnic effects created specifically for this amazing show. Discover that wishes do come true when you experience this story so big only the sky can hold it

Category: Nighttime Entertainment
Location: Parkwide

Coming soon

Princess Fairytale Hall is scheduled to open in 2013 in the former home of Snow White’s Scary Adventures. Located in the Castle Courtyard in the center of Fantasyland, it will be a place for guests to meet Disney princess characters.

Come early 2014, the finishing touch will be a roller coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, in the heart of it all. This family thrill ride will be an experience somewhere in between the tame Barnstormer, a re-themed “beginner’s coaster,” and the classic Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. With its patented train of vehicles that swing back and forth, the attraction will be the first of its kind.  the theme park gave a look at the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride that will feature five-car trains designed to sway as they swing around the track.

The family-style roller coaster will take riders through the gen mines of the Seven Dwarfs and include “new effects and animation.” It is about 55 percent done, according to Imagineers, and it’s the last phase of the expansion. Imagineers said the track opens in the spring of 2014.

Since this family goes back every year, we will get to see all the new additions with





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