Credit: Meredith Smisek/Disney Fanatic

9 Things Kids Love More Than Rides at Walt Disney World Resort

You’ve arrived with your family for your magical Disney vacation. You know each ride’s height requirement, you’ve noted everyone’s “must-do’s”, and have reserved all the most in-demand dining. You got cooling fans for everyone, since you’ll surely be spending long days in the theme parks. And then, it happens. Just a few hours into a park day, they want to go back to the resort and go swimming.

For whatever reason, there are some activities that kids are just drawn to at Walt Disney World- sometimes more than to the actual rides and attractions in each Disney park.

Here are eight inexplicably tempting activities kids love at Disney World, perhaps even more than going on rides.

  1. Swimming & Playing in Splash Pads

Plenty of kids will choose pool time over theme park time, over and over again. You may be standing in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom and taking in all it’s kid-friendly ambiance, and your child will say, “let’s go to the pool.” Even if you have a pool at home, there’s nothing like the draw of a hotel pool. In the case of a Disney resort, it’s even more appealing due to theming, poolside activities, and in some cases, wickedly cool splash pads. Check out Our 6 Favorite Disney World Resort Pools!

Credit: Meredith Smisek/Disney Fanatic

2. Climbing, on Everything

Sometimes I wonder if kids are even aware that they like playgrounds more than rides. EPCOT is often home to both permanent and “pop-up” playgrounds (like the one below), often in association with the many festivals that they host each year. These playgrounds are hugely popular and often crowded. I’m sure there’s a playground at your child’s school, and you may even have a playset in your backyard. None of that matters, though- if there’s a playground around, a kid’s got to conquer it! No worries, though- they’re a nice spot for you to take a rest, too! Enjoy the moment. Here’s a list of permanent playgrounds at Walt Disney World Resort.

Unfortunately, you don’t have to be in proximity to a playground for your child to want to climb on things. Be wary of low walls, stairs, ramps, queue railings, statues at the Art of Animation resort, benches… and basically everything that a child might want to climb on.

Certain areas of the parks are more conducive to letting your child have some freedom of movement than others. EPCOT has always been our son’s favorite park, largely in part to the elaborate play areas located after the exit of some of the attractions (Journey into Imagination, Test Track, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends, to name a few). Why go on rides when you can climb in Bruce’s mouth?

Related: 8 Experiences Kids Love at EPCOT

Credit: Meredith Smisek/Disney Fanatic

3. Looking at Animals

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, looking at animals is exactly what you’d expect your children to be into, right? Of course! But if given the choice, do you have a family member who would rather observe ducks begging for popcorn than checking out a walking trail with real, live gorillas? Me, too. Try convincing a toddler or preschooler that chasing ducks isn’t the best thrill in any Disney World park. There’s a chance that your kid will enjoy the pursuit of ducks, squirrels, and bunnies in the parks more than the Kilimanjaro Safaris, and you just have to try to be okay with that. This is part of the Disney magic; who are we to question it?

Credit: Instagram @disney_nuts

Related: 10 Amazing Facts Behind the Scenes at Kilimanjaro Safaris

4. Going Back to the Room/Playing with Toys

If you purchase a souvenir for a young child, be prepared to open it and make it available for playtime immediately. Young kids might even beg to go back to the room to play with their toys. It’s hard to imagine that a child would be more excited about a Remy plush than going on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, but it’s not an uncommon predicament.

Related: Passholders & Disney Vacation Club Members To Get A “Squeak Peek” of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Credit: Instagram @jonathan_wdw

Older kids, too, might want a break at your resort to play on their phones or just relax. Sometimes we forget how overstimulating the parks can be, and children want a little bit of down time. As adults, we struggle with this because we know how much planning, money, and effort when into making the trip happen, so we feel like everything is high stakes. Sometimes, we need to just let kids slow down and engage with the details of the parks that we may be too preoccupied to notice.

5. Buying Things

If your child knows that he or she has a gift card or permission to spend money on souvenirs, there’s a high likelihood that they will want to go shopping as soon as they can convince you to take them. Walking past even the tiniest gift shop could be difficult. You could be exiting Toy Story Mania and passing one of the smallest and least elaborate gift shops in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and your child will still insist that he NEEDS something in that location.

Related: Selective Souvenir Shopping at Walt Disney World
Disney Souvenirs to Skip on Your Next Trip

6. Doing What They Want, When They Want, in the Order They Want

You can try to explain to your kids that rope dropping a very long, slow ride like Spaceship Earth isn’t a solid EPCOT touring strategy, but here’s the thing: they don’t care. They see a cool, giant ball right before their eyes, and if they know they can go inside it, there’s little to no chance of you convincing them that you’ll “come back to it later.” Older kids can be reasoned with, and might enjoy being part of the trip planning and strategizing, but younger kids are not necessarily going to understand why you are walking past an attraction instead of riding it NOW.

7. Fun Diversions

There are tons of activities around Walt Disney that you might consider to be minor diversions, but kids love them! For instance, Epcot World Showcase scavenger hunts or Wilderness Explorers at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (below) are two prime examples. These may not be part of your well-researched vacation “plan”, but might just be the things that your kids remember most fondly from the trip.

Credit: Disney

8. Eating Snacks

Because snacks exist and are visible, your child will want them. There’s no hiding the presence of said snacks, so you may want to negotiate a rule about how many snacks per day is reasonable. Here’s a helpful tip: you CAN substitute a hearty snack for a meal, because you’re on vacation.

Related: Here’s Your Guide to Magical Food For Disney World’s 50th Anniversary – Inside the Magic

What Disney Snack Are You?

9. Throwing Coins into the Water

Any source of moving water seems to be a draw for children, whether it be a theme park or resort fountain, or a water feature like the river in the lobby of Wilderness Lodge. Watching the jumping fountains at Epcot is a fun activity for kids, too.

In addition to wanting to observe and possibly splash in said water if they can get away with it, kids will inevitably want to throw coins into fountains to make wishes. My son takes wishes very seriously, and we’ve gotten burned by not having coins on hand a few times. Carry some coins with you, or or be prepared to buy random items to break a $20 bill.


What are your kiddos’ favorite activities at Walt Disney World?  We hope that on your next trip you can take it easy and go into it expecting to be diverted by some of these activities, even though they may not be part of your “plan.”  

About Meredith Smisek

Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart who works as an elementary school counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and corgi. Meredith is a DVC member who loves music, podcasts, crafting, and "talking Disney" with anyone and everyone.