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The Greatest Experiences for Families Vacationing at Disney World

As you and your family embark on a wondrous Walt Disney World vacation, you want to bestow on your loved ones the very epitome of enchantment—the most magical moments to cherish and remember. Sure, any visit to Disney World is sure to be great, but here are 15 examples of the absolute greatest Disney experiences for families to keep in mind when taking the trip.

Related: 20 Best Disney Experiences For The Whole Family

15. Stay on Disney Property

There are several excellent lodgings to choose from within the greater Orlando area, but why not immerse yourself in the full Disney experience by staying onsite at one of Walt Disney World Resort’s very own accommodations right on the property? Disney Resort designations come in all different forms, and you’re sure to find the one that suits your family’s very specific needs, whether it be an affordable Value Resort, a spacious suite, or even a multi-room villa. What’s more, it doesn’t matter where you stay because each and every Disney accommodation comes with all the same magical perks and benefits, including complimentary shuttle services to and from the Parks (and to nearby Disney Springs), the opportunity to enter the Parks 30 minutes earlier (and stay later on select nights for those in Deluxe Resorts), first dibs on Lightning Lane selections through Disney Genie, the option to make advance dining reservations up to 60 days prior, and so many other exclusives.

Walt Disney World Resort accommodations all boast plenty of onsite recreational endeavors and amenities, making those moments you are not actively exploring a Disney World Park pleasant pursuits as well. Every Resort has at least one swimming pool, onsite dining options, convenient shops, and plenty of activities for families to enjoy together. Options vary based on each Resort, but all are known to show Movies Under the Stars nightly (weather permitting) and even host exciting campfire activities as well.

 Resort Recreation

Credit: Inside The Magic

Related: What You Need to Know About the Different Disney World Resort Levels

14. Capture Magical Memories on Film

No vacation would be complete without capturing all the magical memories and moments on film. Fortunately, there are so many opportunities to do so at Disney World. Whether you choose a lovely little spot with a great background on your own or go to a designated photo spot, in most instances, a Disney PhotoPass Cast Member is never too far away and will gladly take a picture of the entire gang. Some Disney photos can even be made into what is referred to as Magic Shots—photos that have been enhanced with an added magical effect.

Magic Shot

Credit: Disney

Many rides also take photos or record video footage of the riders in your party, which you will have the option to view and keep later on. Then, of course, there are all those Character Photo Spots to consider and even Photo Pass Studios, with locations at Magic Kingdom Park and at Disney Springs. Also, take note that at some dining locations, they shoot photos of diners entering or exiting as a memorable keepsake.

Photo Studio

Credit: Disney

While PhotoPass Photos are complimentary (and you pay for which ones to keep later), for families who like the idea of unlimited photos to download and keep, there is the added benefit of purchasing Disney’s Memory Maker as well.

PhotoPass

Credit: Disney

Related: Everything You Need to Know Now About Disney PhotoPass Services

13. Meet and Greet Characters

You’re at Disney World, after all! Now is the time to meet your favorite characters from some of the most beloved Disney films in the flesh. Remember those Character Photo Spots I previously made reference to? Well, that’s just the beginning. There are so many Disney theme park locations and other venues where you can meet and mingle with Disney pals, get an autograph, and snap some photos. Meet and Greets are a Disney rite of passage and not something exclusively reserved for children.

Character Meet and Greet

Credit: Disney

12. At Least One Character Meal

There are plenty of delightful places to enjoy a meal throughout Disney World, but in keeping with the whole Disney Magic with characters aspect, I personally recommend that you take in at least one Character Meal experience. Several Disney restaurants have characters making special appearances at select venues, even venturing over to each and every table for a bit of personal one-on-one attention. It’s a way to make your family feel special through a most magical, memorable mealtime experience.

Stitch dining

Credit: Disney

Related: Return Date for More Disney World Character Dining, Breakfast Announced

11. Ride Rides as a Family

Unlike other theme Parks, the vast majority of attractions by Disney can be enjoyed universally by all Guests. And for a family consisting of members of varying ages, thrill levels, and height requirements, this works perfectly into the idea of doing things together. Whether your family is enjoying a timeless classic like Dumbo the Flying Elephant or “it’s a small world,” or you’re watching the youngest member of your group ride along in their first roller coaster experience with Goofy’s Barnstormer, rides at Disney can be a whole family affair.

Of course, if you don’t have any smaller Guests in your party, this opens the opportunities even further with practically no limitations to the joyful experiences and fast thrills to pursue.

Barnstormer

Credit: Disney

Related: A Granny’s Guide to Doing Disney World

10. Stellar Shows to See!

Disney attractions aren’t limited to just rides. There are plenty of theater shows and live performances to take in as well—many of which will be mutually appealing to all members of your party. First, there are those animatronic-based theater attractions, which feature lifelike presenters sure to captivate anyone’s attention. Two well-known animatronic presentations you may rest assured will not be a bore to the youngest members of your party are the Country Bear Jamboree and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room—both located at Magic Kingdom Park.

Carousel of Progress

Credit: Disney

Some shows combine animatronics with screen elements, like the American Adventure in EPCOT’s World Showcase or It’s Tough to be a Bug! at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The latter incorporates 3D or rather “4D” elements in which the audience gets to experience effects as they watch. Additional theater attractions presenting the fusion of tactile effects include Muppet*Vision 3D at Hollywood Studios and my personal favorite over at the Magic Kingdom—Mickey’s PhilHarmagic.

Then there are those live performance stage shows, like Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! and Festival of the Lion King, both at Animal Kingdom Park. The first presents stunning puppetry, musical numbers, and screen effects. The latter combines music, amazing acrobatic feats, and breathtaking stunts. Over in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you can enjoy Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, sing along with the Frozen Song-Along, or join in the adventure with the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular Show. And when it returns, Fantasmic! will be just as fantastic as ever, continuing presentations as the ultimate must-do presentation that provides pyrotechnics, water effects, and a wonderful Disney-centered original storyline featuring Mickey Mouse and his dreams.

Festival of the Lion King

Credit: Disney

9. Live Entertainment

In keeping with the idea of Live performances, you should also note all the other opportunities both in the Parks and beyond, where you and your family can enjoy the beaty rhythm of live musical performances. From live shows onstage at Cinderella Castle to those impressive JAMMitors keeping rhythm over in EPCOT, not to mention the live music to enjoy at America Gardens Theatre at various times or those at the United Kingdom Pavilion and in Canada—there’s just so much to make your Disney vacation into a musical. And that’s not even counting those live musicians at various Disney Resorts and at Disney Springs!

UK Performers

Credit: Disney

Related: Where to Find Live Entertainment at Disney World Beyond the Parks

8. Visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch

As previously mentioned, all Walt Disney World Resort accommodations boast plentiful perks and amenities at any given location. But there’s something especially unique waiting to delight Guests over at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort—the Tri-Circle-D Ranch. Not only is it the permanent home to all of Disney’s resident horses, but it’s also an exciting working ranch worth taking some time out to explore. From trail rides to carriage rides and a whole host of other activities to pursue, visiting Tri-Circle-D-Ranch is a wonderful experience to do as a family.

Note, you do not need to be a Guest staying at Fort Wilderness to enjoy the wonderful recreations awaiting you at Tri-Circle-D Ranch.

Tri Circle D

Credit: Disney

Related: All About the Horses of Walt Disney World Resort

7. Extracurricular Endeavors

So, you already know about all those Resort recreations and amenities. But did you ever stop to consider all the other extras you can pursue with family? Say you’re a family that likes golfing, for example. Well, you’re in luck because Disney is home to two wonderful mini golf courses in addition to four professional courses. Want to get out on the water for a little fishing excursion? The marinas even allow you to rent pontoons for such, with the option for guided excursions if you so choose.

Another nautical nicety to consider along the lines of boat rentals is booking a special fireworks cruise. This will allow you and your family to go out to an exclusive, perfect viewing spot out on the water to watch the nighttime fireworks! Refreshments are also provided, and Guests have the option to view either Disney Enchantment over at Magic Kingdom Park or EPCOT’s Harmonious.

 Specialty Cruise

Credit: planDisney

Related: A Boat Lover’s Guide to Staying Afloat While Visiting Disney World

6. Nighttime Spectaculars

Whether you watch the nighttime spectacular from your own fireworks cruise or see them directly in the Parks, the fact remains that when you are in Disney World, you and your family can’t miss seeing the nighttime spectaculars. Sure, the Magic the Kingdom Park fireworks display over Cinderella Castle is a pretty big deal but do check out all the other happenings throughout other Parks as well. There’s also the wonderful Electrical Water Pageant of moving lights procession that makes its way across Seven Seas Lagoon nightly.

Nighttime Spectacular

Credit: Laura Hermoza/Disney Fanatic

5. Indulge in a Dessert Party or Dining Package

What better way to enjoy those nighttime fireworks than by sweetening the deal with a bit of dessert or a nice bite? Disney offers several dessert parties and dining packages to check out, all of which offer attendees optimal viewing of the grand event and delicious delicacies in tandem. Whether you do the Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise, dine at the Contemporary’s California Grill during the fireworks, enjoy dining al fresco at the United Kingdom’s Rose & Crown for Harmonious, or head to Tomorrowland Terrace at the Magic Kingdom for a private dessert party, there are numerous ways to make the already magical experience even more so.

 Dessert Parties

Credit: Disney

4. Explore Disney Springs

Taking the family to Disney Springs for a day can accelerate the magic even further. From shopping, dining, entertainment, and a whole host of additional extras, you really need to experience the scene at Disney Springs to get the whole Disney experience. Like LEGOS? You’ll be awestruck by the one and only LEGO Store at Disney Springs. How about some bowling at Splitsville? You can even take in a movie at AMC DINE-IN Disney Springs 24 Theatres or see Drawn to Life, presented by Cirque du Soleil. Brave families may even be so bold as to ascend in a tethered hot air balloon to take in surrounding aerial views or drive into the waters via a Vintage Amphicar for a scenic tour like no other. The possibilities are plentiful!

Disney Springs

Credit: Visit Orlando

Related: Everything You MUST Know Before Visiting Disney Springs!

3. Private VIP Tours

There are several options for exploring behind-the-scenes magical happenings at Walt Disney World parks by booking one of several available tour options for you and your family. But did you realize that you can actually opt for full-fledged VIP treatment personally as well? That’s right, you can actually go all out with an entirely customizable experience for you and a group of up to 10, led by your very own private VIP Tour Guide. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any more perfect! From getting the chance to experience lesser-known endeavors to getting first dibs on the most in-demand attractions, this is how to give your family vacation the works.

VIP Services Tour

Credit: Disney

2. Parades and Dance Parties

Just like fireworks, Disney’s parade scene is iconic. It’s just something everyone has to do at least once. And while the parades and processions at Disney World are forever changing, one thing that never does is the fact that there is always one to enjoy. So, give your family the time-tested experience of viewing a given day’s parade at least once on your trip. Also, be sure to check out the various dance parties and other events going on at a given Park at a given time.

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Credit: Disney Lists

1. Attend a Special Ticketed Event

Throughout the year, there are special ticketed events taking place at Walt Disney World Resort. The two biggest holiday events, for instance, in the way of popularity for families are Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. If you can book tickets for the family to enjoy one of these events, it’s sure to top off an already magical vacation even further and will have everyone in your bunch talking for years to come.

Mickey Halloween

Credit: Disney

Related: Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Tickets Selling Out

Consider all the other innumerable ways in which you can exemplify the enchantment of Disney magic for you and your family during your next trip to Walt Disney World Resort. Ultimately, the decision is yours as you consider what personally works best for your bunch. But remember, for whichever experiences you choose, Disney will make all your dreams come true.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.