So you’re going to Disney World and you know that your family is going to skip merrily around the parks, joyfully riding all the rides together and agreeing on everything the entire time! That’s what you saw on the planning DVD anyway! But even at the most magical place on earth that isn’t likely to happen, is it? In reality, there are not very many families in which everyone has the exact same interests, stamina level, or appetite for adventure.
Disney World is a great place where travelling parties can quite easily find a way to accommodate everyone’s diverse interests – magic bands mean parties can split up and go to different parks without worrying about forgetting to get the child’s ticket from the other parent first (been there!), Fastpass+ allows parties to reserve different attractions for different members of the party in advance, so families can plan when to meet back up, and it is very easy if staying on property to have someone quickly sneak back to the resort so little Junior can take a nap while everyone else forges on. But, you came here for some family time too, didn’t you?
Well, here’s a list of 10 rides that just seem to magically let everyone find some common ground. Most of these are immensely popular as well, so you may very well need to consider prioritizing these when making your Fastpass+ selections.
This is probably the most obvious family-oriented ride and might at first seem boring to the more adventurous guest who doesn’t know its’ history. This attraction is one of Disney’s original and best known rides, and has been part of both Disney World and Disneyland since each park opened.
It was originally created for the World’s Fair and its audio-animatronic dolls were revolutionary for its time. Guests set sail along the Seven Seas Waterway for a 10 minute boat-ride across all 7 continents, hosted by 300 “children of the world,” dressed in the clothing of their native land, dancing and singing a song of peace and harmony. The ride showcases different cultures of the world, but highlights the similarities among them, illustrating that “it’s a small world after all.” The boats are wide, so a family of 4 can easily sit in one row. A larger family might use multiple rows, but can still all sit in one boat. The ride is slow and gentle and very visually impressive. “It’s a Small World” stays in your head for about a week afterward, but this is the message of inclusion that Disney was trying to spread, so it is fitting that half of Disney’s guests are no doubt humming this at any given point in time! This ride is continuously moving and has large capacity, so the lines are usually not long and you would likely not need a Fastpass+.
2. Peter Pan’s Flight:
With the help of some pixie dust, you’ll fly over Never Land aboard a pirate ship, past the second star to the right, and straight on till morning. Although this ride does take you up in the air, it’s very gentle and you may very well not notice the height if that is something that bothers you. It’s visually very impressive and a family of 4 can all sit side-by-side. It doesn’t jerk, it’s not loud or dark, and there are no sudden drops to frighten the younger set, but it does have enough action to interest those with a little more taste for adventure. It’s a classic theme that is known to Disney fans of all ages and it’s insanely popular, so a Fastpass+ is recommended!
3. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid:
Beneath Prince Eric’s castle, you’ll board a clam shell and dive under the sea to become part of the world of everyone’s favorite mermaid, Ariel. The ride features audio-animatronic characters enacting all of your favorite scenes from the Little Mermaid, to the tune of the movie’s award-winning score. It’s bright, happy, and very visually interesting. It’s perfect for tiny ones, as well, as there are no sudden movements. When this ride opened, the lines were painfully long, but it’s not as bad now, although a Fastpass+ is still recommended, unless you’re going in the off-season. If you do end up standing in line, the queue area is very long and mostly shaded or indoors. You’ll even have a wonderful cooling mist in some areas, so it’s not a bad place to get out of the heat! When the ride is over, you can see Ariel in her grotto, right beside the exit.
4. Dumbo the Flying Elephant:
This is one of Disney’s iconic rides and is a must-do for every family! Climb aboard the world’s cutest elephant and soar high over Storybook Circus as you move in circles around and around. Or, don’t soar high at all if you don’t want to, since you control little Dumbo by moving the handle. It’s up to you! This attraction is now much more than a ride since Disney transformed this experience a couple of years ago. It is now inside a giant air-conditioned circus tent and contains a playground with slides, a climbing net and a toddler section. You’ll be given a pager when you enter that will alert you when it’s your time to ride so that you can supervise your young children on the playground rather than standing in line. This is a great place just to spend some time, even if you never make it on the ride because someone has an accident or some other young child-related event arises at an inopportune time, as tends to happen while on vacation!
This is one of Disney’s newest attractions and it does not disappoint! Whistle while you work, as you race around sharp turns through the diamond mine aboard a mine car that sways authentically back and forth. You’ll believe that you are really in the world of Snow White in this visually impressive attraction! As it’s still new, you’ll need a Fastpass+ or you’ll line up for hours!
6. Star Tours – The Adventures Continue:
While it’s often today’s Dad who is most obsessed with the Star Wars franchise, virtually every family is familiar with, and most-likely a fan, of Star Wars. This ride features a 3D motion-simulator that takes you on an intergalactic adventure through the Star Wars universe aboard a Starspeeder 1000. You’ll shake and jerk around as C3PO pilots your space craft on any one of 50 different scenarios, but whatever happens, you’ll wind up safely back at the Rebel base in the end! You may find yourself on an adventure from either the original franchise or the newer prequels. You can keep going back over and over to see if you can find your favorite adventure! The Starspeeder is large, so families of all sizes will be able to ride together. Surprisingly, the wait-times for Star Tours are often not that long, but if you are there over Star Wars Weekends, most definitely take advantage of the Fastpass+ feature! May the Force be with you!
7. Toy Story Mania:
Now here’s a ride that you are not ever getting on, anytime, without a Fastpass+! Grab your 3D glasses and board a carnival ride tram for a rootin’ tootin’ shootin’ midway match, where you and your party will compete against each other while shooting at stationary and moving objects in a series of 5 fast-paced games. The car will spin and jerk a bit as you move between games, but it’s all good fun! This ride has been around for years, but is still just as popular as it was when it opened and lines regularly exceed the one-hour mark. Fortunately, the queue is very interesting and you will be entertained while you wait, but Fastpass+ is definitely the way to go! There is hope though, Disney is currently working on expanding the ride, but until then, book this immediately when your Fastpass+ window opens!
8. Mission Space:
Launch into space and rocket to the red planet on a space shuttle simulator equipped for a 4-person crew. Each member of your crew will assume a unique role of either: commander, engineer, navigator or pilot, and each will have a role to play while on your mission. This is a unique experience as it lets a family be engaged in separate functions as a team, rather than simply sitting on a ride together.
You may have heard stories about people feeling sick on such rides. Well never fear, Disney finds a way to accommodate everyone, so there are two levels of training with different levels of intensity. The Orange level is very intense with guests experiencing a centrifuge that spins very fast to simulate the G-forces felt during flight and re-entry. This comes with warnings and is not for those prone to motion sickness! The Green level is simply a motion simulator, similar in intensity to the Star Tours ride. It does not spin and guests are less likely to experience motion sickness. It’s ideal for a family of 4, while larger families will need to split into more than one team. Fastpass+ is available and is recommended in high season. If you have to choose between this and another popular ride when selecting your Fastpasses, note that this is often not as busy as the other popular Epcot attractions, so you may want to select the other.
This is an insanely popular ride that you’ll definitely need to use your Fastpass+ for. This ride simulates the experience of hang-gliding over the beautiful, majestic landscape of California, although guests are sitting upright for the duration. The rows are very wide and accommodate a large number of people, so most families will be able to ride all in one row. The ride does lift you up quite high, but your eye is drawn to the IMAX screen in front of you, so you’re not likely aware of how high you are, if that is something that bothers you. This is an all-ages ride, although there is a height requirement, and it’s a wonderful, feel-good experience!
Animal Kingdom has some great rides for the thrill-seeker, with Dinosaur and Expedition Everest, but there’s one ride that is perfect for families and really should be on everyone’s list as you can’t do this anywhere else – Kiliminjaro Safaris. This ride takes you on a guided tour of the African outback in an open-air safari vehicle. You’ll see 34 types of African animals roaming free in Disney’s carefully created version of their natural habitat. (Don’t worry, they can’t get to you, although it looks like they can). The ride is bumpy, but it’s still doable even for those who don’t like much motion. This is a very unique and awe-inspiring experience! Fastpass+ is available and recommended on busy days.
Disney is full of rides that provide different types of experiences for people with different interests and no doubt everyone will find something that they like! The rides listed here though will let a family ride together and share an experience at a level that is usually good for everyone. Enjoy your trip! Check out “Disney Itinerary Tips 101 – 9 Tips For Families With Young Children.”
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!
Sandra Chu lives in the Midwest with her husband and two daughters. She is a Canadian lawyer, but became a stay-at-home Mom when she moved to the US in 2007. She fell in love with Disney World on her first trip in her late 20's and has since been back over 30 times. She loves helping people plan their Disney vacations and has been lucky enough to turn this into a career! She works as an independent agent with The Enchanted Traveler, helping people plan all types of magical dream vacations with Disney, including Disney cruises and Adventures By Disney vacations. She has been to Disney at all times of year, with kids of all ages, and has mastered the art of doing Disney with princesses! She is now exploring Disney with a tween. Every trip is a bit different, but always magical! You can find her on Facebook under The Enchanted Traveler.