Which parks with a 2 year old?

I am having trouble deciding which parks to visit in our trip to Disney World. We will stay 4 nights, arriving at 3:40 pm on Saturday 10/31 and coming back at 7:05 pm on Wednesday 10/04. We are two adults and one 2 year old (she will be exactly 2 years). It is our first time at Disney World.

We will have one evening (Sat 10/31), three whole days, and one morning and afternoon until 3 pm (Wed 11/4). Which combination of parks do you suggest? We want to do Magic Kingdom at least two days. We have tickets to Mickeys’ Not so Scary Halloween Party on Sunday 11/01. I suspect that Epcot would be the most interesting for my husband and I. At first I read that it was not toddler friendly, but now I seem to come across more and more pieces defending it agains Hollywood Studios. Opinions on Animal Kingdom with a 2 year old are all over the place. I am very lost.

A few things:

-It does not have to be everything about our daughter, but we don’t want to spend a day child swapping while she does nothing.
-We will be staying at Arts of Animation.
-We intend to leave straight from the park to the airport on Wednesday 11/04.
-Our daughter can nap in her stroller. She does not seem to be scared of dark. She won’t sit for movies more than 5 minutes, and even that may be too much. She is prone to motion sickness (she won’t ride Dumbo, for example.) She is not interested in characters yet.
-The tougher coaster we would go (I mean the adults) is the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and even that one is a bit much for our taste. We are coaster wimps!

Thanks for your help!!

You do not have park hopper tickets? Arrival night is tricky. I do not think I would start my trip at EP on a Saturday night during Food and Wine ( but you definitely should do it- maybe Monday). Saturday night at MK since it is not open on Friday and Sunday due to parties (there is a party on the 1st right?) can be very, very crazy. Honestly, I would use the 1/2 day at HS. HS at night is beautiful.

Thanks for replying!

-I don’t have park hopper tickets, but I could still get them if it made sense.
-On both Sat 10/31 and Sun 11/1 there is a party on MK. I have tickets to the party on Sun 11/1
-Since I have tickets to the party on Sun 11/1, I could go to another park on Sunday and hop to MK for the party. That would be an option for park hopping on one day without buying the special tickets.
-On Sat 10/31 HS closes at 8:30. We wouldn’t have much time there, but it may be worth it anyway.

Given your answer I am working with the following schedule:
HS-MK-EP-MK-AK

FYI, Going around the world in EP is brutal for a little one. No attractions and the movies are tough. We got our DS2 to watch Impressions de France (our family’s favorite), but had to leave all other movies we tried. Then, Future World is also tough, because he could only ride the Seas, LWTL, SE, and Ellen. I’d do EP in the morning on your party night, and add a second AK day.

We went with our 2-year-old a few years back. This is what we found helpful when touring,

Our daughter would sleep in the stroller pretty well. Once asleep, my husband and I could trade ride times. Not child swap, but when we went the crowds were lower so the wait times were not bad.

We spent the most time at MK, then HS. HS was great because of the shows. Beauty and Beast is wonderful, and your toddler can stand without blocking anyone’s view. Disney Junior Live on Stage was great - lots of moving around for the kids, and the characters are puppets so not big and scary. (I swear the DJ characters are sized smaller throughout HS, but that might be my imagination.)

Our daughter liked AK - lots of animals, lots of places to walk and take a break from the stroller. I would say AK over Epcot.

Imagineer, thanks for your answer! If we went to EP for around the world, the objective would be to sample different food. We don’t need to do the movies (though maybe we would try Impressions de France on your recommendation). DD is a great eater, and enjoys tasting new things. Do you think it would be brutal for a 2 yo even if we just hop around sampling food?

Also, how bad would it be to go to EP on the first day (Sat 01/31, arriving between 6 and 7pm)? If people are mostly around the world, wound’t the rides have lower crowds? We just want to have a good time, no need to do everything.

By the way, before I knew anything I had made EP Fast Pass reservations on Sat 10/31 for Spaceship Earth (6:50-7:50pm), Turtle Talk (7:50-8:50) and Illuminations (9:30-9:50).

izzney22, thanks for your answer too! I gather from what you are saying that we don’t need to keep the kids quiet during the shows at HS? If that is the case, than HS would be great, as I am actually pretty interested in the attractions there myself. DD is happy at movies and shows, it’s just hard to keep her from talking, and after a few minutes from wanting to move, and maybe walk. If that is not an issue, then I would do

EP-MK-HS-MK-AK

instead. I think that our daughter would love AK too, but since there are not so many rides there for her, and we were planning to go there on a day with crowd level 2 (Wed 11/4) and stay until 3 or even 4pm, I thought that this would be enough. Is it worth it the extra day over other parks?

@nizarala - If you think your DD would enjoy it, definitely go to WS! We had lots of fun with our few, targeted stops. But it will be different than touring may have been without a LO. :slight_smile: Also, Saturdays during F&W (and particularly on Halloween) will probably be pretty raucous, so I’d save it for another day if you’re only going to EP once. If you’re ok with sticking to FW, then it’ll probably be a good park to visit (since, as you say, everyone will be in WS). Note that my son was not a fan of Turtle Talk, but we love it (he’s hilarious!).

AK is a great park for littles. My son adored Kilimanjaro Safari and Triceratop Spin. Nemo and FOTLK were about 5 minutes too long for him, but if you sit near an exit you should be able to see most of them. (also a good nap spot). And one of our favorite spots was Conservation Station… he brushed the goats for at least 30 minutes.

I posted in another thread recently: with little kids, LESS IS MORE. Unless you have an unusually, exceptionally patient child with an inordinately high tolerance for overstimulation, then plan for short visits to the parks (few hours in the morning, maybe a couple hours in the evening) and lots of relaxing time at the (very awesome) hotel in between. She may like “meeting” characters (or at least staring shyly at them from a distance) more than you expect.
I think I’d consider (but won’t be offended if you think this is a terrible list):
Saturday 10/31 pm - Maybe HS. Consider the Frozen Singalong, Toy Story Midway Mania, strolling and enjoying the ambiance. Maybe Disney Junior live show (interactive, 20 minutes). Maybe trial run meeting a character or two (shorter lines at Mike & Sully, Phineas and Ferb, Mater and Lightening back at the Streets of America). Rider Swap R&R, ToT, Star Tours.
Sunday 11/1 am - MK or AK morning. At AK do Kilimanjaro Safari, Boneyard Playground, Outpost character meet, maybe Triceratop Spin, walk a jungle treks (Maharaj or Pagani).
Sunday 11/1 pm - Party
Monday 11/2 - Epcot morning - Land and Seas pavilions, Rider Swap Soarin’.
Monday 11/2 - Epcot evening - World Showcase. Ride the 3 Caballeros in Mexico. Snack around the world while the small one takes it all in from the stroller - the street performers, gardens, etc are pretty interesting for small fry.
Tuesday 11/3 - Magic Kingdom.
Wednesday 11/4 - am Consider hanging at hotel. If you have lots of energy, head back to Magic Kingdom to re-run a couple favourites.

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Things really are different when touring with a LO! That said, we have traveled a lot with her, and in our experience, if we keep flexible, and don’t obsess over doing everything, we always have a lot of fun. It helps that she is happy to nap in the stroller, it is a bit of a safe place for her.

When you say that the crowd will be raucous on WS Saturday, do you mean that there would be interminable lines for all the food, or just that it is crowded and noisy? I know people go crazy with all the alcohol choices, but unless it is actually dangerous or obnoxious I don’t mind the frat party environment. I would mind excessively long lines for food though. I myself love a good stroll down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, or the red light district in Amsterdam, it is hilarious! We have taken her to NYC and Rome both a very crowded times of the year. In fact, I find that crowded is easier than empty, because she gets entertained watching people, and nobody minds if she tattles nonstop or screams occasionally.

Glad to hear the great things about AK, I am considering going there earlier on the trip, now with all the recommendations!

Agree that ending at MK ‘feels’ right :slight_smile:

Saturday WS at F&W in Epcot will be wall-to-wall people, some inebriated, not magical, moderate waits for food/wine, and suitable for adults “walking with purpose” to hit food/wine stands and stake out a spot to sit/stand and eat. Congested getting from one country to the next. I’ve lugged my kids along to many, many adult places and travelled with them a lot, but I would not bring them (DSs4&6) to F&W after dark on a Saturday any more than I would bring them to a food and wine show at a local hotel on a Saturday night. Futureworld, sure - Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush, Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, Figment. But I’d stay away from the threshold into WS. Others may have differing thoughts/experiences.

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mossmacl, I totally get the “less is more” motto! When we traveled with her in the past, we applied it towards feeling less pressure to do everything, keeping flexible schedules, for example eating a bit here and there when we can instead of having specific time reservations, and cutting a few things off the schedule completely so that we could do a few chosen things at a slower pace. By the way, in keeping with this philosophy I am considering if I should cut one park (or two) altogether.

I was feeling confident in going out all days because we have been very successful doing that in other trips, some much longer than this. I find that with a 2 year old, relaxing at the pool is not that relaxing. It means watching like a hawk the entire time as she attempts more and more daring things! On the other hand, when we are moving around crowded cities, there are many more distractions and just the change of scenery and people is enough to keep her engaged and happy, she needs to run around a lot less, and we actually relax more. It’s also easier for her to nap in the stroller if we are moving around (though once she is asleep we can stop and do child swap or just relax).

That said, your suggested schedule looks super interesting! I will consider it carefully now. We do have a lot of energy in trips, walk a lot and keep long hours. DD is a night owl, she wakes up at noon and goes to bed at midnight, which is crazy by US standards of baby schedules, but works excellently for us, and may be genetic… I am actually more concerned about how to arrive early on parks than her ability to stay up late.

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You know, now that you said this, I feel like on a subconscious level I was feeling the same! Would AK on the last day feel like a let down?

Hi @nizarala - we did not try to keep our DD quiet during DJ or B&B shows. At Disney Junior they actually encouraged the kids the move around, and when we went there were not seats, just a large open carpeted floor area. Which was awesome. AT B&B the arena is very large, there was a pre-show and lots and lots of steps. My daughter walked up and down the steps for the pre-show and then stood and talked for the B&B show. I don’t think was too disturbing - it was a low crowd day, and we sat a bit apart from others out of consideration.

The Ariel show seemed a bit more formal, and at 20 minutes was almost too long for our little one. But again one of the great things about Disney is you can always leave an attraction and for Ariel and Mickey’s Philharmonic, we asked the CM if we could sit on aisle just in case we had to make a break for it :smile:

I think you could do AK in a half or three-quarter day. I believe that’s what we did. Our daughter loved, loved the Lion King show, would not sit for Nemo and we had to leave. But the Boneyard is a great play area - we loved these playgrounds at Disney for burning off energy before heading to rides and shows. Be warned though - the Boneyard has a lot of tunnel/ tube slides and it can be a bit confusing where your child comes out!

I hear you! (well, I read you…) I guess then EP on Saturday is a terrible idea. I will cut it from the plans then. In this case on Saturday we would go to HS, as it is the only other park that is open sufficient hours. Or, if someone has an idea, we could skip the parks altogether that day.

I am tempted to go to MK on Sunday morning and afternoon because the crowds are predicted to be on the lower side. It could also be impractical to move from another park to MK for the party, what if she is napping exactly when it would be convenient to do that?

If we do HS on Saturday, then per your suggestion we would do EP on Monday. I think this would be great, given that I am interested in EP. However, I am a bit afraid because the crowd level at EP is predicted to be 8, the highest of all the parks. Would this be too bad? It certainly seems bad, the scale only goes up to 10!

So, the plan is now:

Sat - HS (or something else)
Sun - MK
Mon - EP
Tue - MK
Wed - AK

Another idea would be to follow Imagineer and lizzney22’s rave of AK and do it sooner in the trip so that we can repeat it later if we love it:

Sat - HS or something else off the parks
Sun - MK all day, stay for party
Mon - AK morning - EP later
Tue - MK
Wed - MK or AK again

What do you think?

@lizzney22 Great then! Did you go to the stunt shows (Indiana Jones, and the Lights, Motors ones?) How are they for little ones?

Also, what do you think of us doing just a few hours at HS on Sat 10/31? We arrive at 3:40 at the airport. HS closes at 8:30 pm. If we went to HS as soon as we can, would this be too rushed? Would we feel like we are missing out too much? The idea, in this case, would be for us to arrive and make our way to the park with the objective of doing a ride on Toy Story Mania, maybe one or two other shows (all with Fast Pass if possible), look around, watch the firewroks and call it a day. Would this be too little? Do you think that we would feel like we are missing out too much?

@nizarala - we did the Indiana Jones and it was fine. The explosions can be a bit intense, but my kid was pretty chill and we sat near the top so it was OK. Lights and Motors was not operational when we went. We did the Backlot Tour with the canyon of water, and she was like “eh”, so no worries there.

She has not seen Fantasmic (at the time, she could not stay up past about 7 p.m.) and I think that show would have been too much. My recollection is it was pretty loud, dark and a bit scary. (But I would totally use a more recent opinion on that.)

If your flight arrives on time, you might have enough time. Alas, I am not the best judge of that. When we took our then 2 year old, we moved pretty slowly and let her set the pace, but I think HS is a good park to start at based on your schedule.

It’s decided then, we will start on HS. I got Fast pass reservations for Toy Story Mania from 7-8pm and for Disney Jr. at 5:40 (their last show, not sure we will make it.) B&B’s last show is at 5:30, but I can’t get a fast pass for it, because I can only get B&B or Toy Story mania, not both. Same thing for Fantasmia, can’t get a fast pass for it because of Toy Story. The only other attraction for which I can get a Fast Pass that late is the Little Mermaid ride, so I got it.

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@lizzney22 @mossmacl @Imagineer @PrincipalTinker

Thank you all very much for the help! I don’t know what I would do without it. I was very confused, now I still feel overwhelmed, but at least the decision seems clearer.

So, the plan is

Sat - HS arriving late afternoon
Sun - MK all day, stay for party
Mon - AK morning - EP later
Tue - MK
Wed - MK, AK, EP or HS again, whichever we feel we should visit once more, or none.

I have a few questions to everybody:

  1. What do you think of this plan? Any changes you suggest?
  2. I need to make Fast Pass reservations for Wed 11/4. I can only pick one park. Which park do you think is the most likely we will want to visit again, given the schedule above?
  3. Should I fear the crowds at EP on Mon 11/2? The predicted crowd level that day is 8, the biggest of all parks. Should I just cut EP off altogether? In this case we would either do AK in the morning and HS later (HS closes at 7 though), or otherwise just do AK and call it a day.
  4. Anybody has a suggestion of what we could do instead of HS on Saturday? If for any reason it takes us too long to arrive (flight delays, luggage issues, slow check in, angry baby), it may not be worthwhile to go to HS at all that day. In this case, what should we do? We are staying at AoA, so we could just stay there at the pool and look around the hotel (would it be warm enough for this?) We could go to Downtown Disney. Any thoughts on this? Any other idea?

Thanks a lot!