Disney Tweens: What to Expect When Navigating Disney Theme Parks
Headed to Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland with a Disney Tween? Get ready for thrill rides, lots of food, photo ops galore, shopping, and most of all, making the most magical memories possible.
I have been visiting Walt Disney World Resort with my children for almost 13 years. One thing I have learned – every age brings a new way to experience the theme parks. When my kids were babies and toddlers it was all about the sights, sounds, colors and wonder of the happiest place on earth. There were so many magical “firsts”, all interspersed with naps and the occasional over-tired meltdown. As Disney Kids the girls just wanted to be princesses and meet all the princesses. This age also meant finally being tall enough to ride all the rides, and hopefully lasting a full day at the park from open to close.
Now as tweens and teens, visiting the theme parks has taken on a whole new meaning for our family. Park hoppers are essential – it’s so easy at this age to travel between parks. And let’s face it – teens and tweens get bored easily. If the My Disney Experience mobile app says Expedition Everest only has a 10 minute wait and you’ve conquered all of the thrill rides at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it’s time to hop on a bus and head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Photo ops can be found absolutely everywhere, and everyone has an opinion about what Disney snack they will or won’t eat. With two girls, we won’t even begin to discuss the amount of shopping they want to do while at the parks.
I recently embarked on my very first girls trip to Walt Disney World Resort with my two daughters, leaving my teen son and husband at home. The trip was planned to meet friends who were visiting at the same time. We had one day at the theme parks and we were determined to squeeze as much as possible into that one day. We arrived before Magic Kingdom Park opened for breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant and closed Magic Kingdom Park later that night. In between we made it to two other parks, rode our favorite rides, met some Disney characters, ate way too many Disney snacks, shopped for souvenirs, took a ride on every mode of transportation available, posed for every photo possible, and made more magical memories than we can count on our own and with our friends.
Headed to Walt Disney World Resort or Disneyland with a tween? Here are five things I guarantee will be a part of your Disney Tween vacation:
Ride All the Rides, Especially the Thrill Rides: Trust me, first and foremost on every tween’s agenda at the theme parks are THE RIDES. On this recent trip I was travelling with tweens at both ends of the spectrum. My older daughter thinks Tower of Terror is hysterically funny and that Test Track is kind of slow. Nothing is too thrilling or fast for her. My younger daughter? She’s not quite as fearless, but Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Splash Mountain are on the top of her list of must-do rides. She was ready to tackle Big Thunder Mountain Railroad but unfortunately it was closed for refurbishment the day we were at Magic Kingdom Park.
Not surprisingly, we started the day on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and then headed directly over to Splash Mountain.
My older daughter rode Space Mountain, we all took a tour on Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, and had we kept our last FastPass+ of the day, we would have traveled through the Kali River Rapids in the dark. We would have loved to experience Soarin’ or Mission Space, but with no FastPass+ for these rides and only one day, we didn’t want to wait in the standby lines. We did test our skills on both Toy Story rides, rode Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, traveled through time in Spaceship Earth, went barnstorming with Goofy on The Barnstormer, and took time to remind ourselves that “it’s a small world” after all.
We made good use of our Park Hopper tickets, an essential for any family with tweens. We took a bus from Magic Kingdom Park to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, then a boat to Epcot, and then the monorail back to Magic Kingdom Park. We planned to ride the bus over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, thus making it to all four parks in one day, but opted instead to spend more time with our friends at Magic Kingdom Park. The recent upgrades to the FastPass+ system made it incredibly easy to move between the parks and reserve FastPass+ at different parks throughout the day.
Appropriately we ended the day making memories with our friends on Splash Mountain, riding twice in a row in the dark. If you haven’t done this, I highly recommend riding this ride at night. The view of Cinderella Castle at night from the top of the big drop is not to be missed.
Eat All the Food: Gone are the days of ordering a kid’s meal and expecting it to be eaten with no questions asked. Nope, my Disney Tweens not only selected the restaurants to dine at during this vacation, but they knew exactly what kind of Disney snack they wanted to eat as we walked around the parks. Their preferred snack? The Mickey Bar. Not only do they know this is the snack they want, they are old enough to figure out where to buy it in the parks. Proclaiming “I don’t think that is sold here,” doesn’t fly with them anymore.
The other snack they love? Main Street Popcorn. This past trip Chocolate Caramel with Sea Salt and Confetti were the favorites. Buy a bag at various locations in the theme parks and munch on it all day. It’s possible we may have eaten a bag or two in that one day alone.
One of the best things for our food allergy family? The Enjoy Life Snacks with Character peanut and tree nut free snacks we can find in all the parks. We bought more than one of these Mountain Mambo Seed & Fruit Mix packets during our day at the theme parks.
Disney Tweens do not take their food choices lightly, especially when it comes to snacks!
Take all the Pictures: I am fairly positive we took over 500 pictures in only 4 days, at least 150 the day we visited the theme parks. This may be directly related to the fact that I was travelling with my daughters. My teen son generally shuns the camera as much as possible, although some of his friends live for taking selfies. Either way, one thing I know for sure – tweens and teens love their IPhones/IPods and love taking pictures with them. And believe me, there is no better photo opportunity venue than the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort.
We took pictures with Disney characters.
And pictures with props. Some of them a little more ridiculous than others.
We took pictures on rides.
And pictures in the parks.
There are so many photo opportunities in the theme parks it’s hard not to take a million pictures. Even better? Let Disney’s PhotoPass photographers do all the work so you can actually be in a photo or two with your Disney Tween.
Shop at All the Stores: Ok, this one definitely may be more directly related to spending the day in the parks with two girls than it would be with my teen son. Throughout the day we bought matching friendship necklaces for our friends we were visiting, Disney t-shirts, Star Wars ears, a stuffed Winnie the Pooh, and probably a few other things I am already forgetting. We were in the Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A. shopping for so long a friend who is a Cast Member had to meet us in the store rather than outside in the park!
Disney Tweeens can shop and there are certainly plenty of places to feed that shopping addiction in the theme parks.
Make the Most Magical Memories Ever:
Most of all, navigating the theme parks with Disney Tweens means a whole new way to experience the parks and make all new magical memories. Now we ride “it’s a small world” and see who can point out something new we’ve never noticed before. My Disney Tweens love to talk me into riding rides I would normally not venture onto, and then are even more amused by my reaction when we step off the ride. They love taking silly pictures and capturing everyone in a selfie with Cinderella Castle in the background. We talk about the history behind such iconic rides as Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress and why it’s important to leave the Country Bear Jamboree exactly as it is. We enjoy all of the cultural aspects of the World Showcase, including the variety of food options, and now can easily make an early breakfast reservation and still close the park later that night at midnight. Even rides we have ridden 30 times before, such as Spaceship Earth, take on a whole new perspective when viewed through the eyes of a Disney Tween.
This past year I have visited Walt Disney World Resort both with my entire family, and with just my girls, and each visit has been filled with new memories and experiences. As a parent it is a joy to remember how my children experienced something as a toddler, and now to watch as they experience it all over again as a Disney Tween. We made so many magical memories on this last trip, and I cannot wait to return to make even more with my Disney Tweens.
I received 2 Walt Disney World Theme Park Park Hopper tickets from Disney Parks Public Relations as media courtesy as a writer for Disney Gals, however, I paid for all other expenses of my trip myself. All opinions are my own and based on my family’s personal experience.