Walt Disney World has some of the greatest rides you’ll find anywhere, made even better because at Disney, a ride is never just a ride—every attraction is an immersive experience, an adventure that starts in the line while you wait (Kilimanjaro Safaris, Animal Kingdom’s signature attraction, for example, has a waiting area designed to feel like it’s in Kenya, with a series of televisions that broadcast a welcome and orientation message from a “park ranger” at the Harambe Wildlife Reserve), and doesn’t end until you step off at the end.
However, sometimes kids just need to blow off some steam, and need a lineup-free place to just play and enjoy things at their own speed. Here are five of the best hands-on attractions at Walt Disney World.
This air-conditioned, two-pavilion area in EPCOT’s Future World features loads of interactive activities, from a touch-screen videogame playground featuring Disney characters (including games based on Wall-E, Cars and Up), a chance to ride a Segway, and the ability to actually build a ride—and then ride it in a 4-D adventure. And for parents, there’s also a good wireless signal for your iPad or other device, and loads of couches on which you can relax.
Honey I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure (Hollywood Studios)
A great place for kids to just run, jump and play, this 11,000 square-foot area creates a world where kids are the size of tiny insects, with massive blades of grass, giant ants, slides made from oversized film strips, a 52-foot long leaking water hose that sprays, and jumbo plant-root mazes.
Drums (Animal Kingdom)
This one’s about as simple as they come—when you cross the bridge from Discovery Island into the Africa area of Animal Kingdom, there’s a small opening to the right which has a series of traditional African drums available for the playing. You’ll probably hear it before you see it. Sometimes, kids just need to wail away for awhile on the skins.
Tom Sawyer Island (Magic Kingdom)
An island of quiet in the centre of the Magic Kingdom, this sylvan spot offers relatively untrammeled walking trails, the shade of towering oaks, pines, red maples and elms, and old-school fun like exploring caves and playing in a fort (plus a welcome sit-down in old-timey rocking chairs for parents). A nice respite before returning to the amped-up fun on the other side of the Rivers of America in the rest of the Magic Kingdom.
Kidcot Fun Spots (EPCOT)
Kids love crafts, and many of the country pavilions around EPCOT’s World Showcase offer fun little craft stations where young children create nationally themed souvenirs with their own two hands. A fun activity—kids can draw, write, stamp and create—that results in a great take-home item. Very nice.
— Tim Johnson, CF‘s travel editor and resident Disney expert