Best Rides at Disney World for Babies & Toddlers
A Disney vacation is a dream that most families share, but there seems to be a consistent train of thought: wait.
Wait until your kids are older so they can:
A) Remember it
B) Go on the big rides
C) Get through the day without a nap
D) All of the above
But if you’re a Disney aficionado, there is absolutely no need to wait; you won’t find a more baby-friendly destination than Walt Disney World. There are lots of tips out there for Disney with a baby (ahem) and–best of all–there are lots of Disney World rides for babies and toddlers to enjoy with the whole family.
Plus, there’s really nothing cuter than a baby in Mickey ears 🙂
Best Disney World Rides for Babies & Toddlers at Magic Kingdom:
Magic Kingdom has the most Disney World rides for babies and toddlers. If you can only manage one park on your visit, Magic Kingdom should be it. This list is based on our usual route; we walk up Main St. USA and turn right at Adventureland. Then, we make our way around the park, stopping for rides at Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and ending up in Tomorrowland.
Disney World Rides for Babies in Adventureland:
This ride is a Disney classic. It’s a gentle river cruise led by a tour guide with lots of personality, passing animatronic creatures based in Africa, Asia, and South America! Geography purists might not be amused, but every kid I know loves this ride–especially the rhino. I have vague recollections of being a child on Jungle Cruise and some politically-incorrect themes, but that’s all been rectified.
Although this is the third ride you’ll encounter if you hit Adventureland first, we usually make Pirates our first ride of the day. It’s our absolute favourite. Ride-wise, this is one of the easiest Disney World rides for babies and toddlers. It’s a gentle boat cruise with a small hill off the top. However, it’s dark inside and little ones might find the pirates scary. My kids fared better as lap infants and smaller toddlers than when they were around two or three. They do get over it, though.
Pretty much every ride and attraction in Adventureland is a classic, and The Magic Carpets of Alladin is no exception. The ride itself is very Dumbo-esque, with flying “carpets” that go around in a circle and you control (via a joystick) moving up and down, or staying up or staying down. Warning! The camel spits water and while some may find it refreshing, certain almost-three-year-olds in princess dresses are less than thrilled to get wet.
Disney World Rides for Babies in Liberty Square:
As you make your way out of Adventureland, walk through Frontierland (where there aren’t really any Disney World rides for babies or toddlers.) Pass by the big paddle-wheel river boat and Haunted Mansion will be on the left. As with Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion is a perfectly fine Disney World ride for babies and toddlers RIDE WISE. You sit in a little clamshell and flow through spooky animatronics and light shows. But the intro is pretty creepy, and it’s really dark. When my daughter was two she was fine, and so was my son at 18-months. But at three he was having NONE OF IT. Frankly, I was afraid we’d scarred him for life but thankfully the next ride on this list is a short sprint away and seemed to erase the ghosts and goblins from his psyche.
Rides for Babies in Fantasyland:
I cry almost every single time we go on It’s a Small World. Except for that one time we got stuck and actually had to evacuate, because that was kind of awesome. They are always making small modifications to the puppets/dolls/characters (?–what are those guys, anyway?) but the premise is the same. It’s a gentle boat cruise through the world’s countries and cultures, culminating in a land where all the children play together. (I like to think it’s Canada, natch). Any bad feelings from any aforementioned spooky rides can be erased by a sail through It’s a Small World, and it’s a nice, cool break from the hot Florida sun.
This is a classic ride that frequently has a really long stand-by line, so Peter Pan’s Flight is a good candidate for FastPass+ usage. Lap babies are welcome on this ride, but keep in mind it’s pretty dark inside and you “fly” over the rooftops, which can be a little stressful for parents with really strong squirmers in their laps. This is one of those Disney World rides for babies that the parents tend to enjoy more, but it is a wonderful trip through (and over!) memory lane.
Dumbo is definitely THE quintessential first ride at Disney World for babies and toddlers. And even though it’s evolved into the double Dumbo, the stand-by lines are still crazy-long. For those classic Baby’s first ride at Disney World photos, FastPass+ this sucker and make it your first ride of the day. Baby will be in a great mood and hopefully the mouse ears won’t be too crumpled or covered in goo (yet). You control the up and down motion of your Dumbo; my kids have always stuck with the classic stay high all the time approach.
This is one of my family’s all-time favourite rides, but we’ve heard lots of screams and seen many tears coming out of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It’s got a pretty psychedelic vibe, with black light and florescent colours and various Tiggers boinging about to loud music. If your little one is easily over-stimulated–even though they are the biggest Pooh fan EVER–it might be a good idea to give this one a miss.
Even though I’m crazy dizzy and sick by the end of it, we have never not gone on the Prince Charming Regal Carousel while visiting Magic Kingdom. The littlest babies propped up by their moms seem to love it as much as the princesses-in-training who are clearly pretending their noble steed is real and they are about to gallop across Fantasyland on their own. Just mine, then?
This is one of the newer rides in Fantasyland and one that is great for lap babies and toddlers. Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid is very similar in length and experience to The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride at Epcot. The ride is dark and some of the imagery is a little scary, but if your little has already been exposed to Ariel and her story, they should be just fine.
Like Dumbo and Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, the Mad Tea Party is the third in the trifecta of classic Disney World rides for babies and toddlers that are MUST RIDE. The stand-by line is often pretty manageable (I wonder if that has anything to do with grown-ups–ahem–not being able to handle the spinning, but I digress) but even if it looks long it seems to move fast. The Mad Tea Party is located between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, and is a nice transition ride between the two areas.
Disney World Rides for Babies in Tomorrowland:
This ride has a minimum height requirement of 32″ for kids to go on with an adult. As soon as they’re big enough, Tomorrowland Speedway will be one of your toddler’s favourite rides EVER. It’s just as fun as you remember.
A day at Magic Kingdom is often long and tiring, and sometimes it’s nice to take a little break and just sit and look at stuff. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover is the perfect ride to do this. Much like the Walt Disney World Railroad (mentioned below) this ride gives you the opportunity to catch your breath, rest your legs, and just soak up the Disney magic. The wait time is usually minimal, and it’s an easy train-type ride that circles over the Tomorrowland area–giving a great lay of the land.
For some reason, even though it’s really no more spinny than Dumbo or The Magic Carpets of Alladin, the Astro Orbiter makes me feel so dizzy and ill that I’m kind of out of commission for a bit. But if you or your little one can handle going ’round and ’round, then the added bonus of Astro Orbiter‘s height makes it a bit more exciting.
Adding the game aspect to this ride makes it really fun for toddlers and/or really frustrating if they are sore losers (like my kids
are were!). And it conveniently lets out into a gift shop, which can be frustrating for parents. But we love the Toy Story movies and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is very noisy and fun Babies and toddlers who are easily overstimulated may want to give this one a miss. If your kids are uber-competitive and you’d like to enjoy the rest of your day, here’s a tip: Switch guns so they think your score is theirs and they are the big winner. Of course, once they get better at these things than you, remember to NOT do that. (oops)
More Disney World Rides for Babies in Magic Kingdom:
I toyed with putting the Walt Disney World Railroad first on this list of Disney World rides for babies and toddlers at Magic Kingdom, since you can get on right at the park entrance and it gives you a great lay of the land–especially if it’s your first visit. But I like riding this train in a similar way to the Tomorrowland People Mover–when we’re in need of a breather and just want to sit and relax for a bit. The Walt Disney World Railroad has three stations: the park entrance, in Frontierland between Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and beside Goofy’s Barnstormer on the outskirts of Fantasyland. You can hop on and hop off as you like, and the full ride around the park takes about 20 minutes.
Best Disney World Rides for Babies & Toddlers at Animal Kingdom:
The real highlight of a visit to Animal Kingdom is Kilamanjaro Safaris, located in the Africa section of the park (natch). It’s a bumpy ride in a large-ish truck, but lap babies and toddlers are fine. Squirming toddlers might be stressful for parents to hang on to, but there’s usually enough to see so they’re happy to sit. Definitely FastPass+ this ride, and go as early as possible. The animals are usually more visible and more animated in the morning before it gets too hot.
Located in Dino-Land, USA, this ride is the Animal Kingdom-equivalent of Magic Kingdom‘s Dumbo, minus the insane stand-by line. I’ve been here at different times of the year and during different times of the day, and it’s never been longer than a 45-minute wait. The baby TriceraTops are just as cute as Dumbo, but perhaps minus the heartstring-tugging associations must of us have with that baby elephant.
This ride is kinda hidden, tucked in behind Kilamanjaro Safaris and Harambe Market. The train is the only way to access Rafiki’s Planet Watch, and the interactive areas there that are great for toddlers. There is rarely much of a wait for the Wildlife Express Train, and you can opt to just do the round-trip, rather than get off and explore. Or you can do both–over and over again–as we did when my son was three.
Located in the new (and amazing) Pandora: The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom, the Na’vi River Journey is essentially a bioluminescent It’s a Small World. It’s an absolute must-ride, especially if you won’t see Animal Kingdom at night. It is dark, but everything is absolutely glowing. The animatronics and visual effects are the most advanced that Disney has created for rides to date. You need to FastPass+ this ride and/or use Extra Magic Hours to get on without a huge wait.
We were invited to visit Pandora: The World of Avatar right before it first opened, and my kids absolutely loved it:
Best Disney World Rides for Babies & Toddlers at Epcot:
At first, Frozen: Ever After seems no more thrilling than Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a charming boat cruise through one of our family’s (and I’m sure yours as well) favourite movies. But, SPOILER ALERT! When you back away from Marshmallow, hang onto that baby tightly and, if you’re close to the edge of the boat, prepare to get wet! We thought it was an exciting surprise, but if I had a baby or toddler in tow I’d want to be ready.
It’s easy to miss this ride, which is hidden deep inside the Mexico Pavillion at Epcot. It’s a boat cruise along the lines of It’s a Small World but set to the story of the 1944 Disney film The Three Caballeros. You’ll have massive deja vu watching Donald Duck scramble through Mexico with his feathered friends in pursuit. I’m not sure when I’ve seen this film but it totally seemed familiar.
I wonder how long before this attraction gets refurbished to reflect the story of Coco? I think it still would be wonderful but I hope they find a way to combine the themes.
Finding Nemo is a family favourite, so naturally we adore The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot. It’s a clamshell ride similar to the new Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid ride at Magic Kingdom. You’re on a voyage through the movie and also through the aquariums located in The Seas‘ main tank and exhibits. This ride also lets out directly into a gift shop 🙂
Located inside Epcot‘s iconic geodesic sphere (aka. the giant golf ball) Spaceship Earth is a slow-moving train ride through the history of communications. Animatronics and Dame Judi Dench tell the story of how we tell our stories. It’s a 16-minute ride in the cool darkness, from early Egypt to the first Moon landing and beyond. If you’re looking to escape the sun and crowds for a bit, this is your chance.
Best Disney World Rides for Babies & Toddlers at Hollywood Studios:
This is a gentle (but still really fun!) ride for those 32″ and taller. Join the three little aliens from Toy Story and whirl about the inside of the claw machine. Up to three people can sit together, and make sure the heaviest among you is on the side that gets squished! This ride is a welcome addition to Hollywood Studios, which used to only have Toy Story Mania as a ride for little kids.
This ride is a blast, and not dissimilar in theme to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Magic Kingdom. You need to wear 3D glasses to get the full experience, and it’s pretty noisy and jostle-y. The addition of Toy Story Land has really improved the wait! The stand-by wait time for Toy Story Mania used to be crazy! Going through the queue can be part of the experience, though. There are a number of interactive stations along the way.
And that is pretty much it for guests 48″ and shorter. There isn’t a lot of Disney World rides for babies and toddlers at Hollywood Studios, but there are many shows and attractions they will love.
Tips for Disney World Rides for Babies and Toddlers:
• FastPass+ is your friend. As soon as you have your park tickets, select your three FastPass+ rides. Make your selections up to 30 days before your trip with tickets only, or up to 60 days prior with Disney hotel reservations and park tickets.
• Don’t risk traumatizing your child and force them on to something, even if you believe they will enjoy it. Cast Members will remove people from a ride if the children seem afraid.
Using Walt Disney World’s Rider Switch Service:
Rider Switch is also your friend. Full details on the Rider Switch process is here, but in a nutshell:
- Tell the Cast Member at the entrance you’d like to do Rider Switch.
- Your group will be given a Rider Switch Pass. Those riding second will wait in a designated area with the non-rider(s) with the pass, while those riding first go on.
- After the ride, the Rider Switch Pass is given to the one waiting, while the person who just rode remains in the designated area with the non-rider(s).
- The second rider hands gives the Rider Switch Pass to a Cast Member and goes on the ride. They don’t have to wait in the queue again.
- Two guests are allowed per Rider Switch Pass. So if you have an older child and a baby, each adult can bring the child on the ride while the other waits with the baby. My daughter loved this and was pretty disappointed when her brother was big enough to go on.
Here is a list of rides that offer the Rider Switch service:
- The Barnstormer
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Stitch’s Great Escape
- Tomorrowland Indy Speedway
- Frozen Ever After
- Mission: SPACE
- Test Track
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (everyone who intends to ride Rise of the Resistance must first join a boarding group using the My Disney Experience app.)
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Kali River Rapids
- Primeval Whirl
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*It’s a Small World photo: Gene Duncan/Disney | Dumbo photo: Disney