Disney's Magic Kingdom

By: Chelle Koster Walton

Here's where it all started in Orlando's theme park world, and here's where you should start your little ones. Think of it as Theme Park 101.

In the face of the thrill-ride trend at surrounding parks, Magic Kingdom has kept its charm, remaining almost quaint with its carousel rides and cotton candy. The park gives pre-schoolers the most age-appropriate choices for rides and shows, but grade-schoolers will get the max from the experience. For 'tweens, teens and adults, the magic never dies.

Pre-Schooler Favorites

On Tom Sawyer Island, kids like to run around the trails and caves. Girls might prefer hanging around Cinderella's Royal Table, where they can have breakfast with the princess and friends. Shows throughout the day take place on the stage out front of the castle. Most little ones like climbing the cool "Swiss Family Treehouse."

For their first 3-D experience, take them to "Mickey's PhilharMagic," starring Mickey and Donald Duck. As an introduction to Disney's world of animatronics, all kids seem to enjoy "It's a Small World." Other tot favorites: "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," "Dumbo the Flying Elephant," "The Magic Carpets of Aladdin," "Mad Tea Party" and "Peter Pan's Flight."

Because small legs get tired and little bodies get fidgety, make use of the FASTPASS system, whereby you can make an appointment to return to the most popular attractions within a future time slot (available for Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan). To break bread in the company of Winnie and his entourage, make reservations for The Crystal Palace's buffet, open breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Lion King's wise Zazu and Aladdin's smart-mouthed Iago update and kick up the humor level in the "Enchanted Tiki Room –- Under New Management." Try not to miss the "Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade," a truly magical procession.

Grade-School Winners

Your big boys and girls can graduate to the slightly scarier and louder attractions that are too much for wee ones.

Kids like spinning at the "Mad Tea Party" because they can take control. Tomorrowland is a winner with this age group, especially "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin," an interactive ride fitted with laser guns; and the "Tomorrowland Speedway," for kids 54 inches and taller (or 32 inches with a companion).

They'll enjoy most of the classic Disney attractions, such as the "Haunted Mansion," "Jungle Cruise," and "Pirates of the Caribbean," although the youngest in the age group may get frightened by the realness of the robotic figures.

Grade-school kids should also keep an eye out for "Stitch's Great Escape!", starring an animatronic Stitch and other characters from the popular film Lilo & Stitch. The ride traces Stitch's life before his movie debut. Chances are your pre-schoolers even may like this one, too, if they're fans of the film and can handle the dark, sudden noises and over-the-shoulder restraints.

Although a bit loud and late for toddlers, the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes firework display is a don't-miss pageant of fireworks, holographs and fiber optic technologies that will fascinate your older ones.

Terrific for 'Tweens, Teens and Upward

Once they've reached middle school, kids are ready for the mountainous thrills of "Space Mountain," "Splash Mountain" and "Big Thunder Mountain Railroad." The park's more educational aspects also appeal to older children and adults. Don't miss "The Hall of Presidents." Although other Disney parks offer more variety in shopping, Magic Kingdom will keep consumers young and old interested, especially in the idyllic setting of Main Street, USA.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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