"There is NO WAY I'm Going On That!"
How to Take the Team-Planning Approach
When Choosing Attractions at Walt Disney World
by Michelle Scribner-MacLean, AllEars® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the May 20, 2008 Issue #452 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Perhaps it started the first time you saw those TV commercials. You know the ones: It's late, the house is dark, the kids are nestled in their beds, and Mom and Dad are sequestered far away in a remote corner of the house, at a computer screen with notepads and calculators, trying to figure out if they can afford the trip of a lifetime.
It might have started when you saw your neighbors' videos of smiling kids with characters, Main Street USA, or a photo of everyone looking slightly nervous as they prepared to embark on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Maybe it's a family tradition. You visited with your parents and now taking your kids to Walt Disney World is a rite of passage.
Whatever convinced you to take the trip, whether it's your first trip or your 15th trip, it's pretty much understood that taking your family to WDW takes a great deal of planning time. If you're like me, you'll spend hours checking out websites, you'll probably pick up a few Disney planning guides, you might listen to some podcasts, and you'll talk to your friends about what you should see and do to get the most of your experience while you're there.
So, let's picture this. You're finally there. It's your first day at the parks. You've decided to start your experience at the Magic Kingdom. You imagine you and your family with huge smiles on their faces, skipping down Main Street USA. Everything is perfect -- the sky is blue, the wonderful music is playing, and then you decide to mosey over to Frontierland to Splash Mountain. When you picture this in your mind, it's wonderful... you and your family jump right onto the line and have the time of your lives. You think happily, "This was worth all those hours of planning!"
Got that image? OK. Now let's consider a scenario that sometimes happens with families. You make your way over to Frontierland, your kids take one look at that long drop on Splash Mountain and they say, "There is NO WAY that I'm going on that!"
You wonder if your ears deceive you. Your first thought: convince and cajole them. As you peel their little hands off the railing, you say, "Aww, it's not that bad, c'mon. I'll hold your hand." Despite your encouragement and assurances, they steadfastly refuse -- so you decide to give it up and move on to the next attraction. After a 25-minute wait in that line, they take a good look at this attraction and then tell you that there is NO WAY they're going on Big Thunder Mountain either.
Then you might start to think, "I spent all this time and money -- and they're NOT GOING ON ATTRACTIONS!?"
This is not something that we parents consider when planning our trip. We think about airfares, accommodations, packing, menu choices, and consider what parks we'll go to, but sometimes don't consider that our kids will not want to participate in all WDW has to offer in those parks.
As an educator who has visited WDW many times with kids, there is only one thing that I can recommend: never force a child onto a ride or attraction he or she truly doesn't want to go on. When our oldest son was about 7, we were in line at the Haunted Mansion and next to us in line was a boy and his parents. He was about 10 years old and was clearly not happy about going on this ride -- he was crying and trying to move out of the line to the exit.
Pointing to my son they said, "See? Even this little boy is going on the ride and he's not afraid." Ouch. Seeing an opening, I encouraged my son to tell the boy about the ride and he proceeded to describe what he'd be seeing, room by room. By the time we were loaded onto our Doombuggies, the boy had calmed down a bit.
The bottom line is that parents have to make the best choice for their kids. With a bit of planning, you can help to ensure that the stress levels for you, the parent, and your kids are kept to a minimum.
There are so many fantastic resources for planning that parents and children can easily get good ideas about what an attraction is all about before they ever set foot in a park. Walt Disney World with Kids by Kim Wright Wiley (Fodor, 2008, ISBN: 978-1-4000-17850) lists attractions by their "scare factor." In its "For Kids" chapter, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World (Sehlinger and Testa: Wiley, 2008: 978-470-08963-7) also rates "scariness," and points out the specific aspects of attractions and rides that have traditionally been troubling for kids. These two books have been invaluable tools for planning our trips.
Another resource that we've been using most recently is YouTube.com. There are many guest-created videos that actually take you through the entire ride so you can really get a sense of what the attraction entails. For instance, last summer when we were gearing up for a trip, my youngest son and I watched a YouTube video taken on the Rock 'n Roller Coaster featuring Aerosmith. Believe it or not, someone videotaped it -- flips, twists, and all! After seeing that video my son was really excited about going on the attraction.
As you plan, make a list of the attractions that you want to see in each park. This is also a good time to discuss what attractions your kids do not feel comfortable seeing -- and this provides an opening to ask why and to perhaps do some more research.
SORT THE ATTRACTIONS
Different kids like different types of rides. Some children don't mind going 60 miles an hour on Test Track, but aren't keen on going on Haunted Mansion. Others will jump onto Expedition Everest with no problems, but hesitate when asked to go onto the Mad Tea Party's teacups.
There are three broad categories of attractions at WDW: Spinny, Dark, and Thrill rides. Here are a few examples of each.
Spinny Rides: Primeval Whirl (Animal Kingdom); Mission: Space (Epcot); Mad Tea Party (Magic Kingdom).
Dark Rides: It's Tough to Be a Bug (Animal Kingdom); Snow White's Scary Adventures (Magic Kingdom); Maelstrom (Epcot).
Thrill Rides: Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock 'n' Roller Coaster (Hollywood Studios); Expedition Everest (Animal Kingdom); Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Magic Kingdom).
When you sort the rides this way, you and your children can target the types of attractions that might be a bit scary. You might decide to do some more research about the ride or you might decide to skip the attraction and wait until another time.
HEED THE WARNINGS
AllEars.Net has extensive write-ups for the attractions, including height requirements, and photos (http://allears.net/tp/rr.htm). I'd recommend that you pay close attention to height requirements. Disney has developed them for a reason. First and foremost, of course, would be safety. Let's take Primeval Whirl at Disney's Animal Kingdom as an example. Upon first glance, it seems like a fairly harmless ride that you'd see at a carnival. However, climb aboard and it's pretty clear why there is a 48" height requirement -- it whips you around pretty quickly and little ones might get a bit crunched by a large adult next to them.
Another reason that the height requirements are helpful is that they are Disney's way of asking parents to pause and consider whether this ride is right for your kid. For example, some 4-year-olds could meet the 40" requirement for Splash Mountain, however, parents may want to stop and carefully consider whether the "scare factor" involved in a 50' drop is something that their child can handle.
Parents put a great deal of thought and effort into making their family time at Walt Disney World a terrific experience. With some pre-planning and some conversations with your kids, you can work together to make the best decision for your family in terms of ride choices... so when you get there you'll have put everything in place to have a magical vacation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Scribner-MacLean is a college professor by day and a Disney fanatic in every other bit of free time. She first visited WDW when she was a teenager and now is a DVC owner who visits Walt Disney World two or three times per year. Michelle lives in New Hampshire with her husband and two boys and loves roller coasters, the fantastic food at Disney, and always cries when she sees IllumiNations. She is also a Disney podcast addict and adores WDW Today.
Other articles by Michelle Scribner-MacLean: http://allears.net/btp/michelle.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.