My happy place just happens to be Walt Disney World. I love the idea of being a kid at really any age. However, I can feel a little bit guilty over the amount of money it takes to visit the “Happiest Place on Earth.” This is when I begin to evaluate the true value in a vacation with Disney. Not only do you get endless shows, attractions, food, and experiences that you cannot get most anywhere else, you get top notch education! That’s right. Walt Disney World is educational. In fact, there are at least 30 educational experiences across the Walt Disney World properties.
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Since you will probably want to visit each of these experiences, I have added a guide to help you make better Fastpass+ choices. I have color-coded each ride or attraction as follows:
RED = Fastpass+ or advanced reservation highly recommended
BLUE = Fastpass+ or advanced reservation suggested
GREEN = Fastpass+ or advanced reservation not typically necessary
Please Note that these are simply suggestions. Your experiences may vary based upon time of year and crowd levels which are impossible to completely predict.
As you may know, this park has become largely focused on Star Wars and Toy Story. It might be easy to overlook this park when looking for educational experiences for your family. However, this park has some of the best learning experiences for movie lovers everywhere!
Walt Disney Presents
This is a history museum you won’t have to bribe your kids to visit. With over 100 years of history, Walt Disney Presents will have your family engaged in the history of the Walt Disney Company as well as Walt Disney himself. There is a self-guided tour filled with animations, photos, costumes, and other memorabilia. To finish the tour, your family can take in the 15 minute film called Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream narrated by Julie Andrews. This will truly be an amazing experience for any Disney fan.
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular
Are your kids into movies with explosions and lots of adventurous stunts? Maybe your kids are even interested in film making in general. Well, then you will not want to miss the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. With this 25 minute stunt show, you will get to see how filmmakers get those amazing shots. You will be immersed in the behind the scenes effects of stunts and movie magic. Maybe your family will even be inspired to make some movie magic at home.
Believe it or not, there is more to the Magic Kingdom than the three mountains (Thunder, Splash and Space), the princesses and everyone’s lovable mouse. The Magic Kingdom is actually a park full of learning experiences as well. Classic literature and history buffs will be delighted at the many offerings and attractions here.
The Liberty Square River Boat
Not many of us will ever get the chance to board a steam powered paddle wheeler such as those from the days of Mark Twain. But, at the Magic Kingdom, you can. Literally step back into the days of the riverboat and take the 1/2 mile journey along the Rivers of America. What better way to teach your family about the the riverboats of old than to actually get to board one.
Tom Sawyer Island
No childhood is complete without hearing the stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The adventures of these two boys have been delighting children for ages. If your family has been reading about the antics of Tom Sawyer, you will definitely want to visit Tom Sawyer Island. With caves, rope bridges and things to climb, Tom Sawyer Island will bring the stories of childhood to life.
Make sure to do some cave exploration while you are there. You might just find a certain thief’s hideout. You’ll want to be on the lookout for that all too famous Injun Joe.
Please note that due to the nature of this adventure, it is not handicap accessible. However, if you have active children that need some time to run out some energy, this is the perfect spot.
The Swiss Family Tree House
Another famous childhood classic is that of The Swiss Family Robinson. The Magic Kingdom has a life-size replica of the Robinson’s tree house. This is a must see for Robinson fans, as there is really no detail untouched. Please note that this attraction is not handicap accessible and requires guests to be able to walk and climb stairs.
The Hall of Presidents
The Hall of Presidents is a twenty-five minute retelling of America’s history. This attraction features very lifelike animotronic versions of each president. The show is both educational and entertaining. Guests will also be treated to some authentic artifacts from early American History while waiting for the show to begin. If your family has been studying American History, make sure you visit the Hall of Presidents.
Muppets Present Great Moments in History
Across from the Hall of Presidents you will find another fun and educational attraction – Muppets Present Great Moments in History. This show is done with the usual funny antics of the Muppets which is great to keep the kids entertained. Each show includes some famous stories of the American Revolution including The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere. Your family will be entertained by the Muppets while learning a little bit of American History. Since the show is not always the same, you will want to bring your family more than once.
The Carousel of Progress
This attraction is rumored to be a favorite of Walt Disney himself. It certainly seems to have stood the test of time as this was one of the original attractions and still delights guests today. If your family loves technology, you will not want to miss this fun show. The Carousel of Progress recounts the history of technological advances from the early 1900’s to the present day. What child doesn’t love to see technology from days past? You know, like the 1980’s even.
It’s a Small World
This original attraction will delight visitors of all ages. You will take a boat tour along an easy river to visit whimsical singing dolls from various countries. Though the song is the same throughout the ride, it is sung in the native language of each country. Each doll is dressed in a traditional costume from that particular country. This is truly a unique cultural experience.
If you are a music lover, this attraction will appeal to you. You will enter into a theater where you will be entertained by maestro Mickey and his crazy friends. During the show you will be immersed into the sounds and sights of the orchestra. As you can imagine from Mickey and his friends, the show is full of funny stunts and humorous antics. This is a fun way to introduce your family to the joys of the orchestra.
Animal Kingdom is really a zoo with a theme park included. Though there are plenty of rides for the trill seekers, the real attractions are the animal residents. From the moment you walk into this park, you are immersed in greenery and animal life. Animal and conservation lovers will really enjoy their time at Animal Kingdom, and are sure to learn something new with each visit.
Maharajah Jungle Trek
Big cats abound at the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Guests will feel as if they have wandered into an Asian jungle path complete with ruins, waterfalls and foot bridges. You will get to see numerous species of birds, water buffalo, a Komodo Dragon, Asian tigers and so much more. Although this is a walking tour, the paths are well kept and wheelchair accessible. Guests of all ages and abilities can enjoy this attraction.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
Journey into the Pangani Forest where your family will be met by exiting animals such as the Grevy’s zebra and the playful meerkat. You will also see plants native to Africa as well. Though you will feel like you have stepped off the grid, the pathways are wheelchair accessible and can be easily navigated by most guests. At the end of the walk, you will be treated to amazing sites of the western lowland gorilla.
UP! A Great Bird Adventure
Having just opened April 22, 2018, this is a brand new show at Animal Kingdom park. It features your favorite characters from the movie Up, as well as some pretty amazing birds. Rumor has it that you will even be able to see a marabou stork with its 10 foot wing span. Now that seems like a reason to see this show all by itself!
Rafiki’s Planet Watch
If you have kids that love to be hands-on with their learning, this is a must see attraction. The fun begins with the train ride into Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This is the only way in or out of this area which makes it feel a little more exotic and special. However, if you are watching your ride times or dining reservations, make sure to take this into consideration. Sometimes the train can take some time when busy.
Once into Rafiki’s Planet watch you will want to participate in all of the activities. There are so many to choose from, so make sure to allow enough time. This area even has a petting zoo and a trail where you will find cotton-top tamarin monkeys.
This is one of our family favorites, and I have to recommend that you visit this attraction at least twice during your visit. Your family will board a safari vehicle and be taken on an almost twenty minute ride through the 110 acre Harambe Wildlife Reserve.
Disney has now opened this attraction at night, so if you visit more than once, you are bound to see different animals each time. On our last trip the lions were sleeping during the day, and when we returned after dark we were able to see the entire lion family.
Because the animals are not caged in the usual sense, you will get a very up close and personal view of the animals. It felt to us as if we could reach right out and touch the giraffes as we rode by. Way better than the walk up zoos where you have to hope to see the animals in the exhibits. Here you are never quite sure what you will see, but you are guaranteed to see something fun.
The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is the center attraction at Animal Kingdom. Though it is not a real tree, its still a must see. I highly encourage you to take your family on the short walk up to the tree to see some very intricate and amazing animal carvings all along the tree’s trunk. Along the walk you will also get to see some interesting animals.
Living With the Land
Living With the Land is a slow boat ride through the science and botany labs at Walt Disney World Resort. Here you will learn and see some of the most groundbreaking techniques in modern agriculture. Some of these include hydroponics, aquaponics, and upside-down planting. This ride is one of the many options at Walt Disney World where guests can remain in their wheelchairs to ride.
Behind the Seeds Tour
For those of you that love gardening and agriculture, you may want to go even deeper than the Living With the Land ride allows. The Behind the Seeds Tour is an additional attraction located in the Land Pavillion at Epcot. To participate you will need to pay an additional fee beyond your ticket. However, this a wonderful learning experience and is definitely worth the extra money.
You will be taken on a 90 minute walking tour through the science labs at Epcot. Each group is provided a private guide and is limited to only about a dozen participants. This is hands on and interactive, so you may just get the chance to do some taste testing or even feed a few fish. Keep in mind that this is a 90 minute walk and there are very few spots to sit down. If you or someone in your party cannot walk for long periods of time, this may not be the tour for you. If you love plants, fish, and alternative methods of agriculture, this is a must see attraction.
Soarin’ Around the World
Hop aboard this flight simulator to experience a flight around the world! On Soarin’ Around the World you will visit many of the wonders of the World. You will see the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall, Big Ben and of course many of the Disney parks. This ride is complete with the sounds and smells of the places you get to visit. Soarin’ Around the World is a must do attraction, so you will want to ride this one more than once.
Innoventions is a fun interactive place to visit while you are at Epcot. It is great for all ages and abilities too! With Colortopia by Glidden, your family will get to experience fun with color. You can create colorful pictures and take them home with you using the Colortopia app.
SpectacuLAB by Murrata is a tech-savvy science show. It is complete with fun science experiments that demonstrate some of the forces of science that power today’s technologies. This show is about 30 minutes long, so plan accordingly when figuring out Fastpass+ times and such.
The Seas With Nemo and Friends
The Seas With Nemo and Friends is a must see for any ocean lovers out there. This is a 1.7 million gallon aquarium that is sure to please your entire family. Your family can begin this experience with a ride in a clam shell to visit Nemo, Marlin, Dory and their underwater friends. Then take a leisurely stroll through the aquariums. Since this is an indoor attraction, it is great for days when the weather is bad or you are trying to beat the heat.
Turtle Talk With Crush
Have you ever wanted to know just how old a sea turtle can get? You can ask Crush that very question to find out the answer. Your little ones will get the opportunity to ask Crush some totally awesome questions, dude. You may even be treated to an appearance by one of the Finding Nemo or Finding Dory friends as well! This attraction is geared to the younger guests, but all ages and abilities are welcome.
If you love science museums where you get to touch, play and interact with all of the exhibits, then this is a must see for you. Spaceship Earth begins with a slow moving ride through communication history and ends with a technology driven science museum. At Spaceship Earth, you can build a human body, power an entire city or become a “Super Driver.” Make sure to plan for extra time here, so that you don’t have to miss any of the exciting hands-on activities that await.
Get ready to blast off on an interactive journey into space. Your family will get the opportunity to enter a space module and experience what it feels like to blast into space. Each module holds four visitors who will each have a job based upon where they sit. During the flight you will be asked to push several buttons and use the landing gear to safely land your spacecraft. For those that love astronauts and space exploration, this is definitely a must do.
Go zero to 60 plus in just a matter of seconds on this speedy attraction. The wait for this ride isn’t a wait at all. In fact, it is a chance to design your own car! You can choose everything from the body style, to the type of fuel, to the energy efficiency of your creation. Then enter the specs of your car into the programming via your Magicband prior to entering the ride. As you finish the ride, you can see how your car fared against the others in your party. Ride more than once so you can create the perfect car.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
When you take a journey with Figment, you will be immersed in delights for all five senses. With a fun house feel, this ride will give you experiences that will challenge the senses. When you have finished, you will be able to visit the interactive play area for more sensory fun.
The World Showcase
If you have ever had the desire to visit other countries, this is the place for you. With one ticket to Epcot, you can “visit” eleven different countries including:
- Mexico *
- Norway *
- China *
- United States *
- France *
- United Kingdom
- Canada *
Walt Disney World thinks of every little touch to make your time in the World Showcase even better. The cast members working in each country’s pavilion are from that country. They can answer almost any question you have about their country, and you can try authentic cuisine made by people from the country. The countries that are starred above also have a ride, attraction or character meet-and-greet to add to the experience. Please note that while you do not typically need a Fastpass+ for most of the attractions in the World Showcase this is not the case with Frozen Ever After in Norway and to a lesser degree The American Adventure at the United States Pavilion.
Each country has a Kidcot Fun Stop that is an educational must see. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s not just fun for the kids. Although kids do get the opportunity to travel the World Showcase (from fun stop to fun stop) with Duffy the Bear, older kids and adults will also have fun at each stop. Younger guests can color Duffy the Bear and have him stamped and signed at each country’s fun stop.
Older kids and adults can talk with the Cast Member working the fun stop to learn a little more about that country. Older kids may even enjoy filling out a passport with a word or phrase written in each language they visit. Passports can be purchased in most of the gift shops at the World Showcase, or you can purchase them online ahead of time. Both the passport and the Duffy the Bear make great souvenirs as well.
Agent P World Show Case Adventure
A fun and educational way to travel around the World Showcase is to do so Agent P style. This is a free activity, but it does require the use of a smartphone. Simply go to agentpwsa.com to access the adventures. There are six different pavilions participating in this spy adventure including:
- United Kingdom
Each adventure takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Make sure to take this into consideration before you begin. The best part is you can complete one or all of the adventures, and each one will take you deeper into the sites of that particular country. Although this attraction is definitely a fun way to see the various countries, it also teaches problem solving, teamwork, and following directions.
Outside the Parks
The learning and adventures do not have to end with the parks. There are many opportunities at the resorts and even at Disney Springs. Since these attractions are outside the parks, they don’t even require a park ticket. This means that the educational fun can happen even after your family is done exploring the parks.
The Polynesian Resort – Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Be immersed in the spirit of the Hawaiian food and culture in this 2 hour dinner show. You will see traditional hula dancers and even a fire dancer during your time at the luau. No one should go home hungry as this is an amazing all-you-can-eat dinner complete with chicken, ribs, and a fun pineapple dessert. Upon arrival each person in your party will be given a traditional lei, and a photographer is there to take your photo. This photo is free with Disney’s Memory Maker or can be purchased separately.
The Animal Kingdom Lodge – Exotic Animals
Your family does not have to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge in order to enjoy the three savannas. Resort hopping is encouraged at Walt Disney World, which means that even if you are not staying at The Animal Kingdom Lodge, you can still enjoy the animals that reside there. This is nice for those that want a little more personal view of the animals, as these savannas are much smaller than those at the Animal Kingdom park. There are also fun activities that take place at Animal Kingdom Lodge that your family may be interested in as well.
The Wilderness Resort – Horse Back Riding
If your child simply loves all things having to do with horses, why not take a break from the hustle and bustle of the parks to learn horseback riding. You do not have to be a guest a the Wilderness resort to participate, but there is an additional fee. The Wilderness has a great woodsy theme, which makes this experience even better and more relaxing.
Disney Springs Hot Air Balloon Ride
For anyone interested in aeronautics or engineering, a ride in the Aerophile hot air balloon in Disney Springs is a must. Though it does not fly far, you will be able to rise above the ground (up to 400 feet) enough to see quite a bit of the Disney World property. When in the balloon, you can see sites up to 10 miles away! Please note that this attraction does have a fee and children under nine must ride with an adult.
If you are planning your next visit to Walt Disney World and are looking for ways to make this trip educational for your family, try these sites, rides and attractions. Walt Disney World has more than 30 learning opportunities, and you can use this guide to help you find them.