All Ages

6 Best Disney World Tours for Families

See recent posts by Jackie Perrin

From the thrill of meeting up with a real Disney princess to the excitement of riding Splash Mountain, Soarin”, Toy Story Midway Mania and Expedition Everest for the first time, Disney World‘s four theme parks present tons of magical moments for the first-time visitor. For the frequent fan, as well as the occasional family traveler looking to make a Disney World visit truly memorable, a wide array of Disney World tours promise excitement and lasting impressions for the whole family.

Written by Jackie Perrin


Magical Makeovers

At the Magic Kingdom, let the Fairy Godmothers-in-Training program give your little prince or princess the royal treatment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, a magical makeover salon located in Cinderella's Castle.

Package options range from Coach, which includes hairstyling, make-up and a sash, to The Castle, which features the “works” along with photos and a full princess costume. Boys can be transformed into knights, with a package that includes a sword, a shield and hair gel. If you"re on a tight budget, make an appointment at Harmony Barbershop on Main Street, U.S.A., where, for less than $10, they can get a dapper “do” with colored hair gel and “pixie dust.”

Meanwhile, in Adventureland, kids and parents can join The Pirate"s League, a swashbuckling sea of fun featuring the chance to participate in a parade after a pirate-, empress- or mermaid-themed makeover.

Immersive Experiences

While it"s fun to splurge, if you"re looking for an immersive Disney World tour, you don"t necessarily have to spend more of your hard-earned Disney dollars. At Magic Kingdom, Captain Jack Sparrow"s Pirate Tutorial features hands-on training for the “scallywag” crew.

At Disney"s Hollywood Studios, arrive early to sign your junior knights up for Star Wars: Jedi Training Academy. Recommended for children ages 4 to 12, the action-packed class in lightsaber maneuvers and warrior tactics is very popular. Yet more hands-on fun is in store with interactive theme park scavenger hunt challenges, including Phineas and Ferb: Agent P"s World Showcase at Epcot and A Pirate"s Adventures - Treasures of the Seven Seas and Sorcerer"s of the Magic Kingdom at Magic Kingdom.

Ticketed Adventures and Behind-the-Scenes Tours

Popular attractions like Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom, Studio Backlot Tours at Disney"s Hollywood Studiosand Living with the Land at Epcot offer a peek behind-the-scenes to inquisitive fans. If you and the kids want to get an in-depth view of the inner workings of the “World,” a number of ticketed tours expand on the experience, featuring hands-on fun and exclusive opportunities to interact with characters and cast members, while soaking up new knowledge.

At Magic Kingdom Park, Disney"s Family Magic Tour is a terrific action-packed option. The two-hour group scavenger hunt, recommended for children ages 4 to 10, challenges kids and kids-at-heart with the task of solving clues in order to defeat an “evil” villain. Families will skip, hop and sleuth their way through the Magic Kingdom, enjoying front-row access to a select ride or attraction and photo-ops with some special Disney characters. Separate theme park admission is required. Participants under 17 must be accompanied by a paying adult.

Got older kids? For animal lovers, Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom and Epcot Seas Aqua Tour at Epcot offer fun and adventure for ages 8 and up. Another Epcot program, Epcot Dive Quest, is open to kids 10 and up who have SCUBA certifications. Teens can take part in even more animal and nature-oriented experiences, including Disney"s Dolphins in Depth (minimum age 13) at Epcot and Wild by Design (minimum age 14), and Backstage Safari (minimum age 16) at Animal Kingdom Park. Separate theme park admission is required for Animal Kingdom tours; Epcot tours do not require separate admission. For many experiences, an adult chaperone is required. Height and weight restrictions may also apply.

Dinner Parties with VIP Privileges

If you like the idea of reserved seating, along with full bellies for the kids (or at least the distraction of edible treats), Disney dishes up a full plate of appetizing choices. Options include Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party, a VIP sweets feast with exclusive Magic Kingdom fireworks views, Fantasmic! Dining Package, at Disney"s Hollywood Studios, which includes lunch or dinner and easy access to a sparkling nighttime show in the sky, and the Candlelight Dinner Package at Epcot, featuring a full-course meal or buffet followed by a guaranteed view of the extremely popular Candlelight Processional live musical holiday celebration. For all of these events, additional theme park admission is required.

Seasonal and limited-run options include "Star Wars" Jedi Mickey Character Dining at Disney"s Hollywood Studios, a themed meal with Mickey and the gang decked out as Star-Wars characters and the Frozen Summer Fun Premium Package, which features a frozen dessert party, limited-access "Frozen" parade and fireworks viewing, and a sing-a-long celebration.

For more dinner shows in and around Disney World, see 10 Best Themed Dinner Shows in Orlando.

Ticketed VIP Tours

If you want to treat the kids or grandkids to a truly memorable tour at Disney World, two VIP experiences offer front-of-the-line ride access, exclusive shuttle service and the assistance of an expert guide.

Designed with families in mind, Ultimate Day for Young Families - A VIP Tour Experience and The Ultimate Day of Thrills - A VIP Tour Experience both offer direct access to rides without the wait -- for a price. For $299 per person (additional Magic Your Way Park Hopper pass required), your VIP tour guide is your “FASTPASS” to the front-of the-line at rides at three of four Disney theme parks, as well as your ticket to lunch at a Disney World resort hotel.

In a single day (tours average six to seven hours), VIP tour guests get guaranteed access to popular rides, like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Expedition Everest and Toy Story Midway Mania, as well as transportation from park to park on a private shuttle.

Ticketed Special Events

For families with less time and cash reserves, some very special seasonal Disney World tours bring fun, bonding and bragging rights galore. At these hard-ticket events (theme park admission is not required), you"ll enjoy food, entertainment and character interaction, along with added elbowroom, thanks to limited admission policies.

For young children, Mickey"s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (held select nights in September and October) and Mickey"s Very Merry Christmas Party (takes place select nights in November and December), both at Magic Kingdom, present magical moments and plenty of photo-ops.

Additional limited-run and annual ticketed events like Harambe Nights, an after-hours summer anniversary party at Animal Kingdom and Night of Joy, a contemporary Christian music celebration at Magic Kingdom, feature food and drinks (Harambe Nights), no-wait attraction access (Night of Joy) and celebrity entertainers.

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