When we visit Walt Disney World we are always in search of something extra special to upgrade our Disney vacation. Whether it’s an additional event ticket that makes the vacation a little more special, or a new Free experience we just discovered. Disney offers so many fun and special experiences like tours and events to help make vacations more magical and meaningful. Since we always visit as a family, we’re always on the lookout for the kid-friendly, multi-generational stuff that everyone will like. Here’s our quick list of family-friendly special experiences we’ve done and LOVED so far.
Special Experiences at Walt Disney World for Families
Here are some of our favorite extra special experiences, that we believe are totally worth it! So, if you’re looking to upgrade your next Disney vacation with something special or new here’s our list of top-notch family-friendly options so far.
Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom Park
Disney’s Wild Africa Trek in Animal Kingdom was one of our first Disney Family Experiences. A birthday gift from my sister this Disney Tour was also kinda pricey! Don’t let the price however deter you, you really won’t experience anything like this anywhere else for cheaper. And it all goes to a good cause. You’ll even get to choose which wildlife species the proceeds from your ticket goes to at the end of this 3-hour experience.
So if you didn’t already know the Walt Disney Company is a huge advocate for environmental responsibility, sustainability, and wildlife protection. You can learn all about their conservation efforts on their environment page.
You and the family will be getting strapped into vests with cords to keep you safe and you’ll embark on visiting the hippos, learning about the animals, walking across some scary trek-like rope bridges, and then settling for lunch at the pavilion overlooking the savanna.
The food is wonderful and when you think about the cost of lunch being included with this special experience ticket you are can justify that price tag a little easier. Here’s some of what you’ll get to try.
- Chicken curry salad
- Sun-dried tomato hummus and mini pita
- Marinated tandoori shrimp
- Smoked salmon roulade with dill
- Air-dried beef and prosciutto
- Fresh fruit marinated in mint and ginger
- POG juice ( the most amazing stuff ever)
Read our full review of Wild Africa Trek.
A Disney Dessert Party
We previously tried out the Happily Ever After Dessert Party at Magic Kingdom, for the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show because we absolutely needed to get pictures! Dessert Parties are great Disney Family Experiences. As a perk for being an attendee at the Happily Ever After Dessert party guests get a roped-off piece of the hub grass from which to view the show. So important if you’re not up to saving a spot 2 hours ahead of time in front of the castle. This event comes complete with sparkling cider, cheese, and crackers (which you could totally justify as dinner) and a slew of pastries, cupcakes, cookies, and ice cream to top off your evening dessert fare.
We loved this as an extra special upgrade for families because when do you really let the kids have dessert? Or let yourself have dessert for that matter? It’s not a staple in any of our family households so this really put the vacation over the top for us. We did think that the offerings were so vast that at one point you just get full, and your sweet tooth has been satisfied. So while we wouldn’t suggest that you stop eating real food for the day, this is an “all you care to enjoy” event.
With the success of this dessert party, they’ve been popping up for other events in all of the parks. You could check out the Star Wars Galactic Nights dessert party over at Hollywood Studios, or the Frozen Ever After dessert party at Epcot.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
The Mickey’s Not So Very Scary Halloween Party holds a special place in our hearts as our must-do event every single Halloween. Attend once and this may easily become a tradition for you and your family too.
As a hard-ticketed event, it runs between 70-100 dollars a ticket in addition to your park tickets! Yikes. But as Disney Family Experiences go, the parties are our absolute favorite. And yes definitely a significant investment, but we highly recommend you do it at least once. For the cost of the ticket, you can expect access to the park past the 6 pm closing for regular guests. So you can stay well into midnight usually with access to the rides, trick or treat trail, and party-only viewings of the Not So Spooky Spectacular and the Boo to You Parade. You can also dress up in costumes (though there are rules around this) and get access to special party merchandise and treats only served during the party. We also love that you can get extra special treats and a Halloween-themed Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom playing card.
For us, this event helps kick off the Fall season (our favorite season). With new tastes, new treats, and new Halloween decoration ideas and songs stuck in our heads, we always return home thrilled to have Halloween again post-vacation.
Read our full review of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
Epcot International Festival of the Arts
If you think that dragging kids outta school in January and February isn’t the best idea ever. Think again. With cooler weather in Florida and an eclectic array of foods and art, the Festival of the Arts can hit every mark when it comes to your child’s art, culinary, cultural, musical and performance education. From physical feats to artistic challenges and classes, you and the kids will come away inspired.
Read up on the Festival of the Arts at Walt Disney World.
Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian
The Princess Tea or basic afternoon tea at the Garden View Tea Room may not feel like a special experience but it really is. What we love about this most is that it actually can double as a meal.
Between the little sandwiches, the pot of tea, the pastries, and other nibbles you do fill up pretty fast! It’s also the perfect special experience to help get you out of the parks and somewhere cool and different. The cost is equal to that of a meal so budget it in if you choose to add this to your list of things to do. You do need a reservation for this one.
Flower and Garden Festival
By far our favorite Epcot festival for families, Flower and Garden combines fresh foods and a love of gardening to the mix with a ton of family-friendly fun, like the Spike the Bee Scavenger Hunt game and foodie classes that the whole family will love. This event doesn’t cost anything extra. If you have your ticket to Epcot you can hop on over to the World Showcase to take part in the whole event at your leisure. Read up on the Flower and Garden Festival.
Behind the Seeds: Living with the Land Tour
A great way to make your Disney Family Trip something special is by adding a tour. And the Behind the Seeds: Living with the Land Tour is both budget-friendly and interesting. Even for kids! You get to go behind the scenes on the Living with the Land ride and learn about how Disney uses the foods they grow in restaurants and festival kitchens. What’s more, is that you can get ideas for what to grow at your own home! We think this is a great experience for families.
Disney Family Experiences in the Parks | Playing Games
We love the games in the parks. And for the most part, these are free. There really is nothing like setting aside time from the rides, food, snacks, lines, and festivals to take a stab at the fun Disney games in the parks. You can read up on all the fun and free Disney games in our post here. We most like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom for its required strategy and skill, and Wilderness Explorers in Animal Kingdom since it’s a great scavenger hunt journey learning all about animals. Agent P’s Adventure in World Showcase, Epcot since you get to interact with the land, and the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Game in Hollywood Studios. Check out all our favorite and free Disney Games!
The Candlelight Processional
The epitome of Disney Family Experiences comes in the form of The Candlelight Processional at Epcot’s International Festival of Holidays. This emotional event happens most evenings throughout the festivals and features a celebrity speaker. While some will line up hours ahead for certain celebrity speakers, it really is the whole feeling of the concert and storytelling that makes this the perfect family event. To be honest, we didn’t really think this was a must-do until we wandered in late one evening for the last performance in the cold and watched. We were blown away by the grandeur, the showmanship, and the storytelling. This is a reading of The Nativity Story with choir and orchestra accompaniment. And truthfully, you wouldn’t get something like this for less than a park ticket price anyway.
Disney Family Experiences at Disney Springs
If Disney Springs feels like it’s something you can miss on your vacation to Walt Disney World you should reconsider. We most enjoy a day at Disney Springs when it involves catching the ferry boat from Port Orleans, (after a breakfast of beignets of course). Perfect during the holidays when you can stroll through the Free Christmas Tree Trail. We love checking out the shops and trying a new restaurants. And really, for us, it’s just a lot of window shopping as it’s more about the experience of looking than buying. Add in free live music and special events throughout the year and it will be worth your visit.
Our Disney Family Experiences Bucket List
Of course, there are quite a few things we still have not gotten a chance to do! These are the next events we hope to add in to future trips. Since we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World annually since 2014 and have since become annual passholders we’re always trying to take in every last bit of magic that Disney has to offer. Here’s the wish-list lineup of things we’d like to do next!
- Behind the Seeds: Living with the Land Tour
- Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom Tour
- Ferrytale Fireworks Dessert Cruise
- Tiana’s Riverboat Ice Cream Social
- Royal Tea Garden Tour
Let us know if you have any great experiences to share so we can add them to our list!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.