The following was produced in partnership with our friends at Walt Disney World Resort, who invite you to discover a world of magic and memories the whole family will share.
Every last brick that holds up Walt Disney World is built to inspire joy for children. From the picture-perfect Mickey Mouse hug to that mysterious wedding ring embedded in the walkway, the joy of Walt Disney World is found in the details, big and small. Here are 100 moments that tease a thousand others to be found in the Most Magical Place on Earth.
Finding hidden Mickeys. There are more than 1,000 representations of the famous mouse tucked away all over the park, in everything from rides to the rock formations. When your kids spot one, they’ll feel like they’re part of a secret club.
Trading pins with cast members. Certain cast members will wear lanyards with colorful pins of all shapes and sizes. Making a trade for a particularly cool or especially rare pin can make your kid’s entire day at the park.
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That look on their face when you tell them, “We’re going to Disney World.”
Walking hand-in-hand along the lighted pathways at EPCOT. This one’s for the parents and kids: After dark, the streets of EPCOT glow with a million little points of light that make the park truly seem alive. This is one reason to save your EPCOT visit for later in the day.
The smells of Main Street, U.S.A. When you first walk into the park, your nose is immediately met with the smell of baked cookies, hot popcorn, and vanilla. The smells alone will light up your kids’ faces with excitement as they stroll down Main Street.
When they catch their first live show, and Nemo is the star.
Getting to be “that guy” at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor. Ending up as the target of the monsters’ jokes for a half hour is something of a badge of honor for a lot of Disney patrons — and something your kids will talk about for the entire trip. This show is interactive with the audience. You can also text jokes that might be chosen for use during the show.
Buying Your First Pair of Mickey Ears. Wear them proudly and wear them together.
That furry hug from Chewbacca.
Checking out the Tree of Life. One of Animal Kingdom’s coolest features gets even cooler the closer you get. Try and spot all 325 sculptures that make up its trunk.
Experiencing a Tinker Bell flyover at the Castle. Sitting at the outer edge of the Plaza restaurant, facing Cinderella Castle, you will be lucky enough to see the famous fairy herself gliding overhead during the fireworks show.
When they get up in the morning and quietly, carefully dress themselves in their Elsa costume in anticipation of the day.
Being in Pandora when it comes to life at night. Walking through the Avatar exhibit after dark and seeing the various illuminated flora and fauna, you and your family will feel like you’ve stepped on to another world.
Mailing a coconut. At Disney’s Polynesian Resort, you can send a coconut through the post. Ask them to imagine the expression on grandma’s face when she gets her mail.
Searching for the wedding ring in the pavement. Take your kids on a treasure hunt outside the Haunted Mansion and search for the “cursed wedding ring” that is embedded in the concrete. Is it a haunted heirloom? A long-lost treasure? A forgotten trinket? We’ll let you and your family decide.
Watching your young Jedi learn from a master.
Enjoying a Dole Whip on a hot day. These pineapple-flavored soft-serve treats are the stuff that Disney-goers dream about long after they’ve left Florida.
Having story time — with Belle. “Enchanted Tales with Belle” is a perfect way to get a character meet-and-greet in while also enjoying a completely magical experience with your children. Selected guests actually get to perform the Beauty and the Beast Story with Belle.
Joining in the Princess Procession. During dinner at Akershus, a group of Disney Princesses appear and lead your little ones through the hall as music plays. They’ll feel as if they stepped into a Disney movie themselves.
When you first lay eyes on Cinderella Castle. This is the moment when you really feel like you’ve arrived at Disney World.
When you get a really enthusiastic Jungle Cruise guide. The jokes, the one-liners, the improv. A great guide (we’ve yet to meet anything less) can elevate the Jungle Cruise right to the top of your “must do” Disney list.
Getting to face off against Darth Vader. Getting chosen for Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple is awesome enough, but it really doesn’t sink in until the galaxy’s biggest baddie takes the stage.
When they pull the sword from the stone in Fantasyland.
Seeing Cinderella Castle lit up for the holidays. The castle always shines, but seeing it adorned in bright twinkling lights at the holiday season adds another layer to the magic.
Ending up in the midst of a pirate battle. Coming out of the cave on Pirates of the Caribbean, you and the family are suddenly in the midst of an all-out siege on a fortress on land. Watch out for splashing cannonballs!
Getting a lift from Dumbo.
Visiting the Stretching Room in the Haunted Mansion A room that gets taller the longer you’re in it? Yes, it’s a bit creepy (what did you expect in the Haunted Mansion?), it’s also a perfect example of the unexpected surprises around every corner of Disney World.
Trying to Spot DiVine at Animal Kingdom. A creature made entirely of foliage, DiVine blends very easily into the flora and fauna, but she’s there, and when your kids find her, the excitement is very real.
That look they get when they realize they’re flying side-by-side with Peter Pan.
Finding the horse with the golden ribbon on the Regal Carousel. Make a game out of finding the one particular pony with a gold ribbon on its tail — it’s probably the most sought after ride on the Regal Carousel.
Watching the flag retreat on Main Street. Every night at 5:00, the Flag on Main Street’s Town Square is lowered as the Pledge of Allegiance is recited and patriotic songs are performed by a marching band. It’s hard not to be stirred, especially when an unsuspecting vet is named “Veteran of the Day.”
Letting them capture the moment.
Riding a horse at Tri-Circle-D Ranch. You don’t have to hop on a coaster for a thrill at Disney World. Over at the Fort Wilderness Resort, you can actually live like a cowboy for a day and ride real horses.
Filling up the autograph book. Meeting Disney’s characters is thrilling enough, but having them give your kids an autograph creates a special keepsake to bring a little of the magic home with them.
Taking a trip on the Monorail. The loop around the park on this futuristic train is the perfect way to welcome you and your family to your Disney vacation.
The transformation from girl to princess at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
Taking in the “Clock Ceremony” at It’s a Small World. Every fifteen minutes, the clock inside the attraction goes off and the animatronic parade begins.
Having Mickey call your hotel room. All you have to do is ask for a wake-up call and a Disney Character (could be Mickey, Stitch, or someone else) will dial you at the appointed time.
Holding a princess’ hand.
Pulling the rope at the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. Outside the attraction, a rope is dangling nearby with a sign that says “Warning! Do Not Pull Rope.” Of course the word “not” is crossed out. No kid could (or should) resist the temptation to pull that rope.
Spraying guests on Kali River Rapids. On the bridge that overlooks the ride are a pair of spots where the kids can push a green button and soak the riders as they’re getting off. Hey, they’re wet already, right?
Spotting the Nautilus on Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid. Before Ariel moved in, this section of the park held an attraction built around 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Look carefully in the rock formations and you’ll see an imprint of Captain Nemo’s famous submarine.
Playing the gem-sorting game on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Your kids will love passing the time online with this fun digital diversion. Watch what happens when they try and grab the bars of soap.
Finding Willie the Giant in Sir Mickey’s Gift Shop. The main antagonist of Mickey and the Beanstalk is there somewhere, but we won’t say where. Scoping him out is half the fun. But when you find him, you’ll be amazed you missed him in the first place.
Taking in a sunset after an action-packed day.
Puzzling out the house numbers in Liberty Square. Here’s a fun game to play with the family: take a look at the two-digit house numbers. Now put the number “17″ or “18” in front of them and you have the year that house would have been built.
Hearing your voice echo in the China Pavilion. Want to amaze your little ones? Have them stand in the middle of this EPCOT temple and say something. They’ll experience a perfect echo-chamber, with their voices bouncing right back at them.
Looking for Cinderella’s crown. This one is a kid’s secret: If you stand at the fountain behind Cinderella Castle and are about four-feet high, you can see the crown on Cinderella’s head.
Reading the windows on Main Street. It’s fun to check out the windows because all of the names have hidden meanings — everyone from Disney family members to behind-the-scenes wizards have been honored here.
Earning a “Galactic Superhero” button on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. All you need to do is earn 999,999 points! It can be done, but it might take a few spins.
Spotting Lady & the Tramp’s footprints. Look on the sidewalk outside Tony’s Town Square and you’ll find the lovable pups’ paw prints in the cement, surrounded by a heart.
Interacting with the citizens of Hollywood. Actors roam the streets at Hollywood Studios and are ready and willing to put on a show for the whole family.
When they become a guest conductor on the Main Street Railroad and call out to everyone, “All Aboard!”
Finding a 1,000-year-old Viking sword. Did you know there’s a hidden Viking museum in EPCOT’s World Showcase? The Stave Church Gallery features a number of fascinating relics and stories of the Norse gods, including Thor himself.
Looking for Mr. Toad. When you visit The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, you’ll see a framed picture of Mr. Toad handing over a deed to Owl, a fun reference to the fact that the Pooh attraction used to be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.
Taking a lazy river ride. There are some rides that big kids can do, some that little kids will enjoy, but Castaway Creek at Typhoon Lagoon is one that the whole family can enjoy. And, after walking around the parks, it’s a great way to unwind together.
When they meet Doc McStuffins in real life.
Checking out the Kidcot spots at EPCOT. As you explore EPCOT, this is a great way to keep the little ones engaged. Kids can take Mickey’s bear, Duffy, around the world, collecting stickers at each stop.
The fact that everything is Mickey-Shaped. Mickey Muffins, Mickey Waffles, Mickey Pretzels, even Mickey Meatloaf — your kids will agree, everything tastes better when it’s Mickey-shaped.
Mickey’s face on your afternoon treats.
Riding a surrey on the Disney boardwalk at night. From street performers to old-time food to just enjoying the lights on the water, this is the way to end your day at Disney.
Watching a movie outdoors at night. Most of the Disney hotels show nightly movies, either by the pools or on the lawns. Keep that Disney magic going after dark by indulging in a nighttime flick together.
Taking a boat ride. There are boats all over the park that take you on cruises to the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, Disney Springs, and many other locations. Hop on and float on by.
Visiting Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. What kid doesn’t want it to be Christmas every day? At this little store, located in Liberty Square, it is just that.
When they stand and stare at a sight that is beyond their wildest imaginings.
Roasting marshmallows around a campfire. There’s Chip ’n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-A-Long at Fort Wilderness. Telling stories, roasting marshmallows, what more do you need?
Getting their first haircut at the Harmony Barber Shop. This one’s for the littlest ones: Kids who brave a haircut at Harmony Barber Shop receive one-of-a-kind set of Mickey ears. Just the incentive parents need.
When your kids realize that playing in the Disney Springs fountains is actually encouraged.
Finding “Club Cool” at EPCOT. Want to try different flavors of soda from all over the world — free of charge? Check out this hidden spot near Innovation West and get refreshed.
Spotting the bluebird on Tom Sawyer’s island. This is another hidden easter egg. Look in the cogs that control the water wheel at Harper’s Mill and you’ll see the little bird in her nest.
Counting lanterns on the Liberty Square Tree. A math and history lesson for the little ones, these lanterns represent the thirteen original colonies of the United States.
When they fall asleep in your arms at the end of the day.
Seeing Gertie the Dinosaur at Hollywood Studios. More than just an ice cream stand, this giant brontosaurus is a tribute to the star of the first animated film ever.
Dining with the characters. Meeting up with them at the parks is a great experience, for sure. But being able to sit down and eat while they hop from table to table is a whole other experience, allowing for a little more interaction than you might get when you’re out and about.
Becoming a part of the Pirate’s League. More than just getting a pirate-themed makeover, the Pirate’s League is an immersive experience that any budding swashbuckler is going to want to sign up for.
Locating the secret coat of arms at Cinderella Castle. If you get close to the castle, you’ll notice a coat of arms over both the front and back entrances. This is the actual Disney family coat of arms.
When they recap the magic of the day in their journal.
Having high tea with a Princess. If you’re seeking out a really royal experience, head to the Grand Floridian and visit the Perfectly Princess Tea.
Joining in on Character Palooza. A sort of secret meet and greet that takes place in Hollywood Studios, Character Palooza is a great chance to hang out with Disney characters you won’t find anywhere else. But be warned, it isn’t easy to find: The time and place are not advertised and it occurs only on days when Fantasmic! is showing.
Experiencing Happily Ever After. After your kids catch this display, Fourth of July at the town park might have a hard time measuring up.
Making a wish in Cinderella’s well. Hidden away right in the shadow of her castle, is a wishing well where little princes and princesses can make their own wishes.
Experiencing their first jumbo turkey leg. These massive meaty treats are a must for hungry visitors. Reportedly more than 1 million legs are devoured every year.
Finding all the Star Wars Easter eggs. The queueing area for the Star Wars-themed attraction is filled with all kinds of in-jokes and nods to the famous trilogy. Take note of the luggage inspection, as the droid sifting through the baggage finds a number of non-Star Wars items, including golden Mickey ears.
Getting a great big hug from Donald Duck.
Playing the Xylobone at Animal Kingdom. Visit the Dino-Land boneyard and seek out this hidden musical instrument, stashed away behind a Jeep.
Waiting on line at “It’s Tough to be a Bug.” Just try to name all the different species of animals you see tangled up in the roots of the Tree of Life as you wait.
Listening to the sounds of Sonny Eclipse. The resident lounge singer at Cosmic Ray’s in Tomorrowland, Sonny and his astro-organ have been Tomorrowland mainstays for more than twenty years — a lounge act kids can get into.
Petting the Tarantula. While waiting on line for the Jungle Cruise, reach out and touch this furry little guy — we dare you.
Spotting the little-seen orange bird.
Watching Mickey’s Halloween parade roll by. A ticketed event that runs throughout the fall, this is one you’re going to want to spring for. Even the most apprehensive kids will get caught up in the magic of the spooky-but-silly goings on.
Looking for Pascal in Fantasyland. Mickey isn’t the only one hiding through Disney World. The cute little lizard from Tangled and a few of his friends are tucked away in the Tangled pavilion in Fantasyland.
Enjoying a PB&J Shake at the Prime Time Café. It’s as good as it sounds.
Reading the gravestones at the Haunted Mansion. Yes, the line can sometimes be long, but checking out all of the names on the tombstones will definitely pass the time.
The Fantasmic finale. This 30-minute fireworks display at Hollywood Studios is thrilling enough, but the climax, with Sorcerer Mickey standing atop a mountain as a storm of pyro explodes around him is awe-inspiring.
Grabbing the perfect family photo. There are opportunities everywhere and Cast Members galore who are more than willing to snap a shot. Most agree that the best spot is in front of Cinderella Castle, but if you’re really enterprising, you’ll want to hit the four major landmarks from each park: the castle, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The kiss goodnight. Stick around for 30 minutes after the park closes for a lovely farewell. As “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays and Cinderella Castle twinkles, a recorded message thanks you for being a part of the magic.