Disney with Little Ones: Free Play in the Parks

11224201_10101751044280294_102147671448928494_oI have 4 and 5 year old little boys who, more often than not, have energy to spare. At home, we enjoy seeking out adventures that offer opportunities for them to run free and use their creative imaginations in open spaces. We have checked out every park and playground in a 30 mile radius, but I never thought about putting “playground” on any of our vacation to-do lists. When I think about trips to Walt Disney World, I picture my kids being somewhat confined much of the time that we spend in the parks. Waiting in lines, sitting at restaurants, and navigating their strollers through dense crowds are all visions that come to mind. 

Having spent a good amount of time in the parks as a childless adult, I never paid much attention to the play areas but my kids can smell a slide a mile away. Some of the highlights of our recent trip to Walt Disney World were certainly the times we spent in the open play areas. These are a must-do for active children with energy to burn. We discovered that as part of the Flower and Garden Festival, EPCOT had a temporary Monsters University themed play area late in the afternoon on our first full day in the parks. After making our way around the World Showcase, they were definitely ready to run and climb. My husband and I enjoyed being able to relax and watch them have fun playing with each other as well as other children.

From that point on, we planned to hit the play areas earlier in the day to beat that afternoon heat. Hollywood Studios has a larger than life Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground, which was a huge hit for my family. It was super hot the day we visited Hollywood Studios and we had the chance to cool off with a couple of the water features there. The boys loved the ferry over to Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom and crossing the suspension bridges as well as exploring the tunnels, trails, and fort. We spent well over an hour there before insisting we needed to go back in time for a Fastpass+ reservation. Animal Kingdom’s play area, The Boneyard, might be my personal favorite – lots of climbing and multiple levels of fun as well as a dinosaur bone excavation pit.

The play areas not only offer the kids a chance to run freely (with age appropriate supervision, of course) they also give the parents a chance to take a breather. I’d highly recommend building time in your schedule for the playgrounds when visiting WDW with little ones.

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Candice was raised in east Tennessee. While in college, her best friend dragged her to a Walt Disney World College Program recruiting session at the University of Tennessee and the rest is Disney history. In the Fall of 1999, Candice became a quick service food hostess for Sunset Ranch Market and Fantasmic at Disney-MGM Studios – or what is now known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While soaking up her time as a cast member, she met Ryan, a neighbor and a fellow college programmer who worked as a custodial host at Epcot. Four years later, Candice moved to the Midwest and married that boy from across the hall. They now live in Greenwood, Indiana with their two little boys. The Disney-loving foursome took their first family trip to The Happiest Place on Earth in 2013 and Candice is eagerly planning their return. Candice also works full-time at a community mental health center and enjoys taking photographs and blogging at Mommy in the Midwest.

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