One of the questions I get asked often is which Disney theme park is best to experience first with kiddos in tow. After observing my son at Disney World from our various trips, my recommendation for the best Disney World park to visit first with kids is either Epcot or Animal Kingdom.
I find that Disney World is very stimulating for kids. What do I mean by that? Well, everywhere you turn there are street performers, meet and greets, attractions (rides and shows), crowds, etc. etc. All of that together will very likely be overwhelming for the youngest members of your family! Thus, I recommend Epcot or Animal Kingdom to start because both parks have areas where you can escape the hustle and bustle if your child becomes overwhelmed.
I consider Epcot to be the better of the two because there are a few, consistent locations throughout the park that offer a respite from the activity. These include:
- The Living Seas Pavilion: This pavilion is an aquarium with some nice exhibits. I have not seen this too crowded as people tend to breeze through after riding The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Stimulation here is at a minimum with just aquatic life within the tanks. Plus this location is indoors, so you get a break from the Floridian elements (see my previous post about sun and rain protection!). If your kids need to expend excess energy, there is room to run around, particularly on the second floor.
- Innoventions East: Innoventions used to have a lot more going on, but Disney has closed a lot down. As a result, the Innoventions exhibits tend to get very little foot traffic as guests prefer to visit World Showcase or other pavilions. This is indoors (so climate control!) and has a nice seating area. Stimulation is low here and there is room for the kids to stretch their legs, if needed.
- The China Pavilion in World Showcase: This is my greatest Disney secret of all time and I’ve decided to share it with you… The China pavilion is The Best Spot for kids to unwind. It is indoors (again, climate control!), low foot traffic, plenty of places to sit or run around, and the exhibits feature highlights from the Shanghai Disney Resort (interesting for adult Disney fans yet not stimulating for little ones). I can’t tell you how many times my son took his nap in his stroller at this location. Plus, when downtime is over, you can simply walk outside and finish exploring the best of Epcot- World Showcase! It just can’t be beat!
Like Epcot, Animal Kingdom has locations that can serve as places to unwind (Rafiki’s Planet Watch, Maharaja Jungle Trek, and Gorilla Fall Exploration Trail). However, there isn’t much that is indoors to allow you to also escape the elements. This makes it a bit more of a challenge, but still doable!
So why don’t I recommend Hollywood Studios or Magic Kingdom? Both parks tend to have a lot going on, making the streetmosphere extremely difficult to escape. I have yet to find consistently good locations in these parks to get away from the stimulation and relax. Thus, I recommend you start off with either Epcot or Animal Kingdom to allow your little ones time to acclimate to the activity level in Disney World. Once they are accustomed, explore Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. I promise you will all be grateful!
Overall my best piece of advice, no matter which park you are visiting, is to pay attention to your kids and follow their cues. If you see them starting to lose it, take that break. It is much easier to relax for a bit than deal with a meltdown. Plus if your kids need to escape, chances are you may need to as well 🙂