1. Watch the fireworks (on your own terms)
If you’ve already caught the Magic Kingdom® fireworks while standing near Cinderella Castle, consider booking a table near a window at the California Grill or Narcoossee’s restaurants. Both pipe in the show’s soundtrack. Or find an outdoor perch at any of the hotels that circle the theme park, such as the beach at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.
2. Score great restaurant reservations Restaurants
can fill up quickly, so if there’s a place where you know you’d like to eat, consider planning ahead. Try to get a reservation 180 days (about six months) in advance by calling 407-939-3463 at 7 a.m. EST or logging on to the online reservations website (disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining). No su¬ccess? Simply show up. No-shows and cancellations are a given, so guests with a little patience often step right in.
3. Get a taste of wonderland
If you visit Walt Disney World Resort a lot—say, if you’re a Passholder, Disney Vacation Club® Member or Florida Resident—signing up for Tables in Wonderland may be a smart move. After paying $150 to $175 for the year, you’ll receive 20 percent off meals and beverages (including alcohol) for up to 10 people at more than 100 restaurants. You’ll also get invitations to private events and complimentary valet parking for meals at hotels.
4. Go again and again—for less
Walt Disney World Resort tends to reduce one-day ticket prices when fewer people are in town. “Value” rates are the lowest and run from late August to after Labor Day. “Regular” pricing is more common, but aim for the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the parks are less busy. “Peak” days coincide with school breaks. If you’ll be in Orlando for a while, a multiday ticket offers a lower per-day ticket price year-round.
5. Hang out with Mickey Mouse and the gang
Meals inside the Park at which kids can meet some of their favorite Disney Characters book quickly, so consider making reservations somewhere outside the gates. Walt Disney World Resort gives its blessing to character meals in the dining rooms of hotels it doesn’t own but are on Walt Disney World Resort property, such as the Hilton in Walt Disney World Resort and Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort.
6. Learn how the magic happens
Walt Disney World Resort offers behind-the-scenes tours for small groups that last anywhere from one hour to all day. For example, you can learn about locomotives on “The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains” tour, or in “Behind the Seeds” found at the Land pavilion in Epcot®. To check out what’s on offer now, type tours into the search bar at disneyworld.disney.go.com.
7. Dress up and see the sites
Encounters with characters at theme parks may be a signature Walt Disney World Resort experience, but there are other entertainment options. Case in point: Kids can dress up for a formal tea at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort Perfectly Princess Tea Party or Afternoon Tea at the Garden View Tea Room. At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you can watch the daily sunset torch-lighting ceremony, and at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, the Fire Rock Geyser shoots water 120 feet into the air every half hour. Or head to Disney’s BoardWalk, where jugglers, comedians or sword swallowers perform in the evening.
8. Find family fun
You will find unique entertainment for the entire family every day at Disney Springs™. Enjoy complimentary live entertainment at Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant, Paradiso 37, House of Blues Front Porch and throughout all four neighborhoods.
9. Skip the lines
If you’re visiting at a peak time of year, be sure to load the My Disney Experience app on your smartphone to find out the wait times at each attraction. You can beat the lines on some rides, such as Expedition Everest®, by queuing up on the single-rider lines, which fill empty seats that pop up among larger parties. Timing is important too: Lines for toddler-centric rides, such as Dumbo the Flying Elephant®, tend to be shorter after dinner, when tykes fall asleep.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Endless Vacation® magazine.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.