What Kids Like Best at Walt Disney World

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When it comes to Walt Disney World, what kids like best is often different from what parents want, and so it is not surprising that children prefer vastly different attractions in Disney’s theme parks. 

Since 2015, Elon University has offered a psychology class called “The Science of Happiness at Disney,” taught by Alexis Franzese, PhD. Each student chooses a research topic that explores how Walt Disney World makes its guests happy. Because the class directly ties in to our own research, we try to meet each class and help with their data analysis. 

One student’s research question asked whether boys and girls equally enjoyed meeting the Disney princesses (short answer: yes).

What Kids Like Best at Walt Disney World

While looking at our reader-survey responses for this, however, we noticed something else: Kids prefer almost any character greeting, parade, or fireworks show over any ride in Walt Disney World. 

The chart below lists the 10 most popular attractions in the Magic Kingdom for preschool and grade-school kids. The only ride that appears in the top 10 for preschoolers is Dumbo. In fact, 18 of the top 20 attractions are parades, fireworks, or character greetings (the other ride in the top 20 is The Magic Carpets of Aladdin). 

What Kids Like Best at Walt Disney World
What Kids Like Best at Walt Disney World

Grade-school kids enjoy Disney’s thrill rides more, but 7 of their 10 favorite attractions are also parades, fireworks, and character greetings. (Incidentally, the same holds true for teens.)

What Kids Like best at Walt Disney World
What Kids Like Best at Walt Disney World

In addition to rides, shows, fireworks, and parades, there is one more attraction that is big with kids of all ages. Anything that includes splashing in water is like a magnet. From the splash pads in the parks and at Disney Springs, to the elaborate splash zones and swimming pools at the Walt Disney World resorts, kids are smitten. Exotically themed; beautifully landscaped; and equipped with slides, fountains, and smaller pools for toddlers, Disney resort swimming complexes are a quantum leap removed from the typical rectangular hotel pool. 

Our research shows that the activities kids remember most from their Walt Disney World vacation is the pool of the hotel. Pool time is magical for children and grownups alike, so keep swimming!

To plan your family’s trip, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kid2020.

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  1. Lea Queener February 21, 2021Reply

    I’m a psychology grad, so I LOVE this kind of research-based answer to “what is most important for me to take my kids to on our upcoming WDW trip?” If ONLY I had found this before we paid for our still-pandemic trip, when all of the meets, shows, parades, and fireworks are cancelled. Is there a an updated “pandemic” version of this somewhere?

    • Liliane Opsomer February 24, 2021Reply

      Dear Lea,
      Thank you so much for reaching out to us. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids has not been published with a COVID update. So far we brought out The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando 2021 and The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2021 (the book we call the “Big Book.” It has a lot of updates regarding COVID restrictions, and show what is – for now – closed, not operating and if it is operating at what capacity.

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