Edited subsequent to our most recent trip with our 3.5 year old: our son is getting braver! He actually loved a lot of height restricted rides this trip. Refer to the post below for more details on which ones were great intro big kid rides.
As someone who previously travelled to Disney World every year without a care in the world or the slightest restriction on what rides I could ride, I now find myself with numerous restrictions to consider as mother of a toddler in Disney World who always seems to think I might need to be aware of the pregnancy restrictions on our next trip (spoiler alert: I never do, womp womp). Anywho, the organization of the height restrictions is kind of bizarre on the Disney website, so I thought I’d throw them all together on here. This can also help us look at which parks have the most to offer for families with kids that fall below the height restrictions. So here we go, by park:
|Ride||Height Required to Ride|
|Tomorrowland Speedway||32 inches (48” to drive)|
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train||38 inches|
|Big Thunder Mountain RR||40 inches|
|Splash Mountain||40 inches|
|Space Mountain||44 inches|
While Magic Kingdom has 6 rides with height requirements, it also has the most rides WITHOUT height requirements, by an absolute landslide. The Disney website officially lists 28 attractions in Magic Kingdom that are available to guests of “any height,” although this does include things like the “Casey Jr. Splash N Soak Station” which is just a splash playground area, and hardly a real attraction, but regardless, there are upwards of 25 attractions for little ones, which can fill days upon days with endless fun. There is never a risk of not being able to “fill a day” at Magic Kingdom, regardless of who you bring. Right now my 3 year old is partial to Its a Small World, Dumbo, the Speedway (as shown above, the height requirement is very low for a passenger), Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, the Jungle Cruise, the Peoplemover, and the Carousel. He is neutral towards Ariel’s Under the Sea adventure, the Carousel of Progress, and Winnie the Pooh.
Rides that have no height requirement but our toddler is NOT a fan of, from a frightening/too dark perspective are: Peter Pan (weird right….there is some thunder in this and my son is not a fan) and Pirates of the Caribbean. We have not tried Haunted Mansion yet, and I don’t think we will in the near future. I’ve never been on the Astro Orbiter, but I wonder how he would do with it being up so high….he does love rocket ships….maybe worth considering on our next trip.
A major loss right now is the closure of the Railroad while they are constructing Tron. They closed the Railroad back at the end of 2018 for a “2 year closure,” but there has been no announcement of a reopening date, and I’m sure Covid has extended the closure. When it reopens, definitely give it a ride. It is a must for choochoo lovers.
|Ride||Height Required to Ride|
|Mission Space||40 inches|
|Test Track||40 inches|
Only 3 rides with height restrictions in Epcot! That must mean it is a great park to take little kids to right?! Not necessarily. The Disney website officially lists 13 attractions in Epcot that are available to people of “any height,” but that pretty generously includes all of the shows throughout the World Showcase (which very few small kids would be eager to sit through). When you take those out, it leaves you with these options for little kids: Frozen Ever After, the Three Caballeros (a boat ride in Mexico), Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush (closed during Covid), Imagination, and Spaceship Earth. That’s really not too shabby. Thats a good handful of rides, plus maybe you could throw in one of the shows in the World Showcase, plus if you go during Covid you can catch one of the Character Cavalcades through the World Showcase, then grab a quick service lunch, or a nice table service meal in one of the countries, and that’s a decent chunk of a day. It is rarely a full day in Epcot with a little kid though. This is why we always utilize park hopper passes. We can enjoy Epcot for a good chunk of time, but we don’t want to force it into being a full day.
FYI: My son was tall enough to meet the height requirements for the 3 rides shortly after he turned 3, but he was not at all ready for these rides. First of all, I’m 68 inches tall and I’ll never be ready for Mission Space (motion sickness, lol). I thought Soarin would be a safe idea because I have never considered it remotely scary or thrilling in the slightest. It is just a peaceful, beautiful plane ride, right? Boy oh boy, you don’t notice those startling transitions between scenes until you have a petrified toddler sitting next to you clinging on for dear life. Every single transition (ie the whale jumping) absolutely terrified him. He was scared BEYOND crying. He couldn’t even cry until we had safely landed. The fireworks at the end were the absolute clincher. If you have a child who is scared of fireworks, DO NOT DO SOARIN. It was his worst nightmare. Think about it, you actually fly up INTO the fireworks. Yikes. Major mom fail. He wouldn’t trust my ride recommendations for days after that. So it is all about knowing your kids, on top of meeting the height requirements.
|Ride||Height Required to Ride|
|Alien Swirling Saucers||32 inches|
|Millenium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run||38 inches|
|Slinky Dog Dash||38 inches|
|Rise of the Resistance||40 inches|
|Tower of Terror||40 inches|
|Star Tours||40 inches|
|Rockin Roller Coaster||48 inches|
Hollywood Studios is quite a conundrum at this point. Sometimes it seems like it has next to nothing to offer for little kids, but at other times Disney really tries its best to make sure there are plenty of non-ride offerings for little ones since it is such an awesome park for adults. Before Covid, the best things for kids in HS were the character meet and greets and the shows. You could meet Olaf, Mickey and Minnie, Star Wars characters, Pluto, Disney Jr characters, Mikey and Sulley, and all the Toy Story guys. During Covid, unfortunately there are no character meet and greets, but HS does offer what I consider the best Character Cavalcades for toddlers. They have the standard Mickey and friends cavalcade, along with a Disney Jr cavalcade, but the absolute best is the Pixar cavalcade. We got to see the Incredibles, Sulley, Woody, Jessie, Buzz, and the Army Men, as well as Edna Mode. It was basically everyone my son worships. I have a post back in August that talks about the timing of the cavalcade and the best spots to hang out to see it (since we missed it entirely the first day and were pretty pissed).
Back to the attractions though: HS is primarily an awesome park for adults, that is really all there is to it. People go to HS to ride Rise of the Resistance. Technically my son is tall enough for Rise of the Resistance, but there is no way I will take him on it without trying it once alone first, so I am pretty stuck. I have heard that some 3 year olds have ridden it and done fine, but other parents say that even just the theming spooks their kids. We haven’t tried Smugglers Run with my son yet, since I get motion sickness and it hasn’t been worth the trouble at this point, but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has toddlers who have enjoyed it. I have seen my fair share of 3-4 year olds ride Slinky Dog, but my son is quite scared of how fast it goes. We will try to get him on it on an upcoming trip, because I think if he overcomes his initial fear, he will love it, but for now, we aren’t forcing it.
So basically our day in HS with a 3 year old consists of: Toy Story Mania repeatedly (short lines during Covid help with this), the Muppets, watching Character Cavalcades, Lightning McQueens Racing Academy (actually a super cute little show that got my son into the Cars movies), and Mickey and Minnie Runaway Railway. Disclaimer, MMRR actually did scare my son. He is pretty scared of everything, as you can gather at this point. It is pretty loud and again, there are fireworks at the end. He has said that he will ride it on our next trip (unlike Soarin), but in the moment he was pretty scared. He loves trains, so I think he really WANTS to like it, but it startled him a bit. You could also throw in the Alien Swirling Saucers if you are good with spinning. Wait! How could I forget….the Frozen show is back!! So that is a must-do for us. When the rest of the shows return, Indiana Jones could potentially be fun (I say potentially, because I’m just thinking about how loud it gets), as well as Beauty and the Beast, depending on your child’s tastes. Overall, it is pretty similar to Epcot with regards to being a fun chunk of time, but maybe not a full day with a little one. If you don’t have a park hopper, it can be fun to go to the park, take a break back at the hotel, and then head back to the park for the evening.
Edit: We tried Alien Swirling Saucers last trip, despite my hesitation to try anything that spins due to my motion sickness, and it was great! My son loves it! We rode it at least 5 times in two days. It did not give me any motion sickness at all. I was mistakenly thinking that it spins like the teacups, which is not the case at all. It actually goes in figure 8 type shapes. No dizziness whatsoever.
|Ride||Height Required to Ride|
|Kali River Rapids||38 inches|
|Flight of Passage||44 inches|
|Expedition Everest||44 inches|
For some reason, there is a lot of anti-Animal Kingdom sentiment amongst moms planning trips on social media. Everyone always writes off Animal Kingdom as having the least to offer for little ones. I feel very differently. Animal Kingdom is the park that we visit second most frequently, after Magic Kingdom, with our small son, as long as we have a park hopper. We don’t often spend more than a few hours in the park at a time, but we do return many times on each trip. Maybe it is because we don’t really visit zoos too frequently at home, but there is so much for us to see and do that blows our son’s mind in AK.
Available to little ones: Kilimanjaro Safari (THE ride of the park, fun and mind blowing for all ages), the Train to Conservation Station (the only train in WDW with the MK railroad closed – great for train lovers), Affection Section (petting zoo after the train ride), TriceraTop Spin (“dinosaur dumbo” as my son calls it), Navi River (boat ride in Pandora), Its Tough to be a Bug (traumatizing 3D show about bugs that I’m too scared to revisit after seeing it as a child), and then all of the walking trails/animal viewing areas! It is like a zoo on steroids, minus the animal cruelty. We never see everything there is to see in one visit because there is just way too much, and it is always somehow way hotter in Animal Kingdom, and exhausting. I really want to get my son on Kali River Rapids next time. It should be manageable for a 3 year old (even one who is scared of everything). Dinosaur on the other hand….Absolutely terrifying to all ages, so no way will I subject my son to that, no matter how tall he gets (ha).
Water Parks: I won’t get into all of the details of the height requirements for the rides in Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon, but after reviewing them, Disney is really conservative in their water park height requirements. Many of the slides have requirements of 48 or 60 inches, which makes sense, given the nature of water rides and the fact that kids will be riding alone into pools. Typhoon Lagoon is my favorite park in WDW, but it isn’t exactly the first place I would rush to bring my toddler unfortunately, given that he can’t swim. He would enjoy splashing around in the shallow parts of the water, but that is why we will stay at Beach Club and enjoy the awesome pool there.
Just a reminder about rides with height requirements: Disney offers something called Rider Swap (also referred to as Rider Switch, Child Swap, etc). I have a separate post about my experiences with Rider Swap, that I will try to link to below. It somehow tends to cause heated debates among people when the element of using Fastpasses gets involved, but the jist is that one parent can wait in line, or use a Fastpass, and then the other parent is given a return window to come back and ride without waiting in the standby line. Each parent has to ride alone, but it is a good way for parents to get to experience attractions that their small children can’t go on.