Big Kid Rides !

Anyone who has read my prior trip reports knows that I describe my 3 year old as pretty timid/cautious/the opposite of a little wild man, but he did a full 180 this trip and totally surprised me !! I’m so proud of my brave little boy and I can’t get over it!

You’ll recall that we had quite the traumatic Soarin experience in August as his first “big kid ride” experience, which ended up turning him off of rides entirely for the duration of our little mini trip this summer. He literally was afraid to go on Nemo after Soarin. He started chanting “no more rides, no more rides” at me while we sat outside of The Land in Epcot 😆. He even disliked Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway after I finally persuaded him to give rides another shot in Hollywood Studios the next day. Honestly the only rides he liked in August were Toy Story Mania (aka the “Woody pew pew ride”), Small World, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (aka the “Buzz pew pew ride”), and the Speedway.

So going into this week, my expectations were pretty low with regards to whether we would be riding anything too exciting/new. I thought we’d be lucky to get him back on MMRR. Well… let me tell you… not only did he go back on MMRR (twice, and he loved it), but he did at least one ride that was new to him and had a height restriction in EACH park! My mind was blown. We created our own little Disney park challenge by doing a new-to-him, height restricted ride in each park! I felt like we did nearly every ride available to us ! Of course this is not true at all because we did not do the trio of mountains in MK, nor did we do Dinosaur or Everest in AK, Tower of Terror or Aerosmith in HS, or Mission Space in Epcot, but compared to our prior trips when he was 1 and 2 and we were just hanging out on the baby rides all day, this felt like a REAL Disney trip, with all the rides ! Don’t get me wrong, I loved the baby trips. You can see from my trip reports that I considered his trip at 15 months to be the best week of my life, but, boy oh boy, I forgot how fun it was to go on the bigger rides as a family !

For those who don’t want to read my long trip report-type-post below, to summarize, our timid 3 year old went on the following rides happily without issue: Test Track (Epcot), Kali River Rapids (Animal Kingdom), Slinky Dog Dash (Hollywood Studios), and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Magic Kingdom)!!!

It started out with him showing a little curiosity about the “race cars” in Epcot (Test Track) on our very first day. I told him that the cars go very, very fast and it was a very big kid ride, and he insisted that he wanted to try it. I think we benefited greatly from his not being able to see the ride beforehand in this case. In the case of Slinky Dog and Mine Train, he got pretty nervous beforehand because he could watch the rides from outside in the park and see how fast they are. With Test Track we just quickly went on before there could be any build up or nervousness.

This is where there is another huge catch. Back in February, we encountered a customer service issue with DVC Member Services on the phone where our call was dropped after a long hold time and yada yada, long story short, they gave each member of our party one “multiple experience pass” per day for our December trip to make up for the issue. We didn’t think much of it at the time, since it was just going to basically be a 4th fastpass per day instead of 3, but then covid happened. We weren’t even sure the passes would still work for our trip since there are no fastpasses currently, but interestingly enough, they are still honoring Multiple Experience Passes at the Fastpass entrances to rides. I don’t think they are too common, and they are mostly only issued in cases where rides break down while guests are in line, as far as I’m aware. The cast members in the parks don’t act as though they encounter too many of the passes these days, because when I walked up to Test Track to ask if we could use the pass there, the cast member said something along the lines of “don’t worry about it, you can just go on through.” This completely shocked me and I thought it was the best pixie dust ever (seriously I called my mom with the exciting news immediately because we never get pixie dust 🤣), until I realized as our trip progressed that this would be very common on rides where they didn’t have a device handy to scan our Multiple Experience Pass and it was easier for them to just let us walk through the fastpass line without scanning our bands. So these passes ended up being super valuable and awesome, and I can’t overstate how lucky we were to have them. We joked that we felt like mega VIPs all week even though we paid absolutely nothing extra and we were just dopes with one silly little fastpass per day but it turned into something much more useful.

Anyway, I digress. The point is…. the nervous little mini-me didn’t have time to get nervous standing on line for Test Track for an hour (the wait time when we rode), because we were able to use the Fastpass line and ride immediately. By the time he had a chance to realize we were on line for a big ride, we were already buckled in and there was no going back. I think I was much more nervous than he was though. I felt so terrible after our Soarin experience that I was sure I was setting us up for failure by giving another big kid ride a try…. but I was completely wrong (yet again). He was excited the whole time we were in the car. He was asking where the steering wheel was right off the bat. The dark didn’t even scare him. He did hold on very tight to my hand during the “brake test” (is it still a brake test ? I really much preferred the GM version of the ride). I was sure he’d lose it during the dark twists and turns followed by the noisy truck beeping, but he did fine. He even shouted “we are on a real race track!!!” when we first sped outside. So I walked away from that ride realizing that this week would hold a whole bunch of opportunities for new adventures and seeing what the kiddo was willing to try out (you can also read this as, seeing what rides we could talk him into riding).

Immediately after riding Test Track, I asked if he liked it and he said “Yes,” but when I asked if he wanted to ride it again he said “not right now.” So I think he was pretty taken aback by the speed. He did end up riding it again later in the week happily though. So it seems pretty 3-year-old-approved at this point.

Hashtag Test Track hair. For sure.

After that, on our Animal Kingdom day, I got a reluctant non-fiancé and a SUPER enthusiastic little man to ride Kali River Rapids at the end of a tiring half day in what is always the most exhausting park for some reason. We were just about to leave the park when I said, “ehhh let’s just do one more quick thing….” (big kid ride where we might get soaked, ok yay!… totally pushing it right before nap time with two potentially hangry guys). In December, the line for Kali River is similar to Splash Mountain: such a short wait for such an awesome ride. It was a nice warm day too! People are silly. Since Copper (if you haven’t read the bio, this isn’t his real name) is 41ish inches tall, he was well over the height requirement to ride, but short enough to require an extra lap bar, which I never previously noticed is provided on several of the seats in the rafts. All of the water features are turned on again after being off for a couple months after the parks reopened, so we definitely got adequately wet, but I swear you used to get significantly more soaked 10 years ago on that ride. Even the wettest people don’t get fully drenched anymore. 🤔. I sound like an old timer saying “back in my day, you needed a bathing suit!” Anyway…. Copper loved it. He was cracking up and saying “I’m soaked” for quite awhile afterwards. If you haven’t noticed, I love his little commentary because he is a very cute talker who was in speech therapy for a year and I just love all of his little sentences, so bear with the seemingly superfluous toddler quotes. It helped that we had extra pants for him in his stroller, even though he wasn’t completely soaked, just so he was a happy fully dry little boy afterwards. So Kali River Rapids gets the 3 year old seal of approval for sure. Two thumbs up from our little man. He would ride again in a heartbeat without hesitation.

Apparently nervous moms clench their fists in preparation to fight off any … water… that approaches? Note the previously invisible lap bar provided on several of the seats!

The next two big rides definitely required more convincing: Slinky Dog Dash and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (but no real arm twisting, shockingly). I can’t even believe I just named two of the most popular rides in all of WDW. These are the two rides you rush to get fastpasses for on Fastpass morning typically, and we got to ride them! With a 3 year old! Im deliriously happy about this, in case you couldn’t tell. We did ride Slinky Dog separately using rider swap last year, as one of our only non-baby rides of the week, but it’s so much more fun with the whole family. It’s ESPECIALLY magical (cliche) taking a kid on a new ride for the first time. I hope we never run out of new rides to take him on. The thrill of a new ride for a little kid just can’t be beat.

Slinky Dog came first and was one of those situations where we had hinted at it being a possibility on our first Hollywood Studios day, to try to warm him up to it. Then we decided to just rip off the band aid on our second HS day. He LOVES Toy Story, and Slinky Dog in particular, so we knew he wanted to love the ride, but he was just so scared of how tall and fast it seemed from watching it endlessly in the park. It is the type of ride where he has previously just considered it completely inconceivable that he would ever ride it. It’s like me watching astronauts go to space. Super cool, but not in the cards for me, thank you very much 😂. To make him feel better, I told him that Test Track was much faster (I don’t know how accurate this is). I also showed him as many little kids as possible standing in line, or riding it, to suggest that it is a fun kids’ ride. This seemed to convince him enough. I swear there must be something about Daddy’s presence that brings out his fun, brave side, because he was 1000 times more nervous and timid in August when it was just the two of us.

Look how teeny tiny he looks! I was so nervous !

Again, I was WAY more nervous than he was when we got on the ride. We used the Multiple Experience Pass again which was a life saver because he would have absolutely changed his mind if he had to wait the 75 minutes posted as the wait time (not sure of how accurate that was, because the other wait times in HS were grossly overstated in our experience… when TSM said 30 minutes at one point it actually barely took 5 minutes). I held on super tight to him, and kept checking that he was ok and telling him that it was almost over, but again, he was (apprehensively) loving it, much to my total surprise and confusion. He gave us high fives and fist bumps when we got off and he adorably rushed over to his stroller to “tell his Slinky Dog toy that he rode the real Slinky Dog.” This was the only big kid ride that he went out of his way to ask to ride again later in the week. He actually begged to ride Slinky Dog again on our last day at the expense of seeing Anna and Elsa, and he wasn’t nervous at all the second time. So this one is definitely worth doing with a three year old, even though it looks big and scary. It’s more scary to us moms than to them apparently. I think the theming is just so amazingly fun to them that they are sucked in by it. Copper could do Toy Story Land every day of our trip. When park hoppers are back, I think we probably will at least stop by every single day. Moral of the story: when fast passes are back, prioritize Slinky Dog if you have a little one. It’s so tough with HS because you have to pick between MMRR and Slinky Dog for fastpasses, but I think it’s important to have a fastpass for Slinky Dog if it’s your little one’s first time riding, so that they don’t get spooked and change their mind while waiting in a long line.

Last, but not least, we rode the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train on our last day in Magic Kingdom. I’ve been trying to push this ride for the past few visits, thinking that it was more of a possibility than Slinky Dog because it seems a lot more mild to me personally, and most importantly, because it is a TRAIN. My son lives for trains. I’ve tried to pass it off as just another train ride, but he has seen the drop and the speed, and heard the screams, and has therefore refused. Even after riding Slinky Dog he was still saying no to this one. He is a pretty reasonable little boy though and thankfully listens to logic pretty intently, so I was able to explain to him that the “Dwarf Train” is slower and shorter than Slinky Dog, and has fun singing inside ! He still was hesitating as we walked through the line (fastpass line again), but he was excited to see the train as we approached, and happy to step into it on his own. Again he asked me to hold on tight to him, but he had a great time. I pay close attention to him during the rides since I’m panicked that he is about to burst into tears, Soarin-style, but he surprised me on this one by shouting “CHOOCHOOOOO” when we zipped around a turn, so that reassured me that he was having a grand old time while I was stressing out needlessly.

I maintain that Mine Train is more mild than Slinky Dog. I lump them together because they have the same height requirement, which is the lowest of the roller coasters (see below), but Mine Train seems significantly shorter, while Slinky Dog has a lot more dips and fast accelerations in my opinion. Slinky Dog almost has a toned down, inversion-free, kid-themed Rockin Roller Coaster feel to it, as far as general ride feel if that makes sense.

Anyway, regardless of my comparison of the two, Copper will eagerly ride both of them again as soon as he gets the chance. He has declared Slinky Dog his new favorite ride though, and he hasn’t mentioned Mine Train since returning home, so it seems Slinky has left more of an impact. I’d speculate that he’s just more into faster thrill rides, but in reality, it’s definitely just because of the awesome theming of all of the Toy Story rides. He is way more into Slinky Dog as a character than the dwarfs.

Height Restrictions

So those were our big 4 new rides ! We also rode Astro Orbiter for the first time (first for all of us), but that doesn’t have a height requirement and is really just an elevated, speedier version of Dumbo.

Given the bravery of the week, you’d think Copper would have given Soarin another try right? I mean he rode roller coasters ! Nope. We brought it up and he strongly refused, so I didn’t even push it. He seemed so genuinely terrified, that I just reassured him that he didn’t have to ride anything he didn’t want to ride. I think that moment helped reassure him that all of the other rides really were his choice and he never had to feel nervous or pressured. I don’t want the kid to feel traumatized. I did try to explain to him that he was probably just scared the first time due to things surprising him, and he was probably remembering it as worse than it really was, but he needs a good long Soarin break at this point (F that damn whale!).

Any rides we missed with our little one that your’s love ?? I kept him off RotR because the theming would completely intimidate him before even getting on the ride vehicle. Should we try Smugglers Run? How about Big Thunder Mountain? Such an endless world of opportunities with our little 41” tall boy now !!

For more information about rider swap, for those who don’t have kiddos quite ready for the big rides:

Rider Swap Experiences

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