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Walt Disney Worldparks are geared towards families, some may suit kids with autism better than others. By reading this post and taking their child’s sensory challenges into account, parents can decide which park is best suited for their family needs when visiting Disney with autism as a consideration.
A question that I am consistently asked is “Which of the four main
Visiting Magic Kingdom with Autism
The Magic Kingdom is the best park as far as indoor and outdoor options for everyone. It is perfect for those who can’t or don’t like to walk much. The rides are close to one another. Furthermore, it is good for those who prefer mild to moderate rides as it has the widest selection.
For outdoors fans, the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island (there’s even a porch with rocking chairs) are exciting to explore.
For the indoor crowd, shows like Country Bear Jamboree and Mickey’s PhilharMagic are first-rate. They’re also great temporary shelter from midday Florida thundershowers.
Disney with Autism: Magic Kingdom Rides and What You Need to Know
The park boasts some mild rides like the Jungle Cruise, Dumbo the Flying Elephant and It’s A Small World that resemble more of a moving show than a ride. For guests seeking more twists and turns, the park offers the Barnstormer and Haunted Mansion. The only concerns parents might face on Magic Kingdom rides are noise and areas of complete darkness. Parents can solve both challenges with headphones and the light of an iPhone.
Roller coaster rides are better for thrill seekers. These rides include Splash Mountain (you get soaked), Big Thunder Mountain (noisy due to the wooden track), Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (curvy with drops), and Space Mountain (the indoor roller coaster).
Pro Tip: To ensure Florida travel is accessible to people of all abilities, VISIT FLORIDA has recently debuted three new videos in its “Limitless Florida” series highlighting how people of different abilities can – and do – enjoy Florida’s experiences fully. For example, Kennedy Space Center offers a guide for families with autism to prepare for a visit. St. Augustine has a Braille Trail that lets visually-impaired visitors explore tactile art while listening to free audio descriptions via an app. New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach offer free non-motorized beach wheelchair rentals. Get all of the state’s accessibility resources at the VISIT FLORIDA Accessible Travel Hub.
Magic Kingdom at Night
At night, the park boasts a light and fireworks show over Cinderella’s Castle. Noise sensitive kids can still enjoy the fireworks aboard the ferry leaving the park, on a special fireworks cruise or dessert cruise, or from Contemporary or Polynesian Village hotels.
Disney with Autism: Hollywood Studios for Thrill Seekers
Like its older counterpart, Hollywood Studios features a couple of milder rides and shows like Toy Story Midway Mania and Mickey and Minnie Vacation Fun Animated Shorts. But this Park prides itself on catering primarily to an older crowd with extreme rides like The Rock n Roller Coaster that goes from zero to sixty in a matter of seconds, blasting Aerosmith tunes all the while.
If your autistic child is a member of fandoms like Star Wars the addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge provides opportunities to celebrate that interest. Rides added in the last few years like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the world of Star Wars but do come with sudden surprises, darkness, and lots of movement.
Stunt-filled live performance shows like Indiana Jones and Lights Motor Action! can be a good sit down break. For guests scared of explosion and firework noises, For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration and Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage may be better choices.
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Thrill Rides at Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios features numerous thrill rides. Some shows have loud parts that you may not immediately realize will occur. For example the Muppet*Vision 3D show has a destruction series at the end where the entire ending series is fireworks and cannons with it appearing that the theater is being destroyed. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad is cute with catchy music throughout but the initial pre-show and the ride itself contain darkness and explosions.
We strongly suggest watching ride videos to preview any triggers or concerns for your autistic child so that you can make an informed decision.
EPCOT for the Souvenir Shoppers and Foodies
EPCOT with its international pavilions is a mecca for visitors who prefer shopping for souvenirs and sampling ethnic foods. In fact, it is the perfect place to introduce kids with autism to different cultures and cuisines.
But like all the other theme parks it has rides too! Rides like Soarin’ and Living with the Land are similar to the mild ones in the sister parks. In sharp contrast, Test Track and Mission Space can present challenges to guests with autism who are noise sensitive or hate the feeling of weightlessness.
Best of all, Harmonious, the park’s firework show, can be seen from almost anywhere in the back half of the park including restaurants. That makes the show ideal for guests with noise sensitivities who are still able to enjoy the show from the comfort of their seat.
New ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure takes place in a small “mouse-car”. There is a lot of movement, spinning, and good portions of it take place in the dark. The story line is very engaging and cute though so we recommend previewing the ride online to see if it is something your child would like.
SheBuysTravel Tip: EPCOT is currently under massive amounts of construction particularly in the front of the park. We recommend discussing how it will look different with children who may have visited in the past. The other option would be to enter via the International Gateway entrance where you won’t have to walk through all of the barricades and hear construction noise.
The Animal Kingdom for Animal Lovers and Scavenger Hunters
The pastoral setting of Animal Kingdom is a good fit for guests who prefer the outdoors and enjoy learning about different animals. However, kids with smell sensitivities may opt to skip it.
In fact, the low-key in-park scavenger hunt experience inspired by the movie Up and called the Wilderness Explorers is an excellent educational tool for kids with autism of all ages and levels of comprehension.
Other fun activities include A Celebration of the Festival of The Lion King, Disney KiteTails (an outdoor kite show), and an interactive bird show called Flights of Wonder. These shows are comparatively are less noisy than their counterparts in sister parks.
As far as rides go for guests with autism, the Animal Kingdom rides vary. DINOSAUR is quite loud and mostly in total darkness. Expedition Everest has major drops, backward movement, loud noises and darkness. Kali River Rapids is a wet ride so be aware for sensory challenges. Avatar Flight of Passage requires riders to ride individually on a cycle-like apparatus. It does secure you in so riders should be aware of that sensation prior to riding to avoid surprises. Na’vi River Journey is a tame boat ride. It is dark but with many beautiful luminescent items and music.
If your child loves art we highly recommend taking the Wildlife Express Train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch. The Animation Experience takes place here. Every day there are multiple “show” times where you can learn to draw a favorite character step by step.
Have you taken your child with autism to