Last weekend, my oldest daughter and I went to see comedian Nate Bargatze.
I bring this up not just to tell you I’m a cool dad but because he has a bit about taking his very young daughter to Disney.
“People told us that was a mistake,” he said.
The perfect age, in my opinion, for a child to go to Disney is about five years old. In fact, we took Sofia twice while she was that age. The problem came with child No. 2 and child No. 3.
And so, instead of waiting until JP and Ainsley turned five, we planned Disney vacations with our toddlers in tow. How did the people we know react to the idea of us taking such small people to the Walt Disney World Resort? Let’s let Bargatze explain.
“They said, ‘You’re just wasting money, she’s not going to remember it.'”
That may be true, but I remember my tiny kid being amazed at Mickey and Minnie, enthralled at Small World and Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel.
Sure, they won’t carry those memories for the rest of their lives, but I will. It built a foundation of a family tradition of them going to the parks and having favorite things to do.
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What park is best for a 2-year-old at Disney?
It’s pretty clearly Magic Kingdom, right? Fantasyland specifically carries Magic Kingdom over the top with attractions they can enjoy, bright colors and sounds with almost no minimum height requirements.
Kids at that age are old enough to love Mickey and Minnie and Winnie the Pooh and the princesses, all of which you get at the Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT certainly isn’t dedicated to smaller children. While Animal Kingdom does have zoo-like aspects, I wouldn’t really have much of it pegged for little ones either.
You could make a case that with Toy Story land, a bit of Anna and Elsa and the Disney Jr. characters, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a solid option for a little one. But the Disney Jr. selections are a little slim, and I don’t think it’s enough – even with Woody and Buzz – to carry the day.
There are only a couple of rides in the park that don’t have height requirements, although one of them is the excellent Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Adventure.
I don’t think it’s controversial at all to say the Magic Kingdom is the best park in Walt Disney World for guests with a two-year-old.
Is Disney World good for a two-year-old?
Yeah, I think so. Obviously, you know your kid and you know your temperament. If you’re not the type of person who can handle being at Disney and the crowds and the frustration on your own, then maybe throwing a toddler into the mix isn’t the best idea.
But if you love Disney and you’re willing to do some extra planning, make a few more concessions for things like naps and snacks and the rider switch, then go for it.
When we took the little kids, there were afternoons I took them back to the hotel for a nap and then we spent the evening at the pool while my wife and daughter enjoyed the park on their own. We all made special memories.
Heck, one of my favorite Disney memories is riding the air-conditioned monorail while JP – who was three at the time – napped on my chest.
Just a 15-minute cycle of arriving at the Magic Kingdom over and over again until he woke up and we went back into the park for more fun. Will he remember it? Nah. But I do.
But can they ride any of the rides?
Sometimes. And we always had a fairly clear idea of what they could and couldn’t ride, so we didn’t have anyone turn us away right at the ride entrance.
And when you’re able to go multiple times over the years, it becomes something of a measuring stick. “Oh, you weren’t big enough to drive on the Tomorrowland Speedway last year, but look at you now! I bet you can do Space Mountain next year.”
There is also the added bonus that two-year-olds do not need tickets and do not count when staying at Disney properties. That meant that when we planned our trip around Ainsley’s third birthday, there was a huge savings benefit before she turned three.
After she turned three, not only did we need to pay for tickets, all of the Disney four-person budget-level hotel rooms were no longer available to us. It represented a significant increase in cost.
|Magic Kingdom rides||Height requirement|
|Tomorrowland Speedway||32 inches or taller|
|The Barnstormer||35 inches or taller|
|Seven Dwarfs Mine Train||38 inches or taller|
|Big Thunder Mountain Railroad||40 inches or taller|
|Tiana’s Bayou Adventure||44 inches or taller|
|Space Mountain||44 inches or taller|
|Tron Lightcycle Power Run||48 inches or taller|
What are the height requirements for rides at Magic Kingdom?
Let’s just break it down, starting with rides that have no height requirements.
1. Mad Tea Party (Fantasyland)
This ride is available for all heights. It’s a giant, spinny teacup ride. I don’t recommend heavy snacks before riding.
2. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (Fantasyland)
This ride is available for all heights. It is a slow-moving ride that takes you through scenes from “Winnie the Pooh”.
3. It’s a Small World (Fantasyland)
This ride is available for all heights. This Disney classic is a slow-moving boat ride that features scenes from around the globe.
4. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (Fantasyland)
This classic carousel attraction is also available for all heights.
5. Peter Pan’s Flight (Fantasyland)
This attraction simulates flying over iconic scenes from “Peter Pan”. This ride is available for all heights, although it has notoriously long wait times.
6. Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid (Fantasyland)
This ride takes guests through scenes from the classic “Little Mermaid” film while riding in a clamshell. It has no height requirements.
7. Dumbo The Flying Elephant (Fantasyland)
A classic ride that takes riders up and down through the air, this ride is available for all heights.
8. Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress (Tomorrowland)
This attraction – which is an animatronics show – is available for all heights. It takes guests on a journey through evolution and technology.
9. Astro Orbiter (Tomorrowland)
This ride is like a faster-moving Dumbo ride but themed around space. It is available for all heights.
10. Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover (Tomorrowland)
This ride features a ten-minute tour through Tomorrowland. It has no height restrictions.
11. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (Tomorrowland)
This interactive laser space battle is appropriate for riders of any height.
12. Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventureland)
Another slow-moving dark boat ride, this attraction is available for all heights.
13. Jungle Cruise (Adventureland)
This slow boat ride takes riders across the rivers of Asia, Africa an South America. It has no height restriction.
14. Haunted Mansion (Liberty Square)
This ride is available for all heights, although it might be a bit scary for the smallest riders.
15. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Adventureland)
Guests can take flight on a magic carpet and go up and down in this ride that has no height restrictions.
16. Tomorrowland Speedway (Tomorrowland)
Now we get into some height restrictions. Guests must be 32 inches or taller to ride. Riders can drive or ride along a track less than half a mile long with a top speed of about 7.5 mph.
17. The Barnstormer (AKA Goofy’s Barnstormer) (Fantasyland)
Guests must be 35 inches or taller to ride this Goofy-themed junior coaster.
18. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Fantasyland)
Guests must be 38 inches to ride this popular roller coaster. Be warned, it currently has some of the longest wait times in the park.
19. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Frontierland)
Guests who want to speed through this coaster-style gold mine must be 40 inches or taller to ride.
20. Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (Tomorrowland)
Guests must be 44 inches or taller for this boat ride that ends with a drop. Of course, it’s possible that the requirement could change if the ride vehicles are updated as part of the refurbishment of Splash Mountain to Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
But my money’s on the ride staying the same.
21. Space Mountain (Tomorrowland)
Guests must be 44 inches or taller to ride on this dark coaster.
22. Tron Lightcycle Power Run (Tomorrowland)
This attraction, which will open in April 2023, has a height requirement of 48 inches, the tallest height requirement in the Magic Kingdom.
So, to recap, of the 22 rides we counted, only seven had height requirements.
So do the other parks have many rides that are toddler friendly? Here is a brief rundown.
EPCOT height requirements
Of EPCOT’s 11 rides, four have height requirements. Here are the rides with height requirements in EPCOT:
- Soarin’: Must be at least 40 inches to ride this bad boy.
- Test Track: Must be 40 inches tall to ride.
- Mission: Space: Must be 40 inches tall to ride.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind: Must be 42 inches tall to ride.
That means popular rides like The Seas with Nemo & Friends, the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France do not have height requirements.
Overall though, honestly, I didn’t rate EPCOT as very toddler friendly.
However, when you factor in Elsa, Nemo and the aquarium and the pretty awesome Turtle Talk with Crush, EPCOT is probably more toddler friendly than I gave it credit for.
But for the love of Pete, get a stroller if you’re going to take a little one into that behemoth.
Hollywood Studios height requirements
Of all the Hollywood Studios rides, only two don’t have height minimums. There is a much larger focus on thrill rides at Hollywood Studios. These are:
- Alien Swirling Saucers: Must be at least 32 inches to ride.
- Slinky Dog Dash: Must be at least 38 inches to ride.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: Must be 38 inches to ride.
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Must be 40 inches to ride this ride. Please don’t try to take your two-year-old to the Tower of Terror.
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: Must be 40 inches to ride.
- Star Tours: The Adventures Continue: Must be 40 inches to ride.
- Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith: Must be 48 inches to ride this roller coaster.
This leaves only rides like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and Toy Story Mania! without any height requirements.
Animal Kingdom height requirements
I counted four rides at Animal Kingdom with a height restriction. These include:
- Kali River Rapids: Must be 38 inches tall to ride.
- Dinosaur: Must be 40 inches to ride. We should note that the kid-friendly play area the Boneyard is right here, but since it’s not a ride, we didn’t rate it here.
- Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain: Must be 40 inches to ride.
- Avatar Flight of Passage: Must be at least 44 inches to ride.
That leaves rides such as the TriceraTop Spin, Na’vi River Journey and Kilimanjaro Safaris with no height requirements.
For the record, I’m not including the train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch in the six “rides” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
How will I know if my kids are tall enough?
Each ride with a minimum height requirement has a cast member at the ready to measure your kid.
Europe, Canada and the rest of the civilized world use the metric system. But can you convert over to centimeters? I cannot. I measure all of mine before we leave so we know where any trouble spots might be.
What other tips can you give to someone taking toddlers or infants?
Know where the shady places are. Know where you can get out of the weather.
No, your toddler isn’t going to love the Hall of Presidents, but it’s a great place to go to cool off and chill out. Maybe even let them have a little cat nap on your shoulder.
Of course, some of the shows appeal to little ones. Specifically, I’m thinking of the Enchanted Tiki Room, Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Country Bear Jamboree in the Magic Kingdom.
The Muppet Vision 3D in Hollywood Studios is also great for the little ones.
You’ve also got the Casey Jr. Soak Station water pad to allow kids to cool off in Storybook Circus.
Hollywood Studios also offers the Disney Junior Play and Dance! show. It is great for the little ones, but doesn’t feature a lot of restful spots for the parents to chill during the show. Be ready to sit on the floor.
At Animal Kingdom, It’s Tough to be a Bug show is fun and shouldn’t bother smaller children, but as they get a little older they may get freaked out by the scene where it feels like bugs are crawling over your chair.
You can also take your littles in a stroller along the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail to see some of the park’s animals.
There are a lot of places to get out of the weather or find some shade at EPCOT, but the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival works for that as well, plus there’s a meet and greet with Mickey at the entrance.
Do the waterpark rides have height restrictions at Disney?
We don’t usually get into water parks in these breakdowns, as a water park can present special challenges for little ones, but sure.
Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park height requirements
A handful of rides have restrictions at the water parks as well. These include:
- Ketchakiddee Creek: Must be 48 inches or SHORTER to ride this kiddie ride.
- Bay Slides: Guests must be SHORTER than 60 inches tall to ride this children’s water slide.
- Crush N Gusher: Must be 48 inches or taller to ride this coaster-like water slide.
- Humunga Kowabunga: Must be 48 inches to ride this ride.
Many of the others, like Keelhaul Falls, Castaway Creek and Gangplank Falls have no height requirements.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park height requirements
Here are the ones to watch out for:
- Chairlift: Must be 32 inches or taller to ride this chair lift ride.
- Summit Plummet: Must be 48 inches or taller.
- Downhill Double Dipper: Must be 48 inches or taller.
- Slush Gusher: Must be 48 inches or taller to ride.
The others do not have height requirements.
What is your experience with taking little ones on a Disney World vacation? Let us know in the comments!