Doing Disney right means more than just booking a flight and snapping up a pair of Mickey ears. You need to do a bit more homework to really knock the trip out of the park. So we turned to our resident Disney expert to answer the real life questions that can make all the difference. Put it this way, would you rather leave with "It's a Small World" stuck in your head or with photos of your little one dining like a princess at Cinderella's Royal Table? Think about it.
Want to ask our Fodor's Disney expert a question? Shoot her an email:DisneyExpert@fodors.com.
I'm going to Disney World this summer but don't want to just eat burgers and fries. Are there healthy dining options available?
A: Disney has made a concerted effort over the past decade to turn away from standard junk food and give their guests not only healthier options but a better dining experience. In 2008 Disney eliminated added trans-fat from all foods in the park, even the sugary treats! And while there are still pizzas, burgers, and the legendary turkey legs, there are also salads, fish, and chicken options as well.
When on the run, a salad at a quick-service station will be your best bet. At the Magic Kingdom, look into Columbia Harbor House which offers not only salad but fish options such as grilled salmon as well. Hollywood Studios boasts Asian-inspired salads at the ABC Commissary and the Animal Kingdom's Tamu Tamu Refreshments always has a good salad choice. Epcot has the best option of all, Sunshine Seasons, a huge restaurant that gets fresh ingredients from the Land pavilion—it's hard to beat a fresh grown tomato from the restaurant's back yard!
Table service restaurants (sit down restaurants) are always happy to take individual tastes into account. Don't hesitate to ask your server for recommendations, but be prepared—Disney chefs are known to visit tables just to make sure they've gotten everything to your liking.
Kids meals have gotten an upgrade as well. Mickey Check is available at both quick-service and table service restaurants and lets parents know that these items have been selected by a health expert.
There seem to be Princess themed items everywhere—but I'm visiting Disney World with my two boys, ages 7 and 9. What are some things they would enjoy?
A: Pirates are Disney's answer to the Princess phenomenon. With young boys, especially brothers who will have to wait patiently during their sister's Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover, visit the Pirates League at the Magic Kingdom. Kids of any age—and even Dad—can get a full pirate make-over including a new name to go along with their fierce look. And with prices starting from $29.99, it's a very affordable option for little boys.
Kids from ages 4 to 12 will enjoy the Pirate Adventure Cruises, a two hour sailing adventure that leads kids around the beaches of the Disney hotels on a quest for buried treasure. And this adventure is kids only—so Mom and Dad have a few hours of relaxation by the pool. For the whole family, look into the Pirate and Pals Fireworks Voyage, which sets sail on select evenings from the Contemporary hotel to give families a water view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The candy is sweet and the jokes are corny but guests always seem to have a good time.
Not into pirates? Look into the Family Magic tour around the Magic Kingdom. The entire group works together to solve riddles to help save the park from a Disney villain. And at the Animal Kingdom, boys ages 8 and up will enjoy the Wild Africa Trek, a genuinely adventurous backstage look at the animals of Kilimanjaro Safaris. Who's up for walking across a suspended bridge while crocodiles doze below?
My family wants to be the Grand Marshall at the Magic Kingdom parade. How can we get picked?
A: There is no sure fire way to be picked for the Grand Marshall at any parade. However there are some tips that will make it more likely your family is chosen.
Be sure to arrive early to the park. The Grand Marshall for the 3 pm parade is almost always picked before 10 am. Also, be willing to talk to cast members. Guests who are running from attraction to attraction miss the opportunity to be picked. (And even if you aren't chosen, talking to the cast members is a great way to learn more about the park and get insider tips. After all, no one knows the parks like they do.)
If Grand Marshall doesn't happen, consider visiting Captain Jack's Pirate Tutorial where eager kids are brought on stage with Captain Jack to learn his pirating tricks. And at Hollywood Studios, stop by Guest Relations to make sure you're signed up for the Jedi Training Academy, giving your little one a chance to go one-on-one with Darth Vader.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Walt Disney World News