If you’ve been to Walt Disney World repeatedly, you may consider yourself something of an expert. You know how to navigate the parks with the skills of a ninja. You know which attractions to hit early, which ones can be saved for later and which can be skipped completely. That’s what our Inquisitive TravelingMom thought, too. It took trips with her equally inquisitive children to change her point of view on the oft-ignored Tom Sawyer Island.
Y’all, in my mind Tom Sawyer Island was just a bunch of trees taking up space between Liberty Square and Frontierland. I would see people heading over on those rafts and think, “Rookies. You’re wasting time!”
I am a recovering theme park commando. Get the most you can out of your day, because this is Walt Disney World and you would be crazy not to. My youngest son is totally down with my desire to cram as much in as possible. His older brothers, not so much. My first born is a high maintenance child, prone to anxiety and a loathing of large amounts of people. His middle brother is simply unconcerned with time and space. He has no sense of urgency about most things in life. They are prime candidates for the oasis that is Tom Sawyer Island.
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The Calm of Tom Sawyer Island
My oldest was getting a little strung out by the time he spotted the rafts heading to the island. Inquisitive like his mother, he wanted to investigate. He’s my outdoorsy kid and is happiest in nature. I could see him perk up just on the raft ride over.
The island is covered in trees and therefore shady, a needed respite from the Florida sun. Benches in thoughtful spots are plentiful. Aunt Polly’s, a long-shuttered dining spot, still has a wide porch available for catching breezes and watching the riverboat float by. I sat here with my son while he took some time to sort out his new pin collection and just generally watch the world. After the constant novelty of the rest of the Magic Kingdom, this offered familiarity.
The Freedom of Tom Sawyer Island
Both of my older sons are wanderers. Explorers. Haters of lines. Aside from the boat queue, Tom Sawyer Island affords freedom from any kind of lines or even orderly behavior. There are trails. Caves. A playground. A Wild West fort with a secret passageway. It was at Fort Langhorn that my oldest entered into an epic game of Hide-and-Seek while I sat on a bench in the February sunshine. When I took my middle son for his one-on-one trip, he wanted to investigate every nook and cranny.
If your kids have HAD IT with lines and “acting right,” get thyself to Tom Sawyer Island. It’s a place that lets them be the kids they are and burn off some energy. It’s the perfect activity before arriving at a sit-down restaurant.
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The Views of Tom Sawyer Island
Make sure you poke all around the island. My favorite Magic Kingdom attractions are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Haunted Mansion. You can see both from opposite ends of Tom Sawyer Island. I appreciated a new perspective on my favorite rides. Big Thunder looked majestic from that distance. The Haunted Mansion looked more stately and graceful than I had ever considered it to be previously. Did you know that you can still see Cinderella Castle from the island? If you are a photographer, I guarantee you some great shots that most Magic Kingdom guests will never get.
The Book, Tom Sawyer
I’m a book nerd and I read Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer as a child. Son #2 read it as well. We were next to an older couple as we were heading into one of the caves. My boy made a comment about which part of the book this cave appeared in and the gentleman next to us appeared shocked and stammered, “That’s right!”
Treat your kids to Tom Sawyer Island as a life-size replica after they’ve read the book. Or, use the attraction as a springboard to pique their interest. If you are concerned about the portrayal of people of color in the book, read it together as a family. This can lead to great discussions about how people of different ethnicities were treated at various times in history and how your family feels people should be treated now.
When you are next at Walt Disney World, make it a point to investigate Tom Sawyer Island for yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised at this oasis in the middle of the bustling Magic Kingdom!