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From character dining to tea parties, there are many special experiences at Walt Disney World to add extra magic to your trip. These experiences offer up close encounters with favorite characters, great places to watch fireworks or fun activities for the kids. They are also often less crowded with less wait times so are great options for special needs children. Special Needs TravelingMom Kathy Penney has visited Walt Disney World many times. She shares her tips for special experiences at Walt Disney World.
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Four Special Experiences at Walt Disney World for an Extra Magical Visit
Simply visiting the parks at Walt Disney World is so magical. However, did you know they also offer additional opportunities to get close to characters, fun parties, and more? I’m a former Disney Store cast member who has passed on her pixie dust love to her family. I try to make our experience as magical as possible every time we visit. Each trip I find one of the special experiences at Walt Disney World to book and add some extra magic to our trip. Many of the experiences are also special needs friendly. This means my 7 year old son with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder was able to enjoy them too. Here’s four of our favorites.
All of these special experiences can be booked on the My Disney Experience App and vary in price.
The most popular and well known of the special experiences at Walt Disney World is probably character dining. There are multiple character dining options offered at each park. There are also offerings at resorts, Disney Springs, and even non Disney properties that don’t require park tickets.
We do at least one character meal each trip as part of our moderate Disney dining plan for our sit down credit. My family enjoys them because there is rarely a line, which is great for everyone, but especially my special needs son. We have done The Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Disney Junior, and Tusker House. We have not had a bad experience at any character meal. The kids can pass the time eating or people and character watching or coloring. I usually have busy bags in my backpack.
The characters do a great job with the children, including special needs children. On our first trip we found out my son was scared of the characters. He didn’t want to come out from under the table. The characters were happy to just give a high five to his little hand extended from under the table.
Obviously, by the time the photo above was taken at my personal favorite meal The Crystal Palace, he overcame that fear. Special needs parents may want to consider bringing headphones, because the meals can be busy and noisy. Requesting a table away from the noise if possible may be another option.
The grand finale each day at Walt Disney World is, of course, the fireworks. Each park has its own fireworks show that is included in the price of your park ticket. The first time we went to Walt Disney World, we squished into Main Street USA at Magic Kingdom to watch what was at the time the Wishes fireworks finale. It was magical, but it was also crowded and the kids couldn’t really see. I could tell my special needs son was anxious with the crowd. After talking to my travel agent, I found out there was an alternative with another of the special experiences at Walt Disney World. And, better yet, cupcakes were involved! Yes, I’m talking about dessert parties.
Each park has its own version of a Fireworks Dessert Party. Once we experienced the dessert party, we were spoiled from watching the fireworks any other way. Magic Kingdom has one at Tomorrowland Terrace. The party features reserved table seating away from the crowds with a great view of the fireworks. The calmer, less crowded party let my son really enjoy the fireworks. Though, as you can see in the photo above, I had a bit of a special needs mom fail. I forgot his headphones so he has his hands over his ears.
Dessert Party Details
The dessert party opens at one hour before fireworks, but a line to check in forms about fifteen to twenty minutes before that. The wait to get in is about twenty minutes for fellow moms of children who have trouble waiting. They do have stroller parking inside the Terrace. Once inside, it was a fun party of delicious desserts, many with a Disney theme. There were also “decorate your own cookie” stations and fruits and cheeses. Drinks included sparkling cider, lemonades, coffee and tea. This special experience at Walt Disney World has become a must do each trip for us for stress free firework viewing.
Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage
Walt Disney World offers a few different fireworks cruises for options for special experiences at Walt Disney World. A great one for the kids is the Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage. It will be a pirate’s life for you as you set sail from the Contemporary Resort.
The party portion is before the cruise. Like the Tomorrowland Terrace party, you check in before the fireworks start. This party has no waiting in line. The kids are instead given a scavenger hunt to complete before being called in to the party.
The party is held in a small banquet room at the Contemporary Resort. The room is decorated in a fun pirate theme. Snacks like cotton candy and chocolate coins spilled from treasure chests. Ice cream and cake were also available. There were also savory snacks like chips and dip and popcorn. Hook and Smee came to party and take photos.
Then it was time to set sail. It is important to note the boats are water taxis, not a pirate ship. We had a lively time any way, with our pirate guide telling jokes and handing out prizes for Disney trivia. The view of the fireworks from the water is, of course, not as close up as the Tomorrowland Terrace, but it’s a different and still beautiful perspective. Pirates and Pals is a great option for kids who have trouble with crowds because it’s a small party away from the park. The noise level of the fireworks is also much less intense since you’re watching from a boat on the lake. This party is a good one for kids with sensory noise challenges.
Wonderland Tea Party
My favorite special experience at Walt Disney World is the Wonderland Tea Party offered at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. This was my favorite because it was a drop off event and the hubby and I got to enjoy a kid-free Disney date on the Grand Floridian’s beautiful back porch!
The tea party is for kids 4 to 12 years old and features Alice and the Mad Hatter. Kids have a great time at The Wonderland Tea party where they are served “tea” (It’s apple juice, y’all) and adorable tea party cupcakes and pastries. The kids get to decorate their cupcakes as well as a sweet keepsake like my little guy is working on above. Another thing I loved about the Wonderland Tea Party is that there is a Disney Photo Pass photographer there. Even though I wasn’t at the event with the kids, photos of their great time went right to the My Disney Experience App.
I spoke with the Grand Floridian staff and let them know of my son’s special needs. They said he was more than welcome at the party. One good thing for special needs children is that the party size is small so that there’s not a lot of sensory overload. There is not enough time for parents to leave the property even though it is a drop off party, so we were a phone call away if there were any issues. I needn’t have worried. Both kids did great and had a great time. Of all the special experiences at Walt Disney World, I thought this was the best value for the money.
Add Some Extra Magic to Your Trip With Special Experiences at Walt Disney World
The happiest place on Earth is made for making magical memories. They have so many options to make your trip even more magical with special experiences at Walt Disney World. We try a new one each trip and, as we do, we find they are also a great way for special needs kids to enjoy the parks. They often offer less crowded experiences with less wait times. Consider adding one of the special experiences at Walt Disney World to your next trip!
Have you tried any of the experiences? Do you have any questions on the experiences including any regarding special needs?
Where to Buy Discounted Disney World Tickets
Headed to the Happiest Place on Earth? TravelingMom recommends Undercover Tourist for discounted tickets including $7 off Mickey’s Christmas party tickets and $8 off Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween tickets.