It’s the happiest place on Earth — Where else can your family eat breakfast with Mickey Mouse, fly away with Dumbo, and set sail with the Pirates of the Caribbean all in one day? And there’s more to Disney World than what meets the eye. Here are seven insider secrets that promise to amp up the wonder factor and maximize your fun on your next trip to Disney World.


Photo: Curtis Palmer via Flickr creative commons

1. Take advantage of the Stroller PassDisney World’s Rider Switch Service, a.k.a. the Stroller Pass, is perfect for families with big kids (this includes moms and dads) who love the thrill rides (Space Mountain, please) when little ones still don’t meet the height requirement.

Before you get on the ride, ask a Disney World cast member for a stroller pass. Now one parent can watch the children while the other rides, and then the parent who missed out on the fun the first time around will be escorted to the front of the line for their fair turn.


Photo: Gary J Wood via Flickr creative commons

2. Experience the (Extra) Magic. Disney World offers a special feature called Extra Magic Hours for families staying at resort hotels. If you are staying at one of the Walt Disney World resort hotels, the Swan/Dolphin, Hilton in the Walt Disney World Resort or Shades of Green (Disney’s Armed Forces Recreation Center), you can enter a specific theme park one hour before official opening and stay two hours after the general public closing time on certain days of the week.

Whether you’re staying at an onsite hotel or not, try to arrive at the Magic Kingdom 15 minutes prior to the park opening. You’ll be welcomed by a posse of Disney characters for a special park opening ceremony. Expect lots of confetti and Pixie Dust to the magical start of your Disney day!


Photo: Dion Hinchcliffe via Flickr creative commons

3. Spot the Hidden Mickeys. Disney World is filled with images of Mickey Mouse concealed in the design elements and landscaping. There are entire websites devoted to tracking down the most elusive of Hidden Mickeys.

One of the most elaborate hidden Mickeys ever appears for a fleeting moment, just once per year: every November 18th, on Mickey’s birthday, at noon, the sun will shine through the rocks of Ariel’s grotto in Fantasyland, creating a Mickey-shaped sunlight image on the ground. The Hidden Mickey pictured below is in the Mission: Space Mural at EPCOT.


Photo: Edward Russell via Flickr creative commons

4. Wine and Dine at the Beast’s Castle. The showpiece of the new Fantasyland is the Beast’s Castle, which overlooks an Enchanted Forest and houses the Be Our Guest restaurant. Remember how frightened Belle was when she first approached the Beast’s Castle? The Disney Imagineers recreated the spooky effect by decorating the exterior with gargoyles and minotaurs and forced perspective makes the castle appear even larger-than-life. Be Our Guest is the first park restaurant to serve alcohol and the wine list focuses on the main wine producing regions of France, including Champagne, of course.

Be sure to check out the West Wing of the Beast’s Castle, where you’ll find a glass bell jar containing a red rose slowly shedding its petals – a constant reminder that the Beast needs to fall in love before all the petals fall off. See if you can spot the secret effect of the portrait of the prince over the fireplace: lightening will flash and he’ll morph from prince to beast.


Photo: Sam Howzit via Flickr creative commons

5. Find your Frozen friends. Anna and Elsa, the royal sisters of Arendale and two of the most popular Disney characters today, are also highly sought after in Disney World. Originally, they lived in the Norway Pavillion in Epcot, but their outrageous popularity forced them to move to the Princess Fairytale Hall in the Magic Kingdom. Book a FastPass+ and move to the front of the line and enjoy a memorable chat about all things chilly and icy under the Orlando sun.  


Photo: Jeff Christiansen via Flickr creative commons

6. Train to be a JediStar Wars: Jedi Training Academy, located at Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, is a must-do if you have a Star Wars fan in the fam. Kids ages 4-12 can register to participate in this 30-minute interactive show that teaches essential lightsaber skills thanks to Disney’s onsite Jedi Master. All participants will be decked out in a brown robe a la Obi Wan and will be invited to pledge the sacred Jedi Oath before learning to wield a lightsaber.

Your Padawan will have the chance to battle Darth Vader; be on the lookout for invading stormtroopers. To register, report to the queue outside the ABC Sound Studio at park opening; the Academy has limited capacity, so it’s first come, first served and registration typically fills up by lunchtime.


Photo: Jason Wohlford via Flickr creative commons

7. Snag the sweetest spot to view the fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle. The Magic Kingdom fireworks are a highlight to the fun of a Walt Disney World vacation, but finding a (comfortable) spot to view them can sometimes be a challenge. 

Here’s a sweet solution: book a table at Tomorrowland Terrace for the Tomorrowland Terrace Fireworks Dessert Party. You’ll enjoy a spectacular view of the fireworks blasting off over Cinderella’s Castle as you indulge in a bounty of desserts. Keep your eyes peeled for Tinkerbell, who will fly right above the Tomorrowland Terrace patio seating! 


Photo: Josh Hallett via Flickr creative commons

What secrets and tips do you have to make your Disney trip a breeze? Share them with others in the Comments below!  

— Amy Bizzarri