11 activities teens will love at Disney World
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Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.
Disney World is a child’s imagination come to life … character meals, rides that put you in the middle of a cartoon, princesses and more. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are fireworks exploding over Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom with my face still sticky from Mickey-shaped ice cream, or riding the monorail for the first time from Disney’s Contemporary Resort to go snag autographs from my favorite Disney characters.
I still have pins and light-up mementos from the warm childhood nights I spent in Florida.
But with many activities in Disney World geared toward this younger age group, it may seem a bit more challenging to find things to do for teens. But, I actually visited Disney World as a teen, too, on a school trip to a journalism conference. (That fourth-grade field trip to Jefferson City doesn’t even compare to the fun I had in Orlando as high school senior.)
I found that Disney can still be magical, even as a teen. Here are some ways you can still maintain teenage coolness while having a ton of fun at Disney World.
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Disney World as a teen basics
First things first, the rules state that those who are 14 and up can enter Disney World on their own. So, teens don’t have to stick just next to parents and younger siblings at Disney World — they can do their own things, too. (You’re also charged adult prices at Disney World once you hit 10, so that’s a good thing to plan for, too.)
With a four-digit pin code set up, your MagicBand can serve as your ticket, the way you pay for things and even the way you can get back into your Disney hotel room at the end of the day. (Be sure and pack your mask, too, as those are now required almost everywhere at a reopened Disney World.)
If you think that Disney World is just swirling teacups and princess makeovers, you’re wrong. Disney World has rides that go 0 – 60 in just a few seconds, entire nights devoted just to villains, parks that stay open until past midnights some parts of the year, horseback rides, top-notch resort pools and behind-the-scenes tours if you want to see how the magic really gets made.
Here are 11 teen-friendly activities at Disney World.
Animation Experience at Conservation Station
The Animation Experience used to be in Hollywood Studios before it moved to Conservation Station in the Animal Kingdom. This is a perfect activity, especially for artsy teens. It walks you through drawing your favorite characters from the Disney film world. I’ve done this a few times when it was still in Hollywood Studios, and it was a blast.
The coolest part of it is that you can keep your drawing, and you don’t need a ton of artistic talent to succeed. I still have some drawings that I made with my dad when I was younger. But for teens, this is a super fun way to explore artistic talent.
Related reading: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations
Stay up late with Extra Magic Hours
If you stay at a Disney resort, you have access to Extra Magic Hours during normal times (right now, the parks are closing early with no extra magic.) But typically, Extra Magic Hours are hours a park is open only to those staying at a Disney hotel, either in the morning or at night. Since teens usually stay up later, this is a great way to take advantage of time in the parks at night, especially since it’s quieter and you can ride more rides.
Just make sure to check which attractions are open, because not every attraction is always available during these times.
Also during normal times, there’s a thing called ‘Disney After Hours’ that is open to anyone for an extra fee. During this time, there’s unlimited snacks and nighttime access only for those who bought this package (which means shorter lines).
NBA Experience at Disney Springs
This is a great option for sports lovers out there.
In Disney Springs, the NBA Experience is an indoor venue where you can live out your greatest basketball fantasies. While the experience is closed right now due to COVID-19, there are normally 13 total experiences, with everything from NBA-themed trivia to the Hall of Champions. Who knows what could happen? Maybe you’ll even get drafted.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Calling all Star Wars fans. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is one of the coolest additions to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Transport yourself to an experience that is far, far away from and far, far better than riding Dumbo in a circle.
Test your Jedi skills on the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run ride or have a (non-alcoholic) drink in Oga’s Cantina for a refreshment. The possibilities are endless in this highly themed world. (Here are some of our favorite eats and drinks at Galaxy’s Edge.) If you aren’t sure what to order at Oga’s, try the Cliff Dweller — made of ginger ale, a blend of juices, hibiscus-grenadine and coconut.
And whatever you do, don’t miss a turn on the new Rise of the Resistance attraction!
Related reading: All about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World
The VOID: Step Beyond Reality
OK, first the bad news, this one is currently closed for COVID. But, it’s a must-do when it reopens. Located in the Marketplace at Disney Springs, The VOID: Step Beyond Reality is a video gamer’s ultimate dream. This high tech virtual reality experience immerses you into two stories, either Star Wars or Ralph Wrecks VR. With vivid, 3-D images and cutting-edge sound, this experience is perfect for those wanting a taste of a different reality.
Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
I wish this was around when I was a teenager. Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom is a scavenger hunt, but so much cooler.
Starting at the Firehouse on Main Street, the scavenger hunt features Hades who is trying to steal the Magic Kingdom to use it as his summer home. Hades’ henchmen and evil Disney villains Cruella, Scar, Jafar, Maleficent, Ursula, Yzma, Ratcliffe and Dr. Facilier are there to get in your way of finding four crystal shards hidden throughout the park.
Once you go to the Firehouse, you will receive a Sorcerer Key Card, Merlin’s mystical map and spell cards — all included in your theme park admission.
Related reading: How much does a Walt Disney World vacation cost?
Go on a shopping spree
Disney Springs is chock full of teen-approved things to do — and buy. It’s a great place to go on a little shopping spree, with stores from Anthropologie to Lacoste. Enjoy some time out of the parks, walking along the storefronts that make up Disney Springs. Shopping is always what the doctor prescribed in my opinion … especially with a specialty cupcake or gelato easily at the ready.
Related: Best times to visit Disney World
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster
Disney World is not just Peter Pan and It’s a Small World. There are thrill rides, too.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, starring Aerosmith, is a thrill ride inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It’s a ride older kids, especially tweens and teens will like a lot since it’s a daring roller coaster with loops and breakneck speeds. I was terrified the first time I went on this ride, so I recommend it for adventurous teens and tweens.
Space Mountain is my all-time favorite ride.
It’s not the fastest ride at Disney World (far from it, actually), but nothing beats the feeling of racing through the darkness of space without knowing your next turn. I’ve been on this ride multiple times, but as a teen, it was so fun to load up in the space cars and shriek as loud as I wanted to without any chaperones to scold me for making all that noise.
For something a bit different, stop by The Boathouse in Disney Springs to ride a retro Amphicar. Produced in the 1960s, these Amphicars were purchased from private collections all over the world. According to The Boathouse, less than 400 exist today.
This 25-minute tour of Lake Buena Vista by floating car is a great departure from the typical roller coaster rides offered in Disney theme parks. It’s especially great if your teen is into cars or getting photos with really good natural lighting.
Snack around Epcot
Epcot is a little short on thrill rides at the moment, but it has lots of cool things to eat.
In the World Showcase, it can be really fun to sample snacks from lots of countries all in one afternoon. You can start with churros in Mexico, head for Bubble Milk Tea in China and make a stop in France for endless pastries at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie.
Related: Best restaurants at Disney World
I get it, being a teen in Disney World might sound or feel awkward. Being a teen can be awkward in general. But Disney provides awesome alternatives for what might otherwise be a boring trip for teens.
Disney World brings out your inner kid, whether you are 16, 40 or 85. The sole purpose is to remind you of the carefree world of being a child. But as teens move away from that age, it’s important to cater to their interests.
With this list in hand (and maybe another teen to keep them company), your teen is sure to enjoy themselves, regardless of what park you visit for the day or what resort you stay in at night.
Featured image by Matt Stroshane, courtesy of Disney
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