Are you planning a trip to Walt Disney World Orlando or Disneyland Resorts in Anaheim this year and keeping track of a giant Disney bucket list? We have got you covered! Find exciting things to do including meeting the princesses, character dining, Disney autographs, Mickey mouse shaped foods, must-do rides, and more in this epic post.
Ah, our favorite time of the year! Planning a trip to… guess where? Disneyland in Anaheim California! I’m doubly excited since it’s the kids first trip. That’s right, little Baby G will be going to Disney even before her 6 months birthday. We, of course, have been to Disney before, but never with the kids. I know, S-Boy will be almost 3.5 years old and it’s a wonder that we didn’t visit a Disney park before. But then we were busy doing other things – like traveling to Easter Island, Chile, Qatar, India, China, all over the US, plus planning for Baby G!!! So while S-Boy has seen quite a few iconic sites including the Great Wall of China, he is yet to visit the happiest place on earth! That changes this April.
So in preparation for the trip, I’m putting together a list of bucket list activities at Disney and asked for a little help and recommendations from my travel blogger friends. Boy, did they deliver! So here is an epic list of musts while in Disney – from getting princess makeovers and character dining to the cult-classic Dole whip treat! Hope you get to scratch as many as possible off your bucket list – that’s our plan!
Traveling to Disney World or Disneyland? Check out our post on 25+ Cute and comfortable shoes to wear to Disney
Walt Disney World Orlando Bucket List
Walt Disney World Orlando is the bigger of the two Disney US attractions and consists of 4 theme parks: Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The attraction also comprises of water parks and areas outside of the ticketed attractions including Disney Springs and Disney Boardwalk. Here are the bucket list activities to do in these Disney parks.
Eat the iconic Dole Whip at Magic Kingdom
By Ashley of A Southern Gypsy
One of the best things to eat at Disney and something that should absolutely make anyone’s bucket list is the infamous and delicious dole whip. The Dole Whip was first served at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland at Disneyland, California in 1986 and since then it has acquired a cult following among Disney park fans.
The dole whip is essentially pineapple flavored soft serve named after Dole pineapples. You can get just the pineapple flavor, a swirl (pineapple and vanilla swirled) or an adult version with a little rum added to it. The dole whip can be found at the Magic Kingdom and the Polynesian Resort. While the ‘dole whip’ is named specifically for the pineapple version, you can also find an orange flavored whip and key lime flavored whip as well at the Magic Kingdom. My personal favorite is the orange flavored one with pineapple following up closely behind. All of the fruit flavors (not the vanilla) are non-dairy and suitable for those who do not eat dairy products.
Have a fun-filled feast with Mickey Mouse and friends at Chef Mickey’s in Contemporary Resort
By Harmony of Momma To Go
There is lots to see and do at Walt Disney World, and the Disney brand encompasses many different genres of entertainment. But if you want to meet the classic, iconic Disney characters, be sure to book a meal at Chef Mickey’s.
Chef Mickey’s is a character dining, buffet restaurant located in the Contemporary Resort. An early breakfast at Chef Mickey’s makes a great way to start your Walt Disney World Trip. You can take pictures with the props and characters before catching the monorail over to Magic Kingdom. The characters greet guests, sign autographs, give hugs, and pose for pictures. The food is tasty and the characters at Chef Mickey include Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Daisy Duck! This is honestly the easiest way to meet all the characters in the least amount of time.
Chef Mickey’s also offers brunch and dinner. Reservations are required and can be made 180 days before your arrival at Walt Disney World. A meal at Chef Mickey’s makes a great addition to a non-park day or on a non-Disney World Orlando trip as well, since park admission is not required to dine at the Contemporary Resort.
Enjoy character dining with your favorite Disney characters in Magic Kingdom
By Angela of The Life of Spicers
Who doesn’t love a character restaurant when visiting Disney World? We have been lucky enough to eat in three character restaurants in Magic Kingdom over the last few years. Each one has been a different experience and we have loved them all. I’m not sure I could pick a favourite as they are all so different but I would eat at each of the restaurants again without hesitation.
If you are looking to meet the Beast, then dinner at Be Our Guest is the place to be. After your dining experience in the Beast’s castle which is a must see, you have the chance to meet the Beast on your way out.
If you’re a lover of Winnie the Pooh and friends then I recommend Crystal Palace. An amazing buffet spread with plenty of opportunities to meet the characters. We really enjoyed our lunch experience here.
A great way to escape the queues to meet the princesses is to dine at Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the castle. We really enjoyed the food and the princesses took a lot of time at each table making everyone feel special.
Grab a ride to Walt Disney World in a ‘Minnie Van’
By Kate of Tear Free Travel
If you are headed to Disney World and wondering about your transportation options, be sure to check out the new “Minnie Vans” service by Lyft. These adorably styled vehicles have all the essentials you need for traveling with kids to the park.
Each Minnie Van comes equipped with two convertible car seats for safe travel with your young kids. The best part about the Minnie Vans is that a trained Disney Cast member will act as your driver. On our ride to the Magic Kingdom, our cast member gave us tons of insider tips on how to plan our day to avoid the heaviest lines and experience the most out of Disney. The premium of curbside drop off right at the park entrance was also a huge plus!
I’d highly recommend taking at least one ride with this service to enhance your experience at the parks.
Get thrilled at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Hollywood Studios
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is hands-down my favorite ride at Hollywood Studios. The attraction first debuted at Walt Disney World in 1994 and since then it has become one of WDW’s most popular attractions. I first rode on this thrilling ride when it was operating at Disney California Adventure and loved the free fall drop and the scary atmosphere created prior to the ride.
Without giving up much plot details, I would just say that this story takes place in the haunted Hollywood Tower Hotel and you ride an elevator to the Twilight Zone! What happens after that is insane, insane fun! There is an exciting element of randomness to the ride – so you can never get ‘used to it’. We loved the ride so much that we went on it thrice and then again for a last time while everyone else was watching the fireworks.
The perfectly eerie acting of the cast members as hotel bellhops, the interior detailing of the haunted hotel including the cobwebs and flickering lights add to the thrill quotient of this ride. The ride also has a great view of the Disney park from above. Ride the Tower of Terror once, and you will become a lifetime fan.
Take a vintage Amphicar tour at Disney Springs
By Diana of Traveling in Heels
With 47 square miles of magical Walt Disney World Orlando to explore, a detour to Disney Springs (former Downtown Disney) might seem like experiential overload. But trust me…for those bucket list moments, this Disney detour is worth it. For those who don’t know, Disney Springs is the product of the re-imagining (and naming) of the former Downtown Disney. The lively shopping, dining, and entertainment district offers an abundance of things to do for all ages, and my multigenerational family spent our last day here enjoying a different side of Disney. Perhaps our favorite experience of all was something that we didn’t even know existed cruising Lake Buena Vista in an Amphicar.
Offering a family-friendly waterfront dining experience in the heart of Disney Springs, the Boathouse is the only place in the world where you can experience a Captain’s Guided Tour in a vintage Amphicar. These amphibious vehicles were produced from 1961-1968 and less than 400 exist today. These rare cars enter the lake with a splash for a 20-minute tour of Disney Springs. Not only is it fun (and weird) to skim across the water in a car, but your family will also be the center of attention as onlookers do double-takes. The ride costs $125 per car and each car can accomodate 3 to 4 people.
Enjoy the mouthwatering desserts while viewing the Happily Ever After Fireworks at Magic Kingdom
By Rio of Opposite Tourists
Happily Ever After is the night time fireworks show that you should never miss at the Magic Kingdom. The Fireworks Dessert Party is a spectacular way to watch the fireworks show whilst satisfying your sweet tooth with a dessert celebration on the Tomorrowland Terrace. The dessert buffet costs between $41-50 for kids and $69-$84 for adults.
The desserts are just fantastic. You can fill your plate up with chocolate cake, macarons (my personal favourite), chocolate-covered strawberries, cupcakes plus lots more including tempting ice-creams, fruits, and cheeses. The buffet price includes drinks too. You can sip hot chocolate, cider, and lemonade while you enjoy the feast.
You’ll also have a prime viewing location to watch the fireworks show without having to rush to grab the perfect spot. After finishing your desserts, you can make your way over to the reserved areas to see the fireworks light up the sky. There are currently two reserved viewing spots, one at the Tommorrowland Terrace and the other at the Garden Plaza. Having done both, I’d recommend the Garden Plaza for the better view. Whilst pricey, It’s a great way to watch Happily Ever After. Just be sure to bring tissues as it’s known to be a tear jerker.
Watch the artists paint while you enjoy dinner at Cafe Tu Tu Tango on International Drive
By Dian of Girls Getaway
After a day out at Walt Disney World in Orlando, head over to Café Tu Tu Tango on International Drive for an arty dinner out with the kids or your besties. This café ticks off all the boxes plus more in what you want for a casual, fun meal. Tu Tu Tango delivers with gusto on really great food, friendly staff, cool décor but the spotlight is on local artists sketching away throughout the restaurant. There is abundant art on display everywhere and the walls themselves are vibrantly colored: it’s a bohemian dream!
Kids love Café Tu Tu’s taco and waffle station but our favorite Café Tu Tu food option is the Chef’s Tour. When you ask for a Chef’s Tour, the chef comes over to discuss your group’s food preferences and dislikes, then they pick several different courses from each section of the menu for your table. The best part of this option is that your table gets to try tons of delicious food plus sample items you may not have ordered on your own.
Other frequent entertainers at Cafe Tu Tu Tango include singers, puppeteers, and magicians! You can even spend some time having your tarot cards read while you wait for your meal. This place is so very cool and funky you can’t help but have fun, and oh yeah; did we forget to mention the exotic belly dancers?
Take the classic ‘It’s a Small World’ ride at Magic Kingdom
By Stefan of Nomadic Boys
Our favorite ride at Walt Disney World Orlando is “It’s a Small World”. It’s one of the oldest rides, dating back to the park’s early roots in the 1960s when it first debuted.
This is a water-based indoor ride in the Magic Kingdom of the Fantasyland. It has over 300 audio-animatronic children in traditional costumes from cultures around the world each singing the extremely catchy song “It’s A Small World”, which has a theme of global peace. You may recognise it from “The Lion King” movie when Zazu sings it to Scar when he’s asked to sing something with a little “bounce” to it, but then quickly silences him.
Whilst some people may agree with Scar and find this song annoying, we love it; according to Time magazine, it is the most publicly performed song and most translated piece of music of all time. It was composed by the Sherman Brothers during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song’s message of peace and brotherhood.
For us, a day trip to Disney World is never complete without a ride on the classic “It’s a small world” and getting the catchy theme song stuck in your head all day long!
Attend the ‘Eat to the Beat’ concert at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
By Liz of Peanuts or Pretzels
While most consider Walt Disney World a fun family vacation destination, I’m all about the awesome adult activities at Disney. While there are a variety of things to do at Disney for adults, our absolute favorite is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.
Epcot is one of my favorite parks because of its World Showcase. You can basically travel around the world in a day, exploring different cultures, food, drinks, shopping, and entertainment. But during the Food & Wine Festival, Epcot takes it to the next level. The festival runs from late August through mid-November. Disney brings in additional kiosks for roughly 30+ countries and hosts many different events and activities. Most anticipated events include chef appearances, food & drink pairings, culinary demonstrations, even beverage and cheese seminars! The highlight of the festival is the “Eat to the Beat” concert series that takes place every night, with some of the biggest names in pop, R&B, country, and rock music taking the centerstage.
The Food & Wine Festival at Epcot is by far our favorite time of the year to visit Disney World. Eating, drinking, dancing, and exploring cultures of the world – it’s definitely our top pick for adults visiting Disney World.
PS – If you are attending the festival, check out this guide on making the most of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival.
Have Southern-style fun at the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue
By Suzy of Our Bucket List Lives
Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is a fabulous evening entertainment and dinner show at Disney’s Fort Wilderness cabins and campground resort. The Wild West themed show is 2 hrs long and involves a lot of singing, dancing, and jokes. Plus quite a fair amount of audience interaction. The show is family-friendly and fun for guests of all ages.
The show is accompanied by a Southern-style feast complete with barbeque meats, fried chicken, and cornbread. Guests can use Disney dining credits for the show. If you don’t have a Disney Dining plan then there are three pricing tiers – most of the tables are located down on the main floor area. The included meal included was some of the best food we had on our holiday. Drinks were also included and the highlight was the strawberry shortcake – delicious!
When we return to Walt Disney World Florida, the Hoop Dee Doo Revue will be high on our list of must do’s as we had a great time the first time we visited.
Do Disney on a budget at the Disney Boardwalk
There are so many fun things to do at Disney World besides the parks. One of those things is a visit to Disney’s Boardwalk located near Epcot. There is no admission fee to the Boardwalk area, besides parking is also free at the Boardwalk. The Disney Boardwalk is just perfect to take a stroll and enjoy the lovely atmosphere.
The Boardwalk is a throwback to an Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 1920s. It looks beautiful when lit up after dark. You can rent a surrey bike and pedal around Crescent Lake, stop to watch a street performer do magic tricks, or play some midway games like water pistol balloon popping. We also enjoy the sweet treats at the Boardwalk Bakery and the ice cream samplers at Ample Hills Creamery. The Boardwalk has several dining options including ESPN Club, Flying Fish, Big River Brewing Company, and Trattoria al Forno.
At night, adults can enjoy AbracadaBAR, Jelly Rolls (a dueling piano club), and Atlantic City Dance Hall. To get to the Boardwalk, walk thru the International Gateway at Epcot located between England and France and either take a boat to the Boardwalk Resort or take the walking path around Crescent Lake.
Catch up on romance at the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in Epcot
The Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar, located in Epcot in the Italy Pavilion, is a must-visit for adults. Tutto Gusto has a romantic vibe with vintage furnishings and authentic Tuscan architecture. Seated inside Tutto Gusto, you will be transported to the Italian countryside and enjoy an authentic dining experience.
For a snack, you can enjoy traditional Italian small plates like a cheese plate, meat plate, and antipasto plate – these are perfect to be shared between two people. You can also order off of the nextdoor Tutto Italia menu if you are looking for a larger meal. If you’re a wine drinker, you’re in for a treat. Tutto Gusto has over 200 wines on hand and they also do wine flights if you can’t decide on just one. Or just opt for the Best of Italy wine tasting and sample some of the best ones! With its cozy atmosphere, Tutto Gusto is a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the park.
Not a wine drinker? No problem! Tutto Gusto also has a full service bar including Italian cocktails and frozen drinks. Or you can opt for the desserts including tiramisu, cannoli, and gelato! Unlike most Disney restaurants, Tutto Gusto does not require advanced reservations and since it’s so hidden, it hardly ever has a wait, so stroll on in and have a relaxing food and wine experience.
Enjoy an Afternoon High Tea at the Grand Floridian Resort
Everyday from 12 to 4 in the afternoon, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort serves High Tea in the Garden View Tea Room. Guests can delight in this traditional British experience as they enjoy views of the resort garden and pool area.
There are several different offerings including “The Bedfordshire Tea” which consists of a pot of tea of your choice, medley of tea sandwiches, scones and tarts, and dessert trifle or pastries. There are 25 different varieties of black, herbal, and aromatic teas to choose from and if you’re overwhelmed by the offerings – just ask your server for advice. They are extremely knowledgeable and are sure to pick something that fits your taste buds! For an added price, you can opt to have a glass of champagne. Other offerings include exotic cheeses, fruits and even caviar!
If you’re taking your little Princess along with you for a special treat, they have an offering just for children called the “Mrs. Potts Tea”. It includes an assortment of kids-friendly “tea” sandwiches (even peanut butter and jelly is on the menu!), tarts, and dessert with chocolate milk served instead of tea!
Disneyland Anaheim Bucket List
Disneyland is the original park that started it all! It holds the distinction of being the only park that was designed and completed during Walt Disney’s lifetime. It is one of the most visited theme parks in the world. Here’s the ultimate bucket list for the original theme park.
Get a princess makeover at Bibbidi Bobbidi
By Andrea of One Savvy Wanderer
Cinderella’s Castle is home to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, which transforms children into royalty for the day. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is for younger kids, ages 3-12, and there are options for both little girls and boys. Reservations for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (which are highly recommended!) can be made 60 days in advance by calling 714-781-7895.
There are several princess packages to choose from for little girls that include hair styling, makeup, a manicure, and a princess sash. The basic package is $64.95 and parents can splurge by paying for higher-priced packages that include things like a Disney princess tutu or gown. Little boys have the option of two Knight packages that include hairstyling along with a sword and shield. The Knight packages range between $19.95 – $79.95.
The transformations are done in the salon by a Fairy Godmother and parents are able to watch the makeover. Upon completion of the magical experience, the little princess or knight is revealed to the entire salon. The whole process is adorable and is a great way to spend part of a day at Disneyland.
Spend a magical Christmas and watch the fireworks at Disneyland
By Sara of Our Kind of Crazy
One thing that should be on your Disney bucket list is visiting the park at Christmas time. They transform the whole park for the months of November and December. Whether you’re heading to Disneyland or any other Disney parks, Christmas time is one of the best times to be at the Magic Kingdom.
Everything about Disney becomes even more magical during the holiday season. Right after Halloween, Disney flips the switch and the whole park becomes a winter wonderland. Each of the parks get decorated with lots of Christmas themed decorations, a huge Christmas tree sits in the middle of Main Street, and some of the rides are even themed to fit the season.
The best part is the firework show over the Disney Castle which can be watched from anywhere on Main Street. Another of the not-miss holiday attractions include the Disney Holiday Parade. They even make it snow at Disneyland! Be sure to head to Disney parks during the months of November and December, you will want to go every year!
Meet the princesses at the Royal Court in Fantasyland
By Jayne of Well Travelled Munchkins
Meeting the Disney princesses at the Royal Court was not only the most magical moment and utter highlight of the entire day for our three year old – it was also pretty special for us too.
When you join the queue to wait your turn, you are not told which princesses you are in line to see. The Royal Court is open all day so there are always three princesses on rotation, meaning you can never be sure which ones you’ll meet. Chatter about which princesses might be inside ripple up and down the line which helps adds to the anticipation for both young and old! It’s pretty safe to say it doesn’t matter which princesses you see. They are all amazing and do an outstanding job of making it a magical experience for everyone involved!
We saw Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella. Each princess chatted with our daughter, asked her questions, practised swishing their dresses and their princess twirls with her. Our time with the princesses was not rushed or hurried and the other cast members there were happy to take as many photos as we wanted. It’s a definite cuteness overload and a memory that you will all cherish for a very long time.
Eat a variety of Mickey Mouse shaped treats including an ice-cream bar!
Disneyland as well as all the other Disney parks sell a host of Mickey-Mouse shaped treats. You will see lots of park visitors eating Mickey shaped giant pretzels, Mickey shaped chocolate covered ice-cream bars, and even a Mickey balloon shaped popcorn bucket! There are over 55 Mickey shaped treats sold through the Disney parks combined – you can read the entire list here!
Our favorite by far is the ice cream. It is especially refreshing after all that walking about in hot weather and waiting in line for your favorite rides. These ice-cream bars are extremely popular with Disney visitors and almost everyone wants to have one. Thankfully it is available at multiple locations, making it easy to grab one.
Disney California Adventure Bucket List
Disney California Adventure was the first park we visited more than a decade ago and so it remains our personal favorite. Not many people realize this but the park’s theme is California’s history and culture. It is also more adult-oriented than Disney (similar to Epcot). Here are our favorite things to do in this park:
Follow the adventures of the Parr family and Baby Jack-Jack in the Incredicoaster
By Jessica of The Uprooted Traveler
The Incredicoaster, formerly California Screamin’, is Disney California Adventure’s latest attraction and opened in 2018. Towering over the newly built Pixar Pier, the Incredicoaster is a steel mammoth that features the Disneyland resort’s only inverted loop. The roller coaster is among fastest attractions in Disney and accelerates passengers at speeds of about 55 miles per hour. Not only is this ride one of the park’s most thrilling attractions, it also tells a story about our favorite super-family, The Incredibles.
Riders shoot through several enclosed tunnels along the ride, which show the Parr family in their quest to catch Jack-Jack as he flexes his many superpowers, including laser eyes, multiplying, and even turning into a fiery demon baby. While the enclosed tunnels and their special effects do most of the heavy lifting of propelling the coaster’s story forward (with riders experiencing everything from Violet’s purple force fields to the smell of wafting cookies that the Parr family uses to try to lure their youngest back), dialogue voiced by the original actors also aid in furthering the adventure.
The Incredicoaster is even more fun at night when the glowing red tubes offer an eye popping backdrop for the ride’s special effects. With stunning views over California Adventure’s shimmering lake and the Pixar Pier, this ride is pure Disney magic at work. This ride is for big kids and adults; you have to be at least 48 inches or taller to get on the Incredicoaster.
Experience the magic of Frozen Live at the Hyperion
By Holly of Four Around The World
In our household, we went through the Frozen obsession stage for a long time! This meant it was high on our bucket list to see the live Frozen performance at the Hyperion Theatre. The show is an hour long with 2 performances a day. The seats are stadium style so everyone has a clear view of the stage regardless of height or age. Seeing Frozen Live is extremely popular – we recommend lining up early (90 mins before showtime) so you don’t miss getting a seat.
The performance itself is an express version of the beloved film and has all your favourite Frozen songs and characters. The kids love seeing the story come to life before them. Watching Else, Anna, Olaf, and other favorite characters is a treat. For us adults, we get to see a quality theatre experience while at the same time enjoying a rest as we sit back and watch in air conditioned comfort, with a bucket of popcorn to share.