With four theme parks at Walt Disney World, your vacation should ideally be at least four days long to truly enjoy them all. However, there are many times that only a shorter Disney World trip is possible. In that case, which Disney World park should you skip?
So many people ask “What can I skip at Disney World?” with the added “my kids are 11 and 14” or “I have a 5 year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy.” Choosing which Disney park to skip if you have a short trip isn’t about age or gender. It’s really all about what your interests and a blanket recommendation can’t be given by age alone.
“Should we skip Epcot? Isn’t Epcot is just for adults?”
“I hear there’s nothing for kids at Hollywood Studios.”
“All kids love animals so definitely do Animal Kingdom!”
This is NOT the advice I’m going to give you! We’ll take a look at each park and how it may appeal to different interests and vacation styles. Then, you can decide which is the Disney park to skip for your family.
Personally, these short trips precisely describe the first two trips we took to Disney World with our sons. We spent three days in the parks each time on those two trips. The boys were young and we didn’t want to overwhelm them, so we spent one day at Epcot and two days at Magic Kingdom on their first trip. This allowed us to leisurely enjoy both parks without feeling rushed and stressed. On the second trip, we spent three days at three parks and chose to skip Animal Kingdom again because we knew they’d enjoy the Star Wars attractions at Hollywood Studios over the animals at Animal Kingdom.
What about Park Hopper Tickets?
Before we consider which park is skippable for your family, let’s first address Park Hopper tickets. If the number of Disney World parks is greater than the number of days you have to explore them, you may be tempted to purchase Park Hopper tickets. These allow you to visit more than one park each day while base tickets only grant entrance to one park daily.
The Park Hopper upgrade will cost $60-$70 per ticket depending on the number of days. If this added cost is within your budget and there are headliner attractions in all four parks you MUST enjoy, then consider Park Hoppers, by all means. Continue to use this guide to help you decide which parks can be covered during a partial “hopping” day.
However, do not underestimate the transportation time to “hop” between parks. While taking the SkyLiner from Epcot to Hollywood Studios is relatively quick, bus transportation between Animal Kingdom and any of the other parks will take significantly more time, for example.
I also highly recommend one park per day to fully experience the theming. Walt Disney World isn’t just another theme park. Its immersiveness and detailed theming are what set it apart. By park hopping and only visiting a park for a half day, you’ll have less time to discover what truly makes Disney World parks special. You’ll be rushing around more and won’t have time to take in those unexpected, magical moments like stopping to be entertained by the Citizens of Hollywood at Hollywood Studios or watching the incredible street performers at Animal Kingdom.
Definitely weight the option of fully experiencing fewer parks versus only hitting the headliners at all of them. Just remember that you won’t do everything at Disney World even if you have three weeks, so don’t feel rushed to see everything in just three days. Skipping an entire park may be the best choice for your family.
Should I Skip Magic Kingdom?
If you have never been to Disney World, skipping the Magic Kingdom simply isn’t an option for you! Even if you have just one day and can visit one park, it would have to be Magic Kingdom.
When people say they’re going to “Disney World” they’re undoubtedly thinking of Cinderella Castle and Magic Kingdom. This is where the classic rides are – Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain … the list goes on and on.
You should skip Magic Kingdom if…
- This is not your first visit and there are other parks you have never been to
- Your priority is food – dining options are SO much better in other parks
You should NOT skip Magic Kingdom if….
- … you are going to Disney World! 🙂
Should I Skip Epcot?
“I hear Epcot isn’t fun.”
Oh, man. My Epcot-loving heart broke when I read this while scrolling through Facebook one day. I’m going to confess right away that Epcot is my favorite Disney World park so it’s definitely one that I personally would not skip, but I understand why some don’t see the appeal.
Epcot certainly lacks thrill rides. While Soarin’ is beautiful and the orange mission on Mission: Space is rather intense, Test Track is the closest thing to a thrill ride at Epcot. And even though it’s the fastest ride in all Disney parks worldwide with speeds reaching 65 miles per hour, that speed is achieved on a flat track, without daring loops and drops. If thrill rides are your thing, you’ll be disappointed at Epcot. You’ll find much more thrilling rides at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
You may often hear that Epcot isn’t for kids. It’s true that many aspects of Epcot are geared towards adults (“Drinking Around the World” anyone?) more than other parks with its food festivals and beautiful, though largely attraction-less, country pavilions. However, there is PLENTY to keep the kids busy at Epcot!
Looking for princesses? There are MANY to meet at Epcot! This is the only place at Disney World where Frozen’s Anna and Elsa meet. If you or your kids simply HAVE to meet Anna and Elsa, you HAVE to go to Epcot!
Many princesses meet around World Showcase and Epcot is the only park where you can meet Aurora, Belle, Mulan, and Snow White. They may meet elsewhere at character dining restaurants, but Epcot is the only park where you can those princesses without an additional cost. Note that you MAY have the opportunity to interact with Belle at Magic Kingdom’s Enchanted Tales, but it’s not a meet and greet and a photo is far from guaranteed.
Are the kids fans of Finding Nemo? Nemo, Dory, and the crew have their biggest presence at Epcot. The Seas is a Finding Nemo-themed ride, Crush the turtle attraction, and full aquarium with live sea animals all in one. Outside of the Broadway-style Finding Nemo stage show at Animal Kingdom, this is the only place to find Nemo at Disney World.
If food is a priority, then look no further than Epcot! Outside of summertime, there will likely be a festival underway with dozens of food booths scattered around the park. Even without festival food, Epcot has the most restaurants of the four Disney World parks with numerous choices in all the countries of World Showcase. If strolling and noshing sounds like a great vacation day, you can’t miss Epcot!
Epcot is huge which is great for those who easily feel overwhelmed in crowds due to the long sightlines. However, that size also means more walking and stroller pushing. Hollywood Studios, in particular, is a much more compact park that isn’t as tiring to enjoy for an entire day.
If you enjoy rides, you’ll probably find them lacking at Epcot. There are only 9 rides at this park and several, including the historical Spaceship Earth and biological Living With The Land, lean on the educational side. If you’re a family of self-professed geeks like mine, this education angle is a plus, but if not everyone wants an education while on vacation!
Epcot is also currently a huge construction site. World Showcase is largely untouched with the most significant construction occurring in the France expansion which is out of sight. But construction walls abound in Future World. While this construction barely affects the availability of attractions (a few characters have been relocated, an interactive zone is closed, and Epcot’s main gift shop has moved), it doesn’t exactly look magical.
So, let’s review…
You should skip Epcot if…
- You love thrill rides
- You want to avoid construction
- You want to avoid lots of walking
You should NOT skip Epcot if….
- You want to meet princesses
- Food is a priority
- The kids love Finding Nemo
- Crowds overwhelm you
Skipping Hollywood Studios
If you love movies and television, you’ll likely adore Hollywood Studios.
You may hear that Hollywood Studios is best for teens with its thrill rides and huge Star Wars presence. This is true, but don’t count it out if you only have littles.
Hollywood Studios has the only Disney Junior presence of any of the Disney World parks. It’s home to Toy Story Land – what’s more kid-friendly than that? The kids will likely enjoy MuppetVision 3D, the Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy character show, and live stage shows featuring Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway also opens in March, and will undoubtedly be very kid-friendly with no height restrictions. Additionally, Hollywood Studios is a very compact park so your kids won’t have to walk so much and adults won’t be pushing the stroller so far!
However, if your kids enjoy rides most while the shows and/or character meetings hold less appeal, be aware that there are only two rides at Hollywood Studios without a height restriction – Toy Story Mania! and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. All others require riders to be anywhere from 32” to 48” inches tall, at a minimum.
Keeping Hollywood Studios on your list is a no-brainer for Star Wars fans. The Force is strong with Hollywood Studios!
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is an entire land dedicated to the franchise. Additionally, the Star Tours motion simulator ride is still going strong after 30 years and Star Wars Launch Bay is full of film memorabilia and character meeting opportunities. For the kiddos, there’s even Jedi Training: Trials at the Temple for children ages 4-12 to be trained to engage in a light saber battle with Darth Vader!
Is there a Toy Story fan in your group? While Buzz Lightyear has his own ride and meets at Magic Kingdom, none of the Disney World parks has a bigger Toy Story presence than Hollywood Studios. This is where you will find Toy Story Land, after all! Toy Story Land is set in Andy’s backyard and includes three rides and one quick service restaurant, Woody’s Lunchbox. Woody, Buzz, Jessie, and Bo Peep also meet for photos and autographs.
Do the kids love Disney Junior? Hollywood Studios is where you will see and meet characters. Join the Disney Junior Dance Party, a live stage show with floor seating, and enjoy breakfast at Hollywood and Vine with Disney Junior characters. Vampirina, Doc McStuffins, and Fancy Nancy also meet only at Hollywood Studios.
If you’re a Disneyland regular, Hollywood Studios is easier to skip. Many rides are similar to those in Disneyland (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is nearly identical and Tower of Terror is the same ride system as Guardians of the Galaxy Mission: Breakout) and the overall feel of Hollywood Studios is most similar to Disney’s California Adventure park. If you’re looking for a unique experience that you can’t find in California, choose Epcot and Animal Kingdom over Hollywood Studios.
You should skip Hollywood Studios if…
- You’re a foodie – the food scene at Hollywood Studios is pretty bleak compared to other parks
- You’re a Disneyland regular or have been to Disney’s California Adventure
- You have small children who love rides
You should NOT skip Hollywood Studios if…
- You’re a Star Wars fan
- You’re a Toy Story fan
- You’re a Disney Junior fan
- You’re a thrill ride junkie
- You love old Hollywood and movies
Should I Skip Animal Kingdom?
Animal Kingdom is often considered to be the most unique and immersive of the four Disney World parks. It feels the least “Disney” and so many details make the park as authentic as possible. It’s truly a masterpiece of art and architecture, especially if you’re able to slow down a bit and take in all the details.
Pandora – The World of Avatar opened in 2017 and is a shining example of jaw-dropping Disney theming. Its headliner ride, Flight of Passage, still draws the longest lines in all of Disney World for good reason. Festival of the Lion King is regularly touted as the best live show at Disney World. Expedition Everest is one of the most thrilling roller coasters at Disney World. And the Kilimanjaro Safari through Disney’s 100+ acre reserve that is home to more than 30 animal species is absolutely not to be missed during an Animal Kingdom visit.
Animal Kingdom also offers some of the best food options in the Disney parks. It may not have the quantity of restaurants boasted by Epcot, but its quick service options are easily the best of the four parks overall.
And if you want to get a picture with both Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Animal Kingdom is the only place the head mice meet together – wearing adorable safari outfits to boot!
So why might you want to miss this gorgeous, thrilling park?
Well, if you have a quality zoo near your home, Animal Kingdom may hold less appeal. While Animal Kingdom is certainly not “just a zoo,” there are a LOT of live animals. You can view them on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride or during the Up! bird show, but otherwise you view them from walking trails similar to most zoos.
While Animal Kingdom has some of the best and most thrilling rides in all of Disney World, the park is light on rides overall with less than a dozen in total. Only three rides have no height restrictions so the littlest kids would only be able to ride Na’vi River Journey, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and TriceraTop Spin.
If you want to end every night with fireworks, Animal Kingdom will disappoint you. It’s the only Disney World park without a nighttime fireworks show and its nighttime spectacular, Rivers of Light, isn’t nearly as … spectacular.
You should skip Animal Kingdom if…
- You frequently visit zoos in your town
- You have small children who love rides
- You just aren’t that into animals
You should NOT skip Animal Kingdom if…
- You appreciate immersive art, architecture, and performances
- You MUST ride Flight of Passage
- You want to meet Minnie and Mickey together
So, which Disney World park would you skip on a short trip? Answer below!