Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood’s Universal Studios

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios pin

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Many young people grew up with J KRowlings’ Harry Potter, and the next generation is quickly getting to know this fantastical world of magic and wizardry. The main series spans seven books, eight movies, and a recently welcomed prequel titled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.  Hence it was only a matter of time until theme parks based on this world would be created. After its successful launch in Orlando, Universal  Studios finally created a Harry Potter World in its Hollywood Park.


Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios door

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The Wizarding World was first built in Universal Orlando in the summer of 2010. Due to its popularity, Universal developed a version of the park in Universal Hollywood in the summer of 2016. Since, Universal Hollywood has access to much less land than Orlando, the park section in Hollywood more compact but still, includes all Orlando park highlights.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios gate

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What You Will See

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When we first got there, we got to pay at an automated kiosk since we purchased our tickets by credit card. Unfortunately, the kiosk malfunctioned and didn’t print us our tickets. Luckily, we were directed to the service area where the customer service agents not only gave us our tickets but handed us two front of the line passes as compensation for our time.


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We made a beeline for the Harry Potter World as soon as we got in the park. Guests enter this section of the park through a stone gate. The first thing we saw was a recreation of Hogsmeade, the small shopping town where Hogwarts students go to have fun. This area was an almost perfect recreation of the one seen in the movies, complete with off-kilter chimneys and magical window dressings. Needless to mention, the rooftops were covered in fake snow, which looked perfect during our Christmas visit.

The Three Broomsticks

We headed to The Three Broomsticks restaurant first. As we had arrived near lunch time, we did encounter a bit of a line. The other half of our party arrived before us, and apparently, people are not allowed to save seats inside, so we sat separately.

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Appropriate for Christmas, the Three Broomsticks offered a Holiday Feast. The Holiday Feast included  Turkey, Beef Wellington along with various vegetables, delicious stuffing and cranberry sauce.The portions were large and could easily feed a family of four, maybe more. WE were told that during the rest of the year, diners can still try the Great Feast, which includes chicken, spare ribs, corn, roasted potatoes, and salad.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios food

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Along with the holiday platter, we also tried the Spare Ribs and the Fish and Chips. The Three Broomsticks venue offers many different British-based food items, such as Bangers and Mash, Shepherd’s Pie, and Beef Lamb and Guinness Stew.
For breakfast, patrons can try Eggy Bread, a traditional English Breakfast, an American Breakfast or a Continental Breakfast. They do have a children’s menu which offers smaller versions of most of the adult meals.


While at The Three Broomsticks, we, of course, had to have our first taste of butterbeer!
Butterbeer is a signature drink of the Harry Potter franchise that fans all over the world wish to sample. Butterbeer in the park came in three types-frozen, regular, and hot.
We tried the regular in a specialty mug. It tasted much like a cream soda mixed with butterscotch and was delicious yet incredibly sugary. The Three Broomsticks also serves a Butterbeer Potted Cream, and adults can enjoy Butterbeer with a shot of whiskey.

 butterbee rExploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios

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Buying a Wand

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios owls

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After dining at The Three Broomsticks, the Harry Potter area got exceptionally crowded, so we decided to check out the rest of Universal until the crowds died down. After going on the Studio Tour and checking out the Simpsons area, we returned to the Harry Potter area to buy ourselves a wand at Ollivander’s.

Just like at the Orlando Park, Ollivander’s does offer a wand choosing event. However, we only recommend this for the patrons willing to wait in long lines for the chance to be chosen for the ceremony. Word of warning-only one child is selected per event. Those wishing to skip the ceremony can just go straight into Ollivander’s shop and just buy a wand directly.

Ollivander’s turned out to be a small shop. The staff at the door limit those coming in and out, but even then we still moved through crowds. The store stocks all the wands in long boxes on shelves. One one side of the room featured all the “celebrity” wands, aka wands based off those owned by the characters. On the other end of the room we saw wands sorted by “wood type,” and along this side, patrons could read little descriptions of the various wand woods, how they looked, and how they matched up to distinct personalities.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios car

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Interactive Wands

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios cage

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One of the most interesting aspects of Harry Potter world is getting an interactive wand. These are a little more pricey but well worth it for its ‘magic ‘ capabilities. We bought one of these interactive wands, which came with a map to show us where we could use them. One of the first places we went was to a decorative flower in the window of a shop. By standing on a point and waving the wand in a particular pattern, we got the flower to bloom. There’s plenty of other places where one can cast spells throughout the park to various effects.

Something that I noticed was that I sometimes had difficulty making the wand work. We figured out it was because I am left-handed, and therefore making the wand movements with my left hand, with my arm likely blocking whatever mechanism the item uses to communicate with the scenery.


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We wandered around for awhile casting spells in various places before going into Honeydukes.
In the Harry Potter books, Honeydukes is a sweet shop that sells all sorts of magical candies. We bought a chocolate frog, which came in a box that looked exactly like the ones in the movies.
We also purchased a bottle of pumpkin juice. The store had stacks of Bertie Bots Every Flavor Beans on sale, specialty jelly beans that come in interesting (and disgusting) flavors. Other items we found interesting were chocolate wands and cauldron cake pastries. The shop was very crowded and filled with merchandise, so it was sometimes difficult to move around.

Honeydukes in Universal is in the same building as Zonko’s Joke Shop (Universal Orlando has Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes instead.)In the Zonko’s area, guests can buy all sorts of nonfood merchandise, such as old fashion joke and prank items, many of which have some magical theme.

 pygmy Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios

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Flight of the Hippogriff/Frog Choir

We decided to go ahead and check out Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey Ride now that we could wait in a reasonable line. On our way, we passed Flight of the Hippogriff, a more traditional roller coaster suitable for younger kids. We also saw the stage on which the Hogwarts Frog Choir was performing, and we stopped to watch. Four Hogwarts students sang magic themed acapella songs accompanied by the croaking frogs they held aloft on pillows. Those who observe the show for awhile can see the students interact as they sing, part of which includes three of the students getting terrified in various ways by the fourth Slytherin student.

The Castle

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios SIGN

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They don’t allow guests to take bags or even their wands on the ride, but they do provide lockers at the ride’s entrance. It was crowded, so it took us some time to find a free locker, but once we did it was a breeze to store our items. Guests get the first two hours free for lockers.


Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios flag

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The line itself is worth walking through, and we highly recommend it even for those who don’t want to go on the final ride, since there are plenty of exit doors along the way. We first walked through a greenhouse area which was calming and got to see Mandrakes in pots.
Once we got inside the castle, we saw lots of moving paintings which communicated with each other. In one room, they had portraits of the four Hogwarts founders which all bickered with each other as we passed. In a nearby classroom, a screen replicated Harry, Ron, and Hermione appearing above us from under their Invisibility Cloak to talk to guests. There were lots of interesting little details that any Potter fan will enjoy.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

To get on the ride itself, guests walk on a moving platform similar to Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. Overhead bars straps guests in the seats, but visitors should be prepared that their feet will be dangling in the air.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios CART

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This version of the ride is different from the Orlando version in that the 3D elements were excluded to alleviate headaches and motion sickness for riders. However, the ride itself can still cause plenty of motion sickness. Riders move through simulated environments, partially on a 360 view screen, occasionally through constructed environments with animatronics. Though no one is entirely upside down or moving down or up at fast speeds the seats do tilt back and forth to simulate movement.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios DISPLAY

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Filch’s Emporium

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios FROG

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Once we got off, we walked right into Filch’s Emporium, another merchandise shop. There’s plenty of items here for guests to show off their house in mugs and plates as well as cute stuffed animal toys and puppets. We got a plush Fawkes the Phoenix as a gift.There are plenty of other great shops throughout the park, such as the Owl Post. These stores sell items like house robes, perfect badges, and other great things to get for oneself or as a gift.

Ending the Day

We decided to end our day at the Three Broomsticks again. Most people had cleared out, so we could freely walk in and sit wherever we wanted. We decided to get the warm butterbeer this time. After trying it, we think they use a different recipe for each type of Butterbeer, as it tasted distinct. Either way, it was still delicious and the perfect way to end our time at Harry Potter World.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios MUGS

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Location, Cost, and Hours

Universal Studios is located at 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA 91608.
Prices vary depending on the season and day, but typically sit at around $105 for adults, with discounts for kids. We highly recommend ordering tickets online for the best discounts.
Universal is usually open from nine AM to ten PM.

Exploring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Hollywood's Universal Studios STATUE

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Autism Travel Tips:

  • Guests need to empty their pockets of all metal items and go through a metal detector. If the metal detector beeps, a staff member wands the guest before they can continue walking.
  • We went right after Christmas, a particularly busy time for Universal. However, there are still crowds in this small part of the park. The shops are also smaller and filled with lots of merchandise, making for tight spaces. We recommend going to the park either early in the day or the evening.
  • Universal’s Front of the Line pass doesn’t work on any of the attractions in Harry Potter World.
  • Those visiting should stop at Guest Relations before entering the park. Universal Studios offers a special assistance card similar to the one in Disneyland. Parents just have to have staff scan the card at the ride to receive a return time to avoid lines.
  • At The Three Broomsticks, as guests walk through the line they can see a display of most dishes the restaurant offers. This display is an excellent way for parents and kids to look at the food and see portion sizes and what looks appetizing.
  • The Three Broomsticks does not allow patrons to save seats during busy times. However, those who get to the front of the line before the rest of their party can wait to the side.
  • Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey features some “4D” effects like heat and water sprays.
  • Those who want to cast spells with their interactive wands should know that the spells only work for one person at a time. Guests might sometimes have to stand in small lines to try out spells. The spells are also sometimes fickle, which can be frustrating, especially if there’s a line forming behind the spell caster.
  • The main bathroom in this part of the park is right next to The Three Broomsticks. Parents should be aware, however, that in the bathrooms a voiceover of the ghost “Moaning Myrtle” speaks to guests. This fact can be frightening for some kids – it was certainly a little unsettling for some of our adult party members.

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World

Fourteen Tips for Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World pin

Disney World with its five parks is vast, and there’s so much to experience. No parent wants to deal with a meltdown on vacation, let alone at Disney World where admission tickets are so pricey. In reality, chances are the intense activities of theme parks might kids with autism into sensory overload. To help parents mitigate such an occurrence here are our tips.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World plant

Plan a Longer Vacation

Parents of kids with autism may find that visiting the parks over the course of a few days is much less stressful for everybody. Though it might sound less budget friendly, there are plenty of great deals on multiple Disney tickets as well as lodgings. At a minimum, parents should try to allocate one separate day for each park.

Rest Well

For the lodgings, even those on a budget should try to get their kids a good night’s sleep. Parents could pay extra for a rollaway or, if possible, getting the kids their own room. Sleeping in beds with siblings or parents can get in the way of an optimal night’s sleep. If kids are more rested in the morning, they’ll be more able to handle their emotions at the park.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World castle

Take Frequent Breaks

Plan snack and lunch break times during the day. Parents of younger kids or those not used to spending the entire day at a theme park should schedule more frequent breaks and see how it goes.

Stay on Property

If at all possible, parents should find lodgings on the property for easy access to the park. For parents looking for a cheaper alternative to the Disney pricey hotels, the Wyndham has a property near Disney Springs that is affordable and still gives its guests access to the complimentary Disney transportation.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World red

Avoid Crowded Areas

Parents should avoid crowded areas, like the parade thoroughfare during the shows.In fact, they should skip the shows since they tend to be crowded anyway and try to go on typically full rides during that time since they’re mostly empty. Moreover, families should also eat meals on off hours, meaning before or after traditional lunch or dinner times.

Limit Shopping

Limiting the shopping adds to time spent enjoying the park itself and reduces arguments with kids. Parents should tell their child before entering the park that they are going to shop at the end of the day for a set time or online as an alternative.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World alice

Plan Outdoor/Indoor Rides

Parents need to know that the weather in Orlando is usually warm and humid no matter the month. Though Disney accommodates autism on many of their rides, there are often still waits. These waits can be challenging for kids who are temperature intolerant.

Parents should do the indoor rides in the middle of the day, then try to do the outdoor rides in the early morning or late evening when the temperature cools down and the crowds are gone.

Stay Hydrated

This advice applies to all parents traveling with kids but is of particular importance in a theme park situation where there’s a lot of walking involved.So, parents should either purchase several beverages for their kids during the day or bring refillable water bottles to fill up at water fountains in the parks.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World sky

Avoid Sugary Snacks

Most theme parks, especially Disney, have sugary snacks available for purchase literally at every corner of the parks. Pumping kids on sugary snacks and driving them into a sugar rush is seldom a good idea. Parents should discuss ahead of time with their kids what snacks they are allowed to have every day to avoid disappointments and meltdowns later.

Wear Comfortable Clothes

If kids get wet or sweaty, they might react adversely. It is a good idea for parents to make them as comfortable as possible. Since staying in a theme park for ten hours in a stretch is enough of a challenge for most kids,  parents should bring a change of clothes for emergencies.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World dumbo

Bring Headphones or Earplugs

Some noise sensitive kids will react to sounds and noises in the park. These sounds can include screaming, shots, or explosions from fireworks. It is, therefore, important to bring headphones or earplugs for these situations. It is important to note that some rides will not allow kids to wear headphones while riding for safety reasons.

Don’t Use Park Hoppers

It is better, especially for younger children, to spend the entire day in one park. Also, using the Disney Transportation from park to park can add a layer of stress for some kids due to the waiting time and buses that might be crowded.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World car

Get a Stroller

Renting a stroller for younger children or those who can’t walk much is best for families. Visiting the Walt Disney World parks involves a lot of walking, and no parent wants to argue with children or try to force them into anything. So, even for older kids, a stroller may be a good place to relax if they get tired or cranky.

Keep your group small

Going in a large group to a theme park can be overwhelming, and the needs of a child with autism might be overlooked. Kids with autism might want to explore at a certain pace or adhere to specific mealtimes. The best ratio is two adults per kid so the adults can alternate taking care and helping accommodate their needs.

Fourteen Tips For Preventing Sensory Meltdowns at Disney World teacups

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World

Clothing Tips for Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World pin

Unknown to many, clothing choices can be quite important for a theme park visit. For those who deal with sensory issues, clothing can make a day visit unpleasant and lead to meltdowns. Here are our tips for making good clothing choices for Walt Disney World.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World train


Visiting Walt Disney World involves a lot of walking throughout the four large parks. Even groups who set themselves to one park a day can expect a lot of walking. Also, the parks have areas with water attractions, and Florida often has lots of afternoon showers. As a result, the ground frequently gets slippery, which can be dangerous for kids running around.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World walt

Non-slip shoes, like crocs, are essential. Parents can use fabric on/off shoes for the best results. Everyone in the family should avoid flip-flops, heels, or wedges. They should especially avoid leather or suede shoes, as they can get ruined by rain and shrink.


Choice of pants is of particular importance for those who want to go on the water attractions. Thick denim pants will not dry out easily, leaving kids with wet denim sticking to their legs for the duration of the trip.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World water

The best option is pants made of thin, lightweight material that quickly dries. Parents can find pants like these in most travel and camping stores. Alternatively, parents can bring a change of clothes for their kids.


Bring colors that stick out in a crowd is best, especially for little kids. Parks get crowded, and kids can easily slip away. In this situation, he or she would be easier to find if they’re wearing, for example, a bright orange jacket.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World car


As we mentioned before, at Walt Disney World it frequently rains in the afternoon. Ponchos are the best option for people who don’t want to have to stay indoors for the two to four hours these afternoon rains last.

Long ponchos are best, and parents can either bring them from home or buy them from the parks. We like buying them from the parks because they double as an excellent souvenir for kids to get from Disney. We suggest not buying expensive ponchos since ponchos are an item that one can easily lose. Also, if someone forgets their poncho in a bag, these expensive ponchos can develop mildew.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World clock

For the most budget friendly option, parents can buy a one time use poncho from the dollar store.


Easy to dry, thin jackets are best for theme parks. The jacket should preferably have a hood that it easy to take off. The jacket should also zip, not button.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World rest

While it may seem like a good option, parents shouldn’t take heavy coats. The kids are not going to be wearing them the entire time, and nobody wants to walk around with a jacket all day for miles.


Clothes with multiple pockets are always helpful. Parents and kids can either wear cargo pants or a jacket with many pockets. There’s a lot of knick knacks that parents will want to store, such as phones, wires, wallets, and small water bottles.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World red

Expensive or favorite items

Parents and kids should not bring expensive clothing or items into the parks for many reasons. These items can get snagged on rides, lost, or stained by food items. Jackets can especially get easily lost or misplaced between attractions.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World gaston


While tempting, parents shouldn’t bring large bags into the park. Many of the rides will not allow riders to carry large bags. And dragging these bags through the park gets tiring quickly.

Instead, parents should either wear clothing with lots of pockets or wear a fanny pack for small items.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World butterfly

Tight fitting

Mini skirts and tight pants might be fashionable, but they’re not optimal theme park attire. Being confined in tight clothes for an entire day can be challenging to many.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World building

Loose fitting cotton clothes that breath are best for these environments. Dressing in layers is also crucial since the temperature can be highly variable throughout the day.


Although the idea of letting the little one walk around in a princess dress might seem fun, having kids dress up in costumes is not the best idea.

Clothing Tips When Taking Kids with Autism to Disney World sign

The costumes are often pricey and can easily get ruined in a theme park environment. In some cases, the costumes are long, such as with princess dresses or capes, and can get caught in ride mechanisms or doors.

After reading our tips it is your turn to chime in! What are your clothing tips when visiting the theme parks?

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism

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Originally opened at 6000 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida as a single theme park in June of 1990, the famous Universal Studios Orlando still flourishes. Islands of Adventure was added later, and together these movie-inspired theme parks draw almost 30 million visitors per year.For visitors who have autism, visiting a theme park can be fun but also quite challenging. To help families plan their visit here are our tips and suggestions.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism fire

What You Will See


The rides in the park range from mild to extreme and may present some sensory challenges for visitors with autism.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism ride

Children on the autism spectrum can range anywhere from thrill seekers that crave G-forces, and sharp roller coaster turns to being sensitive to even the slightest of motion. Many rides include moderate to high movement while others are tame. Furthermore, many of the rides are digitally simulated which involves being rocked in a seat.
Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism roller


The park’s most extreme rides include Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts. All of these rides feature sudden stops, spins, and turns. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts is a simulated coaster but still features extreme movements in all directions except upside down.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism river


More moderate rides include Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, Transformers 3D, Pteranodon Flyers, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. In Despicable Me Mayhem, guests can choose immovable chairs for a more surefooted experience.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism boat
The feet of guests dangle on Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which can prove a problem to some kids.  While Pteranodon Flyers is a smooth ride, it does suspend riders in flight over the Jurassic Park and is therefore not for those afraid of heights.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism red


The milder rides include Men in Black Alien Attack, Hogwarts Express, and The Simpsons Ride. The Simpsons Ride is another simulated roller coaster that’s mostly a mini Simpsons cartoon with a few ups and downs. The Hogwarts Express features mild train movement and can, in fact, be relaxing. For visitors who wish to experience very mild rides the Suess Landing area in Islands of Adventures is recommended.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism seuss


Many of the attractions at Universal feature loud noises. Some especially stand out with loud explosions, gunfire, and screams.  For example, Diagon Alley’s giant dragon often growls and spews real fire, while the train to Hogsmeade features whistles and screams.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism train

Though several rides at Universal are virtual they employ special lighting, darkness, and 3D glasses for their effects. The 3D glasses are not a requirement, so those sensitive to 3D effects can choose not the wear them during the ride or attraction. Those scared of the dark can wear a glow in the dark armband in attractions such as Revenge of the Mummy, Knockturn Alley, and Poseidon’s Fury.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism show


Other attractions involve water sprays, winds, and smoke effects, which can prove a challenge to some kids. Water based rides include Jurassic Park River Adventure, Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, and Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges.
Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism bob

Most rides have riders wear a helmet or seat belts which again might bother some kids.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism claws


Macy’s Holiday Parade, the Mardi-Gras parade, and the Superstar Parade all run outdoors in the afternoon with spectators lined along the parade route. People can sit on the sidewalk or stand during the half hour ceremony. Parents of kids who can’t sit through the entire show can leave at any time.



Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism car

Families can also visit the Character Party Zone where they can find dancers from the parade performing and gsigning autographs in front of Mel’s Drive-In.


Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism mel

Throughout the parks, there are also mini performances where spectators can stand and attend like the Blues Brothers concert stage in front of Rip Ride Rockit, and Hogwarts Frog Choir where performers sing songs from Harry Potter movies.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism parade

There are plenty of character Meet and Greet opportunities in the parks. Though there are no accommodations for them, the lines are usually short.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism potter

Finally, there’s Shrek 4D, a 3D movie with extra sensory effects like smells and water sprays. This show is an unusual attraction but can be scary or challenging for viewers with sensory issues.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism train



Universal boasts several playgrounds like Curious George ,If I Ran the Zoo and The Olive where antsy kids can let out steam. Many of these places feature water spray areas.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism park

For kids that are temperature-sensitive, the Camp Jurassic and Jurassic Park Discovery Center are recommended.
The former is a shady playground where children can explore secret caves, climb through nets, run across bridges and slide down slides. The latter features an air-conditioned educational area focusing on the prehistoric past.

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Restaurants inside the parks as well as Universal City Walk feature several vegan, kosher, halal, dairy-free, gluten-free, or nut-free options for those with special diets.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism restaurant

Guests can make reservations at most sit-down restaurants on the property. However, except during very busy times of the year, one can usually just walk into most restaurants. Diners can ask about the dietary options when they book online or by phone.
Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism hall



Like a so many other theme parks, Universal is a souvenir heaven.
Each area has unique merchandise so guests can get items ranging from favorites like Dr. Seuss, Despicable Me, Shrek, Marvel heroes like Spiderman and Hulk to Terminator, Transformers, and The Simpsons.



Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism potions
But none can compare to the memento explosion of Harry Potter items to choose from: T-shirts, school uniforms, and even owl cages. Of course, most people want to get the new interactive wands. These devices interact with various locations in Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Guests can purchase these wands in several spots in the two parks, but by far the most popular place is Olivander’s Wand Shop.

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Location, Hours, and Admission

Families can buy tickets online or when they get to the park. Multiple day passes are the best deal. However, the park does offer three great options for children with autism.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism duff

Universal Express Pass

The Universal Express Pass, or UEP, is a paper pass with a printed bar code that can be used around most areas of the park (excluding some Harry Potter rides). Parents can get one for everyone in the family at no additional charge when staying at any USO properties (excluding Cabana Bay).

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism coaster

They can also purchase the pass separately when arriving at the park. The UEP itself features two kinds of express passes. One offers a limit of one entry a day for each attraction. The other offers unlimited entries. Parents of children with autism who like to go on the same rides over and over again should get the unlimited pass.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism betty


Attraction Assistance Pass

There is also Universal’s Attraction Assistance Pass or AAP. This feature is a free pass given to accommodate guests who can’t wait in regular standby lines. One can use this pass for any ride or attraction, even one without a Universal Express Entrance. Parents can get their AAP card upon arriving at Guest Services and present identification while describing the accommodation needed. A doctor’s note explaining limitations can be useful but is not legally necessary.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism seat

The card can accommodate up to six people. It also remains valid at both parks for the entire length of one’s stay. Families just need to show a cast member their card. If a ride’s wait time is less than half an hour, they will get in immediately through the express lane. Otherwise, the cast member will write on the AAP card the attraction name, time of day, wait time, and a return time.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism street

Guest Assistance Pass

Finally, there’s the Guest Assistance Pass or GAP. These passes are identical to a one day/two park unlimited UEP. They provide immediate entry to any attraction’s Universal Express queue, regardless of the standby wait. Guests can only get these on a strictly limited basis.

Navigating Universal Studios Orlando with Autism rock


Autism Travel Tips:

  • While the park features monthly events, summer and Christmas time are the most crowded times of the year.
  • The best way to dress is in layers since conditions vary from attraction to attraction and throughout the day.
  • Non-slip shoes are a must.
  • Parents should pack a change of clothes if anyone wants to do any water rides. The park does offer blow dryers for rent for five minutes at a time.
  • We recommend bringing a poncho to protect family members from getting soaking wet on some water rides along with flip flops.
  • The park can get crowded. Parents should snap a photo of their child to show authorities if they wander or get lost.
  • In addition, parents should get temporary tattoos or patches with their child’s name and the parent’s phone number in case they get lost.
  • Families should prepare children ahead of time that there are height restrictions on some rides.
  • Guests that can’t climb the two flights of stairs at Diagon Alley or Hogsmeade can ask staff to use the elevator to take them straight to the train platform.
  • There are no accommodations for attending parades.
  • At night, some parades may have fireworks.
  • Parents can use available lockers for shoes, socks, and small backpacks.
  • While the pathways are all paved and accessible, there might be slippery or muddy areas due to water attractions.
  • Orlando can get hot during the summer. This fact can make it uncomfortable for those waiting in outdoor lines for extended periods of time. Thankfully, many attractions at Universal are indoors and have air conditioning.
  • Those who don’t want to go on the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride can go through the queue line and experience all the Harry Potter items and scenes from the films. Interested guests just need to tell the attendant they are not riding. The attendant will then show them the exit.
  • Though the park allows guests to wear noise canceling headphones, some roller coasters like Hollywood Rip Ride Rocket and other motion intense rides won’t allow it.


Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism?



Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? pin

Dear Margalit,

After meltdowns from our son with autism every time we had to leave the house when he was younger, we used your tips for introducing special needs children to the idea of traveling, and it has worked so well that I think we are finally ready to start visiting theme parks. Do you have any particular Walt Disney World one that you can recommend?    Thanks, Julia.


Dear Julia,

I’m so glad to hear about progress for your family.That’s great! Your question is a good one and one that I have been asked on some occasions. I have to say that all Disney parks excellent at accommodating special needs and disabilities for both adults and children.
Therefore, the way to choose between them will depend on your child’s specific sensory issues. With that said, I will try to highlight the pros and cons of visiting each of the four main parks in WDW.


Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? alice

Magic Kingdom

Since you didn’t specify your son’s age or if you have other children I have to say that the Magic Kingdom has the best indoor and outdoor options for all ages. It also has the widest selection of rides from mild and slow to moderate.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? snow white

For those who don’t like to or can’t walk a lot, it is ideal because the rides are relatively close together. If you like the outdoors, they have the Liberty Square Riverboat and Tom Sawyer Island which is fun to explore. If your son prefers to stay indoors, there are shows like the Country Bear Jamboree and Mickey’s Philharmagic. The sensory issues he might encounter are noise and darkness, but with headphones and some light from a  mobile phone, he will hopefully be okay.Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? dumbo

Visitors should be aware that the Magic Kingdom is the most visited of all Disney parks. With Disney’s new program for autism, visitors have to go to the ride they wish to experience, and the staff gives a slotted time to come back. Because of the popularity of the park, these waits can be long. Areas like Main Street are also more crowded than the other parks, so that’s also something to consider for kids who hate crowds or are noise sensitive.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? castle

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios has more extreme rides which cater to an older age group.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom which has parades, Hollywood Studios offers more stunt shows and live stage performances. This is THE park for kids that love thrill rides and can’t get enough of being twirled upside down or sideways.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? drive in


Also, it is the best place for kids that love movies and are fans of Star Wars. Overall, between the riders’ scream and night fireworks this park is the noisiest, something to bear in mind if your child is noise sensitive.A good time to go for kids with autism is in the early morning when they first open since the park gets more crowded by midday and evening.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? red


If you and your kids prefer exotic souvenir hunting and tasting ethnic foods, then Epcot with its variety of international pavilions is for you. I have found that Epcot has been a great way to introduce children with autism to different cuisines and cultures in Disney form. It also has rides which are similar to the other theme parks and again, noise-sensitive children need to take that into consideration.

Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? epcotA highlight is the Park’s firework show  IllumiNations: Reflection of Earth, which can be seen from almost everywhere in the park. As our son is noise sensitive, we’ve discovered the best spot to watch the show was from inside the restaurants in the Unite Kingdom pavilion.

The Best Disney Park for Children with Autism epcot

The Animal Kingdom

If your family likes the outdoors and learning about animals, then The Animal Kingdom will be right up your alley, providing none of your family members are smell-sensitive. The park features a great scavenger hunt, a live stage production of The Lion King, and an interactive bird show, all of which we have found to be entertaining.


Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? monkeys


Moreover, the Animal Kingdom is now open in the evenings. This fact might be a bonus, though it is still the least lit of all parks and some kids might find it scary.
Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? river

Once again, I’m thrilled you’ve decided to take a leap of faith and travel with your son to Walt Disney World. I hope that once you have had the opportunity to research and visit each park, you will be able to make a choice that suits your family best. 
Which Disney Park is Best for Kids with Autism? tree

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016


At the DSMMC 2016, there was a thread of empowerment alongside exciting news. From Disney’s Moana to social media tips, there was a plethora of great information with quality Disney entertainment to follow.

Last month I had the unique opportunity to attend the DSMMC 2016 (Disney Social Media Moms Celebration) and enjoy a day in the Anaheim parks.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The event took place at Disneyland Resort Paradise Pier Hotel. It gave me the opportunity to experience the Resort’s 60th Anniversary Diamond Celebrations, which were ending in less than two weeks while catching up with Travelingmom.com bloggers and networking with fellow influencers.

Though this was a mini half day event (compared to the larger one that takes place in WDW), it was jammed packed with plenty of useful information, inspiration and of course, the typical Disney pixie dust welcome and swag.


The magic started from the moment the invitees arrived. We were each gifted a goodie bag filled with the 60th celebration items and park hopper tickets for the day. The surprises continued as we moved onto the large ballroom. There were a dozen or so tables each decorated with a pair of light up ears and a “paintbrush” for each attendee, perfect to use during the “Paint The Night” parade. The paintbrush next to the ears is a wand that lets users change the Mickey ears of anyone nearby by choosing a color and pressing a button. Needless to say, all of us had fun switching the colors of each other’s ears!


Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

But let’s get to the Exciting Disney News!

Michele Himmelberg, Director of Public Relations at the Disneyland Resort, who had recently attended Disney’s Shanghai park opening and Leanne O’Regan, Director of Content Relations for Disney Parks, started our day by sharing details of all the upcoming changes in the Parks.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The Disneyland Resort


The not to be missed rides in the parks this season are ‘Frozen’ at the Hyperion theater and ‘Soaring Over the World’ which replaced Soarin’ Over California.

Both Anaheim parks are ready to celebrate another spooktacular Halloween season with the Haunted Mansion turning into a ghoulish attraction with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme starting September 9th.

Be on the lookout for Elena of Avalor, Disney’s first Latin princess who is an elegant warrior.
Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016 dolls

Also, this will be the final season for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as it is closing in January to become Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission Breakout. Apparently, the Tower’s free fall drop will transform into an intergalactic experience featuring characters from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films.

Walt Disney World

The Orlando parks just got four new attractions: The Tree of Life Awakening at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot’s Soaring Over the World and Frozen rides, and the ‘Frozen Ever After’ show at the Hollywood Studios. Last April, I got to check them out first hand during Disney’s Awaken Summer event for the media.

We also saw BIG changes to Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney. The new area is revamped and is worth spending an afternoon or evening in after spending the day in the parks.

However, the BIGGEST thing to hit WDW is going to be Pandora – the new world of Avatar in the Animal Kingdom slotted to open in 2017.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

The Disney Cruise Line

According to the PR team, the cruise line will be adding new itineraries and ports of call from San Diego and Galveston by next year. They will also be adding two new cruise ships by 2021 and 2023. If you still haven’t sailed with Disney, you should seriously consider doing so if possible. The experience is unparalleled when it comes to entertaining families. Did I mention the Disney Wonder will get a Frozen show, too?


We were shown a preview by Amy Smeed, first female co-head of animation on a Disney feature film. Moana, scheduled for release November 23rd of 2016, promises to be a huge success. Set in the islands of the South Pacific it has all the markings of a quality Disney franchise – a beautiful, strong-willed princess, an angry demi-god, Maui, and two quirky pet characters, Pua the pig and Hei-Hei the rooster.

Moana, played by Auli’i Cravalho, is the movie’s adventurous and tenacious teen heroine. She sails off on a daring mission in an attempt to restore her people’s past as explorers. The themes of female empowerment, culture, and heritage are thought provoking and inspiring.

Amy shared with us through the copious amount of research her studio staff put into recreating the customs and cultures presented in her slideshow. These included details like the culturally significant tattoos of the men.

Watch the Moana trailer here:


Tapping into Disney’s bag of tricks on social media

Erin Glover (Editorial Content Director for the Disneyland Resort) and Victoria Lim (Managing Editor of Content at Walt Disney World) shared their secrets to success in the constantly evolving world of blogging and social media platforms.


Erin discussed running the Disney Parks Blog and described the challenges associated with organizing content and editorial calendars. She reminded us of the importance of syndication and promotion of content on multiple social platforms.

Victoria shared her favorite digital apps that help her create short professional looking videos on the go. The apps, which include Magisto, Videolicious, Quik, and WeVideo, sounded useful and user-friendly for anyone with a social media presence. All of the apps allow users to create personal collages with pictures and short clips along with music and graphics. I will try them all out and see which one I prefer.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Our surprise guests

Leave it to Disney to make our day more special by bringing two hard working celebrity moms to share their personal stories of balancing demanding jobs and family life.

Our surprise guests were Tiffani Thiessen (aka Kelly Kapowski from Saved by the Bell) and Ginger Zee (ABC News & Good Morning America meteorologist).

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

In their speeches, both women emphasized that though it wasn’t easy, women can have it all if they stay focused on goals and ‘just do it’ instead of being paralyzed by criticism or obsessed with perfection.

Tiffani spoke of her life as a mother, wife, and host of her own cooking show, Dinner at Tiffani’s, while running her blog. Ginger Zee relayed how she struggled to balance everything with her busy travel schedule and how she is frequently scrutinized on social media for ‘neglecting’ family.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

After listening and taking selfies with these two hard-working women, we were more than ready to head on to the parks and try out the new attractions for ourselves!

Mini tour of the Parks

After the conference had ended at noon, I headed into the Parks to check out all the exciting changes since I had last visited.


Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Walking around the Magic Kingdom filled me with nostalgia and memories of the times I had visited the park with my kids over the past two decades.

However, what caught my eye were two specialized shopping spots that are sure to be a huge hit with kids, particularly for holiday gifts and birthday celebrations – the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the Star Wars store.

The boutique sells princess outfits complete with accessories. It houses a mini beauty salon perfect for young children. Here, they can get a mani, pedi, hair and makeup done and then get a souvenir photo of the experience.

In the Star Wars store guests can construct and personalize a light saber with different saber colors, hilts and even with dual blades. The sabers light up and can be folded in like any of the light sabers you can buy at the park. Perfect for fans of all ages!

California Adventure

Though I craved my usual Dole Whip at the Tiki room, the line was rather long. Instead, I headed to the New Orleans section instead and enjoyed a refreshing mint julep before moving on to Disney’s California Adventure Park.

Since it opened back in 2001, this park has been our favorite with its thrill rides and boardwalk atmosphere. I was sad to hear that Soarin’ Over California was gone but the new Soarin’ Around the World is even better! This ride takes guests over the iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower, ending right over Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Attendees to the event had to select either ‘Soaring’ or ‘Frozen’ for their fast pass.Blogger friends that saw the show raved about it so I will be sure to go next time I’m in the park. For both attractions, I highly recommend a fast-pass! Even with a fast pass, there’s still a wait since the rides are currently insanely popular.



As I was heading out, I did stop to gawk at some of the eateries and stores in Downtown Disney. Here, my top picks for entertaining the kids are Build-a-Bear (currently offering unique 60th-anniversary accessories), the Lego store, and Ridemakerz, where you can build your own RC car from scratch. These are all fun options but are somewhat pricey; make sure you discuss a budget with your kids before entering.

Networking and Fun Times at the DSMMC 2016

Though my one day in Disneyland was short, it was well worth the two-hour drive for the networking, information, inspiration and fun memories.



disney statue


I was invited as a guest of Disney Parks to attend this conference and given a free park hopper for the day as well as a bag of souvenirs. Rest assured that all opinions are my own!

Disney’s D23 Conference : Tips for Attending

Last week we finally got around to attending the D23 Expo in Anaheim, California.
D23 (D is for Disney and the 23 the year 1923 when Walt Disney founded the Company) is the official fan-club expo started by the company in 2009 and held every alternate year since.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending sign

The concept behind it was to give loyal fans a more in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at all the company’s projects; from future movies to theme park expansions.
The convention is highly popular and attracts more than 20,000 visitors during its three-day duration in August. Despite turning out to be one of the hottest weekends of the summer, the large crowds, and long lines; our son with autism managed to have a reasonably good time.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending audience
So, if you are a parent to a child with autism and are considering attending the D23; here answers to questions you might have.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending registration

Should young kids attend?

The expo is structured and geared towards teens and adult guests more than younger fans.
Aside from waiting in long lines to enter the different rooms, young children or kids with autism may find it difficult to sit through the actual panels which can range anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours.
There are specially priced children’s tickets available for those ages 3 – 9. Under three’s receive complimentary admission to the D23 EXPO.
For parents who do decide to bring their young child, the Expo provides a designated Family Play area with seating, entertainment, and games on the second floor.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending

Where is the best place to stay?

If your budget is somewhat flexible, strive to stay as close as you can to the convention hall so your child with autism can take a break if they get overwhelmed or overstimulated; or if you need to run pick up any items you forgot in your hotel.
The two properties closest are the Hilton Anaheim and the Marriott Suites Anaheim. Make sure you book early to grab the best prices, as these hotels tend to fill up months in advance.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending people you meet

Are costumes recommended?

Some guests do come dressed up, but if your kid has sensory issues, I’d strongly advise against it.
Most of the costumes sold in stores aren’t comfortable enough to wear for prolonged periods of time; especially if one needs to sit on the floor.
Also, bear in mind that if you or your child dress up, you might spend your Expo time posing for others’ pictures instead of enjoying the exhibits.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending R2D2

What to pack?

Since you’ll be standing on your feet or sitting on floors most of the day, you should bring along the most comfortable pair of shoes and pants you can.
The Expo doesn’t make public announcements in the event of a child getting lost so carrying two phones to communicate with one another in case you get separated along with a cord to recharge the devices is a good idea.If your kid is nonverbal then temporary tattoos or clothes patches should be used to help him or her be identified fast.
An additional benefit of bringing the phones is that it can entertain your kid if he or she needs to wait in any lines.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ZOOTOPIA

What’s there to see?

Depending on your child’s interests there are quite a few choices to consider. The key is in the initial planning. You need to pre-plan your days at the Expo just like you’d plan your day in the theme park.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ANIMATORS
Use the D23 website and mobile app to find out which presentations and pavilions to attend and where each one held, so you don’t waste precious time running around looking for the particular room.

Since there are several presentations given at the same time, you will need to pick which one to attend and arrive at the assigned room, at least, a half an hour before the doors open (for the sought -after presentations you need to come even earlier.)

If your child needs a break, the convention lobby is a great place to people-watch and strike up a conversation. It can be especially fun to see the homemade costumes.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MOODS
At this year’s expo, the presentations included introductions to Walt Disney’s, Pixar’s and Lucasfilms’ new movies, multiple celebrity appearances; as well as the reveal of the Star War planned expansion in the US theme parks!

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending STARWARS
The Expo featured Live performances at the Disney Channel and Disney Radio booths with presentations from the Disney archives and Disney Imagineering.
There was an entire section dedicated to toys and video games and all the Disney memorabilia imaginable to gawk at and buy for the avid shoppers.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending CAR

Where to eat?

The Expo boasted diverse food venues both inside the convention building all cafeteria style, as well as outside food trucks.There were long lines at lunch time especially the indoors places, sparse seating and few options for guests with special diets.So, my recommendation is that attendees with special dietary should bring their food.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending FOOD

Is the Expo autism- friendly?

This is the million-dollar question.
The Expo states on their website that it can accommodate special needs attendees of all types including those using wheelchairs and service dogs and that requests can be helped by the guest service personnel in the lobby.
However, in reality, the accommodations varied and were not consistent.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending ACCOMMODATIONS

On the first day of the Expo (Friday) our son was let into the building fast without needing to sit in the long lines outside which was a blessing since the temperature outside that day was quite high and he is temperature intolerant.
He was also helped to get a stage pass so he could attend the Inside Out panel he wanted to see.Later that afternoon he asked to attend Pixar’s presentation and was also let in with little wait after explaining his condition.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending QUEUES
Things didn’t go as well the following day Saturday when there were many more visitors than the day before.
He wanted to attend the Lucasfilm and Marvel presentation for which people started queuing the night before.

When we arrived five hours before the doors opened there were already thousands in line. We went back and forth asking guest services and the staff at the hall’s entrance for accommodations, but no one could tell us where to go. An hour later as he tried again to enter the room he was told the event had been sold out.He got highly agitated and experienced a serious meltdown that continued for over an hour. The staff there was nothing short of amazing -they worked on calming him down and were well trained in de-escalation techniques.
As the time neared, a kind staffer was able to secure us two seats in the room which needless to say ‘made our day.
Disney needs to formulate more transparent policy when it comes to persons with autism explaining  when and where to go to ask for accommodations.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending GIFTS

Tips for minimizing wait times

If you’d like to shop in one of the three official venues without standing in the long lines, go to the pass store desk in hall A and ask for a Store Pass that gives you priority entry and a designated time slot to go and shop.
This applies to the Disney Dream Store, Disney Store, and Mickey’s of Glendale, too.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MEDALS

If you don’t wish to ask for special accommodations but still want to get priority entrance to panels, the Expo offers a system of stage passes that you can get at the designated desk in the hall.
Be aware that this is only applicable for panels that start at 11 a.m., and you can only get one stage pass at a time so if you wish to attend more than one panel you have to go back and get a separate pass before each panel starts.

StagePass tickets are not available for Hall D23 sessions, or for presentations scheduled before 11:00 a.m. in Stage 23 and Stage 28 so if you would like to attend any of these presentations you need to ask Guest Services for help.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending DECOR

Autism Travel Tips

  • The best way to start preparing your kid is to show them video clips and pictures from past events that are available online.
  • Make sure you print a copy of the building map and acquaint your child with the location of the different halls.
  • We didn’t do that and spent valuable time the first day getting lost in all the different rooms.
  • Teach them how to use the phone app to check for new updates.
  • Discuss and formulate a plan B if you can’t get seats for a specific panel that they wish to attend.
  • Explain the reality that they may not see all conferences because of time and logistics.
  • Shopping is an integral component of the Expo so make sure you set a spending budget to avoid arguments and potential meltdowns.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending MONSTER

As longtime Disney fans, attending the D23 was a special treat for us.

Though, things didn’t go as planned (do they ever?) my son looks back and remembers all the fun times he had.

In fact, he is looking forward to booking his tickets for the next Expo as soon as they are released, sometime in January of 2016.
Hopefully, the above tips will be helpful to you as you plan for the D23 of 2017, and you will be inspired to join us.

Disney’s D23 Conference : Helpful Tips for Attending BUZZ

Entertaining Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells


Even in a place like Wisconsin that has indoor water parks in abundance, the Kalahari Resort stands out.
The property features an indoor water park 125k square foot in size, an outdoor smaller sister property, and a small indoor theme park.
All three offer rides and attractions are catering to visitors of all ages.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells inside

The Indoor Theme Park

The indoor water park has six thrill rides and five family ones.

The thrill rides are

  • Master Blaster is a 570 foot long, fast, two person, uphill water coaster.Expect to be splashed with water and it has a sharp drop at the end that may scare the young ones.
  • Tanzanian Twister is a one or two-person a pipe style spiral 40 mph ride that isn’t recommended for claustrophobic guests or those with noise sensitivities (the tube creates an echo effect and amplifies screams) or motion sensitivities.
  • Zigzag Zebra is a fast-paced tunnel ride, that like the Tanzanian Twister isn’t suitable for those who are noise sensitive.
  • Elephant trunk at the 270-foot tube isn’t as bad as the Master Blaster, so if your kid wants to try one, this is the one to try.
  • Rippling Rhino at nearly 400 ft long is a milder version of its faster counterparts.
  • The Flow Rider is an attraction that simulates surfing on top of a five-foot wave and is a balancing ride that has gained popularity in the last few years. It has been installed in multiple parks, even on cruise ships. Be advised that  you are only permitted to body surf. at this park.

The Family rides are:

  • Victoria Falls – a 504-foot long raft ride that resembles a theme park ride only with no real scenery,
  • Zambezi River – the park’s lazy river that is great for everyone especially since parents can ride with their kids.
  • Safari Kids Splash area is the two-story wooden house submerged in 12 inches of water for the young kids, with crawl spaces, tunnels, and slides,
  • Leopard’s Lair created for the school aged kids with 3000 feet of play area includes slides and nets,
  • Crocodile Cove is geared towards the older crowd with activities like a water walk and basketball.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells outside

The Outdoor Waterpark

The outdoor water park at 77,000 square feet, mirrors the indoor park, offering thrill and family rides but on a smaller scale.

The four thrill rides are:

  • Extreme Rush is a two lane fast paced racing-style slide, which can accommodate siblings or kids with parents.
  • Swahili Swirl is a slide that shoots riders from a vortex into the water, and not recommended for children with motion sickness or any fear of heights.
  • Anaconda slide has sharp turns and deep plunges, so it is only recommended for those that have tried some of the milder rides.
  • Wild Wildebeest is a smooth ride in which guests floating rafts pass through caverns and waterfalls.
  • Splashdown Safari is a 6,000-square-foot clubhouse with geysers, spinning trays, hose jets, water cannons, curtains and wheels that can be hand-operated by kids.
  • Luapula Lazy River is a family favorite, boasting loops around the outdoor water park, pools and waterslide tower.

Autism Travel Tips

  • Be advised that the park offers no front of the line pass or accommodations for autism!
  • Talk to your kid ahead of time about water safety, the fact they may have to wear a life jacket (if they are under a certain height) and reiterate the fact he/she should never run on park grounds.
  • Have your kid start with the milder rides and work their way (at their pace) to the thrill rides.park’s indoor and outdoor thrill rides are not recommended for people with claustrophobia, anxiety or those suffering from any motion sensitivity, since on most rides, especially those comprising enclosed tubes, guests can’t see anything and can experience sudden almost violent drops.
  • Bring water shoes to prevent your child from slipping
  • Schedule your visit on a weekday- we visited in the middle of summer and encountered incredibly short lines
  • Both parks have a shortage of signage and staff so expect to be confused as to which entrance leads to which slide.
  • You can get free towels at the entrance, and there are lounge and upright chairs throughout the park. If you wish to enhance your experience, you can rent a private cabana for the day with LCD televisions and even your private hot tub.

Entertaining the Kids at the Kalahari Resort, Wisconsin Dells theme park

The indoor Theme Park

The indoor “theme park” is an 110,000 square foot entertainment center offers a day all inclusive pass or pay as you go option.Be aware that not all attractions in the park are free, so for the Bowling, Nascar Simulator, and Golf simulator, as well as all the arcade games you need to pay extra.

For the younger kids

  • an African themed Merry-Go-Round,
  • a 1,000 square foot jungle gym,
  • and a kiddie swing.

For older kids

  • the ‘Big Wheel’ Ferris Wheel,
  •  the 360 coaster
  • the Sky Trail® Ropes Course —20 feet above the ground,
  • rock climbing wall
  • drive a go cart
  •  Laser tag combat.
  •  Free mini course as well as a golf simulator you can pay extra for.

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Visit the theme park in the early afternoon or the morning when everyone is busy at the water parks so you don’t have to wait in any lines.
  • Ask the staff at check in whether they have any discount deals for the park.
  • Ask to see the park before you decide whether you will pay for the ride or get an all inclusive day ticket.



Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism

This month’s ‘Ask Margalit’ question comes all the way from  South Africa via e-mail.The writer, a mom who would like to visit the US theme parks with her child on the autism spectrum, is asking for tips on how to accomodate her son with his sensory challenges.


Hi Margalit,
My name is Marietjie, and I’m from Bloemfontein in South Africa.
My 11 year old son has autism and loves all sorts of sensory experiences even though he communicates with sounds, not words. We won a prize to visit Walt Disney World  and we are so excited. As we have never been to anything like this before, it will be entirely new.
Do you have any suggestions and advice for us?
Thanks so much.

Dear Marietjie
What a wonderful opportunity for you and your son.
Theme parks are one of the places my son loves to go to, and we have traveled to quite a few as a family. In fact, we attend the yearly Travelingmom retreat at WDW every April.
Since each visit and theme park present a learning experience. I am happy to share the following tips with you.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism tree
Safety First

One of the most important things in my opinion is safety and security so my tips will reflect this.
When my son was younger, I was concerned that he might get lost so I made sure he was dressed in bright and bold colors making him stand out. I took pictures of him each morning in his clothes for the day so that we would be able to display a recent photo for recognition, in the event that we became separated.

You mentioned that your son doesn’t use words; I would recommend using a temporary tattoo with his information and maybe a picture App like TalkRocketGo for cell phones that help users ask for directions.
On the same note, there are GPS apps like Life360 that can pinpoint your child’s whereabouts.

Even now that our children are older, as soon as we get to the park we still arrange a meeting place in the event that someone gets lost or there is any other emergency. We all take a picture of the meeting point so we have it on our phones.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism apes

Clothing is the next ‘big’ problem

The next issue for me is practical and weather-related– clothing.
I always avoided loose-fitting and baggy clothing, accessories like scarves, hats and gloves and things with strings; anything that could get caught or fall or make him trip.
You didn’t say what time of the year you will be traveling and which theme park but if your son has sensory issues like mine does, bring your chosen brand of insect repellant and sunscreen and a set of extra clothes to change into if he gets wet.
I also recommend closed shoes , not flip flops as some rides have a moving platform to entering and exit from.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism river

Map your trip out!

I always did as much research as possible about the park that we would be visiting to educate myself to prepare my son. He always felt more secure knowing about each of the rides and knowing what to expect meant that there was less chance of being overwhelmed and having a meltdown.
Make sure you make note of bathroom locations  (bring duct tape to cover the automatic sensor if he is scared of automatic toilets) and quiet spots to take refuge in if the ‘going gets tough.’
I always say that being proactive is so important.
I have done my best to make my son be part of his own safety and security by teaching him about the different security features on the rides.
Seatbelts of course are extremely important. They should be kept ON the whole duration of the ride.
I had to remind my son to not stick his hands and feet out of the ride and not to touch anything.
He also needed to be told to be polite and not kick the seats in front of him.
It’s important to heed the rules of the park and know that you can rely on the staff’s guidance because they are there to help.

So, these are my tips in a nutshell.
Of course you are more than welcome to go through the website posts and find so many other tips that I have shared throughout the years.

I hope you have a fantastic and fun visit!

How Autism Friendly are Disney’s Character Breakfasts?


After several parents approached me about a starting a  separate section on the website to answer questions, I’ve decided to start the  ‘Ask Margalit’ column.Readers can either contact me via our FB page or through the contact form on this website. Though only a select few will be answered in this section, rest assured that ALL questions will be replied via private e-mail.
To start us off here’s the first question from @Daisysmom and it concerns Disney’s Character Breakfast.

@Daisysmom writes: We’re going to Disney World next month and staying at a Disney hotel in the resort. I was told by our travel agent that we should take our daughter to their character breakfast. Our daughter with autism is five, loves everything Disney, but I’m reluctant since I don’t know whether she’ll sit down and eat any breakfast (she doesn’t  do that at home) or enjoy the experience.
Thank you,

Daisy’s mom

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? food

Disney Character Dining is a great experience, and the breakfasts are no exception.
They are an excellent opportunity to introduce your child to new foods they might otherwise be reluctant to try, as well as a fun way to meet Disney characters without standing in the long park lines in the heat or rain.
Even if your daughter doesn’t typically eat breakfast, she might be tempted to at least try some of the different food items shaped like Disney characters while seeing Disney characters walking around the restaurant in costume.

The buffet style breakfasts are highly popular, so you need to book well in advance if you decide to go.

The buffet we tried last May had a large selection of cold cuts, cheeses, freshly cut fruits, smoked salmon, pastries, bread, eggs prepared in various ways, cereals, yogurt, and breakfast meats along with an overabundance of desserts that cater well to the American palate. Personally, I would have liked to see more vegetarian, vegan and allergy specific options for those who have food restrictions or wish to make healthy dining choices.

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? decor

What you should know ahead of time:


  • The price of the Character Buffet was about ten dollars over a regular Breakfast Buffet (17$), which might be a deterrent to families traveling on a tighter budget.
  • The assigned time of dining is approximate, so there might still be a short wait of 10-20 minutes for your family when you arrive for breakfast. If you wish to minimize your wait time, make the reservations for early in the morning as soon as the restaurant opens.
  • There are no real quiet areas in the restaurant to sit in, since the dining tables are in proximity to each other, and the place is crowded with excited kids waiting to meet their favorite characters, which might be an issue if your child is noise sensitive.
  • Since each restaurant features specific characters, you should find out when you make reservations which ones will make an appearance at this particular restaurant so your daughter won’t be disappointed if she doesn’t necessarily see the character she likes the best.
  • You need to prepare your child to be patient and wait for the characters to arrive at your table and not follow them around the restaurant. We were told by the maître ‘d that the staff can’t even forward the characters any requests to go to an individual table or in a particular order. Our son was pretty disappointed when we were busy replenishing our plates, and the characters skipped our table.
  • Remember to bring your camera to photograph or videotape since unlike the parks there aren’t any professional photographers on the premises.

How Autism Friendly are Disney's Character Breakfasts? tables

Have you taken your child with autism to a Character breakfast ?

How did he /she enjoy it?

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