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Which Disney World Park to Skip on Short Trips

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You are going to Walt Disney World! But sadly, the trip has to be a short one. It’s an unfortunate conundrum. There simply won’t be time to see and do it all. Choices will have to be made.

For visitors to Walt Disney World on shorter trips, the big question is which parks to prioritize and which parks to skip. The right answer to the question of which Disney park to skip will differ from guest to guest.

Disney World Magic Kingdom Cinderella Castle Side View at Sunset

It depends on a long laundry list of considerations:

  • How many days at Disney do you have?
  • What are the ages of your children, if any?
  • Are there any rides you simply cannot see yourself missing?
  • Are there new rides that have opened since your last visit?
  • What rides are closed for refurbishment during the time of your visit?
  • What are the anticipated crowd levels?
  • What is the weather during your visit?
  • Where are you staying?
  • Do you have a park hopper ticket or are you limited to one park per day?

Looking back on my own Walt Disney World travels over the last decade with and without kids, the two parks I have skipped the most have been Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I have not yet missed Magic Kingdom or Epcot on a single trip. But I will admit to being an Epcot fanatic. Not everyone is going to feel the same way.

A lot has changed at all the parks in that decade of time. What Disney park I tended to skip in 2017 (when I first published this guide) is not necessarily the same as what I’d skip now in 2023.

So with my biases disclosed, let’s dive in to how to make the smartest park selection choices for you and your family. If you need to skip a park or two on your next Walt Disney World vacation, here are the essential factors to consider for each one.

(Trips With Tykes uses affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission if you purchase through links in this post. See our full disclosure policy linked in the menu at the bottom of this site.)

Should You Skip Magic Kingdom?

Disney World Magic Kingdom Castle and Partners Statue at Hub

Unless you are a very frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, I simply cannot recommend that anyone skip the Magic Kingdom on any Disney trip, no matter how short. It’s a classic. Seeing the spires of Cinderella Castle is part of feeling like you have truly come home to Disney again. If you only have a single day at Walt Disney World, this is certainly THE park to visit.

Even if you’re a regular to other castle parks like Disneyland in Anaheim, California or the main park in Disneyland Paris, you are going to want to experience the Magic Kingdom. The castle parks all have some similarities of course, but there is enough that is unique in the Magic Kingdom that it shouldn’t be missed.

So many rides in the Magic Kingdom are the perfect fit for every age and interest. There are thrill rides like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and the brand new Tron Lightcycle / Run. There are Disney classics for the whole family like Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise. And there are rides that are favorites with little ones like Winnie the Pooh and Dumbo.

Disney World Space Mountain Tomorrowland Speedway

If you are traveling with toddlers and preschoolers, Magic Kingdom is certainly the one must-visit park. In fact, I’d often recommend families with younger children spend extra time at Magic Kingdom even if it means skipping two or all three of the other parks on a quick trip.

Which Disney Visitors Can Skip Magic Kingdom?

  • Who can skip it: Frequent Disney World visitors only!
  • Who really shouldn’t miss it: Families with young kids

Should You Skip Epcot?

Epcot Beacons of Magic Rainbow Colors

The conventional wisdom the last few years has been that Epcot is the park to skip. It’s been in a constant state of construction, some of which continues in 2023. There are still construction walls up in World Celebration, the nighttime spectacular Harmonious has come and gone, and the Moana-inspired Journey of Water experience is still forthcoming. So there is a strong case to be made for skipping Epcot now, especially if you are planning a trip in a year or two when more will be complete.

Even in this state of flux, however, Epcot has added quite a few headliners to its lineup in recent years. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opened in an expanded France Pavilion in World Showcase in October 2021, followed not long after by Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in May 2022. Space 220 restaurant opened recently as well. If all of that is new to you, that may be enough of a draw to move Epcot up your list. It certainly was for my son and me when we took a trip last summer together – we went to Epcot twice!

If you happen to have a foodie in the family, Epcot should probably be your first choice park. The food choices around World Showcase are extensive and enticing. This rule is doubly true if you are visiting during one of the special festivals (Food & Wine Festival, Flower & Garden Festival, or Festival of the Arts) that bring even more food choices to Epcot.

Epcot Festival of the Arts Food

Travel-lovers also shouldn’t miss this park. Walking around the world and seeing all the countries represented is really meaningful. I remember so well looking around Epcot when I first visited with my family during my childhood and thinking “I’m going to visit every one of those countries one day.” (Two more to go.) It’s an inspiring educational experience that isn’t replicated anywhere else at Walt Disney World.

That said, I do think it’s probably wise right now for families with young kids to skip Epcot. The park is quite spread out (lots of walking) and there are very few attractions aimed at the little kid set at the moment. That said, if you have a little Frozen fan in the family, you may have to throw this recommendation out the window. Riding Frozen Ever After in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion and seeing Anna and Elsa are still top draws for many.

Which Disney World Park to Skip - Frozen Fans Should not Anna & Elsa in Epcot

Which Disney Visitors Can Skip Epcot?

  • Who can skip it: Families with young kids, anyone also planning a visit in 2024 when more will be open
  • Who really shouldn’t miss it: Foodies, travel-loving adults, thrill ride lovers who haven’t ridden Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind yet, Frozen fans

Should You Skip Hollywood Studios?

Disney Hollywood Studios Mickey and Minnies Runaway Railway Marquee

When I first published this guide years ago, before Toy Story Land opened in 2018 and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019, I recommended that a lot of guests skip Hollywood Studios. Back then, the conventional wisdom was to wait until those “coming soon attractions” were complete. Now that they are here – along with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway in 2020 too! – there is a lot more in Hollywood Studios worthy of a stop.

It probably goes without saying that if you have a Star Wars fan in the family, you can stop reading this section now. Hollywood Studios is a can’t-miss for you. But that comes with one caveat. If you visit Disneyland often already, you can consider skipping Hollywood Studios. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World is nearly identical.

If you are traveling with teens or thrill ride junkies, Hollywood Studios should be on your must-do list too. It’s home to two of the best thrill rides at Walt Disney World – Tower of Terror and Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster. The addition of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance seals the deal. And the cherry on top is Slinky Dog Dash – a really fun family coaster.

Pushing Kids During Travel - Rock N Roller Coaster

I hear often that families with young kids should skip Hollywood Studios. I don’t necessarily disagree, but only to a point. Magic Kingdom is undoubtedly better for little ones. And a lot of young kids (particularly those who love animals) will prefer Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios.

But Hollywood Studios actually has a lot to offer toddlers and preschoolers too. The park has the Disney Junior Dance Party, Disney Junior character meet-and-greets, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the Frozen Sing-a-Long show, and all of Toy Story Land. The smaller footprint of the park makes it manageable for walking with kids with a lot of attractions close together. It’s easily accessible to a lot of hotels because of its connection on the Disney Skyliner. So don’t write it off with little kids, depending on their interests and favorite characters.

Alien Swirling Saucers in Toy Story Land in Disneys Hollywood Studios

The challenge of Hollywood Studios though is that the park still isn’t quite as robust as it could be, even with all the recent additions. It’s still not a full-day park. If you have a park hopper ticket and can split one of your days between Hollywood Studios and another park, it’s well worth it. But if you have only one-park-per-day tickets, it’s hard to justify using a full day on Hollywood Studios alone.

Which Disney Visitors Can Skip Hollywood Studios?

  • Who can skip it: Some families with young kids
  • Who really shouldn’t miss it: Thrill ride lovers, Star Wars fans

Should You Skip Animal Kingdom?

Which Walt Disney World Park to Skip on a Short Trip - Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

Animal Kingdom is my most-skipped park in the last decade, both with and without my family. I always felt it was kind of a half-day park with a bit of filler. Longer hours and the opening of night offerings in Animal Kingdom helped improve upon that perception somewhat.

Ultimately, it was the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar that changed a lot for me and for many visitors. Anyone who hasn’t seen Pandora yet is not going to want to skip this park. The land itself is beautifully immersive. The ride Avatar Flight of Passage is one of Disney’s best attractions anywhere in the world. Of course, Flight of Passage is a thrill ride with a 40 inch height minimum. So visitors with younger kids in their traveling group need to weigh carefully whether the kids are big enough and ready for this ride!

Avatar Flight of Passage - Floating Islands in Pandora

If you have an extremely short visit (less than two full days), I’m not sure I can recommend doing Animal Kingdom just for Pandora – even if everyone in the family is ready to ride. With the park’s remote location, you can lose a lot of time in transit just getting to Animal Kingdom. That time might be better spent at a park closer to your hotel.

Additionally, there is nothing that new in Animal Kingdom to justify a visit for some guests. Pandora is now six years old, and it’s essentially the newest thing in the park. If you’ve been to Walt Disney World since Pandora opened and have seen it, but haven’t seen some of the newer offerings in the other three parks, they should likely take priority.

I also particularly don’t recommend adding Animal Kingdom to your lineup unless you have park hopper tickets. As with Hollywood Studios, there simply isn’t enough to do in the park to fill a full day. Even though there are a few great thrill rides at Animal Kingdom (Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage especially), Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom now have more must-do offerings for adrenaline junkies per capita.

Disney Attractions Around the World - Expedition Everest

So who shouldn’t skip Animal Kingdom? Animal lovers. If you or your kids have a soft spot for animals and already love visiting zoos in your travels, nothing else will compete with the unique offerings of Animal Kingdom like Kilimanjaro Safaris. But if your theme park vacations are all about the rides (like my family’s), then you won’t get enough bang for your buck.

Which Disney Visitors Can Skip Animal Kingdom?

  • Who can skip it: Anyone without park hopper tickets, anyone who has already experienced Pandora but not the newest 2018-2023 ride openings in Epcot, Hollywood Studios, or Magic Kingdom
  • Who really shouldn’t miss it: Animal lovers, anyone who hasn’t seen Pandora yet

Tips to Make the Most of Shorter Disney World Visits

Potatoland Photo Opp Disneys Hollywood Studios

If you are planning a shorter visit to Mickey’s Orlando home, here are a few parting Disney World tips to help you make the most of your trip.

  1. Planning is Key: Planning is always important for making the most of your time at Disney World, but that adage is especially true on shorter visits. Write down your must-dos and sketch out an itinerary to improve your chances of being able to hit everyone’s top choices. If there is ever a time to work hard to maximize Disney Genie+ and spring for a paid Lightning Lane purchase or two, this is it. Time is money on shorter vacations!
  2. Don’t Waste Time on Transit: Disney’s transportation system is hit or miss on occasion. If you have a short trip, you really can’t afford to waste an hour standing at a bus stop for a shuttle that never comes. Fortunately, alternatives are now cheap and plentiful. Uber and Lyft are alive and well on Disney property. Uber even offers Uber Car Seat if you have a kiddo who needs safe transportation. Or splurge on the Disney-run version, Minnie Vans, for a themed ride, some special Disney cast member interactions, and a direct dropoff at Magic Kingdom that bypasses the Transportation and Ticket Center.
  3. Stay on Disney Property: With maximizing time as a priority on shorter trips, consider staying in a Disney resort rather than an off-property hotel or condo. After all, for just a night or two, you aren’t going to be saving a lot of cash by staying off-property. Additionally, shorter trips mean you are less likely to need the amenities of many of the off-site options like condos with kitchens to cook, etc.
  4. Book the Right Disney Hotel: Even if you do stay on-property, I’d take your hotel planning a step further. Think ahead to what parks you want to visit before booking your hotel. It would be silly, for example, to pay the big bucks to stay in Yacht Club or Beach Club (within walking distance of Epcot) and not plan to go to Epcot. Similarly, it would be a major waste to splurge on the Grand Floridian or Polynesian and not go to Magic Kingdom. (Related: Which Disney Resort is Right for Your Trip: Value vs. Moderate vs. Deluxe)
  5. Park Hop if You Can: As you probably picked up on when reading this post, there are several parks at Walt Disney World that may not have a full day of offerings for your family or traveling group, depending on ages, interests, etc. You’ll get so much more value on a shorter trip from park hopping, and will ultimately have to skip fewer parks. So if budget allows, seriously consider this add on.
  6. Watch Out for Weather: Another factor to consider in picking your parks is the effect of weather. Outdoor attractions close when there is thunder and lightning, and you’ll probably want to do indoor experiences if it’s raining. Epcot and Magic Kingdom have more offerings of length indoors. But note one consideration – because Disney World still requires park reservations in 2023, you may not be as able to adjust on the fly last minute. Check long-term forecasts early and often! (Note: park reservations will no longer be required in 2024 for most guests).
  7. Look at Park Hours and Research Special Events: One final consideration in picking what Disney parks you will visit is the park hours on the days you will be at the resort. Disney parks host some special events like after-hours parties that can result in one park closing early for regular guests. You may want to avoid those parks! For example, in Summer 2023, there will be after-hours events on some evenings in both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. And in fall 2023, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween parties result in early Magic Kingdom closures.

When you visit Walt Disney World, what parks do you skip and why? We want to hear in the comments!

Where to Book Your Walt Disney World Vacation

Planning a visit to Walt Disney World? Book your Disney vacation with trusted Trips with Tykes partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today sells park tickets at a discount, helps you find great deals at both on-property and off-property hotels, assists with all the logistics of a Disney World vacation with its free concierge service, and provides complimentary price monitoring so you can lock in newly-released discounts.

Get Away Today Graphic Walt Disney World - 2024 Hotel Discount

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Taking a short Walt Disney World trip without enough time to visit all four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom)? Here are the factors to consider in deciding which Disney park to skip on shorter visits.

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Friday 25th of August 2017

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Pam Ilosky

Wednesday 23rd of August 2017

These are great planning trips! I have split trips between Disney and Universal in the past before so we would have to decide which two or three Disney parks would be a priority that years. Currently with all the new construction Hollywood Studios would be a good one to skip until the new areas are open since so many attractions are closed.

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