Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is synonymous with “excitement.” For autistic children, kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Asperger’s Syndrome, or other sensory issues, the music, lights, noise and crowds can make their Disney vacation a stressful experience. Fortunately, there are locations throughout the Magic Kingdom that provide some relative quiet amid the sensory stimulation.
As a mom of three kids, two with Asperger’s (one of whom also has Tourette’s Syndrome and anxiety), and with a seizure disorder myself, I know how important these quiet (or quieter) places can be when you’re away from home.
I recommend the following tried-and-true locations.
Main Street: It’s loud, crowded, and, unfortunately, a perfect recipe for over-stimulation and chaos. Helpfully, the First Aid Station is located to the left at the end of Main Street, near restrooms and a small, quiet courtyard. I’ve used it often, and the staff there is very helpful. The courtyard itself is sometimes busy, but the First Aid station is air-conditioned and very quiet.
Fantasyland: This area has recently undergone a massive makeover, and this presents both challenges and some happy additions. While it’s attracting new visitors and crowds, it’s also more open and accommodating in its design, and easier to navigate with wheelchairs. There’s a path from the castle to Fairytale Garden that’s quiet and scenic, but it’s also an area that’s a meet-and-greet for characters on occasion. Just behind the new Barnstormer ride (previously in Mickey’s Toontown Square), there’s a quiet area with some seating.
Frontierland: My children enjoy the boardwalk near the water, particularly to escape the crowded, noisy parades. When the steamboat blows its whistle, it’s loud, so be aware of that. Tom Sawyer’s Island is also relatively quiet, but you must take a raft ride to get there and back. You won’t have to deal with flashing lights there, and it’s well-landscaped. Outside Thunder Mountain Railroad and near the exit, there’s an dead-end area with benches that’s less crowded than many other areas in the park. However, there’s currently a smoker’s area nearby.
Liberty Square: Near the Christmas Shop there’s a quiet area. Be aware that during parade times, this area is inaccessible. If you’re lucky, you’ll find an unoccupied rocking chair. Another option, and one that’s a good central location, is the Sleepy Hollow Restaurant. Its outdoor dining area provides a convenient spot to cool down and get hydrated away from foot traffic.
Adventureland: There’s a courtyard to either side of Pirates of the Caribbean worth a visit. The one to the left of the attraction has recently been “landscaped” with interactive features, all part of Pirates of the Caribbean: Treasures of the Seven Seas map game. This allows your family to experience some of the excitement of the ride from the outside, and it’s a great way to involve the whole group. The other area is just inside the entrance and to the right of the queue for the ride, before you enter the “tunnel” area. If it’s roped off by Cast Members when you visit, they will usually allow you to use it for quiet time if you explain your needs.
Tip: If the evening fireworks show frightens your child, this is a good place to be. Much of the show is blocked by the buildings and landscaping, even if you’re outside the ride. Additionally, it’s a great time to enjoy the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, because there is usually little or no wait time at night, and you avoid the noise from the fireworks.
Just across from the Pirates of the Caribbean is the Tortuga Tavern restaurant. It’s only open seasonally, and when it’s not in operation, you can usually find a shaded table under a ceiling fan to relax away from crowds. You’ll appreciate it even more when the daily rains arrive around 2 p.m.
Tomorrowland: The Carousel of Progress, either outside or inside, is good for quiet time. The attraction itself is almost never crowded, and it’s a favorite of my oldest. There’s also a wide, open-air courtyard in front of Space Mountain, and it’s usually empty at night.
Another area that might work for you is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, with caveats. It’s a nearly silent (except for occasional narration), elevated open-air rail ride. It takes a slow tour of Tomorrowland and lasts about 10 minutes. My oldest loves this, and especially enjoys the feeling of the air moving across his face. It does enter a brief period of darkness when it travels through part of Space Mountain, but for all of that, it remains a good place for my son and daughter to decompress.
Tip: Ask any Cast Member for the closest spot for “quiet time.” They’ll direct you to a nearby area where you can sit, away from the chaos, and get centered, and this can be great for managing meltdowns or anxiety.
With a little preparation, your vacation to Walt Disney World can be truly magical for everyone in your family.