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How to Take Your Kids on a Disney Trip at Home

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Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland feels extra far away these days.

Photo by Christian Thompson

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland feels extra far away these days.

The parks are closed, but our imaginations aren’t. Here’s what to eat, watch, and craft when you can only go to Disneyland and Walt Disney World in spirit.

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Although Walt Disney World and Disneyland have been closed for almost two months, cast members have been keeping a positive outlook by sharing #DisneyMagicMoments, such as Aulani staff dancing hula at home and JAMMitors (janitors who jam) performing on unconventional drum kits, plus images of hope. But how can fans and future guests truly capture that feeling of being in the parks when we’re all staying safe indoors? The crew at Disney Parks has been sharing recipes for some of our favorite eats (yes, churros and Dole Whips included) and Disney-themed activities that anyone can re-create at home. Here’s how to shake off the quarantine blues and transport your family to Disney for a day. 

Nailing the Vampirina look can be easy with pigtails, a pink shirt, and a jazzed-up dresss or apron.

Morning: Dress for the occasion

Wear your mood on your sleeve—literally. Whether you’re channeling Inside Out’s Joy with a bright yellow dress or Eeyore’s downcast attitude with gray sweats and a pink bow, run with that feeling. For inspiration, turn to the official DisneyBound Instagram account, which features people using street clothes to produce clever nods to their favorite Disney characters, like the Pooh outfit above.

Next, mix wardrobes and back-of-the-drawer makeup to give your little one(s) a full character makeover. Disney’s massive repertoire presents dress-up opportunities, not just for prince and princess classics, but also for superheroes (green face paint + purple shorts = Hulk), Star Wars (improvise Rey’s look with leggings and a bed sheet), animals (raccoon eyes are an easy way to channel Meeko from Pocahontas), and so much more. Have fun with it—the goal here isn’t to make a hyper-accurate costume, but to start the morning in a creative mindset.

Berries, whipped cream, waffle: Breakfast doesn’t get much better than this.

Breakfast: Bring Goofy’s Kitchen to your home

A cornerstone of the Disney family experience is going to a character breakfast buffet and heaping as many delicious-looking foods as possible onto a single plate. Thanks to Disney’s release of the official Mickey Mouse waffle maker, folks at home can replicate the buffet ritual with a decorate-your-own-mini-waffle station. For crisp and fluffy goodness that’s just like what’s served in the parks, use malted flour (that’s the Disney secret). 

Pile the mini waffles alongside bowls of toppings—fresh fruit, whipped cream, syrup, breakfast meats, jam, sprinkles, dry cereal, anything and everything that you’re willing to serve your crew first thing in the morning. Throw moderation out the window as everyone crafts their dream waffles.

After breakfast: Have a virtual Magic Morning Hour

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Once breakfast is cleaned up (or dishes are stacked in the sink for later, no one’s judging you right now), take a walk through the parks with Visit Orlando’s virtual tour of Walt Disney World and the Google Street View of Disneyland and re-create the exclusive experience of being in the parks one hour before the majority of guests are allowed to enter (known as the Magic Morning perk). During your point-and-click outing, encourage kids to call out the rides they want to go on so you can queue up one of the many POV videos. (SoCal Attractions 360 has a particularly good portfolio of these videos shot from the point of view of someone on the actual ride.) Sit your little one in their car seat or a laundry basket and replicate the attraction like this dad who “rode” a roller coaster with his toddler

If your kids are too big for at-home rides on this level, use this time to explore parks they’ve never seen in person—international theme parks like Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disney Sea are on Google Maps as well—and plan a post-pandemic trip. Which rides do they want to go on first? Which foods do they want to try? Dreaming about the future is half the fun.

Pipe your homemade Dole Whip with a star tip to produce this classic soft serve presentation.

Lunch: Sink your teeth into fan favorites

When Toy Story Land opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2018, the grilled three-cheese sandwich at Woody’s Lunch Box quickly rose through the ranks of WDW must-eats. Earlier this year, Disney posted the recipe for the extra gooey sammy, which includes minced garlic, provolone, cheddar, and heavy cream. The kid-friendly lunch is sure to please while you start blending the real star of the show: Dole Whip.

This is not a drill. The recipe for the soft serve pineapple treat is public and easy and you absolutely need to make it for yourself and your family. You only need three ingredients for the homemade Dole Whip:

  • 1 big scoop of vanilla ice cream
  • 4 ounces of pineapple juice
  • 2 cups of frozen pineapple

Blend on low, slowly increasing the speed until smooth. You can scoop the mixture straight into a bowl or pipe it with a star tip for the classic soft-serve look. 

The new “Magic Happens” parade includes an ofrenda-like “Coco” float with Miguel front and center.

After lunch: Get creative

Aspiring artists will want to fire up tutorials led by Disney animators as they demonstrate how to draw characters such as Ariel from The Little Mermaid and Mickey Mouse. Those who thrive on less direction and more freedom can riff off Disneyland’s new “Magic Happens” parade that debuted earlier this year with floats, puppets, and dances inspired by more recent films such as Coco, Frozen 2, and Moana.

Is your kid a budding imagineer who would want to use LEGO pieces, pipe cleaners, and stuffed animals to build their own mini parade float? Are they the type to choreograph a dance to match the parade? Maybe they’re big on singing, in which case they’ll have extra appreciation for the Dapper Dans performing a Zoom rendition of “When I See An Elephant Fly.” The opportunities for creative inspiration are limitless.

Admit it: You’re even more excited about homemade churros than the kids are.

Afternoon snack: Divide and conquer for a pair of messy but delectable sweets

First up is the Grey Stuff of “Be Our Guest” fame. In advance, stir crumbled Oreos into chocolate and vanilla puddings, then let chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. When you’re ready to plate, lay out a batch of your favorite cookies and spoon the mixture into a piping bag. (A Ziploc with the corner cut off also works if you don’t have piping bags.) Let your child pipe the Grey Stuff onto the cookies, encouraging them to attempt shapes like stars, circles, hearts, and triangles as they go.

While the sous chefs are assembling Grey Stuff bites, you’re going to take on a more difficult and more rewarding challenge: churros. Yes, you can finally indulge in sugary, cinnamon-y, fried dough glory without going to the parks. 

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Unless you’re a professional baker, this snack time will be a sticky, imperfect affair. And that’s OK! Mistakes are how we learn, and taking on the same task with different degrees of difficulty puts parents and kids on a relatively level playing field. Plus, churros taste that much better when you’ve worked hard for them (and when you dip them in freshly made Grey Stuff).

Early evening: Wind down with a modified scavenger hunt

In addition to classic films and blockbuster hits, Disney+ has a sizable library of documentaries that will help allay some of that screen time guilt. Start with One Day at Disney shorts about imagineers, candy makers, animal keepers, performers, and all the people who make Disney tick. 

If your tykes aren’t invested at first, turn the viewing into a color hunt: Have them pick their favorite Disney character and look for those colors throughout the episode. They can find Nemo-orange on a safety vest, Sully-blue in the sky, or Bo Peep–pink on a flower. Depending on everyone’s energy levels, this could also be an opportune moment to sneak in a nap.

Pizza night sounds more fun when you say dinner is from Pizza Planet.

Dinner: Order “delivery” from Pizza Planet

Let’s be honest: You’ve worked your tail off to make this a magical day for your kid. Cooking a full-on fried chicken feast à la Plaza Inn probably isn’t in the cards by now. Give yourself a break and repackage pizza to look like it’s from Alien Pizza Planet by downloading these nifty labels on Etsy

If your family is the type to watch TV while eating (no shame, mine was/is), keep with the Toy Story theme and try Forky Asks a Question on Disney+. Forky’s curiosity ranges from simple (“What Is Cheese?”) to complex (“What Is a Computer?”) to downright existential (“What Is Art?”). 

After dinner: Watch (and maybe even make) fireworks

Stream the Magic Kingdom’s “Happily Ever After” fireworks show to plant sweet dreams about the next time we can all go back to the theme parks in person. Print blank templates of Disney castles so anyone with a last gasp of creative energy can add doodles and flashes of color to their own version of the nighttime spectacular. 

Bedtime: Upgrade your storytelling vibes

Add ambience to bedtime stories with the Read Along With Disney app, available through Google Home and Google Nest. Open one of the compatible Little Golden Books (there are more than a dozen) and tell your device, “Hey, Google. Let’s read along with Disney.” The device will play music and sound effects as you go through the book, making those minutes before sleep just a little more magical.

After bedtime: Kick back with a taste of Oga’s Cantina

While the kids are snoozing, change into your comfy pants, pour a stiff drink (like this copycat Jedi Mind Trick cocktail), and congratulate yourself on a day well Disneyed. Take a quiet moment for self-care and switch on a film that reminds you of a place you haven’t visited in a while, like London or Paris (Ratatouille, anyone?). Or plant yourself on the couch and take a spoon to any remaining Dole Whip. Whatever you choose, you’ve earned it.

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