Disney Bucket List: 18 Things You Don't Want to Miss

Where Fantasy Comes to Life


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Where Fantasy Comes to Life

Disney Bucket List Experiences

Disney offers so many fun fan experiences within its iconic (albeit pricey) theme parks and beyond that it's hard to keep track of them all. Do you feel like taking a trip to a galaxy far, far away or venturing into a majestic kingdom full of princesses and talking animals? From informative tours to virtual-reality missions, these unique experiences are worth the price for Disney enthusiasts.

Related: 19 Expensive Mistakes to Avoid at Disney

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. by Jedi94 (CC BY-SA)

Fly Into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Grab your lightsabers, because the eagerly awaited Star Wars land is open at both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World, in Florida. Both locations invite guests to ride Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, where they can engage in an epic battle inside the iconic starship, and Rise of the Resistance, an almost 20-minute-long adventure with a trackless ride system and cutting-edge animatronics. Guests can also explore the planet Batuu and, yes, have a drink in the cantina.

Take a Disney Cruise
Remus Kotsell/istockphoto

Take a Disney Cruise

There are five Disney Cruise Line ships — Wonder, Magic, Dream, Wish, and Fantasy — that accommodate thousands of passengers for family entertainment, including favorites like the AquaDuck water coaster and deck parties with Disney characters, as well as adults-only activities. Prices vary depending on the length of the cruise, the season, and other factors. While the cost can be steep, there are ways to save on a Disney cruise.

DisneyHalfMarathon2010 (39 of 113)
DisneyHalfMarathon2010 (39 of 113) by Misti Guertin (CC BY-ND)

Run a Marathon at the Park

Whether you've always wanted to run a marathon or you've crossed many finish lines, running the Disney Marathon at Walt Disney World is definitely the most fun you'll ever have trekking 26.2 miles (even if you qualify for Boston, you don't usually get a photo op with Mickey), although the run will cost you $231. There are also 5K, 10K, half marathon, and kids' races during the week every January, and other races throughout the year. Disney Paris hosts a marathon in September, and for those who don't want to travel, there are virtual options, too.

Mario Tama/Staff/Getty Images News/Getty Images North America

Ride at the Front of the Monorail

If you find a cast member and ask nicely, you may be able to get into the nosecone with the driver of the monorail at Disneyland. There is no guarantee and seating for only four people, but if another party is in there, you can always wait for the next train.

Walk in Walt’s Footsteps

Walk in Walt's Footsteps

Get clued in to all sorts of Disney history and trivia on this guided, two-hour tour of Disneyland. It winds through notable parts of the park that relate to Walt Disney himself, including some areas not typically accessible to guests. The tour includes a meal, a pin, and, itinerary permitting, access to two rides without waiting in interminable queues. This add-on is $110 for guests 3 and older, although it best suits older children and adult Disney enthusiasts who don't mind a lot of walking.

Disney World

Hold the Keys to the Kingdom

Disney World offers the Keys to the Kingdom guided tour, where guests get to explore backstage areas and the underground "utilidor" tunnels that help Disney "cast members" navigate the Magic Kingdom. The five-hour tour features plenty of history and insider intel. Lunch and a keepsake are included in the $114-per-person fee (on top of park admission).

Indulge at Chef's Counter at Napa Rose
Leonard A./Yelp

Indulge at the Napa Rose Chef’s Counter

Napa Rose, helmed by Chef Andrew Sutton, is the highly rated restaurant within the Grand Californian Hotel, meaning you don't have to buy a ticket to the park to dine. Patrons sitting in one of 14 exclusive seats at the chef's counter can enjoy five to seven courses from a prix-fixe menu. Keep your eyes peeled for special occasion seatings, such as a Valentine's Day dinner.

Take the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Angie L./Yelp

Attend a Food & Wine Festival

The annual, multi-day Epcot International Food & Wine Festival offers Disney World visitors the chance to sample food and drinks from around the globe. Although you have to pay for whatever you try, park admission grants you access to the festival. Vegetarian and vegan dishes are on offer, as are cooking demos, wine tastings, and the Eat to the Beat concert series. Not to be outdone, Disney California Adventure has its own foodie fest included in park admission. Kiosks offer samples of California wine, beer, and food. Demos by celebrity chefs and gourmet dinners are available at an extra cost.

Take a Wild Africa Trek at Disney's Animal Kingdom
Laura G./Yelp

See African Wildlife Up Close

While you can see animals during a visit to Disney's Animal Kingdom, the highly rated Wild Africa Trek lets you walk across a rope bridge and ride a rugged safari vehicle over savanna to giraffes, rhinos, hippos, and crocodiles. The three-hour, VIP tour is undeniably pricey: It 's $199 per adult ticket, on top of admission to the park. The price includes souvenir photos by a professional photographer and gourmet, African-inspired snacks. Note that kids under 8 are not permitted, and there are height and weight guidelines, as well.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Jamie G./Yelp

Drink a Toast to Trader Sam

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar is located at the Disneyland Hotel, meaning you don't have to buy a ticket to the park to go. The bar is just as magically themed as the park and offers a variety of bar food and tiki drinks. Order the wrong one, and you'll incur the wrath of the gods, resulting in special effects like volcanic eruptions and terrible storms.

Dole Whip
Dole Whip by flashphase (CC BY-NC-ND)

Enjoy a Dole Whip

A Dole Whip, consisting of non-dairy soft-serve in pineapple juice, is among the most popular foods guests can enjoy at the resort. It's both delicious and refreshing. If you happen to be at the Disneyland Hotel, stroll over to Trader Sam's to order one with rum.

Gay Days Anaheim 2008 Group Photo
Gay Days Anaheim 2008 Group Photo by Cloganese (CC BY-NC-ND)

Visit on an Unofficial Theme Day

Disney fans frequently arrange to flood the park with similar sartorial choices on select dates. Dapper Day is when guests don midcentury fashions, while Bats Day is for goths in all black. There's a Tiki Day, as well as Gay Days Anaheim for the LGBTQ community. To participate, you just have to buy a pass for that day and dress accordingly.

Harmony Barber Shop
Erin N./Yelp

Get Your Mouse Ears Styled

The old-timey Harmony Barber Shop is a functioning barber shop located on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. The staff of smartly dressed licensed cosmetologists offer adult 'dos for $21and kids' haircuts for $20 (plus tax). It's perhaps best known for the My First Haircut package, with Mouse Ears and a certificate for $28.

Carthay Manhatten
Christine P./Yelp

Drink a Manhattan at Carthay Circle

Carthay Circle Restaurant — located inside a replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, which showed Disney's first feature film, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" — is one of California Adventure's best dining options. It also offers a full bar, which can be hard to come by in Disney parks. When you order a Manhattan, it comes served with a perfectly spherical ice cube, made with a special device, which you may get to see in action. It doesn't hurt that the bar is gorgeous, invoking Old Hollywood vibes (and recently refurbished).

Cinderella’s Royal Table
Daniela R./Yelp

Experience Fairytale Dining With Cinderella

Join Cinderella and her princess friends in her picturesque castle for a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table. This Disney World experience is available at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but guests who choose later seatings (be sure to book far in advance) get to see the fireworks from inside the castle. Children are encouraged to dress up for photo ops with characters. 

Get a Peek at the Backstage Magic

Get a Peek at the Backstage Magic

It's not cheap, at $25 per person, but this seven-hour tour takes true Disney fanatics 12 and older behind the scenes of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Visitors can see the inner workings of the audio-animatronic stage show "The American Adventure," travel through the "utilidor" tunnels, visit the artisans who make the sets and costumes, see one of the world's largest laundry facilities, and enjoy a family-style barbecue lunch at the Whispering Canyon Cafe.