Disney Stuff - Walt Disney World Guide to the Magic for Kids

by Chris Barry, contributing writer

Welcome back to Disney Stuff.

A few weeks back, on the MousePlanet Parenting Panel, we discussed some of the different things that parents can do to pass the time waiting in lines at the Disney parks. One of the methods I brought up from our Disney past was the use of a wonderful, little book that my daughter, in her younger years, thoroughly enjoyed on two consecutive Walt Disney World trips. Back in 2008, with an upcoming Disney vacation on the horizon, I found The Walt Disney World Guide to the Magic for Kids while poking around online and quickly snapped it up for her. At the time, it seemed like a perfect fit. Already a big fan of Walt Disney World with five trips under her belt at age nine, she showed a pretty astute appreciation for all of Disney's details and wonder. The book promised to entertain her during any downtime on the trip while simultaneously giving her an outlet to record her trip adventures and memories.

The Walt Disney World Guide to the Magic for Kids. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

I had met the author, Tim Foster, at MouseFest when he was first introducing Celebrations magazine. Ever since then I’ve been a loyal, paid subscriber and absolutley love it. It's a true Disney fan's magazine. I figured that the Guide was coming from a trusted source and was worth trying out. I bought one for her that year and bought a second one for her and one for her best friend, who was making her first trip to Disney with us, the following year. When researching for this article, I contacted Tim and I asked why he originally started producing the Guide seven years ago and here’s what he had to say.

"The original idea to make the book came from a love of Disney (of course) plus my passion for graphic design and the desire to make a book of my own...making a Disney-related book seemed only natural, and a kids book would certainly be lots of fun. I realized that there really weren't any books for kids (save for Disney's own smaller book), and thought it would be a lot of fun to make something just for them--just the kind of book I would have wanted as a child."

So, what exactly is the Walt Disney World Guide to the Magic for Kids? Let's delve into my daughter's copy from 2008.

It’s hard to call it a just a guidebook. Sure, it has park maps…

The Magic Kingdom map. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

…and it has attraction listings.

A list of Epcot's attractions.© Celebrations Press, Inc.

However, the Guide to the Magic takes that extra step and makes the whole experience that much more interactive. It’s as much a journal as it is a guidebook. For instance, you can see from the very first page how my daughter personalized her copy.

The first page of the Guide personalized by my daughter. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

I love the fact that we were there for ten days! We haven’t done that long of a trip since then, I believe. The kids were younger back then. They had less responsibilities and commitments and it was a little easier to take such long trips. I also love that she felt the need to identify Alex and Casey in parentheses as “brothers.” Very cute.

The Guide starts off with some classic tips for enjoying and touring around Walt Disney World.

Some time tested tips from the expert author, Mr. Foster. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

There are some cool scavenger hunts like this one listing all of the monorails. It looks like we only rode the monorail once on this trip or maybe we only rode Monorail Coral multiple times? That seems hard to believe.

A list of all the monorail colors at the time. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

There’s also a character checklist with room to add your own list.

A printed list and my daughter's list of spotted characters.© Celebrations Press, Inc.

Let’s take a look at some of the specific park pages. Each park is well represented. Each "land" gets it's own section and each attraction gets a listing. Here’s my daughter’s favorite Adventureland attraction in the Magic Kingdom, The Jungle Cruise:

The world famous Jungle Cruise. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Here’s my favorite ride anywhere in Walt Disney World: Peter Pan's Flight. You can see that on each attraction page there’s a FastPass indicator, some tips and secrets, an answer to the eternal question, “Is it scary?” and a brief description accompanied by some great photographs:

My all-time favorite ride, Peter Pan's Flight. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Each attraction page also has a spot for a sticker from the sticker collection included at the back of the Guide.This edition has over 100 stickers to be placed throughout the book.

It looks like my daughter left plenty of stickers here in the back of the book. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Here’s Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, a family favorite for sure. I’m so proud that she even knew the word animatronics at 9-years-old! I guess with me for their old man, all of my kids have a distinct Disney vocabulary. Who cares if it's spelled right? She was in 4th grade!

We all love the "animotranicks" in Spaceship Earth. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Each specific area in the park has a “Where Am I?” picture hunt. Here’s the Magic Kingdom's old Toontown Fair:

The now defunct Mickey's Toontown Fair "Where am I?" © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Samantha and her brothers have always been animal lovers and therefore Kilimanjaro Safaris at Animal Kingdom is always a favorite and a must-do on our trips. As you can see, she loved, not liked, but loved all of the animals.

The Kilimanjaro Safaris page. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

After all four parks are given their share, the back of the Guide has a day-by-day journal for trips up to 14 days. As a parent, this is my favorite part of the book to look back on. The memories of where we went, how we got there, what the weather was like and even what we ate all come flooding back when I read through this section. Here’s day three, which happened to be my wife’s birthday. It was warm and rainy (big surprise for August!). We went to Animal Kingdom first and then over to Epcot. The girls went on the Behind the Seeds tour. I'm pretty sure the boys and I went back to Figment and Nemo and then tried to spot the ladies on their tour by going on Living With the Land.

Our third day documented. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Our third day continued. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

We ran into my good friend from work and his wife and kids on the BoardWalk on our way to dinner. After parting ways with them we then had a birthday dinner for Mommy at Spoodles, one of our favorite restaurants. Sounds like an awesome day spent in Walt Disney World, doesn’t it?

On day five, just as we were exiting Mickey's Judges Tent in Toontown, we were surprised by the Dream Squad celebrating the neverending Year of a Million Dreams. They gave us all Dream FastPasses for the Magic Kingdom which we thoroughly enjoyed. Considering the fact that the kids weren't into the bigger thrill rides at that point...my wife and I got to use up all of their Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Dream FastPasses. Boy, was that fun! That night we stayed late at the pool and Sam met a new friend named “Britnaey.” I’m sure that’s spelled wrong, but hey…it’s cute. Another great day documented in the Guide.

Day five documented. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Each day of our ten-day trip is given the same treatment by my little documentarian. Every meal. Every souvenir. Every attraction we experienced. Every silly little thing that happened. Each day is captured just perfectly.

The final pages of the Guide are reserved for autographs and stickers. My kids have always had a small autograph book and pen ready to go in my backpack, so they never really used this section for that purpose. It was however, a good place to stash all of those Mickey stickers that the cast members hand out, as opposed to peeling them off of my shirts at the end of each day or better yet...picking them out of the washer or dryer when we got home!

Finally, a place for all of those stickers. © Celebrations Press, Inc.

Looking back and reading through the Guide and seeing our trips through my child’s eyes is really an invaluable thing to be able to do. The memories are priceless and her spin on the whole experience is even better. I get to see see what she felt was her favorite thing each day. I see what she remembered most, what attractions were the most memorable to her and even what souvenirs she got. As things get fuzzy in my age and the trips begin to blend into one, it's wonderful to be able to place certain meals with certain days all these years later. It’s an intimate snapshot of our favorite vacations in our favorite place. This really does make it a true treasure trove of memories to reflect back upon.

And that’s really the purpose of something like this isn’t it? Yes, it’s a great distraction for the kids to sit there on the bus or the monorail or when waiting for a meal to arrive in a restaurant. You can carry it in a backpack and have it ready whenever they get the urge to document something. Get them a big silly Mickey pen or pencil to make it even more fun for them. As I said, we bought the Guide two years in a row for my daughter and she loved every minute of it each year.

However, all these years later I am getting the most enjoyment out of the Guide to the Magic for Kids. It’s documentation of that magic through the eyes of my child at an age when the magic was very real and very different to her. She still loves it there and still believes in the place and what it does for us. But, that kid's view, preserved in these pages, is something different. That’s what makes this a special piece of Disney Stuff—perhaps one of the most special pieces that I have in my entire collection. Reading through this guide, I certainly miss the days when the three of them were younger and more wide-eyed, but it also makes me glad that we have these trips preserved in the pages of these guides. Most importantly, it makes me real anxious for our next trip coming up this Fall.

If you're interested in getting one of these guides for your little ones on your next magical Walt Disney World vacation just head on over to the Guide's official website, http://www.celebrationspress.com/shopping/guide-to-the-magic/ and order yourself a copy. Maybe six years from now you'll be looking back and reliving the magic of your trips all over again...just like I've been doing all week.

Thanks to Tim Foster for his great Guide and for helping my family and I to preserve the memories and the magic.

Do any of you out there have the Guide to the Magic for Kids? Or is this your first exposure to it? Either way, click on the link below, let me hear your thoughts and I'll see you next time with more of that great Disney Stuff.