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Want to Bring a Teenager to Walt Disney World? Here's How to Not to Goof It Up.

6. Make the food a (teen-friendly) adventure

Pistachio Bundt Cake from Food and Wine Festival

Image: Disney

There tends to be a common assumption that teenagers only want to eat hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and spaghetti. While, yes, many teens are picky eaters and these are all safe bets for eating at Disney, many parents make a major mistake when planning meals at Walt Disney World…

They treat teens like small children when it comes to their food choices.

Don’t automatically assume that your teen might not be interested in some adventurous choices at Walt Disney World. Many teens have just reached the age where they are willing to try some new foods, so long as those food seem appealing in some way. Walt Disney World is a great place to introduce teens to new cuisines, new desserts, and let them try some exciting food that just might be the best thing they’ve ever eaten outside of grandma’s cooking.

At Animal Kingdom, instead of Pizzafari, try Satu’li Canteen’s sci-fi themed exotic fare. At Magic Kingdom, instead of Casey’s Corner or even Be Our Guest, try Jungle Navigation Co Skipper Canteen. At Epcot, instead of the Electric Umbrella or Liberty Inn, try Katsura Grill, Sunshine Seasons, Kringla Bakery, or Tangierine Café. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, either try the Sci-fi Dine In Theater or some of the (soon arriving) offerings at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. We’re hoping the Black Spire Outpost finally redeems the dismal food options at this park.

As for sit down dinners, be careful with character dinners and teenagers. While some teens do well with Disney characters, others are weirded out by the unwanted attention of even a very-funny Mickey Mouse or eyelash-batting Disney princess. If your family likes character meals, go for it—just give teens some extra grace if they get shy around the characters.

7. Respect that teens don’t want to be treated like kids

Gamora jumping in Guardians of the Galaxy show

Image: Disney

Being a teenager is a weird time in life. You know enough things to feel like a semi-adult, but you’re too young to actually have that autonomy (or attention span). There are few things teenagers hate more, though, than being treated like kids.

In a way, it’s the number one reason why some teens recoil from places like Magic Kingdom—it feels like a “kid” place. They don’t want to be sung to, play with dolls, or cozy up to some characters that they now-totally-know are real people in a costume.

What is the best advice for bringing teens to Walt Disney World? Stop treating them like little kids.

Yes, teens like to have fun, goof off, and generally scream their heads off on rollers coasters… but if you treat them like they are intelligent and can contribute to decisions in the family, that confidence and encouragement will have a positive effect. Consider including your teen in some of the decision-making processes for your trip. Provided they maintain a good attitude, let them have some input on rides, meals, and entertainment. Yes, stretch them to try new things, but let them feel like they’re an active part of the trip, not just a passenger.

Even more so, consider giving teens some level of controlled autonomy on the vacation. If they’ve demonstrated a level of trustworthiness, consider letting them ride a ride or explore a little alone (if you want to keep an eye on their location, an app like Life360 works great, even within the parks). It’s a great mini-experience in prepping for adulthood.

Have you ever brought a teenager to Walt Disney World? What’s your best advice to first time families?

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