You may have spent countless hours thinking about the perfect Magic Kingdom® touring plan at Walt Disney World® Resort. You also may have perfected your FastPass+ times and coordinated your dining reservations. But have you thought about your downtime? Multiple days in the parks can leave anyone in need of a break.
Our family often tries to build in time to go back to our resort for the afternoon, but there are days when this just doesn’t work out. Fortunately, there are many ways to take a break right in the park. One of our favorites involves Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom®, where you can take a self-guided tour of two shady islands connected by rope bridges, and filled with tunnels, play areas, and a fort. Come along to see my top 10 reasons that Tom Sawyer Island is not a waste of time!
#1 – Location
Found in Frontierland®, a quick log raft ride across Rivers of America will take you to Mark Twain-inspired Tom Sawyer Island. It is very close to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad® and Splash Mountain® which makes it ideal for smaller children who need a break while older family members may want to split up and ride these coasters. Frontierland® is also where the Festival of Fantasy parade begins, so if you have someone saving a spot for the parade, this may be a good place for other members of the family to run and play.
#2 – Raft ride
Take an easy ride across to the island on one of the rafts named after characters from the book: Tom Sawyer, Injun Joe, or Becky Thatcher. The rafts are actually motor-powered but provide gentle transportation. The raft ride is a great beginning to an imaginative adventure. Unfortunately, the island is not accessible to guests in wheelchairs, due to the steps, bridges, and elevation changes.
#3 – Theming
With a great attention to detail, Tom Sawyer Island is themed after The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and multiple settings from the book. There is a frontier atmosphere, and it is an ideal place for kids to recreate their favorite scenes from books and movies. My children love to spend a lot of time here pretending to be under attack, or hiding from “bad guys.” In Fort Langhorn, they also love to use the pretend guns to shoot from Rifle’s Roost at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad® and the Liberty Square Riverboat.
#4 – Shade and natural beauty
Shady and tree-lined, this island has been kept very natural. Many plants and trees make for a genuine barrier between the rest of the theme park which keeps sights and sounds down to a minimum. Tom Sawyer Island is a perfect spot for escaping overstimulation and creating downtime for children and adults alike. Given ample time here, it’s easy to forget you are actually in the middle of a large theme park. Take the time to be in the moment, and forget about “what’s next?” for just a little while.
#5 – Playgrounds
Scavengers Fort allows kids to climb on and touch everything, which can be a great break from all of the standing in line or from being stuck sitting in a stroller. Kids can stretch their legs, run and play, ring the bell, and yell while adults rest their feet on nearby benches. Think about throwing in a towel or a blanket to spread out if you are planning to spend a good bit of time here. My own children hate to be rushed through this playground, so plan for more than 30 minutes if possible so you don’t have to worry about making it to your next attraction.
#6 – Fort, caves, and bridges
Fort Langhorn has many tunnels to explore, rocking chairs to relax in and staffed bathrooms for the necessary breaks. There is a place to play checkers here and it is a favorite activity of my son to decompress from a busy day. He isn’t a huge fan of the bigger rides, even at age 12, he loved to just hang out in this area. After having a pirate makeover, this is a great place to run and use the swords to play act “attacks”.
#7 – Unusual views
From Tom Sawyer Island, you can see the riverboat glide by, look at the mill, and get photos with the castle in the background from a different viewpoint. These scenes make for great backdrops with limited people in the way. I have even seen people bring different clothing here and do a photoshoot with their kids in a natural way as they ran and played.
#8 – Benches, bathrooms, and rocking chairs
While kids explore, there are multiple areas for grownups to rest on Tom Sawyer Island. Since there is only one way on or off, it gives older kids some freedom to roam while younger kids stay closer to adults at the playground. On especially crowded days, it may be harder to find a spot but we have almost always been successful finding an open bench or rocking chair to use for a rest. The bathrooms in the fort are usually very clean and fairly empty when we go, and the talkative cast members have been a wonderful help when we ask questions about this area.
#9 – Short lines
While guests hustle about the rest of the park, trying to make their FastPass+ times or waiting for larger, more popular attractions, the raft entrance to Tom Sawyer Island typically has low lines. Grab a snack from one of the many nearby carts in Frontierland® or bring a picnic and get in the short line to head over to the island. Rafts run continuously so you won’t typically have to wait long for the return ride either.
#10 – Rest without a resort
In our family, we try to go to the parks early and return late, with a rest at the resort and pool midday. There is, inevitably, at least one day where this plan doesn’t work out. Tom Sawyer Island is a great alternative to add downtime in a low stimulation area where kids can blow off steam while adults rest their feet. If we have had a late lunch reservation or an appointment at Pirate’s League that we don’t want to be washed off in the pool, we may spend more time in the park that day. The shady area on Tom Sawyer Island keeps us out of the sun for a while and can even provide as an alternative attraction for those not wanting to go on a large coaster style ride.
The reasons above are just the beginning of why our family doesn’t feel that Tom Sawyer Island is a waste of time when we are at Magic Kingdom®. It’s still a requested part of the park touring plan by both of my children. Come for the rocking chairs, and stay for the peaceful downtime and a break from the crowds!
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