The heat is on for Central Floridians. Daytime temps are on the rise, and Memorial Day weekend signals the arrival of house guests who want to spend days (and nights) at our theme parks. Here is a park-by-park strategy -- broken down by morning, afternoon and night -- for hitting the high points and new attractions to make the day at the park less stressful and most productive.
Morning: It may sound crazy ... but start thinking about lunch. The line forms early for Be Our Guest Restaurant in New Fantasyland. The eatery opens around 10:30 a.m., but folks are already queued up then for eats served in the elaborate re-creation of Beast's Castle. (Unless you've made reservations well in advance, you're out of luck for dinner there.)
Afternoon: Many folks line the streets for the 3 o'clock parade (Currently "Celebrate a Dream Come True" parade). That makes it a good time to hit rides that tend to have long waits. Think Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Night: Arrive several minutes early for the nightly fireworks and catch the memorable pre-show, which features fascinating projections onto Cinderella Castle.
Morning: Most of World Showcase doesn't open until 11 a.m., so hit either Soarin' or the newly revamped Test Track on the Future World side of the park.
Afternoon: You can, technically, eat around the world, but we don't recommend it. Narrow it to a family favorite restaurant, Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria in the Italy pavilion. It's complete with pizzas fired in ovens named for volcanos.
Night: Stay for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, the nightly fireworks (plus lasers) extravaganza. To say the least, Epcot goes out with a bang. When picking your spot to watch the show, monitor which way the wind is blowing. Fumes in the face decrease enjoyment levels.
DISNEY'S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Morning: It's a mad dash for Toy Story Mania at park opening. Don't get trampled, but do go directly to the overgrown-videogame attraction for a FastPass. (Others prefer Tower of Terror first, but that attraction can have a shorter line at some point in the day. Rarely will you be able to stroll onto Mania.)
Afternoon: Late lunch at 50's Prime Time Cafe, home of the sassy waitress and the peanut-butter-and-jelly milkshake. Both are memorable.
Night: This is Star Wars Weekend at Hollywood Studios, so expect congestion all day. An evening highlight is the "Hyperspace Hoopla" show which puts "Star Wars" characters in unusual situations. Force meets Farce.
DISNEY'S ANIMAL KINGDOM
Morning: The animals along the Kilimanjaro Safaris are said to be most active early in the day, but it's always a crap shoot in the savanna as far. If you go here first and the animals are out of sight (in a bad way), there's time in your day to try again.
Afternoon: A break from the heat -- and a spectacular show -- is "Festival of the Lion King." It's not just a retelling of the movie or the Broadway play. It's acrobatics, fire-twirling, humor, "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and air-conditioning.
Night: This park typically closes earlier than its Disney World brethern, so it will be warm enough still to take your chances on getting wet on the Kali River Rapids ride.
Morning: I'd try Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit coaster first because it's near the park entrance. But if Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is posting a wait of less than 20 minutes, stop there first.
Afternoon: Hang out along the New York streets and weigh your options: Revenge of the Mummy coaster? Blues Brothers street show? Belly up to the bar at Finnegan's?
Night: Universal salutes its century of filmmaking with an evening-ending salute called Universal Cinematic Spectacular, a mix of classic film clips, music, pyro and projections onto water curtains.
ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE
Morning: Sure, the boy wizard has made all the recent headlines, but we're still fans of the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride. It's a must-see.
Afternoon: There are watery options: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls (dramatic flume drop), Popeye & Bluto's Bilge-Rat Barges (floating in a tub raft, getting drenched), or just watching and spraying down unsuspecting riders with water cannons.
Night: The crowds at Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Hogsmeade campus) sometimes thin out in late afternoon, and the place has a different sort of glow at night. Think of it as the dessert of your theme-park day.
Morning: Some of the kid stuff doesn't open at the same time as the park, so a good first stop is the Dolphin Nursery. It sets the animal-interaction tone for the rest of the day. (In the heat of the day, the underwater-viewing area of Dolphin Cove is soothing and in a dark, shadowy place. Exhale.)
Afternoon: The aquarium built into the Manta roller coaster can be an afternoon delight with all manner of floating creatures, including rays, sea horses and exotic fishes -- plus a photo op that puts your head inside a fish tank.
Night: SeaWorld's biggest star is Shamu, of course. Save one of his shows for last.
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