Magic Kingdom was the first park opened Orlando, but Walt Disney didn’t live to see it. For me, it is the quintessential Disney Park (sorry, California). From the towering Cinderella’s Castle to the variety of rides and shopping – Magic Kingdom has something for everyone and there’s so much to do.
I love this picture, by the way. The colors and lighting and everything are perfect, and it makes it look like we’re the only ones in the park. Which was definitely not the case. This park is BUSY. But what is particularly nice about Magic Kingdom is that there are a lot of off-the-beaten-path ways to get around, where you can avoid packs of people and those vicious double-strollers.
Magic Kingdom Tip #1: Always take the path less trodden. Go around the castle instead of through it. Along the edge of the river in Frontierland/Liberty Square. Through the gardens between Storybook Circus and Tomorrowland. You won’t miss anything but people bustling, and you may even catch some characters-in-training (unlikely, but it’s happened before).
For me, Magic Kingdom is a two-day park. I think Matt and I managed to hit everything but Astro-Blasters (I’ve never been on that ride and it needs to be a priority next time – fear of heights or not!) and a couple things in Liberty Square (Country Bear Jamboree and Tom Sawyer’s Island – the Liberty Belle was closed for the season). We were even lucky enough to hit a couple of the Mountains twice (thank you FastPass+) so had we prioritized differently, we would have seen everything. But it definitely took two days, and we weren’t getting character autographs or shopping much.
For our first day, Matt and I stuck to Main Street USA, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland. We moved around a little more during the Halloween party, but not the full experience. I never realized how much there is to do in Tomorrowland… and how many things I hadn’t done before.
First of all, the Peoplemover? Guys, I know this isn’t a high-thrill ride, but it’s pretty cool. I think Disney parks shine the most in their slow moving dark rides, where they can show off their engineering and state-of-the-art animatronics. I wanted to go on it again because I was sure I has missed some stuff (it took us into other rides! Like a behind-the-scenes pass! I love those things!), but the line got long around the start of the Halloween party, and we only grazed the edge of Tomorrowland our second day. Next time!
I’m kicking myself, because I took hardly any pictures at Magic Kingdom. I was having too much fun and apparently not thinking about blogging except during the Halloween party! Enjoy this terrible photo of space mountain from the monorail….
Our first day was about keeping it low-key and not wearing ourselves out, because we were at the park from rope drop until just about closing for MNSSHP – almost 16 hours. We graced easy rides like the Carousel of Progress (I genuinely love this ride, but my husband describes it as “cheesy and terrible”) and Mickey’s PhilharMAGIC (meh).
If I had to pick a land in Magic Kingdom that I like the most, that honor would go to Tomorrowland. Tomorrowland is my favorite. Even though it feels more science-fiction and less futuristic than it did when the park opened in 1971, I really like the atmosphere in this area, and it’s a lot less crowded that the other lands, so it’s easier to enjoy. I’m sure all that will change when the Tron coaster opens in 2021….
This is from Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which I am terrible at. It’s a similar idea to the Men in Black ride at Universal (is that still there?). My husband’s pretty good at it though, and had fun.
Fantasyland is the biggest area in the park, so we ended up in and around it for both days of our trip. I had booked a FastPass+ to Peter Pan’s Flight and The Seven Dwarfs mine train, so we lingered around the area. Which brings me to Magic Kingdom Rule #2: Book a FastPass+ for Peter Pan’s Flight if you want to go on it at all. On top of that, book it early. The standby queue for this line usually lingers around two hours, and I do not understand. The whole ride lasts about 2 minutes, and I just don’t think it’s their strongest dark ride? Journey of the Little Mermaid is better, and you can walk on that one. I suppose because it’s classic Disney, and there’s the nostalgia.
I miss Snow White’s Scary Adventures and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, y’all. I suppose that’s motivation for me to go to California….
GUYS GUYS GUYS. I was trying to find a not blurry picture from Journey of the Little Mermaid, and I made you a GIF from my photo burst instead. I FEEL ALL POWERFUL.
Of course, we also hit up classics like It’s A Small World. My dad has a story about how he walked on to It’s a Small World five consecutive times while my mom waited with my brother and I for Dumbo the Flying Elephant. When I’ve been as an adult, that definitely isn’t the case – It’s a Small World still has a queue line of 15-30 minutes. It’s also one of the rides that will slow down and stop as the attendants help people out of the boats. I never mind that, though. Expect for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and high up or upside down on one of the coasters, I’m happy to get stuck on any ride.
I have no explanation for it, but I love this silly clock.
We got stopped a lot on It’s a Small World, and it gave me time to look around at the mannequins. It’s interesting to see the different generations of them – from ones that looks like Madame Alexander dolls to ones that look like fourth grade paper mâché. In other versions of the ride, they’ve built in Disney characters (i.e. Belle in France), but the Magic Kingdom version has no cameos, unfortunately.
We got stopped a lot on the Haunted Mansion too. When I was a kid, this would have been the actual END OF THE WORLD. My dad gave me a really hard time about the ghosts in the mansion when I was a kid (I wrote about it last Halloween, actually), but as an adult, I think the whole ride is fascinating. Still missing the Hatbox Ghost, though. He’s in California, bring him to MK! 🙂 🙂 🙂
I really wanted to get stuck in the attic with the Bride, but the place we ended up was pretty interesting, too.
The second day we spent at Magic Kingdom, we were kings and queens of the rides. It was our last full day at the park, the crowds were lower, we got there later, and it was much more wonderful. We conquered the Mountains on the second day, a term which means we went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain all in one day. Since these ride queues are insane, it would be very easy to spend all day trying to conquer the mountains without FastPass+.
When I was a kid, my dad filmed through the entire Splash Mountain ride. In 1999, this was largely unheard of. I loved the home video, so when we went back in 2013, I did the same on many rides. I feel like I missed out on so much of our vacation. Smol piece of advice? Unless you are filming your family’s reactions to things, put the phone down? There are HD recordings of these rides in spades on YouTube, and you will miss the magic of Disney.
Magic Kingdom Rule #3: Use your FastPass+ to the max.
Disney’s FastPass+ lets you book a ride window for up to three rides per day at the same park. In you’re on site, you can do this 60 days in advance – off site, it’s 30. After you’ve used those, you can book more… one at a time. Our second day at the park, I had booked Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain railroad. Big Thunder was our last one, and it started raining when we were at the head of the queue, so we ended up sitting for about 45 minutes and waiting. If there is weather or technical difficulties that make it impossible for you to use your FastPass+, Disney gives you a free-for-all pass to go enjoy on any ride you want. We waited for Big Thunder, because frankly our feet could use a rest anyway.
A cool, dry place to sit down and take a break? No way was I getting out of this line.
But WHILE we were waiting, a FastPass+ for Space Mountain opened up! I couldn’t believe it – so I snagged it and we barely made our window after waiting for Big Thunder to reopen. The last time we went to Disney, we spent 2 hours in line for Space Mountain … twice. It was my husband’s favorite at the time, and a must-ride. This time, we probably spent an accumulated 20 minutes for both rides.
I’mma say it again: FastPass+ is amazing.
This is a horrible transition, but I do want to talk briefly about another ride before I move on to other things. I’m completely skipping the food – I have a whole post coming with reviews about ALL the food – but there’s one ride in Adventureland that I LOVE. And it’s ridiculous, but whatever.
The Jungle Cruise.
So, your quality of ride will depend on your quality of navigator and whether or not they are giving 6000% percent to the TRULY TERRIBLE puns on the tour. I love bad puns. Not all the time, but they’re clever and always make me chuckle. Our navigator was… meh. But we had such a good one in 2013 that I was ALL IN. She is still probably my favorite Disney cast member EVER. If I worked at Disney World, I would want to be a Jungle Cruise skipper. I would rock the cheesiness of this ride.
But beyond the punniness of it, there’s actually a story to The Jungle Cruise. There’s stories behind a lot of the older Disney rides – I can tell you ones about the Hatbox Ghost in the Haunted Mansion and It’s a Small World and The Great Goofini – but the one from the Jungle Cruise actually became something.
So back when they were originally planning the Magic Kingdom park, Walt Disney wanted to use real animals in the Jungle Cruise. He had a plan as to how he would build their habitat and take everyday Americans on an exotic cruise through Africa and Asia to experience the animals. The powers that be shut this down real fast – how would you control the animals? How would you protect the guests? We were talking about this in the early 60s, after all. So the idea was abandoned and the drive-through safari became an animatronic boat cruise. Originally, it was all very serious and informative about the lives of these animals – the puns came later.
However, that vision of a park where guests could see animals and get close to them in an environment that didn’t put bars between the two was shelved, not shredded. In 1998, Animal Kingdom opened and the original dream for The Jungle Cruise became Kilimanjaro Safaris. Cool, huh?
More stories! The plane crash in The Jungle Cruise is the back half of the plane that was used for the Casablanca tableau in The Great Movie Ride at Hollywood Studios. If you’re gonna buy a plane, you might as well use all of it.
So far, I hope I’ve demonstrated (in my own completely scattered way, I know this post is all over the place – sorry!) how much variety and fun there is to be had in the Magic Kingdom from the rides alone. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE.
My favorite shop on the entire resort is in Magic Kingdom. Yes, I know that Disney has a lot of shopping to offer and there’s some cool stuff in Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs has EVERYTHING but I really like Big Top Souvenirs? I can’t even begin to tell you why other than the bakery area is better than Goofy’s Candy Co. in Disney Springs and there’s a little of everything and the crowds are real low. And the aesthetic is great – it’s one of the circus tents in Storybook Circus! The only shop that has better aesthetics is the marketplace in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion, but the selection is better here.
There are at least 20 strollers in this picture. Can you find them all?
But for shopping, there’s also the Emporium on Main Street USA. This shop lies behind the facade of several different shops, but it’s one big LOOOOONG one with anything Disney your heart could possibly desire. The only thing missing here is fresh pastries. It’s the perfect place to get your souvenirs.
AND THERE’S STILL MORE.
Seriously, I love Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom is the only park with consistent parades. In the past, there have been a few small parades at other parks – I remember seeing the Hercules motorcar parade at Hollywood Studios when I was little, and I remember something at Animal Kingdom, but really… the only park set up for the intricate floats is Magic Kingdom.
We had no intention of watching the parades while we were at Magic Kingdom, and we accidentally saw bits and pieces of all of them.
The Festival of Fantasy parade was going through Main Street USA while we were waiting on the porch of Crystal Palace for our lunch reservation. It wasn’t close up, but we could see Rapunzel waving from her float, and Beauty and the Beast on their roses float. The last time we went, we stayed and watched the parades and I was so excited because the princess float they used when I was a kid in the Remember the Magic Parade was back for A Dream Come True. No familiar floats this time, though. 🙂
The other parade we caught was a mini-parade just as we were coming in. We had great spots for this one, because we were browsing in the Main Street Emporium and my husband says “Hmm, I think there’s a parade”. And there was! This one just pulls up in front of castle for a show, but it was fun to see nonetheless. With the exception of Stitch, I hadn’t seen the characters anywhere else – even the Halloween party. They had characters from Toy Story and the Incredibles on the other floats.
Finally, while Magic Kingdom currently has no Night Parade (RIP Main Street Electrical Parade – I loved you so), since we went to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, we caught Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween parade… again, completely by accident. I wrote about that last week, though, so I’ll spare you.
Arrgh, it be Cap’n Barbossa. Note the green apple in his hand! I didn’t notice it ’til I was posting this, but I’m thoroughly impressed by Disney’s attention to detail. Apples were the thing Barbossa missed the most when he was undead, if you are unfamiliar with Curse of the Black Pearl.
If you are going to Orlando and want to go to the Disney Parks for ONLY ONE DAY, Magic Kingdom is my first recommendation. You get a full Disney experience at the Magic Kingdom and well, it really is magical. No matter how crowded it is or how exhausted you are, you can lose yourself in memories in this park, and it’s the one that really makes you feel like a kid again.
There’s great dining options at Magic Kingdom, the parades are fun, the fireworks beautiful. There’s a good variety of rides for all ages and shapes. There’s good shopping. It’s just… a beautiful, magical place and somewhere I think everyone should go once in their life. <3