Visiting Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida is a major undertaking, so we’ll be breaking up the parks into their own posts. These tips are recommended for first-timers who have never visited the parks before but are starting their visit with the Magic Kingdom, the most popular of the four. I haven’t visited with children since I was a child myself, so you may want to read up on tips for traveling as a family, which you’ll find on our Pinterest board, linked below. You also might want to work with a Disney travel agent, who can help you plan the trip best for your needs. As of publication, tickets start at $97 USD per person.
Before You Go
It’s smart to do as much research in advance as possible and visit during low periods, namely while school is going on and when it’s cold, but not during the holidays. Also, think about how many parks you’ll be seeing and how long you’ll spend at each. It’s completely possible to do the Magic Kingdom in one full day, but you might want to go back for special events, which I’ll mention more below. If you have a Park Hopper pass, you can also spend the morning at one park and the afternoon at another. Consider getting a MagicBand, which comes with your stay at any Disney resort. It will serve as your room key, park entry and can have FastPasses loaded onto it that let you hop the line at specific rides. Plus, you can get them in different colors and add decorations to them. If you want to meet with characters, also schedule these experiences in advance as there can be months-long waiting lists.
While You’re There
As soon as you arrive at the Magic Kingdom, grab a map and a times guide. This will tell you what the hours are during your stay and how late the Monorail runs. It also includes times for events like the fireworks and parades. Then make a plan for what you want to hit first, You’ll enter at Main Street USA, which creates a bottleneck in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Decide if you want to go clockwise or counterclockwise. Fantasyland has more rides that are appropriate for young children while Tomorrowland is for older visitors. Most shopping is in Main Street USA.
If you didn’t purchase FastPasses, it’s smart to go straight to the ones that you will probably have to wait for. You might not have the energy for it later in the day. Rides to start at might include Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Mad Tea Party, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you want to catch a sighting of one of the characters or get your photo taken with them, plan ahead by being in that section before they’re scheduled to appear. Set an alarm on your phone if you need to. You’ll see long lines for characters like Elsa from Frozen. Interactive experiences that aren’t rides include the Swiss Family Treehouse and Tom Sawyer Island, two of my favorites.
Later in the afternoon, as the sun continues to rise, you might want to spend some time in the air conditioning. Rides that are ideal for a break are It’s a Small World, The Hall of Presidents, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Haunted Mansion. Or spend this time to peruse the shops on Main Street and grab a bite.
For the best possible day at the Magic Kingdom, there are a few things you should bring with you. A water bottle is important to fill up throughout the day. Also, bring a poncho in case of rain, as buying one will set you back $10. Wet wipes or hand sanitizer are also a good idea, as are snacks like granola bars and fruit. They’ll help tide you over until you want to slow down and find food.
While the meal pictured was taken at one of the resorts, there’s no shortage of places to eat at the Magic Kingdom. Some restaurants are only available by making dining reservations in advance. There are all ranges of prices and some restaurants are only available for specific meals. Each offers a different type of cuisine as well. Meals you’ll have to book in advance are The Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table, and Be Our Guest Restaurant, all of which have character experiences. Recommendations are recommended for mid-range eateries like Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, The Plaza Restaurant, and Liberty Tree Tavern.
For a quick bite, you can grab a sandwich or hot dog from one of the many kiosks nearby. Aloha Isle has the famous Frozen Dole whip, but I always go to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, a quick dining spot with burgers, fries, and sandwiches. You can also bring your own sandwiches if you want to lug them around in your bag, but coolers are not allowed.
The Disney parks are like their own world, so once arriving in Orlando, you might not need your car at all. From the Orlando airport, you can hop aboard the Mickey Express, which drops you off at all onsite resorts. Buses operate between the parks, to Disney Springs, and to all Disney properties. Parking is available at the Magic Kingdom but driving isn’t necessary unless you’re staying offsite or planning on going to another Orlando park later in the day. The Monorail and watercraft can also be used to get to other resorts and parks.
You don’t have to stay at one of the Disney resorts for your visit to the Magic Kingdom, but it can be nice for your first time. Hotels range in price from $50 per night campground sites to $500 per night luxury rooms. Select one of the “Magic Kingdom area resorts,” including Wilderness Lodge, Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian. Benefits to staying onsite are the use of MagicBands, easy transportation to and from the parks, and early access to the parks.
If you don’t end up staying at the Disney resorts, there are plenty right outside the gates to Epcot in Lake Buena Vista. Nickelodeon has its own kid-friendly hotel and the Sheraton is a resort with multiple pools and options. B Resort and Spa has amenities for adults and children alike.
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Consider the daily events that take place at the Magic Kingdom. They could be a character appearance or a parade. Others might be stage shows, street performances or fireworks. Be sure to check the website before you go.
If you’re looking to see as much as possible, book a Walt Disney World Private Guide.