As parents, one of our greatest pleasures is finding beauty through our children’s happiness.
And there’s no better place to seal your happiest memories together as a family than at the world’s most renowned child paradise: Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park.
Our time at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park is now part of our daily conversations. The photos from our visit are displayed on our walls and imprinted in our memories forever. We loved the Magic Kingdom Park so much it left us wanting more! More exploration of the other Walt Disney World parks, more days and more discoveries, which is why we have vowed to return at least once a year, only this time, with a bit more planning.
If you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park, or any other Walt Disney World theme park, then these top 10 tips are essential to review before even buying your tickets. You’ll gain more time, peace of mind and most of all create an enjoyable experience of a lifetime with your family.
In 2012, Disney World launched its free My Disney Experience mobile app to streamline your park visits. The app is brilliant. It includes everything from all four of its theme parks: Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, as well as the rest of Walt Disney World’s attractions such as its water parks and shopping and dining quarters on the outskirts of the parks. It includes park hours, a scheduled times guide, attraction locations, and maps. You may also purchase park tickets online, fast passes and dining reservations. You can even check wait times for rides and search information such as parade times, and character greetings – as well as any other event or attraction.
I loved the GPS-enabled maps of the parks. I used it while walking from one ride to another in Magic Kingdom Park. The map shows where you are, where your destination is, and tracks your movement.
Some other popular features on the My Disney Experience app include a description of all of the rides with photos, where the rides are located, the hours, height requirements, age interest (all ages, toddler, preschool, tweens, teens, adults) and thrill level. This detailed information was extremely helpful as I was searching for rides for a 32-inch 3-year-old. Thanks to the app, an organized favorites list popped up with the specific toddler and preschool-friendly attractions.
You can categorize your favorite rides before your park visit by clicking on the heart button for favorites and pull them up under My Plans on the main menu. No more last-minute decisions, notes and guessing! Everything you need is accessible in the palm of your hand.
What are Fast Passes? Walt Disney World’s complimentary Fast Pass+ service that allows you to zip ahead into what I referred to as the VIP line instead of the regular line for attractions. The lines move quickly. You might end up waiting just a few minutes depending on how popular the attraction is that day and hour.
Everyone who purchases a Walt Disney World ticket is allowed three Fast Passes at any desired attraction of their choice. You can reserve your Fast Passes on the My Disney Experience app (or you can log in to My Disney Experience from a computer as well) up to up to 30 days in advance with a ticket and 60 days before if you have a ticket and a Disney World hotel reservation.
So get your party together and agree on which Fast Passes you want to sync up! You can create a party from just one device, or separate devices on My Disney Experience and add the same three Fast Passes for the entire party or sync just one or two Fast Passes together.
I regret not planning the Fast Passes more carefully, especially with the entire party of people I went to the park with. It could have shaved off at least an hour of time, although the ride lines were never that long. (During our early weekday April visit, only one ride - Peter Pan’s Flight - was around an hour, the others were probably an average of a 20-minute wait.) My party and I were in line at the park scrambling to sync up the remaining Fast Passes available that day. As the day goes on, the times are limited and the option for Fast Passes may disappear completely. I also forgot to change the time on one of my Fast Passes and it expired so I only used two. Preparation is key to give you more time in the world’s most magical land!
I strongly suggest becoming familiar with the map of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park as well as all of the attractions listed on My Disney Experience before your visit. When we return to Magic Kingdom Park, I am planning our attractions based on fully exploring one land of Magic Kingdom Park at a time and correlating these lands with times for Fast Passes.
For example, explore Fantasyland first and book a Fast Pass+ in Fantasyland, then at a later time that day, explore Frontierland and book a Fast Pass+ in Frontierland, then at an even later time that day, explore Adventureland and book a Fast Pass+ in Adventureland, etc. I made the mistake of booking Fast Passes too close together in different lands so we were bolting from Fantasy Land to Tomorrow land and then back to Fantasyland for another back-to-back Fast Pass+. If I would have stretched out that Fast Pass+ for the car ride in Tomorrow land a little later, we wouldn’t have had to hustle back and forth across different lands.
It’s very likely that you could end up walking 5-10 miles at Walt Disney World. So pack light but be sure to include your essentials such as water, sunglasses for everyone, sunscreen and an extra change of clothes for your little ones at least. There are a plethora of snack stands providing food and water, not to mention all of the dining options. You can also bring your own stroller or rent one at the gate.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park opens at 9 a.m. Some people might think, “Ok, I’ll wake up a couple hours before and arrive around 8:30 a.m.”
Give yourself a bit more time. You have unsettled variables such as children, traffic, some walking, and transportation to security and ticket lines. Remember, Walt Disney World is a big place and people from all over the world come here.
Fortunately, the parks have a complimentary, organized system of transportation.
The transportation lines move quickly and the ferryboat ride that we took to Magic Kingdom Park was enjoyable and picturesque. It’s worth all of the glorified tracking. We arrived at the park a little too late - past 11 a.m. - which we calculated as crafty early-riser planning as we left the house. So any extra-early investment is well-worth it if you gain an extra morning hour or two. Most children are at their peak in the morning and tend to wake up extra early on vacations anyway so take advantage of this and beat most of the crowds!
Upon entering Magic Kingdom Park, the animated visage is alluring. You want to see everything! No, you have to see everything – your child must have these memories! But before you scamper off from attraction to attraction like an overzealous, sweaty squirrel who found a hotspot of nuts one day before winter, consider this so you won’t flop to a limp state at the end of the day with a crying child:
Your child’s regular days are nothing like this. Especially if your child is a toddler or preschooler, he or she likely takes a nap. Young children need to pace themselves and need more rest time than adults do. The best way to do this is to ensure that their time at the Magic Kingdom Park is paced so they can soak up the entertainment without feeling overwhelmed, tired, hungry or hot.
I would suggest alternating a couple rides with a show, as well as other attractions such as a character dining, meeting the characters and parades, etc.
Shows are the perfect interlude to the next outdoor attraction. During the cool, air-conditioned shows, Joe was probably the happiest that I’ve seen him the entire day. Taking a breather is necessary for both you and your children and the shows are short enough and flavored with a rich burst of live animation with some of your child’s favorite characters, laced with magic, comedy, music unworldly sights.
The best part is, there is little to no wait time for shows! I think we waited five minutes for one show. The rest we just walked in as they re-opened. I know you want to hit up all of the rides, but it’s more important that your child has an enjoyable experience – not a frantic one.
Although you can bring your own food into the park, I would limit it to a couple snacks and water and choose a fun dining experience instead of packed lunches. If you went through all of the work to travel to Magic Kingdom Park, select a character dining experience at The Crystal Palace or Cinderella’s Royal Table. You’ll never have another dining experience like this anywhere else!
Reserving a character dining experience is the first thing I’ll book next time even before Fast Passes, and then book Fast Passes around the dining time. We didn’t book a character dining experience or any dining experience while at Magic Kingdom Park. We ended up scuffling through a bag of crumbly, melted snacks in line - not very relaxing.
Then because Joe was hot, thirsty and hungry, we ended up in the line ride. That’s right, we waited in line for about 20 minutes until Joe witnessed a boy savoring a cool, juicy fruit Popsicle and had a slight meltdown because he wanted one too. So we left our line and watched helplessly as he drenched himself in a watermelon popsicle that left a dark, red ring around his mouth at the end of the day, a completely red-soaked outfit, and stained hands but a smile on his face. (By the way, bring an extra change of clothes for occasions like this – fortunately we did.)
So don’t go the cheapo route. Make yourself and your child happy and sit down in a cool, magical environment to relax and eat your favorite foods, refresh and replenish yourself with liquids and see your favorite characters! Who knows, this may be one of the most memorable moments of your Magic Kingdom Park experience.
Upon leaving the bathroom after a deep Popsicle clean-up, we darted off to another ride but as the mid-day parade sparkled and thumped down the street in the background, Joe pleaded and pointed in the parade’s direction.
“Parade! Parade!” he chanted.
My mom suggested a detour but I stopped and thought, “This is silly, we’re here for him to see his favorite attractions - not to set our own agenda.”
So we caught the near-end of the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. Joe squealed in glee waving as Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy all waved back to him. Perched in a crowd of starry-eyed children, Joe watched in wonder as Disney characters, dancers, and more flowed by him to festive, upbeat music.
The parade was one of the main highlights of our park visit as it is one of the attractions Joe talks about the most – and we stumbled upon it by accident.
Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park offers two notorious parades: a Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade mid-day at 3 p.m. and a Main Street Electrical Parade at night at 9 p.m. Although the nighttime one seems late for young children, I regret missing it and I think it would be worth staying up a little later to see glowing, gliding floats of Disney characters and dancers.
Can you remember the last time you were dehydrated? How did you feel? Probably fatigued and cranky. Don’t let this happen on your full-day of adventures at the Magic Kingdom Park.
Luckily, you don’t have to simmer in Florida’s tropical weather as a dizzying array of dozens upon dozens of shops and food stations at Magic Kingdom Park supply water in almost every shop and on almost every corner to keep you well hydrated and energized.
This seems like a silly tip but I think most of us are so focused on zipping off to our next ride we forget to drink water. Take time to stop and sip so your energy doesn’t dip!
If you need an extra time-out from the heat, step into the Hall of Presidents for a breather. My sister and her husband have year-round passes to Walt Disney World and these old-timer park hoppers tipped me off on his. They say it’s the coolest place to linger until you recompose yourself for the heat. Otherwise, hit up any of the other shows like the Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree or Mickey’s PhilharMagic for a breath of cool air after guzzling some water.
If you find yourself exiting the park without a souvenir, no need to clamber back with tired kids in tow. Your Disney World theme park experience might be over but you can still take an evening out dining and shopping at Disney Springs.
Disney Springs is a free place that sits just outside Walt Disney World theme parks and hotels full of buzzing shops, fine dining, and bustling nightlife and entertainment. My family and I spent a night shopping and dining under the shimmering Floridian night lights, enveloped in royal palms. We watched people cruise by in old-timey car boats, rode a small boat across the island and ate fine chocolate along the way. And I made my son’s day by purchasing two missing pieces from his Disney Cars collection at Once Upon a Toy: Sheriff and Mater. The toy stores are expansive, fully-stocked product paradises containing Disney particle you can imagine. So take your time and consider planning a separate souvenir shopping trip along Disney Springs.
Even if your Walt Disney World theme park adventure is over, you can still enter the perimeters of Walt Disney World to view a mesmerizing firework show. We watched the firework show from the dock of Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa with a dozen other cuddled spectators. Glowing water ensembles float by as the fireworks explode through powerful, orchestra music. The glow of Magic Kingdom Park castle’s lights dance in the background and your children will witness the perfect finality to their Disney World experience.
The 12-minute firework show runs late at 10 p.m. so some young children may not be able to view it, but if anything will leave an imprint in their mind, it will be a sky full of colorful lights and music all surrounded in the hypnotic glow of dancing castle lights.
My biggest regret is not adding more days and more park visits to our Disney World experience! The inimitable magic of our Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom Park visit was also fueled by a fast-track frenzy to squeeze in as much as possible in ONE day.
The theme of all of these tips can be summed up as this:
Plan, then pace yourself and enjoy yourself!
Your visit to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park or any other Walt Disney World park should be a mix of exhilaration as well as ease-filled enjoyment.
However, Disney World’s giant landscape pushes you to the limits of elation, enticing child-like fantasy. You can spend three days exploring one park such as Magic Kingdom Park and you still won’t experience it all!
With more days exploring Magic Kingdom Park or any other Walt Disney World theme park, you’ll feel less pressured to hit the pavement and cross off your favorite rides list. Instead, you’ll focus more on the pure enjoyment of being at Walt Disney World when you spend more time there.
The less rushed you feel, the more you and your family can enjoy yourselves. Plus, you’ll discover quickly what type of attractions your child prefers and you can plan more of those the rest of your visit.
On our next visit I would like to plan at least 3-4 days at Walt Disney World with Park Hopper tickets. The Park Hopper tickets are not much more (less than 20 percent more) than the regular tickets with admission to one park per day.
The Park Hopper ticket allows you unlimited access to hop to and from whatever park you desire during park hours. The four parks included in the Park Hopper ticket are Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. There were definitely some train rides, boat rides, and dinosaur rides to name a few that I would have loved to take Joe on at the other parks.
So for example, we could see Magic Kingdom Park for most of the day and then head over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to catch a Disney Junior - Live on Stage! show in the evening. (Joe is obsessed with Disney Junior. Shows like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, The Lion Guard, and other Disney Junior shows are all he watches. He has never even glanced at other cartoon networks. Seeing his favorite people live would make his year.)
While Magic Kingdom Park appears to be one of the most preschool-friendly of the Walt Disney World parks, every park includes overwhelming play and attraction options for little ones and I know Joe will be entertained and exhilarated all day.
Since our visit, I now understand why families keep coming back.
The Magic Kingdom Park transports you to a child-like state of mind. You enter the theme park for the sole purpose of your child’s entertainment and find yourself immersed in the grandeur fantasy along with them. Each ride carries you further back into to your childhood and all of your daily reality dissipates.
For all the travelers who return from Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park, they will tell you it’s worthy of all of the hype.
With a little preparation from the help of these top 10 tips, I am confident that you too will be among one of the travelers who returns with beautiful memories, watch a beaming smile on your child’s face and hear the sound of their voice singing, “It’s a Small World,” for weeks on end until your child is once again ignited with impulse to sing it after reentering the Magic Kingdom on another childhood visit.