Utlimate Magic Kingdom Itinerary
In previous discussions, I’ve offered my thoughts on the best single-day itineraries for the other gates at Walt Disney World. Whether you want to spend the day at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, or Animal Kingdom, there’s a guide for you. Today, I’m going to tackle the most difficult of the four, understanding all too well that everyone has their own style and approach to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Here is my suggested Magic Kingdom itinerary for spending the perfect day at Magic Kingdom.
The Opening Bell
I’m an ardent supporter of Rope Drop at all Disney theme parks, but it’s particularly important at Magic Kingdom. You should arrive 15 minutes before the gates open so that you can be one of the first to enter. Guests staying at certain official hotels like Disney’s Contemporary Resort can go a little later since they can skip security at the entrance gate by riding the monorail. I understand that this suggestion isn’t for everyone, though.
Once you’re in the park, you should target one of only a handful of rides. You want to pick one that will have a huge line later. By heading directly to that attraction right now, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 30 minutes in the line queue. That’s less than half of what you should regularly expect. The rides I strongly recommend for this are Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, both of which are located in New Fantasyland.
Our friends at Touring Plans have done extensive analysis of early morning park behavior. Their conclusion is that eight attractions get crowded faster than the rest. In addition to the two I mentioned, the others are Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Tomorrowland Speedway. For me, half of those results are surprising, but let’s assume that they’re correct.
Buzz Lightyear and Tomorrowland Speedway have reasonable rides throughout the day, while Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Enchanted Tales with Belle are manageable, too. You certainly don’t want to start the day by getting dripping wet on Splash Mountain. I also wouldn’t recommend Space Mountain since it’s a bumpy ride that can cause the occasional headache, backache, or touch of motion sickness.
By process of elimination, Peter Pan’s Flight and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train make the most sense. Each one has a wait that’s regularly more than an hour throughout the day. The debate is whether you want to ride Peter Pan’s Flight. It’s an extremely short ride that you may not find is worth the effort. Since everyone loves the mine train, I’d suggest that one. Should you want to do Peter Pan’s Flight, either get a FastPass for it ahead of time or search obsessively early in the morning. A FastPass cuts the wait by about 80 percent here.
Once you’re done with your rope drop attraction in New Fantasyland, you have the run of the park. As always, I’m assuming that you don’t have any FastPasses and, as always, I’m strongly recommending that you get some. Book them ahead of time and then book more as soon as you use them. Clever FastPass usage will elevate your day at Magic Kingdom. It will also make the itinerary a bit chaotic since a lot of your day goes by: “That depends on which FastPass you have.”
I’ll assume that you depart your first attraction around 9:45. Both rides are short, and their line queues should go steadily early in the morning. Your next choice is where to go next. You’re right by one of my favorites at Magic Kingdom, but I’ll save that suggestion for later when you’re tired.
Instead, I’ll direct you to the area behind Seven Dwarfs Mine Train where Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid resides. It’s an Omnimover dark ride that happily recreates the story of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and its line should be short at this time of day. You might as well hit it while you’re there.
While you’re in New Fantasyland, you’ll have other options. This itinerary will be more flexible than the others since Magic Kingdom has seemingly limitless opportunities. A few rides and attractions you should consider are It’s a Small World, the Barnstormer, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
These are all child-friendly attractions that are perfect for families. I would suggest that you ride at least two of them, but you should save It’s a Small World for later. We’ll come back to it. For now, I wouldn’t recommend Mad Tea Party, either. You can hit it later in the day, preferably when you’re safely between meals.
After riding three attractions, your watch probably says 11 a.m., give or take a bit. You should understand that the next four hours are when the park is most crowded. Your big decision right now is whether to go east or west at the park. One way leads to Tomorrowland while the other will take you through Liberty Square into Frontierland. I’m going to suggest the latter one for now.
The thought process here is that Frontierland has two major attractions, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. While I can’t promise anything, TouringPlans suggests that if you arrive in Frontierland at 11:15, you should board the roller coaster right around noon. Then, you’ll have a decision. If you’re ready to get wet, spend the next hour in line at Splash Mountain. If not, head back to Liberty Square.
I’ll suggest that you ride Splash Mountain, and I’ll explain why. Once you exit the ride, you will be wet, but that’s okay! You’re only steps away from the Walt Disney World Railroad. You can board it and ride to other parts of the park, drying off on your trip. Alternately, you can drip dry as you walk to a restaurant. There, you can sit down and eat as your wet clothes get dry. This strategy is a bit of a gamble, but it’s the one I recommend.
A great restaurant is fairly close, too. Columbia Harbour House is a Magic Kingdom institution that participates in the Mobile Ordering program. You can choose your meal on your phone before you arrive at the restaurant, saving you time and aggravation. If you would prefer not to walk, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café is right by Splash Mountain. The food isn’t as good, but you can use Mobile Ordering here, too.
Whichever meal sounds good, I would recommend that you order it right before you board Splash Mountain. The Mobile Ordering system is smart enough that it won’t cook your food until you signal it. So, you can talk to your party about what everyone wants, order it, and even pay for it through your phone. Once you exit the ride, pull up Mobile Ordering and hit the button to show that you’re ready for Disney to prepare your food. Little tips like this make standing in a line queue feel a bit more productive.
You will have a singular destination after your lunch. You’re heading to Haunted Mansion! It’s directly across from Columbia Harbour House, so you can’t miss it. This does bring me to an important point, though. While you’re standing in line for rides, pull out your phone and load the My Disney Experience app. You should always be on the lookout for potential FastPasses, preferably in your current or next intended themed land.
In the most recent example, you should research FastPasses for Big Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Haunted Mansion while you’re waiting to board the Barnstormer or Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. You should definitely try to get a Haunted Mansion FastPass for the window of 1:45 – 2:45 pm, the time after you have a quick bite at Columbia Harbour House. This sort of forward-thinking will elevate your day at Magic Kingdom. You’ll get to ride more attractions, AND you’ll do so while waiting in shorter lines!
Presuming that you got a FastPass at Haunted Mansion (it’s fairly easy in my experience), you’re now in great shape for the afternoon. Once you exit your Doom Buggy, you can go east or southeast. For now, head just around the corner to the east, and you’ll stumble upon It’s a Small World. Now is a good time to ride, as you’re starting your post-meal afternoon with a couple of long, gentle rides. You don’t have to worry about an upset stomach this way.
Once you’re done with It’s a Small World, take this opportunity to cut through Cinderella Castle and admire the courtyard a bit. At least once per visit, I try to sit down on the grass and admire the Partners Statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse. It’s also fun to people-watch at Magic Kingdom, and this area is the best spot to do so. Remember to take the time to savor the experience while you’re at the Most Magical Place on Earth. You shouldn’t feel like you’re always on the go. It’s supposed to be a calming experience, not a stressful one!
Once you’re done at the Magic Kingdom hub, you’re going east again! Now is almost the time to visit Tomorrowland. Before you do, take the opportunity to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade. It’s easily visible from this area. After it’s over, you’re ready for the next themed land.
On the way to Tomorrowland, you’ll have the option to watch a show at Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, but I would suggest that you wait until you’re on the way out. Your destinations are the main attractions in the area. Those are Tomorrowland Speedway, Astro Orbiter, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Space Mountain.
I’ll be blunt that Tomorrowland Speedway is kind of dated. If the line is long here, you may want to skip it. Similarly, Astro Orbiter doesn’t provide a lot of bang for the buck, and the wait is oftentimes ridiculous. If you love either one, ride it or ride both! I’m merely pointing out that you shouldn’t feel like you missed anything if you don’t.
I stress that EVERYONE should take the opportunity to ride the PeopleMover and take in the show of Carousel of Progress, though. These attractions have Walt Disney’s fingerprints all over them, and it feels like sacrilege to skip them. Neither one has a long line on most days.
While searching for FastPasses, my guess is that you had better luck with Space Ranger Spin than with Space Mountain. That’s okay! I’m allowing a buffer for time spent in line. You’ll probably spend an hour here. It’s totally worth that patience, though. It’s Space Mountain, for God’s sake! This ride is theme park royalty. No visit to Magic Kingdom is complete without a journey through the wormhole.
The Time around Dinner
My expectation is that you’ll exit Space Mountain around 5:15 p.m. Remember to visit Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor as you exit. You’ll have a few options after you’re done here. My hope is that you managed to book a reservation for Be Our Guest, the hottest ticket in the park, but the odds of that aren’t great. So, I’m assuming that you’ll have other plans for dinner. You should still return to New Fantasyland, though. You’ll want to check out Enchanted Tales with Belle and maybe walk over to Gaston’s Tavern to see if Gaston is putting on a show. This character greeting is a viral video waiting to happen.
Once you’re done, you need to eat! You have a multitude of options here since I’m sending you to the front of the park next. Since you’re basically at the back wall, almost everything is along the way. You could eat a quick, satisfying meal at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. Alternately, you could engage with a pun-heavy server at Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. A character meal with Winnie the Pooh and friends at Crystal Palace is also a great option.
I recommend Skipper Canteen because A) the food is blow-your-mind delicious and B) it blends perfectly with what you’ve guessed is coming next. Yes, once you get done eating, you’ll take a Jungle Cruise before hanging out with the Pirates of the Caribbean. Once you’ve ridden these two iconic rides and taken in a legendary show at Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, you will have done all of the major rides at Magic Kingdom.
Best of all, you still have time left over! Due to the smaller nature of the park design, it’s easy to navigate Magic Kingdom. You can do more here than you’d expect, and that leaves you with free time at the end of the night. Think back on the best attractions that you’ve enjoyed throughout the day and head back for a return engagement! Alternately, walk around and appreciate how much Magic Kingdom changes after dark. Tomorrowland in particular is breathtaking at this time of night. The gentle neon glow will warm your soul.
As the park approaches the end of the day, you’ll want to find a good spot to watch Happily Ever After. You’ll want to sit in front of Cinderella Castle, not behind it, to see all the digital projections. If those aren’t important to you, the New Fantasyland area near Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is a great place to watch the sky. My group often combines a wait in line on this attraction with a view of the fireworks to kill two birds with one stone.
Once the fireworks end, the park tends to clear out. Presuming that you aren’t an early riser, this is a great time to ride more stuff. The lines are generally shortest during those moments leading up to the closing of the park. As an fyi, Disney will let everyone standing in line for an attraction ride it. You can take full advantage of this by picking something with a long line throughout the day as the last thing that you do!
Now that you’re set with the ultimate Magic Kingdom itinerary, make sure you know how to spend the perfect day at Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom, to ensure you have the best Disney vacation possible!
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