What Are the Must-Do Rides at Magic Kingdom?
Whenever you visit Magic Kingdom, you may feel overwhelmed with choices.
This park alone hosts more than 25 attractions, over 20 of which are rides.
You theoretically can ride everything at the park – I’ve done it – but sometimes you won’t have the time or inclination to do so.
This raises an interesting question. Let’s say that you only have a chance to experience eight attractions.
What are the must-do rides at Magic Kingdom?
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Determining the quintessential classic Magic Kingdom attraction comes with many challenges.
My list would vary wildly from yours. To wit, I’ve left off three attractions that I would never skip because I know that others would feel differently.
Like the Mount Rushmore exercise for determining greatness, the purpose here is a defensible choice for each spot.
As such, I had to eliminate some good and historically significant attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover.
Instead, I picked this attraction due to its mass appeal. Find me someone who doesn’t like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. You can’t do it, can you?
This roller coaster provides pure joy with its rickety ride experience. Also, the mountain climbing elements embody everything great about coasters.
The suspense builds as your cart inches its way up the hill before dropping you down the other side. It happens multiple times, and it’s always a thrill.
All the attractions on this list share one commonality. They’re the most fun of anything at Magic Kingdom.
Even by those standards, only two other rides on this list can rival Haunted Mansion for pure entertainment value.
You board the creepiest ride cart in theme park history and then ride it through a series of nightmares that are somehow hysterical.
Even the ghosts dance and play in their graveyards on this ride! Everyone’s like Madame Leota. They’re having a ball!
It’s a Small World
This one required some debate, as I know that not everyone adores it.
Still, what’s more Disney than It’s a Small World? The song has become an anthem synonymous with theme park visits.
Those multinational puppets exemplify the height of Disney’s mastery of colors. And the boat ride itself is gentle and soothing.
It’s a Small World proves the maxim that the sum can be greater than the parts, as all these elements mesh together to create the ultimate Disney ride.
Something I’m noticing as I write this is that many of Disney’s most beloved attractions are also at least somewhat divisive.
People criticize Haunted Mansion for its indecisive design. They attack It’s a Small World for its ultimate earworm of a song. And then there’s Jungle Cruise.
This ride works as a waking nightmare for anyone who hates puns. But, for everyone else, they’re an adorable way to pass 10 minutes on a boat.
A cast member portraying a Cruise Skipper works hard to keep you in stitches by telling their versions of 60-year-old jokes.
Some…are better than others. Of course, I’m talking about the cast members AND the jokes.
Disney also recently updated Jungle Cruise to make it more inclusive, which has turned it into that much more of a can’t miss attraction. It’s slightly different!
Pirates of the Caribbean
I suspect that most people would vote for half the entries on this list. They’re the slam dunks that would qualify as glaring omissions if they weren’t here.
Even out of that group, two of them tower above the rest. Pirates of the Caribbean is undeniably one of those, an iconic ride whose legacy crosses pop culture boundaries.
This ride even comes with a tragic bit of backstory. It was the final attraction for Walt Disney, one that he conceptualized and visualized better than anyone else.
Disney believed in the premise of a boat ride through pirate territory. More than 50 years later, Pirates of the Caribbean proves the depth of his wisdom.
No entertainer has ever had a better handle on what customers want than Uncle Walt.
Even now, the core infrastructure of Pirates of the Caribbean bears a striking similarity to the one he planned before his death.
In that way, this attraction, more than any other, functions as his legacy.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Here’s the newest entrant, a ride that didn’t open until 2014. Since then, it has maintained its status as the most in-demand attraction at Magic Kingdom.
Guests often wait an hour or more to board the rocking coaster carts. Once they do, Disney treats them to a singular ride experience.
Since the vehicles themselves tilt, guests maintain some control of the movement. At least, they think they do until they reach another turn.
Then, the ride track reminds people that they’re never truly in control on a roller coaster.
Even accounting for that, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train harbors an additional surprise. The interior of the mine holds another secret.
Snow White’s friends, the Seven Dwarfs, are hard at work digging for precious jewels.
The shiny baubles provide an effervescent glow that’s all the more impressive in the dark.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train marries techniques from roller coasters and mine carts to craft something new and different…and better.
Here’s the other one that I suspect would receive near-universal consent.
After all, Space Mountain has defined Walt Disney World thrill rides for generations now.
Whenever I discuss it, I feel remiss if I don’t mention the sensory deprivation. Space Mountain somehow mimics interstellar travel perfectly.
I say this even though the ride dates back to the 1960s, a time before humans had even reached the moon.
When this roller coaster finally debuted in 1975, it still contained those elements of an empty void, the part of space travel Sci-fi rarely acknowledges.
This attraction messes with your mind so much that you never even realize that you’re barely going faster than a downhill bicycle. It’s brilliant.
More importantly, Space Mountain matters. When you tell a friend that you just returned from Magic Kingdom, they’ll ask whether you rode it.
The two concepts are synonymous. And that’s why it simply must have a place on this list.
Then, we could go on the ride that we’ll all miss in a few years. Yes, Disney will change Splash Mountain to remove its unfortunate ties to Song of the South.
We’ll all be happy for the more inclusive version, and yet we’ll also look back fondly on this ride. After all, few theme park attractions approach perfection.
You can find flaws with pretty much anything else on this list. For example, it’s a Small World has the maddening song, Space Mountain is a rough ride, and Jungle Cruise is punny.
Then, we have Splash Mountain, a joyous excursion into a world of Audio-Animatronics that looks like harmless critters. Well, most of them. Two are jerks.
The point is that from the moment you board Splash Mountain until you remove your water-soaked body from the boat, you’re smiling.
That’s why no visit to Magic Kingdom would ever feel complete without a trip down Splash Mountain.
I hope we feel the same about The Princess and the Frog re-theme when the time comes.