Experience These Must-Dos at Magic Kingdom
When we discuss theme parks around the world, two places tower above the rest.
First, we have Disneyland, the place that started Disney’s theme park empire.
Then, we come to Magic Kingdom, the place that cemented Disney’s status.
More than half a century after its creation, Magic Kingdom remains the most attended theme park in the world.
Due to Magic Kingdom’s size and scope, deciding what to do here can feel overwhelming.
Here are the 15 attractions and other entertainment options I consider must-dos at Magic Kingdom!
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
First, I’ll acknowledge that most guests can experience more than 15 attractions and other entertainment options during a single Magic Kingdom visit.
The key involves flexibility and being open to anything in the area. For example, I’m only listing one character interaction.
However, I could have selected half a dozen others, especially the ones at Princess Fairytale Hall and Pete’s Silly Sideshow.
I’m mainly focusing on the essentials here. With Splash Mountain off the table, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad claims the title of the most iconic ride at Frontierland.
This roller coaster provides a thrilling journey through a ghost town, but it hides a few nifty secrets.
For example, you’ll catch a glimpse of Cinderella Castle when you least expect it!
Festival of Fantasy Parade
I didn’t include any nighttime presentations because it’d be a bit hypocritical. Lately, I’ve ridden attractions rather than watched the fireworks for the most part.
Still, I’m a sucker for the Festival of Fantasy Parade, which has shown off its surprisingly dangerous fire-breathing decade for nearly a decade now!
There’s something about knowing that Maleficent might actually catch fire that makes this parade even better for me!
Joy, thy name is.
Gothic horror and comedy have risen in popularity during the 21st century. Halloween’s such a big deal that #HalfwaytoHalloween has become a thing.
Somehow, Disney was decades ahead of the curve with its signature attraction, the Haunted Mansion.
Parts are scary, parts are silly, and the sum total is wonderment. Don’t miss this one, folks!
It’s a Small World
I’ve got a love/hate relationship with the song, but I’m lost in admiration whenever I’m on the ride.
A friend only recently pointed out to me that there is a golden sun in every room, something I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never noticed.
As for the puppets and scenes, Mary Blair’s attention to detail with every set piece remains the gold standard to this day.
When you board the Jungle Cruise, it’s important that you just go with it.
Cynics should never ride this one, as the Skippers tell a story that proves delightfully incoherent.
Imagine scores of sight gags with accompanying lame jokes. That’s the beauty and simplicity of Jungle Cruise. I love it so.
When you enter Main Street, U.S.A, Mickey is ready to greet you near the front gate!
You must know where to look, though. Our favorite mouse appears in Town Square Theater, where he holds court against a lively backdrop.
I’ve done this character greeting so many times, but it never gets old.
You may confuse the titles of these two options and believe they’re redundant. Thankfully, that’s not the case at all.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic combines the premise of Fantasia with some of the most famous scenes from Disney animated movies.
You’ll swim under the sea with Ariel, soar through the sky with Jasmine and Aladdin, and fly through the London skies.
Throughout the proceedings, Donald Duck bungles through the scenes as only that angry klutz can.
When I’m at Magic Kingdom, there are three attractions I’m experiencing no matter what. And this is one of them!
Peter Pan’s Flight
Nobody likes the wait for Peter Pan’s Flight, as it’s often 60+ minutes for a ride that ends too quickly.
However, Walt Disney thought of everything in planning this ride during the early 1950s. To this day, it remains the finest example of simulated flight.
I never get tired of that magical moment when a cast member sprinkles Pixie Dust on my vehicle, causing it to fly!
Pirates of the Caribbean
Somehow, Pirates of the Caribbean feels old in the best possible way.
When you think of a dark ride, this attraction can’t help but be in the back of your mind, either. It’s got everything from Audio-Animatronics to slapstick shenanigans.
I could never get tired of the Pooped Pirate or the dog trolling the prisoners. Plus, the updated auction scene vastly improves on its predecessor.
The new visuals tell better stories, although some raise more questions than they answer.
For example, I’m somewhat transfixed by the dude with the grandfather clock strapped to his back.
These over-the-top hijinks have defined Pirates of the Caribbean for generations and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This ride has stood as the park’s most popular offering since 2014. Nothing dominates for the body of a decade unless it lives up to the hype.
I was one of the lucky few to ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train before it officially opened. In a way, that endeared me to the ride, and I remain sentimental.
At this point, I’ve probably ridden Seven Dwarfs Mine Train more than anything else at Magic Kingdom except maybe Haunted Mansion…and one other attraction.
I’m a grown man who has ridden this roller coaster eight consecutive times in one night. I love it that much and cannot imagine a Magic Kingdom visit without it.
You’re at Magic Kingdom. You HAVE to ride Space Mountain. It’s the law.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover
Here’s the one other attraction.
As a Disney historian and fanatic, I marvel at the PeopleMover each time.
When I ride this remarkable form of transportation, I cannot help but fantasize about an alternate reality where Walt Disney built his city.
That Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow would have exemplified a visionary’s hope for a better world.
Instead, we have the PeopleMover as an admittedly dated but marvelous reminder of what could have been.
Plus, the PeopleMover provides a relaxing 10-minute respite from walking. Simultaneously, you view parts of Tomorrowland you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Don’t sleep on the greatness of the PeopleMover, everyone. It’s like the attraction that proves whether you know what’s good at Magic Kingdom.
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid
Few other Disney advisors would mention Under the Sea, but I’m picking it for two reasons. First, the live-action remake comes out this year.
Second, Tron Lightcycle Power Run isn’t open at the time of publication.
Yes, I could have picked some other attractions, but I strongly encourage you to check out this dark ride during your trip.
The lines rarely exceed 25 minutes during all but the busiest times of the year.
Meanwhile, the ride tells Ariel’s story quite nicely with several underrated Imagineering tricks.
Walt Disney World Railroad
Disney recently reopened Magic Kingdom’s beloved railroad for the first time since before the pandemic.
Imagineers rebuilt the train line to allow for the Tron structure that encompasses part of Tomorrowland.
While the track layout has changed, the form and function of the Walt Disney World Railroad remain the same.
You can still hop on this train at Main Street, U.S.A. and ride it to Frontierland, where it conveniently drops you beside Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
All the while, you can enjoy the serene view of Magic Kingdom as you ride a throwback style of transportation. The entire experience is so very Disney.
Watch the Dapper Dans
My confession is that I couldn’t decide between three different classic Disney shows.
If you have the time and the inclination, you can’t go wrong with any of Country Bear Jamboree, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, or Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room.
I would have recommended Carousel of Progress if not for its lengthy ride time. So, instead, I picked something fast and fun.
While you walk down Main Street, U.S.A., you can’t help but notice the barbershop quartet singers crooning classic Disney tunes.
The Dapper Dans appear regularly and are always worth 10 minutes of your time.
I like the show even better in the fall when the Dapper Dans meet an unkind fate and turn into the Cadaver Dans. That’s a fun show.