Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is easily the most popular and iconic park, and I can understand why. It has all the classic attractions (Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, Pirates – the list goes on!), and the legendary Cinderella castle. When little kids dream of going to Disney World, they envision this park with its cotton candy colored Main Street, classic attractions, cheery princesses, and all around “Disney Magic.”
This magic comes with a little madness though (see what I did there?), as MK can be a swarm of people. During our recent trip, this park at times overwhelmed us and ended up being my mom’s least favorite due to the sweltering heat and even more suffocating crowds. That Main Street can be shoulder to shoulder tourists and the line to meet the princesses can be over an hour long. I’m a little more forgiving, and MK still has a special spot in my heart due to the castle and it’s Disney classics. So you don’t sour on Magic Kingdom, I wanted to share a few tips to mastering the park without going full on Mad Hatter.
No, really, go really early. We thought we’d be plenty early if we left our hotel at 7:30 for an 8AM park opening, but this was our first mistake. We have been to Disney World several times, but we had forgotten that getting to the park itself can be a production. You need to drive there, find parking, take a tram to the transportation center, THEN take a monorail or ferry boat to the actual park. I’d leave over an hour early, as we arrived to the park gates around 8:15 and faced a massive throng of people. Arriving before 9, even if you miss park opening, is still fantastic as you can zoom through a lot of typically crowded attractions and beat the afternoon heat. We walked right onto some of our favorites including Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion. By 10AM, both of these had about 20 minute waits.
An empty Carousel first thing in the morning.
Take the resort monorail
Arriving to the park gates can be made a little speedier if you take the resort monorail instead of the Magic Kingdom one. The cast members don’t advertise it, but the resort option also takes you straight to the Magic Kingdom, with only two quick stops at hotels. Morning crowds mean you’ll face a wait for the MK monorail, so definitely sneak over to the resort line and you’ll be on your way in no time.
Be prepared for a packed security checkpoint
Disney has heightened security at Magic Kingdom, so if you bring a bag, be prepared to have it searched. This security checkpoint was new since our last visit, so we arrived to an unexpected additional 20 minute line for bag search. I’m glad Disney is taking extra precaution, but factor this wait into your arrival time – no one likes a surprise queue.
Wait to take photos – but take lots!
So you took the resort monorail, made it through the security checkpoint, scanned your ticket and finally walked through the golden gates to Main Street USA. Time to stroll the pastel street taking photos of every rainbow detail and grab your family photo in front of Cinderella’s castle, right? No ma’am! You will want to scoot quickly down Main Street and straight to the rides – preferably Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. The morning is PRIME ride time, and you’ll want to take full advantage of low wait times. Once the crowds start to arrive by 11AM, then by all means start snapping away like the budding Ansel Adams you are and take in every detail on film. I think you could even spend a whole afternoon just taking photos of this pretty park!
If you could only see how many artistic balloon shots I have.
Ride Seven Dwarves Mine Train First
Plain and simple, this is the newest and most popular ride in the park. It was the only ride we couldn’t get a Fast Pass for (all sold out!), so ride it first as the wait will just get more astronomical as the day goes on.
Book Fast Pass BEFORE Your Trip
Speaking of Fast Passes, book them BEFORE your trip. The Fast Pass system has totally changed in the last few years, so I’d refresh yourself here. Essentially, if you’re staying on-site you can book your FP 60 days in advance, and if you’re staying off site you can book them 30 days in advance. You can grab some on the day of, but the most popular rides, at the time you want, will probably book in advance.
Splash Mountain is definitely a ride you’ll want to book using Fast Pass. We waited over an hour – worth it in the heat though!
Most Wait Times are Inflated
If the wait is under 1 hour, typically it has been inflated. Most wait times were around 10 minutes or so under the posted wait, so when in doubt – hop in line! It won’t be that bad, and Disney has added a bunch of interactive bits to keep you entertained in the queue.
Peter Pan’s Flight is known for its epic wait times. Snag a Fast Pass or prepare to settle in!
If you want to leave Magic Kingdom with your sanity, take breaks! Either leave the park for a pool break or sit somewhere cool for awhile. My favorite break spot is the People Mover in Tomorrowland. Nostalgic and cheesy, the ride takes you on a 15 minute tour de Tomorrowland, all while being in the breezy shade.
Plus you can snag some snazzy Castle shots.
Do it in two days!
My biggest piece of advice to master the Magic Kingdom is – do it in two days! If you can afford it and have the time, spread your itinerary out and don’t try to cram it all in one day. You’ll be able to truly savor the park and all its fantastical little details without getting overwhelmed by the crowds, heat and all there is to accomplish. Relish it!
Take time to appreciate all of the details. Every corner is filled with Disney magic.
PS – Eat the churro!
Get two even! I’m salivating just thinking about it.
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