Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom without Going Mad

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.”

Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom Without Going Mad

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.

Go early!

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.

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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!

 

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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

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

Peter Pan’s Flight is known for its epic wait times. Snag a Fast Pass or prepare to settle in!

Take breaks!

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.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority - the People Mover!

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!

Magic Kingdom details

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.

Check out more of my Disney World posts:

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Essentials: What to Pack in Your Park Bag

Make the Most of Nighttime at Animal Kingdom

Shop my Disney favorites below!

Tips to Master the Magic Kingdom Without Going Mad

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

As I do on most vacations, I made sure to basically eat my way through Walt Disney World during our recent trip. Luckily I was walking a lot and sweating off my body weight in the suffocating Florida humidity, so my foodie indulgence didn’t do too much damage. Disney World has your typical mediocre and overpriced theme park food, but there a few culinary gems present as well. I thought I’d share the most delicious bites from our trip, so you can add them to your must-eats the next time you’re in the house of Mouse.

Dole Whip 

Location: Adventureland in Magic Kingdom

dole whip

No Disney food article is complete without mention of this heavenly frozen delight known as Dole Whip. It’s essentially pineapple soft serve, but boy does it hit the spot on a hot day. You can also get a Dole Whip float with pineapple juice, but the regular soft serve was sweet and refreshing enough for me. The line can get super long, as there are even t-shirts devoted to this treat, so go early (Dole Whip for breakfast sounds great!) or be prepared to wait. Enjoy your Whip at nearby shaded tables and take in the neighboring magic carpets.

Aladdin's Magic Carpets

Lunch at Cantina de San Angel

Location: Mexico Pavilion at Epcot

san angel inn

Unfortunately I did not snap a photo of my glorious enchiladas at Cantina. I simply was too ravenous to fiddle about with my iPhone. They were also just inhaled really quickly (guilty!).  We arrived around noon after traipsing about Future World in the rain, with no reservation, and were seated right away. The food was excellent, service was quick and friendly (ask for Angel!), and it was the perfect spot to cool off and wait off a little afternoon rain. I’d recommend the enchiladas and tacos – all on the more affordable end. After lunch, I explored the great shopping in Mexico and picked out an intricately painted Day of the Dead skull to adorn my desk. We finished off our “trip” with a quick ride on their “Tres Caballeros” ride. It’s cheesy, but I have a soft spot for the Caballeros and Donald Duck, so it’s a favorite of mine.

Dinner at Le Cellier

Location: Canada pavilion at Epcot

The filet at Le Cellier - yum!

On the other end of the Epcot restaurant spectrum, and literally on the other side of the World Showcase is Le Cellier. Located in the Canada pavilion, Le Cellier is an upscale steakhouse with some of the best steak in WDW. Never ones to be half-hearted when it comes to food, my family started with the classic poutine. AKA french fries with cheese, truffles, and a red wine reductions. SO GOOD. I had their signature steak, the filet mignon, for my main. The perfectly cooked filet sits on a bed of mushroom truffle risotto. This meal was probably our best of the trip, so I’d highly recommend Le Cellier if you want something a little more upscale. Be sure to make a reservation 180 days in advance (when reservations open), and be prepared for an expensive, but delicious meal.

Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Location: Disney Springs
Dinner at Morimoto Asia

Our final dinner in Orlando was a real showstopper at Morimoto Asia. My brother is a huge Iron Chef fan, so we knew we’d have to try Chef Morimoto’s recently opened restaurant, even though it’s more expensive. I started with with Mango Match Punch, a delicious cocktail made with green tea vodka, mango and lychee soda. We tried and shared a few dishes to get a real taste of the restaurant, and my favorites were the rock shrimp tempura, the sushi and the ribs. The ribs were definitely the standout dish, so if you can’t afford a several-course meal here, stop in for cocktails and the ribs. Worth it! On your way out, don’t forget to take a snap of the gorgeous decor!

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Be Our Guest

Location: Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

The food at Be Our Guest was just fine, but I wanted to mention it as the detailing and decor was a really immersive and memorable experience. You feel like you’re dining inside Beauty and the Beast, so if you are able to snag a reservation, I would still make the trip if you lower your expectations re: food. My brother liked his beef sandwich, and I liked the pork, but my mom hated her Nicoise salad.  Maybe eat something beforehand, and go to split a few entrees and dessert and take a ton of photos.

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Location: Near Everest in Animal Kingdom

Anandapur Ice Cream Truck

Okay, Anandapur is really just glorified soft serve, but who can resist that oh so colorful and intricately painted truck? Not me! I also had this cone after a very sweaty and hot afternoon exploring the Animal Kingdom. It was the perfect snack to enjoy while watching Jungle Book: Alive with Magic (read more about my thoughts on Animal Kingdom’s new nighttime experiences here). Nothing special, but I can never resist a tasty waffle cone.

What are your favorite Disney foods? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for stopping by and happy eating!

The Best Food I Ate at Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Essentials: What to Pack in Your Park Bag

A trip to Walt Disney World is unlike any other and can be overwhelming with planning. You need to book your dining reservations, buy tickets, schedule Fast Passes, plan out attractions – the list goes on. Once all of your Disney magic is planned it’s time to pack your bags and fly to Orlando! But – wait! You can’t pack just any old bag for Disney. Luckily, I just returned from the Happiest Place on Earth, so I’m sharing the few necessary essentials I always stow away to ensure a Mickey-approved experience.

Disney World Essentials

First, you’ll need a compact and easy crossbody (similar here) to tote into the park each day. A large purse will simply be too cumbersome and will wear you out much quicker than riding It’s a Small World on repeat. Perhaps the most important item to pack is comfortable sneakers. There is SO much walking! We easily walked 10 miles a day, and I was so thankful to have these Nikes to prevent my feet from getting blisters or sore.

While we’re on the subject of shoes, if you’re going to Disney in the summer, I’d also pack some waterproof sandals, like these colorful Chacos. Orlando is prone to daily afternoon thundershowers, and you won’t want your park-hopping and Nikes to get bogged down by some puddles. Similarly, stash an umbrella (this one has great Minnie Mouse vibes) or poncho to keep dry and the touring going.

Of course, you’ll need a small colorful wallet a la this one from Rebecca Minkoff to hold the necessities like your park ticket and map. I love keeping these park tokens as souvenirs after the trip. Obsessed with taking photos, I’m sure to pack my portable phone charger to keep my iPhone camera ready to go in case any celebs like Chip and Dale make an appearance.

Disney trips aren’t all fun and games, however, and you’ll need to bring a few bits to protect from the elements. To guard from the intense Florida sun, solid sunscreen, sunglasses (love these reflective shades), and chapstick are musts. I also get a little heat relief with this Evian spray and take the edge off from a heat headache with this Aleve. Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need your own touch of Disney magic with some mouse ears or the perfect Minnie accessory.

Have a great trip to one of my favorite places, and I hope this post leaves you a little more prepared!

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Make the Most of Nighttime at Animal Kingdom

My family just returned from our sixth trip to Disney World (yes, we have a problem), and although we are old pros, the imagineers always seem to concoct some new Disney magic in the parks to enjoy each trip. This year, they’re kicking off summer with new nighttime happenings at Animal Kingdom. To me, AK is supremely underrated. It’s so beautifully detailed, the rides are awesome and it has arguably the best show in all of Disney World. I think part of its lack of popularity was that it used to close at the late hour of 6PM. Lame!

Animal Kingdom Entrance

Now, you can party with the wildlife until 11PM, so as soon as we arrived in the Orlando humidity, we bee-lined it to Animal Kingdom to take in the longer hours and new offerings.  There are definitely some hits and misses, so I wanted to share my experience and tips, in case you’re heading to the park in the future.

When to arrive

We arrived at the park right around 3:30PM, and I’d recommend this timing, so you have plenty of hours to take in all of the attractions and not be rushed. We didn’t do EVERYTHING at the park, but we accomplished the highlights while still managing to be spontaneous, take ice cream breaks, and take plenty of photos (aka, I take hundreds of photos while my family patiently waits for me like the saints they are). The park was more spread out than I remembered, so it will take you longer to travel from each attraction than you might think.

Do the Lion King First

Remember when I mentioned that AK has the best show in all of Walt Disney World? Well, perfect your “Hakuna Matata,” and get ready to take in the glory that is Festival of the Lion King. This show was phenomenal and is essentially Lion King meets Broadway and Cirque du Soleil. Did I mention it is also air conditioned? Head here in the heat of the afternoon, so you avoid the suffocating humidity as much as possible. We didn’t need a Fast Pass for this and arrived right before the show started.

And Dinosaur!

In the same vein, you’ll also want to ride Dinosaur in the late afternoon before dusk. If you can handle the animatronic dino scares of course. The line is all indoors (and narrated by Bill Nye!), so it’s another easy way to escape the heat. This line also only took us about 20 minutes, even though it was advertised as 40, so don’t waste a Fast Pass.

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I was never a huge dino nerd growing up, but I’m a fan of Dino Land. Closest to Jurassic Park I’ll get.

Eat Dinner Early

Right around 5PM we meandered into Yak and Yeti without a reservation for some fuel and another AC break. This move was genius because we only waited 10 minutes. When we exited about an hour later, the place was packed and you easily could have waited 1 hour for a table. The food is decent, but more important, it’s one of the few restaurants in AK that’s indoors and air conditioned.

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Stop for an epic sunset shot of Tree of Life.

Book the Safari for Dusk

One of the new offerings for summer is nighttime rides on one of my favorite attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris. We booked our safari getaway Fast Pass for 7:30, and the dusk setting was perfect! Golden lighting lit up the savannah, and herds of animals including rhino, lion and zebra were roaming – the most I think we’ve ever seen on this ride. Riding it after nightfall may be too dark to see animals, so definitely go for a sunset Fast Pass if you’re able to snag one.

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Book These Fast Passes

Speaking of Fast Pass, my picks are Everest, Kali River Rapids and Kilimanjaro Safaris. We didn’t do Rapids, and instead opted for the Jungle Book show, which I’ll touch on below, but the wait for Rapids was insane, so we unfortunately skipped out on the opportunity to cool off. Our trip was during one of the busiest weeks of the year, the first week of summer, yet these three attractions were the only ones with exorbitant wait times. Make  them your Fast Passes for sure.

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Everest may barely beat out Space Mountain as my favorite coaster in all of WDW.

Take in the details!

This park is so gorgeous, and you could easily spend a whole afternoon taking in all of its details. Grab a Mickey bar, wander Harambe market and watch all of the street performers – we even saw a guy playing electric harp! You won’t regret basking in the Disney magic.

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Skip the Jungle Book Show

To cap off the night, we used our last Fast Pass on a new nighttime show – The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic. This show was a last minute replacement, however, for the extravaganza, Rivers of Light. Rivers of Light is supposed to be a spectacular with lasers, performers, and water projections on par with Illuminations at Epcot and World of Color at Disneyland. Unfortunately for us, there were technical difficulties during previews for ROL, so the show has been delayed until autumn. The Jungle Book Show was fine, but you could tell it had been hastily thrown together and it honestly was kind of lame compared to the level of quality I’ve come to expect from Disney. Save your Fast Pass and Dining Package reservations and wait for Rivers of Light.

Don’t exit the park too quickly….

Because you may miss the Tree of Life awakenings. On your way out of the park, join the crowd in front of the tree and wait for the show to begin. Each showing lasts a few minutes and is complete with music and light projections. I’m not doing the performance justice, as it was a truly lovely way to end the evening and almost made up for the Jungle Book hot mess.

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Enjoy your next trip to the park and learn all the details about the nighttime offerings here.

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Make the Most of Nighttime at Animal Kingdom