Ever since my first visit to Walt Disney World back in 1976 I have been hooked. There is no place on earth that captures my heart or makes me feel like I am truly experiencing something magical as Disney World. As a child, I would always have a dream that I was in Disney World the night before we left for our trip. That is how much I looked forward to going there. As an adult, I have been able to experience a complete escape from everyday life when I am there and truly live in the moment. I have also had the joy of seeing my niece experience her first trip to Walt Disney World. It is such a magical moment when you see a child look up starry-eyed at Cinderella’s castle or gasp in wonderment when they meet the “real” Mickey Mouse”. Those experiences just don’t happen at other theme parks, primarily because they are just that, theme parks. When you enter Walt Disney World you find that you are completely immersed in the culture. Employees are called cast members for a reason. It is for these reasons people come from all over the world to have that experience. Most days the parks are full and there are lines. Long lines in the hot sun can cause tempers to flare and people to become impatient and less than friendly toward each other. The following are some tips that I have come up with on my many trips there. This particular article focuses on the Magic Kingdom. These tips work even on the busiest of days and will help you to avoid noticing the large crowds and avoid spending much time waiting in lines.
Tips for the Magic Kingdom:
1. Arrive early! Check the Disney World web site for hours of operation for the day you will be visiting. NOTE: If you are staying on property, ask at your hotel about early admission. Guests staying on property can enter the park one hour early on specific days of the week.
2. Purchase tickets in advance, if possible. This saves a lot of time. NOTE: If you are staying on property you can purchase your tickets at the hotel instead of waiting in the long lines at the park.
3. If you have parked your car in the parking lot at the Magic Kingdom or if you are traveling on the monorail from Epcot Center, you will arrive at the Transportation and Ticket Center and must board either a monorail or boat to go to the Magic Kingdom. On busy days, this will be your first line to wait in. If lines are long, you may have to wait for several boats or monorails before boarding. VERY GOOD TIP:Instead of waiting in these log lines, enter the line called “Resort Monorail”. Many people think you can only hop on this monorail if you are staying at one of the hotels on the route such as the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian or the Polynesian. That is not true. Anyone can board this monorail. In addition to making stops at the hotels, it also makes a stop at the Magic Kingdom. This is a great way to get out of the heat, avoid long lines and get a seat!
4. If you haven’t eaten breakfast yet, and want to save some time and avoid crowds, do not go to the Magic Kingdom Parking lot. Instead, as you come through the ticket booth, let them know you are going to the Wilderness Lodge. Follow the signs to the Wilderness Lodge and park (free parking). Go inside and have a great all-you-can-eat breakfast at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. This place has great food and a lively atmosphere that will certainly give you a good start to your day at the Magic Kingdom. When finished breakfast, you do not need to move your car. Simply follow the path to the boats as board a water taxi over to the Magic Kingdom. It is much less crowded than taking the boat from the transportation and ticket center. At the end of the day you will have a much quicker and less crowded escape to your car.
5. You have finally arrived in the Magic Kingdom. Where do you go first? Depending on the ages and desires of your party the answers can vary. If thrill rides are in your itinerary, the first thing you should do is get out of the congested Main St. area and head towards Space Mountain. This is one of the most popular rides in the park and lines can be over an hour long. Once you arrive here, don’t wait in line! Instead, get a “fast pass”. You will see that there are booths set up where you can have your theme park ticket swiped. Once you receive your fast pass, you will see a time frame to return to the ride. NOTE: You can not return early, but if you arrive after the time frame you WILL be allowed to ride so don’t worry about missing a time frame. Now that you have your fast pass, this is the time to go to Frontier Land and hit some very popular rides such as Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain. I can almost guarantee if you do this at the beginning of the day, you will not wait in big lines. Everyone heads to Fantasy Land and Tomorrow Land first. Remember, you already have your fast pass for Space Mountain. Once you go on Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain with minimal waits, you can then leisurely walk to other attractions. The Haunted Mansion, while very popular, very rarely has long waits. Pirates of the Caribbean is also a good one to do early in the day. Fantasy Land will be busy the entire day as it is such a popular spot for families with small children. You may want to try it during the 3:00 parade as most families with young children also want to watch this. You should also note if the Spectromagic parade is scheduled on the day you visit. Check to see if there are two of them (usually one at 8:00 and one at 10:00). If this is the case, visit some of the attractions during the first showing of Spectromagic and plan to view the second one. Fireworks usually start after the second one and then the park closes. NOTE: Once the fireworks start, you should start to move down Main St. toward the exit to the park. If you don’t, you will be stuck in crowds the minute the fireworks end. I have done this over 10 visits and have been successful every time.
6. If you plan to dine in the Magic Kingdom, my best recommendation is to have make reservations in advance! The sit down restaurants will be booked up on the day of your visit. I definitely recommend a sit down style restaurant as it gets you off your feet for a little while and re-energizes you for the rest of the day. Inside the park, my favorite restaurant is the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace offers a fixed price (about $30 per person), all you can eat menu. The quality and variety of food is excellent. Offerings have included a large salad bar, peel and eat shrimp, roast pork loin, roasted salmon, pasta entrees, a carving station, a special kids buffet and an excellent dessert buffet. This is also a restaurant that has character dining. Disney characters will come around to each table for photo opportunities and entertainment, which is much better than standing in a line outside waiting to get a picture. Ask for the earliest dinner seating (usually around 4:30). This will get you out of the heat at one of the hottest parts of the day. Plus, while most others are dining during the peak dinner hours of 5:00 – 7:00, take advantage of the shorter lines at the attractions. If you want to get out of the park, you are only a short monorail ride to the Grand Floridian resort. Please be sure to have your hand stamped, if necessary to re-enter the park later. Inside, the Grand Floridian Cafe offers excellent selections for lunch or dinner. Reservations are also needed for this location. Call is 407-WDW-DINE to make reservations for any restaurant on the entire property. Fast food options are also available within the Magic Kingdom. The best one in my opinion is Pecos Bill’s in Frontier Land next to the Country Bear Jamboree. This restaurant has the best burgers I have had anywhere. They also offer salads and wraps and a huge “fixings” bar where you can add just about anything to your sandwich including condiments, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, melted cheese sauce and sauteed mushrooms.
Those are my few tips for visiting the Magic Kingdom. I hope you have a great trip and come back many more times to offer some of your own tips!