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Only have one day to spend at Disney’s Magic Kingdom? You can do it! But you’ll need a plan. Get the most out of your time with a Magic Kingdom itinerary, including ride tips you need and essential Walt Disney World hotel and dining info.
Before You Head to the Magic Kingdom
With the ongoing Covid pandemic, getting into Magic Kingdom looks a little bit different these days. In order to get into the park, you will not only need a valid ticket but also have a reservation for MK on that day.
It is extremely important to also download the My Disney Experience app onto your phone before you visit. This app (which was always helpful) is now essential. You will use it to check the park map, look at wait times, order quick service food and make dining reservations. I also highly recommend installing the Play app as well. There are some really cute games and activities on the Play app that will keep kids busy in the queues.
Magic Kingdom Layout
You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the layout of the park. The good news? While you’ll get your steps in, Magic Kingdom is the smallest theme park on the Walt Disney World resort property. Animal Kingdom is 3.5 times as large at 500 acres!
For Animal Kingdom’s 1 day itinerary, I recommended working your way around rather than criss-crossing the park. But at Magic Kingdom, jumping from one land to another is much easier, so feel free to adapt this Magic Kingdom itinerary based on current wait times.
From the entrance of Magic Kingdom, Main Street U.S.A. (lined with shops and food) leads us down to Cinderella Castle. Five additional lands are arranged around the castle like spokes on a wheel. They are Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
Fun Fact: Did you know that when you walk into Magic Kingdom you’re on the second floor? Soggy Florida soil wasn’t conducive to tunnels and Walt didn’t want you to see characters from Frontierland in Tomorrowland spoiling the immersive theming. The solution? A first floor network of utility tunnels called “Utilidors” for cast members to move around. You might even be walking on EPCOT soil in Magic Kingdom! Fill was brought in to build the second story from EPCOT where the Seven Seas Lagoon was being excavated.
How to Get to the Magic Kingdom
Let’s talk transportation options to get you to Orlando’s Magic Kingdom. The most iconic way to arrive is the monorail. As a kid I remember thinking the monorail was the coolest thing ever. The monorail is an easy choice from the Ticketing and Transportation Center (TTC) or the resorts it stops at: The Polynesian Resort, The Grand Floridian and Contemporary Resort. You’ll be security screened before boarding the monorail so it can save you from waiting in long lines when you get to Magic Kingdom.
Bus over to Magic Kingdom
Buses run from the Disney resort hotels and off-site hotels to Magic Kingdom as well. Currently, social distancing practices are in place at Walt Disney World that limit the number of people admitted on transportation and assign group numbers and sections to different parties. Reports say that extra buses have been added though and that wait times aren’t bad.
Hop a boat to Magic Kingdom
Fancy a boat ride? Water taxis run from The Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Grand Floridian, Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to Magic Kingdom. In addition, there is a ferry from the TTC to Magic Kingdom. It is a slower ride than the monorail, but can be a pleasant way to start your day.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re traveling with a stroller, you will need to take your kiddo out and fold it up to board a ferry or bus. On the monorail you can roll the stroller right in so choose wisely if you’ve got a sleeping baby!
Want to see all transportation modes available along with full details and info about using Uber and Lyft at Disney? Head over to this post about Getting To, From and Around Disney World: Essential Transportation Guide.
Can’t Miss Rides at Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is home to some epic rides. Several of the most iconic popular attractions at Disney World are located in this park. If you are doing Magic Kingdom in one day, you’ll want to be sure you have a tight plan in place for getting around if you plan to squeeze them all in.
Of course the ages of your party will impact which rides are important to you. For the purpose of this Magic Kingdom itinerary article, we’re going to include the thrill rides. If your party is on the younger side, definitely check out our post on perfect rides for those under 48 inches. If your group is doing a multigenerational trip, check out our rides for kids and their grandparents.
Trifecta of mountains at Magic Kingdom and one bonus
If you’re looking for iconic rides, look no further than the trifecta of mountains at Magic Kingdom: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Space Mountain. These thrill rides are on a must-do in Magic Kingdom itinerary if you’re into rides that feel like amusement park roller coasters.
With Covid regulations in place, Magic Kingdom Fastpass+ reservations cannot be made at this time as they are using additional line space to space queues. Luckily these rides are located in pairs that are fairly close to each other. You’ll want to do Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad together. Both of these are located in Frontierland, on the left side of the park from Main Street U.S.A..
Splash Mountain – What you need to know
Splash Mountain is a winding flume log ride that will leave you somewhere from damp to soaking wet. I recommend riding it in the late morning when it tends to be hot enough to dry off afterwards. During the months of roughly April-September, the humidity tends to build and it rains in the afternoon briefly. So if you wait until the afternoon to ride, you may find yourself wet for longer.
Splash Mountain is due for a refresh to re-theme into a Princess Tiana ride, which I could not be more excited about! Kiddos must be at least 40″ tall to ride. You’ll have to decide your child’s comfort level. My cousin rode it as a tall 4 year old and so did my girls. All loved it. There are brief moments of darkness and gloom but there is a lot of music throughout. There is a large drop. You can sit in the same row as your kids on this ride.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – What you need to know
The setup for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is that you are on a runaway train. The majority of the ride is located outside. Personally, I find this one “scarier” to kids than Splash Mountain. There are parts of the ride where it feels like you may hit things or low-hanging items may hit you. It is a fast ride and overall my kids really enjoyed it even at a young age. But if you have kids who don’t like small spaces or have strong reflex reactions to items being thrown to them, they may not like this ride. The height requirement is also 40″. You can sit in the same row as one of your children on this ride.
Space Mountain – What you need to know
Space Mountain is going to be located all the way across the park in Tomorrowland. You’re on a space ship traveling around outer space on this ride. Seating for this ride is single file, three to a ship. So while you cannot sit next to your kiddos you can sit close by. Be aware that this ride is in the dark with flashing lights. There are two tracks for this ride. Depending on which one you are put on, your experience will be slightly different. You might be asking “Does Space Mountain go upside down?” It doesn’t, but it does have some drops that are sharper than 40 degree angles.
Space Mountain is the oldest roller coaster in Florida and moves slower than some of the other, newer coasters. It clocks in at around 28 mph compared to Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster’s 57 mph! If you aren’t squeezing your eyes shut, you might catch a glimpse of the PeopleMover which winds by Space Mountain
Overall, the ride is over fairly quickly and the height requirement is 44″. My daughters both rode at age 5 and neither of them wanted to go on a second time. I do advise strongly that if you have any back issues at all, you heed the warnings and do not ride. This is the least smooth coaster at Disney in my opinion and it can exacerbate any issue you have.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
This bonus “mountain” ride is the newest and in some opinions drives the trifecta to a quartet. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train also happens to be my personal favorite. Located in Fantasyland close to the carrousel, it’s just a short walk from Space Mountain. This ride is themed around the vintage favorite Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. You’ll journey into the dwarfs’ mine in mine carts. Seating is two by two, for a total of four people per car. Kiddos must be 38″ tall to ride.
The ride is similar to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in that it feels like you’re racing along the track. However, Disney really went all out with the engineering on this ride. It is not only extremely smooth but each individual cart also sways smoothly back and forth. As far as the scare factor most kiddos should do well on this ride. The smooth ride and short “action” time provides the right amount of thrills without too much fear. One note, if you suffer from motion sickness the forward motion of the coaster combined with the swaying side to side, may prove to be too much. If you decide to try it be sure it’s away from meal times!
Best Hotels for Magic Kingdom
As with all Disney World parks, we strongly recommend staying on-property. It’s particularly convenient if you have younger kids and might need to take a break in the afternoon for naps (or a quick dip in the pool).
For families who plan for their day to last from rope drop to park closing, proximity to the park might not be as important. You might want to check out off-site hotels for lower nightly rates. Just keep in mind that Magical Express transportation won’t be available to you if you’re staying off property.
Hotel types at Disney World
Hotels at Disney World are broken up into several categories- Deluxe, Moderate, and Value. The closest hotels to Magic Kingdom are going to be located along the monorail. Most of these will also be deluxe hotels at a higher price point. Out of the three hotels along the monorail, only the Contemporary and Bay Lake Towers allows you to walk to Magic Kingdom as well. While I like having this as an option, Polynesian and Grand Floridian are fairly pain-free to get back to midday as well.
Wilderness Lodge is a personal favorite and offers both a water taxi and bus to Magic Kingdom. There can be waits for the boat ride before park opening and after park closing, so be aware of this if you’ll be an all day family. Midday rides back are usually pretty wide open though. Bonus points for a fun pool, erupting geyser and the Electrical Water Pageant.
In the moderate range, Coronado Springs Resort bus service will get you to Magic Kingdom in just under 20 minutes. This property has numerous pools, a club level in Gran Destino tower and several onsite bars and food options. It’s a sprawling property though so be prepared for some walking if you aren’t in the Tower.
Enjoy the outdoors near Magic Kingdom by camping
For a nearby value property, look into Fort Wilderness. The theming (which is often one of my favorite parts of Disney resorts) is on point at this property. Bonuses include riding trails, hiking trails, campfires and more.
You’ll feel like you squeezed a rustic vacation into your Walt Disney World vacation. If you’ve always wanted to check out RVing, you can find available fully set up rentals through RVshare on Disney property.
Walt Disney World’s 1-Day Magic Kingdom Itinerary
We’re going to lay out a Magic Kingdom itinerary for your one day visit below. This is intended as a rough guide and in some sections we give multiple options so that you can pick what is best for your family.
Without Extra Magic Hours, I strongly recommend planning to be on site for park opening and rope drop. There is a new added extra 30 minutes for Walt Disney resort guests, but that will basically just give you a head start to one ride, not a huge leg up.
Morning at Magic Kingdom
Start your day with rope drop (or the extra 30 minutes if it’s available to you). Make sure to time your transportation with enough padding to be able to get through security checks.
For your first ride, you want to pick the “mountain” that’s most important to you. Personally, I’d go to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train first. It’s centrally located and you’ll power past the photo people because it’s behind the castle. The ride is smooth and won’t get you soaked, like starting off your day at Splash Mountain would.
Once you’re off Mine Train, you’ll need to prioritize what your party would like to do based on age. If you want to ride “it’s a small world“, I’d recommend hitting that one next. Lines on it can vary and, honestly, it’s a frustrating one to wait in line for if you’re only going on it to please others. Morning lines tend to be short since others are hitting thrill rides.
If you’ve got tween/teens/adults, head to Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. They’re close by and you can utilize the single rider line on Space Mountain if you’ve got older kiddos. If you’ve got little kids, check out Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Barnstormer and other Fantasyland rides including Peter Pan’s Flight.
Lunch at Magic Kingdom
There are plenty of tasty spots to grab lunch at the Magic Kingdom. Two of the most popular are Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest.
For quick service, Casey’s Corner offers family-friendly favorites like corn dogs, hot dogs and french fries. We like to use the mobile ordering functions, but check for tables ahead of time as they can be a challenge to find.
Lastly, if you love tater tots then head to Friar’s Nook. They come loaded with everything from buffalo chicken to bacon Mac & Cheese. You can definitely make a meal out of them!
Afternoon Plans for Magic Kingdom
By the afternoon, most Magic Kingdom visitors are both hot and tired. If you’ve got little kids in your party (or adults that act like little kids), it’s a good time to have a few indoor options available. This way you can get off of your feet and enjoy some air-conditioning.
First things first though…
if you’re planning on riding Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, this is a great time to do them. The splash at the bottom will refresh you a bit.
After you’ve gotten off the mountains, pick an area of the park to spend some time indoors.
Here are some great indoor options in each land. By sticking to one land at a time, you’ll conserve some energy and rest up for the rest of the day.
Adventureland indoor attractions
Adventureland is actually the perfect land to visit in the afternoon. It’s got multiple indoor options as well as some slower paced rides that offer a respite from the go-go-go that sometimes happens in theme parks.
Pirates of the Caribbean and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room are both good indoor choices. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin is essentially the same ride as Dumbo so the littles will love it.
Feel like climbing a bit? The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse offers the ability to explore. While it’s a movie most kids haven’t seen, it’s worth the visit. The movie itself is available on Disney+ and my tweens loved it. In the same avenue as Home Alone, the “boobie trap” aspect of the movie is very appealing to the 7-11 crowd.
TravelingMom Snack Hint: At Aloha Isle in Adventureland you can stop for a mid-afternoon snack of DOLE Whips. If you’re team Citrus Swirl like me, those can be found at Sunshine Tree Terrace.
Frontierland indoor attractions and rides
If the weather is decent, you might also consider hopping on a log raft to go explore Tom Sawyer Island. It’s an under-appreciated Magic Kingdom attraction. Looking for an indoor show? Head over to the 16-minute long Country Bear Jamboree to watch 18 animatronic bears sing and play instruments. My teen self saw this show as super cheesy but I appreciate the break now that I have kids myself.
TravelingMom Snack Hint: Churros are always a winner. Head to Westward Ho for a churro with chocolate sauce. A frozen lemonade will pair perfectly with it.
Liberty Square attractions (when you need a break!)
The Liberty Square Riverboat is a great way to slow down in the afternoon. It’s an authentic steamboat with a paddlewheel and cruises the Rivers of America. You’ll catch glimpses of Tom Sawyer Island from here. There are some really nice indoor benches (couch-like) that are perfect nap spots on the upper level. Try to get on quick and snag one!
If the wait time isn’t too long, the Haunted Mansion is a great indoor air-conditioned choice as well. And the Hall of Presidents runs 25-minute seated shows continuously throughout the day. Check Disney for updates though, as it is closed for refurbishment at the time of writing.
TravelingMom Snack Hint: Sleepy Hollow has funnel cakes with berries and powdered sugar that are perfect for splitting or if you’re still hungry there’s a waffle sandwich.
Fantasyland indoor attractions
While there are a lot of indoor attractions in Fantasyland, they are also pretty crowded in the afternoon as parents try to squeeze the last few drops of fun in before their kiddos run out of steam. Our recommendations for our Magic Kingdom itinerary are going to be Under the Sea Journey of the Little Mermaid. This ride is a continuous load and it is almost always less than a 20 minute wait time. Another great option is Mickey’s PhilharMagic show. It runs for 12 minutes and showings are frequent. It does have some loud noises that small children may not like.
One outdoor attraction that can be a cooling afternoon stop for toddlers is the Casey Jr. Splash ‘N’ Soak Station. It is currently temporarily unavailable, but Disney publishes regular ride opening updates. but we hope to see it reopened as summer approaches.
TravelingMom Snack Hint: One of my favorite treats in the park is the Peter Pan Float at Storybook Treats. It’s a float with Sprite and lime soft serve.
Did you know we have compiled a full post on How to Stay Cool at Walt Disney World? Check it out for recommendations and products we love that will keep you from melting!
Tomorrowland indoor attractions
Many of the attractions in this land are indoors. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a hilarious interactive show where they might even use one of your jokes. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, while not the most exciting ride, is a great spot to sit down and get littles to nap for a few. Looking to sit down for 21 minutes? Check out the animatronic show, Carousel of Progress.
TravelingMom Snack Hint: To be very honest I’m not in love with any treats in Tomorrowland. If you’re looking for a snack walk back to Main Street U.S.A. and head to the Main Street Confectionery for a Mickey-shaped treat.
Evening at Magic Kingdom
Currently fireworks and nighttime spectaculars are unavailable. It’s a great time to ride Mine Train again (totally different than in the day), take in a dining experience and get those nighttime photos.
What is your can’t miss Magic Kingdom experience?