Ahh, Magic Kingdom. The crown jewel of Walt Disney World. Get ready to tackle this park known as the “Most Magical Place on Earth” with these magically practical tips. Maybe I should call them your Mousekatools? From FastPass+ to making dining reservations, we’ve got you covered with a 13 step touring plan so you can make the most of one day in Magic Kingdom.
Disney World bound? Well then, my guess is that at least one day at Magic Kingdom is on your itinerary. But what if you’ve only got one day? Can it be done? Absolutely! Put on your most comfortable shoes and get ready with our list of 13 tips and tricks to make the most of your day at Magic Kingdom.
How to Make the Most of One Day in Magic Kingdom
1. Get Up Early
The are generally two camps of parkgoers here, so I have a strategy for both.
Breakfast lovers: One trick to get in the park early is to make a breakfast reservation for Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table or Crystal Palace. The strategy here is to have the reservation before the park opens (preferably 8 a.m.). Keep in mind that Magic Kingdom opens early one morning a week for Disney resort guests, so check on the Disney World website to make sure you aren’t picking one of those mornings. Mindful TravelingMom Robin shares her experience with each restaurant and why she loves this trick!
At press time, Disney plans on offering Disney Early Morning Magic in Fantasyland. On select Sundays and Tuesdays, guests can ride Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight and also enjoy breakfast at Pinocchio Village Haus. Price is $ 69/adults and $ 59/child PLUS regular theme park admission. Frankly, I think I like choosing my restaurant and NOT having to pay a surcharge for essentially a 1 hour window.
TravelingMom Tip: We love to take photos while Main Street, USA is virtually deserted. Looks like we’ve got free run of the place! And when we finish eating before rope drop, we’re in prime position for when the attractions start to run.
Save time, eat before you arrive: For those that don’t like a big breakfast, eat before you get to the park and bring snacks to tide you over until lunchtime. Be ready to roll as soon as the rope drops.
2. Focus on Fantasyland and the Busiest Attractions First
Hit the ground running and do the most popular attractions while the crowds are lightest. With the younger set, this means Seven Dwarfs Mine Train for sure, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, The Barnstormer, “it’s a small world” and Mad Tea Party.
For the older crowd, start the day with “must ride” attractions that have the longest queues. Think the Mountains: Space, Big Thunder and Splash–unless you have FastPass+ for these.
TravelingMom Tip: Take time to do those attractions that interest your kids. We couldn’t pass up Prince Charming Regal Carousel with my horse-loving preschooler. Don’t get in so much of a rush that you forget to see the park through their eyes.
3. Use Fastpass+
Guests staying at a Disney Resort with theme park tickets can make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance, and 30 days in advance is the window for those who’ve purchased theme park tickets. Need more FastPass+ pointers? Our Ultimate Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World spells out the entire process.
My family’s favorite selections for FastPass+: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight.
Traveling Mom Tip: Use the My Disney Experience app while you are in the park. Once your first three FastPass+ selections have been used for the day, add more either using this app or the available kiosks. You might be pleasantly surprised to score a reservation and save time in line.
Refueling is essential when touring Magic Kingdom. The best advice I can give you: don’t let anyone get HANGRY. Find a restaurant that serves food everyone in the party can enjoy. Disney has many vegan and gluten free options, and blows away the competition when it comes to allergy-free dining.
Our favorites: Be Our Guest and Columbia Harbour House.
5. Traveling Through the Lands
Here’s where we start to tackle the park. As we work our way through our FastPass+ list, we also incorporate the attractions nearby as time allows. This means Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion. You might even see that scallywag Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial across from the Pirates entrance.
For something completely different, jump over to Tomorrowland to experience Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, AstroOrbiter, Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, and Tomorrowland Speedway.
TravelingMom Tip: The theaters are your friends when temperatures start to heat up. Cooling off during one of these can save the day: Mickey’s PhilharMagic, The Hall of Presidents, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, or Walt Disney’s Carrousel of Progress.
6. Festival of Fantasy Parade
Now that we’re all feeling fresh as daisies, we can claim a spot along the curb to catch this 3:00 parade. The Festival of Fantasy is packed with characters: Cinderella, Belle, Tiana, Elsa and Anna; Flynn Rider and Rapunzel; Ariel, Sebastian and an enchanted ocean ensemble from The Little Mermaid atop a sparkling music box; Peter Pan, Wendy, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee and Tick-Tock the Crocodile; Merida and Mickey and Minnie in a giant hot-air balloon.
My favorite is Maleficent, the fire-breathing, clockwork dragon. Prepare to feel the heat because she really breathes fire!
TravelingMom Tip: While you can get a FastPass+ for a reserved viewing area for this parade as well as Wishes, many say it’s better not to use a FastPass+ for this. I would suggest seeing if any are still available and adding it once your three FastPass+ selections have been used for the day. Otherwise, save the FastPass+ for the more coveted attractions.
7. Try Something New
Although Magic Kingdom has been our go-to park, we never run out of new things to do. Look for those pixie dusted moments that bring out your inner child or where you can witness the magic through your family’s eyes.
One of my favorites is listening to the music. Find the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet or Disney’s Main Street Philharmonic Band. Here’s a sampling:
Other fun ideas: Set sail on the Liberty Square Riverboat to Tom Sawyer Island and explore. Or make a wish in the Cinderella wishing well on the path from Tomorrowland to the right side of Cinderella Castle.
TravelingMom Tip: Make reservations in advance if your child would like to transform into a princess at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique or become a pirate, empress or mermaid at the Pirates League in Adventureland. This was always a highlight of our Magic Kingdom day because my daughter would then be dressed as a princess for the rest of the day and treated like royalty. It makes for wonderful interactions with characters throughout the day. Speaking of characters, moving on to # 8…
8. Don’t Forget to Take Photos with the Characters
N0 trip feels complete without seeing Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater. Many choose to visit Mickey either first thing or on their way out since Town Square Theater is at the entrance to Magic Kingdom.
We like Memory Maker because Disney photographers do the heavy lifting for us and we all can be in the pictures. Plus, some even are called Magic Shots where photos can be pixie dusted with special characters. Another advantage of using Memory Maker is adding border and stickers to customize them, making them that much more professional looking.
TravelingMom Tip: Want to save $ 20? Order Memory Maker at least 3 days prior to your vacation and you’ll pay $ 149. Current pricing for Memory Maker is $ 169 for unlimited downloads of your park photos, including attractions, restaurants, and Magic Shots.
9. Take a Break or Try the “Best Snack” Competition
If planning the really late night option, go back to your resort for a rest/swim/chill time. We’ve successfully tried this approach with our kids when they were younger and we all benefited from the relaxation. This may help your family avoid what I call the “Middle of the Park Meltdown” that I’m sure many of you have witnessed.
This seems counterintuitive to some when they want to get the most bang for their Disney bucks and stay all day. I am suggesting this option for families who need to let the littles rest or plan on pulling an (almost) all nighter and staying up for the evening Extra Magic Hours. Otherwise, stay at Magic Kingdom and try this next tip…
At this point, everyone’s wagon may be dragging. Time to refuel with a delicious snack. Add some fun by trying a “best snack” competition to see who can snag the best snack. This will require sharing, so be forewarned!
Magic Kingdom is home to some of the most delicious and decadent snacks in all of Walt Disney World: think popcorn, pretzel, and churros, oh my! Here’s a primo list of ones to try: Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar; funnel cake at Sleepy Hollow; Starbucks on Main Street, USA; Lefou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern. My favorite: the Dole Whip at Aloha Isle. Everyone should grab a different snack and trade off. Makes for a fun activity.
TravelingMom Tip: This snack smorgasbord is not a hard sell if you are doing the Disney Dining plan, which includes one snack a day. Questions about the Disney Dining Plan? TravelingMoms debate the pros and cons.
Our family has always loved the table service meals at Walt Disney World. That said, if you want to keep touring and focusing on attractions, then go with counter service. If not, then hopefully you’ve pre-planned a bit and made an Advance Dining Reservation for one of the following: Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, The Crystal Palace, The Diamond Horseshoe, Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, Liberty Tree Tavern, The Plaza Restaurant, and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.
11. Don’t Miss “Wishes” (until May 11) and the all new “Happily Ever After”
This suggestion is bittersweet because Wishes Nighttime Spectacular ends its run on May 11th. While I’m wistful about Wishes ending, I am also certain that Disney’s new show, Happily Ever After Nighttime Spectacular will be a welcome addition.
With Happily Ever After, Disney will have more lights, lasers, and projections than any other firework show in the Magic Kingdom’s history. As an 18 minute show, it will also have castle transformations that connect many of Disney’s most popular animated films, such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, Moana, Peter Pan, The Princess and the Frog, and Toy Story.
12. Close Down the Park
On this night, don’t worry about being like Cinderella and having a curfew. Stay as late as you can. Naturally, this may not work as well for families with small kids, but even when my kiddos were little, we returned to our resort to take a nap when we wanted a late night park night.
Even if we’ve already done them, there are several attractions that are “can’t miss” in the dark: Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (save for last).
To EMH or Not to EMH, That Is the Question: Although there’s a camp of Disney planners that would say to avoid Magic Kingdom during an Extra Magic Hours days, I would say in this situation where you are trying to make the most of one day in Magic Kingdom, then go for it! As Disney resort guests, we maximized our tickets by staying the Extra Magic Hours from midnight-3 a.m. and managed to close the park down!
TravelingMom Tip: Get in line for Sever Dwarfs Mine Train just before Magic Kingdom closes. I mean, like a few minutes until and you feel like a rebel getting to ride after the park is technically closed!
13. The Kiss Goodnight
Thirty minutes after the park closes, this special sendoff is for the true Disney fans. It is only two minutes, but the Kiss Goodnight is the cherry on top of the sundae of a perfect Disney day at Magic Kingdom. Cinderella Castle sparkles and “When You Wish Upon a Star” plays in the background. The narrator sums it up:
The Magic Kingdom is a place for the young and the young at heart. A special place where when you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true. Until we see you again, have a safe trip home. Thank you, and goodnight.”
It’s a delightful way to bid adieu to the most magical place on Earth.