Castles, princesses, pirates, flying elephants, and of course, the main cheese…Mickey Mouse! There’s nothing more “Disney” than spending a day at the Magic Kingdom.
One of the best parts about the Magic Kingdom is that it’s home to some of Disney’s best attractions. Thrills like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, childhood favorites like Peter Pan’s Flight and It’s a Small World, and Walt Disney nostalgics like Pirates of the Caribbean and the Jungle Cruise.
I’ve spent so many days of my childhood (and now adulthood) skipping around the Magic Kingdom that I pretty much know all the ins and outs. I’ve definitely got my favorites. Sure…I’ve got favorite rides and attractions, but also a lot of snack stops and random must dos.
What this post is NOT: This post is not a guidebook with descriptions, pictures, and videos of every single thing there is to do in the Magic Kingdom. Disney’s website does a great job of showing everything the park has to offer. Additionally, if you search YouTube for an attraction’s name (i.e. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train) you will find a TON of videos offering ride along point of views (great for deciding if your kid will be up for it).
What this post WILL BE: This post is a curated list of MY PERSONAL FAVORITE things to do (attractions and rides, snacks, restaurants, character meet and greets, random experiences) in the Magic Kingdom. It is not EVERYTHING that’s available to do in the Magic Kingdom, but MY must do list.
My Favorite Magic Kingdom Attractions
The Magic Kingdom is the most iconic of Walt Disney World’s four parks. The park, which opened in 1971, features classic rides and attractions that are designed to appeal primarily to children. But I promise no matter your age, there’s plenty of fun to find at the Magic Kingdom.
So without further adieu, here are my favorite rides, shows, and entertainment at the Magic Kingdom:
This highly themed roller coaster is located in Fantasyland and weaves elements of the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs through a ride that is part roller coaster part dark ride. The ride is smooth as butter (the train cars sway a bit so it’s not jerky and feels like you’re flying) but it’s not a super intense coaster. It’s fast and FUN but fairly tame which makes it a great coaster for kids who maybe haven’t graduated up to the more intense roller coasters and adults that like a good ride but don’t love the whiplash and intesity of bigger coasters. This is easily the most popular ride in the Magic Kingdom and usually draws longer waits so go first thing in the morning, at the end of the day or when you’re prepared to spend a bit in line.
The People Mover
Located high above Tomorrowland, this ride is my absolute favorite way to escape the heat for a bit and put my feet up. The People Mover travels above Tomorrowland on a track that offers you gorgeous views of the castle, Space Mountain, and the rest of Tomorrowland. The ride is a continuously loading slow moving ride that’s a bit like a futuristic train. Listen to a spiel that gives you a tour of Tomorrowland with a nostalgic flair and even catch a peek INSIDE Space Mountain. The People Mover is pretty popular and has a cult following with fans who appreciate its nostalgic appeal, the extended time to sit down and go in and out of AC and the fact that there’s rarely a line.
The Fantasyland Dark Rides
The Fantasyland dark rides have pretty much been my favorite attractions in the Magic Kingdom since I was a kid. I’m talking Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, It’s a Small World and more recently Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid. These slow moving rides occur in the -you guessed it- dark and involve you traveling in some kind of a vehicle (pirate ship, honey pot, clam shell, etc.) through the story of the movie presented in elaborate sets featuring audio animatronics (basically robot-like characters that move and talk).
While they’re mostly designed to appeal to small children who are mesmerized by the singing and show stopping scenes, they’re super popular with older kids and adults alike who appreciate the nostalgic feeling and ties to their favorite childhood movies.
Peter Pan’s Flight is by far the most popular of the Fantasyland dark rides (the long lines prove it), but don’t worry too much about the wait because the queue for the attraction is one of the best in Walt Disney World. Explore the Darling nursery as you travel through the interactive queue that features a lot of show elements (including Tinker Bell’s pixie dust) before you board a pirate ship and fly above London to Neverland.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has a special place in my heart because I was pretty majorly attached to Pooh and friends throughout my childhood (way more than Mickey Mouse and the gang). Kids and adults alike love loading into the honeypot and setting out into the storybook to get immersed into their favorite Hundred Acre Wood stories. This ride has a fun and interactive queue as well.
It’s a Small World is a Disney classic and timeless. Originally developed for the 1964 Worlds Fair, this simple boat ride tells the story of international friendship as you parade past dolls (and animals) from different countries singing the famous song. It sounds lame, but the scale of the sets is pretty impressive. It’s been my favorite since I was a toddler and you definitely can’t go to the Magic Kingdom without riding it at least once.
And although newer, Under the Sea-Journey of The Little Mermaid is pretty magical. Board your clam shell and set out into the story of Ariel and her adventures under the sea include some real show stopping scenes.
Spinning in the Teacups & Meeting Alice
The Mad Tea Party (aka the teacups) might not be on everybody’s don’t miss list but it’s high on mine. I’ve been a somewhat obsessive Alice in Wonderland fan since I was pretty small so this area of Fantasyland is my absolute favorite. Besides the right itself, I love meeting Alice (sometimes with the Mad Hatter or White Rabbit) nearby and listening to the music.
Okay, finally onto some classic thrill rides. The Magic Kingdom Mountains (Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad) are regularly regarded as the best thrill rides in the Magic Kingdom and while there are probably better coasters and thrills in the other parks overall, there’s something special about these. Try the Magic Kingdom Mountain Challenge and ride all three in one day! My personal favorite is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Geared towards kids, this always ends up being one of my FAVORITES. It’s not a ride, but more like a small show that moves from room to room. It’s highly interactive and features some pretty cool special effects (including walking through the magic mirror, and a life like wardrobe and Lumiere. The general premise is it’s Belle and the Beast’s anniversary and your group (15-30 people) is planning a reinactment of how they fell in love to surprise Belle. It’s hard to explain but it takes up a fairly good chunk of time but it’s highly personalized (kids and adults from the group are selected to participate in the show and everyone who wants a part can have one) and includes a quick meet and greet with Belle at the end.
The attractions that originally opened with the park in 1971 or were personally created by Walt Disney himself have a special quality about them. Some are a little hokey by today’s standards, but some remain some of the park’s most popular attractions. While there’s a dozen or so attractions that would fall into this category, besides a few that I’ve already mentioned, some of my favorites are:
Jungle Cruise: Well known for the corny but legendary jokes by your Skipper, the Jungle Cruise is a simple river boat ride that takes you on a quick tour of the world’s largest river’s and the various audio animatronic animals that call them home.
Pirates of The Caribbean: One of Disney’s original attractions from the ’60s , Pirates is a slow moving boat ride that takes you on a journey through the world of pirate adventures and dangerous shenanigans. This is one of the rare scenarios where a Disney theme park ride inspired a hit movie franchise (instead of the other way around). Yo ho, yo ho.
Carousel of Progress: This nostalgic classic was originally developed for the 1964 Worlds Fair and is one of the oldest remaining classics from the original park. It’s a slow moving theater-style ride that takes you through the life and times of 20th century home technology following one family through the ages. VERY kitchy, fairly dates, but a classic and good place to hide out in the AC nonetheless.
Monsters Inc Laugh Floor
This is a bit of an outlier on this list, but this comedy club style show features an ever changing act from some of your favorite monsters and some pretty great humor. Besides being a good escape from the heat, it’s surprisingly funny and very interactive. People from the audience are put up on the screen and selected to be part of the different skits (it all happens from your seat). This type of thing always makes me extremely nervous (not gonna lie), but I always laugh out loud during this show and I love that it’s always new and different.
My Favorite Character Meet and Greets
Since I was a kid, meeting characters has been pretty much my favorite thing to do at Disney. I’ll be honest…I could go to Disney and just do character meets and skip the rides. I’ve collected HUNDREDS of character autographs in a book and even as an adult I still get a kick out of taking pictures with some of my favorites.
Things are working a little differently since COVID (characters pop up kind of randomly and you have to take your pictures from a bit of a distance), but here wer my don’t miss character meet and greets before COVID (and hopefully they return soon):
Fairytale Hall is a magical place my friend. When I was a kid, you had to stand in line for a long time, outside, in the sun to meet characters. Now they have so many of them set up INSIDE in the air conditioning. Princess Fairytale Hall is the go to place to meet -you guessed it- the princesses. You stand in one line and meet two princesses (Tiana and Rapunzel together and Cinderella and Elena of Avalor together). Rapunzel is my all time favorite princess and Tiana is really great at making conversation (oh the things you know after years of meeting characters) so they’re a don’t miss for me.
And you can’t go to Disney without meeting Mickey Mouse. He meets inside Town Hall on Mainstreet (close to the entrance). Tinker Bell is also in Town Hall and let me tell you SHE IS A HOOT.
Meeting Ariel in her grotto has been a don’t miss since I was a kid. When I was little, the line for her “grotto” was in the sun and we have literally used to wait an HOUR just to meet the mermaid. After the new Fantasyland expansion in 2012, Ariel’s Grotto got an upgrade which includes a billion times more shade, air conditioning at times, and a surprisingly much shorter line. What makes the grotto so fun is that Ariel meets in her “fins.” She’s perched on a rock/throne in her full mermaid regalia instead of the dress that she normally wears at character breakfasts.
Another favorite is meeting Merida in the Storybook Garden. She’s feisty and a lot of fun. Tip: the shortest line to meet her is usually right after the afternoon parade. And meeting Cinderella’s step sisters (Anastasia and Drizella) behind the castle is a FUN TIME. They banter, they argue, they take great issue with any Cinderella fans. They’re practically a stand up show.
This classic barbershop quartet performs Disney classics and turn of the century favorites several times a day on Mainstreet. They draw quite a crowd and change up their lineup seasonally. It’s also super fun to catch the staff at Casey’s Corner singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame outside the restaurant (it happens randomly).
Watch Happily Ever After
Disney’s classic nighttime fireworks spectacular is ending soon with a new one to take it’s place, and the new show is sure to be AMAZING. Projections on the castle, full scale fireworks, and an incredible soundtrack really cap the night off in a big way.
Hands down my favorite part is when Tinker Bell flies from the top of the castle. Yep. An actual person FLIES on a wire from the top of Cinderella’s Castle all lit up and waving her little fairy wand around. It’s been a staple of Magic Kingdom fireworks shows for decades now and it’s super special.
My Favorite Magic Kingdom Snacks & Spots to Eat
If you thought my list of favorite Magic Kingdom attractions was good, wait until you see the food list…
Waffles at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments
A giant crispy AND fluffy Belgian waffle topped with Nutella and fresh fruit. Ummm what?? Hands down my favorite Magic Kingdom snack.
Maybe the most famous Disney snack. This classic pineapple treat comes in a LOT of varieties now. My personal favorite is the pineapple and vanilla twist soft serve. The classic Dole Whip is a pineapple soft serve “float” in pineapple juice. Don’t love pineapple? There’s usually orange and other seasonal flavors and combinations. Depending on exactly what you want you’ll either want to head to Aloha Isle or Sunshine Tree Terrace in Adventureland. The Pineapple Lanai at the nearby Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort also has a lot of Dole Whip options.
Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar
Hagaan Das vanilla ice cream meet Godiva chocolate. Win/win. No trip to Disney World is complete until you’ve enjoyed an ice cream shaped like the main mouse himself. You can get these at ice cream carts scattered throughout all four parks.
This fun treat from the Cheshire Cafe near the Mad Tea Party is not only Instagram cute but it’s downright tasty too. It’s kind of like a pastry with icing and it’s pretty divine.
Anything from the Confectionery or Big Top Treats
The Magic Kingdom is home to two of the best little sweet spots on Disney property: The Confectionary on Mainstreet USA and Big Top Treats inside the Big Top Souvenir shop in Fantasyland. Both have an incredible variety of homemade candy and sweet treats. The decorated carmel apples are pretty legendary, but my personal favorite are the chocolate covered strawberries.
If you need more than a snack, the Columbia Harbor House is a good choice for a quick service meal. It’s located a bit off the beaten path between Liberty Square and Fantasyland so it’s often not as crowded as other popular spots plus it features a menu that’s pretty unique. In addition to the average chicken tenders, they’ve got quite a few seafood options and stuff that’s on the healthier/lighter side.
Cinderella’s Royal Table
The Magic Kingdom’s signature dining experience will cost you a pretty penny, but it’s a bucket list dream come true for sure. Dine WITH the princesses upstairs INSIDE Cinderella’s Castle. With views overlooking Fantasyland and a lot of royal fanfare, the food doesn’t even have to be good, but it is surprisingly. Like I said, it’s not cheap (and it’s hard to get a reservation), but if you can manage it it’s pretty fantastic. It’s not something I do often, but it’s pretty special.
From the minute you step inside this Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant in Fantasyland, you’ll feel like you’re inside the story. Cross a bridge guarded by gargoyles and enter Beast’s castle where you can dine in the Ballroom, the West Wing, or the Rose Gallery. Dinner’s a little expensive (the Beast is usually on hand for photos), but breakfast and lunch are a great experience.
There’s nothing I love more than a good buffet, and if you’re in the Magic Kingdom and looking for one…this is where you should head. Join Winnie the Pooh and Friends for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at this fun restaurant right in the shadows of Cinderella’s Castle.
My Favorite Random Things to Do at the Magic Kingdom
Go in Absolutely Every Gift Shop
Like, every single one. When I’m by myself at Disney and left to do whatever.I.want. this is pretty much what I end up doing. Different shops in different lands tend to have different things, but my favorite spots are mostly on Mainstreet. The Emporium and Disney Clothiers (one long connected strip of shops along the left hand side of the street if you’re facing the castle) has absolutely everything you could EVER want. Mouse ears anyone? And definitley don’t miss Uptown Jewelers on the other side of Mainstreet. In addition to the full Disney Pandora line, they have a HUGE jewelry selection and a ton of Disney bags (Dooney & Bourke, Kate Spade, Harveys, Stoney Clover, Loungefly, etc.)
In the age of “pics or it didn’t happen,” the “Purple Wall” in Tomorrowland has developed a cult following among Instagrammers. What started as just a normal purple hued wall that stretched along the pathway in Tomorrowland between the Tomorrowland Terrace and Monsters Inc Laugh Floor got an upgrade a few years ago to include a cool geometric pattern.
Okay I know you’re thinking I’m crazy, but hang with me a minute. Tangled is one of my all time favorite movies and I personally think the movie is woefully underrepresented in the Disney parks. Case in point…while many princesses have rides, shows or CASTLES dedicated to them, Rapunzel has a…bathroom. To be fair, it’s a really nice bathroom ; ) Located on the Liberty Square end of Fantasyland, this bathroom, stroller parking, rest area feels like you’ve stepped into the Tangled movie. There’s a little village area with the lanterns and you can even see the tower in the distance. If you’re a Tangled fan, you’ll for sure want to come check out the area. And there are nice spots to sit in the shade with charging stations too.
Did you know that you can actually walk THROUGH the castle? Well, most of the time. If there’s not a show going on out front, most of the time the walkways up through the castle are open. It’s so spectacular to see up close but my favorite part is actually inside. Be sure to stop and take a look at all of the beautiful mosaics lining the walls that depict the story of Cinderella.
So I mentioned early that I like to spend an inordinate amount of time in gift shops…well this is why. I’m pretty obsessed with pin trading. Disney makes a TON of metal trading pins (the kind that attach to a lanyard, jacket, or backpack) and trading them is a whole thing. You can buy a starter set with 5-6 pins (they sell them absolutely everywhere or you can buy a lot on eBay before you go) and then trade them as you please. While you can trade with other guests, trading with cast members is the real thrill. Pretty much every cast member that works in retail or maintenance wears a lanyard with pins on it. You can trade any pin you want with a cast member. There are cast member exclusive pins (ones you can’t buy-you can only get by trading), full sets to complete, random pins, etc. Sooooo many pins. Some cast members get more into it and turn some of their pins around backwards and will only do “blind trades” or turn them around if you answer Disney trivia questions. Like I said, it’s a whole “thing.” And since you’ll usually find the highest concentration of cast members wearing lanyards in gift shops…that’s where you’ll find me. A lot of shops (and other random places) have pin boards too (a small corkboard with extra pins on it). There’s a pin trading station in Frontierland that has a pretty high concentration of trading pins available.
You can’t go to the Magic Kingdom and NOT take a picture with the castle in the background. Pro tip though: don’t stop and have your picture taken by one of the photographers on Mainstreet unless you want 10,000 people in the background. There are way better spots. I like to go right up to the bottom of the castle and stand on one of the ramps/walkways. Even if there’s roped off it’s a great backdrop. The bridges to Liberty Square and Tomorrowland also are really great spots. Basically, there’s a ton of good angles and spots all around the “hub” in front of the castle where you can get the perfect backdrop without everybody else that happens to be in the park.
Doing a full day at the Magic Kingdom can make you TIRED so I like to take plenty of breaks to just relax or people watch. The Mainstreet hub grass is probably my go-to spot. These little grassy areas in the hub in front of the castle are the perfect place to lounge around for a bit. Grab a snack and have a little picnic or just have a lay down. There’s usually kids running around and people acting more like they do in a neighborhood park.
Well folks, if you’re heading to the Magic Kingdom anytime soon and you’re a little overwhelmed by EVERYTHING there is to do, I hope this list of my favorite things to do in the Magic Kingdom gives you a few ideas of where to start! Oh, and if you happen to see me in a gift shop trading pins, say hi!