Castles, princesses, pirates, flying elephants, and of course, the main cheese…Mickey Mouse! Nothing feels more “Disney” than spending a day at the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom is Disney’s original Florida theme park, and the one that’s full of all that classic Disney nostalgia. PLUS it has the highest concentration of attractions and things to do out of all of Disney’s theme parks so no matter your age, you’ll find plenty of fun here.
Now, the Magic Kingdom is a VERY DENSE park…meaning it has the highest number of attractions by far at any of the four parks which makes for a fun filled packed day, but also means that statistically it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll be able to do EVERYTHING in the Magic Kingdom in one day.
My Favorite Things to Do at the Magic Kingdom
So you’ll need to decide what works best for you…do you want to…
- See and do pretty much everything in the Magic Kingdom? You’ll need two days.
- Hit the highlights and have a great time? You can do it in one day.
Whichever you choose, here’s how I would break the Magic Kingdom down…
Listing out attractions in categories of “must do,” “time fillers,” or “fine to skip” is a lot harder in the Magic Kingdom than in the other parks. First of all, there are just sooooo many attractions. Second (and maybe this is just my personal opinion, but I think I’m right ; ) …the majority of the attractions in the Magic Kingdom aren’t necessarily “up to par” with what Disney has built in recent years in other parks. A high percentage of attractions here bank on a nostalgia factor and how much that weighs in really varies person to person.
Also most of the attractions here are based on Disney movies and characters and I’ve found that people’s “favorites” usually sway what they think is a great attraction. If Winnie the Pooh is your sentimental childhood favorite then riding the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is going to be a must do for you. For someone who has no emotional attachment to the characters and stories, it might seem silly.
I personally would only rank a handful of Magic Kingdom attractions as “must dos” and the rest are going to depend on what you’re into (and what your travel party looks like).
So I’m going to break the attractions in the Magic Kingdom down a bit differently than I do for the other parks:
The “Big” Attractions
TRON Lightcycle Run: The Magic Kingdom’s latest and greatest attraction (actually the newest attraction in all of Walt Disney World) just debuted in 2023 after YEARS of anticipation.
The verdict? It’s a great addition to the Magic Kingdom and I’ll definitely do it every time I visit, but I don’t think it’s quite the home run hit that Disney needed it to be (but honestly, opening just after Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind was a tough act to follow).
It’s a fun (and super smooth coaster!) that has a fast launch, but I think the setup of the coaster cars make it seem a little more intense than it actually is. You ride straddling a “lightcycle” and being pitched forward over a motorcycle going around the track really makes the somewhat routine coaster seem exciting. It’s a great ride, but I wish it was longer.
Right now, TRON is using a virtual queue which means the only way to ride is with a spot in the virtual queue OR by purchasing a Lightning Lane. You CANNOT just show up and stand in line to ride.
There are two chances to snag a spot in the virtual queue: 7AM and 1 PM. Both are done in the My Disney Experience app. To join the 7AM queue, you have to have a Magic Kingdom park reservation (soon to be obsolete) and you can join the queue from your phone wherever you are. For the 1PM queue, you can only join on your phone once you’re inside the Magic Kingdom.
If you miss getting a spot in the virtual queue (or you want to ride twice), you can purchase a Lightning Lane to walk right on the ride.
Also, something different about this attraction…you HAVE to put all of your belongings into a locker. After you get in the queue, but before you board the ride, there’s a wall of lockers that you’ll put your stuff in and scan your park ticket/magic band to activate it. When you exit the attraction, you’re on the opposite side of the locker wall and you’ll scan your ticket/band and pull your things out the other side. Honestly, I wish they would do this on all attractions!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: This highly themed family friendly coaster 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 intensity of bigger coasters. This is easily the most popular ride in the Magic Kingdom (even after TRON opened) and usually draws longer waits so go first thing in the morning, at the end of the day, buy access to the lightning lane or just be prepared to wait it out in line.
The Magic Kingdom Mountains: 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.
***Times are a changin’ and the Magic Kingdom Mountains don’t look quite like they used to! Splash Mountain has closed down to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. It’ll essentially be the same ride with the big drop, but hopefully with way more star power and appeal.
For now, Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain remain the same and while they’re sentimental classics, they’re just not quite holding up to the standards the more modern coasters are setting. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and TRON have changed the game big time (not to mention coasters in other parks like Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind), but it’s still fun to hit the original three “mountains.”
The People Mover: Okay, okay, okay I just had to include the People Mover in this section because it is MY favorite ride in the Magic Kingdom. 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 about 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- the 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 World’s 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.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a gamified version of a Disney dark ride (you shoot targets with a laser cannon) in Tomorrowland.
And while not “dark rides,” classics like Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the Mad Tea Party are sentimental classics.
The Walt Disney Classics
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 others 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:
Enchanted Tiki Room: A small theater-style attraction that features singing birds and flowers. It’s 100% kitsch but has incredible 1960s tiki vibes.
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 kitschy, fairly dated, but a classic and good place to hide out in the AC nonetheless.
Haunted Mansion: I’m not personally a fan of this ride (I don’t love the subject matter ; ) but it is a super popular classic ride with great storytelling elements.
Enchanted Tales with Belle: 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 reenactment of how they fell in love to surprise Belle.
It’s hard to explain and it takes up a fairly good chunk of time (about 20 minutes) 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.
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.
Country Bear Jamboree: Another corny classic, the famous country singing bears are slated to undergo a refurbishment so see it soon in its original form.
Other Things to Do in the Park
The Dapper Dans on Mainstreet: 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: After a brief hiatus for the 50th anniversary, Disney’s classic nighttime fireworks spectacular is BACK. 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.
Festival of Fantasy Parade: Every day at 3PM, the Festival of Fantasy parade winds from Frontierland and past the castle down Mainstreet USA. If you have little kids, it’s definitely a priority.
Pics at the Purple Wall: 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.
The Tangled Toilets: 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.
Walking through the Castle to see the Cinderella Mosaics: 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.
Take a Picture in Front of the Castle: 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 Main Street 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 it’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.
Chill on the Main Street Hub Grass: 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 Main Street 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.
Character Meet & 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.
Some characters, like Cinderella’s stepsisters and Peter Pan, randomly pop up around Fantasyland to interact with guests, but most characters have dedicated areas where they meet guests every day:
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. She used to meet in the Storybook Garden behind the castle (she’s moved to the Liberty Square gazebo now that Mirabel from Encanto meets here). She’s feisty and a lot of fun.
Where to Eat
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.
Dole Whip: 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 meets 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.
Cheshire Cat Tail: 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 Main Street 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 caramel apples are pretty legendary, but my personal favorite are the chocolate covered strawberries.
Columbia Harbor House: 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.
Be Our Guest Restaurant: 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.
Crystal Palace: 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.
Magic Kingdom Plan of Attack (aka Itinerary)
Okay, now that I’ve told you about all of the great things to do in Magic Kingdom, here are some tips for how to actually get it all done…
Depending on your budget, let’s run through a few different scenarios…
The Magic Kingdom is definitely the park that you’ll feel like you get the most value with Genie+, just because of the sheer number of rides and attractions. The Magic Kingdom is packed with attractions, which means that there’s a lot of Genie+ capacity. It’s easier to get earlier return times because there’s so many options and you’ll find the most options still available later in the day (when in some parks most Genie+ options will be sold out by early afternoon).
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the fancy pants Individual Lightning Lane (ILL) attraction in the Magic Kingdom and it is the ride that gets by far the longest waits in the park. You’ll either want to rope drop it (get there an hour plus before park opening and run straight there), buy the ILL, or plan to spend 70-120 minutes in line.
Rides that I would prioritize for Genie+ in the Magic Kingdom: Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise.
If you have small kids (or you don’t), you’ll want to alter your picks to what your travel party is most into.
There are some rides that using a Genie+ isn’t generally worth it (because the ride doesn’t have super long waits). Mad Tea Party, Small World, and pretty much any show.
Oddly enough (I think it’s odd), Jungle Cruise is usually the ride that ends up selling out first and even if you can get it the return times are often into the early evening pretty early in the day. So some people make it their first Genie+ selection.
Overall, Genie+ works really well in the Magic Kingdom. There are so many rides in the Magic Kingdom that it would be hard to do everything in one day with NO waits. So having Genie+ is really an advantage.
Genie+ fluctuates in price daily depending on demand, but seems to be between $20-25/person at the Magic Kingdom.
Besides the attractions covered by Genie+, the park currently offers an Individual Lightning Lane to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and TRON Lightcycle Run for $12-15/person.
So for $44-55/person you could do BOTH Lightning Lanes (Mine Train and TRON) and probably squeeze out another 4-5 attractions with Genie+.
It’s not too hard to get a virtual queue time for TRON so unless you’re wanting to ride it twice in the same day, there’s probably no need to pay for the Lightning Lane there.
Magic Kingdom WITHOUT Genie+
If you’re trying to do the Magic Kingdom without Genie+, it’s really important to take advantage of the early entry offered to Disney resort guests (remember guests staying at a Walt Disney World resort can enter the parks 30 minutes before everyone else).
Plan to arrive at least an hour before the published opening time and make your way to the ropes up near the castle to line up for your first attraction. For early morning entry, only the attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland open up early so you’ll want to head straight to Mine Train (only if you’re at the front of the pack otherwise it’ll already be a pretty long line), Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, etc.
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