Vacationing to Disney World in Orlando, FL is a dream come true for many children and adults. A day at Magic Kingdom can be a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience or a Nightmare on Main Street. The key is proper advance planning. I’ll guide you through a suggested one-day itinerary for Magic Kingdom and provide insider tips on how to experience some extra magic along the way.
Plan Ahead Six Months to One Year
The best Disney vacation tip I can give is to plan ahead. While I do not expect you to follow a minute-by-minute itinerary, I do suggest doing some research to figure out which attractions / characters / rides you absolutely must see and plan your day around those activities.
For meal planning, especially character meals, you will need reservations. Just go online to Disney’s dining reservations or call (407) WDW-DINE to book a reservation at any of the Disney restaurants. Disney accepts reservations up to one year in advance. Trust me, book as early as possible.
There are so many things to see and do that it can be sensory overload for even the most seasoned travelers. Let me start by saying this: There is absolutely no way you can see everything at Magic Kingdom in one day. Once you face this reality, you will be able to enjoy every minute of the time you do have without worrying about all the things you did not get to see. Now let’s see how much we can get done in one day.
Extra Magic Hours
If staying on Disney property, you have the advantage of being able to enter the park early and/or stay late by using Morning Magic Hours or Evening Magic Hours. During these specially designated times, guests of Walt Disney World Resorts can experience extra time in the parks before official park opening and after official park closing.
Use extra magic hours to experience shorter line queues for popular rides or to slow your pace later while much of the crowd clears out of the park. Extra magic hours vary based on day and time of year, so check the Calendar page of the official Magic Kingdom website for your travel time.
Are You Ready? Let’s Go!
Start your day early. Get up early and grab a quick breakfast at your hotel-just something to hold you over for a couple of hours. Arrive at Magic Kingdom about 30 minutes before opening. (If morning magic hours begins at 7:00 a.m., arrive at 6:30). I know this may sound crazy to those of you who are not “morning people,” but trust me, if you want to see as much as you can in one day, this is the way to do it.
As you maneuver through Magic Kingdom, keep in mind the layout of the park. Here is a map of Magic Kingdom to help you. Go ahead and right click the link to open it in another tab. I’ll wait.
Do you see how the park is laid out like a wheel? Cinderella’s Castle is the hub and the different “lands” are spokes in the wheel. Most people enter Magic Kingdom and start out to the right and work their way around the park in a sequential manner (I don’t know why, they just do). We are not going to do that. We are going to be rebels and fight the flow! This should lead to shorter wait times for many of the most popular attractions.
Magic Kingdom: Fantasyland
As soon as you arrive at Magic Kingdom, resist the urge to run to Cinderella’s Castle and go straight to Fantasyland directly behind the castle. Ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant right away, as the queue for this ride fills up quickly and lasts all day.
Do not get distracted by the excitement on Main Street U.S.A.-you will have plenty of time for that later. The key is to head toward the back of the park while everyone else is in the front. Start at the back and work your way to the front, and you will experience (relatively) shorter wait times than most visitors.
After Dumbo, explore the rest of Fantasyland and Mickey’s Toontown Fair until your breakfast reservation. In Fantasyland, ride with Cinderella on Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel. Journey to the 100 Acre Wood on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Race Captain Hook to Neverland on The Flight of Peter Pan. Take a spin on the Mad Tea Party.
Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Toontown Fair
Just to the right of Fantasyland, Mickey’s Toontown Fair is the place to meet the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Goofy), Disney Princesses, and Disney Fairies. Walk through Mickey and Minnie’s houses, ride Goofy’s kid-friendly roller coaster, and get wet on Donald’s Boat.
Meet and greet times in the Toontown Hall of Fame vary, so check out this Magic Kingdom Live Entertainment website for the latest schedules (click the red Magic Kingdom link at the top of the page). Your children will be thrilled to meet Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or Belle and have their picture taken with them. Keep in mind characters may vary.
Magic Kingdom: Main Street U.S.A.
Come back around Cinderella’s Castle to Main Street U.S.A. As its name implies, Main Street U.S.A. is representative of small town America at the turn of the century, dotted with shops, bakeries and an ice cream parlor.
But save your stroll down Main Street to wind down after a long day of rides and attractions. And don’t forget to stop at the Chapeau Hat Shoppe for your personalized mouse ears. For now, let’s get some breakfast.
The Crystal Palace, located across from Cinderella’s Castle offers one of the most popular character meals in Magic Kingdom. Don’t even think about trying to get in without a reservation. This is a fantastic character experience featuring Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the 100 Acre Wood. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Eeyore make their rounds to each table for hugs, photos and autographs. (When booking your reservation, be sure to mention any special occasion you may be celebrating for some extra magic!)
The Crystal Palace buffet features standard breakfast fare such as scrambled eggs, omelets, bacon and sausage, but also has the scrumptious Mickey waffles you can only get at Disney World. The price (at the time of this writing) is $20.99 for adults and $11.99 for children ages 3-9. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, it will use one table service credit for each person.
Magic Kingdom: Bibbidi Bobbibi Boutique
After breakfast, walk over to Cinderella’s Castle and check in for your appointment at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Every little girl dreams of being a princess, and at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique that dream comes true. Enter a magical boutique where your little princess will be primped and pampered by her very own Fairy Godmother-in-Training.
There are several makeover packages available, from $49.95 to $189.95. The Coach Package includes hair and make-up. The Crown Package includes hair, make-up and nails. The Castle Package includes the Crown Package plus the Imaging Package. This royal treatment includes photos in special holders and a full costume of your choice complete with accessories. (Keep in mind, you can always bring your own princess costume to wear in the park.)
Don’t worry, your little prince won’t be left out! Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers a Cool Dudes Package for $7.50 and includes colored hair gel and confetti. (All prices are subject to applicable taxes.)
A PhotoPass photographer is also on hand to capture every moment of the transformation. Of course, you are free to take as many of your own pictures as you like. For more information on PhotoPass, visit Stitch Kingdom’s Definitive Guide to Disney’s PhotoPass.
After the makeovers are complete, head over to City Hall (near the entrance to Magic Kingdom) for a complimentary photo shoot by a PhotoPass photographer.
Magic Kingdom: Adventureland
Ready, rebels? Mosey on over to Adventureland (turn left-not right!-at the statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse as you head up Main Street, but before you get to the castle) and take in the sites in this western-themed land.
Ride the Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, or the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Shake hands with Captain Hook or climb the Swiss Family Treehouse. Enjoy an air-conditioned break while taking in the Enchanted Tiki Room show.
Now might be a good time to grab a bite for lunch. Why not head stop in for a burger at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Café?
Magic Kingdom: Frontierland
Continuing around to the left, the timing should be just about right to head over to Frontierland in time for the Celebrate a Dream Come True Parade. The parade runs between Town Square on Main Street U.S.A. and Frontierland. The crowds won’t be as big in Frontierland than near Cinderella’s Castle, so use this to your advantage.
As soon as the parade ends, get a FastPASS for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and then go ride Splash Mountain. Ride multiple times if the lines are not too long. Then switch to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and ride as many times as you can.
Magic Kingdom: Liberty Square
Next as we travel around the Magic Kingdom wheel (to the left, remember?) is Liberty Square. One of my favorite attractions at Magic Kingdom is the Haunted Mansion ride in Liberty Square. To pass the time as you wait in line, check out the names on the headstones. They are sure to give a giggle or two.
Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland
Now we are going to break all the rules and just cut across the whole park, past Cinderella’s Castle, to Tomorrowland. By now the throng of visitors who entered with you this morning are somewhere between Frontierland and Adventureland, unless, of course, they are still waiting in line to ride Dumbo.
Although Tomorrowland probably changes the most out of all the Magic Kingdom lands, a long-time favorite that remains is Space Mountain. Possibly a little tame to diehard coaster fans, Space Mountain is sure to get a rush out of most riders.
For a respite from the heat, hop into the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor for an interactive comedy show that will have you rolling in the aisles. You may even become part of the show! Older kids and adults will enjoy Stitch’s Great Escape, but smaller children may be frightened. There is also a 40″ minimum height requirement.
Finally, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is a blast for guests of all ages. One of the latest additions to Magic Kingdom, this ride puts you right in the middle of the action as you try to stop the evil emperor Zurg. You score points for hitting targets and can compete against your seatmates to see who scores the highest.
Now that you’ve visited all of the lands in Magic Kingdom, take that stroll down Main Street U.S.A. for some shopping. Did you remember to get your mouse ears at the Chapeau Hat Shoppe? Don’t worry, we’ll be back after dinner in case you forgot.
Wilderness Lodge: Whispering Canyon Café
For dinner, book a reservation at the Whispering Canyon Café, one of my favorites for kids. Take the boat from Magic Kingdom to the Wilderness Lodge and enjoy a fun (albeit loud) time.
The menu at Whispering Canyon Café includes typical BBQ fare including ribs, steak, pot roast, and meatloaf. Entrees prices run from $18.99 to $28.99 for adults. Children ages 3-9 enjoy an appetizer, entrée and dessert for just $8.99. They also offer an all-you-can-eat Canyon Skillet for $26.99 per person.
For some extra magic, have your kids ask for ketchup, wear a non-Disney t-shirt (perhaps Universal Studios?), chew some gum, or tell the server their straw is not long enough. Sit back and watch the fun!
Magic Kingdom: SpectroMagic Parade and Wishes Fireworks
After dinner, take the boat back to Magic Kingdom for the SpectroMagic Parade followed by the Wishes Fireworks show. Show times vary, so be sure to check my favorite Magic Kingdom Live Entertainment website mentioned earlier. (Also, the names and/or themes of the parade and fireworks may change periodically.)
By now, you and your group should be thoroughly exhausted. Head back to the hotel and get a good night’s sleep. After all, tomorrow is another day!
Remember, the key to getting the most out of your day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is by planning ahead. Follow my tips and have a magical trip! Then come back and leave me a comment to tell me how much fun you had!
For more Disney travel tips, read Top Ten Websites for Planning a DisneyWorld Vacation, Top Ten Insider Tips for Visiting DisneyWorld, and A Day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
For other topics from this author, go to Cindy Coulter’s profile page.