When I’ve thought about taking my kids to Disney World, what comes to mind immediately, of course is the park which is to me, the epitome of Disney – the Magic Kingdom. Back when I was a kid, this park is what ‘Disney World’ was – it wasn’t until I was 11 years old that Epcot opened. I can remember visiting both parks with my family when I was growing up – and have lots of wonderful memories – everything from going on “it’s a small world” (my mom’s favorite ride), the Mad Tea Party (my favorite ride as a kid), and my very first rollercoaster experience ever – Space Mountain.
There’s a story behind that one – but suffice it to say that my family managed to get through a 2+ hour wait in line for Space Mountain and only realized it was a roller coaster when we got on the actual ride itself. All I remember is the pitch black and screaming my dad’s name over and over again (he was behind me – my brother rode with my mom, who is NOT a roller coaster fan. Whoops). I hadn’t been on Space Mountain again – until this trip.
I think the Magic Kingdom was the one thing that I personally was the most looking forward to in Orlando. And it definitely was everything I remembered. And a few thousand people more…
You have to absolutely give Disney credit for how they manage the crowds, especially when entering and exiting the park. The whole parking procedure is new from when Ron and I were there last a dozen years ago and you can definitely see why the changes were necessary. You park, then ride a tram to the area where all of the shuttles and buses arrive. Then you have a choice to get over to the main gate – either by ferry across the lake or by monorail. We chose monorail on the way over then took the ferry on the way back. Yes, it’s crowded and the wait for either was long (especially on the way back), but when you look at the sheer amount of people they have to move from one location to another – they do it very, very well.
We had to get lots of photos on the way in, of Cinderella’s castle and group shots of our family in front of the Walt Disney/Mickey Mouse statue as well. Ron and I have photos of each of us in front of that statue from our honeymoon in 2000, so I definitely wanted an updated shot of both of us together with the girls in the same location this time.
The girls loved seeing the castle where ‘Cinderella lives’ and the beautiful mosaics inside that tell the Cinderella story. And then as we came through the other side, they spied the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel in Fantasyland, and that had to be our first stop for them to ride. Afterward, we walked through the rest of Fantasyland (much of it is currently fenced off as the area is under construction for the Enchanted Forest portion of New Fantasyland, set to open December 6th) and the girls and Ron went on both the Mad Tea Party and Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I so wish I could have gone on the tea cups with them too, but I can’t go on any rides that spin anymore or I get horribly dizzy.
I did, however, go with Hannah on the small Barnstormer roller coaster, which we both loved. In fact, it’s Hannah’s favorite ride from the entire park. By this point it was extremely hot and we were sticky and tired – and the crowds were starting to wear on us a bit. We walked over to Tomorrowland where Hannah and I grabbed FastPasses for Space Mountain (nobody else wanted to ride it) and we decided it was a good time to have lunch. Our first choice (Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant) was closed, so we headed over into Main Street USA and ate at the Plaza Restaurant. The food was great and it was so nice to sit in air conditioning, especially with a view of Cinderella Castle out the window. And while we were there, a little girl at the table next to us got named ‘Mayor for the Day’ or something like that, which was pretty fun to watch.
After lunch, we decided that we wanted to head over to the other side of the park and the best way to do that was to walk back through Tomorrowland to the railroad station at Fantasyland. We rode all the way around through Main Street USA over to Frontierland. This part of the park was even more crowded though so we picked a few things that we wanted to see or do and focused mainly on those. First, we headed into Adventureland where we went on Pirates of the Caribbean. I think this one freaked the girls out a little, but I’ve always loved that ride. After that the girls spied the Magic Carpets of Aladdin and wanted to go on that so all five us went. It’s very similar to the Dumbo ride and gives a nice view of the park when you’re up high.
After that, we needed a bathroom break and happened to spy the Celebrate A Dream Come True parade heading down the street. We missed the beginning of the parade but the girls and I caught quite a bit of the rest of it and thanks to some very polite folks, the girls got to move up close to the curb and see without lots of people in front of them.
The line for the Jungle Cruise was longer than we wanted to wait in, so we decided to walk through the Swiss Family Treehouse (another favorite of mine back from when I was a kid). This is where the crowds really started to get to me though – I remember being able to run through the treehouse and explore when I was a kid, and this time it was a slowly moving line that wound its way through the attraction so you couldn’t really stop or go back at all.
Hannah really wanted to see Tinkerbell and when I realized that the area for the line to wait in at Tinkerbell’s Nook was air-conditioned, I decided it was worth the hour wait to see her. Hannah, Becca and I waited in line while Ron and Abbi sat elsewhere inside the building (and the a/c) and waited for us. The girls loved seeing Tinkerbell and Rosetta and getting their autographs – these were the only characters we got autographs from at the Magic Kingdom because the lines were just so long.
Back when Ron and I visited the Magic Kingdom on our honeymoon, his favorite attraction, the Hall of Presidents, was closed. So we made sure to stop and see it on this visit – and another side benefit was being able to sit down and relax in air conditioning again. It’s absolutely incredible what they can do with animatronics – the presidential figures look so real. Hannah thought they were real, which prompted an explanation on what exactly animatronics are.
Our last attraction to visit before dinner was another one of my favorites – and one I wasn’t sure how well the girls would do with, the Haunted Mansion. Abbi and Hannah did great and really enjoyed every part of it. Becca was the one who got totally freaked out during the part in the round room where the narrator tells us there are ‘no windows and no doors’ and no way out.
Becca took him seriously and began to cry inconsolably. Once we figured out what was freaking her out we were able to explain that he wasn’t being serious and of course we were going to be able to get out. She calmed down and was ok through the rest of the ride, but I don’t think she really enjoyed it all that much. She’s so sensitive – sometimes I think we forget that because we’re so used to her being a little goofball.
For dinner, we headed over to where “it’s a small world” is located and ate at the Pinocchio Village Haus which is attached to the same building. Then we waited in line and went on the ride – which has always been one that I’ve loved, especially since I have such good memories of it from when I was a kid. The girls really enjoyed pointing out all of the different countries represented and sang through much of the ride too.
At this point we’d seen most of the park and the only thing that we really had left to do was for Hannah and I to go on Space Mountain. We’d gone back after lunch to use our FastPasses only to find out that the ride was temporarily closed. We were told we could come back and use them at any time after it re-opened, so this seemed like the best chance. On our way over there we walked through Fantasyland again and the girls got the chance to go on the Carrousel and Magic Tea Party rides again (they’d been begging to go back on the tea cups ride all day).
Hannah and I both loved Space Mountain and it was so fun to have the chance to share that experience with her. I was worried that she’d be scared since it takes place in the dark, but she got off the ride afterward raving about how awesome it was. We found Ron and the other girls and spent a few minutes dancing with Goofy, Stitch and Pluto at a big dance party in Tomorrowland before we started heading over to Main Street USA for the Electrical Parade.
This is where the crowds really came into play again. We just couldn’t find anywhere with an open spot to watch the parade. Plus it began to rain so we had to pull out our rain ponchos as well. It was hard to see the parade over all of the people and umbrellas, but it was still spectacular. I caught some of it on video through the rain drops – it was my favorite parade of all the ones we saw. I think the rain actually added something very cool because you could see the lights reflected in the wet pavement which was just beautiful.
After the parade, it continued to rain as we moved over to the main area in front of Cinderella Castle for the rest of the nightly shows. At this point, Ron hoped to leave but I convinced him that we had to stay and watch since we were already there. Rain or not, crowds or not – there’s nothing like nighttime at Disney World, and it was an experience I want the girls to remember forever.
A new show took up the time between the parade and the fireworks, and it was so much fun. The Magic, The Memories and You takes the photos that the PhotoPass photographers take in the park every day and turn Cinderella Castle into a giant screen that the photos are projected upon, to a musical and animated background. It reminds me of the Animator’s Palate show from the Disney Fantasy cruise – I continue to be in awe of the creativity that Disney has to make experiencing their attractions so personal. It was hard to see the actual photos through the rain, but watching the castle transform in so many amazing ways was, well just incredible.
Of course once the fireworks ended the crowds all headed for the main entrance, and so did we. We walked through the interconnected gift shops along Main Street USA to avoid the rain as much as we could and then picked up some Mickey-shaped pretzels to munch on while we waited out the crowds a bit. Then we caught the ferryboat across the lake and made our way (slowly) back to our van and then the comfy beds of our vacation rental home.
Overall, we had a wonderful time at the Magic Kingdom and it was so much fun to finally share some of the iconic attractions and rides from my childhood and our honeymoon with the girls. We saw just about everything we wanted to see and even got to take the time to relax a bit during shows or wait times in line. There’s almost too much to see in one day at this park, but we did a pretty good job with hitting all of the high points.
Tuesday was another planned rest day, since we knew going in that the Magic Kingdom would be a long, tiring day. Even so, we had a bit of drama – so stay tuned…
Thank you to VisitOrlando and Disney for the opportunity for my family to visit the Magic Kingdom. Our one-day park hopper passes were provided to us but we paid for everything else during our day at the park, including parking and meals. All opinions stated here are 100% my own or those of my family.