Mastering the Magic Kingdom: Making the Most Your Time at Disney’s Busiest Park
Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom can be daunting to try to see in one day. In fact, it is almost impossible to enjoy every attraction on one-day, but with a plan, an understanding of the layout, a quick pace, a willingness to sacrifice certain items, and a concerted effort to maintain a steady pace, you can see most of it.
Whenever I attend The Magic Kingdom, this is the plan I follow. I have never used a Fast Pass for any visit, and I have achieved everything on this list, albeit with a feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day. With the understanding that families with smaller children or members with disabilities will probably not be able to keep up with this pace, I write this piece for the enterprising among you who want to achieve Maximum Ride Time. MRT is a goal of many visitors, but it can only work with a great plan (and aide from the Disney apps that show you waiting times for the rides).
Try this out and let me know if it works for you!
Everyone who has done the Magic Kingdom knows that the best time to get to the park is for Rope Drop, when park opens and the rope is dropped for visitors to make their way into the park proper to enjoy rides, shows, and attractions. It is sometimes known as “The Dumbo Dash” as everyone used to bolt straight to the Dumbo ride, one of Magic Kingdom’s most iconic attractions, but also a slow-moving line that grows longer-and-longer by the end of the day. If you are a MRT person, you know that Dumbo (especially if you have already done it) is not a required ride, but one to hit if the line thins or if you are doing a second day at Magic Kingdom. For my plans, this is what I do at Rope Drop.
1. The rope drops and I dart down Main Street USA (you can shop and eat later) and head straight to Fantasyland. I immediately hit Peter Pan’s Flight (ride it twice, because it is one of my favorites), then exit and turn left and head over to Liberty Square where I hit The Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. If you move quickly, and keep your focus, you can do all of these in the first-hour at the park (I’ve done it several times). They are all relatively close together, and tend to get longer lines by about 10:30 AM.
2. Depart this area of the park and work your way toward Tomorrowland. On your way, stop in Fantasyland again and hit 7 Dwarfs Mine Train. You may wait a little while (frankly, I don’t think it is worth it), but if it’s a must-do, this is where you figure it in.
3. From here, continue to Tomorrowland, and get in line for Space Mountain. You might wait about twenty-minutes, but it is still early enough in the day that it won’t be too crowded yet.
4. After this, you can breathe, relax, get a snack, or take a nap at The Hall of Presidents (we’ve all done it). You have hit most of the long line attractions in The Magic Kingdom.
Around noon, families with children will decide to deal with lunch. It is not your job to eat when everyone else does, so do not even try to have a meal between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM.
1. I find this to be an excellent time to wander over to Adventureland and tick Pirates of the Caribbean and The Jungle Cruise off my list. Pirates’ line moves relatively quickly. Jungle Cruise is a roll of the dice, but around lunch, the line dies down.
2. A quick stop at the The Enchanted Tiki Room will also give you some down time to sit in air conditioning and enjoy a corny classic.
After Lunch/Afternoon Parade:
1. After lunch, the rides will start to get busy again, so it is best to hit a few rides with shorter waits such as It’s a Small World, Aladdin’s Carpets, or Cinderella’s Carousel. This is also the time for you to get a quick counter lunch (I suggest Frontierland or Adventureland for this, as lines tend to be shorter there.
2. When people begin to line-up for the afternoon parade (Parade it at 3:00 PM), this is your chance to get in line for some other popular rides, as the lines will thin-out with people trying to secure a good spot to catch Mickey and friends in their promenade down Main Street USA. This is a great time to catch Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, Buzz Lightyear, The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and/or Winnie the Pooh. You might get two or three of these in, unless it really dies down.
After the Parade/Dinner:
1. After the parade, families with small kids will use this time to hit a few more rides before packing up and heading home. You should consider this another span of down time. Catch a show like Country Bears Jamboree or Carousel of Progress, do a little shopping, or have a snack.
2. While families might be grabbing dinner. or heading out of the park, take a leisurely ride around Magic Kingdom on the Walt Disney World Railroad or a gliding jaunt on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover. It’s a great way to rejuvenate before the final stretch of this race.
3. Around 6:30 PM, grab yourself some dinner (I like to go to the Liberty Tree Tavern or Be Our Guest, but you can get a counter dinner if you want to keep dinner short). Sit-down dinners usually require a reservation, so be sure to make one well-before your trip to the park.
After Dinner to Park’s Close
1. When things start to die down, this is the perfect time to hit anything you may have missed or revisit favorites (I always go back to the Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and Splash Mountain at nighttime (they are an entirely different experience after dark).
2. This is also the time to do any shopping you may want to do and grab that last Dole Whip (If you haven’t had Dole Whip, it is a must) before you see the fireworks and go home.
I have followed, essentially, this very plan every time I go to The Magic Kingdom, and it has never failed for me. Sometimes you need to adjust a touch, but I have never had to use a Fast Pass (though, with advent of 7 Dwarfs Mine Train, I might consider using a FP on that). You may not get to do character meet-and-greets, or casually drink in the park, but if you are interested in achieving Maximum Ride Time, this plan will get you close to hitting everything you like. Of course, some of us plan a second day at Magic Kingdom, but not everyone has that luxury. If rides are what you crave, this is your best bet.