There are a lot of stories that get passed around cast members. For those who aren’t aware, “cast members” are what Disney calls it’s employees. Some are bad guest experiences, but most are magical moments that guest’s experience. I remember hearing a story about a sixty-year old grandma walking into the gates of Magic Kingdom and breaking down crying. She had made it. After years and years of saving, she finally was able to go to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Snow White happened to see this woman crying and comforted her. That is what makes this park truly magical.
Magic Kingdom is the smallest theme park on the Walt Disney World property but, in my opinion, has the most to do. I consider it a three-day park. You do one day for rides, one day for characters, and the next day for shows. This will allow you time to properly stroll through the park and not have to rush to your next fast pass. I’ll be writing this in three posts due to the massive amounts of information and organization.
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So, welcome to Part 1 of a cast member’s guide to Magic Kingdom. If you want to read about Part 2 Entertainment, click here A Cast Member’s Guide to Magic Kingdom Part 2: Entertainment and Part 3 Lagniappe, click here A Cast Member’s Guide to Magic Kingdom Part 3: Lagniappe.
Rides are the quintessential essence of any theme park. It’s a no brainer your mind might race straight to the thought of Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, or the Mad Tea Party when you hear Walt Disney World. These are some of the first attractions at the theme park. And, if you’re anything like my family, this is probably the only thing you care about. But there are a few things you need to know first.
Fast Pass +
Disney has implemented a new system of Fast Passes than what most people are probably familiar with. This is known as Fast Pass + (abbreviated as FP+). You can choose up to three fast passes per day two months in advance if you are staying in a Walt Disney World Resort or one month in advance. Each FP+ is an hour time slot based on the time you choose for a certain attraction. I highly recommend you book your FP+ as soon as possible online or through the “My Disney Experience” mobile app. Your selections are then found on your park ticket (either a magic band if you are at a Disney resort or on your plastic card).
You can select any of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom for your three fast passes, from Splash Mountain to a meet and greet with the big cheese himself. It really is up to you and your family’s preference on what you want to do. Though, there are some choices where the wait times would be better skipped.
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Splash Mountain
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Space Mountain
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Haunted Mansion
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
- Mickey Mouse meet and greet
- Cinderella meet and greet
Obviously those are more than three selection’s worth. So what do you do when you can’t select everything you want to do? Well thankfully Disney allows you to keep selecting one more FP+ after you have used all of your current selections.
Tips for FP+
A good way to utilize this is by selecting early times for your FP+ selections. Unfortunately you cannot select these new fast passes via “My Disney Experience” so you’ll have to find a FP+ kiosk which are located in various locations around the park.
You’re allowed to go to your FP+ attraction 5 minutes before your designated time and 10 minutes after. When you walk up to the attraction, look for the sign that says “Fast Pass + Entrance” and touch your park ticket to the touch point similar to the park entrance. There will be cast members to help you out and please have your FP+ tickets in your hand when you walk up. This will help the lines keep moving quick and efficient as possible.
Also, do not be discouraged when you see a “long line” for the FP+. It’s a common sight I assure you. The wait time will be greatly less than the standby line and your patience will be greatly appreciated.
My Disney Experience
One thing to know is that your best friend throughout the park will not be someone in your family. It will be “My Disney Experience”. This is a new mobile app that Disney rolled out a few years ago and will be the reason your phone battery will be dead (I recommend packing a portable phone charger). It has everything you will ever possibly need to make your vacation a lot smoother. There are a lot of key features you will find notably handy, but I will focus on just two of them right now.
My Disney Experience Features
I mentioned before about being able to book FP+ through the app. If you already have FP+ scheduled, all of your selections will show up when your first log in under “My Plans”. They will organize it chronologically by time. My suggestion? Screen shot the daily plans. This helps saves your battery life by not having to keep opening the app to see when your FP+ selection is. From that screen you can click on your existing FP+ selection and can even decide if you wish to delete or change your choice. I personally found it a lot easier to change my FP+ experiences on the app rather than online.
But you’re probably tired of me mentioning FP+. Lets say you can’t score that golden FP+ selection of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. What are you to do now? Well, I hate to say it, but you get to wait in line like the rest of us! This is the bitter truth about most of your time in the Magic Kingdom or anywhere in Disney. It’s just lines, lines, and more lines. Instead of having to walk across the park to figure out what a wait time is for a certain attraction, “My Disney Experience” app allows you to pull up all of the current wait time data for the four major theme parks. It’s incredibly nifty when wondering what direction your family will go in next. This is the reason why your phone is in need of a good battery charge.
So what are these coveted rides that I have prolonged to talk about after 1,000 words? Here are your answers:
With Kids in Mind
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin is one of the best attractions for kids of any age. This was my nephew and I’s favorite ride, with ages ranging from 3 to 21. It’s situated in Tomorrowland in-between Carrousel of Progress and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. You are a Buzz Lightyear space cadet helping to fight off Zurg from taking over the galaxy. Boarding the attraction’s vehicle, you will be shooting targets scattered throughout the whole ride with a laser gun basically. The vehicle spins around in circles and you can expect the other passenger to spin you around in circles just for fun.
Do not worry about your young one not getting any points either. There are a lot of targets that are close up just for those younger kids in mind. And the game is set to give you and those around you points for just attempting to shoot targets! If you somehow manage to get 999,999 points, there’s probably even a secret sticker for you to collect at the end of the ride.I highly recommend one of your FP+ selections to be this one if you have a young one or a young at heart.
People Mover is one of the few non-FP+ rides and is situated in the heart of Tomorrowland. It will bring you all around the land of tomorrow and even through Space Mountain! The wait time will usually be short for the ride and is a hardcore Disney fan’s favorite ride. Why? On the first part of your journey, you can see Walt’s first plans for Epcot. It’s truly interesting to see, as it’s a model of a city. Walt hoped for a utopian city but the idea was scraped when he died. The corporation thought that they couldn’t implement the idea with Walt Disney himself supposedly.Fun fact: Right outside of Walt Disney World is a town called Celebration.
The Walt Disney Company actually developed the town only to divest most of it’s control over the town.The other neat thing about People Mover is when Space Mountain is either closed for refurbishment or is down temporarily. Occasionally when this happens, you have a chance at seeing Space Mountain with its lights on! That is a rare sight to see.And despite those two reasons, the ride alone is a great time to sit down after a long day and just relax. You get an aerial view of Tomorrowland and all it’s glory.
Carousel of Progress
Carousel of Progress is another of those non-FP+ ride that hardcore Disney fans love. The attraction originated as Walt’s submission to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The auditorium rotates as the stage transitions through the 20th You see how families evolved over time with the power of innovation with a catchy tune of “It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow” playing at the end of each scene. It actually has great humor for the young and the old. And if that isn’t a great reason to see the show, 21 minutes of sitting in an air condition auditorium should be.
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor is a FP+ attraction that I don’t recommend a FP+ for. Though it is a “show”, you have a wait time and runs consistently throughout the day. The wait time will usually only spike during peak seasons and when it’s raining. It’s a comedy show essentially. You go to the monster world and Mike Wazowski’s friends tells jokes to get you to laugh to gather energy for their city. It involves interactions with audience members making it a unique show almost every time you go.My favorite part about the show? Going to different parks where you can find Mike Wazowski. When he says “Hello Humans!”. you can always notice who has seen Monster Inc. Laugh Floor by who raises their claws up and roars. It’s the most adorable thing ever and I love it.
Astro Orbiter is the last preschool attraction in Tomorrowland and is located right above the People Mover. I do not recommend this for anyone who is terrified of heights as you soar above everything in Tomorrowland in this Dumbo-esque ride. It’s also incredibly a tight space in the rocket so please reapply deodorant for the sake of the other passenger in your vehicle.As fun as the ride is, I really only recommend this for dates who you want to get closer with. The wait time can be incredibly long, as you have to go up an elevator to get on and off. I do not think there is FP+ for this ride either. Combined the long wait, with the tight space, and being in the scorching heat of Florida, this ride isn’t for everyone.
Dumbo is one of the most popular preschool rides in all of Walt Disney World. In fact, when Disney demolished the old Toon Town, they expanded on the ride to help relieve the wait time. It is a FP+ available and do recommend it if you are short on time. But part of the expansion of the ride is actually a playground. While the adult waits with a buzzer (securing their spot in line), the kid can run around in the covered AC playground. I think this was an excellent part on Disney’s innovation. You and your kid will be very happy. It’s a classic ride involving revolving Elephants with you being able to control the height. Perfect for any one new to rides not knowing what to expect.It is located at the entrance of Storybook Circus in the back right of the park.
The Barnstormer is a thrill ride for little kids. It is situated next to Dumbo and the Walt Disney Railroad Station – Fantasyland. It has FP+ available and only recommend it if you are short on time. The ride is jerky for adults being only built with children in mind.
*There is a splash pad for kids situated in front of the Barnstormer and restrooms. Perfect for cooling off in the hot heat of Florida.
Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Voyage of the Little Mermaid is a slow moving dark ride. It does have FP+ available and would consider it if you are traveling during peak times and you are a fan of the Little Mermaid. Wait times vary drastically depending on weather and peak season so be weary. It is located adjacent to Ariel’s meet and greet and behind Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.You board a seashell and scuttle retells the tale of Princess Ariel. You’ll go through various iconic scenes from the movie such as “Under the Sea” or “Poor Unfortunate Souls”. My only complaint? A huge portion of the movie is left out from “Kiss the Girl” to the wedding scene.Fun Fact: Part of the queue is left over from the previous attraction: 1000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Mad Tea Party
Mad Tea Party is a classic for anyone familiar with Walt Disney theme parks. There is FP+ available but I do not recommend it. If you get there around first thing in the morning, you might even find Alice riding with a lucky guest! You and your family get inside a teacup and try to spin it as fast as you can. This is not meant to be ridden if you have motion sickness though.You will find it walking from Tomorrowland to Storybrook Circus.What’s your favorite teacup color?
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. There are FP+ available for this ride and I recommend it if you are focused on a small height range. If you choose another selection over this, I highly recommend going early in the day to ride this as the wait line usually sits about 30 to 45 minutes. It’s not too long, but not short either. Luckily, there are games and things to do to help the weight go by.You travel in a honey jar through the pages of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. It focuses on the events from the movie of the same name. It’s an amazing ride for all ages. It’s a slow ride that literally makes you a part of the story.It is located right in front of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and adjacent to Mad Tea Party.
Enchanted Tales of Belle
Enchanted Tales of Belle is a unique brand new experience for Beauty and the Beast fans. FP+ is available for the attraction and is recommended if you are a fan of the animated film.You help Lumiere recreate the story of how Belle and Beast first met. You’ll even have the pleasure of meeting Madame de la Grande Bouche (the talking wardrobe) herself! It’s actually a really cute experience for a Beauty and the Beast fan. It’s actually the only place you can meet Belle in her ballgown and take pictures with her too. When you depart, she’ll give you a free bookmark so you can be just as studious as her too.The highlight of the attraction? The technology. Throughout the story telling, you’ll see what Disney has been cooking up in it’s laboratory with “wow” moments at every corner.
Prince Charming’s Carousel
Prince Charming’s Carousel is a classic ride and is a staple at any carnival/faire/theme park. FP+ is not available and is found directly behind Cinderella’s Castle. This will be mostly skipped by many tourists, as there is nothing special about it.Fun fact: you can ride Cinderella’s horse. It is the second horse in from the outside and is the only horse with a golden ribbon around the tail. Can you find it and get to it first? A must for any Walt Disney World Bucket List.
Peter Pan’s Flight
Peter Pan’s Flight should be one of your FP+ selections if you have a kid in mind. The wait time seldom is found below 70 minutes throughout the day except during fireworks. If you choose to wait in the queue, you can travel through the house of the Wendy Darling. It will be a treat for any hardcore Peter Pan fan with the attention to detail.On the ride you will ride through the air on a pirate ship that was sprinkled with Pixie Dust. You will soar over the city of London and then find yourself in Neverland and it’s inhabitants.
Watch out for Captain Hook though!It is directly in front of It’s a Small World going towards Liberty Square from Fantasy Land.Fun fact: The ride has a classic look with the outdated technology. Disney isn’t allowed to update the look of the ride without bringing the ride to OSHA standards. Despite that, the ride is completely safe.
It’s A Small World
It’s A Small World is one of those other iconic rides across Disney theme parks worldwide. You either love it or hate it. It has FP+ available, but I do not think it is needed unless you are a devoted fan to the ride. The wait time can vary drastically depending on weather conditions and peak seasons so be prepared.For those who don’t know, it’s a slow boat ride about the different cultures around the world and features one endless song that seems to never end. I bet you’re singing “It’s a Small World afterall” on repeat right now. Your welcome.
The Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion is next iconic attraction you’ll notice on your way through the park. It’s FP+ and is recommended if you are a fan of classic Disney experience. The wait time gets incredibly long after Festival of Fantasy so be prepared after the parade for a lot of people. It is located right outside the Rapunzel bathrooms and Harbor House restaurant.The attraction starts long before you board your doom buggy as you’re herded through the mansion. Rooms will stretch, people will scream, and prepare for people reciting along with the narrator.
The question for most parents is if the attraction will be too scary for their kids. My answer? Probably yes. If I can scare my older sister on this ride, your kid can also be easily scared. Things will pop up behind gravestones during the graveyard scene towards the end and has an overall creepy atmosphere. I wouldn’t bring my nephew onto the ride, but use your own judgment. It’s a classic for a reason.Fun Fact: All of the cast members that have bats on their costumes have names for their animal. Ask them what their bat’s name is and they’ll answer you. One of them was “Neil Batrick Harris”. What’s your favorite bat name you’ve heard?
Liberty Square Riverboat
Liberty Square Riverboat is a non-FP+ attraction and is situated near the intersection at Liberty Square. It usually starts running a few hours after park opening and closes after sunset. It’s not air conditioned but is a very relaxing boat ride around Tom Sawyer’s island where you can notice a few deer and maybe even a Native American village on the banks of the river!This is great for kids who enjoy a nice boat ride or for families who might need to just relax from the hustle and bustle of the theme park. During the middle of the day, the Riverboat closes for the general public and transforms into a desert party with Princess Tiana in time for the Festival of Fantasy. More about this event later.
Country Bear Jamboree
Country Bear Jamboree is a hidden gem amongst the attractions of the Magic Kingdom. It’s technically a show in Fronteirland across from Pin Traders store. The show was originally meant to be a part of a ski resort in California, but instead became part of the park’s opening attractions and did phenomenally well. The subject matter of the songs are rather adult themed but they are masqueraded enough to be suitable and entertaining for people of all ages.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride is another version of Dumbo featured in Adventureland. You fly around Agrabah on a flying carpet and hopefully can avoid the spraying of a camel’s spit! Rarely, and more common first thing in the morning, you might even find Aladdin or Jasmine flying with you! There is FP+ available for the ride but I recommend using the FP+ for Dumbo as the wait time doesn’t get too long for this ride.Fun fact: There are two carpets that each control a camel’s spitting. One will control the spitting for the riders of the attraction where as the other one will try to get the people walking by wet!
Jungle Cruise is a boat ride experience that features FP+. I would recommend FP+ for this ride if you plan on going in peak times. A skipper will guide you through the jungles around the world on their handy dandy boat. Along the journey, expect countless of terrible jokes and laughter at how bad they are. Seeing elephants, waterfalls, alligators, and maybe even caves will amaze kids!Fun Fact: During November and December, the ride transforms into the Jingle Cruise, a holiday take on the classic Jungle Cruise ride. It will definitely bring you into the festival season. There’s no need for a ticket to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party either as it runs daily, all day.
Enchanted Tiki Room
Enchanted Tiki Room is another one of those “shows” that is considered an attraction. It runs about 20 minutes with your lovely host being Pierre, Jose, Fritz, and Michael. They are singing birds that will enchant the room around you. The whole room will literally come alive in this traditional Polynesian theme. Most kids enjoy the various singing birds and plants, but might be scared when a storm occurs during the show. Regardless, it’s an interesting and unpopular experience for the whole family. It does not use FP+.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean is another boat ride found in Adventureland. FP+ is available but the queue normally moves by quickly in my experiences. It’s a slow moving boat ride that tells the tale of Jack Sparrow, which inspired the popular movies by the same name. It’s a classic ride featured in every Disney theme park around the world. Though, the beginning might be a bit scared for those preschoolers as it’s creepy and dark.Fun Fact: You can actually receive an additional free fast pass exclusive to this ride by completing a few tasks around Adventureland, covered in another part of A Cast Member’s Guide to Magic Kingdom.
For Older Kids
Space Mountain is a household name for popular rides. Though not part of the opening attractions for Magic Kingdom in 1971, it quickly was added four years later and has been a landmark since. FP+ is recommended if you or your family is interested in thrill rides. The queue will get long throughout the whole day, only diminishing for Happily Ever After or Festival of Fantasy. If you cannot get a FP for this, I recommend visiting the attraction first thing in the morning at park opening. The ride vehicle sits six people vertically. As you are traveling throughout space on the ride, it will be dark and jerky.Please keep all hands inside the vehicle for safety reasons. There are countless of stories of people getting injured during the ride due to not following rules.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the newest of the thrill rollercoasters and the queue reflects that. Please get a FP+ for this attraction, though they are very hard to come by. You will find a two-hour wait daily, only being low during Happily Ever After and Festival of Fantasy. I do not recommend going at park opening as everyone who did not get a FP+ to this attraction is already going there. I really recommend going right before park closes. If you are in line before the park closes, you are guaranteed a spot on the ride with a significantly less wait time.
The biggest question asked: is it worth the two-hour wait time? No. But is it my favorite ride? Yes. Traversing through the mine itself and spotting the seven dwarfs is truly breathtaking. Dopy welcomes you with the diamonds stuck in his eyes like in the Snow White movie and you can’t help but join the singing of “heigh ho”. Words cannot do the scene justice making it the highlight of the whole new Fantasyland expansion.It is a great ride for kids and adults if you can manage to get a FP+ or wait in the queue.Fun fact: The animatronics at the end of the ride are actually repurposed from the original Snow White’s Scary Adventure ride.
Splash Mountain is another iconic ride based on the old and forgotten movie: Song of the South. FP+ is available and recommend if you are going during summer times. The queue can really get long especially around midday thanks to the heat and Festival of Fantasy parade. Try to do the ride first thing in the morning or late at night if FP+ is not available. Children and adults will find it scary before the big drop as the vultures greet you overhead.
Big Thunder Mountain
Big Thunder Mountain is the last of the big rides in the Magic Kingdom. It’s the furthest walk from the entrance and is adjacent to Splash Mountain. FP+ is available and recommended if you and your family is into thrill rides. You embark on a fast paced train journey throughout the Wild West. This is probably one of the more intense rides in Magic Kingdom but doesn’t feature any scary scenes for kids.
So after reading about the 25 attractions, what should you expect your FP+ selections to look like for a family of four with mixed ages?
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Space Mountain
What are the ideal FP+ selections for children under or around 5 years old?
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh/Jungle Cruise
“Why isn’t Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain included in any of the FP+ lists mentioned?”
The two rides are right next to each other with probably the furthest walk from the entrance. Most of the other guests will be going to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train in the morning. Instead of following the crowd, go to Big Thunder Mountain first and then go directly onto Splash Mountain while the crowds are significantly low. You can knock out two of the most popular rides off your list within 30 minutes of the day. I only would recommend FP+ selections for Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain if your family is notorious for sleeping in.
“Where is Tomorrowland Speedway?”
The attraction is confirmed to close down sometime soon so Disney’s TRON Lightcycle Power Run Rollercoaster can debut for Disney’s 50th anniversary in 2021. Though the closing date has yet to be disclosed, with the recent closures of The Great Movie Ride and Ellen’s Universe of Energy, it can be announced to close anytime now.
Stitch’s Greatest Escape
“What is Stitch’s Greatest Escape?“
The attraction is only open when park reaches high volume of guests. There is no FP+ available for the attraction and wait times are usually low even when it’s open. You sit in the dark as Stitch runs loose in a room. Though a loveable character by most generations, this ride is really only recommended to those who have a goal to ride every ride in the park.
Wondering around Magic Kingdom with a full family can be very hectic and aggravating. But hopefully with this guide, I can help ease the stress of planning your trip. Do you have a favorite attraction at Walt Disney World?