Ask a Disney Question: First-Timer with One Day in the Magic Kingdom.
From Denise O.: My family and I are doing one day in the Magic Kingdom this Saturday. None of us have ever been. Kids are 18 and 13 years of age. They will be most interested in fast/roller coaster type rides. What should we NOT miss. We only have the one day. I till take any advise I can get. Thank you in Advance.
Hi, Denise. I love this question because I’ve done it myself. It’s exhausting but a lot of fun. So here’s the bad news: The day you’re going is the end of spring break. It’s going to be busy and hot. The good news is you can make the most out of your trip by doing a couple of really simple things.
I know from taking to you that you won’t be purchasing park hoppers, so you’ll be spending the entire day in the Magic Kingdom (MK). Saturday’s hours are from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. It’s an extra magic hours morning, which means that resort guests will be allowed to enter the park an hour prior to day guests. This will add to some of the crowding in the MK that day. Hopefully, that also means that at least some resort guests will be exhausted by early afternoon and return to their rooms for a break, giving you a least a little relief from the crowds.
With that in mind, here are the basics:
Getting There is Half the Fun: Parking on site is $14 a day. Getting to the MK is a little involved; it’s designed to heighten your sense of anticipation by delaying your arrival and then showing you glimpses of the park as you travel either by monorail or by ferry but that also means it takes a while. You’ll park in the MK parking lot. At this point, you’ll have the option of taking a tram to the Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) or walking to it. Save your feet and take the tram unless you’re really close. At the TTC, you’ll have a choice of taking the monorail or the ferry. The express monorail goes directly to the MK; while on the express you’ll ride thru the Contemporary Resort, which is kind of an iconic experience. The resort monorail stops at the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian before it gets to the Magic Kingdom. If the line for the express monorail looks long, try the resort monorail, as the lines are almost always shorter. The ferry takes a few minutes longer than either monorail, but it’s a very scenic route and it can also hold many more people, so again, if there’s a long line this can be a good bet. Three ferries run between the MK and the TTC.
One important thing: Give yourself at least an hour to get from the TTC to the MK if you want to be there at rope drop (Disney language for when the park opens).
Once you’re there, you’ll go thru security and they’ll check your bags. A good way to save time is to not carry a handbag or backback. You’ll be waived thru a special line with no security check. Next, you’ll go to one of many turnstiles, which usually quickly. If you can, avoid lines with lots of strollers.
And There It Is: Cinderella Castle. Next, you’ll enter Town Square and beyond that, Main Street and Cinderella Castle (Quick trivia: no apostrophe S). Behind you is the railroad station; there’s a train that goes around the park with stops in Frontierland and Toontown. The Magic Kingdom is easy to get around in and well-designed in a hub and spoke pattern mimicked by other theme parks. The worst bottlenecks are in Tomorrowland and Frontierland. Pathways extend from the hub to the various lands: Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Mickey’s Toontown Fair, Main Street USA, and Adventureland.
Touring the Parks. While the Magic Kingdom is the quintessential WDW experience, it lacks thrill rides. In fact, Disney thrill rides are divided among the four parks, so without a park hopper, you won’t experience all of them. Still, there is plenty to do in the MK and your boys won’t be disappointed. There’s actually a whole body of knowledge devoted to touring the parks in a way that maximizes your experience and minimizes your wait times; I’ll talk more about this at the end. Roughly what this entails is getting to the parks when they open, using fastpasses, and visiting the busiest attractions early in the day.
In case you’re not aware, a fastpass (FP) is your friend. You’ll go get your first FP right when the park opens for the busiest rides. In the MK, these are the “mountains,”, Splash, Big Thunder, and Space as well as attractions like Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and he Haunted Mansion, both of which your boys and you will love. Just take your ticket and put it in a FP machine at the attraction you’re interested in. It will give you a return time a bit later (sometimes a lot later) and you’ll go ride something else while you wait. Notice on the FP that you can get another FP for another attraction an hour or so before your return times. Also, if you don’t make your return time, you’ll still be allowed in.
So this is what I would do. When the park opens, head toward Tomorrowland and get a FP for Space Mountain. If the line isn’t too long, ride it, giving you a minimum of two rides on Space Mountain that day (now and when you use your FP). Then head over to Splash Mountain and ride that, followed by Big Thunder Mountain. Choose Splash first, as it almost always has longer lines. Since it’s close, go on Pirates of the Carribean next and then go over to the Haunted Mansion. Both of these lines move fairly quickly although they can look intimating. Then go to It’s a Small World in Fantasyland and Mickey’s Philharmagic, which is this great 3D movie with a few surprises; nearly everyone loves it. It’s a nice place to cool off as well. At some point, you’ll want to head back over to Tomorrowland and use your Space Mountain FP and go on Buzz Lightyear, an addictive interactive ride.
At this point, there are still lots of great attractions, but you’ve hit all the major ones and can start to take it a bit more slowly. Personally, I wouldn’t waste a FP on any of the minor attractions. Instead, I’d use them to ride the more popular rides again, although keep in mind that FPs often run out for these rides fairly early. In this case, by all means use a FP for something less popular if it can save you time. If you have time, try to do the Swiss Family Treehouse, the Jungle Cruise, and the Astro Orbiter. These lines should be manageable.
The Parades and Shows: Don’t forget to catch Dream Along with Mickey , a show that takes place several times a day in front of the castle ,and Celebrate a Dream Come True parade which is at 3:00 and starts in Frontierland, goes past the castle and down Main Street. You’ll also want to catch Wishes, the nightly fireworks show (10:00 the night you’re there), and Spectromagic (9:00 that Saturday), an electric light parade not to be missed. You can get a schedule when you come into the MK of that day’s events. Disney fireworks shows are amazing, by the way.
One thing about watching the parades, shows and fireworks. Lines at attractions tend to be shorter while they’re going on, so if you’re willing to forgo these events, you can get some extra ride time.
A Few More thoughts:
- You can get good counter service meals just about anywhere in the MK. We like Tomorrowland Terrace for variety.
- Don’t leave the parks at closing time. Stroll around, sit and relax, or shop and snack for up to an hour after closing and avoid the mad rush for transportation
- You can bring your own food into the parks. Freeze a couple of water bottles that you can drink later and refill.
- If you have a lot to carry, you can rent a locker at the front of the MK.
- Moms who gamely run around the Mk with their teenage boys deserve a rest, so send them off for a half houror so while you relax for a bit. Try the Tomorrowland Transit Authority, a quiet, soothing ride that winds its way through Tomorrowland, the Hall of Presidents, or the Carousel of Progress. Alternatively, if they annoy you, make them sit thru Country Bear Jamboree.
One last thing. If you want to maximize your time in the parks, spend $8.95 and get a subscription to Touring Plans, from the people behind the Unofficial Guide. These plans give you examples of how to tour the parks and save time. You’ll also have access to Lines, which gives you wait times and fastpass availability on your phone. It’s a great way to keep from walking all the way across the park only to find out that there’s a 120 minute wait. You can even input times if you want and use thecaht feature if you have a question or comment for a fellow user. We’re not affiliated with them in any way, we just really like what they do and trust their experience.