While the Magic Kingdom has enough entertainment to amuse visitors for days on end, and keep them coming back for years, it’s equally possible to enjoy this park in a single day. If time constraints mean you have to do the Magic Kingdom in one day, the right plan and the right attitude can ensure that your one day is completely unforgettable.
Make A Plan
Before ever you set foot on the monorail or bus that will carry you to the Kingdom, take some time to familiarize yourself with the layout of the park and the different attractions. Don’t try to plan your day minute by minute, but do get an idea of the attractions that you absolutely don’t want to miss. Decide where you are going to head first, particularly if you are going to get FastPass tickets. The time and location of your first FastPass can determine the best route for you to take through the park in order to maximize your time.
Get There Early
This one is easy to plan for, but often difficult to execute, particularly if you have small children with you. Nevertheless, an early start to your day can make all the difference in the world to your vacation. Waiting in line is part of the Disney World experience, but the worst line to be stuck in is the one to buy tickets and get into the park. If possible, buy your tickets to the park ahead of time, but if you have to buy them on the day of your visit, try to be at the ticket kiosks well before the park opens.
Also lines are typically shortest first thing in the day. It is a distinct possibility that you can experience more in the first few hours of the day than in the entire rest of the day. If the idea of an early morning while on vacation makes you tired, consider an afternoon nap. It can help you to recharge, as well as escape from the midday heat.
Take It All In, But Don’t Dawdle
With only one day at your disposal, it’s tempting to attack the Magic Kingdom at full speed and never slow down. However, this park is about the atmosphere and the detail just as much as it is about the rides and the shows. Don’t forget to enjoy the entire Magic Kingdom experience, but be smart about when and where you stop to smell the cartoon roses.
The first steps inside the gates of the Magic Kingdom are special, so don’t be too eager to take off towards Space Mountain or Pirates Of The Caribbean at a full sprint. That being said, the beginning of your visit is not the best time for a leisurely stroll down Main Street USA. Not only is the street typically clogged with visitors early in the day, it’s also largely populated with souvenir shops that are better visited at the end of your stay so that your inevitable stuffed animal purchases don’t have to be carried around throughout the day.
Finesse Your FastPass
The Fastpass system is great if you use it in a smart way, but it can also hold you back and add time to your day if you are not careful. At the entrance to the park at the far end of Main Street USA, you will see a list of all the park attractions and the approximate wait times. After taking a moment to breathe things in as you enter the park, head directly for the first ride you want to FastPass. As time goes by and more people get tickets for certain rides, the FastPass time window will quickly get later and later. You may find yourself unable to use your first FastPass until late in the afternoon, or even find that a ride has run out of FastPasses altogether.
The most efficient FastPassers out there will often send a designated person to retrieve FastPasses for everyone in their party (with everyone’s admission tickets in hand), freeing the others to enjoy a ride or simply see the sights. This is a great option if you have young children with you, since it allows them to jump onto an eagerly anticipated ride right away without slowing down your FastPass mission.
What Not To Miss
The Magic Kingdom contains seven distinct themed areas, and all of them have unforgettable attractions. Fantasyland is often the biggest draw for smaller children, while several speedy rollercoasters in other areas of the park can thrill both older children and adults.
Frontierland is packed full of high-flying fun, including one of the park’s signature roller coasters. This is a great place to start your day and tackle a few highly popular rides before the lines begin to swell. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a high-speed rumble through the old West, and Splash Mountain takes visitors for a floating log-boat cruise past singing animatronic characters before dropping them down a thrilling but not scary descent to the briar patch below. Adjacent to Frontierland is Liberty Square, where the Haunted Mansion is a must-see, although it might be scary for the smallest of the small. If you are looking for a dose of patriotism visit The Hall Of Presidents.
In Fantasyland, Peter Pan’s Flight, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, and the spinning Tea Cups of the Mad Tea Party are fun and classic rides suitable for all ages. Both Dumbo and the Tea Party have outdoor lines, so early morning before the sun reaches its peak is a great time to hit these attractions. If you have younger kids with you, make Fantasyland your first stop rather than Frontierland, where the roller coasters are closed to those under 40 inches tall. Be sure to send an adult with the kids to ride the spinning tea cups, since it takes a bit of strength to spin the cups.
In Adventureland, the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean ride has grown even more popular with the release of the four Pirates movies. While a bit spooky at times, this is a slow-moving ride that anyone can enjoy. The Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse is also a delightful romp, and even those who have not seen the classic film from the 1960s can appreciate the luxury tree-top home brought to life.
Tomorrowland is home to Space Mountain, the park’s most famous high-speed thrill ride. Children tall enough (52 inches) to drive alone will love the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, while Stitch’s Great Escape is a semi-interactive theater-in-the-round experience suitable for children over 40 inches tall due to shoulder restraints that secure visitors during the show.
If you love parades, or even if you don’t, try to make time to see one at the Magic Kingdom. Disney parades are truly spectacular shows, and can be great opportunity to take a break from standing and walking. To maximize your schedule, plan your lunchtime around a parade so that you have a good reason to take some time to camp out along the side of Main Street or the Frontierland Road and ensure you have a good view. If parades really REALLY aren’t your style, consider another Disney show such as The Magic, The Memories and You, or the nighttime fireworks extravaganza.
If you plan your journey through the Magic Kingdom around time-specific events and FastPasses, you can find yourself on a gradual journey around the circumference of the park. Maximizing the morning hours, hitting your FastPass locations at the right time as you progress, and cooling your jets during the crowd and temperature peaks of the mid-afternoon are the only tricks you need to make your park experience unforgettable. You bring the efficiency, and Disney will bring the magic!