Last Updated on October 17, 2021
Our family recently visited Magic Kingdom Disney World, followed by a Bahamian cruise on the Disney Dream. We stayed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge during the Disney World portion of the trip. We spent two very hot, very humid, very rainy, very crowded days at Magic Kingdom Disney World. Despite the brutal conditions, we had a great time.
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You can get a lot done first thing in the morning. Within a couple of hours of park opening, the crowds descend on Magic Kingdom Disney World like an asteroid is about to hit Earth and Cinderella has the last available force field. You should arrive before opening. Note, I did not say at opening. Before opening. If nothing else, you will get a good chuckle watching people running at a full sprint to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Transportation
Disney World’s on property hotels offer “free” transportation to the theme parks and Disney Springs. Other hotels have more desirable options like the monorail, but Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge only has buses. There are bus stops outside the lobby of the hotel with screens listing the next arrival for each bus. The buses go directly to each theme park every few minutes in the morning.
On the way back to the hotel, the
cattle feedlot loading areas outside Magic Kingdom Disney World are a sea of humanity as far as the eye can see. We had to wait for a second bus because the first one filled up, but the wait time wasn’t too terrible. The kids were able to get a seat most of the time. For the price of included with your stay, the ride was fine.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Touring Plans
Magic Kingdom Disney World is divided into six sections, each with its own attractions. It is difficult to do the whole park in one day if your kid is a ticking 8:00 p.m time bomb. At some point in the evening, after being with your kid All. Day. Long., you will need a White Claw, and Magic Kingdom Disney World is not Applebee’s. Mom cocktails are not free flowing.
If you want to survive a day at Magic Kingdom Disney World without picking up a misdemeanor, you need a touring plan. It might sound lame to plan every aspect of your day. The voice in your pre-arrival head may be saying: “This doesn’t sound fun. This sounds like work! My kids and I are going to skip down Main Street hand in hand with Mickey Mouse, because not one other person will have the idea to go to Magic Kingdom tomorrow.”
Wrong. You will not have fun if you battle crowds all day in the sweltering heat and don’t know from where your next meal is coming when your kids are hangry. Save yourself some heartache and do some planning. Touring Plans is a great website with a free version. It lets you input what you want to do and generates a plan to maximize your day.
Magic Kingdom Disney World FastPasses
FastPasses allow you to enter a shorter (but not necessarily short) line. Each guest can book three per day in advance. If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, you can book 60 days in advance. Everyone else gets 30 days. Those extra days really matter as a lot of the popular attractions are gone well before off property guests can book.
All three FastPasses must be in the same park, even if you are park hopping. Everyone in your party does not have to book the same FastPasses. After the first three FastPasses are gone, you can book more, one at a time, through the end of the day. FastPasses give you a window of time during which to return. The windows cannot overlap.
I do not recommend booking FastPasses in the first hour, because it is typically not yet that crowded. I usually start the first of the three about two hours after park opening and have the last one end by early afternoon. After that, I book more from the app immediately after scanning the last FastPass. In other words, I begin searching for the next one while in line. I am often still on the app when the ride begins trying to find another FastPass. I am like one of the Bundys going for the last of the toaster leavins. Any chatter from a child during this time, even on the rare occasion it is not in the form of a whine, is an irritation.
Do you see why this is nonsensical? I don’t pay attention to my family or the ride so I can book another ride to which I will also not pay attention. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle. At least we avoid lines. I doubt this was what Walt Disney intended.
Generally speaking, you will want to prebook some of the following FastPasses at Magic Kingdom:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Haunted Mansion
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Jungle Cruise
- Pirates of the Caribbean
If you were thinking you could skip booking FastPasses and just wing it, you could, but this decision would be on par with that woman’s decision to swim with the polar bear at the zoo.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Tickets
Disney World has a few ticket options, but it really boils down to base tickets and Park Hopper tickets. Base tickets are one theme park per day. Park Hoppers allow you to visit more than one per day. We always do base tickets at Disney World. Hopping is too big of a hassle. They are not walking distance like the Disneyland theme parks.
Disney World recently started charging higher rates on more crowded days. There is a calendar you can check for the prices.
Disney World tickets are stupid expensive. People attend a semester of community college for less. To save money, I buy my tickets directly from the Disney World website using discounted gift cards. It is cheaper, but it is also tedious to manage them. If you don’t feel like putting in the time, discount websites like Undercover Tourist sell tickets at a discount.
Disney World has three dining plans. We got the mid-level one, the Disney Dining Plan. It includes one quick service meal, one table service meal and two snacks per day. It also comes with a refillable mug to use at resorts only. People debate whether dining plans are worthwhile, because true to form, they are expensive. I like the Disney Dining Plan for where we are in our lives right now. Our kids like characters and benefit from a midday break from the sun. We are going to do some more expensive meals regardless of whether we have a dining plan. It made financial sense for us this time.
All meal credits come with alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages. This sounds like a big perk, but factor in the lack of Zima when deciding whether a dining plan makes sense for your family. In 2020, the cost is $78.01 per adult and $30.51 per child per day.
The price is steep. However, Disney World is not Taco Bell. The food is expensive. The quick service restaurants are cheaper, but not cheap. I recommend checking menus and prices on the Disney World website to decide whether the plan is cost effective for you. We tried several restaurants during our visits to Magic Kingdom Disney World.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Gluten Free Dining
Be Our Guest
This Beauty and the Beast themed restaurant is set in the beast’s castle. It serves quick service breakfast and lunch, and a table service dinner that requires two credits on the dining plan. We tried the lunch.
I ordered a carved turkey sandwich with Pommes Frites. I was less than excited about the prospect of this meal. It seemed so unoriginal. I can make turkey sandwiches at home, right? However, it was actually one of the best things I ate the whole trip.
You can order your food 30 days in advance online. Do it! I got some push back from people in our party about ordering in advance. How do I know what I will want to eat in a month? The menu has like eight choices. I think you can figure it out. When we entered the restaurant, we went straight to a table after we checked in. Meanwhile, the crowd of
normal people non-planners had to wait in a line a mile long to order.
Even though this is a quick service, you need a reservation, and you want to be online bright and early on day 180, or you likely will not get it at all.
My boys don’t really care about Beauty and the Beast. There are not nearly enough superheroes fighting Gaston with lasers and spiderwebs. Despite that, we really liked it. The inside has a lot to see. The food was good. It was a great break from the sun. I will definitely book this one again.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
This is a quick service that seems to be going for a futuristic, space type theme. They should have just named it “Don’t Eat Here”. It is SO BAD. Really. So, so bad. You have to wait in different lines to order different things, meaning, you often have to wait in more than one line to accommodate the requests of two children. The food is terrible. The restaurant is chaos. The only box it checks is no reservation required. No one in his or her right mind with the good sense to make a plan would ever choose to eat here.
I ordered a Greek Salad because it was offered in the line in which I was standing. Not good, overpriced, you would do better at McDonald’s. You get the point. Avoid.
The Crystal Palace
This is a buffet with Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore. The food is similar to most other Disney World buffets, such as Chef Mickey’s. It is expensive. As of the time of this writing, it is $55 per adult and $36 per child for dinner. It has salads, soups, meats, sides and shrimp. I went to town on the shrimp, but even then, it was tough to justify the price. It is one credit on the dining plan, which is one of the reasons the dining plan made sense for us this time. You will want to make a reservation, but I don’t think it has the 180 day urgency of Be Our Guest.
The restaurant was fine. We waited a considerable amount of time for our table despite having a reservation. The food was nothing special and was definitely the quality of which you would expect at a buffet. The gluten free dessert choice was limited to soft serve ice cream. We probably won’t do this one again, but the character interaction was adorable.
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
This Italian restaurant has a Lady and the Tramp theme. We booked it because it was the restaurant offered in the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package. For one table service credit on the dining plan, we got a three course meal and “VIP” parade viewing for the Festival of Fantasy Parade. This package would have been $54 for adults and $19 for kids. If you want to do this, consider the dining plan.
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant gets a bad rap online. People really detest this place. It wasn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t any worse than the majority of the places we tried. I ordered a salad, spaghetti and meatballs and gelato. It was a ton of slightly above average food, but they do have booze! The kids still maintain it was their favorite meal, so I am sure we will do it again if we have a dining plan. There is no way I would pay the cash price for the parade package. Make a reservation for good measure, but I doubt you really need it.
Main Street Bakery
Despite the fancy name, this is Starbucks. The prices may or may not seem inflated, depending where you reside. It accepts snack credits from the dining plan.
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
This is a quick service Mexican restaurant with some American options. You order basic items, then add toppings from a toppings bar. This is definitely fast food, but it wasn’t bad.
I ordered a rice bowl. Not unlike most thirty somethings, I have a cheese addiction. I got my money’s worth at the toppings bar. However, the bar is an absolute nightmare for people sensitive to cross contamination. I assume they will bring you food from the back if you ask. The kids liked it. We will definitely go back.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Festival of Fantasy Parade
As mentioned above, we got “VIP” seating for this parade. “VIP” is in quotations in a sarcastic fashion to emphasize how VIP it was not. I purchase packages like these because I am a big proponent of throwing money at something to avoid having to cut a b—-. I am obviously a slow learner, because I should have picked up by now that paying extra for parade seating is not worth it. In fact, in this case, it was a detriment.
We arrived 15 minutes before the parade as instructed. It was approximately 4,000,000 degrees Fahrenheit during this parade in the middle of the day. The viewing area had no shade and nowhere to purchase a beverage. They also neglected to tell us the parade wouldn’t roll by our viewing area for about 25 minutes after start time. If you are doing the math, we sat on hot asphalt in Death Valley for 40 minutes before a single float passed. The heat was oppressive. I was a little worried the kids were going to faint.
The parade itself was cute. The floats were intricate. There was lots of waving. The fire breathing dragon was not in the parade while we were there because it recently caught fire, presumably by breathing on itself. We would watch it again if it was convenient, but it isn’t a must do for us. I didn’t try to stake out my own spot, but I assume it can be done fairly easily if you set up shop at least a few minutes before the parade.
Magic Kingdom Disney World Happily Ever After Fireworks
In my never-ending quest to avoid other people, we also booked the Fireworks Dessert Party with Plaza Garden Viewing. You arrive prior to the show to eat dessert in Tomorrowland Terrace. There is a fairly large buffet of dessert, fruit and cheese. They brought me a special platter from the back that could have fed my son’s entire basketball team.
When we were there, it was cheaper, but as of the time of this writing, it is $79 per adult and $47 per child. This is not part of the dining plan. I booked it separately using discounted gift cards.
Is it worth it? That’s tough to say. How badly do you want a good view? Unlike the parade package, which I can unequivocally say is not worth it, if you want a good view of the fireworks and the projections on the castle, this might be. Our kids ran around and played while they waited for the show to start. Meanwhile, the area outside of our enclosure looked like Walmart on Black Friday, except no one got a TV at the end, and I bet a lot them left in really bad moods.
The fireworks themselves are really awesome. They are definitely worth watching. They make your town’s Fourth of July celebration seem about as impressive as when your kid jumps off the second step from the bottom of the staircase. I am honestly not sure if we will do this again in the future, but I’m glad we did it once.
We love Magic Kingdom Disney World. There is a ton for people in every age group to do together. Unlike Six Flags, toddlers can get on the majority of the rides. It has something most people will enjoy if they can get past the heat and crowds. You can maximize your day and minimize your stress with some research and a good touring plan. Take your family. You will (probably) not regret it.