Magic Kingdom is the star of the show at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Walking through the gates is like entering an alternative universe, where happiness prevails. Joy and excitement bubbles up inside you and the pastel buildings of Main Street battle for your attention. There are characters and musicians distracting you as you try not to detour through any of the shops, as they entice you with adorable souvenirs and mouthwatering aromas. Magic is definitely in the air.
This is the park that you think of as “Disneyland”, and, like its Californian counterpart, Cinderella’s Castle is in the middle, Main Street leads from the entrance to the castle, and five magical lands surround the castle in a circle.
Starting from the entrance and heading around clockwise are –
- Magic Kingdom
- Day 1
- Anna & Elsa meet and greet
- Main Street Electrical Parade
- Celebrate the Magic light show and Wishes fireworks
- Day 2
- Cinderella’s Royal Table character meal
- Day 3
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Splash Mountain
- The Crystal Palace character meal with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
- Toy Story meet and greet
- Mad Tea Party
- Read about the rest of our trip here –
I’m sure we’ve broken some unwritten rules here, but we didn’t set foot in Adventureland. This is where you’ll find the Jungle Cruise and the Pirates of the Caribbean rides. I know they’re classics, but hubster and I didn’t love them at Disneyland many years ago, so there were other rides we prioritised for this trip.
This is where you’ll find the Old West, with a couple of classic thrill rides – Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain.
This is a relatively small land themed on the colonial era of America. The buildings are beautiful and the Haunted Mansion and the Liberty Square Riverboat are both here, but mostly we walked through on the way to somewhere else.
This fairytale-themed land re-opened last year with several new additions, including Enchanted Tales with Belle and Seven Dwarves Mine Ride attractions, and the Be Our Guest restaurant. There was so much that we loved in this land that we spent most of our time here, enjoying both the new rides, as well as many of the fabulous classics, like It’s a Small World and Mad Tea Party.
This land is all about the future, with Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and Astro Orbiter located here. Master 6 loved it!
We spent a total of two days at Magic Kingdom, but it was in three parts –
- Day 1 was a half day in the evening after the morning at Animal Kingdom
- Day 2 was a half day in the morning with the afternoon at EPCOT, and
- Day 3 was a full day from park opening until around 5pm
Because this is a bit of an epic post (in length anyway!), you can use this table of contents to jump to the section that you want to read –
Our October Disney World visit coincided with Halloween, when Magic Kingdom often closes at 7pm for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) (7pm-midnight). This is a hugely popular ticketed event that many visitors plan their trips around. But it is a considerable additional cost (about US$65 per person), we’re not massive Halloween fans and we figured the kids would be having late enough nights without it!
For the three days that we planned to spend at Disney World, day 1 was the only day MNSSHP was not on and so therefore it was the only day Magic Kingdom was open late, with the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic castle projection show and Wishes fireworks available to us. So we spent the morning at Animal Kingdom to take advantage of their morning Extra Magic Hours, then headed back to the hotel for a swim and rest, before arriving at Magic Kingdom at around 5pm.
This worked out really well, because while hubster and I probably would have done back to back park time and not gone near the hotel pool at all, the kids had been begging to go in the pool ever since we arrived the night before.
It was lovely and relaxing to be able to wander in to Magic Kingdom when it suited us, with no ambitious aims to get on lots of rides.
Our plan was to see the parade, light show and fireworks, use the three FastPasses that we had booked, and explore and soak up the atmosphere of “The Most Magical Place on Earth”.
We’re here! At 5pm we were welcomed to Magic Kingdom with blue skies, sunshine and hearts filled with excitement.
Main Street is where there is the greatest concentration of Disney PhotoPass photographers. Memory Maker is the surprisingly affordable service which has you paying a one-off fee for as many photos as you have taken during your visit. This includes ride photos, character meet and greets, and all the Disney photographers who are stationed around the park ready to snap the perfect souvenir family photo.
Everyone wants a pic in front of the castle, including us! Tinkerbell even stopped by to sprinkle us with some Disney magic!
Anna & Elsa meet and greet
This was a highly prized FastPass since I spent a lot of time online to secure it! It is the most difficult FastPass to get and ideally needs to be booked as soon as they become available 60 days in advance. I wasn’t that organised, so had to check repeatedly in the hope some would become available. But it was so worth it!
We walked straight in and were made to feel like royalty. I didn’t notice what the standby wait was, but it is often up to 90min. The girls were absolutely lovely and spent so much time with the kids. They are so clever at chatting on and on, asking the kids questions, always staying completely in character, signing their autograph books and having hugs and photos.
More info on FastPasses here.
Main Street Electrical Parade
People started reserving prime spots near Cinderella’s Castle long before this parade was due to start.
Fortunately hubster spotted a front row position for us along the road in Liberty Square about half an hour before the 9pm kick-off. Thanks to our BYO glow sticks I avoided spending money on all the glow-in-the-dark gear. And our BYO ponchos kept our bums dry!
The floats are fantastic and the crowds are so well-behaved. No pushing and shoving despite it being wall-to-wall packed.
Celebrate the Magic light show and Wishes fireworks
The size of the crowds following the parade are a little bit scary. It takes a very long time to get anywhere and you hold onto your children tightly!
I was so thankful that we had a FastPass for the 10pm light show and fireworks, because it meant we had a perfect view in a much less crowded environment. The FastPass area is an enclosed grassy area with a well-controlled entry.
There are beautiful projections on the castle, some narration and music, followed by a magnificent fireworks display. It is the perfect end to a wonderful first day at Magic Kingdom.
After our late night at the fireworks we probably could have used a morning hanging out at the hotel, but the only reservation I had managed to get for Cinderella’s Royal Table was for brunch today, so we had a bit of a sleep in, then wandered back to Magic Kingdom. If you’re keen to get one of these popular reservations, then please follow the tips detailed here.
Cinderella’s Royal Table character meal
Walking into this character meal was one of my teary moments. From the time you approach the check in desk at the entrance to Cinderella’s Castle, you are drawn into a fantasy world. You are addressed as “My Lady” and treated as if you are royalty visiting from another kingdom. Literally. There is no smirk, wink, and “oh isn’t this cute for the kids?”, it is like walking into a play with every staff member playing their parts in earnest.
Suits of armour and tapestries line the stone walls inside the castle, where Cinderella greets you and welcomes you to her home.
Climb the spiral staircase and walk into this impressive chamber.
Girls receive a wand and boys a sword, with both receiving wishing stars. My kids often put the stars under their pillows to make a special wish.
Food is plentiful, although the kids didn’t share much of the bakery plate. I should have asked for another one!
Each princess – Snow White, Princess Jasmine, Rapunzel and Ariel – is formally introduced to the room with a shortened version of her story and theme music. It is quite captivating.
They then visit each table for autographs, chats, hugs and photos.
Thank goodness having Alannah gave me the excuse to book this! It was one of my absolute highlights. I think I loved it even more than Alannah did. Disappearing into this fantasy world was a blissful experience, but also enormously practical. Ticking off so many princesses in one go meant we didn’t have to bother with lining up at individual meet and greets outside in the heat and crowds of the park.
The princesses are particularly fun to meet, because they are some of the few characters that actually speak! Rapunzel had the kids charmed, telling them how Pascal goes to Sydney a lot and is friends with all the koalas. They adored her!
Having survived princess-central, here are my lovely menfolk looking forward to hopping on the monorail to the fast cars and spaceships of EPCOT. In their adorable, matching, freshly-purchased Mickey Mouse caps.
This was our day for putting some serious ride time in.
The best way to get on the most rides in the least amount of time is to arrive BEFORE the park opens.
Crowds start forming outside the gates about an hour before open. There’s not too much waiting around though, because approximately 20 min before open is the Welcome Show. The characters arrive on the train and do a fun singing and dancing performance for the crowds waiting outside. As soon as it’s finished, they open the gates (before official opening time).
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Rather than being the pushing and shoving crush that I was afraid of, the crowds walked steadily and orderly down Main Street before dispersing in different directions.
Many were headed to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train like us. Being the newest ride meant consistently long lines, so going early was the best approach.
We didn’t wait long in the queue, but true to form, the queue was very entertaining.
This contraption played a different note depending which animal you put your hand under. It was fun trying to play a tune, but the kids mostly loved the water spurting out! In the background is a log filled with screens, with a tetris-style game to sort out the dwarfs’ jewels.
It was almost a pity that we didn’t have more time in the line to play!
You will get wet on this ride, but it is definitely worth it!
I love the effort that Disney goes to in creating a story with its rides. No wham bam thank you ma’am here. They take you on a journey.
For Splash Mountain it was the tale of Br’er Rabbit. This character from American folklore is not one I’m overly familiar with, but it was an adorable children’s story with colourful animal-filled scenes that reminded me of the Peter Rabbit stories.
And there’s quite a drop at the end!
The Crystal Palace character meal with Winnie-the-Pooh and friends
We took advantage of the opportunity to take a break and relax in peaceful and beautiful surroundings, by booking another character meal.
Brunch at The Crystal Palace in Main Street means you can indulge in both the breakfast buffet when you arrive AND the lunch buffet when they change over during your visit. Yummy!
Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet are here and, after getting into the stories recently, they were a huge hit with the kids.
Enchanted Tales with Belle
Belle is my favourite princess, so we had a FastPass for this. We had watched this new experience on YouTube and knew it was a re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast story with audience members playing parts. It is absolutely adorable and suitable for very young children. The tiny girl hopping around playing Chip was too sweet for words!
Each group is quite small, maybe 25 people, so there is quite a good chance of getting a part, but I was beside myself with excitement when both kids got in. Especially Hamish who was given the lead role of The Beast. I’m not sure he was quite as excited about being in front of all the people, but as you can see below, the staff do it with them, tell them what to say, and help them along.
Here he is roaring at Belle and scaring her.
Toy Story meet and greet
Because we had booked all the character meals, we didn’t go to any effort to find meet and greets around the park. However, occasionally we happened upon one, like this one in Frontierland.
Even though Hamish claims to be past Toy Story, he still loved having a cuddle with Woody.
The Disney PhotoPass photographer strikes again! Yay to getting all of us in a picture!
Coincidentally we also happened upon this meet and greet with Buzz Lightyear in Tomorrowland.
Mad Tea Party
This classic ride never goes out of fashion.
Read about the rest of our trip here –
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Is visiting a Disney park on your travel wish list?