When Magic Kingdom Park reopened in July 2020 after having been closed for months, a lot of emotion hit me at once as we finally walked down Main Street, U.S.A. with Disney music blasting from the speakers and Cinderella Castle glistening in the background. Fast forward to now, and the progress for "returning back to normal" has slowly (but surely!) been moving in the right direction. Many of the health and safety measures continue to evolve. Character experiences and entertainment still have modifications, but we're starting to see the return of more character dining options, the Electrical Water Pageant, and fireworks!
Speaking of fireworks, make sure to check out Happily Ever After, the nighttime fireworks spectacular, at Magic Kingdom before the show retires Sept. 29. Check out our Magic Kingdom fireworks viewing guide for all the best spots to watch. We look forward to seeing this frog favorite show a few more times before making way for Disney Enchantment, the new fireworks show that will feature dazzling projections all the way down Main Street!
Disney World had limited capacity in its parks when it first reopened a year ago. Now that capacity is increasing, we imagine you have many questions: How has the park experience changed? What are the character experiences like? Are lines really long? Well, we've been frequently hopping to the park this past year to keep an eye on things, so we can help you prepare if you decide to return to the parks in the near future.
Getting into Magic Kingdom Park
Just like the other Walt Disney World theme parks, you'll need a Disney Park Pass reservation and valid admission if Magic Kingdom will be your first (or only) park — so be sure to reserve your spot as soon as you're able! Now that crowds have returned, we'd suggest arriving the earlier, the better.The parking trams are not running, so keep that in mind when you arrive and leave at the end of the day.
The entry process operates smoothly, and we usually zip through security checkpoints. Security now has the contactless, high-tech metal detectors that allow you to walk through without having your bags searched — unless the detectors are set off. If you have any large items with metal, such as an umbrella or DSLR camera, take them out of the bag and hold it straight in front of you as you walk through. Smaller items, such as cellphones and car keys, shouldn't set off the alarm, so those are fine to keep in your pocket or bag.
Due to evolving safety measures, the monorail and ferryboat are quickly returning back to normal. Starting June 15, masks are only required on buses, monorails and the Skyliner. Dividers on the monorail have been removed and more parties are allowed in each cabin. While we prefer the ferryboat for its open air, both can get you to Magic Kingdom easily. The bus station, walkway from Disney's Contemporary Resort and resort ferries are operating as well. Each have their own security bag checks.
If your ticket includes park hopping benefits, you'll only need a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park you'll be hopping to. Park Hopper hours generally start at 2 p.m. and run until the park closes. If traveling by bus, cast members may scan your MagicBand to confirm you are eligible to hop and to check that the park is still available (since parks are still subject to capacity limits). If you're planning a whole day at Magic Kingdom, that's even more reason to arrive as the park opens and take advantage of extra time without hoppin' guests in the afternoon!
Magic Kingdom Attractions and Wait Times
Initially, wait times were significantly lower upon reopening. Now that crowds have returned to Magic Kingdom, you can expect the popular rides, such as Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, to have about 90-minute wait times while the majority of the rides stick to 60 minutes or less. Sometimes, the lines end up being actually much shorter than the posted wait time. So far, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad has been a consistent example of a ride queue that moves swiftly despite having a line that extends beyond the entrance. Every time we've gotten in line, the ride takes about half of the posted time. Recently, Jungle Cruise had a 65-minute wait but we only ended up waiting about 35 minutes.
Rides may still have health and safety measures in place, including touchless hand sanitizer dispensers near the entrances and exits. Interactive elements in queues, such as the jewels in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, may be roped off. There are no FastPasses available. However, people with a DAS card or those taking advantage of Rider Switch will typically use the FastPass+ line.
The majority of attractions are open at Magic Kingdom except Enchanted Tales with Belle. Happily Ever After, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover and Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak recently reopened, and Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor returns Aug. 8.
Character Experiences at Magic Kingdom
Instead of parades, you can still see your favorite characters in cavalcades throughout the day. While you may not be able to hug them, they will wave and blow kisses to you from afar. Recently, you can now view cavalcade showtimes in the My Disney Experience app, so be sure to check while in the park for the most up-to-date times. There are several different cavalcades so you can see a variety of characters:
- The Royal Princess Processional: Merida & Angus, Rapunzel, Tiana, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Elena, Jasmine, Mulan, Snow White, Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother (Typical showtimes: 11:45, 1:50, 3:00, 4:15)
- Mickey & Friends Cavalcade: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy and parade dancers (10:40, 12:00, 2:15, 3:55, 5:20)
- Magic Kingdom Cavalcade: Gaston, Moana, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aladdin and Mary Poppins (2:05, 3:15, 4:35, 5:40 – days vary)
- A Goofy Cavalcade: Goofy, Max, Clarabelle Cow, José Carioca, Panchito and parade dancers (10:25, 11:35, 2:25, 3:35 – days vary)
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure: Tinker Bell (10:10, 11:15, 2:35, 3:45 – days vary)
- Main Street Philharmonic
All of the above cavalcades and processionals move along the normal parade route from Frontierland to Main Street, U.S.A. Shortly after the conclusion of a cavalcade, some characters will appear above Town Square at the train station. We've regularly seen the princesses and Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto greeting guests down below. While not advertised as its own cavalcade, we also seen Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, accompanied by Eeyore, Piglet and Rabbit riding in a Main Street trolley. They travel down Main Street, venture around the Cinderella Castle hub and end their journey back in Town Square. The Hundred Acre Woods friends alternate with the Dapper Dans.
Recently, there have been changes to some of the cavalcades. Mulan has joined the Royal Princess Processional. It's rare to see her at Magic Kingdom with her fellow princesses! Moana is now part of the Magic Kingdom cavalcade, which is also very exciting because we normally only see her during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. We love that these character appearances switch up every once in a while to keep the magical surprises coming! You can still have a possible short greeting with characters too — Lily toadally beamed that the Fairy Godmother told her "Happy birthday!" from atop her float!
You may also spot additional characters at designated locations throughout the park. Buzz Lightyear and Stitch can be found sporadically (raised on the Rockettower Plaza Stage) in Tomorrowland. The Country Bears, along with Chip 'n' Dale, greet guests from the balconies of the Country Bear Jamboree theater (in fact, one peeked down to ask for a bite of Leap's Dole Whip!). Jack Sparrow may suddenly appear in Adventureland. Our personal favorite interaction was Anastasia and Drizella bickering behind Cinderella Castle.
Restaurants and Retail at Magic Kingdom
Certain restaurants may be using mobile ordering exclusively, including Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe and Pinocchio Village Haus. You select an arrival time window — like a choosing a FastPass+ window — when you order, and once you're near the restaurant, you can hit "I'm Here, Prepare My Order." If you're prepping your meal during a busy dining period, it may take a while before your food is actually ready for pick up as there are a lot of other orders being processed, so take that time into consideration.
We recently mobile ordered at Aloha Isle to get some much needed Dole Whip. There was still a regular line but mobile order was highly promoted and recommended. Due to it being peak summer afternoons, we waited in line over 20 minutes once our phone said the order was ready for pick up (since it's made in front of you once you give your order number, the order was still fresh and cool.) This was the longest wait we had for mobile order, so we recommend either avoiding peak times or being prepared to wait a bit for some pineapple goodness.
For retail locations, pay attention to the signs when entering or exiting a shop, especially the Emporium, which has multiple entryways. There is a designated entrance near the middle of the Emporium. If possible, try to get your shopping done earlier in the afternoon, as opposed to waiting until just before the park closes. Walking through the Emporium before park close can feel a bit chaotic, and during our most recent visit, there was a long line to get in at park closing.
Touring Advice for Magic Kingdom
We always recommend arriving early, ahead of the official opening time. Instead, we have found that frogs are spread fairly evenly throughout the park. Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train are some of the popular rides with higher waits, followed by Space Mountain. Not too much of a surprise there!
During our repeat visits, we noticed that the attractions in Frontierland and Adventureland consistently had higher wait times all day, and were shortest first thing in the morning. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train averages 75 to 90 minutes, but dips down in the late afternoon and early evening. Meanwhile, most attractions in Fantasyland and Tomorrowland have lower wait times that stay the same for the majority of the day.
If you're a big character person, Magic Kingdom is the best park (so far) to see the most characters. We know it's strange not being able to get close to them, but we think these cavalcades are pretty neat! We don't normally see this many princesses together, and the Magic Kingdom Cavalcade has a unique mix of characters. Never knew I needed to see Aladdin and Mary Poppins on the same float!
Early on during this initial phased reopening, we noticed crowds thinned out considerably by the late afternoon. While it still holds true that the later half of the day is less busy, it seems that more and more frog families are staying until park close. With the return of park hopping and fireworks, crowds have fluctuated more in the afternoons and evenings.
Additional Magic Kingdom Tips and Tidbits
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor returns to Tomorrowland Aug. 8.
- Because there are a lot more rides at Magic Kingdom, we still suggest getting your higher priority rides done earlier in the day, so you don't risk the chance of not being able to ride them due to cleaning or weather delays.
- Make sure to see the nighttime fireworks spectacular, Happily Ever After, before it retires Sept. 29!
- Take some time to get photos or video of Cinderella Castle's new colors at many different angles! Seriously though ... Tad has done some of his best work to date.
Do you have any questions about Magic Kingdom reopening? If you're planning to visit the parks, let us know what you're most excited about in the comments below.