A lot has changed (for the better!) since Magic Kingdom reopened in summer 2020. The progress for "returning to normal" has slowly, but surely, been moving in the right direction. Some experiences may still have some modifications, but we've seen the return of fireworks, as well as brand-new offerings, including indoor character sightings (Mickey and the Disney princesses are back at Town Square Theater and Princess Fairytale Hall, respectively), the Early Theme Park Entry benefit for Disney hotel guests and Disney Genie.
Plus we're in the middle of the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration, which introduced Disney Enchantment, the new fireworks show that features dazzling projections all the way down Main Street! In 2022, the castle show and Disney Festival of Fantasy parade will return, as well as a new cavalcade.
With so much going on during an ever-changing time, we imagine you have many questions: What's the deal with Disney Genie? Is it worth using Genie+ and the individual Lightning Lane selections at Magic Kingdom? What's hoppening for the 50th inside the park? Well, we've been frequently hopping to the park to keep an eye on things, so we can help you prepare if you decide to return to the parks in the near future.
Arriving at 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 reserve your spot as soon as you're able to! 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 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 them 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. Strollers will be searched separately off to the side.
Masks are still required on buses, monorails and the Skyliner. The monorails are typically fully loaded as normal. 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 has its own security check.
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 you're planning a whole day at Magic Kingdom, that's even more reason to arrive as soon as the park opens and take advantage of extra time without park hopping guests in the afternoon!
Magic Kingdom Attractions and Wait Times
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 the highest wait times. Sometimes, the lines end up being actually much shorter than the posted wait time. For instance, 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. It seems like every time we've gotten in line, the ride takes about half of the posted time.
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.
The majority of attractions are open at Magic Kingdom except for Enchanted Tales with Belle. Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover and Casey Jr. Splash 'N' Soak recently reopened. At the end of the night, you can catch the all-new Disney Enchantment!
Magic Kingdom Entertainment
Frogtastic news — there's even MORE entertainment returning to Magic Kingdom in 2022! Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire comes to the castle stage, which will include sequences from the previous show's iteration as well as a new opening and finale in honor of the 50th anniversary. Catch Mickey and friends in fabulous EARidescent outfits and hear an all-new song, "Where the Magic Feels Like Home."
A new cavalcade will debut called Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, featuring the most character characters of any cavalcade! See Nick and Judy from "Zootopia," Baloo and King Louie from "The Jungle Book," José and Panchito from "The Three Caballeros," Miguel from "Coco," along with Merida, Moana, The Incredibles and more. What an adventurous crew! No word yet on if this cavalcade will replace any of the current cavalcades.
And saving the best for last — the Festival of Fantasy parade will return in early 2022! We can't wait to see this vibrant parade making its way through the park again. Disney has confirmed that there will still be cavalcades in addition to the parade.
Using Disney Genie+ at Magic Kingdom Park
We go into more depth about the new free planning tool, plus Genie+ and the individual Lighting Lane selections, in our separate guide and FAQs. But we've quickly learned that our Genie strategy differs from park to park. It also affects our general touring advice, even for those who do not opt to add on Genie+ or the individual Lighting Lane selections. We're still learning the ropes so our advice may continue to evolve, particularly as we head into the busy holiday season.
Starting out with the basics, here's the full list of rides that have Lightning Lane access, which you can get through either Genie+ or as an individual Lightning Lane selection.
Genie+ Rides at Magic Kingdom
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Haunted Mansion
- “it’s a small world”
- Jungle Cruise
- Mad Tea Party
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Splash Mountain
- The Barnstormer
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
Individual Lightning Lane Selections at Magic Kingdom
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
Out of all four parks, Magic Kingdom has the most Genie+ rides (and each park only has two individual Lightning Lane selections). And because there are so many options, we think it's well worth getting Genie+ at Magic Kingdom — whether it's your only park for the day or if you're park hopping. On our first day of using Genie+, we managed to grab five Genie+ reservations and one individual Lightning Lane selection (Seven Dwarfs) before it was time to park hop at 2 p.m. Pretty solid usage if I say so myself!
As for the individual Lightning Lane selections, we think it's toadally worth considering for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We managed to snag a time window earlier in the morning. During our arrival window, the standby line was already 60 minutes long, but we only spent less than five minutes in the Lightning Lane queue.
On the other hand, Lightning Lane access for Space Mountain isn't an absolute necessity, unless you're visiting during a very busy time. While we would try to get a Lightning Lane selection for Seven Dwarfs early (before it's sold out, as it's more likely to on busier days), we'd hold off on getting one for Space Mountain. Just because you can purchase two individual Lightning Lane selections doesn't always mean you should! If Magic Kingdom is your only park of the day, then wait it out because you might be able to hop in the standby line when it's low. And if you're park hopping, you could use your second individual Lightning Lane selection at a different park.
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 (times can vary by day). There are several different cavalcades so you can see a variety of characters:
- A Royal Princess Processional: Merida, Rapunzel, Tiana, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Elena, Jasmine, Mulan, Snow White, Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother
- Mickey's 50th Celebration Cavalcade: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, Chip, Dale and parade dancers
- Magic Kingdom Cavalcade: Gaston, Moana, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aladdin and Mary Poppins (days vary)
- Disney Friends Cavalcade: Clarabelle Cow, Max, Stitch, José Carioca, Panchito and parade dancers (days vary)
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure: Tinker Bell (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've 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.
Mulan recently joined the Royal Princess Processional, which is 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.
Indoor character sightings are also now hoppening. Mickey is back in Town Square Theater and the Disney princesses have returned to Princess Fairytale Hall for individual interactions (minus hugs and autographs). It's still not quite the same as traditional character greetings, but it's nice to get some one-on-one time with them. Note that PhotoPass photographers are not stationed at these locations so you'll need to snap a selfie on your phone.
Restaurants and Retail at Magic Kingdom
Certain restaurants may still be using mobile ordering exclusively. You select an arrival time 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.
The merchandise pick-up service and delivery service to Disney Resort hotels are still unavailable, so schedule your shopping time accordingly. We'd recommend later in the day, so you don't have to lug your bags around.
Touring Advice for Magic Kingdom
We always recommend arriving early, ahead of the official opening time. If you're a Disney hotel guest (or a guest at select hotels), take advantage of Early Theme Park Entry. An extra half-hour might not sound like a whole lot of time, but it makes all the difference when you're trying to be one of the first in the standby line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. You can easily get a jump start before the normal park guests can enter at the official park opening time. If you're not a Disney hotel guest, we still recommend that you arrive for rope drop and consider springing for an individual Lightning Lane selection, specifically Seven Dwarfs.
So you don't want to purchase an individual Lightning Lane selection and you're not a Disney hotel guest? We'd avoid Seven Dwarfs because, more often than not, the line will already be long when you enter upon park open. Come back to it later, and pivot toward Peter Pan's Flight instead. Lately, Peter Pan's Flight has had low wait times first thing in the morning but it builds and doesn't let up for the rest of the day.
50th Anniversary Celebration at Magic Kingdom
If you're looking to party in honor of the 50th anniversary, Magic Kingdom is the place to be! Mickey and his pals only wear their EARidescent outfits when they're in Magic Kingdom. You can meet Mickey individually at Town Square Theater, or you can see him and his friends in Mickey's Celebration Cavalcade. In early 2022, you can see EARidescent outfits in a special new finale of the castle show "Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire" with an all-new song, "Where the Magic Feels Like Home." You'll also spot the most Fab 50 golden statues, which are scattered around the park. Some are even in unique places, such as Stitch climbing on the Tomorrowland Purple Wall.
There are plenty of 50th food options — and we've already tried some tasty ones! You can also find one of the largest selections of 50th merchandise at the Emporium. And as a combination of food and merch, find the special celebratory popcorn buckets and sippers.
Once it gets dark, Cinderella Castle glimmers as a Beacon of Magic. End your night with fireworks, as Disney Enchantment lights up the night sky!
Additional Magic Kingdom Tips and Tidbits
- 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.
- Take some time to get photos or videos of Cinderella Castle's new colors at many different angles, especially at night when it turns into a Beacon of Magic!
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.