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Home / Blog / Theme Park Tips & Planning / Our Ultimate Guide to Magic Kingdom Park

Our Ultimate Guide to Magic Kingdom Park

by Mommy Frog on August 31, 2023
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When you think of Walt Disney World, you might first picture the famous Cinderella Castle and other elements of classic fantasy. Magic Kingdom is often the first thing people think of with the resort. It is quintessentially "Disney" and is truly magical! From classic rides like Haunted Mansion and "it's a small world" to newer attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and TRON Lightcycle Run, there is something for all ages. If it's your first time headed to the park or it's been a few years, here's everything to know about Magic Kingdom.

Guide to Magic Kingdom - Closeup of Cinderella Castle

Overview of Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom Park opened in 1971 as the beginning of Walt Disney World Resort. It's where you'll find the iconic Cinderella Castle and nostalgic attractions such as Dumbo and "it's a small world." You'll find similarities to Disneyland Park and even different versions of the same rides such as Big Thunder Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean. The park is timeless and full of fantasy and magic — truly the most "Disney" of the resort's theme parks.

Magic Kingdom Park Map

Magic Kingdom's layout is known as the "hub and spoke" method. You have different areas that are each accessible by one central hub. Easily enough, the area around the front of Cinderella Castle is often referred to as the Hub. As we frogs like to say, the Hub grass is the best grass! This layout makes it easier to get from one end of the park to the other since everything is connected through the middle.

There are six lands in Magic Kingdom. Starting off is Main Street, U.S.A. with its nostalgic American small-town architecture. Follow the street down toward the iconic Cinderella Castle. Head left into Adventureland for some tropical exploration and classic attractions. Make your way to the old west with Frontierland and then the patriotic Liberty Square. Fantasyland houses most of the classic "Disney" attractions and is the largest land (it underwent a large expansion in 2010-2014 that created the themed Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus sections). Rounding it out is Tomorrowland which represents the possible future of technology.

Planning for Magic Kingdom Park

Magic Kingdom Park Tickets

First, you'll want to make sure you have bought and linked your Walt Disney World tickets within My Disney Experience (and yes, Undercover Tourist tickets can be linked there!). Through Jan. 8, 2024, Disney World has implemented a new theme park reservation system that requires all guests to obtain a specific park reservation in advance. 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!

Guests with passes or tickets that include the Park Hopper option must make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park they plan to visit and enter that first park prior to visiting another. Additionally, there are specific Park Hopper hours — Park Hopper hours begin at 2 p.m. each day.

Magic Kingdom Park Hours

Be sure to double-check the park hours ahead of time! You can see Magic Kingdom hours listed in the My Disney Experience app or on the Undercover Tourist Crowd Calendar. Magic Kingdom will often have the longest park hours of the four theme parks. Special events (such as Halloween and Christmas parties) may cause the park to close early to regular guests. You'll also want to note when key entertainment, such as fireworks and parades, are taking place.

Arriving (Plus Extra Hours) at Magic Kingdom Park

Transportation and Ticket Center - signage

Here’s what to know about your arrival at Magic Kingdom. Remember to have your Magic Kingdom park pass reservation for the day. If starting at another park and planning to park hop (with an eligible ticket or annual pass), you’ll first need to tap into your first park. Once park hopping hours begin (typically 2 p.m.), you would then be able to tap into Magic Kingdom.

If driving, you'll park at the Magic Kingdom parking lot. But interestingly enough, you can't walk to the park from there. You will walk or take the parking tram to the Transportation and Ticket Center. From there, you can take the ferry boat or the monorail over to Magic Kingdom. If traveling via a Disney bus or Minnie Van, you'll be dropped off directly at Magic Kingdom. Rideshare services such as Uber or Lyft will drop off at the Transportation and Ticket Center.

 

If staying at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort or Disney's Contemporary Resort, you can hop onto the resort monorail line. Staying at any of these "monorail" resorts makes it super easy to get to Magic Kingdom. There's also a very short walk to the park from the Contemporary, and a slightly longer trek is now open for those at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Small resort boats are also available for those at the Grand Floridian, Polynesian, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

For more details, check out our Magic Kingdom transportation guide!

However you arrive, you'll pass 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.

Rope Dropping and Arriving Early

The key is maximizing your day at Magic Kingdom is arriving early. By doing so, you can often accomplish one to two popular attractions with much shorter waits than the rest of the day. Did you know you can actually hop onto rides before the official park opening time? "Rope dropping" refers to arriving before park opening. Sometimes cast members will have an actual rope and will lead the group of people through the park in an orderly fashion.

Though waking up early on vacation may not sound thrilling, the benefits mean less waiting and more rides in the day. Sometimes you can be on and off a ride before the park is even open yet. Talk about efficiency! With Magic Kingdom, you'll want to leave time for transportation, especially if driving. We recommend planning to arrive at the parking toll plaza at least an hour before park opening.

Note that the new Early Theme Park Entry benefit for hotel guests may affect your rope drop strategy. While hotel guests head to Tomorrowland and Fantasyland early, you may want to head left toward Adventureland and Frontierland.

Using Early Theme Park Entry

Early theme park entry – Sign in front of Cinderella Castle

Guests of Walt Disney World hotels or other eligible hotels can use Early Theme Park Entry, allowing access to any of the four theme parks 30 minutes before the parks open to the public. And the best part? This perk is offered every day, at every park. Each eligible guest will need to tap in, so make sure your whole party is linked to your hotel reservation.

At Magic Kingdom, only certain parts of the park are open during Early Theme Park Entry. If utilizing this benefit, you’ll be directed to Tomorrowland or Fantasyland. This is a great time to ride popular attractions such as Space Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan’s Flight.

Using Extended Evening Hours

As the opposite of Early Theme Park Hours, Magic Kingdom is one of the theme parks that typically offers Extended Evening Hours to guests of Deluxe hotels, Deluxe Villa hotels, Swan and Dolphin, Swan Reserve and Shades of Green. Usually, it hoppens on Wednesday night for two hours after the official park closing time (though the schedule is subject to change). You will need to scan your Magic Band or MagicMobile pass at every ride to verify your eligibility, and the restaurants and shops will check before any transaction as well.

Magic Kingdom Park Attractions

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom

 

Magic Kingdom has the most amount of rides and attractions of the four theme parks. This is also the park with the least amount of height requirements, which is perfect for families with young tadpoles. There are lots of rides and experiences you won't want to miss at Magic Kingdom!

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will typically have the highest wait time throughout the day. Other popular attractions are Space Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise and Haunted Mansion. TRON Lightcyle Run, the newest attraction at Magic Kingdom, may operate with a virtual queue.

Magic Kingdom Park Entertainment

There is so much quality entertainment to see at Magic Kingdom!

Fireworks

Guide to Magic Kingdom Fireworks — Happily Ever After

It wouldn’t be a day at Magic Kingdom without some fireworks above Cinderella Castle! A frog family favorite, Happily Ever After dazzles with fireworks, projections, lighting and a beautiful storyline with Disney songs and characters. You won't want to miss this show! Check out our guide for the best spots to watch.

Festival of Fantasy parade — Ariel

Parades and Cavalcades

The Festival of Fantasy parade is a larger-than-life production you just have to see to believe! The parade typically occurs in the afternoon and travels from Frontierland, through Liberty Square, past the castle and down Main Street. Celebrating the beauty and awe of fantasy, catch floats from films such as "Tangled," "Peter Pan," "The Little Mermaid" and more. Keep your eyes out for Maleficent, the fire-breathing dragon. This parade is full of beautiful floats and tons of characters — we highly recommend watching it!

Be sure to also check out the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, featuring nearly 30 characters, including rare ones such as Marie from "The Aristocats," Nick and Judy from "Zootopia" and Miguel from "Coco." The cavalcade is constantly updating with newer characters, so you never know who you'll see.

For more tips, check out our guide for the best parade viewing spots!

Shows and Ambiance 

On the castle stage, Mickey's Magical Friendship Faire includes sequences from the previous show's iteration (featuring characters from "Princess and the Frog," "Tangled" and "Frozen") as well as a new finale with an all-new song, "Where the Magic Feels Like Home."

Throughout Main Street, you might hear the serenading voices of the Dapper Dans, a colorful quartet, or hear the tunes of the Main Street Philharmonic or the Casey's Corner piano player. Every evening, there is the Flag Retreat ceremony as the flag is lowered in Town Square.

Though not listed, the Frontierland Hoedown is where cast members and characters "spontaneously" gather for an exciting dance in the streets.

Character Sightings

Characters at Disney World - Young girl meeting Rapunzel

 

Magic Kingdom has a variety of characters you can meet either outside or in themed indoor locations. You can meet characters like Mickey and friends, Winnie the Pooh, Jack Sparrow, Aladdin and more. Not surprisingly, Magic Kingdom is the best park to see most of the Disney princesses, either with meet-and-greets or in passing during the parade and cavalcade (For more royal fun, check out our guide for finding the princesses at Disney World!). Character set times are typically available in the My Disney Experience app.

Using Disney Genie+ at Magic Kingdom Park

Disney Genie allows guests to bypass the standby queue and enter attractions via the Lightning Lane. We go into more depth about the new free planning tool, plus the paid Genie+ service 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.

Disney Genie+ at Disney World — Genie+ Offerings at Magic Kingdom

Using Genie+, you can choose from a wide variety of attractions. For an additional cost, you can purchase an individual Lightning Lane selection for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or TRON Lightcycle Run.

Rides or attractions that do not offer any Lightning Lane are Astro Orbiter, Carousel of Progress, Hall of Presidents, The PeopleMover, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel and Tom Sawyer Island.

Genie — Tip Board on Phone in front of Cinderella Castle

Out of all four parks, Magic Kingdom has the most Genie+ rides. 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. For Tron, if you don't want to deal with a virtual queue, or want to secure a specific time such as riding at night (our favorite!), we highly recommend purchasing the individual Lightning Lane.

Shopping and Dining at Magic Kingdom Park

Disney World's 50th Anniversary – Pre-celebration merchandise collection

There are lots of small shops throughout the park, but the biggest one is The Emporium on Main Street, where you'll find the most souvenirs. Merchandise pick-up to the front of the park and delivery service to Disney Resort hotels is 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. Don't wait until after the fireworks though, as Main Street shopping is very busy during this time.

For dining, there are a variety of quick-service restaurants, table-service restaurants and various snack carts to choose from throughout the day. For quick-service restaurants, we recommend mobile ordering. Some locations may still be requiring mobile orders, while others will have limited in-person registers. 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.

Disney World Dining Reservations - Check-in signage

For table-service restaurants, be sure to plan ahead and be prepared to make dining reservations 60 days in advance. Many restaurants such as Be Our Guest and Cinderella's Royal Table are very popular and can fill up quickly.

Special Events at Magic Kingdom Park

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party

weens and Teens at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party - Vanellope in the Boo-to-You Parade

Get ready for Halloween at Magic Kingdom with Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! This separately ticketed event occurs on select nights from mid-August through Oct. 31. Typically running from 7 p.m. to midnight, guests can enjoy a "Hocus Pocus" stage show, special fireworks, Mickey's "Boo-To-You" Halloween Parade, rare character greetings and more. Plus, everyone is encouraged to dress up in costume and go trick-or-treating!

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party

Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party — Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration show

 

Held on select nights in November and December, Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is a must-do for the holiday season. The separately ticketed event features  Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, Minnie's Wonderful Christmastime Fireworks, a castle stage show, character sightings, castle projections, ride overlays and, of course, festive food! And did we mention there's "snow" fall on Main Street?

Additional Tips for Magic Kingdom Park

That's not all! We have a few more tips up our sleeves:

  • Because there are a lot more rides at Magic Kingdom, we still suggest getting your higher priority outdoor rides done earlier in the day so you don't risk the chance of not being able to ride them due to weather delays (especially with the Florida summer afternoon storms).
  • Take some time to get photos or videos of Cinderella Castle's new colors at many different angles. Want to get the perfect photo of you and the castle? Check out our tips for the top PhotoPass stops at Disney World!
  • When exiting the park at night, there can be long lines for Disney transportation. If heading to the parking lot, there will be long waits for the ferry boat and the monorail. Our secret tip is to head toward the buses. There will be charter buses toward the end that drop you off at the Transportation and Ticket Center, saving lots of time and allowing your feet some rest. When first entering the bus area, we recommend double-checking with a cast member that they are running the buses just in case, but they've had them each time we've visited recently.

First time visiting Magic Kingdom? Let us know in the comments below what's on your must-do list!

Related: The Rides and Experiences You Won't Want to Miss at Magic Kingdom

Related: Which Disney World Park Should I Choose?

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
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