You have one day to see the most popular theme park in Walt Disney World -- can you conquer the Magic Kingdom in just 24 hours? With help from the whole family, plus a strategic plan of attack, and, most importantly, lots of energy, it can be done. We've broken down the various lands, listed where to stop and refuel, and have a list of tips on how to beat the lines and save time to maximize your day in the park.
What To Know Before You Go
The Magic Kingdom has six main areas and lands with shops, rides, games and dining options for families: Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, Frontierland and Adventureland. Realistically though, everything cannot be seen or experienced in just one day at the park. Before your trip, strategize based on a few important factors: when you plan to visit, which attractions your children will enjoy most and how many times you plan to stop for food. It's also a good idea to map out your route in advance. Most guests start in Tomorrowland and work their way counter-clockwise through the park, so try doing the opposite if that allows you to see and do everything on your list. Crisscrossing from ride to ride won't save you time.
If your vacation is planned for the off-season, lines will be much shorter, which allows for more time on rides. If visiting during the peak summer months or holidays, you'll have to pick and choose which rides and attractions are most important to your family. If you can, visit late-September through mid-November and then after the New Year before spring break. Book your stay at select Disney resorts and enjoy extended park hours, too. Lastly, be sure to check the park hours for the day you plan to visit.
There are rides geared toward every age group and families should plan to see and do something for everyone.
Start with a stop at Town Square Theatre on Main Street, U.S.A., for a meet and greet with your child's favorite characters, like Mickey and Minnie, then head to Fantasyland, as the best rides for tots are there. Fly with Dumbo, float with Winnie the Pooh and spin on the Regal Carousel with Prince Charming - all have no height restrictions. Don't forget the It's a Small World ride -- it's a classic.
You have a lot of options for kids who are between ages 6 and 12, so be sure to ask them which rides they want to experience the most -- you'll need to prioritize.
We suggest starting in Adventureland for the Pirates of the Caribbean boat ride and the Swiss Family Treehouse attraction. The latter takes the whole family through a six-story treehouse based on the book Swiss Family Robinson. There are no height requirements for these two Adventureland experiences.
Move on to Frontierland for rides like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. The roller coaster winds through the hills of an old gold-mining town at speeds that are fun and safe for kids 40-inches or taller. Get to this ride early to beat the lines or utilize the FASTPASS+ program. Liberty Square is next, for the Haunted Mansion, which is not too scary and open to all riders (no height requirements).
End in Tomorrowland for a stop at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin -- it's fun for the whole family (no height requirements).
The two main rides for teens in Magic Kingdom are Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. The former is in Tomorrowland, so head there first. Riders must be at least 44 inches tall. Splash Mountain is located in Frontierland and riders must be at least 40 inches tall. Other attractions teens might like include the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and the Wheel of Progress; the latter is located in Tomorrowland and is open to all riders (no height requirements). We suggest trying to ride these early or setting up a FASTPASS+ time to ride, as the lines will be long later in the day.
Quick and Convenient Dining Options
You won't be able to make it through the entire day without stopping to refuel empty stomachs. Eat a hearty breakfast before heading to the park so that you only need to stop two or three times for lunch and snacks.
Try Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland for burgers, sandwiches and salads, or Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland for pizza, pasta and chicken.
The Cheshire Cat in Fantasyland is great for a cold drink on a hot afternoon and on-the-go snacks. The Liberty Square Market in Liberty Square offers frozen soda drinks and snacks. If in Frontierland, Westward Ho is a great spot for lemonade, corn dogs and snacks, too.
Time Saving Tips
Add extra minutes to your day in the park with these six time saving tips.
1. Arrive early. Getting to the park 20 to 30 minutes before it opens could mean all the difference. This will allow you to be first in line for tickets or entry - and first in line for your child's favorite ride.
2. Purchase tickets in advance. Buy your Magic Kingdom tickets before you arrive so that entry to the park is as quick as possible. Look for deals that have discounted tickets included with your nightly rate if you plan to stay at a Disney resort, too.
3. Stay at a Disney resort. Disney properties, like the Disney's All-Star Music Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter offer Extra Magic Hours, which allow guests to enter early and stay later in the theme parks, including Magic Kingdom. Plus, Disney resorts often have complimentary transportation to and from the parks, or are within walking distance of the main gate. A few that are within walking distance of Magic Kingdom include Disney's Contemporary Resort and the Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort. Guests of Disney resorts also can sign up for MagicBands. These colorful bracelets work as the key to your guestroom, admission to the theme parks, and as your FASTPASS+ for rides.
4. Sign up for Disney's FASTPASS+. You can sign up for Disney's FASTPASS+ up to 60 days in advance when staying at a Disney property, or up to 30 days in advance of your trip to Magic Kingdom. And trust us, it will be worth it. Regardless of how or when though, sign up for this program, which allows you to schedule set arrival times for rides, attractions and park experiences well in advance, and helps you beat the long lines. Plus, FASTPASS+ is free with your theme park admission and you can register for up to three FASTPASS+ services for your family per day. Register for rides online and connect the times to your MagicBand so you don't have to do a thing when you arrive at the park.
5. Download a Disney app. The My Disney Experience app is free and has everything you'll need and want to know, from directions to a ride or restaurant, to wait times at attractions, to organizing and allowing you to change your FASTPASS+ selections.
6. Utilize the Rider Swap program. Rider Swap is available at most rides that have height restrictions and is great for families who have young children. Wait in the ride line as a family. When you reach the front of the line, the first parent goes on the ride, while the other waits behind with the young child who cannot. The parent who waits will receive a pass to use for the next available ride via the FASTPASS+ lane as soon as the first parent returns.
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How to See the Magic Kingdom in 24 Hours
Written by Carrie Calzaretta and Hilarey Wojtowicz
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