Walt Disney World/Magic Kingdom

At the Magic Kingdom, you can pillage the Caribbean with Jack Sparrow, spin through a tea party with the Mad Hatter, protect the galaxy with Buzz Lightyear, and visit the six themed lands of the world's most popular theme park.

This imaginative park, known as the "Most Magical Place on Earth", is the most iconic of the four parks at the Walt Disney World Resort, and the one best suited for younger kids. But you don't need kids to have a good time; the Magic Kingdom is for anyone who remembers the wonder of childhood imagination and fantasy.

Understand

"Walt Disney World is a tribute to the philosophy and life of Walter Elias Disney... and to the talents, the dedication, and the loyalty of the entire Disney organization that made Walt Disney's dream come true. May Walt Disney World bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place... a Magic Kingdom where the young at heart of all ages can laugh and play and learn together." Roy O. Disney, October 25, 1971

The Magic Kingdom is the "main" park at Walt Disney World, based on the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California, and the one most people think of first when they think of Walt Disney World. It is organized around the central landmark of Cinderella Castle, with six themed "lands" arrayed around a central hub. Starting from the main entrance and going clockwise around Cinderella Castle, the lands are Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.

Of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, the Magic Kingdom is the oldest, most popular, and the most child-friendly, although many adults love the escapism as well. Adult visitors who do not enjoy rides such as "it's a small world" where you sit in vehicles that take you in a circle through a tunnel, and listen to childlike delight and screams, may want to visit Epcot or Hollywood Studios instead.

Though the FastPass system works well, it is not available for all attractions, and lines can be endless but always keep moving. Food and merchandise can be pricey, but not too bad considering where you are. Plan accordingly for a trip and expect to spend at least $100 per person for a visit.

Despite it all, most people would agree that the lines, the crowds, and the prices are worth it for the magical Disney experience that makes all adults "children", if even only for a day.

History

Walt Disney was never one to rest on his laurels. Disneyland was a huge success, but the amount of space available there in California was too restrictive. Disney had bigger ideas, far bigger than would ever fit at Disneyland.

The solution was to buy up thousands of acres in Central Florida, southwest of Orlando, for a new "Disney World", big enough to hold all the ideas he and his Imagineers could dream up. The centerpiece was to be EPCOT, Walt's idea for an experimental "community of tomorrow" where real people would live, work, and play. Although a Disneyland-style park was part of the planninga necessary concession to economic realitiesWalt had very little interest in recreating what he'd done before, and his energies were focused on EPCOT.

Unfortunately, he passed away in 1966, not long after revealing his plans to the world. His dream of EPCOT died with him, but his brother and business partner, Roy O. Disney, was determined to go forward with the Florida project. The project would start with the Magic Kingdom.

Roy Disney worked tirelessly to ensure that the park would open, to preserve at least a part of his brother's last and greatest dream. On October 1, 1971, the Magic Kingdom did indeed open, with many similarities to Disneyland but many differences as well. It was a roaring success and, though Roy Disney died just two months later, Walt Disney World was successfully launched, and it has thrived ever since, with the Magic Kingdom as its anchor.

Get in

By car or hotel shuttle

The Magic Kingdom is at the northernmost reaches of the Walt Disney World property. You'll take World Drive north to the massive parking lot, which is actually about a mile (1500 meters) south of the park. No problem, thoughonce you park your car, a tram will take you to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). That's also where hotel shuttles from non-Disney resorts will drop you. You're now looking across the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Magic Kingdom. From here, simply get on a big ferryboat or the express monorail to the Magic Kingdom. Either way you go, enjoy the scenery along the wayGoofy has been known to waterski around the ferry from time to time, and the monorail route passes directly through the lobby of Disney's Contemporary Resort.

Parking at the Magic Kingdom is $20 per car, although Disney resort guests can park for freejust show your Key to the World card at the toll gate.

By Disney transportation

Monorail Pink arrives at the Contemporary Resort.

From Magic Kingdom-area resorts

The monorail is the most obvious choice here. The resort monorail (inside track) travels clockwise around the Seven Seas Lagoon, stopping inside the Contemporary, and then at the TTC, the Polynesian Village, and the Grand Floridian, coming back around to the Magic Kingdom. Due to the direction of travel, Contemporary Resort guests might want to consider walking to the Magic Kingdom; it's the only resort from which that is possible.

Unfortunately, Fort Wilderness and the Wilderness Lodge are not on the monorail route, but they do have buses available. Also, all of the resorts have water taxis that travel between their docks and the Magic Kingdom gates; they can be a fun, scenic way to start your visit. (Note that the Contemporary water taxi runs only during the absolutely most crowded periods; don't count on it being available.)

Boat Flag Reference

Red Flag boats go to the Magic Kingdom from Wilderness Lodge; Green Flag boats from Fort Wilderness; and Gold Flag boats from the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Village Resorts. Blue Flag boats connect Fort Wilderness, the Wilderness Lodge and the Contemporary.

Shades of Green has its own shuttle buses that take guests to the various parks. Guests at that resort can also walk to the Polynesian to take the monorail or water taxi, but it's a five-minute walk with no sidewalk; use caution.

From other on-property resorts

From other areas of the property, simply go to your resort's bus stop and wait for the Magic Kingdom bus to arrive. You will be dropped off in front of the Magic Kingdom gates, not at the TTC.

From the other parks

Take the Transportation and Ticket Center bus (from Epcot, take the Epcot monorail instead) to the TTC and then transfer to the monorail or ferryboat to the Magic Kingdom.

From Downtown Disney

There is no direct bus service to the Magic Kingdom from Downtown Disney. Instead, you should first go to any resort (preferably Saratoga Springs or one of the monorail resorts) and then change modes of transportation.

Get around

Map of the Magic Kingdom

Upon entering the park, you'll find yourself on Main Street U.S.A., and though there are plenty of shops here, your eye will no doubt be drawn right to the magnificent Cinderella Castle. The centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom sits at the end of Main Street, and the circular area in front of it serves as the hub of the park, from which you can get to all of the other lands.

From the hub, Adventureland can be reached via the leftmost path, followed by Liberty Square moving clockwise. Fantasyland is straight through the castle, and Tomorrowland is off to the right. You can get to Frontierland via either Adventureland or Liberty Square. The lands, with the exception of Main Street, are also all connected around the perimeter of the park, away from the hub.

If you don't want to walk, you have a couple of options. At times, but less often these days, you'll find a horse-drawn trolley running up and down Main Street, which you can hop to get to and from the hub. More reliably, you'll find train stations at Main Street, Frontierland (near Splash Mountain), and Fantasyland (in Storybook Circus), where you can board a train for a scenic narrated journey around the perimeter of the park.

See and Do

Here today, gone tomorrow

Over time, the Magic Kingdom has seen numerous changes, more than the other three parks at Walt Disney World. Some long-gone, but fondly remembered, attractions:

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Fantasyland) This submarine ride, based on Walt Disney's 1954 film adaptation of the Jules Verne classic, closed in 1994; its space was not fully re-utilized until 2012 with the opening of the Enchanted Forest section of Fantasyland.
  • Skyway An aerial tramway linking Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, it was dismantled in 1999, due to accessibility and safety concerns, not to mention the low number of guests per hour that could be put on the ride.
  • Mr. Toad's Wild Ride (Fantasyland) This was one of the original attractions back in 1971, and it appealed to both children and adults alike. In 1999, it was replaced by "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", and now has a fan base dominated almost entirely by children.
  • If You Had Wings (Tomorrowland) An aviation-themed dark ride sponsored by Eastern Airlines, later revamped and renamed Delta Dreamflight when sponsorship shifted to Delta Airlines, this ride eventually became "Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin".

The Magic Kingdom includes many attractions that are similar, or identical, to ones found in its sister parks around the world, but also has some that are original to the Florida park, and others that started elsewhere but remain only here.

Truly enjoying this park involves a willingness to set aside disbelief and embrace the fictional worlds Disney has designed. Kids can do this instinctively, and in many respects, the best way to experience the Magic Kingdom is through the eyes of a child. The rides here are largely designed for kids, many of them painfully so, but adults with open minds (or young hearts) can have plenty of fun even without a child in tow.

FastPass, the system that allowed you to go to an attraction and get a ticket to come back later and skip the standby queue, is no longer available at the Magic Kingdom. All Magic Kingdom guests will be using FastPass+, where you choose your own return time for each of three attractions. FastPass+ queues are available for virtually every ride in the park, along with some shows, parades, character greetings, and the Wishes fireworks. Note that Space Mountain and Splash Mountain have been known to have wait times of over three hours during peak seasons, making FastPass+ reservations very worthwhile. On the other hand, FastPass+ could be used to get preferred viewing locations for Wishes or the parades; choose carefully!

FastPass+ kiosks are located at the Town Square Theater in Main Street U.S.A., near The Diamond Horseshoe in Frontierland, at Mickey's PhilharMagic in the Castle Courtyard, near Pete's Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus, and at Stitch's Great Escape in Tomorrowland. As FastPass+ is new, cast members are stationed at nearly every major attraction; they have tablets and can help you schedule your FastPass+ reservations if the kiosks are too confusing, or not convenient. If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can also use a smartphone with the My Disney Experience app to schedule your FastPass+ reservations.

For parade, fireworks, and stage show performance times, which change daily, please see the Guide Map and the Times Guide you'll receive when you enter the park. You can also check the Wait Times Board at the north end of Main Street, which lists current wait times for rides and show times for shows.

The denotes rides with safety restrictions. See Stay safe in the main Walt Disney World article for more information.

Main Street, U.S.A.

Modeled after a stereotypical early 20th-century small town, Main Street, U.S.A. is the gateway into the Magic Kingdom; the view straight down the street to Cinderella Castle serves to draw you inward upon arrival. It is also, of course, the exit, which means shopping galore, the better to entice you with souvenirs on the way out. You'll find most of the basic services, like Guest Relations, here, but not much in the way of attractions.

Do stop in at the Crystal Arts glass shop, though, as they often have glass blowers working in the shop and watching them is fascinating. And keep an eye out for some of the colorful characters who make appearances from time to time, especially the Dapper Dans barbershop quartet.

Adventureland

Adventureland recalls the Victorian-era tales of exotic adventure in far-off locales. Near Main Street, the environment evokes the jungles of deepest Africa, of the type explored by David Livingstone and H.M. Stanley in the late 19th century. Walking westward, you'll pass through the Middle East and the South Pacific before arriving at the Spanish outposts on the Caribbean Sea during the Golden Age of Piracy. Just around the corner are the Spanish flavors of the American Southwest in Frontierland.

Frontierland

Manifest Destiny

Together, Frontierland and Liberty Square form a continuum; as you move east to west through these lands, you're following the westward expansion of the United States. Take a look at the street numbers on the buildings; they represent dates, and you'll see them go up from the mid-1700s in Liberty Square through the late 1800s in western Frontierland.

Frontierland celebrates the United States west of the Mississippi in its 19th-century frontier years (with just a bit of rural Southern flavor). From Mark Twain's Missouri to the California Gold Rush, there's a lot of adventure packed into a small area.

Liberty Square

The Liberty Square Riverboat sets off for another voyage.

Step back into colonial America in Liberty Square, where freedom and independence are buzzwords and powdered wigs are the height of fashion. Even the flower beds are red, white, and blue in this patriotic harbor town. A replica of the Liberty Bell sits in the central square, along with a majestic live oak serving as the local Liberty Tree, where patriots would gather to debate and plan.

Fantasyland

In the courtyard, around the forest, or at the circus, Fantasyland is where Disney's classic animated fairy tales come to life. It is home to many of the most iconic Disney attractions, and is nearly always very crowded. In 2012, Fantasyland underwent an extreme makeover, the biggest changes to hit the Magic Kingdom in its 40-year history. The land is now divided into three distinct sections: the Castle Courtyard, Enchanted Forest, and Storybook Circus.

Castle Courtyard

Cinderella Castle

This area of Fantasyland, closest to the castle, has most of the pre-2012 Fantasyland rides and has remained fairly unchanged during the land's expansion. From rides based on classic Disney animated features to the inimitable "it's a small world" boat ride, the attractions here are among Disney's most beloved and iconic.

Enchanted Forest

Unused and underused space in the northeastern part of the landsome of which was once the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ridehas been transformed into a lush fairy-tale setting that stands in stark contrast to the fair-like atmosphere of the Castle Courtyard. Finally completed in 2014, the Enchanted Forest represents the biggest addition to Walt Disney World since Disney's Animal Kingdom opened in 1998.

Storybook Circus

What happened to Toontown?

In 1988, for Mickey Mouse's 60th birthday, he and his pals opened up Mickey's Birthdayland, so all their fans could come celebrate with them. Originally meant to be temporary, the idea was such a hit that they kept the place open long after the birthday party ended. The land that became known as Mickey's Toontown Fair closed forever in February 2011, and was subsequently replaced by this new mini-land, which opened in March 2012 as the first phase of the ambitious Fantasyland expansion effort.

Storybook Circus is a wild and energetic area with animals and music galore.

Tomorrowland

The futuristic spires of Space Mountain

Take a glance into the future in Tomorrowland, Disney's homage to the dreams and innovations that will keep humanity moving forward. Very different from the other lands of the Magic Kingdom, Tomorrowland is all about smooth chrome architecture, strange and bizarre creatures, and thrilling spaceflight.

Parkwide

"Wishes" fireworks show

The parades and shows at all of the parks garner big crowds, but the Magic Kingdom really takes the cake, perhaps due to its relatively narrow streets and the sheer popularity of the park. Unless the park is practically deserted, you'll need to stake out a viewing location well in advance of show time (check your Times Guide for the schedule). If you want to sit on the curb or grab a bench seat, you'll want to get there at least an hour ahead of time; if you're willing to deal with a lesser view, you may get lucky and find a decent spot as little as 15 minutes beforehand. (If you're running late for a parade, aim for the end of the route, as the parade takes up to 20 minutes to get there.)

Most importantly, though, if you aren't planning on watching the parade or the show, stay well away from the prime viewing locations. The rides and other attractions will have much shorter lines during these times, so pick a few well away from Main Street and enjoy.

The parades start in the entrance plaza and travel up Main Street, then through the hub to Liberty Square and west through Frontierland, ending near Splash Mountain. Fireworks are visible throughout the park, but they work best with Cinderella Castle as a backdrop, so most people view them from Main Street on their way out of the park for the night.

Holiday events

In recent years, the Magic Kingdom has been host to two extremely popular "hard-ticket" holiday events. On selected days from September through December, the park closes early, but guests who pay extra get to stick around and see special shows and go on rides with shorter lines. These events are held three or four nights a week (although the exact schedule varies). Tickets are very limited, so plan well in advance for the night you want to go.

Not all attractions are open during these special events, but most of the most popular ones will be.

Note that after the last Christmas Party, about a week before Christmas, the holiday parade and fireworks show are run in place of the usual events, allowing guests to experience them without buying a ticket to a special event. Alternatively, you can listen to and watch the fireworks shows from the Contemporary, the Polynesian Village, or the Grand Floridian resorts without needing admission to the parties.

Tours

Utilidors

You'd never notice by looking at it, but the Magic Kingdom is actually built up one story from ground level! An extensive "underground" complex of utility areas and corridors sits on ground level underneath the pathways of the park. These Utilidors ("utility corridors") allow cast members to get into costume, move between areas, and take breaks out of sight of the park guests... other than the occasional tour group, that is.

Guided tours of the Magic Kingdom are quite popular. All tours can be booked by calling +1 407 WDW-TOUR (939-8687). You will need to have admission to the park to take these tours.

At the resorts

Lounge on the beach by the Grand Floridian.

Like all Deluxe Resorts, the ones near the Magic Kingdom offer plenty of things for guests to do each day. But a few options stand out as worth a trip even if you're not staying nearby.

Golf

There are two 18-hole championship golf courses in the Magic Kingdom area, as well as a nine-hole walking course. All three courses are located in the same area, west of the Polynesian near Shades of Green. See "Golf" in the overview for rules and regulations. Monday through Friday, 18 holes will cost $89 if you're staying at a Disney hotel, and $104 otherwise. On weekends, add $10. During the summer, 10AM-3PM tee times are discounted; ask for the "Summer Price Slice" when you call. Late afternoon tee times are $59 on weekdays and $69 on weekends for everyone. Call +1 407 WDW-GOLF (939-4653) to reserve a tee time.

Disney used to operate an additional 18-hole course east of Fort Wilderness called Osprey Ridge. It's now part of the Four Seasons Orlando resort and has different fees and regulations.

Buy

Looking north from the Main Street train station

The Magic Kingdom practically invented the modern theme park merchandising plan: put the biggest store and most expensive stuff at the exit, so you have a place to shop when you're ready to leave the park.

Sure enough, Main Street, U.S.A., the Magic Kingdom's entrance and exit area, is anchored by The Emporium, which takes up most of the western side of the street and carries a large variety of generic Disney merchandise. The other side of the street, though, has more specialty shops, including the Main Street Confectionery, The Chapeau (hat shop), Crystal Arts (glass shop with live glass craft demonstrations), Uptown Jewelers, and more.

Other well-known shops include:

And of course, there are several other gift shops that serve as the exits from associated attractions, forcing you to navigate the aisles to get out. They can be a great place to get themed merchandise if you have a particular favorite.

Magic Kingdom-area resorts

The resorts have their share of shopping as well. Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in particular has a number of shops, including fine chocolates and designer clothing, on the first and second floors of its main building. The shopping area is very convenient for anyone with access to the monorail.

If you're staying in a DVC villa or a Wilderness Cabin and you need to stock your kitchen, a limited supply of groceries is available at your resort's gift shop.

Eat

The Crystal Palace and its verdant surroundings.

See Eat in the main Walt Disney World article for information on the Disney restaurant pricing system, character dining, dietary restrictions, and advance dining reservations. The telephone numbers below are for extraordinary circumstances only; for reservations and most health or diet issues, call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).

Please note that exact opening and closing times may vary with the park hours; check your Times Guide for official restaurant hours. Breakfast is usually served until 10:30AM, and dinner usually starts between 3:30PM and 4:30PM.

Counter service

The Magic Kingdom has an abundance of counter service restaurants; more than at any other park, dining here is dominated by the quick-service segment of the market. On crowded days, cast members at the three largest locations (Cosmic Ray's, Pinocchio's, and Pecos Bill's) will implement managed seating: you will be unable to enter the seating area until your entire party has their food, but once you're all ready, a cast member will find a table for you. That means you won't be able to leave your spouse with the kids at a table while you go get everyone's food, but it's necessary to make sure as many people as possible can get seats.

There are a plethora of snack stands with generic pre-packaged snacks throughout the park, but if you're in the mood for something special, head to Main Street U.S.A.:

Table service

Compared to the other parks, table service at the Magic Kingdom is very limited. The choices are all very good, but most of them have characters and you're probably going to need Advance Dining Reservations for any of them.

Note: if two prices are separated by a slash, the second price is for children ages 3–9.

Resort dining

A chocolate slipper at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. Yes, it's edible!

With the number of Deluxe Resorts around the Magic Kingdom, it's no surprise that the resort dining options are numerous and high-quality. The Grand Floridian, in particular, boasts several upscale restaurants, including the fanciest restaurant in all of Central Florida, Victoria & Albert's.

Disney's Contemporary Resort

Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground

Fort Wilderness is home to two fantastic dinner shows.

If you want some food without the entertainment, you have a couple of options:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort

What's in a Name?

When the restaurant first opened, all of the servers at Victoria & Albert's were named either Victoria or Albert. All of them. That ended several years ago, but not before rumors spread that the strict naming rule had been relaxed behind-the-scenes.

The Grand Floridian is Disney's flagship resort, and it certainly fills that bill when it comes to dining. The menus crafted by the resort's expert chefs are actively sought-out by gourmands from across the country. All of the restaurants (except Narcoossee's) are located in the main building, just steps from the monorail platform.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

All of the restaurants here are in the Great Ceremonial House, which is also the location of the monorail platform. The resort's renowned breakfast specialty (available at Captain Cook's, Kona Cafe, and in-room dining) is Tonga Toast: sourdough bread stuffed with banana, then battered, deep-fried, and topped with cinnamon and sugar. The popular Dole Whip treat is also available here, at the Pineapple Lanai kiosk.

And if you're in the mood for some entertainment with your meal, the Polynesian Village is home to one of the three dinner theater options.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

The restaurants at Wilderness Lodge all fit in well with the rustic forested decor, and they're all within steps of the main lobby.

Four Seasons Orlando

The Four Seasons Orlando has a number of restaurants. Ravello, an Italian restaurant, features Disney character breakfasts on Thursdays and Saturdays (and selected peak Tuesdays). Capa, which opens September 2014, is on the top floor and boasts views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Drink

Please don't throw me in that briar patch!

The Magic Kingdom is intended to be a carefree place, where children and adults can have fun together. As such, a no alcohol rule was instituted throughout the park when it opened in 1971. With the opening of the Be Our Guest restaurant in November 2012, however, it was decided that the French atmosphere would not be complete without a selection of beer and wines on the menu. Be Our Guest is the first Magic Kingdom restaurant to serve alcohol, but note that you won't be able to take it out of the restaurant.

Of course, the table-service restaurants (and some of the counter-service locations) in the resorts do serve alcohol, and there are also bars and lounges at the hotels. California Grill in the Contemporary Resort and Victoria & Albert's in the Grand Floridian Resort have particularly extensive wine lists.

Each of the resorts has a pool bar or two, each with a variety of alcoholic refreshments and light meals. In addition, you'll find the following lounges and coffee bars:

Sleep

Grand Floridian Resort
This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget $0-$150
Mid-range $150-$250
Splurge $250+

You certainly have a variety of options for accommodations near the Magic Kingdom, but few of them are cheap. Home to the four oldest resorts at Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom area is known for its upscale Deluxe resorts and the vast Fort Wilderness campground.

Budget

Once Upon a Time

Shades of Green was one of the first hotels at Walt Disney World, opening in 1973 as the Golf Resort. It was renamed to The Disney Inn in 1986, but attendance continued to lag due to its out-of-the-way location and lack of amenities. The hotel was leased to the Department of Defense in 1994 and sold outright in 1996.

Campground

Now this is roughing it.

Disney's expansive Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground is really like two resorts in onethe campsites and the cabins. Both share all of the resort's amenities, including two great dinner shows, marshmallow roasts, hiking, biking, swimming, boating, horseback riding, and much more, all without ever leaving Disney property. It's the perfect place for people who want to get away from it all without getting too far away.

Fort Wilderness is the only pet-friendly resort on Disney property, though pets are allowed only in designated areas of the campground. Only a small proportion of sites are in pet-friendly areas, so make sure you mention that your pet will be coming with you when you make your reservation. Once you get there, your dog will have plenty of opportunity to get exercise, with plenty of trails for on-leash walking and the special Waggin' Trails Dog Park for off-leash fun.

Splurge

Is this Florida, or Wyoming?

Four upscale resorts are arrayed around the Seven Seas Lagoon, three of them on the monorail loop, providing easy and fun access to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. Each of the resorts also has water transportation to the Magic Kingdom.

The Contemporary and the Polynesian Village are the oldest resorts on the property, and though they've changed a bit over the years, age hasn't diminished their appeal. The Grand Floridian is WDW's flagship resort, with the utmost in style and service. The Wilderness Lodge sits back, away from the monorail but still a worthy companion to the other Deluxe resorts.

Each of these resorts provides the highest level of service and amenities available at Walt Disney World. You'll find dedicated concierge services, mini-bars and refrigerators, turn-down service, upscale restaurants and shopping, and everything else you'd expect from luxury hotels. Each hotel, especially the Grand Floridian, also has some high-end suites available, all the way up to "Presidential"-level. And each of them has Disney Vacation Club villas for extra-homey atmosphere and amenities.

Non-Disney resort

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