Magic Kingdom @ WDW #ourUSAadventure
Walt Disney World (WDW) is so huge that you can’t talk about it in one post. It’s impossible. So I’ve decided to look at each park that makes up WDW in separate posts to make it easier to digest. First up is the park that is quintessentially Disney – the Magic Kingdom.
When you think of WDW or even Disneyland you naturally picture the princess castle don’t you? Well Magic Kingdom is the home to that iconic building and it forms the centre of a huge wheel that takes you to all the lands within the park. We were lucky enough to visit the Magic Kingdom on four separate occasions on our trip. We spent our first two full Disney days there and then went back on our final night and the following morning before we moved onto Universal Orlando. It is everything you expect Disney to be and more.
The square at the entrance to Main St USA with Cinderella’s castle in the background
As you walk in through the entrance gates you immediately enter another world – Main St USA. It’s the shopping, parade and administrative precinct of the park. Here you can hire strollers, find maps and guides, access disability services all the while moving through a landscape that hails back to the golden age of America. It’s not unusual for song and dance spectacles to suddenly start up right in front of you or for any of your beloved characters to just walk on by. The old buildings are reminiscent of yesterday and you just feel like you are in another place entirely.
The iconic Cinderella’s castle
Right in front of you is Cinderella’s castle, the princess palace that lies at the heart of Magic Kingdom. In front of the castle lies a round garden from which four forks in the road fan out. The first world to your left is Adventureland, home of Aladdin, The Jungle Cruise, the massive and fantastic Swiss Family Robinson tree and that classic ride, Pirates of the Caribbean. You can also get to Frontierland on this side, the world that plays host to the jewels of the wild west, including Tom Sawyer Island, Big Thunder Railroad and the ride that had Gilbert burrowing into my shoulder, Splash Mountain.
Some of the highlights of our time in Adventureland
Just behind the castle, slightly to the left is the small ode to everything American, Liberty Square. The Hall of Presidents is the drawcard for this land – as well as the promise of meeting characters such as Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. This is the smallest part of the Magic Kingdom but is the gateway to both Frontierland and the world to the back and to the right of Cinderella’s castle – Fantasyland. When I think of Disney my mind flies to the wonders of Fantasyland which features every princess and classic tale known to any child.
Some of the fun we experienced at Fantasyland
Rides and attractions of interest in Fantasyland include It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, Be Our Guest (Beauty & the Beast themed restaurant), Mad Hatter’s Teacup Ride, Ariel’s Grotto, Merida’s meeting place, the Seven Dwarves Mine Train (the showcase ride in Fantasyland) and of, course, the castle itself that plays host to Cinderella, Rapunzel, Elsa and Anna. Rapunzel’s tower is also a feature of this world and there is also an area for smaller kids dedicated to the circus, featuring everyone’s favourite elephant, Dumbo.
The world of tomorrow – Tommorowland
Beyond Fantasyland lies the last world showcased in the Magic Kingdom – Tomorrowland. This land is full of innovation and imagination. The People Mover is the ideal way to take it all in before trying out some of the ride highlights such as the Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Range Spin, the Tomorrowland Speedway and the iconic Space Mountain. This was one of our favourite worlds and we visited here a few times because it was so much fun.
Magic Kingdom Highlights
Rides: If you are into coasters I recommend the Seven Dwarves Mine Train – it is the quickest coaster in the park and the most exhilarating. Big Thunder Rail Road is my next pick – on a bigger scale but with less consistent thrills. Space Mountain is a distant third. It had it’s moments (it is disorientating being in the dark and not knowing where you are going) but I honestly got off thinking “is that it?” To be fair it has been the anchor to Tomorrowland since the park first opened so it has had a long run over the years and is still worth a go.
Other rides of note include Splash Mountain which does make your stomach come up into your throat on the way down that big dip and The Haunted Mansion which DID scare the kiddies but other than that the rest of Magic Kingdom is dedicated to the kids. Peter Pan’s Flight sees you soaring through London and over to Neverland – it isn’t scary but could be a problem if you are scared of heights. Pirates of the Caribbean sees you ride past wonderfully vivid scenes of pirates and features a good dip that could take kids unaware but it is by no means scary. You could get wet on this one though, particularly if you are in the front car.
Some of the more sedate rides that the kids loved were It’s a Small World which was a beautiful ride for the whole family, where you glided past elaborate scenes and wonderful animatronics. We can also recommend the Mad Hatters Tea Party in which you sit in spinning cups and can control how fast or slow you spin.
If you have little girls, you can’t go past meeting the princesses. You can meet nearly all of them at Magic Kingdom – Cinderella, Belle, Rapunzel, Merida, Ariel, Anna, Elsa and Tiana (Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine can be found at EPCOT). You can also take your own little princess to the Bibbidi Bobbiti Boutique for a princess makeover. We didn’t do this ourselves but we did see many other young girls who had been costumed and made up to be like their favourite princess. Instead we made sure the girls got to meet all the princesses they could, as well as getting their autographs as a forever memory. The boys are not left out – they can have a pirate makeover near the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which looked like a lot of fun when we checked it out!
There are parades everyday as well. The 3pm Festival of Fantasy Parade is very popular and we caught glimpses of it on the two full days we spent at Magic Kingdom. On our last evening we we were treated to the Main St Electrical Parade (a sea of light and colour, featuring all your favourite characters) as well as a light show that brings Cinderella’s castle to life AND the iconic nightly fireworks spectacular. You really should spend at least one evening there so you and your kids can be as enthralled by the colour and wonder and magic of these experiences as we were.
Every land within Magic Kingdom also host live entertainment and stage shows too which were lots of fun to watch. Nathan and the girls were mesmerised by a Pirates stage show in Adventureland while there was always something going on as you walked along Main St USA. The show times were listed in the daily park guides so you could plan your day around you favourite experiences.
The WDW Railroad is also worth a ride. It is a train that travels around the park, with stations at the entrance of Main St USA, Frontierland and Fantasyland. It’s a great way to see Disney from a different perspective plus it’s a an easy way to get from one side of the park to the other if you can’t face walking the whole way with little kids in tow!
Dining: There are food options everywhere you go. At Disney they are split into categories – snack carts, quick service restaurants and table service restaurants. Snack carts usually had drinks, ice creams and snack food such as popcorn. Quick service restaurants allowed you to line up to make your order and usually had areas where you could sit and take a break. Table service restaurants were the next step up where you usually required a booking, were waited on and had access to a full menu.
Within the Magic Kingdom we dined at a few places across the spectrum and these are our picks. As we had allergies we carefully planned where we dined but we also found a few gems along the way too. Our favourite place to eat was Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe which borders Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. It was able to cater to our GF needs and the kids loved the selection of fast food options – it’s no surprise we headed there more than once during our visit.
We also had lunch at Be Our Guest which is a quick service dining option that takes bookings. The reason for this? It is a very popular place to dine in Fantasyland as it is set in the Beast’s castle and is a massive dining hall, split into three rooms, that are decorated to resemble sets from the film. There was the library, the ballroom and the west wing to choose from and it was quite the experience to make your order in the entry atrium and then have it delivered to your table on an old-fashioned dining cart. The food was typical quick service fare but it’s definitely worth a visit for the Beauty and the Beast experience.
The Magic Kingdom is one place that we couldn’t get enough of and we hope to one day get there again. It IS Disney. It is magical. And it is totally worth the cost, the effort and the travel to get there!