Five Family Tips for Your Day at the Magic Kingdom

Five Family Tips for MK BANNER

Hopefully, you’ve already picked up some useful tips from our series about Ryan Jacobson’s vacation to Walt Disney World with his family—and we’re only on day two! On their second day in the parks, the family’s original plan was to see EPCOT, but the weather forecast threw them a curveball. In what looked like the last rainless day of the week, they opted to visit the Magic Kingdom, and their morning was a comedy of frustrating errors. Find out why!

1. Take a rideshare to the Magic Kingdom? Um, no!

Our Lyft ride from Art of Animation to Hollywood Studios made us feel like experts, so we did it again. But our visions of beating the buses to Magic Kingdom were shattered when we were dropped off not at the park but at the transportation center. We waited in line for the ferry, which had technical difficulties. So we hurried to the monorail, which had technical difficulties. We still got to Magic Kingdom ahead of Early Theme Park Entry, but we were nowhere near the front of the pack.

Magic Kingdom
Mr. Ray at Art of Animation (Photo courtesy of Touring Plans)

2. Go to the right of the castle…the right.

Magic Kingdom
Getting to Peter Pan’s Flight early saved us 60–90 minutes in line.

We couldn’t compete for a coveted spot near the front of the line at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, so we wisely targeted Peter Pan’s Flight. With this in mind, we stood at the Liberty Square walkway, to the left of Cinderella’s castle, thinking it would be our quickest route.

After about 10 minutes of gawking and taking photos, we realized that everyone else was funneling to the right of the castle. We were standing in the wrong place for Early Theme Park Entry!

3. Know when each ride opens—and know when to change your plans.

Despite all of those missteps, we still walked on to Peter Pan’s Flight and were on schedule to hit a loop that included the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Haunted Mansion—all in about an hour. The problem: Those rides weren’t open yet. Our top priority was to take an early ride on the Jungle Cruise, and my research suggested we’d only have a 10-minute wait, based on the previous weeks’ data. However, on this day, everyone in the park had the same idea. We got trapped in a swarm of riders, with no route of escape. Through the park’s very first hour, when wait times for Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and the Haunted Mansion were all less than 15 minutes, we stood in line for the Jungle Cruise.

Magic Kingdom
The Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Be warned, the roller coaster is wild enough to frighten many adults!

4. Genie+ is for the other rides.

In my opinion, it’s normally a good idea to use Genie+ on the most popular rides with the longest wait times. But the Magic Kingdom is the exception. There are so many attractions to get to that by grabbing Lightning Lanes for the Jungle Cruise and Peter Pan’s Flight, you might waste too much valuable time waiting for the 2-hour cool-down before snagging your next Lightning Lane. An ideal start to your Genie+ day is to grab your first passes for around 60 to 90 minutes after the park opens—especially if you can get them for a popular ride like Space Mountain. After that, the goal is to use a Lightning Lane about every 60 to 75 minutes for the next few hours. Our afternoon included Lightning Lanes to the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad—as well as paid Lightning Lanes for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and TRON Lightcycle / Run.

Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World (Photo by Liliane Opsomer)

Pro Tip: If your family is really excited about the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, consider using a Lightning Lane for this. It reserves a premier location where your family can watch the parade.

5. You don’t need to save a spot for Happily Ever After.

The Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks spectacular was at the top of my wife’s to-do list on our trip. It was so important that we chose our spot in the taped-off viewing section at 6:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. show. I didn’t mind because 90 minutes of sitting on a curb sounded pretty good after 20 miles of walking in two days. For about 80 minutes, we felt good about our decision. We were in a nice location on Main Street, just far enough down to be able to see the castle and all the fireworks. But at about 7:50 p.m., we learned that we’d been waiting for nothing. Disney employees directed everyone to ignore the tape and stand wherever they wanted. So everyone, including passersby, filled in the area all around us. I don’t begrudge anyone for it. I just wish I had known, so we hadn’t waited there for 90 minutes.

Happily Ever After was a wonderful finale for our day.

Courtesy tip: If you put a child on your shoulders for better viewing, please be considerate of those behind you, and stand to the side of the crowd. For example, there is plenty of room for this over by the Crystal Palace, and you can still see the show without blocking the view of anyone else.

My next post will put a wrap on this family vacation. I’ll tell you how you should really spend your Early Theme Park Entry at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Ryan Jacobson is the author of more than 60 books. His most popular titles include the Constellations Activity Book, Can You Survive the Call of the Wild?and Up Where the Stars Are.

For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids

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