keys to the kingdom : the magic kingdom {what not to miss}

Pssst: Be sure to check out all of our updated tips, here.

Hello you wonderful readers, you! 

It’s time for our next installment in our Keys to the Kingdom Series, here at The Handmade Home.

If you missed our introduction, or would like to read all about the deats of  where to stay, food for thought, or fast pass/rider swap 101, feel free to click on over and read all about it. This series is three moms’ takes on their vacationing experiences with Walt Disney World, and while we realize that novel upon novel upon novel could be written on this subject matter, our series is meant to serve as a nice, basic overview introduction for those of us who may be first timers, and wish to familiarize themselves with the basics… all while balancing the whole young family gig. So feel free to poke around, and check it out!

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Cristin is back to dazzle us all with her knowledge…With a few rogue rando thoughts in italics per me…because what good is a post without some peanut gallery commentary?So take it away, oh master of park highlights…

Magic Kingdom. It’s the most magical park of them all. It seems to me that it’s only fitting to begin our breakdown of the parks with this one. After all, this is where it all began. Where you will find the bustling Main Street, twinkling Cinderella’s Castle, and the statue of the man himself…Walt Disney.

Side tangent: It’s kind of obvious that I’m a Disney lover…but is it strange that I actually married a guy named Walt? Seriously. It’s true. What are the odds, right?

Anywho, back on topic: The best approach I know to take on breaking down the parks is to literally go ride by ride. Luckily for us, this park is broken down in to five main sections: Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Liberty Square, and Tomorrowland.

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Just a friendly lil reminder: Please, keep in mind, that this is my humble opinion of the rides/attractions within the park. I do realize that there are families out there who have traditions that may include a ride that I list as a “skip over.” These are simply the attractions that I have found are worth my family’s time each time we return to the Magic Kingdom…and we just love them. We have a lot of ground to cover, so let’s just jump right in.

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Here’s a little symbols key for this:

* means don’t miss it!

< means grab a fast pass for this attraction.

Occasional Italics: Ashley’s two cents with three small kids.

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Adventureland:

• Swiss Family Tree House – this is basically what it sounds like. A large tree house modeled after the Robinson’s home. Fun for the kiddos if they need to run some of their energy out. Otherwise, if you’re pushed for time, this is one that can be skipped.

• The Magic Carpets of Aladdin – much like the Dumbo ride, this kid pleaser soars high around in a circle as though you are flying on a magic carpet. A cute ride for a child of any age. If the line isn’t too terrifying, ride it.

• The Enchanted Tiki Room – this attraction is a bit old school for me. If it’s a super hot day or a rain storm is close by, this will get you under cover for a bit. The line is usually very short, and honestly, there’s a reason for that. This one goes as a just “ok” and closer to a skip on my list.

• Jungle Cruise – although this attraction has been around for years, it’s been updated a couple of times and I find that it is overall a kid pleaser. If your child likes boats and animals, they’ll enjoy this ride. If you have small kids, just be prepared, it lasts a while.

* • Pirates of the Caribbean – an absolute must. Even before they updated the ride to include Captain Jack Sparrow, this was one of my favorites. It’s all the better now that there are several Johnny Depp look alikes to watch : ) Beware mateys- if your little one is scared of the dark, they may not be thrilled with this ride although we have never had a problem with the little ones in our family. I must concur : one of my children’s fave rides in the entire park…Malone (2) was a little on edge when it was dark, but after the first time through, he loved it.

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Frontierland:

• Walt Disney World Railroad – just what you think it is. A train that runs around the park, fun for train lovers of all ages + a cool way to see part of Magic Kingdom.

<* • Splash Mountain – a must. I will also note here that the line gets crazy long for this ride, so snatch up a fast pass early on in the day. This ride has several drops (including one loooong one), so know that, going into it with smaller children. However, the ride is all about Brer Rabbit and his friends and is extremely kid friendly with songs like “Zip-a-dee-doo-dah,” so if they can handle the drops this is a favorite for most. And another note- you WILL get a little wet ;}Aiden’s fave ride at his age of just turning 6. PERFECT for him. We also rode in the very back, and only got a little splash.

* • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – a fun roller coaster that does not go upside down or have any huge drops making it a great first time coaster if your little one is tall enough to ride!

 Tom Sawyer Island – a little island to explore based upon the book. It can be a fun little distraction from the other rides. TIP : the Cast Members hide a couple of paint brushes on the island each day. Be the first to find one and return it to a Cast Member and they will reward you with a fast pass for one of the popular rides!!!

• Country Bear Jamboree – this show/attraction has been around for-e-ver. Think old school Showbiz. Anyone? Anyone? No? Ok… think the robots at Chuck-E-Cheese. There ya go – that’s this attraction but with all country bears. I’ve been watching the show since I was a kid, so it brings back memories for me. And little ones will find it as entertaining as the Chuck-E show. But again, if you are pushed for time, skip it.

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Liberty Square:

• The Hall of Presidents – Audio Anamatronic show featuring all of the past presidents (including the newest addition of President Obama). This could be a good one for your youngest to catch a quick cat nap in the cool, dark auditorium. Probably not the best attraction for the kids unless you are a huge history buff yourself or just in a patriotic mood. Although, I am curious to check out the newest addition.

• Liberty Square Riverboat – a large riverboat that cruises down the lake in the Magic Kingdom. If you are lucky, you may end up hitching a ride with one of the characters!

* • Haunted Mansion – a must. This is another classic. The ghosts are overall friendly and entertaining. However, please note that the very beginning of the ride starts off in a creepy circular room where everyone is pushed in together and the lights go completely out for a few seconds followed by some screaming. This has been known to scare the little ones if they are not prepared…{personally, my kids loved it, and it was the eminator’s fave-she still talks about it even though she got a little spooked. But maybe we’re weird like that…}

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Fantasyland:

• Bibbidy Bobbidi Boutique – if you are in the mindset of doing the trip up and going all out, check out this really cute “salon” for the little ones where they will be transformed into a princess, rock star, prince, etc. Choose from a variety of packages and watch while your child is treated like a prince or princess. Pricey, yet precious. TIP for saving money here – purchase or make your own princess costume before your appointment as opposed to buying one there. Also, an appointment for this is a MUST. They book out way in advance, especially since this attraction is located inside the castle!

{we went all out, and it was a little toddlers + tiaras, why-is-your-hair-slicked-back-in-the-creepy-bun-with-glitter-while-you-pitch-your-afternoon-fit-brought-on-by-exhaustion-and-over stimulation-at-the-end-of-the-day for me, but Emmy LOVED it. Please also note, they do not see children two and under. If you will be there during your trip, and the castle is booked out, but you really wanted to do it, try downtown Disney. Though the castle is kind of part of the magic, your little one can still do it. We made an appointment for Aiden, as well, because we read that they turn them into knights. I’m not sure he loved it, but I just wanted him to experience it once. He did get a righteously awesome sword and shield that he LOVED and it came with the package…its one of his fave toys.}

* • It’s a Small World – if you’ve have ever heard of Disney World, you have probably heard the catchy song that belongs to this ride. It’s been there from the get-go and is still a kids of all ages pleaser to this day. Ride it! You’ll be humming the song for the rest of the day!

<* • Peter Pan’s Flight – one of my personal favorites. There’s something magical about “flying” over the city alongside Peter Pan. This is a super kid friendly ride and one of those magical ones. There’s almost always a long line here, so I recommend a fast pass for this ride.

* • Mickey’s Philhar Magic – this show has become my favorite attraction in all of Fantasyland. It’s a huge 3D show of songs from all of the classic Disney movies. Don’t miss this one!! {One of our faves-our kids loved it + so did we.}

• Dream Along with Mickey – this one is new and I haven’t had the privilege of seeing it. Anyone out there checked this out? What did you think?

• Fairytale Garden - a character meeting with Rapunzel and Flynn Rider.

• Snow White’s Scary Adventures – skip it. Unless this is your favorite Disney movie, skip it. I don’t really see the point in this ride and it’s scary for the kiddos.

• Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – no theme park would be complete without a classic carrousel… not even the Magic Kingdom. Yes…a must do.

< • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – a classic ride for kids of all ages which also makes for some classic Disney photo ops. The line can get long for this one, so you may want to look in to a Fast Pass. Favorite.

* • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – super cute kid friendly ride. Definitely do it. And also see about a fast pass for this one as the line can get long depending upon the time of day. But I do have to add, they have the best line in the whole park. All kinds of hands-on things for the kids to look at, so if there is no fast pass, do the line. It’s fun!

• Mad Tea Party – Although I never ride this one, it is a true child pleaser. Sit in oversized tea cups and spin around and around as fast as you can. If you can stomach it, check it out.

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Tomorrowland:

• Indy Speedway – this is your chance to let your kids drive a true race car! If they are in to cars at all, they will love this one. Our boys, 2 + 6, were big fans.

<* • Space Mountain – my favorite in the entire park. A total classic. This is a fast pass must upon entering the park. It’s a roller coaster in the dark, so if your child is cool with that they will love this one! Aiden (6) loved it. After he finished screaming about how much he hated it. Yep. I’m that mom. Oh and ps. You sit by yourself. In a straight line. I just think its good to have that tidbit of info before you take your child with you. He did hold my hand the whole time, however. I sat right behind him. 

• Astro Orbitor – this is another flying ride like the Magic Carpets and Dumbo, however this one is set up high! A pretty cool thing to try at night while looking over the park.

• Tomorrowland Transit Authority – this is our go to ride when we are either exhausted, sweating, or when there’s a baby in tow and someone is taking one for the team and not riding one of the roller coasters, while watching the little one. It’s also a cool way to see all of Tomorrowland, including a glance inside Space Mountain in case you are curious but not enough to ride it : ) Why yes, I did work in that area of the park in those dorky uniforms, and I never tried that ride. Shame on me!

• Carousel of Progress – this attraction was one of Walt’s personal projects. He actually won the World’s Fair in New York with this attraction. That is reason enough to keep my family coming back each visit. It’s basically a show that takes you from the past to the present day. It also includes a catchy song that will get stuck in your head for the remainder of the day! It’s a great big beautiful tomorrow….all time CLASSIC! My kids love it, and we still do. No line. Ever.Great chance to get in the air conditioner and rest.

* • Buzz Lightyear’s Spaceship Ranger Spin - a really fun Toy Story themed ride where you shoot at targets to see how many points you can accumulate along the way. Fun for all ages! Don’t miss it. Kiddos loved it.

• Stitch’s Great Escape – SKIP THIS ONE. This ride is a wasted space in Tomorrowland. The show goes pitch black for a while and is very scary. Not kid friendly. I agree. I worked there when it was an alien ride. Awkward, because I was freaking out at the idea of something touching me. Clausterphobic.

* • Monster’s, Inc. Laugh Floor – super cute show/attraction! It’s a really cool show where the famous monsters from the movie do stand-up comedy while interacting with audience members. Don’t miss it.

*Other things not to miss are the parades, shows in front of the castle, and my personal favorite- the fireworks show in front of the castle each night.

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Right now, before the fireworks show, they have an AMAZING light show in the front of the castle. You know it’s good when Jamin Mills, the critic of all critics, looked at me afterwards and declared it quite possibly the coolest production he’d ever seen. It is quite impressive. If your kids are leery of fireworks, you have enough time to sit down and watch the show on Mainstreet, and get the heck out of dodge before Tinkerbell does her thing. 

Check for show times upon arrival into the park.

We will also be finishing up the series with a “tips” page. But I think it is worth noting here that there is an app available on smart phones that can give you real time on current waits at each attraction. Is that amazing or what? Talk about a time saver!!

A side note from Ashley on navigating the park with small children: If you have small kids, and aren’t sure where to start, start out in Fantasyland. Warm them up with the fun rides like Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh. Then you can be all, let’s go to space mountain, SUCKAS! (Okay. Probably not… unless you’re me.) And use your maps. There are some major short cuts you can take around the backs of the attractions. My memory was quickly refreshed, and I learned while moving about from Peter Pan, to Pirates, to Splash Mountain, and back again. I think I also walked off those wonderful cupcakes. Bonus.

Be sure to chat it up with the cast members about any questions you may have. Especially character appearances. They really know the up to date information, and the ins and outs. Trust me…my brain was drilled on this one when I was employed by the mouse. The best ones to utilize and the most accessible? The janitors. They know EVERYTHING, and honestly, are the most helpful.

Thank you all, once again for tuning in this week. What are some of your fave rides and must see attractions that we may have left off the list? Next up: Epcot. So let us know if you have any specific q’s about the park-and pass this lil series along to anyone you know who may be taking a vacay there, soon! Happy weekend, everyone!


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10 Responses to keys to the kingdom : the magic kingdom {what not to miss}

  1. Jessica Anderson says:

    Thank yo uso much for this!! We are going in March and soooooo excited. I think I am going to print all this info off before we leave to make my plans/itinerary. Thanks again!!!!

  2. Angela says:

    Thanks so much. This series has been so helpful! Only two weeks left till we see the mouse with our 22 month old!

  3. Jennifer says:

    We went this summer and I just want to say it’s so fun to read all of your tips and you’re making me want to go back!!

  4. Ha! Jennifer-I’m making myself want to go back, too! ;)

  5. Julie says:

    Just a tip – if your small kids are frightened of dark spaces and/or loud noises you may want to avoid Mickey’s PhilharMagic. We went two years ago and as soon as Donald tossed his baton ‘into’ the audience my girls started crying (they were 21 mos and 3 1/2 at the time). My husband and I tried to find the exit but because it was SO dark we ended up going through the wrong door which led us into the bowels of the Magic Kingdom! It was crazy! Last year, when we went back to DW, we avoided that attraction like the plague. ;)

  6. These are stunning pics..it has been at least 5 years since we last visited Disney. It is time for a revisit although I had better not show my kids these pics just yet. Thank you!

  7. Karen S. says:

    This is an “overall” tip for families going to the Disney parks…the hype always seems to be over The Magic Kingdom (for very good reasons!). So you may want to plan visiting the different parks in order to build up the excitement to The Magic Kingdom. For example, if you go to Magic Kingdom first, Epcot for some people may seem really boring, or a let down. Instead, start at certain parks, and work your way up to the ones you know your kids are going to FLIP over.

  8. Jessica says:

    This list is so helpful. Tomorrow is our second day at magic kingdom, and this post helped to sort through what we’ve missed!