And how to avoid one crucial mistake: Never visit Fantasyland in the heat of the day. Here, is how we maneuvered through the day at this magical park — the secret, as always, is careful planning, taking your family’s character into consideration for the attractions.
While it is true, that Disney’s Fast Passes (FP) make long lines at the Magic Kingdom a blessed artifact, there are still a few exceptions to this rule. The FP must be used wisely; only one per hour, and they run out by the end of the day. The park is mammoth and there is much to see, so your day at Disney requires careful planning in advance. The Disney with Kids books are invaluable, with tips on everything to get you through the day — go get one.
This week, we lived through a very full day at the Magic Kingdom, visiting every attraction/ride we desired, with time to spare to re-do some of our favorites. The secret is to use Disney’s ingenious “park themes” by targeting specific areas. Depending upon which “park” you visit first, your route through the Magic Kingdom will be as different as fingerprints.Â When you open your Magic Kingdom Map, you’ll see the park themes:
- Main Street
- Tomorrow Land
- Mickey’s Toontown Fair
- Liberty Square
These are “chuncks” that allow you to easily move from attraction to attraction in the least amount of time. The order in which you visit the park themes will be unique to your family; the important thing is to stay in each park until you’re finished, otherwise you’ll be criss-crossing the entire park wasting time, and valuable walking energy. Notice how easily you can move from park to park, as each are separated by a few steps. You can jump from one “edge” of the park to the other “edge” by hopping on the Disney Railroad.
When we enter the park, we zip through Main Street, stopping only once for a Disney photographer to take our picture in front of the castle. The photographer will give you a card that you can use throughout your day for the photos. When you’re home, you visit the Disney web site, type in the code from the card, and order your pictures.
Once we’re through Main Street, we avoid all common wisdom that says, “Go to the left,” and we go right. This is because we can’t wait to get to Tomorrow Land to ride the Buzz Lightyear Star Command ride. (Babies can ride this). First thing in the morning, this ride usually has no wait. If there is a wait this early, just grab a FP.
Once we left this ride, we grabbed a FP for Buzz Lightyear AGAIN to be used within the next two hours. (Trust me, this ride is that FUN.)
Or get yourself a FP for Space Mountain – if you’re into roller coasters in the dark. While waiting for the FP times, we rode the Tomorrow Land Monorail, caught the Stitch show (if in question, skip it — there are better things than this — unless you are a huge Stitch fan), visited Laugh, and finally, the Astro Orbiter.
We skipped the Transit Authority cars because there is no Fast Pass, and the line is horribly long and slow, and the attraction is far away from the rest of the park, making it logistically unfeasible to maximize your time.
From Tomorrow Land, we headed to Toontown to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer roller coaster. This is a load of fun, and a line that moves very quickly. Beware: Move quickly to get your kids out of Toontown. It’s stock full of playgrounds, and water fountains for water play, and the kids can easily get roped into staying. You can do that stuff at home. Instead, head over to Fantasy Land and get yourself some more Fast Passes!
Here is where we made our mistake. Two years ago, we took the Disney Railroad from Toontown and headed over to Frontier Land (shaded), making Fantasyland our last stop — that would have been much better to repeat. This time, we skipped the railroad, and headed straight to Fantasyland – in the heat of the day (little shade), where lots of kiddies were beginning to have their meltdowns from much needed naps they were not going to get that day. Meltdowns are contagious.
When we visited Fantasyland at night, the older kids seemed to enjoy this park.Â (They will not admit this once they’ve left the park.) My older kids were delighted by these fantastic fantasy rides; I’m presuming the night sky contrasted with the lights, their contentment with the thrills from the big kid rides of the day relaxed them enough to let themselves go. Or maybe it was watching their younger brothers get completely caught up in the fascination of these amazing rides — this part is where dreams come true.
Regardless of when you visit Fantasyland, there are two very popular rides here that you will not want to miss, and you absolutely must have fast passes for. (The wait times sometimes are up to two hours.) The rides are Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight (My FAVORITE ride — beautifully done. Spectacular.) Get one of those fast passes as soon as you enter Fantasyland. Wait your hour, and get your second for the other ride.
While waiting, do this:
Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party do not have a Fast Passes. This is unfortunate, because there are also very popular to the kids, and the wait times are up to an hour. If they insist on riding these (and why not?!), send one adult to grab Pizza at Pinocchio’s, while the other adult waits in line with the kids. The other adult can bring you the pizza and drinks to eat in line.
Standing in line for Dumbo.
You could also ride, It’s A Small World (line moves quickly, and is a great place to get out of the heat), Cinderella’s Carousel, Snow White (line moves quickly), or watch Mickey’s Phillharmagic. A note here about Snow White;
the books say this is scary, which may be why this has no line. It’s really not that “scary.” You sit in a car, and travel through the forest where the trees talk, you see the witch – which is all delightful. You go through it all so fast, that your child may be fine—or not. Regardless, the ride is over very quickly.
Boarding Peter Pan’s Flight
Once we flew over Peter Pan’s Flight and Pooh, we moved to Liberty Square to catch the Haunted Mansion. This line moved quickly; so don’t worry about its length. (There are signs advising you on the current line wait to help you.) This ride is cleverly engineered, and is meant to be funny; so your kids need a great sense of humor — like Scooby Doo — to enjoy this. It wouldn’t hurt to have them watch the movie, The Haunted Mansion before you go, so they’ll be prepared for what they’ll see. A SCARY man’s voice talks all the way through, while you tour the mansion in your “hearst.”
At one point we look into a mirror, and see that a ghost is sitting between us. There are also lots of skeletons dancing around. Your kids will either LAUGH, or scream. You know them best. Still, they might surprise you. The “hearses” move slowly, crawling through the mansion, so there is no worry about that kind of thrill, at least. I’ve ridden this with ages 3-12 – all came out laughing, and were delightfully impressed. Remember, the little ones will take their cues from you on how to react. Keep it light, and things will move smoothly.
Then, it was about time for the 3:00 “Dreams Come True Parade.”
So, we found a spot along the road in Frontier Land, grabbed some ice cream and waited. The parade starts in Frontier Land, so by watching it there, we were free to wander the park sooner, as the parade was over first here.
At Frontier Land, we got a FP for the Thunder Mountain Railroad, and within an hour, had a FP for Splash Mountain too. My five-year-old just made the 30″ height requirement for the Railroad. So, he rode it, while his 6-year-old brother and I watched the rest of them. He loved it .No, let me re-state that, he said, “IT was TOTALLLY WICKED!”
Splash Mountain is a combination water thrill, withÂ Brer Rabbit starring in It’s a Small, Small World-type adventure. I was actually scared, anticipating that big drop at the end; but my 6-year old laughingly said as we were gliding along watching scenes from the Brer Rabbit tales, “Look Mom, they’re trying to trick us into thinking this ride isn’t scary… and it’s working!” It didn’t work so well for me — I knew that big drop was coming at the end, and I couldn’t get out of this log!
While waiting on the FP boarding times for the railroad and log ride we were able to walk over to the Pirates of the Caribbean (line moves fast, and again is a great way to get out of the heat). You are in a “boat” while you go through scenes from the movie in the dark. Johnny Depp, (Jack Sparrow) in wax form, is sprinkled all the way through, while you try to find him.
When you’re done here, you can take the railroad back to Tomorrow Land for another spin at the Buzz Lightyear Star Command (people, trust me, this ride is a great way to spend time with your family), or walk back over to Fantasy Land — and do whatever you want to do again, while waiting for the ElectroMagic Parade.
I have a couple of more Disney tips, here and here.
Wow lots of info packed into one post! Craig and I have gone twice (without our kids…on our honeymoon the first time so we didn’t have kids, and on our 5 year anniversary the second time.) We hope to take the kids in a few years.
Brought back some memories for me!
My first time riding Splash Mountain (well into my 20’s), a little girl in front of me said to her father “I want to get out now” as we were heading up the final hill. I looked at my sister and said “Me too!” Having experienced the drop and survived, I now have ridden it both times we returned to visit the Mouse. Last time I ventured onto Space Mountain too and wound up loving it:)
I haven’t been to Disneyland in over 10 years, so a lot of what you mentioned is unfamiliar. But the Haunted Mansion is a perennial favorite. Autumn is a great time to go.
I LOVE Disney World. We have probably been 10 times in the last 11 years. We have four kids and have so much fun there. We were just there in June but reading your post makes me want to go again!
I really want to take my girls to Disney! I’ve only been there once – as a teenager and only for one day. These tips are great! Hopefully, it won’t be long before I’ll be using them!
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I’m going to dump your suggestions into a spreadsheet and follow your plan. It sounds like your family didn’t have too many melt downs. We will have 2 days to do DW so we won’t have to feel like we have to do everything at once.
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