Disney World Magic Kingdom is sure to delight every child, no matter what age. When our kids were little, we lived in California and would take them to Disneyland. Now that our kids are teens, we live in Massachusetts and Florida is a much easier trip. No matter which Disney park you pick, your kids are likely to be happy!
Location of Disney World Magic Kingdom: Orlando area – Seven Seas Drive, Bay Lake, FL
Cost: Currently, admission starts at $109/ticket, but this can go up depending on the day that you visit. If you are visiting during a school vacation, expect to spend somewhere between $130-$150/ticket. If you add Genie+ to skip a few lines, it will add at least $15/ticket. Get park tickets and reservations in advance, the parks can sell out!
Children between 3-9 will get a small discount, and 0-2 is free!
(Generally speaking, Disney parks have gotten more elaborate and more expensive than years ago when we visited as children. The parks are still fun, and we understand raising their prices to control crowds, but it’s something to be prepared for).
Closest Airports: Orlando is your closest choice, but Tampa is about 75 miles away. We like combining Disney World with a Florida road trip!
Before you arrive at Disney World Magic Kingdom , remember that you will be walking a surprising amount, so get a good breakfast. If you are lucky, your hotel will have waffles like these:
Many people come to Disney and spend the entire trip in the “Disney bubble” – in Disney hotels, restaurants, and transit. It’s certainly convenient to do that, though at a premium price. We simply stayed at a nice Home2 Suites right outside the park entrance. Our goal was to spend one solid day at Magic Kingdom, as part of a 1-week Florida trip, and to see what we could see.
When arriving to Magic Kingdom, remember that the parking lots are big that even once you go through the security check entrance, you will still need to take either a ferry or the monorail to the main entrance. The entire process is likely to add at least 30-60 minutes to your morning – it was probably 50 minutes for us, fortunately we arrived an hour before opening. We had brought metal water bottles and portable phone charger, both of which were flagged for extra security, so I had to spend some time in the really slow security line.
Once through security we were told that masks were required on the monorail, but that the ferry was currently the fastest option. We chose to ride the ferry and found a corner that didn’t seem too crowded.
Disney recently replaced Fast Passes; if you are visiting the park on a busy day, summers and school vacations are busy, you may want to purchase a Genie+ add-on ticket that is accessible through the My Disney Experience App. This app does drain your phone a bit, so consider bringing a portable phone charger into the park, although be aware that it may trigger your bag for additional screening.
The $15 basic Genie+ Lightning Lane add-on allows you to reserve a skip-the-line (well, it is a shorter line anyway) tickets every two hours. There are a number of caveats/rules, and the whole thing is controlled by the Disney app on your phone.
Our reservations for the day:
- 7:00am: Big Thunder Mountain for 11:55-12:55
- 11:02am: Splash Mountain for 5:55-6:55
- 1:04pm: Space Mountain for 7:15:-8:15
- 3:15pm: Winnie the Pooh for 6:30-7:30
- 5:20pm: It’s a Small World for 8:00-9:00
- 6:20pm: There were no rides available for times before our planned departure
If this is worth $15/person to you, then get the Genie+. Once you tap into the ride, expect a 5-10 minute wait to actually get on. At 11:02am, we still had not tapped into a ride and were quite disappointed with our purchase, but by 8:00pm, we had enjoyed our glut of line-free rides and were much happier with the experience and decided that we would probably buy Genie+ again.
The Individual Lightning Lane allows you to pay even more to skip the line on some of the most popular rides. You are only allowed to purchase this for a maximum of 2 rides per day, and it can be instead of or in addition to the basic Genie+ package.
After spending a little too long in the security line and taking the ferry, we did not reach the main entrance until 9:02. What distress! The boys were devastated that we were not first in line to rush to Space Mountain! Once we made it there, the sign said that there was a 60 minute wait! The horror! While we stood in line, we checked out the My Disney Experience App to see what lines looked like elsewhere. In the end, it looked like lines were getting long everywhere and we figured that Space Mountain would only get worse, so we decided to go ahead and stick with the ridiculous wait. To our surprise, our wait ended up being less than 30 minutes! Our day was looking up!
Since we were already in Tomorrowland, the Speedway was a logical second ride. The wait was fairly short and I’m not really sure why, but we always have fun on this ride. The cars are slow, you have to firmly and consistently press the pedal, and bumping is not allowed, but it seems to bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Pirates of the Caribbean
We thought about heading towards Splash Mountain, but the wait was really long, so we selected Pirates of the Caribbean instead. What a delightful ride! When the boys were in preschool, it was quite a terrifying, but now that they are older it is a highlight! Every age has its pros and cons. On this ride you will board a medium sided boat and ride through spooky caverns inhabited by pirates going on with daily life.
The Haunted Mansion
Next up was the Haunted Mansion. Similar to the Pirates of the Caribbean, this one might be too scary for preschoolers, but our teenage boys love it! It’s fun to watch a room stretch out of place and see ghosts sitting next to you on the ride.
It was a little early for lunch, but given that our first Genie+ ticket was coming up, we stopped by Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe to get Mexican food for lunch. Even though we pre-ordered with the Disney App, our very mediocre food took quite a while; plus we ended up in a way too crowded dining room.
Skipping the Jungle Cruise
By this time we were realizing that Genie+ might be more difficult than we hoped to score skip-the-line tickets to all our favorite rides. After seeing that Jungle Cruise didn’t have anything available on Genie+, we made the decision that 75 minutes was too long of a wait for the Jungle Cruise and that we would skip this delightful ride.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Finally, it was time to use our first Genie+ reservation! While I don’t ride rickety wooden rollercoasters, the boys do enjoy them, so I walked with them to the entrance of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, then waited for them to have their fun. The short line was quite delightful!
It’s a Small World
We checked the Disney app for line wait times and decided that it was time for It’s a Small World. One of our teenage boys put up some mild resistance, but I think he still had fun once he was on the ride. Our other son is really into foreign languages and interesting travel destination, so listening to a very cheerful song that repeats through various languages as you see beautiful scenes from around the world was up his alley. There really is nothing quite like this ride!
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Our kids really like Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Similar to many Disney rides, first you hop into a car that takes you on a track with some great scenery. In this case, the scenery is filled with Zurg and his invading robots and your car is equipped with laser blasters. You will be able to spin your car 360° to face any direction and shoot at targets marked with Z’s. At the end of the ride, you can see the tally of your points. Usually John wins, but to his chagrin, I managed to beat his score!
Snacks at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
Even though our visit was in February, temperatures were starting to reach 90°F, and we were starting to become hot, tired, and cranky. Slushies at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe were in order. Yum!
Carousel of Progress
The slushies helped, but we were still tired and didn’t want to stand in any long lines, so we headed towards the nearby Carousel of Progress. In this ride, you rotate through four generations of life, seeing the technological advances that each generation experienced. While not a “thrill” ride, it is always fun to see how different life used to be.
Enjoying the Atmosphere and a Parade
Having checked the Disney App for ride times, we decided that we still weren’t in the mood for ridiculously long lines and headed for the Hall of Presidents. Having just missed a show, we chose to wander a bit and enjoy the atmosphere, enjoying the parade that sauntered by.
We popped into a few souvenir shops, but the T-shirt that one of our sons really wanted only came in about 4 sizes too large.
Hall of Presidents
Eventually, it was closer to show time, so we went back to the Hall of Presidents and enjoyed learning about the history of American Presidents. The show does a really good job of highlighting the founding of our country and significant moments in our history where the sitting president used his power to make our nation a better place to live. It is always refreshing to put aside some of our controversies and instead focus on the things that most people agree were positive changes.
Dinner at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
Having enjoyed the atmosphere during our slushy break, we decided to return to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and get some early dinner. Coming from New England in February, I was pleasantly surprised by my salad. I never thought that the thing that I would miss most about living in California would be the abundance of fresh veggies in the winter. In any case the selection of food was standard American fast food choices, but it was about as tasty as you can expect from a theme park, and all of us were much more pleased with our dinner than our lunch.
Now our long gorge of wait-free rides was about to begin. Yay Genie+! Splash Mountain is always a delight, but we arrived just as the sun was setting. It made the ride quite beautiful, but it also made us wet just as the temperatures were plunging. An hour earlier in the day would have been better, but this is a ride that shouldn’t be missed.
You will hop into a floating log and the water will carry you through various scenes with happy animals and cheery music. Eventually, the tone will change and you will be carried to the final drop where you will be sure to get wet. One person in your group is likely to get off easy, but someone is almost sure to be completely drenched.
When comparing this ride to the Disneyland version, one thing we have noticed it is longer, but is missing the hauntingly mournful song leading to the final plunge. All-in-all, I like the Disneyland version better, but this one is still great.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was our next Genie+ ride, so we dashed across the park and hopped on that one. Similarly to Splash Mountain, I slightly prefer the Disneyland version, but this one is slightly longer and still one of Jeremy and my favorite rides. What’s not to like about riding a car around and seeing Pooh’s crazy honey-induced dreams?
Having been able to snag Space Mountain Genie+ reservations, we headed back to Tomorrowland and hopped on again. Speeding through the dark and enjoying the view of the night sky from space is quite delightful.
One thing I learned is that the nose-piece of the cars is not as well designed for being able to brace your back as the other seats. If you are a little skeptical about how well you can handle rollercoasters, avoid seats 1 and 4; and opt for 2,3,5, or 6 instead. Fortunately, I came out in one piece, but it is the only rollercoaster that I am comfortable riding at Disney World.
Just like in the morning, we decided to check the wait times for the Speedway. Finding that it was only 10 minutes, we hopped on for another turn around the track!
It was time for the fireworks to start, so we bought some popcorn and decided to enjoy the show from the back side of the castle. The view wasn’t quite as good as the front since fireworks were erupting both in front of us and behind us, but the crowds were quite minimal. What a delight!
It’s a Small World
For our last Genie+ ride, we headed for It’s a Small World. While the standard line wasn’t all that long, our skip-the-line probably saved us a good 10-15 minutes, so it was probably worth it. In any case, there were no better options at the time of our reservation, so we took what we could get. Taking the “Happiest Cruise that Ever Sailed” isn’t a bad way to end your time in Disney World!
Knowing that we had a 1.5 hour drive to Tampa in front of us, we all agreed that we had enjoyed ourselves enough and all of us were ready to head out. We stopped at a gift shop on the way to the exit.
There are two ways back to the parking lot. In the morning we were advised that the ferry was the fastest option, but this time around the attendant indicated that the monorail was the better option. Getting in the ridiculously long line, we were quite skeptical, but the line did move quite quickly. It was kind of fun getting to whiz past the various resorts.
Back at the parking lot, we could have taken a tram back to our specific lot, but we were sick of the crowds and decided to walk. It really wasn’t all that far, and if you have to spend any time waiting for the tram, walking is probably faster.
Hopping in our car, our exhausted bodies made us wish we had booked a hotel closer to Orlando, but not every travel decision can be the right one. As we drove, we all declared this to be a great vacation!
While there are plenty of other great places to visit in the world, if you are able, try to take your kids to a Disney Theme Park at least once in a lifetime!