“Do you need more than one day to see the Magic Kingdom” is a question that I get constantly – which means that it may be a topic to dive into a little deeper. It’s honestly a question of planning correctly and knowing ahead of time what you’d like to accomplish.
There are more attractions in the Magic Kingdom than any other theme park in Walt Disney World, so when you put that alongside the fact that it’s the most popular theme park in the world…setting expectations is really what I want to share before I get into the nitty gritty of a day at the Magic Kingdom.
How to do the Magic Kingdom in One Day
The Magic Kingdom is the most popular theme park in the world. Depending on what you classify as an ‘Attraction’ (rides vs meet & greets vs shows), there are dozens of experiences that you could want to see during your vacation.
This article is less about whether or not you can do the entire park in a day, because I’ve been visiting Walt Disney World for years and there are still things that I haven’t done. There are factors that may impact your dream day, ranging from refurbishments to weather or personal stuff…like if you do or don’t like roller coasters.
I’ll do my best to provide you with a few ways to prepare yourself for an epic day without over-planning!
I was thinking about the right way to put this without stressing how important each point is, but the biggest thing that you’ll need to do is arrive at the that Magic Kingdom early! If the park is open at 8am, you want to aim to be at the turnstiles for 7am. Why?
- Main Street USA opens approximately an hour before the park officially opens
- Early Magic Hours are rotating early (or late) access for Disney Resort (and Disney Springs Partner Hotels) guests
- Buses and other transportation gets backed up the later in the morning that you arrive.
Plan your day in Advance with FastPass+
When you stay on Disney Property at an official Disney Resort (or Disney Springs Partner Hotel), you’re able to get access FastPass+ 60 days out, vs 30 days out with a regular park ticket and no resort reservation. This is important as you don’t want to be running to the most popular attractions when you can plan to ride them later in the day.
FastPass+ is all about playing the game of what’s available at the time that you sign in, because there’s a secret that no one talks about…you can book your entire vacation’s FastPass reservations on the first day of eligibility. Wha?? Yea, if you’re staying for 7 days, you don’t have to sign in each and every day to book your FastPass+…just the first day!
My preference for FP
- Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train
- Big Thunder Mountain
- Space Mountain
If you want more info on the Magic Kingdom FastPass Strategies, check out this article.
Start on the right side of the Castle at “Rope Drop”
When the Magic Kingdom officially opens, there’s a morning show that happens on the Castle Stage. You want to aim to walk through the gates because your first attraction should be Peter Pan’s Flight. It’s the one attraction in the Magic Kingdom that gets CRAZY lines but really isn’t worth a Fastpass reservation because it’s so short. You’ll still want to experience it, so be prepared to ride it first.
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Here’s where things get fun – You’ve got a choice!
After you leave Peter Pan’s Flight, your party will dictate whether you do a couple more attractions in Fantasyland or if you hit up Liberty Square / Frontierland next.
I’m partial to hitting up the Haunted Mansion, because there’s something eerie about fresh-faced butlers first thing in the morning. We’ve also been known to head to the back of the park to do Splash Mountain & Big Thunder Mountain, but that’s all about how you’re feeling after doing the first couple attractions of the day.
Plan your day at the Magic Kingdom around getting a Be Our Guest LUNCH reservation. Although it’s a Quick Service category meal, you’ll have to reserve it in advance (aka an “ADR”). Why? Check out my thoughts about Lunch vs Dinner at Be Our Guest article and you’ll get some extra insights.
Basically, it’s the best Quick Service restaurant at the Magic Kingdom…hands down! You’ll want to relax with the air conditioning and not stress about the crowds as more and more families are arriving after sleeping in;)
Can’t get a reservation? KEEP TRYING! I’ve actually been able to get day-of and day-before reservations just by checking first thing in the morning (6am) OR late at night (midnight or 1am). I’ve got an article on that too…yea, I really like the challenge of getting hard-to-get reservations.
Explore before the Parade
Because everyone gets hungry at different times, you’ll want to leave the 11-5pm time as free and flexible. Don’t stress about things that you can’t control (like crowds) and just enjoy the fact that you’re in the Magic Kingdom!!
Shop, wander, and adventure. You can even find shows and attractions that may have shorter lines…because you’ll be looking for as much air conditioning as possible.
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Festival of Fantasy Parade
I try to be as close to Main Street USA as possible for the parade, due to the fact that we usually make a B-Line to the buses after the magic has come and gone. Remember that the 3 o’clock parade is just the name of the parade…and the start time haha! You’ll want to add 5-10 minutes to allow for it to roll into the next zone (Frontierland, Liberty Square, The Hub, Main Street and then Railroad Station).
That means that the parade may actually get to you around 3:30pm (or later) depending on delays.
Nap OR Resort
Taking an hour to get out of the sun will definitely help everyone! If you can’t make it back to the hotel for a shower and clothing change, make sure that you bring a change of clothes with you for this time in the day. You’ll want it! OH, and bring deodorant with you – because Florida’s heat is crazy!
If you want to stay in the parks, grab some photos around the park with a Disney photographer or indulge in a cupcake (or 6).
Table Service or Quick Service, this is where you get to really start your evening off with something memorable. We usually end up doing a Quick Service meal…but it really is about the cuisine options that your family would like to try.
Cinderella’s Royal Table, Skipper Canteen (Jungle Cruise themed), or Crystal Palace…all are great options. Probably want to avoid locations like Tony’s Town Square or The Plaza Restaurant, but that’s because you can do better!
After dinner, it’s all about enjoying the park with smaller crowds and more freedom to do whatever you’d like. You’ll want to keep in mind what time the Happily Ever After fireworks spectacular will be performed, because finding a great spot will start around 30-45 minutes beforehand.
Try to make it to the end, because the Magic Kingdom at night is just amazing. There are attractions that actually get better when the sun goes down, so make sure to check out things like Dumbo, Big Thunder Mountain, and Tomorrowland Transit Authority!
Extra Magic Hours
Remember how I mentioned Extra Magic Hours (or EMH)? Well they also offer Evening extra magic hours, which is actually a better experience. Why?
- Early Morning Extra Magic Hours only has half the park available (Adventureland, Frontierland and Liberty Square are closed). Evening EMH…it’s all open.
- Early Morning is for an hour, where the Evening EMH is usually for 2 or 3 hours. Check your park hours in advance, because this is important to know when you’re planing which day to be at which park.
The Kiss Goodnight
This is an amazing hidden gem in the Magic Kingdom, but around 30-minutes after the park officially closes (or midnight, whichever comes first), there is a two-minute presentation that happens in the main hub. You want to be in front of the castle for this, because it’s true Disney magic!
Hope this helps answer the question of how to do the Magic Kingdom in one Day!