Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Magic Kingdom - Park Strategy



We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  These strategies will assume two things – one, that you’re not staying on property, and therefore can’t take advantage of early theme park entry.  And two, that you will NOT be purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for anything during your day.  These assumptions might not be true – in fact, I gather that at least one, if not both, will be false for the average person reading this. However, I wanted to write this from the perspective of a regular guest showing up and trying to accomplish what they want without any particular advantages.  If you are participating in either of the above, the strategy becomes a lot easier.  This should cover the basics either way.  Today we’ll be discussing the one and only Magic Kingdom. (Updated October 26, 2022)


Magic Kingdom attractions:

Highest wait times – Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Jungle Cruise, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain

Moderate wait times – Pirates Of The Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Haunted Mansion, it’s a small world, Astro Orbiter, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh, Tomorrowland Speedway, Mickey's Philharmagic,  Under The Sea: Journey Of The Little Mermaid

Lowest wait times – Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Swiss Family Treehouse, The Magic Carpets Of Aladdin, Tom Sawyer Island, Liberty Square Riverboat, Country Bear Jamboree, The Hall Of Presidents, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Walt Disney’s Carousel Of Progress, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover


In some ways, Magic Kingdom is the easiest park to strategize around and in some ways it’s the hardest.  There are easily more attractions at this park then at any of the others, probably combined.  That leads to a more spread out crowd throughout the day, with more moderate wait times as opposed to some really busy attractions and some empty ones.  Our recommendation is to spend two days in Magic Kingdom.  If you choose not to (or are unable to do so for any reason), our STRONG recommendation is to purchase Genie+.  I am not a shill for Disney and I’m not trying to get you to part with your money, but if you only have one day, it is very difficult to make your way through most of these attractions, especially if you have little kids. 


This guide will be written with a two day plan in mind, in addition to the other caveats mentioned above.  Guests staying on property will have access to early theme park entry; in the case of Magic Kingdom, only the “right side” of the park is open during these hours (Fantasyland and Tomorrowland).  That leads to a backlog of guests on that side of the park and rules out rope dropping Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Also of note - traditional meet and greets are back and those lines tend to be long.  I'm leaving them out of the strategy guide, but you can substitute them for attractions you don't have any interest in, or try to fit them in where you can.  A lot will depend on the makeup of your party - if you have little girls, meeting princesses should be a high priority!

On your first day, I would start by going left into either Frontierland or Adventureland. Thrill Data suggests that the big rides in these areas have comparable wait times at park open.  Previously I recommended Adventureland first, followed by Frontierland, but it probably doesn't make too much of a difference at this point.  Start with Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, then work your way down to Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise.  The latter will be one of the longer wait times for the day - if you have Genie+, a good strategy would be to make that your first selection while you hit some of these other rides via standby.  If you don't have Genie+, rope dropping Jungle Cruise and going in reverse order here would be a good bet.  Splash Mountain is likely to go down for its annual refurbishment early next year, but this time not return as it is being reimagined into Tiana's Bayou Adventure.  At that point, Adventureland is probably better earlier, as Big Thunder shouldn't be as big of a draw by itself in Frontierland.

That’s a lot of activity early in the day, so I would suggest slowing down a bit here and going back through the less crowded Adventureland and Frontierland attractions, including both the Country Bear Jamboree and Enchanted Tiki Room, as well as Magic Carpets Of Aladdin and the Swiss Family Treehouse, if that interests you.  This may seem like a lot of walking back and forth, but those two lands are actually quite near each other and there are a couple of good cut through paths (including a convenient bathroom stop near the Treehouse).  Also, your opinion may differ, but I say it’s never too early for a Dole Whip, and Aloha Isle is nicely placed right near the Magic Carpets for a delicious snack.


There are a few choices here as far as what to do next.  I generally would head into Liberty Square if the wait times for Haunted Mansion are reasonable.  That one is kind of hit and miss, so you don’t want to wait forever, but as a classic Disney attraction, it’s a must do.  If you’re feeling patriotic, you can also take in the Hall Of Presidents while you’re in that area.  Also, if you continue east from the Haunted Mansion, you can make a stop at the very tip of Fantasyland and visit the Rapunzel bathrooms.  It might seem odd to factor this into your day, but trust me, this is a worthwhile place to stop and, um, go.  If we’re anywhere near Fantasyland when we have to use the facilities, this is our place.


We haven’t really discussed meal options and that’s beyond what I wanted to talk about in this post.  But Magic Kingdom typically doesn’t have great table service options, though there are some decent quick service ones.  For table service, there are three area hotels that are just a quick monorail ride away that offer some great variety and run the gamut from casual to upscale.  For me, this is the best choice for a sit down meal, but as always, this is subjective.


In any case, based on what we’ve accomplished so far as well as stopping off for some breaks, we should be well after lunch by this point in the day.  I would start making my way over to Tomorrowland here, as many of these typically have somewhat lower wait times.  You should be able to knock out Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Speedway and the PeopleMover rather easily.  Astro Orbiter is a difficult one to figure and often has higher wait times than you might expect for a ride of this type.


The one big one we didn’t mention in Tomorrowland yet is of course Space Mountain.  This is often one of the busiest attractions in the park but you might catch it at a good time.  If not, I would save this one for the end of the night (still night one here).  Also, if you don’t have the time to get to all those Tomorrowland attractions above (or want to redo any of them), Tomorrowland is a wonderful place to be after dark. The atmosphere comes alive and it’s a lot of fun to look at everything from the height of the Astro Orbiter or the comfort of the PeopleMover.  When Tron Lightcycle Run opens in Spring 2023, this will change the math on the Tomorrowland ride order, but we'll worry about that when we get to that point.


Magic Kingdom has always been known for their nighttime spectaculars including fireworks over Cinderella Castle and Enchantment is no exception.  While I had some thoughts on why it’s no Happily Ever After it’s absolutely worth watching especially after a long, fun day at the park.  People will begin staking out spots early but if you don’t want the absolute best view, you should be able to arrive within a half hour of show time and still enjoy it.  I would try to get a spot towards the Tomorrowland side of the park.  This can be a great view, but also serves the purpose of positioning you on that side to be able to run (or at least walk quickly!) back to Tomorrowland to ride Space Mountain.  If you’re standing on the other side of the hub, it will be very difficult to work your way back to this side of the park when the majority of guests leave as soon as Enchantment ends.




If you’ve taken our advice so far, you’d now be at the point where you’re back at Magic Kingdom for a second day (hopefully after a restful night of sleep in your hotel!).  Day two will largely be about tackling Fantasyland.  Once again, on property guests will have an early advantage, so we would recommend NOT attempting to rope drop Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  The other priority attraction on this side of the park is Peter Pan’s Flight, which almost always has some of the highest wait times of the day.  I would hit this one early; there might still be residual crowds from the early entry guests, but Thrill Data shows a dip soon after official park opening.  You probably won’t get a better chance to do this one with a low wait unless you save it for the end of the night (and we have other plans for that time …)


The caveat here is that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is the only attraction currently offered via Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL), discussed in more detail here. As such, even if you purchase Genie+, SDMT is NOT included.  There is a case that can be made for showing up to early theme park entry if you're staying on property and then following (or leading?) the large crowd of people over to Seven Dwarfs.  For this to be worthwhile, you'll need to be at the park quite early.  Say official park opening time is 9:00.  This would mean early entry would start at 8:30.  You want to be at the park somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes before even THIS time.  If you're not at the front of the pack, rope dropping Mine Train will be a big waste of time where you could be knocking out a bunch of other attractions.

Many of the other Fantasyland attractions have low to moderate wait times, so we don’t need to strategize a particular way through this area.  The attractions are largely close together and suitable for all ages, making this one of the most popular sections of any land in any Disney park.  Stop by Gaston’s Tavern for a cinnamon roll and thank me later. 


You’re probably in the vicinity of lunchtime by now, so you have a few options.  If you still have a lot of energy, this is a good time to go and revisit some of your favorite stuff from the prior day.  This is one reason we recommend starting on the other side of the park for your first day – if you had started in Fantasyland on day one, you’d probably get through fewer attractions and have more to do the second day.  I’d rather make sure I did everything once and then double back.  Attraction closures and bad weather can also be a factor here.


If you’re beat after walking around Magic Kingdom (and other parks) for days, this is actually a good time to take a mid-day break at your resort.  Wait times always higher in the middle of the day and it can be a good time to recharge the batteries.  I would recommend being back in the park for dinner or after dinner, depending on what you have planned.  That sets up your strategy for the end of the night.  Maybe you loved Enchantment so much the first night that you want to watch it again.  The better option, though, would probably be to wait until Enchantment begins, and THEN go finally visit Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  Most guests will be in the hub for the fireworks, and this can be a good time to get on popular rides.  If not, there’s always the trick of getting in the line right before park closing – it serves a similar purpose, though by then, more guests will be coming over from in front of the castle.

The exception to the Mine Train rule would be during party season.  Since the park closes early before the Halloween and Christmas parties, there really is no "end of the night" for day guests.  In that case, rope dropping Mine Train might be your only good option, but the lower crowds on these days should offset a lot of the hassle and make it worth your while.

As stated earlier, Magic Kingdom is a park best accomplished in two days.  If you have the ability to use any of the other tricks or advantages we ignored here, this is a good park to use them (Extended Evening Hours is particularly beneficial here, as are any holiday or After Hours paid parties).  There aren’t as many headliner attractions here to draw huge crowds but there is a LOT to do so anything you can use to help make your day less stressful would be a plus.  Magic Kingdom is supposed to be the most “magical” of all the parks, so you want your day to be as relaxed and fun as possible.


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