A few weeks ago, one of my amazing friends had her first opportunity to take the family to Walt Disney World; the problem was they only had one day to enjoy it. Of course, that was my cue to step in, trying to help the five of them see as much as possible and get the best experience simultaneously.
That’s the problem with Disney; there is so much to see and do; unless you have close to a week, you will never tick everything off your list. This led me to an idea, a series of articles where we analyze how to get the most out of one day in each park. Here is your One-Day Guide to The Best of Magic Kingdom to kick things off.
Selecting the Right Day
It should go without saying that if you want to maximize your time in one day, it’s going to be a rope drop to closing situation, which means you need to make sure you choose a day when the park isn’t closing early for a seasonal party or another event. Check out the Magic Kingdom calendar and look for the most extended set of hours to pull off the impossible. If you can do that, along with a date that has a parade and fireworks, you’re off to a beautiful start.
First-timers must be warned that you will need both a ticket and a park reservation to enter, which means consulting Disney’s availability calendar is essential before you book tickets. Avoid weekends where you can.
Making a Plan
You aren’t going to have any time to waste on this special day, so don’t lose time wondering if your children can handle an attraction or, worse, learning the hard way they can’t. Make a list at home of all the rides that sound like something your family would be interested in, based on their theme or characters, even simply the type of attraction.
If you are looking at rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, or Thunder Mountain Railroad, be sure to check off any height requirements that might be a problem and mark down who in your party can ride as well as those who might need an alternative activity.
If you have young children, family members with sensory needs, or any other concerns, be sure to watch ride-through videos and read reviews to see if the attraction might be suitable. A scary encounter can throw off the whole day and is sometimes easily avoidable with little research.
Select Your Entertainment
Planning out your day can be challenging, though you’ll want to be sure to factor in extra time for any shows or entertainment you want to see. There are some fantastic shows to see while you are there; however, with the time required, I wouldn’t suggest you attempt more than one, along with perhaps the Parade or Fireworks.
I like to plan my entertainment block around the early afternoon. Many people are sitting down for lunch at that time, and it is a great way to give everyone some relief from the weather and the walking. Whether it’s Mickey’s PhilharMagic, Country Bear Jamboree, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, or The Hall of Presidents, know where they are and when you want to catch a showing.
Don’t Waste Time
Look at a map of Magic Kingdom as you plan out a rough outline for your day. Just after opening, you can usually get away with riding one of two of the most popular attractions out of sequence. However, after that, I highly recommend working in a circular motion, so you don’t lose time traversing back and forth across the park instead of enjoying the attractions. Another time waster if you only have one day is to skip the table service meals.
Disney has a lot of great food, and you don’t need to sit in a restaurant to enjoy it. Take advantage of some of those signature snacks and quick-service meals that will cure your hunger and also be a memorable experience. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Pinocchio Village Haus, or Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe tend to have more options and more seating available.
Another time-saving time is to skip Tom Sawyer Island. It’s worth doing if you have more days up your sleeve though it does require a dedicated chunk of time that will take away from your other activities.
Spend Money Wisely
It can be easy to get carried away in the parks when it comes to spending. We are happy and tend to throw caution to the wind when we whip out that credit card more often than we anticipate. If you are only staying for one day, there are a few items you don’t need, which will save you money for the items you really do love.
Skip the Magic Bands. They aren’t necessary, and while they do make things easier over a longer period, they are an expensive dust collector for a one-day excursion. That money is far better spent on a Photo Pass to cover the magic with everyone in the picture at the same time.
If your family like the idea of Minnie or Mickey Ear Headbands (my favorite Disney accessory), consider spending your countdown time at home making a uniquely customized set of your own. Though pretty, these expensive little things definitely add up when everyone in the family wants in.
For Families with Younger Kids
If your family has younger children, you will likely find more attractions that suit your family in Fantasyland. Many of these rides are free from height restrictions and tend to be more in line with younger storylines that kids might be familiar with.
There are many terrific photo opportunities in this area as well, thanks to a spacious backdrop of fantasy and far-away adventure. Once you’ve had a chance to review the rides in this area, plan to spend a good chunk of time here, as there is so much to see and do that your family will love. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo, Its a Small World, and so many more of Disney’s classic stories come to life in this area, not to mention being right in front of Cinderella Castle.
Don’t Miss Out on Main Street, U.S.A.
When you are in a rush to pack everything into one day, Main Street U.S.A can sometimes feel like just a long corridor to the main attractions. In some ways, it is, but it also has a lot of soul that you should make time to enjoy. If you arrive at the park at opening, you’ll have an opportunity to explore this area. In contrast, others squish themselves up against the rope, waiting to rebelliously run, not walk, to their first destination.
Take your time to meet characters, listen to the Dapper Dans sing their way into your heart, and look at all the shopfronts along the way. The laneway provides a fantastic frame for your first family photo. Get down low to hide the crowds behind your family as you take their photo, allowing the leading lines of the building to draw your eye to the castle at the end of the street.
Magic Kingdom is a wonderful place to start your Disney experience, offering a little bit of everything wrapped up in the nostalgia of Walt Disney’s original vision.