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5 Helpful Hints for Making the Most of One Day in the Magic Kingdom

November 13, 2014

When visiting Walt Disney World, my family and I generally have a handful of days to explore and experience the magic that abounds. On a recent trip, however, we had one day to make the most of the Magic Kingdom. And in my humble opinion, I think we did just that. My expectations for the day were actually surpassed, thanks to a bit of planning, flexible attitudes and a sprinkling of pixie dust for good measure. Here are a few tips to help you and your crew make the most of one day in the MK!

Katy Munson

There was even time to snap a picture while climbing one of the Big Thunder Mountain hills.

1. Use FastPass+ (FP+)!

This might seem obvious, but in chatting with folks on the monorail, while waiting for the park to open and standing in the Dole Whip line, it seems there are still a few who don’t take advantage of this great (and free!) perk. While it’s not fool­proof, a good rule of thumb to use when selecting FP+ times is to book big­ticket/popular attractions later in the day when lines are most likely to be at their longest. Use your morning to explore based on the current wait times for other attractions. You can also change your FP+ time slots on the fly by stopping at a FP+ kiosk or using the theme park’s smart phone app ­ which brings me to my second helpful hint…

2. Utilize the MyDisneyExperience (MDE) smartphone app (particularly the wait times feature).

This will not only inform you as to where the shortest lines are, but will save the time and energy it takes to criss­cross the park looking for low wait times. You can prioritize based on your current location and where your next FastPass+ reservations are. Don’t have a smartphone? Often times Disney cast members have access to current wait times. Be on the lookout for those with a tablet/smartphone device in hand. In our recent visits to the MK, family, friends and I have found that the MDE app wait times posted are more accurate than those found at the entrance to a given attraction ­ of course this was only our experience and not a given.

Anna, Elsa and Olaf making an appearance near the beginning of the Festival of Fantasy parade

Anna, Elsa and Olaf making an appearance near the beginning of the Festival of Fantasy parade

3. Take advantage of Extra Magic Hour (EMH)!

If you’re staying on Disney property, this is an excellent way to squeeze in a few more things and enjoy lower crowds in the park. Depending on the day and the park you’re visiting, the EMH will vary. Generally there is one park that opens an hour early each day and a different park that remains open two hours past closing.

If you choose to take advantage of the early morning EMH you’re probably going to get a lot done in that time . One of the perks to hitting the parks early is that there’s no FP+ distribution for this hour, so that means the stand­by line isn’t slowed down by those feeding in from FP+. Also, you’ll find that attractions that have waits that tend to build throughout the day are pretty short ­ things like It’s a Small World, any of the MK Mountain Range, the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan’s Flight and whatever is new and exciting (i.e. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train), to name a few.

Staying late at the parks has it’s own advantage and a certain character (no pun intended) that you won’t find during the day. While Disney doesn’t kick non­property guests out at closing, anyone not having a valid resort ID (i.e. MagicBand or Key to the World) is not granted access to any of the attractions. As the crowds clear out and the park becomes quieter, there’s something quite unique about the experience. By and large, the population of Main Street USA and beyond changes from families with small children to those about high school age and older. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to ride some of the outdoor coasters in the dark, with lower waits. My brother and I love to tell fellow Disney fanatics about the time we rode Space Mountain at 3 o’clock in the morning, thanks to late­night EHM.

4. Determine your priorities!

Are you parade people? Coaster warriors? Enjoy taking in shows/3D experiences? Have advanced dining reservations (ADRs)? It’s your day at the MK and doing what you value most will hold the greatest magic. Ask everyone in your group what the one thing they’d be devastated to miss during their time in the park is and plan your day from there.

5. Take it all in!

There’s so much to see, hear, smell, taste, feel and experience when you’re in the Magic Kingdom. And that’s just what Walt Disney wanted for his parks. He, himself, said it best: “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in while they’re in the Park. I want them to feel they’re in another world.”

So enjoy the attention to detail, soak in the sight of a little princess seeing Cinderella castle for the first time (or second or third or nineteenth time), taste a treat you can’t find elsewhere, sport some Mouse ears and enjoy the company of those you’re with.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have a magical day.

One Day in the Magic Kingdom

Time­of­Year: mid­-October

Crowds: moderate to high (i.e. not empty, but not packed in like sardines)

Park Hours: 9 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Perks: Extra Magic Hour from 8 – 9 a.m.

Misc.: This was also a Mickey’s Not-­So­-Scary Halloween Party day, so crowds increased at 4 p.m. when party­goers began arriving

  1. MK Opening Show w/characters (still happens, in spite of the train refurb!)
  2. Barnstormer (walk­on during EMH)
  3. Dumbo (walk­on during EMH)
  4. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (posted 60 min; actual 37 mins during EMH)
  5. Space Mountain (walk­on)
  6. Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin (walk­on)
  7. Big Thunder Mountain (posted 40 mins; actual 23 mins)
  8. Pirates of the Caribbean (posted 40 mins; actual 40 mins)
  9. Be Our Guest for a leisurely lunch with FastPass reservation
  10. Mickey’s Philharmagic (posted 10 min; by the time we walked through the queue, the doors to the theater were opening and we walked right in)
  11. Mountain Mad Hatter Tea Cups (10 minute wait posted; no more than 5 minutes actual)
  12. Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor (15 mins)
  13. Splash Mountain (no more than 15 min with FP+)
  14. Festival of Fantasy Parade (watched from spot across from Pecos Bill’s Tall Tales Cafe, with view of where the parade originates; walked up a few minutes before the parade started, stood one “layer” back from the front with very good view)
  15. Jungle Cruise (FP+; walk­on)
  16. Dole Whip break at Aloha Isle! (20 min wait in line; 10 min to enjoy)
  17. Haunted Mansion (posted 40 min; actual 40 mins)
  18. Peter Pan’s Flight (FP+; 5 min)
  19. Carousel of Progress (walk­on)

Note: We also spent plenty of time stopping at various PhotoPass stations, getting in on the “magic shot” fun, since our group had the Memory Maker package. And with exception to the initial “running of the bulls” at the park opening, we did not hurry or walk around too swiftly.

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