If you’re planning to take your family to Walt Disney World and it’s your first time visiting the Magic Kingdom, knowing a little about the parks and attractions beforehand can help you make the most of your visit.
Plan Your Disney Itinerary
If you have only one day to spend, your best (and possibly only choice) is The Magic Kingdom. If you’re traveling with young children, unless they see this park, they may not believe they’ve seen Walt Disney World.
With two days, depending on your group, you may enjoy either spending time at a second Disney park, or visiting The Magic Kingdom twice and seeing any attractions you may have missed.
If you’d rather see a second park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has a variety of attractions including an authentic African safari, live performances and a variety of rides for all ages. Families with older children may enjoy Epcot for its scenery and international theming or the exhilarating rides and attractions. Also if you want to meet princesses, talk to Crush or see lots of marine life, Epcot is the place to go to! Plus, Epcot hosts a number of different events and festivals, including the annual International Flower and Garden Festival which runs from February – May.
Tip: Before you visit any park, be sure to check ride height restrictions so you know which rides your children can enjoy and if there are any rides older or pregnant visitors should avoid.
Looking for more information on saving for your trip to Walt Disney World? Check out Part Three - Saving on Your Trip.
With at least a day per park, families can be sure to see each of the major Disney parks. With smaller children, visiting The Magic Kingdom may have to be first. Then you can decide the order you’d like to visit the other properties; however, Disney Parks Moms Panel suggests these are the least-busy days for each park:
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Mondays, Tuesdays or Thursdays
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Wednesdays or Fridays
Epcot: Wednesdays or Thursdays
Magic Kingdom: Tuesdays or Thursdays
Tip: If you’re staying on-property, you can use your Extra Magic Hour in the morning, then leave in the afternoon when crowds peak to relax by your resort pool.
Here’s a brief rundown of each of the parks, along with must-see rides and attractions worth a Fastpass+ (FP+), and top restaurants.
The Magic Kingdom
Like its cousin Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom is divided into six themed lands centered around a fairytale castle. The Magic Kingdom has the most rides and experiences geared towards younger family members. Fantasyland, for example, has 19 attractions that are appropriate for all ages.
And if you’re looking to meet classic Disney characters, the Magic Kingdom is your best bet. Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell greet visitors in the Town Square Theater on Main Street, U.S.A., Donald, Daisy, Minnie and Goofy appear at Pete’s Silly Sideshow, and guests can dine with Disney characters at Cinderella’s Royal Table and The Crystal Palace.
Tip: Check the My Disney Experience app or the free printed maps for updated character greeting locations during your visit.
While the Magic Kingdom offers the most FastPass+ attractions, not every ride with a FP+ will have a long line. Here are a few must-see attractions, including ones worth making a FP+ reservation.
For the Young and Young at Heart:
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Closed until Mar. 18, 2018)
- Peter Pan’s Flight (FP+)
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Jungle Cruise (FP+)
- Enchanted Tales with Belle (FP+)
- Mad Tea Party (FP+)
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (FP+)
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin (FP+)
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (FP+)
- Haunted Mansion Space Mountain (FP+)
Tip: Disney parks are very large. So use FastPasses to experience must-see rides but don’t make it a mission to see everything.
Cinderella’s Royal Table, Fantasyland — Table Service only – American breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Disney Princesses
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, Main Street, U.S.A. — salads, pasta, Italian entrees
Be Our Guest Restaurant, Fantasyland – Table Service, Quick Service – American and French influenced breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, Main Street U.S.A. — hand-scooped ice-cream treats
Aloha Isle, Adventure Land– Here you can find the Dole Whip Float, Dole Whip Cup and Dole Whip Twist Cup (made with fresh-cut pineapple!)
Tip: Character dining is one of the easiest ways to meet a whole host of Disney characters at one setting. Be sure to check which restaurants and Disney resorts offer character dining options and make reservations ahead of time.
Epcot is more like two parks in one — the first being Future World, celebrating technology and exploration, and the second being the World Showcase, 11 areas themed around countries, celebrating food, culture and heritage.
Most rides and attractions here shouldn’t require waiting in long lines; however, a few rides in Epcot are popular enough to consider getting a FP+ reservation.
For the Young and Young at Heart:
- Turtle Talk with Crush (FP+)
- Spaceship Earth
Frozen Ever After (FP+)
Princess meeting spots throughout the World Showcase
Bruce’s Shark World
- Test Track (FP+)
- RELAUNCHED! Mission: SPACE
Tip: Because there is a lot of ground to cover in Epcot, travelers with mobility issues may benefit from renting a wheelchair or Electric Conveyance Vehicle (ECV) for their visit.
- Canada: Le Cellier Steakhouse,
World Pavilion — steak, seafood, poutine
- Italy: Via Naoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, World Pavilion — wood-oven fired pizza, pasta
- France:Chefs de France and Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie, World Pavilion — traditional French
- Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe, Norway Pavilion — Norwegian specialties like sweet pretzels, cream-filled pastry horns, sweet lefse flatbread
- Karamell-Küche, Germany Pavilion – features hand
crafted desserts covered in caramel
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Currently undergoing significant expansion, Disney’s Hollywood Studios invites guests to enter the world of show business and immerse themselves in movies like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Because of the ongoing construction (Toy Story Land opens summer 2018 and Star Wars: Galaxy’s End opening 2019), several attractions are closed.
There are still several attractions worth seeing at Hollywood Studios.
For the Young and Young at Heart:
- Muppets 3D (FP+)
- Fantasmic! Fireworks
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage (FP+)
- For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along (FP+)
- Voyage of the Little Mermaid (FP+)
- Toy Story Midway Mania! (FP+)
- Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
- Star Wars character Meet and Greets
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (FP+)
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (FP+)
- Star Tours—The Adventures Continue (FP+)
- The Hollywood Brown Derby — Table Service— a recreation of the Hollywood landmark, including the world-famous Cobb salad, steaks, seafood, pasta specialties.
- 50’s Prime Time Cafe — Table Service — American comfort foods
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – Table Service – California-inspired gourmet pizzas, Italian cuisine
- Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant – Table Service, Dining event – 50’s style American dining in car shaped booths at an indoor drive-in theatre
- Sweet Spells – bakery treats, traditional candy options and four different flavoured whoopee pies!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The largest of the four parks, Animal Kingdom is certain to satisfy the animal lovers in your family. Highlights include an authentic African safari, a trip back in time to see dinosaurs, and two Broadway-style musicals based on hit Disney films.
Brand new to Animal Kingdom is a new land Pandora – The World of Avatar, which is based on the popular movie Avatar. Because it is newly opened, the wait times for its two new rides Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey have been higher than average. Both rides are currently in the “Choose Only One” FastPass+ group, so your family will only be able to reserve one of the attractions at a time.
For the Young and Young at Heart:
- Finding Nemo-The Musical (No FP+ needed)
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (Africa) (No FP+ needed)
- Maharajah Jungle Trek (Asia) (No FP+ needed)
- Pocohontas Meet and Greet at Character Landing
- Animal Exhibits
- Affection Section (open air petting zoo) at Rafiki’s Planet Watch
- Kilimanjaro Safaris (Africa) (FP+)
- Primeval Whirl and TriceraTop Spin (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- Expedition Everest (Asia) (FP+)
- Avatar Flight of Passage (FP+)
- Kali River Rapids (FP+)
- Tiffins —Table Service — African, Asian, Latin Cuisine
- Tusker House — Table Service – African, American Cuisine buffet, character meals
- Yak & Yeti Restaurant — Table Service and Quick Service – American, Asian, Chinese, Seafood
- Zuri’s Sweets Shop – confectionary shop with an array of sweet and savory candies and treats including giant Mickey cookies and Zebra and Giraffe Marshmallow pops!
Disney operates two of the most-themed waterparks you’ll ever find: Blizzard Beach, themed as a melting ski resort is located near Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. Typhoon Lagoon is a water park created when a legendary storm created an entire inland sea, complete with breaker waves.
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