The Ultimate Guide to Magic Kingdom, According to Disney Experts

Here's everything you need to know to plan the perfect day in Magic Kingdom, including the best rides, restaurants, and more.

<p>Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure</p>

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

When the Magic Kingdom opened its gates on Oct. 1, 1971, it became an iconic place to not only see favorite Disney characters but to experience innovative attractions and visit lands carefully crafted to transport guests to another time or place. No trip to Walt Disney World would be complete without a visit to the Magic Kingdom. The most popular park at the Florida resort is also the most-visited theme park in the entire world, with more than 17 million visitors in 2022, according to the Global Attractions Attendance Report.

With this popularity comes crowds, so knowing how to best navigate the park is vital to ensure a great experience. “Walt Disney World is complicated in a way that's different from almost any other vacation destination. There are far more people who want to ride Disney's best rides and eat at Disney's best restaurants than there is ride and restaurant capacity for them. You'll need to make reservations for the popular rides and restaurants or risk not getting to them,” says Len Testa, co-author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World."

Ready to plan your trip? Here's everything you need to know to plan a perfect day at Magic Kingdom.

Len Testa is the co-author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World."

Samantha Davis-Friedman is a theme park journalist and contributing writer of “Walt Disney World Hacks, Second Edition.”

Planning Your Visit

<p>Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World</p>

Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World

“The two things to consider when visiting Walt Disney World are crowds and weather,” says Testa. “Walt Disney World's crowds are typically lowest when public schools are in session. The best weather is generally between November and March, with daytime highs between 75 and 80 degrees.”

Tickets can be purchased as either single or multi-day passes, and you can add the Park Hopper option to visit multiple parks a day. Single-day ticket prices are dynamic and vary depending on the day and park you’re looking to visit, ranging between $134 to $189 for 2024. While park hours vary throughout the year, currently Magic Kingdom is open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Guests staying at Disney hotels (and select other hotels) can take advantage of Early Entry to enter the park 30 minutes before it officially opens. Guests staying at a Disney Deluxe Resort or other select hotels can enjoy Extended Evening Hours after the park closes on select nights.

Getting to Magic Kingdom

<p>Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure</p>

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

Guests cannot park outside of the gates of the Magic Kingdom and must park across the Seven Seas Lagoon at The Transportation and Ticket Center, otherwise known as the TTC. From there, guests can take a ferry or monorail to arrive at the park gates. “My motto is 'take the one that’s there' – sometimes that’s the monorail and sometimes it's the ferry. Either way, it’s nice to start the day without a wait (if possible) since there will certainly be plenty of waiting to come," says Samantha Davis-Friedman, theme park journalist and contributing writer of “Walt Disney World Hacks, Second Edition”.

Only Walt Disney World Resort buses and "Minnie Vans" (Lyft’s exclusive Walt Disney World car service offering select perks), can drop visitors off directly outside of the park. Third-party shuttles typically drop riders at the TTC.

Standard parking is $30 per day, preferred parking varies seasonally between $45 and $55 per day, and oversized vehicle parking is $35 per day. If you’re park-hopping, good news: Guests only need to pay one fee for a parking pass that is good all day at all four theme parks.

Guests staying at select Magic Kingdom area resorts can also take the monorail or a boat from their hotel.

Best Rides and Attractions

<p>Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure</p>

Valerie de Leon/Travel + Leisure

Younger guests shouldn’t miss out on the rides in Fantasyland, like The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight. Thrill-seeking visitors should make a point to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Space Mountain, and Tron Lightcycle Run. For fans of classic Disney, no trip is complete without a stop at The Enchanted Tiki Room, a ride on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, and a spin through Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress, which originally debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion are perennial favorites among guests of all ages. And Tiana's Bayou Adventure is bound to be an instant hit when it opens this summer.

The best way to optimize time within the parks is to utilize Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lanes, an update on the previously complimentary FastPass system. These benefits come at an additional cost, but time in the parks is valuable and sometimes, it’s best to spend extra money to avoid lost time in line. The cost varies by park and date, generally ranging between $16 to $35 per day.

Testa recommends purchasing Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL) for sought-after attractions like Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Related: 58 Disney World Rides and Attractions, Ranked From Worst to Best


Let the Magic Begin and Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire are stage shows that run several times throughout the day and feature Mickey and his pals, Tiana and friends from "The Princess and the Frog," and more.

The Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade is an abbreviated parade that runs through the park and features characters from "Encanto," "Coco," and more. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade features incredible floats, a long list of characters, and a great soundtrack.

Happily Ever After is the park's current nighttime spectacular featuring projections, lasers, special effects, and of course, fireworks. While finding a spot in front of the castle is key if you want to catch the projections, the show is still extremely enjoyable when viewed from other, often less crowded, spots. My favorites are Tomorrowland and Fantasyland (and it's a bonus if you are onboard the PeopleMover or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train while fireworks are exploding in the sky above you).

Best Restaurants

<p>Walt Disney World</p>

Walt Disney World

Visitors looking to maximize their time in the parks should opt to order from quick-serve locations, preferably with mobile orders. Sleepy Hollow is a great stop for breakfast, offering an extremely popular fresh fruit waffle sandwich. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe is a reliable stop for burgers and chicken strips. It’s also home to Sonny Eclipse, a beloved animatronic performing lounge tunes all about his home planet Zork in the dining room. Casey’s Corner offers hot dogs, corn dog nuggets, and french fries. If you’re looking for non-fried choices, Columbia Harbor House serves New England-inspired seafood dishes.

Guests who want to get up close with their favorite friends can make a reservation for a character meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table to dine with princesses or The Crystal Palace for a meal with Pooh and friends. Other standout table-service restaurants are Be Our Guest, Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen, and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, thanks to a recent menu overhaul that makes it a fantastic place to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio, especially while a parade passes by.

Snack fiends, be prepared: there are a lot of can’t-miss Disney World foods, including pineapple upside-down cake topped with Dole Whip from Aloha Isle, cheeseburger spring rolls at The Spring Roll Cart, and the pepper jack pretzel from Cheshire Cafe.

Related: 30 Best Disney World Restaurants

Magic Kingdom Itinerary

Be ready to book your first Genie+ selection and join the virtual queue for Tron Lightycle Run at 7 a.m. If you miss the 7 a.m. window, there is another chance to join the Tron virtual queue at 1 p.m. from inside the park. If you’re staying on property, be ready to enter the park when Early Entry begins. Otherwise, be prepared to rope drop as soon as the park opens. Head to the most popular rides first to take advantage of the shortest lines you’ll likely see all day. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan's Flight, Jungle Cruise, and Space Mountain develop some of the highest wait times as the day goes on. From there, tackle the park by land, and don’t forget to take your time and enjoy. Continue to utilize Genie+ to book return times for attractions — or if you’ve opted to pass on the additional purchase, keep an eye on wait times in the app to head to the shortest lines. Try to spot a parade along the way, and end your day with Happily Ever After.

Tips for a Magical Day at Magic Kingdom

  • “Be at the park, admission in hand, 60 minutes before the official opening. On most days, Disney will let you into the park and allow you to line up for your first ride well before the park opens. This is a tremendous advantage over those who can't get up and out the door that early. You'll be well on your way to your second (or third) ride before most people have gone through the turnstiles,” says Testa.

  • Be prepared for the weather. “No matter what time of year you go to Magic Kingdom, it will likely rain — and it’s always A LOT of rain. Because I have been caught unprepared for rain at Walt Disney World (more than once), I now carry a pair of inexpensive, lightweight flip-flops in my backpack. That way, I can quickly swap out my sneakers and socks to keep them dry (this works well on water rides too!),” says Davis-Friedman.

  • If you plan on spending a lot of time at Magic Kingdom, consider splurging to stay at a neighboring hotel. Guests can walk directly to the park from Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. This convenience will save you a lot of time and hassle if you plan on staying until the park closes.

  • For those looking to avoid the post-fireworks crowds, consider watching them from the neighboring resorts. Diners at The California Grill located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort have access to a viewing deck that pipes in the show’s sound, as does the beach at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

  • Some of the best parts of a day in Magic Kingdom aren’t just the moments of soaring through Big Thunder Mountain or passing by hitchhiking ghosts inside The Haunted Mansion; they’re the magical moments in between, like having a spontaneous dance party with The Country Bears or spotting the names of several key Imagineers on the windows along Main Street U.S.A. 

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.