10 Jul
2015
Posted in: travel
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Visiting the Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom park opening Disney World

The magic at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom begins before you enter the park. The promise of Disney magic can drag even the most reluctant child from bed.

magic kingdom plaque Disney World

There are many benefits to arriving before the gates open at the parks in Disney World. We were greeted by the mayor and several characters made an appearance by train at the Main Street, U.S.A depot 20 minutes before the official gate opening of Magic Kingdom. There were thousands of people, even early in the morning. The pure excitement on the faces of my children when we helped countdown the opening of the park is a memory I cherish.

cinderella castle Disney World Magic Kingdom

Most visitors have a plan for how they want their day to begin. They get swept up by plans and don’t take a moment to just take in that first glimpse down Main Street to Cinderella Castle and appreciate the small details in every window and wall. We crossed the threshold from reality into this meticulously controlled environment with its manicured gardens, music, and bright colors and were caught in its net of whimsy.

Tile mocsaic in Cinderella Castle Disney Wolrd

Cinderella Castle is breathtaking. The castle itself is under 190 feet tall but it gives the illusion of being larger. The walk through the castle to Fantasyland offers a look at wonderfully detailed tile mosaics. We spent a few minutes pointing out various characters and parts of the Cinderella story in the artwork.

family riding Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Magic Kingdom Disney World

Our first ride at Magic Kingdom was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The family-friendly coaster is mild compared to other rides at Disney World. It was enjoyable but not our favorite ride in the park. The interactive elements in the queue line were entertaining. We bought the Memory Maker PhotoPass and one of our favorite items from that pass is the short video we received from our ride on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

enchanted tales with Belle Disney World Magic Kingdom

My daughter and I enjoyed Enchanted Tales with Belle while the boys rode the more thrilling Space Mountain. During Enchanted Tales, visitors are chosen to play parts in the story of Beauty and the Beast and then act out their parts with Belle. It was a wonderful way to meet Belle, and done early in the morning, there was no wait to enter.

peter pan's flight Disney World

One of our favorite Fantasyland rides is Peter Pan’s Flight. It’s a gentle ride above London and Neverland. I find it charming. The wait lines for this ride are long all day. It’s best done early in the day, near closing or during the nightly fireworks show. If you’re visiting with younger children, it’s not to be missed. Our boys could have done without it, but endured it nonetheless.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic is a 3-D movie. It seats a large audience and was a nice reprieve from the heat and humidity. We opted not to ride the classic “it’s a small world.” During a visit to Disneyland, we were stuck on that ride for quite some time with the song playing repetitively. We vowed to never again sit in one of those boats. Never again.

two boys riding Dumbo Magic Kingdom Disney World

Meeting characters at Disney World takes a time commitment. We quickly learned that in order to meet characters during their set appearances, you needed to arrive 15 minutes early and even that might not assure you a meeting. We decided which characters were a must to meet as a family and which ones just my daughter and I could meet. She was in awe with each new character. The boys have been to Disneyland twice and weren’t that interested. I could spend an entire day meeting characters. We’ve never been disappointed with an actor’s portrayal of a character. I appreciate the artistic element involved.

We brought a black retractable Sharpie marker and notebook with white, unlined pages for characters to autograph. Autograph books are available to purchase at Disney World. I plan to turn our autographs into a digital composed photo book by scanning the autographs into the computer and pairing the autographs with the photos we had taken with the characters. We created a similar book after our second trip to Disneyland.

Stepsister hugging a boy Disney World Magic Kingdom

Our favorite character encounter as a family was Lady Tremaine and the Stepsisters outside the castle. They are hilarious and engaged the entire family involved in conversation. They’re worth waiting to meet, especially if you have older children. The stepsisters were trying to decide which of our boys to nab. Our oldest son was hilarious to watch as he simultaneously withered with embarrassment and basked in the attention.

Queen Elsa signing autograph book Magic Kingdom Disney World

My daughter and I used one of our Fastpass options to visit Elsa and Anna. That meet and greet may be my favorite Disney moment with my daughter. The cast member greeted us by name after scanning our Magic Bands, and Elsa and Anna came over to fetch us when it was our turn. Our little girl had prepared questions for the sisters, and they answered them wonderfully and poured attention on us. Seriously, I hugged Elsa and told her thank you.

family riding Splash Mountain Disney World Magic Kingdom

Our favorite rides are in Frontierland: Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Splash Mountain is the best of both worlds: both relaxing and thrilling. It takes you meandering through the forest with Brer Rabbit and friends before plummeting you down into the briar patch. We’ve experienced this ride enough times that my boys and husband know exactly when the photo will be taken during the plummet. I have several photos of them posing. I can’t be bothered with posing. All photos of me from the rides have me screaming. Every. single. one. Big Thunder takes you on a runaway train through a gold mine.  It sounds rickety and doesn’t ride as smooth as Seven Dwarfs, but that appeals to me. It’s a classic attraction and not to be missed. Both these rides are best done early in the day, with a Fastpass or during parades or fireworks.

children walking across a bridge Tom Sawyer's Island Disney World

Tom Sawyer Island, also in Frontierland, is a nice break from the crowds. A raft takes you over to the island where there’s room to spread out and explore. There are caves, bridges to cross and a fort. It was a nice mid-day break from the herd-like environment in the rest of Magic Kingdom.

Tomorrowland at night Disney Wolrd Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland is home to a couple lesser-known attractions and one ride the boys would rather forget. The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover is a futuristic transportation system. We rode it at night giving us an excellent view of the lights in Tomorrowland. The Astro Orbiter at night is one of my favorite views at Magic Kingdom. The PeopleMover takes you through Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin giving you a unique view of those attractions. The boys rode Stitch’s Great Escape and regretted it as soon as it started. They said it felt creepy with Stitch stalking you. They’d advise you to avoid it unless aliens stalking you in the dark is your thing.

We didn’t quite understand what the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor  attractions was, but there was no wait so gave it a try. I’m so glad we did. Visitors are part of a good-sized audience at a Monster, Inc. stand-up comedy show. The comedians use people in the audience for their jokes. It’s family-friendly, funny and innovative. It’s everything I expect from Disney.

Peter Pan float Magic Kingdom parade Disney World

No one does parades better than Disney. The detail on the floats combined with characters waving to the crowd, the dancers filling in gaps between floats and the music make the parades one of the most magical events in the park. The electrical parade is unique with its lit floats.If you want a decent viewing spot for parades, you have to arrive early, during busy season as much as 30 minutes early. Cast members tape off viewing areas with white tape. They don’t allow you to stand outside the tape to watch the parades because they can’t have walkways blocked. We watched a cast member and a visitor argue over where you are allowed to stand. It was the least magical moment we witnessed in the park. The cast member handled it well, but even in the most magical of places, people can just be jerks. Understand that they really don’t want you standing outside of the white line. Stay inside of the white line, and don’t miss the parades.

The nightly celebration centering around Cinderella Castle is amazing. There is music, images projected on the castle, fireworks and Tinkerbell flying through the air. The problem is having to watch it with thousands of other people. Prime seating for the show is taken early. A cast member told us to save seats an hour before the program starts. We didn’t do that. The hour leading up to and during the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular and Celebrate the Magic shows is when popular rides have shorter wait times. We chose attractions over waiting on the pavement. Our vantage spot for the spectacle was not perfect, but it worked. I found it annoying how many people were holding smart phones up high videotaping the stunning celebration. I understand wanting to have those memories to look back on and had to fight the urge several times to pick up the camera, but there’s something to be said for being in the moment with the people you love in a place oozing with magic that is removed from day-to-day reality. Relax and enjoy.

Minnie Mouse on a bench Magic Kingdom Disney World

Disney World is not for everyone. The crowds were suffocating at times, and people can just be rude. The heat and humidity of June didn’t help.  We didn’t visit during the off-season, but it wasn’t the peak season either. I cannot fathom what holiday attendance does to that place.  I’m glad we experienced Disney World, but after being there, I don’t think Disneyland gets enough love. I prefer Disneyland with its more manageable crowds and smaller ticket fees. I know that puts me in the minority.

rapunzel lanterns

If you can visit Disney World without needing a stroller, do that, especially in Magic Kingdom where the highest number of small children spend their time. The strollers limit where you can move to in a crowd, you have to park them before rides, and you may come off a ride to find a cast member has moved your stroller to a more ideal parking spot. If you have to bring a stroller, take time to make it easily recognizable with a brightly-colored bandana tied to a handle or something similar. We were extremely grateful to be without a stroller. In my opinion, Disney World is best experienced without really young children. There are height requirements to consider and crowd size. Disney World with a 12-,10-, 8- and 5-year old was much more enjoyable than the first time we visited Disneyland with a 15-month old and two preschoolers.

gravestone at Haunted Mansion Disney World Magic Kingdom

While the attractions are the major draw for most visitors to Disney World, take time to appreciate all the details Disney put into every inch of the park. There’s Rapunzel’s tower and lanterns, King Triton carved from wood, a stone water fountain adorned with a Cinderella statue, hidden Mickey’s waiting to be discovered, witty gravestones at Haunted Mansion, etc. You’re walking through art at Disney World. We spotted a trail of pixie dust on the sidewalk which had me potentially more excited than the 5-year-old. My favorite moments at Disney World involve small details one of the kids noticed, interactions with characters and those glimpses of wonder I caught on little faces. Resign yourself to not seeing everything and enjoy what you do experience. It’s a magical place if you allow yourself to be enveloped by it.

 

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