As the undisputed crown jewel of Walt Disney World theme parks, the Magic Kingdom reigns supreme in park attendance. Approximately 20 million visitors a year walk through the turnstiles, grab a park map, and set their vacation plans into action. Some plans are more carefully thought out than others, but all plans have one goal in common – getting the most enjoyment possible out of the park. For many, that simply means going on as many rides as possible until the park closes. For others, that means going on a select few rides as many times as they can. So long as it makes everyone happy, there is no wrong answer on how to best enjoy the park. There are, however, a few things that every Magic Kingdom guest should experience in order to say they’ve truly done the park. While they may not all be possible to do in one visit, they are nonetheless things that any guest can do. Here are a few of them:
1. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean was the last Disneyland attraction that Walt himself had a direct hand in designing. It opened three months after his death. Magic Kingdom’s version of the ride has its own interesting history as well. Due to its proximity to the real Caribbean, Disney designers opted not to include the iconic ride in the Magic Kingdom at first. It was only after Disney heard from endless guests asking about the ride that Magic Kingdom added their own version in 1973 – two years after the park originally opened. Be sure to ride this attraction in honor of the original, in appreciation for early guest feedback that brought it into existence in Florida, and to enjoy the more recent additions to the ride that were inspired by the success of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
2. Have a Dole Whip
The iconic Disney treat, almost a million and a half Dole Whips and Dole Whip floats – my preferred version of the treat – are sold every year. They are so popular it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t been a part of the parks since opening day, but they instead date back to Dole’s sponsorship of The Enchanted Tiki Room starting in 1976. Although not exclusive to Disney parks anymore, Dole Whips nonetheless seem to taste best with Adventureland area music playing in the background and the Jungle Cruise loading guests right across the way. If pineapple just isn’t your thing, you may substitute a Mickey premium ice cream bar, Mickey pretzel, or smoked turkey leg with no penalty.
3. Go with a Child
Walt’s intention for his parks was to provide a place where adults and children could have fun together. He also never looked down on children or forgot about their point of view. As a result, he built a lot of features into the park that only someone under 4 feet tall could truly appreciate. As such, going to the Magic Kingdom with a child is a must for all adults at some point in their lives. Seeing the wonder and amazement in their eyes as they experience the park reminds you of what the park is truly all about and gives you a perspective that you haven’t thought about in a long time.
4. Go by Yourself
Just as going with a child offers you a unique look at the park, going by yourself does much the same. Everyone should treat themselves to this experience at some point in their lives. Without the demands of significant others, children, family, or friends along, you are free to experience the park in whatever manner you see fit, and on a schedule of your own making.
5. Ride the Carousel of Progress
Created by Walt Disney and WED Enterprises for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, the Carousel of Progress is believed by many to have been Walt’s favorite attraction. Since Magic Kingdom opened for business five years after Walt’s death, it is also one of the few attractions in the park actually touched by Walt himself. The reason for this is that the attraction was moved from Disneyland in California to the Magic Kingdom in 1975. To walk in Walt’s footsteps, be sure to give this gentler attraction a try.
6. Meet Mickey
For a company that was “all started by a mouse”, this should be a no-brainer and it is in fact on many people’s to-do list for every visit. It can be very emotional to see your children – or even other guest’s children – meet Mickey Mouse for the first time. This meet and greet opportunity is in the Town Square Theater at the front of the park, so you’ve got no excuses for missing it.
7. Purchase Mickey Mouse Ears with Your Name Embroidered On It
Just as some foods can be considered iconic Disney treats, Mickey Mouse Ears with your name embroidered on the back are the iconic Disney souvenir. Sure, it’s tempting to get one of those Mickey balloons, but it’s not exactly easy to take it home on a flight or even in the car. And while you might not find the opportunity to wear them very often when you’re back at home, just looking at them will remind you of the great time you had. And you can always wear it to the park on a future visit!
8. Welcome Show / Rope Drop
The music starts, voices begin singing “welcome, welcome, welcome”, and you’re greeted by a cavalcade of Disney Characters and townspeople to the Most Magical Place on Earth. What better way could there be to start your day at the park? Not only does it kick your day off with a bang, it also means you’re there early and will be able to get on a lot of rides quickly to get a jump on the crowd. Well done, you!
9. Kiss Goodnight
While the fireworks and parade are most certainly flashier affairs, the Kiss Goodnight is a subtler, rarer experience for most Disney guests. Just as its name suggests, it is the last official goodbye from Disney to its Magic Kingdom guests at the end of the day. The sound of fairy dust being sprinkled leads into strains of When You Wish Upon a Star, accompanied by changing colors and flashing lights on Cinderella Castle. A voice bids a fond farewell to ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and then Mickey gives his famous “See ya real soon!” It happens anywhere from a half-hour to an hour after the official park closing on many – but not all – nights. A cast member should be able to tell you if and when it will take place. It is sweet and emotional for many people, and a beautiful way to end the day.
10. People Watch
With so many attractions and rides to see, fast passes to use, and schedules to keep, simply sitting still for a while may be one of the hardest things to find time to do while at Magic Kingdom. But it can be one of the most enjoyable things to do also – and not just because your feet hurt! Disney World draws a globally diverse crowd, and it can be fascinating to watch all those people go by, listen to short snippets of their conversations, and get a sense of what the Disney experience means to them. It can also be quite an eye-opener where differences in fashion and child rearing among varying cultures are concerned! So find some time to take a moment, catch your breath, and watch the world go by.
Naturally, there are many different opinions on what constitutes a must-do experience, particularly when it concerns a Disney park. Do you agree that you haven’t done Magic Kingdom until you’ve done the things on this list? What item would you add?
BONUS TIP: Consider planning and booking your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner you can trust like Mickey Travels. They’ll help you get the best Walt Disney World deal, share expert advice and their services are totally FREE! It’s genius!
Photo courtesy of Disney Photo Snapper