Jolene goes to Disney's Magic Kingdom
When I think of Disney World (or any Disney park for that matter), my mind automatically pictures an iconic castle, unlimited Mickey ears, Donald Duck throwing a fit somewhere, and Tinkerbell sprinkling pixie dust on everything. Thanks to Disneyland, this imagery has become synonymous with Disney parks, so when most of us think of Disney World, we think of Magic Kingdom.
Naturally, I was quite excited to have my "full" Disney experience at Magic Kingdom - two whole days of Mickey-shaped foods and the close relatives of my favorite Disneyland rides. Unfortunately upon my trip announcement, I received many unwarranted, negative opinions hurled at me: "Disneyland is better," "Disney World disappointed me," "Only Disneyland has the real Disney Magic because Walt worked on it," etc. By Disney World, I assumed they meant Magic Kingdom, since the only attractions mentioned were unique to Magic Kingdom.
I imagine that this will be my most "controversial" Disney World post, and I hope that I can communicate my thoughts and feelings effectively, and I hope I can dispel some of the negativity I've faced. I am also not approaching this blog as a step-by-step, methodical review of my days, but I want to convey the details and parts of Magic Kingdom that I personally enjoyed.
First, I'd like to clarify: DISNEY WORLD IS NOT MAGIC KINGDOM. Magic Kingdom is one of four theme parks (I am excluding water parks) that makes up Disney World. Magic Kingdom is the Disney World version of Disneyland, to put it loosely. There are major similarities, such as park layout, theming, rides, and food.
I repeat. Disney World is not Magic Kingdom.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I can begin my personal, subjective review.
If you recall from my planning post, I indulged in several "extras," including something called Extra Morning Magic. EMM enables guests (via separately purchased ticket) to get into the park early (before opening) and have access to three of the most popular rides in the park (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan) as well as a buffet breakfast. After check-in, cast members handed out wristbands to ticketed guests so they would have early access to the park before rope drop. The ticket was pricey, but I absolutely loved being able to enter the park (my first time!) with considerably smaller crowds. Another perk? There were hardly any people in front of the castle, and we were able to get some pretty sweet photos.
As much as I wanted to wander around in the emptiness, we had one priority: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I'd heard a lot about this ride, and as you all know by now, I'm not exactly a thrill-seeker, so it's the perfect ride for me. And you know what? It was SO FUN. We literally got on it four times in a row! A mild coaster, Mine Train has swinging cars that unlock during parts of the ride, accentuating every turn. We then took advantage of Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh being open, before heading to the castle to watch the rope drop ceremony.
Our morning was already super magical and fun. Since the park had been opened to the public and the crowds were coming in, we sat down for a nice buffet breakfast at Pinocchio Haus.
Because I knew we had two days in Magic Kingdom, I felt that we could take our time and not try to cram the entire park into each day. Our first day consisted of Fantasyland, Adventureland, and a little bit of Frontierland. Over the course of the two days, I was able to get FastPass+ for all of our favorite rides, so stress levels were quite low.
Below you will find my Magic Kingdom itinerary, chronologically. We mostly stuck to this, but were lucky enough to fit some extra things in when wait times were low.
I don't want to recount every detail of my days, but I will definitely cover my favorite moments and highlights.
One moment that stood out was a special tour we got at the Haunted Mansion. On our second day, we had a FP+ for Haunted Mansion (even though we'd spontaneously ridden it the day before), but we had a few minutes and I wanted to search for the ring. I did not research the exact location of the ring, so there we were, searching the pavement in front of the queue looking like we'd lost an earring.
A cast member snuck up on me, got really close to me, and said GOOD MORNING, trying to scare me. Unfortunately he tried to scare the wrong girl - I was internally startled, but I didn't jump, scream, or have any reaction. I calmly replied, "Good morning!" and he was disappointed. I think he knew I was a fan of the Haunted Mansion and I'm sure our little search looked mildly strange. I told him what we were doing (even though he didn't ask) and how we weren't even sure if it was only a myth, and he politely turned to the cast member manning the entrance to the queue and let her know he was going to "take us to the ring."
Not only did he take us to the ring, but he showed us the murder mystery game in the queue, and personally escorted us toward the front of the line. It wasn't a huge deal, but it made us feel special and we got to see the ring! Yet again, I was reminded of the details that make Disney so magical. We were even surprised to see Madame Leota's gravestone come to life...
And yes, if you were wondering, I do prefer Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion to ours.
Another very random moment that blew me away was in the Hall of Presidents. If I'm being honest, American History has always been one of my least favorite subjects, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Hall of Presidents, Magic Kingdom's more extravagant version of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, full of 55 animatronic versions of every US President. The presentation was quite beautiful, and the animatronics are impressive.
It's no secret Walt Disney respected and celebrated America, and I felt that the Hall of Presidents is one major way that his passion is kept alive. There are several artifacts in the waiting area, belonging to previous presidents, along with the Great Seal of the United States in the carpet. I wrote that off, as I don't find it particularly attractive, but I did notice that the seal was surrounded by a wooden barrier, preventing guests from walking on it. Soon after we arrived, a cast member started sharing about that seal, and mentioned that it is only one of two displayed publicly in the US. He also mentioned it takes a literal act of Congress to have that seal on display! Magic Kingdom literally had to involve the federal government for the lobby of the Hall of Presidents. Amazing.
Speaking of America, the Carousel of Progress is another attraction that showcases Walt's love for progress and the American dream. It is a 20-minute animatronic show in which the building actually rotates around four different scenes illustrating the technological and social progress of humanity. I could see why some would find this boring (especially small children), but I truly found it fascinating and nostalgic.
I also really, really enjoyed the theming in Frontierland and Adventureland. There were many gorgeous areas just to walk and take a break, including Tom Sawyer's Island. These areas can be easily overlooked or merely visited for the popular rides in the area, but we made sure to appreciate the trees and carefully crafted Western Frontier atmosphere. I was also able to see the Country Bears for the first time in years. It was one of my favorite Disney attractions growing up, so it made me a little emotional to see the show again as an adult.
We rode so many rides, especially our favorites, multiple times. One of those was Space Mountain, which ended up being a wonderful surprise for me - it's very similar to the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland logistically. The trains are just like Matterhorn, and the track feels similar; it's not very fast, but the track is full of unexpected turns. I really enjoyed it, but I might prefer Disneyland's Space Mountain more.
I loved soaking in the details of the park, from the sprawling, tropical Adventureland to the classic Americana of Liberty Square. Tomorrowland seemed more grandiose than Disneyland's, but had the same pioneering, futuristic spirit. We waited until our second day to explore Tomorrowland, and I'm glad we took our time there.
I'd like to insert something here: I believe that one reason guests leave Disney Parks dissatisfied is that their interests are not necessarily in line with what the parks offer. Disney is a master of creating magical environments through exceptional, creative detail, so the parks echo this kind of artistry. Guests seeking extreme thrills may not find what they're looking for. Instead, they will find Disney Magic, celebration of imagination, and encouragement to embrace their inner child. I am very happy to say that we absorbed everything we could from Magic Kingdom, and we didn't put all of our expectations into the rides.
That being said, I absolutely adore the Peoplemover, a mildly paced ride that doesn't really do much except whiz you around Tomorrowland. It's great for people watching and park admiration. It is a simple concept, hence its name, but I enjoyed zipping in and out of rides and seeing Tomorrowland from a new perspective.
Finally, one of my favorite Tomorrowland attractions ended up being the Monster's Inc. Laugh Floor. I expected a fairly mundane animated show with kiddie jokes and our favorite Pixar monsters, but man, I was so wrong. In my humble opinion, the Laugh Floor is truly geared at adults with a fairly dry sense of humor, and it also happens to appeal to kids because of its characters. Be prepared if you go to the Laugh Floor! The monsters WILL single people out, even if they don't want to participate! I was chosen for a segment even though I didn't raise my hand, and it was still fun and hilarious. I highly suggest making at least one visit here - we actually went twice, and the shows were different!
And of COURSE, I absolutely had to take photos in front of the famous #purplewall!
One last major highlight was the fireworks show. Again, I purchased something extra, a fireworks dessert party. Another separate ticketed event, the fireworks dessert party is exactly what it sounds like. Over an hour before the fireworks, ticketed guests can enjoy a pretty amazing dessert buffet, then view the fireworks from a reserved area with a great view. There were literally tons of desserts, from fresh s'mores, to ice cream sundaes, to a literal buffet line with all kinds of small cakes, parfaits and chocolate covered strawberries. There were also a couple savory items like spinach artichoke dip, cheeseburger eggrolls and cheese and crackers.
Yes, it was pricey and the food did not make up for the price, but I am so glad we had a reserved spot for the fireworks. We didn't have to get there 3 hours early, we didn't have to stress, and it was what we needed after a long, hot day in the sun. Plus, how can you say no to such a gorgeous view of the castle?
And let's not pretend that I didn't cry during these amazing fireworks.
Overall, I can see why many people prefer Disneyland over Disney World, but because I kept my expectations in check, I still really, really enjoyed Magic Kingdom. I even preferred several of their rides over ours, and had so much fun experiencing new rides as well. I pushed myself to be open and tried my best not to compare things. I tried to experience them at face value, even though I have a disadvantage of familiarity.
There's so much more I could say, so much more I could show. Just know that I had a great time and truly enjoyed Magic Kingdom. No, it's not Disneyland, but I'm glad it's not. Magic Kingdom has so many special attractions, wonderful details and so much Disney Magic, it makes me sad that some will miss that because they are so focused on comparisons. I would gladly visit Magic Kingdom again, and I hope this blog has helped some of you see the fun awaiting you at this park!
Until next time,