I was recently helping some friends plan their first family visit to the Walt Disney World Resort. They were surprising their daughters and wanted to spend two (2) days in theme parks and maybe another at a water park. Because the girls range in age from 6-12 and this was their first visit, they decided that two days at the Magic Kingdom would be the best plan for their first (and surely not their last) visit to the most magical place on earth.
DIStracted Tip: Are you thinking about planning your own first visit? Check out the previous link to package prices for 2016.
As I was helping them pick FastPasses that maximized princess interaction for the 6 year old and excitement for the older girls, I started to really try to imagine what a first visit to the Magic Kingdom should be. It has been so many years since my first visit. And my kids have been fortunate to have grown up in the Magic Kingdom, with more visits than years they have been alive! Obviously there is no perfect recipe for the most amazing first trip to the Magic Kingdom, but I found myself frantically texting tips and strategies to my friend while she and her family were on the road, in route to their magical destination. So, I thought I would share a few DIStracted Tips for a first visit to the Magic Kingdom with our readers too.
1. Ride the monorail! Anyone who visits the Walt Disney World Resort for the first time should also take their very first monorail ride. If you park at the Transportation and Ticket Center or stay at a monorail resort, riding the monorail to the Magic Kingdom is an easy choice. But it also works great for a mid-day or early evening break. Hop on and head to one of the monorail resorts to cool down and grab some grub. Nothing beats the views of The Seven Seas Lagoon, Bay Lake and some of the Disney Deluxe Resorts on the monorail loop!
DIStracted Tip: Each of the monorail resorts features a quick service dining establishment, but each has several table service restaurants as well. Advance Dining Reservations can (and should) be made for table service restaurants starting at 180 days prior to arrival.
2. Arrive early (at least 30 minutes prior to scheduled opening time). The Magic Kingdom is the only 1 of the 4 major Disney theme parks to retain its opening show. With singing, dancing and your favorite Disney characters joining Mickey Mouse atop the Main Street Railroad Station, the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show sets the stage for a day filled with adventure and magic.
3. Schedule FastPass+ selections (if possible) for late morning or early afternoon. When the Park opens, this is typically the best time to ride a few popular attractions before the huge crowds arrive. Save FastPass+ reservations for later when the Parks are more crowded and lines are longer. However, I don’t recommend waiting until evening to book them (with a few exceptions – see #8). Once you use your initial FastPass + selections you can schedule another (one at a time) at a FastPass kiosk located around the Park, subject to availability. The Magic Kingdom has so many attractions, so I have found that is the easiest Park at which to snag additional FastPass+. And everyone knows that the more FastPasses you can secure, the fewer hours spent waiting in lines and the more rides you can enjoy in a day!
4. Stop by Guest Services at the Magic Kingdom to grab a complimentary button to commemorate your first visit. You’ll be surprised how many Cast Members and Guests will comment on your button and it just makes the day a bit more special.
5. If you are a princess fan, don’t miss Enchanted Tales with Belle. Located in New Fantasyland, this attraction begins in Maurice’s cottage and Guests are transported to Beast’s castle through a magical mirror where they meet Madame Wardrobe, who explains that Belle needs assistance in a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast. Be sure to volunteer for a part when asked! Children (and even some adults) take on the roles of characters in the story such as Chip, Mrs. Potts, the Beast and more.
DIStracted Tip: If you want to actually meet Belle and take a quick photo with her, be sure to volunteer for a part in the story. She doesn’t meet-and-greet the audience members due to time constraints.
6. My family loves to be a part of the fun, so any attraction with audience participation makes our day more magical. Don’t miss Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland on a first visit to the Magic Kingdom. During the pre-show, Guests are encouraged to text in jokes for the show, and if your joke is chosen your name and hometown will be announced to everyone in the theater. With the help of cameras in the ceiling, Guests are randomly chosen and shown up on a big screen with funny captions, including some running jokes throughout the show.
DIStracted Tip: Keep your jokes simple and appropriate for all ages if you want them to be chosen. Disney references seem to help as well!
7. Of course, every newcomer wants to check out the Disney mountains: Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. But my friends were looking for attractions the whole family could enjoy. My tip for them was not to miss Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This 4-D movie is a can’t miss as Donald Duck takes a journey through our favorite Disney movies and interacts with many character favorites such as Aladdin, Peter Pan, Ariel, Lumiere, Simba and more. The amazing music, smells and 3-D animation will captivate first time visitors of all ages.
DIStracted Tip: If you have young children, watch them during the movie as they try to reach out and “touch” the 3D characters … priceless!
8. See Wishes … and if you are lucky enough to secure a FastPass+ reservation for entrance to a reserved viewing area, even better! Now I know I suggested booking all FastPass+ reservations earlier in the day, but on a first visit, grabbing FastPasses to see the Wishes fireworks display over Cinderella Castle (if they are available) is a smart move. I suggested to my friends that they save Wishes for their final night in the Magic Kingdom. After two full days in the park, they likely will have hit most rides and attractions. With their FastPasses there is no need to stake out a good viewing spot hours ahead of time and their last moments in the Magic Kingdom will be filled with excitement, wonder, magic … and wishes for a return trip!