Guide to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Welcome to our Guide to Magic Kingdom! In this post, we set out to provide a broad overview of Magic Kingdom, the most popular theme park at Walt Disney World and the entire world.

Throughout this post, we’ll link to other posts that cover certain aspects of the park in more detail. Those links will open in new tabs. If this is the first post of ours you’re reading and you’re planning a trip to Disney World, we recommend you start with our Walt Disney World planning guide.

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ABOUT MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic Kingdom is the oldest park at Walt Disney World and the park most people imagine when thinking about Walt Disney World. It is the “castle park” with Cinderella Castle at the middle and the traditional lands of Main Street U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Adventureland.

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There’s always some point of confusion over the terminology, so let’s be really clear:

  • Walt Disney World is a resort with four theme parks, two water parks, and 20+ hotels

  • Magic Kingdom is one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World

  • Magic Kingdom is similar in design to Disneyland, the theme park in California, but the two are not identical

Crowds at Magic Kingdom

As the most popular theme park in the world, Magic Kingdom can get quite crowded. We have a post that covers the ins and outs of crowd calendars for Walt Disney World, including some recommended calendars.

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Besides that, crowds probably aren’t worth much of our time here. In our touring strategy below, we cover the essentials you need to piece together a good day at Magic Kingdom. Crowds can make that more challenging, but they rarely ruin your day as long as you stick to the right script.

Park TICKETS

We have posts that cover discount Disney World tickets and Disney World park hopper tickets. One-day tickets can be difficult to find good discounts for, so you may just wind up purchasing at the gate or online directly from Disney.

Because you can make FastPass+ reservations in advance of your visit (covered more below), it makes sense to buy tickets online, in advance, as early as possible.

GETTING TO MAGIC KINGDOM

Magic Kingdom is the most challenging park to get to in Walt Disney World. Because it is the most visited theme park in the world, it’s not surprising that it utilizes a complicated traffic management system. We’re going to start with the options available to guests of Disney resorts before switching to other guests (beginning with “Transportation and Ticket Center”).

Getting to Magic Kingdom from Your Disney Hotel

Walking and Monorail. Guests coming from Contemporary Resort can utilize a walking path from that resort to Magic Kingdom. It’s roughly a 10-minute walk. Guests coming from Polynesian, Grand Floridian, and Contemporary can take the monorail to Magic Kingdom.

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Disney Buses and Boats. Guests coming from all other Disney hotels can use Disney buses that drop them off near the front of the park. Guests coming from Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge, and Fort Wilderness can take a boat to Magic Kingdom.

Minnie Vans. Through a partnership with Lyft, Disney operates a Minnie Van rideshare service that can be used to get between most any two points on Disney property. Minnie Vans drop you off near the entrance to Magic Kingdom.

Transportation And Ticket Center

Guests arriving by other means will need to pass through the Transportation and Ticket Center. The Transportation and Ticket Center is pretty much exactly what it sounds like—a hub some distance away from Magic Kingdom that facilitates most transportation to the park and also sells tickets.

Original Copyright Google | Transportation and Ticket Center, with the monorail (red), monorail resorts (red houses), and Magic Kingdom (top of map)

Original Copyright Google | Transportation and Ticket Center, with the monorail (red), monorail resorts (red houses), and Magic Kingdom (top of map)

We’ll next cover transportation methods that get you to Transportation and Ticket Center before explaining how you get from Transportation and Ticket Center to Magic Kingdom.

Getting to Transportation and Ticket Center

Driving. Guests driving to Magic Kingdom will pass through the Magic Kingdom entrance gates and park at Transportation and Ticket Center. Parking costs $25, plus $20 to $25 if you want preferred parking. Standard parking is included with some Disney World annual passes. Because of the size of the parking lots, you may need to park and then take a tram to Transportation and Ticket Center.

Uber / Cabs. Except for Minnie Vans, which drop off and pick up directly at the park, all other cabs and ride share services drop off at Transportation and Ticket Center. We have a guide to using Uber at Walt Disney World.

It’s important if you’re using ride share or a cab you make sure the driver knows where to go. Typically, it’s best to enter your destination as Transportation and Ticket Center.

There are signs directing them to “Drop Off” as they near the Magic Kingdom gates—they should not go through the main gates, even if that’s what their directions say, they need to take the ramp to the left.

Also, there’s a great coffee shop—Contemporary Grounds—at Contemporary Resort. If you just can’t start your day without your morning coffee, you might want to Uber there for coffee and then walk to Magic Kingdom.

Leaving Magic Kingdom, it will be easiest to walk to Contemporary and catch an Uber there rather than trying to get to Transportation and Ticket Center for pickups.

Non-Disney Buses. Buses and shuttles operated by someone other than Disney will drop you off at Transportation and Ticket Center.

Getting from Transportation And Ticket Center To Magic Kingdom

There are two ways to get between Transportation and Ticket Center and Magic Kingdom—ferryboat and monorail.

The resort monorail stops at Polynesian and Grand Floridian on its way to Magic Kingdom. The Express Monorail travels directly to Magic Kingdom. The ferryboat travels directly to Magic Kingdom.

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In mornings, we prefer to take the ferryboat. We find it a more enjoyable experience, and the large capacity is incredibly efficient for morning crowds. If you arrive midday and you don’t see a ferryboat loading, then the monorail will probably be faster.

If you really want to mix things up, you can walk from Transportation and Ticket Center to Polynesian Village Resort and then take a resort boat from there. I can’t see why you would ever do this, as it is a longer route, but maybe you want to check out the resort on the way.

MAGIC KINGDOM MAP AND LAYOUT

Magic Kingdom utilizes a traditional hub-and-spoke layout. At the center of everything is Cinderella Castle—the “weenie” of the park that you can almost always spot and return to if you get lost. Here’s a very incomplete, very basic map of Magic Kingdom:

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Again, that ugly map is just to give you a broad sense of how the park is structured. For a detailed map, WDWInfo.com typically has a recent version, and you can—and should—grab a park map as soon as you enter the park. The above map is just to give you a basic sense of where the lands are and how they’re connected.

From the hub in front of Cinderella Castle, guests can access five “lands”—Main Street USA (which also contains the entrance to the park), Adventureland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland. A sixth land, Frontierland, is behind Adventureland and Liberty Square.

If you need to get from one side to the other, you’ll typically have two options—cutting through the middle of the park or going around the periphery of the park. Particularly during the parade and nighttime entertainment, you’ll want to remember the option of going around, rather than through, the center.

While it isn’t operational as of this writing, you can also take the Walt Disney World railroad between several of the lands.

There’s no best spot to mention this, but here seems as good as any—unlike at Disneyland, the monorail is not an attraction inside Magic Kingdom. The monorail is used to connect the resorts and TTC to the outside of Magic Kingdom.

TIMES GUIDE

Throughout this post, we’ll mention the “times guide.” The times guide is a separate handout, usually available wherever maps are available, that lists park hours, entertainment times, character times, and some other small bits of information. Here’s an example of what one looks like (I chose a holiday one to show how it highlights things you might not otherwise know about):

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It’s important to grab a times guide when you enter so you can confirm the ongoing entertainment schedule as well as to check for anything you might not know about.

CHARACTERS

As with all the Disney parks, there are opportunities to meet characters around the park. In most cases, these are highly structured encounters. You’ll wait in a line, meet the character, get your autograph and picture, and be on your way. It’s rare for characters to just wander around encountering people organically, though it does happen.

The best source for character information is the My Disney Experience app. That app lists almost all of the character greetings that will happen in the park. The second-best source of information is the times guide you can obtain upon entering the park.

We want to highlight a few unique greetings. Enchanted Tales with Belle is more of an attraction or experience, not a standard character greeting. Guests are invited to experience in a retelling of Beauty and the Beast as Belle looks on.

The following are popular meet and greets that are also included in the FastPass+ system (covered below):

  • Meet Mickey & Minnie at Town Square Theater

  • Meet Tinkerbell at Town Square Theater

  • Meet Ariel at Her Grotto

  • Meet Cinderella and Elena at Princess Fairytale Hall

  • Meet Rapunzel and Tiana at Princess Fairytale Hall

ENTERTAINMENT

There is a significant amount of entertainment at Magic Kingdom. As with characters, the best source of information on entertainment is the My Disney Experience app, which lists all the entertainment in the park. The second-best source of information is the times guide you can obtain upon entering the park.

Most people who have done some level of prep think of Magic Kingdom entertainment as including a stage show, a parade, and a nighttime show. Truthfully, there’s much more than that.

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Performers like the Citizens of Main Street, The Dapper Dans, and the Main Street Philharmonic often get overlooked in favor of the bigger, flashier things in the park, but we’ve always thought all of these are worth a few minutes of your time—and that’s partly why Magic Kingdom really is more than a one-day park.

That said, we should quickly discuss the “major” pieces of entertainment at Magic Kingdom…

Let the Magic Begin isn’t really a “major” piece of entertainment, but it’s worth mentioning. It occurs once a day, at Cinderella Castle, and begins five minutes before the park opens (guests are already allowed into the park at this time, covered below). Depending on what ride you’re starting your day with, you may or may not be able to get a good view of it.

Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire is the main stage show at Magic Kingdom. It occurs multiple times a day at the Cinderella Castle stage. This is definitely worth watching.

The Move It! Shake ItMousekeDance It! Street Party is a parade / street party that occurs a few times each day along Main Street USA and in front of Cinderella Castle. This is a debatable “must do.” We suggest trying to catch five minutes of it (that’s all it takes to get a sense of it) and then deciding whether you want to stay, catch it later, or just skip it.

The Festival of Fantasy Parade is the flagship parade at Magic Kingdom. Most days it occurs once a day, usually at 2PM or 3PM. You need to check the app and times guide to confirm the time when you visit. As much as we dislike parades, this is a cornerstone of any visit to Magic Kingdom.

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Happily Ever After is the flagship, nightly firework and projection show at Magic Kingdom. It usually occurs once a night, sometime around 9PM. Check the app or times guide for the exact time. This is another cornerstone of your day at Magic Kingdom. The best viewing is along Main Street USA or in front of Cinderella Castle.

Once Upon A Time is a nightly projection show at Magic Kingdom. It typically but not always occurs shortly after Happily Ever After, and also focuses heavily on projections onto Cinderella Castle. Check the app or times guide for the exact time.

The Kiss Goodnight is not really a show or piece of entertainment, but if you stick around the park long enough after it “closes” the castle will twinkle and a voice will come on the PA telling you they’re grateful you spent the day with them but now it’s time to leave.

Finally, there is no daily nighttime parade at Magic Kingdom. While one is often added for special (ticketed) events, a typical visit to Magic Kingdom will not include a nighttime parade.

TOURING STRATEGY

Magic Kingdom is the one theme park at Walt Disney World that is definitely more than a one-day park. While other parks may have small tradeoffs—like you’ll have to skip some entertainment if you want to meet all the characters—a single day at the park will almost always miss a significant portion of the park.

Important Message For Visits August 29 Through November 2

This post is impacted by changes, some temporary and some permanent, at Walt Disney World beginning August 29. People visiting between August 29 and November 2 are highly encouraged to click here to read our dedicated post especially for those dates.

FastPass+ At Magic Kingdom

You can find our Walt Disney World FastPass+ strategy and tips here. We also have a post dedicated just to FastPass+ at Magic Kingdom.

Our recommended FastPass+ lineup for Magic Kingdom is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain. We strongly believe that these three FastPass+ reservations set up the perfect day at Magic Kingdom.

Extra Magic Hour

Guests of Disney hotels and select partner hotels get access to Extra Magic Hour as a perk of their stay. Selects days each week, Magic Kingdom will either open early or stay open late for these guests.

If you have Extra Magic Hour access, we recommend using it, and it is an essential part of our mornings when available (evening is less essential). If you don’t have Extra Magic Hour access, we recommend avoiding the park that day. We have a guide to morning Extra Magic Hour at Magic Kingdom.

Rope Drop

Rope drop at Magic Kingdom depends heavily on your FastPass+ lineup. If you have our ideal FastPass+ lineup of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain, you’ll have the most relaxed rope drop—the Frontierland Rope Drop. Otherwise, you’ll be amending that rope drop to account for the rides you didn’t get FastPass+ for. We have a full strategy guide covering rope drop at Magic Kingdom.

Day At Magic Kingdom

We have a one-day itinerary for Magic Kingdom. While we recommend reading it in full, here are a few notes…

Rope Drop Matters. Arrive early when waits are their shortest. We can’t stress this enough. The part of your day you have the most control over is when you wake up and arrive at the park.

FastPass+ Matters. While you can’t guarantee the perfect FastPass+ lineup, you can really help yourself out if you understand the system and get as good a lineup as possible.

Mornings are for Moving. Until about 10:30AM to 11AM, keep your feet moving. Wait times start to peak around 11AM, and you want to make sure you get in as many rides as possible before then.

Tap / Grab / Modify. As we’ve shown time and time again, if you can master the FastPass+ system, you’ll be able to walk on to ride after ride during the midday peak waits.

Entertainment Scheduling. If it has only one time a day, you need to plan around it. If it has multiple times a day, you’re probably going to want to catch it between 11AM and 4PM, when waits for rides will be at their peaks. Character greetings are also best done during these hours, but you’ll catch shorter lines for your essential characters before 11AM and after 4PM if they’re doing greetings during these times.

Park Hopping

You can reach Epcot by monorail (transfer at Transportation and Ticket Center). To get to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, you’ll need to take a bus.

DINING AT MAGIC KINGDOM

As of this writing, the Walt Disney World website lists 45 dining options at Magic Kingdom. Most of these are quick service or counter service options—the sorts of place where you walk up to a register, order, get your food, and find your own table.

It doesn’t really make sense to cover all those options in detail. If you’re looking for a quick bite—like a burger—it’s easy to come by. Instead, we want to use this space to briefly discuss a few table service options at the park.

Reservations are recommended / required for all of these, and you should try and make your reservations 180 days in advance of your visit. You can read more about Disney World Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) here. You can read more about Disney Dining Plans here.

Be Our Guest is one of the most popular restaurants in Walt Disney World. The restaurant is set inside Belle and Beast’s Castle. As of this writing, it is quick service for breakfast and lunch and table service for dinner. Reservations are recommended for all meals. At dinner, you can meet the Beast in his study (there are no other characters).

Cinderella’s Royal Table is another popular spot. This is the chance to dine inside Cinderella Castle(!) and to meet Cinderella and a few other princesses. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Reservations are essential and hard to come by.

The Crystal Palace serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the characters from Winnie the Pooh.

Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen is our favorite restaurant at Magic Kingdom. The table service restaurant is located in Adventureland and specializes in international cuisine. Same-day reservations are often available.

Finally, we need to mention that all of the hotels near Magic Kingdom also have notable table service restaurants. It’s common for people to plan to leave the park to go to one of the nearby hotels (typically along the monorail) for a meal. As with the restaurants inside Magic Kingdom, reservations are recommended.

DRINKING AT MAGIC KINGDOM

If you’d like alcohol at Magic Kingdom, you’ll need to have a meal at a table service restaurant. You can’t openly carry alcohol in the park or get it any quick service establishments. Otherwise, you can visit a nearby resort (see below) and grab a drink at one of their bars.

SHOPPING AT MAGIC KINGDOM

With all the stores there’s a mix of merchandise that can be found at multiple places and merchandise that is unique to a single store. If you’re looking for the largest selection of merchandise, you’ll head to Emporium, on Main Street USA. If Emporium doesn’t have what you’re looking for, check the rest of the shops along Main Street USA.

Many attractions have stores at their exits, and that’s where you’ll find the most targeted merchandise. For example, you’ll find the most Toy Story merchandise at the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.

Relatedly, there are stores throughout the lands that will feature items on theme with the land. For example, Mickey’s Star Traders, in Tomorrowland, has slightly more “futuristic” merchandise than the other stores in the park.

If you purchase merchandise at Magic Kingdom, you don’t have to carry it all day. Guests of Disney hotels can have the merchandise delivered to their hotel rooms. Other guests can arrange to pick up their items from the front of the park at the end of the day.

Visiting Nearby Resorts

From Magic Kingdom, you can easily visit five resorts: Contemporary (walk or monorail), Polynesian Village (boat or monorail), Grand Floridian (boat or monorail), Wilderness Lodge (boat or bus), and Fort Wilderness (boat or bus).

If you’re looking to have a meal at one of these resorts, it may make sense to pair that with a visit to Magic Kingdom. Even if you don’t have a meal, visiting a resort is a great way to take a break from the parks and see more of Walt Disney World.

Park Hours and Special Events at Magic Kingdom

Park hours at Magic Kingdom vary daily, and special events can impact these hours. While we can’t cover all the events here, there are a few you should know about.

Early Morning Magic (Fantasyland) is a ticketed event on select days that allows early access to select Fantasyland attractions, along with all-you-can-eat breakfast.

After Hours at Magic Kingdom is a ticketed event on select days that allows exclusive access to the park—select attractions only—during evening hours. More recently, some flare was added to the event in the form of Villains After Hours.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party is a ticketed event on select nights in August, September, and October. The event is a transformation of Magic Kingdom into a halloween party, complete with trick or treating, ride overlays, and exclusive entertainment. We have a guide to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a ticketed event on select nights in November and December. The event is a transformation of Magic Kingdom into a Christmas party, including complimentary snacks and exclusive entertainment. We have a guide to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.

All Your Other Disney World Planning Questions Answered

Don't be overwhelmed by Disney World planning! Take a second to check out our most important content and you'll not only be an expert, but you'll save big $$$ along the way.

Just starting out? Check out our Walt Disney World planning guide! If you're still picking dates, we've got everything you need to know about Disney crowd calendars. For picking your hotel, check out our Walt Disney World hotels guide.

When it comes time to book we’ll help you find discount Disney World tickets. Decide whether you need a dining plan in our Complete Guide to Disney World Dining Plans! And at 180 days out it's time to book those Disney World Advance Dining Reservations!

Don't forget to master your Disney World FastPass+ strategy a few months in advance. We'll keep you out of long lines so you can maximize the magical time in the parks! We've got park-specific guides as well: Magic Kingdom FastPass, Epcot FastPass, Animal Kingdom FastPass, and Hollywood Studios FastPass.

Know what to ride with our guides to: Magic Kingdom rides, Hollywood Studios rides, Epcot rides, and Animal Kingdom rides! Plus learn about the water parks with our guide to Blizzard Beach and our guide to Typhoon Lagoon! And for some some fun prep, check out our Ranking of Every Ride at Walt Disney World.

Finally, before you head out, be sure to check out our to-the-point packing list, 10 essentials you forget to pack for every Disney trip. And if you're interested in saving, there's no better list than our 53 Ways to Save on your Disney trip from start to finish.