Saturday, March 29, 2014

Magic Kingdom with a (Almost) Toddler

Okay we made it! I did all the other Disney parks first because I knew that the Magic Kingdom post was going to be a beast. The Magic Kingdom is the reason why most parents bring their kids to Disney World and it's the park that families spend the most time at once they actually arrive. We were no different: all told we probably spent about 2.5 days at Magic Kingdom.

Before I completely overwhelm you with every single ride/attraction in the Magic Kingdom, here are a few tips that will hopefully help you relax a bit!
  • Don't panic! Seriously! You are more than likely going to spend at least two days at the Magic Kingdom so if you don't see or ride everything the first time, you have at least another day. The night before the last day of our trip we sat down with the map and circled everything we hadn't done (and wanted to) and everything we wanted to do again. Guess what? We did all those things and more and never once felt rushed!

  • There are several apps for your phone that can help you plan your day. One is the Wait Time app which allows you to search by your current location or just in general for rides with short wait times. Plenty of times, Husband would say, "Let's go over to Aladdin - it's down to 5 minutes!" and when we got there, he was right! Very handy indeed!

  • There are a ton of character meet and greet opportunities at the Magic Kingdom. Personally, we skipped them. The lines were always long and while you could use a Fast Pass, do you really want to waste one to meet one character? If meeting characters interests you, I highly recommend doing a character meal. We did three and it was the perfect level of interaction for Baby O: he liked seeing the characters (and honking their noses! Ha!), but wasn't terribly into getting too close. Other older kids at the meals, however, got to interact with characters, take pictures, and have lots of fun too. Characters come around to every table, aren't rushed, and sometimes even make the rounds a second time. I'd definitely recommend that option (and will talk more about the character meals we did do in a future post). If you do decide to wait on line at the parks, check out the My Disney Experience app which has schedules and locations for all characters.

Meeting Jafar during the parade.
  • Fast Pass Tip: Get a Fast Pass Plus for a parade. We got them for the Celebrate a Dream afternoon parade (3pm) and it was amazing. People line up on the streets hours before parades begin in order to get good seats. We, on the other hand, rode Pirates of the Caribbean one last time, walked up to the Fast Pass line right in front of Cinderella's Castle at 2:50pm, and got front-curb seats with plenty of space for us all to spread out and sit down. Baby O loved being so close and many characters came over to interact with us.

Okay so now let's get down to the real business! The easiest thing to do is divide everything up by land and then discuss both the rides and dining options together (since the land you find yourself in is going to directly and significantly impact where you end up eating) - although I think many adults will be surprised to find that the Magic Kingdom is not as big as it seems when you are a child.


When you first enter the Magic Kingdom, Adventureland is on your left. My family has always gone to Adventureland first, but there are sites online that suggest most people go to Tomorrowland first. I don't know where they get their data, but if you want to take advantage of a tiny possibility that you'll run into less crowds, do what we always do and turn left.


Jungle Cruise: This is a ride for the whole family. You hop on a boat that takes you on a cruise past animatronic animals. When we went in November, they had renamed it the "Jingle" Cruise. The guide is going to tell the corniest jokes you've ever heard, but some are so bad that they are funny. We had a Fast Pass for this one though I'm not sure it was completely necessary: the boats do come to a complete stop though for loading/unloading which slows down the line tremendously (the best rides for short lines are the continuous movement rides).

Riding The Magic Carpets of Aladdin for the third(?) time
with Daddy, Mimi and Poppi.
The Magic Carpets of Aladdin: Dumbo but on Magic Carpets instead of Elephants. There's a reason why there are at least four different versions of the same ride at the Disney parks in Florida: kids love it. Baby O was no exception. We went on this one a few times and he was a big fan. Watch out for the camel in front of the ride: he moves his head in different directions and spits water!

Pirates of the Caribbean: We debated taking Baby O on this one. Ultimately we went on with him first (I mean he was supervised. We didn't just all get on the ride and leave him sitting in stroller parking) and then decided that he could probably handle it. There is one super tiny drop where Husband and I held onto Baby O for dear life and luckily no one went overboard. Ultimately Baby O was completely oblivious to the pirates singing and the cannons booming: he spent the entire ride pointing out all the animatronic animals he saw (and there are surprisingly a ton of them!) The boats stop for loading/unloading but we never found the line to be that long (less than 10 minutes each time).

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room: This is more of a show than a ride. You sit in a round theater and the animatronic birds drop down from the ceiling and sing. The first song is the familiar "In the tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki room" and then they get into the real deep cuts. The adults were all checking their watches, ready to escape but Baby O sat quietly so he must have enjoyed it. Despite the show format there is rarely a line for this beyond waiting for the next show to end: hop on line when the sign outside says "Next Show in 5 Minutes [or less]"

Other attractions in Adventureland that we skipped were: Swiss Family Treehouse, Tinker Bell's Magical Nook (a spot to meet Tinker Bell and get autographs), and Pirates Adventure ((for older kids - a treasurehunt through the park).


Run, do not walk, to Aloha Isle and get a Dole Whip Swirl. It's like a pineapple flavored creamsicle and it is just divine! I messed up the first time and didn't get the swirl so I basically had pineapple soft serve. While that was tasty, it was nothing compared to the second time we went. My Brother-in-Law, who is a pineapple connoisseur, ordered a pineapple wedge and said it was the best pineapple he'd ever eaten. This treat is not to be missed!


If you continue walking counterclockwise around the park from Adventureland, you end up in Frontierland. Honestly, these two lands blended together both in my mind and in practure. I kept confusing which attractions were in which land because the themes are so similar (I mean if you are on a frontier, aren't you also on an adventure?) Maybe that's just me.


Getting ready for the first show.
Country Bear Jamboree: This is the only ride in Frontierland that Baby O went on, but he liked it so much we did it twice. This was actually the last ride he rode before it was time to leave the park for bedtime. The set-up is a big theater and the animatronic bears appear behind curtains (or suspended from the ceilings) to sing a variety of country and blue grass themed songs. There are also enormous moose heads on the wall that sing and join in the fun. Baby O particularly liked the moose head and screamed, "MOOSE," as we were walking in. This ride isn't as tedious as the Tiki Room is but the kiddos are definitely going to enjoy it more than the adults do!

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: The adults in our group rode this one a few times. The height requirement is only 40 inches so even at under 2 years old, Baby O was only a few inches off. It's a pretty tame ride with no huge drops and no loops, but it's fun nonetheless. Even if we go back soon and Baby O is tall enough we'll probably hold off on this ride though: my family still tells the story of my tiny 8 year old sister riding with my uncle and nearly falling out when the ride dipped down and she stayed up! My uncle had to grab her shirt to pull her back into the car! Zoinks! This is another ride that will probably need Fast Passes, but if your whole crew isn't riding you can split your Fast Passes and the group can meet back up later (i.e. half get a Fast Pass for this and half do a different "kiddie" ride).

Splash Mountain: I missed out on this one but Lolli, Aunt Suzanne, Uncle Brad, and Husband rode it. The line on this one can get long (especially on a hot/nice day) so get a Fast Pass!

Walt Disney World Railroad: This was the first thing we rode on when we arrived at the Magic Kingdom on the first morning. We got straight onto the railroad and went to the heart of the park. There are stops on Main Street, Frontierland, and Fantasyland. Note that the benches on the railroad are tight. Poor Husband was stuck in a row all to himself with our enormous BOB jogging stroller (which has to be folded on the train). The full loop lasts about 20 minutes and trains arrive at each station anywhere from every 4 to 10 minutes (I think we waited closer to 10 minutes).

Also try to arrive right as the Magic Kingdom opens in the morning to watch a really fun show that features all the characters arriving on the first train of the morning! We caught the show on our last morning (completely by accident - we didn't even realize they did it!) and it was such a sweet way to begin our last day at Disney!

Cast Member and his "magic broom" that stood up on its
own. Baby O was mesmerized!

Other attractions in Frontierland are: Frontierland Shootin' Arcade (for older kids) and Tom Sawyer Island. We also waited on line forever to meet Jessie and Woody from Toy Story in the Splash Mountain exit area. They were supposed to arrive at 2:45 but we waited until after 3pm and they never came out. We stuck around because part of our crew was on Splash Mountain but as soon as they finished the ride, we left. Luckily Baby O was entertained by the absolute sweetest Cast Member who showed off his "magic broom" and made Baby O a gorgeous birthday button with his name on it (he told us to wear it in the park for freebies, but we felt bad. We put it away until Baby O's actual birthday a few months later!)

I had noted two counter service restaurants in Frontierland but we didn't end up eating at either.
Pecos Bill Café serves taco salad as well as burgers. There is a "toppings bar" so patrons can put whatever extras on their food that they like. Supposedly the onion rings are good. If there is no seating on the Frontierland side, go back to the Adventureland side of the restaurant which is usually empty. Our other option was a seasonal stand which turned out to be closed while we were there: Golden Oak Outpost. This spot serves chicken sandwiches and nuggets. There is only outdoor seating available but if you want to eat inside, feel free to take your food into the nearby Pecos Bill or Tortuga Tavern.

Fantasyland: perhaps not surprisingly, we spent the bulk of our time at the Magic Kingdom with Baby O in Fantasyland


Under the Sea: The Journey of the Little Mermaid: This was actually our first "ride" of our Disney trip (if you don't count the railroad). We had booked Fast Pass Plus appointments for later in the day but when we walked by, the line was very short so we went in. You ride in clamshells and go through a retelling of the movie. Oliver enjoyed it but if your kid is scared of Ursula or the eels, be warned that they are featured in this ride. I'd probably reserve a Fast Pass Plus and then change it if you catch this one during a slow period.

The Barnstormer: This is Goofy's rollercoaster and it's perfect for a first time roller coaster ride (or for a 32 year old lady who still gets a little nervous before her first roller coaster of the vacation!) The height requirement is only 35 inches (so Baby O actually could have joined us on this one!) We rode this one evening after he had gone back to the hotel for bed: note that for two adults in a car, it might be a tight squeeze! Husband and Brother-in-Law barely fit into their car (they wanted to be in the front car so we made them ride together!)

Casey Jr., Splash 'N' Soak Station: Basically a circus themed splash pad area. Move quickly if you don't want to have to change your child's clothes. Dumbo is just up a slight hill so distract them by heading there!

Dumbo the Flying Elephant: This is one of the rides about which you've likely heard waiting on line horror stories: it's insanely popular, only about 40 people can ride at a time (assuming 20 elephants with 2 passengers each), and there is significant loading/unloading time between rides. Ah but this is the case no more: Disney has listened to the prayers of parents and built a second Dumbo ride! The two rides are right next to each other but the same line feeds into both. You walk through a short section of line and then a Cast Member directs you to the side which is loading first. Not only did we never need to get a Fast Pass for Dumbo but one time Baby O got off and wanted to ride again. We got back on line and hopped on the opposite side without ever having to stop moving! Glorious! Baby O was a huge Dumbo fan and we rode this one a ton. During busier times you might still need a Fast Pass, but even then with the two sides going, I can't imagine the wait would ever be horrible!

My little thumb-sucker rides (the first time) with Poppi.
It's a Small World: Ugh, my grandma loves this one but sorry as if the singing and borderline racism isn't enough, we had an awful time with the line situation on this ride. I don't think it ever gets too crowded despite the boats coming to a complete stop for loading and unloading. Our first time through, we got on very quickly. The second time, they must have had a new Cast Member on the loading dock because boats were backing up at the end of the ride INTO the ride. We were in the wheelchair entrance at that point because my grandma had rented a wheelchair for the day. The Cast Member was apparently under the impression that wheelchair folks could only ride in what I can seriously only describe as a "throne" boat. There was this enormous seat in the middle of the boat and then like two other seats. So she'd load a wheelchair person on, send them through the ride and then 8 minutes later the "throne" would return and she'd let the next group on. This would be fine and dandy if we were on line for, say, Big Thunder Mountain, but this was It's a Small World: it's AARP central! Finally, after the throne went by for the sixth time, I got a little upset. People were literally walking in off the street, riding, going back around to the line and riding again while we were still standing there. When we finally did get in a boat (I told the Cast Member that we didn't need the "throne"), the back-up in the ride was two rooms deep! We literally sat in the ride's grand finale Small World multicultural room for ten minutes.

Now all that being said, Baby O liked this ride a lot. He actually didn't even mind waiting on line for nearly thirty minutes (!!!!) because there was a giant coo coo clock that chimed several times while we waited. He now has coo coo clock radar and can spot one from thirty paces!

Mad Tea Party: When we first decided to go to Disney, Pops (my dad), who hates most rides in general, shocked us all by volunteering to go on the Mad Tea Party with Baby O! He figured no one would want to go on it (and leading up to our trip, he was right!). Once we got to Disney, we all got a bit brave and in the end Pops got to sit this one out. If you just sit in the cup, the spinning isn't so bad. Our first time on, Husband, Baby O, and I sat with Poppi who spun our cup furiously for the entire ride! Thankfully Baby O turns out to be a bit of a daredevil so he didn't mind all the spinning. The second time we rode was with my grandma so there was a lot less spinning and it was much more enjoyable (for me at least!) The line can get long for this one because only 40 or so can ride at a time. We never ran into terribly long lines though and at most only had to wait 10 minutes (the ride itself is pretty short).
Loaded into their honey pot.
 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: This is the ride for which Fast Pass was created. Every child under the age of 8 wants to ride the Winnie the Pooh ride so the line is ridiculously long. The line is also a bit deceiving and when you get at the end, you don't realize all the looping and winding that is about to take place. You can actually see the honey pot cars from the street, but it's going to take you up to two hours to actually get close to them. The current Fast Pass station is next to Mickey's PhilharMagic. We managed to get on twice and predictably Baby O loved it. I would have not been happy if we had waited on line for an hour though because the ride itself is very short and nothing all that exciting happens (basically a retelling of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh movie from the 1970s). The ride does exit into the gift shop so be prepared with distractions if you don't want to shop. 

Peter Pan's Flight: This is the other must have Fast Pass ride. The issue here ist he same as the ride above: you can see the cars loading from the street so the line doesn't seem so long and the cars stop completely for unloading. This one we rode once. It's neat in that at one point the car lifts off the track into the air and you "fly" through the rest of the ride. Again, the ride itself is pretty short and likely not worth the potential meltdowns that waiting on line for up to two hours might create: just do a Fast Pass.  

Mickey's PhilharMagic: This is a 3D show that actually stars Donald, not Mickey. Obviously for 3D, glasses are required which Baby O wasn't thrilled about, but he did like the music. With the room key Fast Passes, often the machine spits out a "bonus" Fast Pass for a slightly less popular ride. We got Fast Passes for this while we were waiting for our Peter Pan's Flight appointment. It allowed us to get into the very next show, but we likely would have anyway since the line wasn't long at all.
How can you say, "no," to this sweet face?

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel: We have a carrousel at our local mall. It is literally five miles down the road from our house and we take Baby O a few times a month to "ride the horseys". So it shouldn't have surprised me that of all the amazing things at Disney, this was his favorite ride. The carrousel is stationed right in the middle of Fantasyland and every time we walked past it, we had to ride. It plays Disney music and it really is lovely. You shouldn't need a Fast Pass as there are a ton of horses to choose from and since it's right in the middle of the action, you can keep checking the line until it looks relatively short.

Fantasyland is also home to several spots for character meet and greets: Cinderella's Castle, Ariel's Grotto, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Merida at Fairytale Garden, Pete's Silly Sideshow, and the Thoughtful Spot with Pooh. We only waited on line to see characters who had short lines so we skipped all the princesses. A few tips though: we met the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland right outside the Mad Tea Party and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast stands between his tavern and the Beauty and the Beast specialty gift shop in New Fantasyland. He was one of my favorites to meet because he was in character the whole time and his character is so ridiculous (he said, "I'm sure you are very pleased to meet me!" Ha!)
Baby O kept yelling "Beast!" Gaston was not amused!
Tomorrowland: we did Tomorrowland with Baby O in just over an hour. No joke.


Barely squeezing into the Astro Orbiter!
Astro Orbiter: This is Tomorrowland's answer to Dumbo, except you ride in rockets, not elephants. Be warned though: you ride behind rather than beside your fellow passenger and the rockets are tight. Husband had no hope of getting in behind me and Baby O and Brother-in-Law managed to squeeze himself in behind Aunt Suzanne, but then worried that he had permanently lost feeling in his legs! This is definitely a ride to go on with a small child or alone! It also does get a little speedy at the end right before you land so beware of any residual Mission: Space Orange PTSD!

Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin: This is very reminiscent of Toy Story Mania at Hollywood Studios (i.e. carnival style interactive game); however, it does not appear to have generated anywhere near the same amount of hype so it's a good substitute. We rode without Baby O one evening and the ride stopped momentarily (not sure why, but it must have been electrical since it cleared all our scores! Arg!) It's still fun though.

Space Mountain: You might want to get a Fast Pass for this one as the line can be long; however, if the wait time is 20 minutes or less, honestly that's just a description of how long it is going to take you to walk to the ride entrance. This is one loopy line! I panicked momentarily during this ride that I might get decapitated: in my defense, you ride in total darkness and I'm a lot taller than people were back in the 1970s! Luckily I completed the ride head intact, but wasn't confident enough to ride a second time! The height minimum is 44 inches.

Tomorrowland Speedway: The wait time for this one is always really long so on our final morning, we got Fast Pass Plus appointments and UGH the line was still really long. The problem here is 100% the loading/unloading area. Four cars pull up, unload, load and then drive (slowly) away. So best case scenario 8 people are getting on the ride every 5 minutes. Ridiculous. The Cast Member looked at Baby O and asked if he was driving (supposedly height minimum for driving is 40 inches) so Husband said, "Okay!" I rode by myself and may have broken 6mph at one point. If your kid really wants to go on this one, get an Fast Pass but otherwise I'd avoid it!

Passing Space Mountain on the PeopleMover.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover: This ride, on the other hand, is a glorious continuous movement ride. The cars never stop moving and you just hop onto the closest one. I never saw the line get too long because all this ride really does is take you through the other rides in Tomorrowland. Baby O enjoyed it though (Pops did too!) so
we rode this one a few times!

We skipped Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, Stitch's Great Escape! and Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress. Baby O didn't know who any of those characters were and I've heard the Carousel of Progress hasn't aged well so we decided to just live with our memories from past trips!


We ate a late lunch one afternoon at Cosmic Ray's. We sat on the main floor where a animatronic alien puts on a floor show that kept Baby O occupied. The food was relatively good: another toppings bar to create whatever type of burger or sandwich appealed to you. One difficult thing is ordering: there are three "bays" of food (chicken, burgers, and soup/sandwiches) so if you are ordering from more than one category, you have to stand on line again. We made it easy and all got burgers so I can't speak to anything else on the menu, but the menu is so big that everyone can find something to enjoy! The portions were big and we ended up going family style with another treat that I brought in from Liberty Square!

Liberty Square:

We made it! The final section of the Magic Kingdom is Liberty Square. It's the smallest section and the only one that hasn't had a major renovation since the park opened in 1971.


Haunted Mansion: Yikes, out of the mere three attractions in Liberty Square, this is the only one we rode and we didn't bring Baby O. We probably could have since he's not really at an age yet where he understands scary things but our trip had been going so well I don't think anyone wanted to push it! I will say that the line portion of this ride has been totally redone and is kind of cool: there are interactive "tombstones" that the line winds around so you can play with at least twice. At night the line gets a bit longer (and the ride gets a bit spookier!), but unless you go during a peak time you probably won't need a Fast Pass due to the glorious thing that is constantly moving cars. It's wonderful: the cars keep moving, you hop onto a moving platform and climb in. There is literally no delay for loading and unloading (unless the ride has to be stopped completely to load/unload someone who is in a wheelchair). Nothing is too scary but the atmosphere is a bit creepy (and some of the old photographs on the wall gave me the willies when I really got a look at them!) Use your best judgment on whether the kiddos should ride or skip this one.

We skipped the Liberty Square Riverboat because we were just never close by when it was loading (and we had taken the ferry the first morning so Baby O had his "Disney boat" experience). Honestly, I don't even remember anyone mentioning the Hall of Presidents. Does that mean we're bad Americans? Eeek! I hope not!


Columbia Harbour House was listed in a few of our guidebooks as a promising lunch spot for kiddos; however, we ended up at Cosmic Ray's on the day we were in the Magic Kingdom for lunch. There are large portions to split, if needed, and even better a whole extra upstairs level of seating that no one seems to know about! Favorite entrees included: Anchors Away Tuna Sandwich, Lighthouse Veggie Sandwich, Lobster Roll, Fish and Chips and Grilled Salmon.

Sleepy Hollow: Do NOT leave the Magic Kingdom without hitting up this tiny little snack shack. I
had this place circled and starred ten times in my guidebook so I definitely knew we would be eating here at some point. It turns out that I ran across the park while the rest of the group placed their orders at Cosmic Ray's. My menu choice? A Nutella and fruit waffle. OMG is all I can say: a warm crispy, freshly made waffle topped with an unnatural amount of Nutella and then strawberries, blueberries and bananas. It was enormous and it was heaven. We all took bites and then I went all Golem on the rest and gobbled it up. My mom was so inspired that she created her own version at home a few weeks later. I'd try it too, but I've not had good luck with keeping Nutella in my house for more than fifteen minutes.

Okay, folks, we did it! Everything you need to know about the Magic Kingdom with a (almost) toddler. I'll be back hopefully soon with a post about what to pack, where to eat, and also where to explore at Downtown Disney!

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