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The Four Hour Tour: Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

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Published: April 18, 2008 at 10:16 AM

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. [Map]

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Theme Park Insider's "Four-Hour Tours" are designed to get you and your family to the top attractions in the world's top theme parks... before anyone can get tired and cranky. The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers.

When to go: The Magic Kingdom was the first theme park at Walt Disney World, opening in 1971. All Disney World theme parks are open 365 days a year, although opening and closing times for each park varies from day-to-day. If you are traveling without kids, try to visit on a school day to avoid the largest crowds. If you need to visit during a school vacation, try at least to avoid the week between Christmas and New Year's and the Fourth of July.

If you are not staying at a Disney World hotel, avoid visiting the Magic Kingdom on its Extra Magic Hours days, as Disney's hotel guests get into the park early on those days, inflating wait times for visitors who arrive at the Magic Kingdom's normal opening time.

Before you go: Buy your Walt Disney World tickets online at Disney World's website. For advice on picking the right ticket, see our guide to Disney World tickets, keeping in mind that for the Four-Hour Tour, you will *not* need the park-hopper option.

You will also need to call in advance to make lunch and/or dinner reservations. Disney accepts reservations, via 1-407-WDW-DINE, up to 180 90 days in advance. Times do go quickly, so you should call six months to the day before your trip to secure a lunch reservation in the castle. We recommend a 1pm seating at Cinderella's Royal Table for this tour. If you can't get a time near that at Cindy's, ask for the Liberty Tree Tavern instead.

When you get there: Plan to arrive at the Magic Kingdom's front gate before the park opens in the morning. You can check the Magic Kingdom's opening time via Disney World's website.

Keep in mind that to reach the Magic Kingdom, you must park at Disney World's Transportation and Ticket Center parking lot, ride at tram to the TTC, then take a monorail or ferry boat across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the Magic Kingdom. It makes for a dramatic approach, but takes extra time. Give yourself an extra hour in the summer and half-hour during the school year.

1. Proceed to the end of the Main Street, nearest the castle, for the rope drop at park opening. Head left and cross the Adventureland bridge on your way to Splash Mountain, where you will pick up Fastpasses, Disney's ride reservation tickets, for everyone in your group. (Save a couple minutes by cutting through the Adventureland breezeway, opposite the Swiss Family Treehouse, into Frontierland, where you then can make a quick left toward Splash.)

2. Fastpasses in hand, head up the hill and ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, your first ride of the day.

3. After riding Thunder, use your Fastpasses to ride Splash Mountain. (If your Fastpass return time has not arrived yet, swap steps 2 and 3 and do Pirates now, followed by Splash.)

4. Head back into Adventureland for a ride on Pirates of the Caribbean.

5. Walk back through Frontierland to Liberty Square, where you next will ride the Haunted Mansion.

6. From there, head through the breezeway into Fantasyland, for the next showing of Mickey's PhilharMagic.

7. Continue around the park and into Tomorrowland. At this point, you have a decision to make.

If you are interested in riding Space Mountain, and a Fastpass return time is available for more than 20 minutes before your lunch reservation time, go ahead and pick up Fastpasses for Space Mountain. Otherwise pick up Fastpasses for Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin instead.

8. Either way, next head to Monsters, Inc. Comedy Club show.

9. After the show, it's on to Buzz Lightyear, followed by your Fastpass return to Space Mountain, if you chose that option.

10. Head back to the castle for lunch at Cinderella's Royal Table, or to Liberty Square for lunch at the Liberty Tree Tavern.

Readers' Opinions

From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 10:59 AM
No Space Mountain or Thunder Mountain? I'm not going!

I think if you start in Tomorrowland with Space MT and proceed counter clockwise through the park you can get all the mountains (and the other good stuff) done in four hours. Just remember, before you ride on Thunder Mountain you should get a fastpass for Splash Mountain, so it is like waiting for both at the same time.

I would backtrack and hit Mickey's Philharmagic and the Monster's Inc Comedy Club last, as they are great people movers and accessible any time of day without much waiting.

So, Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, Peter Pan, Haunted Mansion, Thunder MT/Splash MT, POTC, Philharmagic, Monster's Inc Comedy Club, done. Maybe a little over four hours, but not much.

For lunch (if you don't want to eat counter service at Cosmic Ray's or Pecos Bill's) you can take the monorail to Contemporary and enjoy something off their excellent lunch menu.

And while in the park, make sure to stop at the Aloha Isle counter and get a Dole Whip Float.....phenomenal.

From Robert Niles on April 18, 2008 at 11:26 AM
I added Thunder, using FPs for Splash. I don't think adds more than 10 minutes to the tour. But I am concerned about time, and overload, on this one. Space just doesn't make the cut, for me, here. Maybe if it were Disneyland's version. Or, better yet, Paris'.
From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 11:42 AM
A MK touring plan without Space Mountain is like having a foot without a big toe. You can function, but something is just not right!

Furthermore, after the planned 14-month SM refurb beginning next year, it will be the flagship indoor coaster once again. And once word of the refurb gets out to the general public....people are definitely going to want to visit this attraction one last time before it changes forever.

Besides, you gotta add it, or you'll keep getting these whiny comments from me all day long!! =)

From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 1:43 PM
One other note, you need to fix this line that crept into your MK Touring Plan: "The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those in Disney's Hollywood Studios most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers."
From Robert Niles on April 18, 2008 at 1:41 PM
Fixed. Thanks.

Space is clearly the next in line among MK attractions, when one looks at the ratings. But the only way I could see fitting it in would be to get an FP for it after Philharmagic, then to go on Monsters and Buzz (sans FP, since you used it for Space) before returning to Space Mtn.

That would work on a low-to-average-attendance day, but I think we run out of time on a typical summer day with that plan. And I can't see what we'd cut from the current plan to add Space.

For perspective here, this was the single toughest plan to create. (Followed by Animal Kingdom and USF.) Many commendable attractions, spread evenly throughout the park.

From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 3:56 PM
Robert, I can't believe we are having this discussion. I simply will not allow you to make a MK touring plan without including Space Mountain! That is sacrilege of the highest order. It is the kind of thing that you do, and then the Disney Gods come and whisk you off into their underground labyrinth never to be seen again until someone spots an all-too-realistic Robert Niles animatronic lookalike at an update of the Hall of Dead Presidents!!!

You have to start your tour at Space Mountain, then the "get a fastpass for Splash MT and wait in line for Thunder MT" strategy works like a charm. And honestly, if you speed directly to Tomorrowland when the park opens you should be able to do both Space MT and Buzz Lightyear with minimal wait anytime of year.

With these changes you will only have to backtrack for Philharmagic and Laugh Out Loud, which is no biggie because you will be rewarded with a short wait in an air conditioned attraction.

Trust me. Disney is watching and you are currently a marked man. Tread softly from here on out....

=)

From Robert Niles on April 18, 2008 at 3:57 PM
I'm waffling now. Another firm argument could push me toward either way. Take James' suggestion and start at Space, then cut across the park to Splash -- even though that could mean a longer tour? Or start with Splash and eliminate Space, in the interest of avoiding overload?

Like I wrote, I could go either way at this point. Orlando folks, chime in!

From Robert Niles on April 18, 2008 at 3:59 PM
By the way, when I die, I totally want to be preserved as an animatronic in DL or WDW. So that's not a threat to me; that's an invitation!
From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 4:47 PM
While we wait for the Orlando contingent....let me be clear on the touring plan I am proposing:

Space Mountain
Buzz Lightyear
Peter Pan
Haunted Mansion
Obtain a fastpass for Splash Mt
Thunder Mt
Splash Mt (using fastpass)
Pirates of the Care-uh-bee-ann
(Stop at Aloha Isle in Adventureland and get a Dole Float)
Mickey's Philharmagic
Monster's Inc Comedy Club
done.

Maybe a little over four hours, but not much.

And Robert, the animatronic they make out of you will be set up at the entrance to Disaster Transport at Cedar Point instead of at a Disney Park. You'll say something like "Welcome to an even worse version of Space Mountain. Watch out for the leaky roof!"

From Sylvain Comeau on April 18, 2008 at 10:08 PM
Nice plan, but I don't see how you can skip Winnie the Pooh. Why not grab a fast pass for that before going to see Mickey's PhilharMagic? Skipping most of Fantasyland would be a shame.
From James Rao on April 18, 2008 at 10:51 PM
If you were gonna do Winnie the Pooh, you would hit it after Buzz and before Peter Pan (you should not need a fastpass at that point). Fastpasses will probably be gone for the day by the time you circle back around for Philharmagic. For some reason Pooh runs out of fastpasses quicker than most any other attraction.
From David Sutter on April 19, 2008 at 4:57 AM
Wow Magic Kingdom in four hours...Ok here goee...Once in the gate head to the Castle and make lunch reservations...Then its off to Splah for a fast pass...And do Big Thunder Mtn....And Haunted Mansion...Then to fantasy land and Mickey Phile...Tommarow land and Space Mtn..99% of the time the wait times are wrong...Off to lunch...then Head to Mickeys Toontown ,,and grab then train to Fronterland and Spalsh Mtn...Walk to Main streeet SHop and out the gate..there and no back Tracking
From James Rao on April 19, 2008 at 11:28 AM
David, no Buzz Lightyear and no Peter Pan? That hurts me in the Disney Princess heart-shaped locket I have pinned on my sleeve! =)

I have never seen Space Mountain NOT busy during the midday hours, except for right after it breaks down and gets fixed.

And getting reservations at the Castle to eat with Cinderella the day of the meal...you are a miracle worker!! It CAN happen, but definitely not during the May - August stretch of the year.

From Robert Niles on April 19, 2008 at 2:37 PM
Okay, I added in a Space Mountain option that should work on all but the busiest days in the park.

That would put eight attractions in this tour, which I think is the maximum that one can do in four hours before you embark into crazyland. It's possible to do more, of course, but the point of these four hour tours is to hit the best of the best, in a low-stress environment before anyone gets too tired. Trying to do 10-12 attractions in four hours, while possible, defeats that purpose, IMHO.

From James Rao on April 19, 2008 at 8:08 PM
Robert...a good compromise. Space MT will always be in my MK tour, at least your revisions allow for the option.

Besides when Space Mt closes for a 14 month refurb at the beginning of 2009, the point will be moot! =)

From David Sutter on April 20, 2008 at 4:39 AM
Sorry Jame, but hitting only the highlights...And yes Space Mtn..Lines get short when theres a Show at the Castle Stage..Max wait to date 45 mins.
From Keith Lutman on April 21, 2008 at 7:02 AM
You can get along without Space Mountain. The last time I went, when we returned with our Fast Passes around 4:30 in the afternoon, we found the ride shut down. We checked back several times before leaving the park late that night, but it never reopened. Since we'd ridden everything else that we wanted to, it was not worth burning another day's admission ticket just for Space Mountain. Disappointing, yes. Vacation spoiling? Not at all.

In short, a Disney vacation without Space Mountian is not the big deal so many are making it out to be.

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