The Four Hour Tour: Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Published: April 18, 2008 at 10:16 AM
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.