First, a disclaimer, which will be at the top of each park review. There are plenty of websites that will give you the top rides or restaurants in each park. So, I will cover three topics for each park: over-rated attractions, under-rated attractions, and nap strategies.
Overview of the Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom is the park most people associate with Disney and probably visit first. It has something for everyone and many opportunities to see well-known characters. Plan to get there early one day to see the park opening show with the train overlooking the ticket plaza. The closer you can get the better, but it the show can be seen reasonably well from fairly far back. As with most of the parks, after you pass through the gates, walk directly and promptly to your favorite attraction to get an extra ride in before the line builds. The Magic Kingdom offers the opportunity to take the train to the opposite side of the park. I don’t think this would be faster than walking.
Hands down the most over-rated ride in the Magic Kingdom (if judged by wait times) is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The idea is cute – ride around in a big honey pot to see friends from the books. But, unless the line is under 15 minutes don’t waste your time. And, don’t waste a Fast Pass. The honey pots are jerky and feel much older than other similar rides at Disney. The ride also stops frequently and therefore takes much longer than anticipated. If you’re looking for a pre-school friendly ride in that area of the Magic Kingdom, Peter Pan (also long lines but worth a Fast Pass) and It’s a Small World (Fast Pass rarely needed) are better options.
The Astro Orbiter is not a bad ride. But, the wait takes an eternity that the ride doesn’t make up for. Kids have an especially hard time with the process – groupings, alternating elevators, and an additional wait when you get to the top. It also is more dizzying than it looks, making it not the best choice for everyone.
All three of these rides have been around for decades. But, they still stand up to the power house modern rides. Since none of them have lines, its easy to fit them in between your Fast Pass destinations. They are all worth your time.
My favorite under-rated attraction is the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. These are four person cars on a flat, horizontal track, continuously traveling above Tommorowland. There’s never a line, it is reasonably long, and it has just enough curves, darkness, movement to be interesting for older children while not scaring the younger ones. Note that it will go pitch black in one section and there are no seatbelts. So, if you have little ones inclined to move about you may want to be on the same seat so you can keep in touch with them, literally, in the dark. The ride goes through Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin as well as outside so you get the full Tomorrowland experience.
My second recommendation is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. While a very simple ride, it is enjoyable for all ages. Each room shows a portrait of life at a different era of the 20th century and through a calendar year. The boys still talk about it and sing the song. It’s indoors in auditorium seating so it provides a good, air conditioned respite from the rest of the park. There’s no line so the only wait is for the batch of seats to become available.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is my final recommendation. At face value, singing birds may not seem like the most exciting thing in the Magic Kingdom. But, it is so much fun. It is indoors, so shady and air conditioned. There are benches to sit on so it gives your feet a rest. The songs are catchy and the show, while kitchy, is enjoyable for all ages.
Unfortunately, the Magic Kingdom is logistically the most difficult park to get in and out of. So, the often suggested strategy of returning to your hotel room for naps will take a huge chunk out of your day. Even if one is staying at the Contemporary, which is within walking distance, there is still the full length of Main Street USA to walk just to get to or from the attractions. If walking is not an option, you have to take the Monorail or Water Taxi across the lagoon to your car, or one of the shuttle buses or boats to your hotel. All this takes time.
Thankfully, the Magic Kingdom has a few good air conditioned napping options that improve upon a shady place to park the stroller under a tree (though, those exist too). Note, you will need to remove your child from their stroller before entering any of these attractions.
First choice, hands down, is Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. I wrote about it above as an under-rated ride. It is also a great place for a nap. It is air conditioned with dim lights and relatively repetitive, calm music. The seats are padded theater style so very comfortable. The theater rotates a few times to move from scene to scene which is like a rocking motion. And, the ride is relatively long. Even adults fall asleep here (though its a shame to miss the show.)
Another option is the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square. This 22 minute show is also air conditioned with theater seats. The theater doesn’t move and the sound is mostly talking vs music. But, it is cool, dark, and comfortable. The show, while interesting, is also less appealing to the younger set. Unfortunately, it also seems to attract an older set who can be snipey about small children interrupting while they try to listen to the history lesson. Personally, in a child-oriented theme park I think some quiet questions are to be expected.
If you don’t want to stay in one place while your child naps in their stroller in the shade, board the Liberty Square Riverboat. You probably won’t get a bench and there’s no air conditioning. But, its a relaxing ride with plenty of shade and reasonably quiet. Travel the full circle, hope for a nap, and get off to continue with the attractions.
I hope that gives you some outside the box ideas for your next trip to the Magic Kingdom.