In May, we brought 3 1/2 year old Little T to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for his first Disney park experience, a magical day that we were looking forward to for some time! In this post, I’ll be sharing the highlights of our visit to Magic Kingdom, including a character lunch at the Crystal Palace, exploring FantasyLand and AdventureLand, the fun rides and meeting several characters including Donald Duck and Goofy.
We stayed at a Disney resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge, so parking at Magic Kingdom was free (otherwise $20 for standard parking). Once we parked the car, we took a tram to the Ticket and Transportation center, went through a security check and then boarded a ferry boat to Magic Kingdom. Everything runs very smoothly and efficiently at Walt Disney World, and you notice that from the moment you arrive.
Altogether the time it took to get from the car to the park turnstiles was less than 30 minutes. We enjoyed taking the ferry boat ride to Magic Kingdom and being greeted with the fantastic view above as we approached the park.
At the turnstiles, our Magic Bands were scanned to confirm our admission tickets, then we headed to the service center to rent a stroller. It’s $15 to rent a single seat stroller and, even for a preschooler who never uses a stroller at home, it really comes in handy at the huge parks to get around especially in the hot Florida weather.
Tip: Visit midweek to avoid the crowds – Tuesday and Wednesday are the quietest days of the week to visit the theme parks.
Lunch at Crystal Palace
Our day kicked off with meeting Pooh and Friends at the Crystal Palace, a beautiful restaurant just around the corner from Main Street. You can book breakfast as early as 08:05am, so it’s also a great way to get into the park early.
Tip: Book your dining reservations for popular restaurants such as Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table and The Crystal Palace on My Disney Experience early – you can make reservations up to 180 days in advance. Some bookings open up due to cancellations, so it is worth checking closer to the date of your visit if at first you don’t manage to make a reservation.
The character lunch at Crystal Palace was a fantastic experience and my favorite out of the three character meals we booked. The selection at the buffet was very good, the service was great and my son loved having the chance to meet Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore. Stay tuned for a separate post with a review of our experience.
Tip: Buy an autograph book for your Walt Disney World holiday that you can also add photos and other mementos to – it makes a wonderful souvenir! You can find customizable autograph books on Etsy or, of course, purchase ones at the resorts or parks, with prices ranging from $8 to $17.
I loved FantasyLand, which has many of the classic rides that come to mind when you picture a Disney holiday. Favorite childhood movies are also brought to life there, with characteristic buildings and design elements inspired by Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella.
Tip: You can book FastPass+ reservations for rides and character spots 30 days in advance – or 60 days if you’re staying at a Disney World resort. Very helpful for avoiding long lines at popular rides and attractions such as the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, Enchanted Tales with Belle and Splash Mountain.
Under the Sea
This was our first ride, where you are taken around on a clamshell-shaped vehicle to relive the story of the Little Mermaid, listening to classic songs and watching almost a dozen scenes re-enacted with animatronics and video effects.
The animatronic characters are fun to watch, the music is upbeat and lively and the ride is open to all ages – a great one to bring young children. You can also meet Ariel at the nearby Ariel’s Grotto, ideally with a FastPass+ reservation.
Mad Tea Party
Next, Little T and Mr. G went on the famous spinning teacups ride. I was 6 months pregnant, and expectant mothers can go on the ride as long as you don’t spin the teacups – which would probably not be that much fun anyway while pregnant. I sat this one out and had fun watching the boys enjoy themselves!
Pete’s Silly Sideshow
We then headed to the Storybook Circus, which has plenty of great rides and attractions for young children. There’s the Dumbo’s Flying Elephant ride, Casey Jr. Soak ‘N’ Splash Station water play area, the Barnstormer roller coaster and a Big Top circus tent with Pete’s Silly Sideshow where you can meet Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, Donald Duck and Goofy.
There are two queues for the meet and greet; one for Minnie and Daisy, and one for Donald and Goofy. When we visited, there was hardly any wait to see Donald and Goofy and Little T loved having the opportunity to get their autographs and have some photos taken together!
Tip: Do check out the Memory Maker service, which allows unlimited downloads of all digital photos taken of you and your family while at Walt Disney World, by professional Disney PhotoPass photographers and at many restaurant character meals. Keep an eye out for packages that include the Memory Maker or discounts to book in advance.
After the meet and greet, you’ll find yourself at the souvenir shop and in front of a very tempting selection at Big Top Treats!
“it’s a small world”
Our next ride was this classic, which was my favorite of the day and one I remember going on at Disneyland ages ago. It’s a musical boat tour that takes you through beautifully created scenes around the world with children singing the “it’s a small world” song in their native languages, including French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English. Have a look at the video below to see part of the “it’s a small world” ride.
We carried on walking through FantasyLand, passing by fantastic sights from classic movies, like Beauty and the Beast…
Along with new favorites such as Tangled…
We passed briefly through Liberty Square on our way to AdventureLand, where we spotted the Muppets performing at one of the buildings. Little T and Mr. G watched while I headed into Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe to buy some tree ornaments for our collection.
We then made our way into AdventureLand, another fun area to bring young children that features a jungle and tropical forest setting, boat rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise which are suitable for all ages (and safe for expectant mothers), the famous Dole Whip that you can buy at the Aloha Isle, and the Swiss Family Treehouse with several rooms to explore and 360 degree views of the park.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Here we rode a small barge that navigates through a shadowy grotto of fallen pirates, a foggy Caribbean fort with a 12 gun galleon locked in battle and a burning city with looters and buccaneers singing “Yo Ho, Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)”. It’s a bit dark, but here’s a video clip taken during the ride;
We couldn’t book a FastPass+ reservation for this ride and ended up waiting 30 minutes – but it was the only one we had to wait for throughout the whole day which isn’t so bad! The 10-minute boat ride takes you across rivers in Asia, Africa and South America, where you spot animatronic animals and headhunters along the way.
This area is based on the Wild West, with highlights that include Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Tom Sawyer Island (accessible by raft). We only had time for Little T and Mr. G to go on Splash Mountain, which was our final FastPass+ reservation, but I do hope to go back and explore this land more during our next visit.
And as for Little T’s first thrill ride experience – he absolutely loved it!
Splash Mountain is a log flume ride that starts off with gently drifting past 100 talking, singing, storytelling animatronic creatures before eventually going down a 5-story splashdown!
After that last ride, it was time for us to head back along Main Street to the exit, ending our day with a Mickey Mouse-shaped chocolate covered ice cream and one last look at the iconic Cinderella’s Castle.
I love the beautiful, pastel colors of the turn of the century buildings along Main Street…
…and the charming touches such as the trolleys and horse-drawn carriages and retro ice cream parlors.
Magic Kingdom is a must-visit park at Walt Disney World and especially wonderful for young children! My 3 year old loved his first Disney experience, from meeting several characters to going on his first theme park rides. The craftsmanship and creativity of the Walt Disney Imagineering Team throughout the park is truly impressive; I could happily just walk around each land admiring the detailed architecture and fun designs. Before our visit, I was mostly worried about long queues and crowds, but (1) it helped visiting mid-week when it is less crowded, (2) the park is very well-organised and (3) by planning ahead, you can really make the most of your day, avoid queues and overall make it a less stressful visit.
My top tips for visiting with a young child are to bring your own snacks and water; consider bringing or renting a stroller; plan out your day and book those dining and FastPass+ reservations well ahead of time; download the My Disney Experience app so you can access it at the parks (free Wi-Fi is just about everywhere) and look out for those opportunities to meet the characters – they truly made my son’s day!
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