THE MAGIC KINGDOM - Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids (2015)

Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids (2015)

Opened in 1971, the Magic Kingdom was the first park in Walt Disney World, and it’s still the most popular (and crowded!) of the four main theme parks. The Magic Kingdom is broken into six sections, arranged in a circle around Cinderella Castle. This mecca for the under-10 crowd is full of kiddie rides and character sightings as well as parades and shows.

The Magic Kingdom is the park that best embodies the Disney spirit, since it is home to many of the classic rides like Dumbo and the Mad Tea Party that are so much a part of our collective Disney consciousness. Since the attractions here are almost exclusively designed for families, there are relatively few rides that will scare off kids under eight. Prepare to tour mostly as a family, enjoying the shows, parades, and classic attractions together.

You will enter the Magic Kingdom by walking down Main Street U.S.A, an idealized replica of Walt Disney’s own hometown of Marceline, Missouri, complete with shops, ice-cream parlors, and a cinema. At the end of Main Street is Cinderella Castle, the Magic Kingdom’s primary landmark.

From there, take one of the bridges into either Adventureland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, or Tomorrowland. Pirate wannabes should head to Adventureland, home of the Jungle Cruise and Pirates of the Caribbean. Liberty Square pays homage to America’s beginnings and leads into Frontierland, which features Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the wildest ride in the wilderness. Fantasyland is home to Disney’s popular princesses and has recently been expanded to include new attractions and restaurants. Tomorrowland portrays a retro-style future that never was, complete with Space Mountain. Plan to finish off your night back where you began, watching the Main Street Electrical Parade and the nightly fireworks spectacular.

Magic Kingdom Touring Tips

Getting Here

If you’re staying off-site, prepare for a complicated journey. Either drive or take your hotel shuttle to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) inside the Magic Kingdom parking lot. From the TTC you can cross the Seven Seas Lagoon by ferry or monorail. Both deliver you to the Magic Kingdom front gates.

If you’re staying on-site, getting to the Magic Kingdom is a lot easier. From the Contemporary Resort, you can bypass the TTC and take the monorail to the Magic Kingdom or simply walk to the park. From the Grand Floridian, you can either take the monorail or ferry. From Fort Wilderness Campground or Wilderness Lodge, take the ferry. Polynesian guests have all the options: the monorail, a water taxi, or the ferry.

Guests at Disney hotels that aren’t Magic Kingdom resorts take shuttle buses that deliver them directly to the Magic Kingdom’s front gates, bypassing the TTC. Sometimes families who stay on-site but have a car prefer to drive to the parks, which can save time at every park except the Magic Kingdom. If you’re headed there, take Disney transportation even if you have your own car, just so you can avoid the TTC.


Driving? The Magic Kingdom parking lot is the most confusing of the four major parks. Even if you come early enough to park near the gate, take the tram to make sure you wind up at the right place.

Morning Tips

Through the Turnstiles

The bag check is a necessary nuisance, but it moves quickly. To save time, have one adult go through with all the bags while the other takes the kids through the “no bag” entrance. Then on to the turnstiles.

If you’re staying on-site, each of your MagicBands will be a different color. Your theme-park tickets—if you’re staying off-site or opt to go old school—will each have a different scene or character on the front. This is to help you remember whose ticket is whose. Disney’s security system requires ticket holders to place their second finger into an electronic reader as they go through the turnstiles. Disney makes a quick electronic measurement of the finger, allowing the system to link your park ticket or MagicBand to you and you alone.

Getting Around

The Disney World Railroad leaves from Main Street with stops in Frontierland and Fantasyland. A lap around the park takes 20 minutes; trains depart from Main Street every 4 minutes at busy times and every 10 minutes at slower times. Even so, this isn’t the fastest way to get around the park. In the morning, when crowds are heaviest, you may have to wait for a second or even third train; by that time, you could have walked.

Walking, in fact, is the fastest means of transport in the Magic Kingdom. The train, vintage cars, and horse-drawn carriages are cute, but think of them as rides, not as a serious means of getting around the park.

However, be prepared to make frequent rest stops in the Magic Kingdom. You won’t walk as much as you do in Epcot, but you’re likely to spend more time standing in line. This is ultimately harder on the feet—and the nerves—than walking.

Your First Hour in the Magic Kingdom

Be through the gates 30 minutes earlier than the stated opening time. Rent strollers and pick up a map and entertainment schedule as you enter. The entertainment schedule gives you showtimes and character meeting times for that day.

Guest Services. Early morning is a great time to visit Guest Relations (a.k.a. Guest Services) inside Town Hall. If anyone in your party has something to brag about—a birthday, an anniversary, or just being a first-time visitor—you can pick up a pin announcing the news and guaranteeing you a little extra attention from cast members.

Character Meet and Greets. There are usually characters waiting to interact with you in the Town Square section of Main Street. If the park hasn’t officially opened and the ropes haven’t dropped, let the kids stop by and say “hi.” But if the park is open, you need to move ahead to the rides, which will draw long lines later in the day. You can always return to Main Street in mid-afternoon to meet the characters.

Busy Days. On days that are expected to draw large crowds, you can travel the length of Main Street before the Magic Kingdom officially opens. On less crowded days, people are usually held in the Town Square just in front of the railroad.

Extra Magic Hours. On Extra Magic Hour mornings, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland open first. Older kids should head straight for Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, while younger kids should start with Enchanted Tales with Belle, Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Princess Fairytale Hall.

Regular Days. On regular mornings the whole park opens at once. If your kids are up for it, head for Splash Mountain when the ropes drop, then on to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Both may have long lines even by 9:15—if there’s more than a 20-minute wait, get a FastPass+ . Again, younger guests will want to head straight to the new Fantasyland.

Splitting Up. If there’s a gap in the ages of your children and the nine-year-old is ready for a coaster but the five-year-old isn’t, split up during the crucial first hour, when popular attractions have relatively short waits. Mom can take one child, Dad the other, and you can meet back up in an hour.

Setting Up FastPass+ . Day guests who have arrived at The Magic Kingdom without making FastPass+ reservations should find the nearest kiosk and choose 3 FastPass+ options for the day. Note that each member of the family will need his or her own FastPass+.

Maximizing FastPass+. We’ve talked about this special perk for on-site guests before. FastPass+ can be used for any ride or character meet and greet—but make sure to use these judiciously. Families with little princesses will do best to sign up for Princess Fairytale Hall (both sides) and Enchanted Tales with Belle. If princesses aren’t your thing, FastPass+ the Mickey line (now featuring a talking Mickey!). For older kids, set up FastPass+ for Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain. You can also use the FastPass+ for a preferred viewing area along the parade routes.

Afternoon Tips

Afternoon Resting Places

When you don’t want to return to your hotel room but still need a short, air-conditioned break, here are your best bets:

Country Bear Jamboree

The Disney World Railroad (you can rest while you ride)

The Enchanted Tiki Room

Hall of Presidents

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor


Like a broader version of the Pirate Adventure in Adventureland, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom is a park-wide interactive experience, where guests collect magic-spell cards that help them fight Disney villains. Visit one of the training centers in Fantasyland, Liberty Square, or Main Street to receive a packet of six magic cards and a specialized key card. Then travel around to different locations throughout the Magic Kingdom, hold up your key card, and use the spell cards to fight off villains. Sound complicated? Cast members are all around to help, but kids always pick it up faster than adults. Be warned, though: This game can become addictive and will take away from valuable time in the parks. Try to steer the kids clear if this is your first visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Best Vantage Points for Watching the Parades

The Magic Kingdom has two basic parades: the afternoon parade (usually 3 pm), which runs daily, and the evening parade, which runs nightly in the on-season and periodically during the off-season. All parades begin by City Hall and finish beside the gate just to the left of Splash Mountain.

The new afternoon parade, called Festival of Fantasy, is highly anticipated and features a mix of classic and contemporary characters. Because Disney changes its parade very rarely, this is big news with locals and loyalists. Expect even larger-than-average crowds.

Stake your curb space about 30 minutes before the parade is due to start. If you show up an hour early, you might snag a seat on the second floor of the railway station. For some families the bird’s-eye view more than makes up for not being able to interact with characters.

Best Vantage Points for Watching the Fireworks

The evening fireworks include a nifty little extra called Tinker Bell’s Flight. Look toward the castle and you’ll see a young gymnast dressed like Tink descend via wire from the top of the castle.

FastPass+ gives families the option of reserving a special viewing spot, and this may be worth it if you haven’t already used your three extras up. But most people would rather use their extra passes on rides and character experiences—and indeed, that is probably the smarter move. The “special viewing” spot isn’t all that special.

Fireworks Tips

The best place to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks isn’t actually in the Magic Kingdom at all. It’s at the California Grill, high atop the Contemporary Resort. The California Grill is a beautiful upscale restaurant that offers some of the best cuisine in all of Orlando. Despite the restaurant’s reputation, it isn’t formal or stuffy. Kids are welcome.

To see the fireworks, reserve a time about 30 minutes before the parade is due to start. (You must do this before you leave home. First call 407/824-4321 or visit to determine the evenings and times the parade is scheduled, and then reserve a table by calling 407/939-3463.) Since so many guests have been showing up at the restaurant just to see the fireworks, the restaurant has implemented a policy that only diners are allowed to view the show. (Can’t get a perfectly timed reservation? If you dine at California Grill earlier that evening, ask if you can return at fireworks time. Some families have reported that if they kept their dining receipt they were allowed back for the viewing. A large outdoor walkway area keeps the restaurant from getting too packed.)

Once the fireworks begin, the restaurant dims its lights and pipes in the theme music from the fireworks show. You have a fabulous view of the pyrotechnic display and a bona fide magical moment.

Although the vantage point isn’t quite as perfect, you can also see the fireworks from Narcoossee’s and Cítricos, two restaurants in the Grand Floridian and at ’Ohana in the Polynesian.

Magic Kingdom Don’t-Miss List


Any Fantasyland rides that catch their fancy

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Haunted Mansion

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

The parades

Pirates of the Caribbean

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Space Mountain

Splash Mountain


Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin


Enchanted Tales with Belle

“it’s a small world”

Mad Tea Party

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

The parades

Peter Pan’s Flight

Pirates of the Caribbean

Princess Fairytale Hall

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain, if they’re bold enough and if they pass the height requirement

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid

If you’re willing to part with a few doubloons, there’s even the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage on the Seven Seas Lagoon that gives you a terrific view of the fireworks and lots of fun extras. It sails on Mondays at 8:45 and costs $59 for adults, $34 for kids. For more information call 407/939-7529.

Evening Tips

Your Last Hour

Wishes, the present manifestation of the fireworks display in the Magic Kingdom, is beautiful, with pyrotechnics perfectly synchronized to a musical score. It’s presented nightly at closing time, even when the parade isn’t scheduled to run, and it’s visible from any location. But because it’s a popular nighttime attraction, that means that crowds remain in the park right up until closing. Disney plans to open a new exit alley that runs parallel to Main Street, which should help to alleviate some of the crowds and allow those not watching the parade to exit the park faster. Here are some suggestions for how to deal with crowds and get back to your hotel in one piece.

If you’re visiting on an evening when the parade is scheduled, make sure you’re stationed as close as possible to the beginning of Main Street. This way you can turn in your strollers and make a final potty run before the parade begins, then make a quick exit after the fireworks end. Otherwise you risk being stuck in the exiting crowds, which can be really difficult to navigate, especially if you’re trying to carry small children or push a stroller.

Not watching the evening parade? It pulls almost everyone in the park to one place at one time, so about an hour before the parade starts you’ll notice a definite shift in the crowd. This is a great time to squeeze onto a couple of rides that had long lines earlier in the day. Some rides—most notably Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Carrousel, Astro Orbiter, Dumbo, The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Splash Mountain—are particularly beautiful at night.

If you want to avoid being caught in the exit crowd, leave 15 minutes before the parade starts. “People who aren’t watching the evening parade really do need to get out before it begins,” confirms one mother from New York. “The kiddie rides in Fantasyland get less crowded before the parade starts so we decided to ride a few one night and then slip out before the parade began. Bad idea. We lost track of time and it took us literally 45 minutes to get from Fantasyland to the front gate, pushing two strollers through crowds of people who were standing still in the middle of the sidewalks, looking up at the fireworks. After that we started setting our phone alarm to ring for 30 minutes before the parks were scheduled to close.”

The rides stop running at the park’s official closing time, but Main Street stays open for up to an hour longer. If the crowd looks bad here, you can be sure it looks even worse at the bus stop or monorail station. Pause, have a snack, and let the crowds thin before you exit.

Exit Strategies

How you exit the Magic Kingdom after closing depends on where you are staying.

Upon exiting, visitors staying off-site should pause and survey their options. If a ferry is approaching or in dock at your far left, that’s your fastest route back to the TTC. Otherwise, queue for the express monorail back to the TTC.

Guests of the Contemporary Resort should either take the monorail or, if stamina permits, the footpath.

Guests of Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness should take the water-taxi launch.

Guests of the Polynesian or Grand Floridian resorts should glance down at the launch dock. If a water taxi is in sight, take it back to your hotel. Otherwise, head for the resort monorail.

Guests of other Disney hotels should return to the shuttle-bus station.

Food Choices in the Magic Kingdom

Let’s face it, the Magic Kingdom isn’t known for fine dining. Even so, some options are better than others.

Character Meals

If you want to have a sit-down meal and see the characters, consider Cinderella’s Royal Table, which is inside the castle. The princess breakfasts and lunches are especially popular with young girls (generally ages 10 and under) who want to meet Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, and some of the other princesses. (Characters vary in the evening; check when you book.) Reservations are always snapped up months in advance, so be sure to reserve early, preferably 180 days ahead of time, by calling 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE).

This is such a tough ticket to get that we thought the following note from a conscientious mom of two hit the nail on the head: “The one thing we learned about the Magic Kingdom princess breakfast is not to promise this treat unless you already have reservations. It took us six days of getting up at 6:30 am to start trying to get through the phone line at 7 before we got lucky enough to get seats. I was already trying to figure out how to tell my then-5-year-old daughter there wasn’t room for us at the castle.” TIP Closed out of the princess character meals at Cinderella Castle? Try the lesser-known princess meals at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion of Epcot.

Little girls like to wear their princess regalia when they dine in the castle, so pull out those tiaras and magic wands before you go. One mother reported that she brought her daughter’s princess gear with her and let her change in a nearby bathroom just before her character meal. “I noticed a lot of families doing the same,” she said. “It makes sense because afterwards you can change your child back into play clothes for the rest of the day.”

Other character options include the Crystal Palace, where Winnie the Pooh and his friends circulate among diners for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s a wide debate on the quality of the Crystal Palace experience; while one mom considered it “perfect for our family since we love the Pooh characters, and the food selection was really nice,” another mom described the food as “inedible, even by theme-park standards.” The food is served buffet style, so at least there’s no waiting and plenty of variety.


Lunch at Be Our Guest is so hot that Disney has created a FastPass+ option just for the restaurant. Visit before you arrive to set up your meal (you must have a Disney account to use this service). You’ll choose what you want to eat from home, but aren’t required to pay until you pick up your food. During your 30-minute window, visit the kiosk to the left of the entrance to Be Our Guest. There is no confirmation number; just give the cast member your name and enter the castle! Without the advance reservation, be prepared for an average wait of 45 minutes to an hour just to get through the door. The line is shorter if you eat super early, say 10:30 am. The restaurant closes at 3 pm to set up for the table-service dinner.

Full-Service Dining

Willing to dine without the characters? At Liberty Tree Tavern, expect an all-you-can-eat dinner with down-home cooking like turkey, pork chops, mashed potatoes, and macaroni and cheese. The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, thematically the plainest of all Magic Kingdom restaurants, offers a variety of salads and sandwiches, along with elaborate ice-cream-based desserts. Tony’s Town Square, also on Main Street, offers generous servings of Italian food and a charming Lady and the Tramp theme.

The hottest ticket in town is still the relatively new Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland. At lunch it’s a counter-service location, offering salads, soups, sandwiches, and other standard lunch fare ordered from electronic kiosks. Each family is given a rose-shaped marker that they take to a table; the food is then served to them there via a rather elegant food trolley. Note that this is not a character-dining venue, so don’t expect to meet Belle or any of her princess friends.

Another caveat: The word is out that Be Our Guest is a gorgeously themed venue, so a lot of people eat here primarily to see the place. (They won’t let you just walk in and look around, so the dining line is the only way to get in.) As a result, the marvelous setting is somewhat marred by constant bedlam as diners wander from room to room gawking over the details of the castle.

At dinner there’s table service and a more elaborate French-themed menu, and the setting is considerably calmer. Make reservations well in advance. Another bonus: at Be Our Guest, Disney has lifted its Magic Kingdom alcohol ban to serve beer and wine in the evening.

Fast Food

In terms of fast food, your choices abound, but Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland is the largest fast-food spot in the park, and the lines move fast. For snacks, try the fruit cobblers at Sleepy Hollow in Liberty Square or the pineapple whips at Aloha Isle in Adventureland.

Main Street

Main Street is where the stage is set. The pristine sidewalks, Victorian shops, flower stalls, and antique cars make a stroll down Main Street like a walk through an idealized circa-1890 American town. It also provides a transition from the unglamorous parking lots and buses to the charms of the park, and people visibly relax as they move toward Cinderella Castle. Usually by the time they arrive, they’re thoroughly Disney-fied.

Main Street Tips

Although you might spend a few minutes mingling with characters as you enter, don’t take too much time in the shops of Main Street. One mom, who made the mistake of shopping too early, said, “We bought souvenirs on the way into the park, and I spent the whole day dragging things around. I looked like a Disney bag lady!” Instead, focus on getting to the major rides.

FastPass+ Attractions

The Magic Kingdom has more FastPass+ rides than any park.

Ariel’s Grotto

The Barnstormer

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Festival of Fantasy Parade

The Haunted Mansion

“it’s a small world”

Jungle Cruise

Mad Tea Party

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

Main Street Electrical Parade

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

Peter Pan’s Flight

Pirates of the Caribbean

Princess Fairytale Hall: Cinderella, Rapunzel, or Anna & Elsa

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Space Mountain

Splash Mountain

Tomorrowland Speedway

Town Square Theater Mickey Mouse Meet and Greet

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

Get the Current Scoop. A tip board posted near the end of Main Street provides information about the approximate wait times at the major attractions, plus showtimes and character meeting places. Consult it or the My Disney Experience app whenever you’re unsure about what to do next.

Get Your Picture Taken. You may be waylaid by a Disney photographer wanting to snap a family shot with the castle in the background. Do it. You’ll get a PhotoPass, which looks like a credit card, and will track all your official photos for your trip (on-site visitors can load PhotoPass pics into their MagicBand). Once you get home, use the number on the card to access all the pictures at After deciding which ones you like, consolidate all of your pictures onto a PhotoCD or order individual prints. Families who plan on using PhotoPass will want to look into the Memory Maker Service, which is a single price for the entire PhotoPass service. There are significant savings if you book in advance, so if your family plans to rely heavily on the Disney photographers, this could be a great deal.

Avoid Post-Lunch Crowds. You might want to return to Main Street around noon for lunch or shopping, when the stores are relatively uncrowded. But if you’re not planning to see the parade, be off Main Street by 2:30 pm. After that, it’s a mob scene.

Store Your Goods. Anyone can stow any purchases in the lockers beneath the main railroad station—or have them sent to Package Pick-Up next to Guest Relations. Disney resort guests can have packages sent directly to the gift shop in their resort.

Enjoy the Parades. The Magic Kingdom has interactive parades throughout the day. The parade theme changes periodically, but the daytime parades are designed to get you into the action, sometimes inviting you to dance or interact with the characters. It’s all great fun, but keep an eye on your kids. It’s easy to lose track of them in the celebration.

Pick a Meeting Place. If you’re touring the Magic Kingdom late and your party splits up, choose a spot on Main Street as your meeting place. Disney cast members clear people out of other sections of the park at closing time, but Main Street stays open at least an hour after the rides. It’s the best place to reassemble the family before heading home.


There are plans to create an alley that runs parallel to Main Street to allow guests to more easily enter and exit the park while a parade is in process. If you get caught in the crowd, ask the nearest cast member if it’s open.


Fantasyland, directly behind Cinderella Castle, is home to many of the Magic Kingdom’s classic kiddie rides. It’s also the most congested section of the park, and, to make things even more complicated, Disney has just completed a major Fantasyland expansion. The attractions of the new Fantasyland section are incredibly popular and, thus, should be experienced early in the day.

Highlights of the new Fantasyland include (1) Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid; (2) Enchanted Tales with Belle, an interactive storytelling experience, with Belle and Lumière from Beauty and the Beast; (3) Princess Fairytale Hall, a special area for character greetings; (4) a new, double Dumbo attraction on the site of the old Mickey’s Toontown; (5) a full-service Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant called Be Our Guest, and an adjacent quick-service restaurant that’s a nod to Gaston’s Tavern; (6) Storybook Circus, a big-top-themed section of Fantasyland that includes a fountain play area based on Casey Junior from Dumbo, a clever new meet and greet where you can find the characters costumed as circus heroes, and a revamped Barnstormer with flights piloted by the Great Goofini; and (7) a completely new coaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

Fantasyland Tips

With its new expansion, Fantasyland has quickly become more popular than it ever was before. Still, there are some ways to make your visit more enjoyable.

Come Early or Come Late. Visit Fantasyland either before 11 am, after 7 pm, or during the parades. These are the only times it’s even moderately less crowded.

Know What’s Popular. As the newest attractions in town, expect Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid and Enchanted Tales with Belle to be mobbed. Visit early.

Eat Elsewhere. Unless you are headed for the one-of-a-kind Be Our Guest, don’t eat or shop in Fantasyland. Similar foods and souvenirs are available elsewhere in less crowded areas of the park.

Fantasyland Attractions

Ariel’s Grotto

As Ariel points out, “flipping your fins you don’t get too far,” and as a result she’s been one of the most rarely seen characters in the Magic Kingdom. But Ariel now has her own little grotto for meet and greets, located beside the entrance of Under the Sea. The line moves more slowly than that for Under the Sea, so catch her in the morning before you board the ride or make a FastPass+ reservation. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

The Barnstormer

This zippy little coaster, a great “first coaster” experience for young riders, has been rethemed and is now piloted by the Great Goofini. Guests must be 35 inches tall to ride. Scare Factor The ride is short but lively, so watch it make a few revolutions before you decide if it’s a good choice for your kids.

Casey Jr. Splash ’N’ Soak Station

This bright and adorable little play area gives kids the chance to run, play, and get really, really wet. The train itself stands at the center of the action, holding any number of animals such as spitting camels and elephants eager to spray you from their trunks. It’s a good place to cool off on a hot day; some parents bring swimsuits, acknowledging that kids won’t get merely splashed but soaked. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Castle Stage Show

The characters come out in full force for these 20-minute stage shows, which run several times daily in front of the castle. Although the premise changes every year or so, the productions are always full of songs, dancing, and fun. Consult your map for showtimes, and if you want the best view, try to arrive 15 minutes in advance. Everyone stands, and it can be tiring, especially on a hot day, so don’t worry if you arrive late and have to watch from the sidelines. These shows are entertaining, but it’s not worth missing other Magic Kingdom attractions to see them. Scare Factor It’s not scary.


Belle only poses for photos with kids who are in the Enchanted Tales with Belle cast; otherwise, you do not automatically get to meet Belle. The solution? Encourage children, shy or not, to step forward when they ask for volunteers to become enchanted objects. Even the third spoon from the left is considered a member of the cast and gets the photo op.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

There’s something very special about Dumbo; every kid who visits Disney wants to ride it. For decades, this attraction boasted some of the longest lines in Fantasyland. Because of the Fantasyland expansion, Disney has dramatically cut down on the lines by both adding an additional, identical ride (dueling Dumbos?) and creating an interactive queue. When families arrive, they are given a pager much like you might receive at some restaurants. Kids are then invited to play in a circus-themed play area. When the pager goes off, an attendant will hand you a pass, so that families only have to wait for a few cycles of Dumbo before boarding. The ride is just as classic and infectiously fun as it ever was. Scare Factor You control the height of your Dumbo flight via a joystick, so the ride is appropriate for any age. All the elephants do rise for a couple of high-flying laps at the end, but by then kids are generally used to the sensation.

Enchanted Tales with Belle

Imagineers have drastically expanded this interactive show, which was once a sleeper known as Story Time with Belle, to include some of Disney’s neatest special effects to date. As a result, Enchanted Tales with Belle is very popular and has a slow-moving queue, a combination that often results in hour-long waits in a line that is almost completely exposed to the sun. FastPass+ is a must, unless you get there first thing after park opening.
As you enter Belle’s cottage, keep your eyes open for her favorite book and a portrait of her mother. Next it’s on to Maurice’s workshop to witness his enchanted mirror at work. With a simple wish to return to the day Belle and Beast met, the mirror crackles to life and expands to become a doorway into the Beast’s castle.
Once you’re inside the castle, cast members ask for volunteers from the audience to help Belle tell the story. Madame Wardrobe herself holds the costumes used in the simple play. Don’t worry—if your child isn’t chosen for a role initially, additional volunteers are added at the end as enchanted objects, ensuring that everyone who wants a part gets one.
The final scene is in the library at the Beast’s castle. A very lifelike Lumière calls in Belle and then everyone, including the audience, helps reenact the story. At the end, the “cast” receives a photo op with Belle. It’s a quick visit, with no time for autographs, but you do get a souvenir bookmark. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

“it’s a small world”

During this 11-minute boat ride, dolls representing children of all ages greet you with a song so infectious that you’ll still be humming it at bedtime. (Which may or may not be a good thing.) The line moves steadily, even during the most crowded parts of the afternoon. Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers seem to be especially enchanted.
Although beloved by preschoolers, the ride can be torture for older siblings. One 10-year-old wrote that Disney should offer an “I Survived ‘it’s a small world’ ” T-shirt similar to those they sell outside of Splash Mountain or the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. In other words, if older kids opt to skip the ride, don’t press the point. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Mad Tea Party

Spinning pastel cups, propelled by their riders, swirl around the Soused Mouse, who periodically pops out of his teapot. Because you largely control how fast your teacup spins, this ride can be enjoyed by all ages. Just don’t go right after lunch. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

This upbeat attraction follows Pooh and friends through a “blustery” day, so be prepared for your honey-pot-shaped car to swirl and sway along the way. Designed especially for younger kids, the ride is gentle and fine for any age. FastPass+ is a good idea on crowded days. Hundred Acre Goods, at the exit, has great souvenirs for Pooh fans.
Many Disney purists mourned the passing of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, an original Fantasyland attraction that was torn down to make way for Pooh. In a nod to the dear departed amphibian, there’s a painting inside the ride that shows Mr. Toad passing along a deed to Owl. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

A 3-D show projected onto a mammoth screen, Mickey’s PhilharMagic, which rates high with all age groups, is one of the best attractions in Walt Disney World.
The story begins when maestro Mickey is called away from the stage and Donald steps in as conductor. He promptly loses control of the orchestra and is whisked away on a madcap journey. Lots of other Disney characters get into the act—you see Donald falling in love with Ariel, dancing with Simba, and sailing through the skies with Aladdin. The show is funny, the Audio-Animatronics are breathtaking, and the music is stirring; in short, it’s a great introduction to the 3-D experience for kids. “It was our 4-year-old’s favorite attraction at the Magic Kingdom,” concurred one dad from Ohio. “We were surprised at how much she enjoyed all the shows (even more than the rides), but this was the best.” Scare Factor Although the theater is dark and some special effects startling—Donald leaps right out of the screen at you—the presence of beloved Disney characters usually calms the kids. Unless you have a baby or toddler who’s afraid of the dark or loud noises, children of any age will love the show.

Time-Saving Tip Upon entering Fantasyland, immediately get a FastPass+ for Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid, located by Mickey’s PhilharMagic.

Peter Pan’s Flight

Tinker Bell flutters overhead as you board miniature pirate ships and sail above Nana’s doghouse, the night streets of London, the Indian camp, and Captain Hook’s cove. Of all the Fantasyland attractions, this one is most true to the movie that inspired it, and the level of detail is so captivating that even older kids tend to enjoy the ride. It lasts only 3 minutes, though, so if the wait’s longer than 30 minutes, use FastPass+ or come back during the parade. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel

Seventy-two white horses prance while a pipe organ toots out “Chim Chim Cheree” and other classic Disney songs. The carousel is especially gorgeous at night. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Princess Fairytale Hall

The former site of Snow White’s Scary Adventures has become the spiffy new area where Disney princesses meet their loyal subjects. Cinderella and Rapunzel will always be there, available through separate queues, and each will have a friend visiting daily—Snow White, Tiana, Aurora, and others. Anna and Elsa from Frozen recently joined them and now have their own permanent meet-and-greet area, ensuring that Princess Fairytale Hall will be more popular than ever. A poster outside the Hall will tell you who is inside. In other words, you meet two princesses at a time; after going through one queue, you can enter the other.
The waiting gallery is castlelike, with portraits of Disney royalty. Visitors are taken back in small groups to chambers, where the princesses receive them in a quiet, cool, calm environment. This is definitely a step up from your typical meet-and-greet venue!
Due to the individual attention paid to each guest, lines can be long even early in the morning. If you aren’t using your FastPass+ here, make sure this is one of your first stops in the morning. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

The capstone of the new Fantasyland is a coaster suitable for the whole family. Guests ride through scenes from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in a specially designed mine train that rocks and pivots and sways and rattles as it moves in and out of the mountain. The ride ends with a medium-sized drop.
The height requirement is 38 inches, indicating a family-friendly experience. The music is upbeat, the scenes feature the dwarfs, of course, as well as “playful forest critters,” and the movement of the train is intended to be fun, not terrifying. In short, they’ve learned their lesson from the late, not especially lamented, Snow White’s Scary Adventures. The mood here is more “Heigh-ho” than “Oh no!”
Though there is an interactive queue with mining-themed games, the ride is brand-new and, thus, extremely popular. FastPass+ is a must. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Under the Sea-Journey of the Little Mermaid

Fans of The Little Mermaid will love this picture-perfect portrayal of Prince Eric’s castle. Guests move from scene to scene in a clamobile, listening, or sometimes singing along, with Ariel, Sebastian, and even big, bad Ursula.
Under the Sea is a typical dark-ride experience, albeit one with some very advanced Audio-Animatronics. Everything from Sebastian’s eyes to the moving waves in Ariel’s hair is carefully detailed. In short, Under the Sea is a faithful retelling of a beloved Disney story, appropriate for any age. Scare Factor The seven-and-a-half-foot replica of Ursula the Sea Witch is imposing but not “on stage” too long. Most kids take her in stride.


Tomorrowland has a 1930s sci-fi look of “the future that never was.” We’re talking metal, chrome, robots, and neon.

Tomorrowland Tips

Tomorrowland has a few big-deal rides, but it’s not usually as busy as some of the other areas.

Ride Space Mountain early—by 9:15 it has substantial lines. Or you can use one of your FastPass+ options.

Looking for fast food during peak dining hours? Tomorrowland stands are rarely as busy as those in other lands. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, the largest such place in the Magic Kingdom, moves you in and out fast.

Tomorrowland Attractions

Astro Orbiter

This circular thrill ride similar to Dumbo is a bit too much for preschoolers and a bit too little for teens. If you ride at night, the astro-ambience is more convincing. Scare Factor Astro Orbiter is a good choice for children ages 5 to 10 who might not be quite up for Space Mountain, but it’s not for anyone prone to motion sickness or with a fear of heights.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

This attraction is an “interactive fantasy in which riders help Buzz save the world’s supply of batteries.” Huh? The ride transports you into the heart of a video game, where you pass through various scenes, spinning your cars and shooting at targets. Your car tallies your score and you learn whether you’re a Space Ace or a lowly Trainee. Buzz is addictive, but the lines move swiftly and FastPass+ is available. “Buzz Lightyear is great for all ages,” wrote a mother from Texas. “Our family members ranged from 2 to 83, and this was one ride everybody got into. Of course, we all got a little too competitive.…”
Attention Space Ace wannabes: The tougher the target, the higher the points, so don’t waste all your time taking cheap shots. There are 100,000-point targets on the palm of the orange robot’s left hand in the Robot Attack scene and on the bottom Z of the spaceship in Zurg’s Secret Weapon. If you hit a target multiple times, it gives you more points. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Carousel of Progress

This is a fairly long show (22 minutes) and a high-capacity attraction, so it’s good for the crowded times of the afternoon. Kids might be bored by this salute to modern inventions, especially once they’ve seen the more high-tech presentations of Epcot. That said, it has a nostalgic appeal; Carousel of Progress was one of Walt’s contributions to the 1964 World’s Fair. Note: Carousel of Progress is often closed during the off-season. Scare Factor It’s not scary.


Princess alert! The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, fashioned on the popular Downtown Disney location, is appropriately situated inside Cinderella Castle. A variety of packages starting at $50 let young princesses receive fairy-tale makeovers: glittery new hairstyles, shimmering makeup, and sparkly nails. The complete Castle Package includes all of the above plus a costume and photos starting at $190. (Note: Several parents have written to complain that it’s nearly impossible to get the glitter out of their children’s hair.)

One mother got a little snippidi snappidi at my suggestion, in a previous edition of this book, that parents would have to have lost their minds to spring for the full package. “Yes, we paid almost $200 to have our daughter transformed into Princess Tiana,” she wrote, “but they did it like only Disney can do it, and it was her favorite experience of the trip. Besides, they gave me all the leftover hair and makeup supplies, and I was able to reuse them when we got home. She ended up with the best Halloween costume ever.”

In a gesture toward gender equality, boys can get the $15 Knight Package, which translates to hairstyling and a plastic sword and shield. Children must be at least three years old and, for the Magic Kingdom salon, theme-park admission is required. Reservations, which can be made 180 days in advance, are a must. Call 407/939-7895 (407/WDW-STYLE).

One thing for cost-and-time-conscious parents to note: It takes a while for the hairstyling and makeup, and that’s an hour that you won’t be riding rides and exploring the park. Considering the price of Disney tickets, you might want to let the girls get the princess treatment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in World of Disney at Downtown Disney. You don’t need a theme-park ticket for that.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor

This show lets you laugh, joke, sing, and interact right along with your one-eyed “monster of ceremonies” Mike Wazowski and other characters from Monsters, Inc. Although the show technology is highbrow, the humor is lowbrow. Children as young as five should be able to enjoy the silly jokes and slapstick, and even if they miss a joke here or there, they’ll still have fun. If the spotlight doesn’t fall on you, you can still get in on the action—while you’re waiting, you can text-message jokes for possible use in the show.
Monsters, Inc. was created in response to the way-popular Turtle Talk with Crush in the Seas at Epcot. Kids love shows in which characters on-screen interact with people sitting in the audience. It’s high-tech with heart. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Space Mountain

This three-minute roller-coaster ride through inky blackness is one of the few scream-rippers in the Magic Kingdom. The cars move at a mere 32 mph, a tame pace compared to other monster coasters, but as the entire ride takes place in the dark, it’s almost impossible to anticipate the turns and dips. Space Mountain is perenially popular. Use FastPass+ to cut down on your wait time. Scare Factor Space Mountain is the most intense ride in the Magic Kingdom, with a 44-inch height requirement. Most kids aged 3 to 8 find it too scary, but the 9 to 11 age group gives it a solid thumbs-up. It’s the highest-rated attraction in the park among teens.

Stitch’s Great Escape

Stitch’s Great Escape tells the story of what Stitch was like before he came to Earth in the hit movie Lilo & Stitch. Stitch is captured by the Galactic Federation and taken to a prisoner-processing facility. As Stitch’s reputation as a troublemaker precedes him, visitors to the attraction are recruited to provide additional security. But you can’t keep a good alien down, and Stitch eludes security, causing mayhem everywhere he goes. The show features sophisticated Audio-Animatronics, including the remarkable three-dimensional Stitch figure. It’s also loud, dark, and far more forbidding than the advertisements indicate. Scare Factor We receive a lot of mail about Stitch’s Great Escape—most of it negative. Although the height requirement to see Stitch is only 40 inches, the prevailing complaint is that the darkness and volume of the ride are simply too scary for many preschoolers.

Tomorrowland Indy Speedway

Tiny sports cars circle a nifty-looking racetrack, and although the ride itself isn’t anything unusual, kids under 11 rate it highly, perhaps because young drivers can steer the cars themselves. (Kids 52 inches and taller can drive solo; others must be at least 32 inches tall and accompanied by an adult.) Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Time-Saving Tip Persuade your child not to rush through the Indy Speedway; loading and reloading the cars takes time—better to drive slowly than sit for five minutes in the pit waiting to be unloaded.

Tomorrowland Transit Authority

This little tram circles Tomorrowland and provides fun views, including a glimpse inside Space Mountain and the Buzz Lightyear attraction. The trip lasts 10 minutes, and the ride is never crowded, so the attendant usually lets you stay on for more than one cycle. The rocking of the train has lulled many a cranky toddler into a nap; cast members report that the ride is often full of parents holding sleeping youngsters. Scare FactorIt’s not scary.


If you’ve visited the Magic Kingdom before and want to try something a little different, consider the Family Magic Tour. This adventure is designed for kids 4 to 10 and their families. You follow clues throughout the park and end by solving the mystery and finding a character. See Chapter 10 for details.


Thematically the most bizarre of all the lands—sort of a Bourbon Street meets Trinidad by way of Congo—Adventureland definitely conveys an exotic mood.

Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square Tips

If you aren’t up for Space Mountain, begin your day in Frontierland, at Splash Mountain. Move on to Big Thunder Mountain, then the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. All three attractions are relatively easy to board before 10 am.

These lands stay crowded between noon and 4 pm, when the crowds line up to watch the afternoon parade disperse. If you miss Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, or the Haunted Mansion early in the morning, wait until early evening to visit them.

Should you find yourself stuck in these lands in the afternoon, you’ll find a bit of breathing space on Tom Sawyer Island or in the Enchanted Tiki Room or the Hall of Presidents. Surprisingly, Pirates of the Caribbean can be a smart choice even when the park is crowded. At least you wait inside, and this is one of the fastest-loading attractions in Disney World.

Adventureland Attractions

Jungle Cruise

You’ll meet up with headhunters, hyenas, water-spewing elephants, and other varieties of frankly fake wildlife on this 10-minute boat ride. It’s dated looking in comparison to the attractions in the Animal Kingdom, but it’s still fun, thanks largely to the amusing patter of the tour guides, who tell jokes and puns so corny that you’re groaning and laughing in the same breath. FastPass+ is available but is rarely necessary. Scare FactorThe cruise isn’t at all scary and is fine for any age.


When you and the kids are keeping an eye out for Mickey Mouse, you may not realize that you’re walking right past him. No, we’re not talking about the life-size Mickeys, we’re talking about those silhouettes and abstract images that are cleverly tucked throughout Walt Disney World. These “Hidden Mickeys” began as an inside joke among the Imagineers and artists who design theme-park attractions. Spotting a Hidden Mickey is a real treat.

Ready for your first test? When you pass a group of three beached canoes halfway through the Jungle Cruise, look carefully at the carvings. You’ll see not only Mickey, but Donald and Goofy, too.

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin

This colorful, appealing attraction is a circular aerial ride similar to Dumbo. The twist is that you can make your carpet tilt, rise, or drop on command—evasive maneuvers that are necessary if you wish to avoid the spitting camels that guard the ride. Scare Factor Because the carpets pitch around a bit, the Aladdin ride is slightly more intense than Dumbo, but most kids love it.

A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas

In this new interactive attraction guests participate in virtual “pirate raids” throughout Adventureland, helping Captain Jack Sparrow fight off a host of enemies. There are five different adventures, each requiring a series of tasks, and at the end successful buccaneers are welcomed into Sparrow’s crew. Although the family can play together, the Adventure is designed with pirate-crazed kids 5 to 12 in mind. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Pirates of the Caribbean

This attraction inspires great loyalty, and because of the success of the movie series of the same name, the pirates are hotter than ever, especially Captain Jack Sparrow. If you’ve been on the ride before, you’ll notice an updated twist to the story as Sparrow races to a cache of plundered treasure. It’s a kick to see the new figures interacting with some of the older Audio-Animatronics buccaneers. All the Audio-Animatronics figures are remarkably lifelike, right down to the hair on their legs, and the theme song is positively addictive. Even though the story is dark, violent, and brutal, in the hands of Disney it all somehow manages to come off as a lighthearted, happy adventure.
Near the entrance of Pirates of the Caribbean, look for the fun, lively, interactive Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial. A Johnny Depp look-alike and his mangy sidekicks pull young volunteers from the audience and give them a crash course in everything it takes to be a swashbuckling buccaneer. Check your entertainment schedule for showtimes. Scare Factor The queue winds through a dark drafty dungeon, so many kids are nervous before they even board. After that, the scariest elements of the ride occur in the first three minutes—there are skeletons, cannons, periods of shadowy darkness, and a manifestation of Davy Jones in the mist. This ride is fine for most kids over six, unless they’re afraid of the dark.

Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse

There’s a real split of opinion here—some visitors revel in the details and love climbing through this replica of the ultimate tree house, while others rate it as dull. Kids who have seen the movie tend to like it a lot more. Note: There are lots of steps, and this can be an exhausting attraction to visit with preschoolers, who often start out with enthusiasm and then clamor to be carried. There’s been a persistent rumor that the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse is due for a major revamp to tie the theme in to a more contemporary movie and make it more interesting to the younger set. Stay tuned. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

Due to a number of guest complaints, the Enchanted Tiki Room has gone through an “anti-refurbishment”—in other words, Imagineers have removed Zazu and Iago and returned the Tiki Room to its original show. The singing-and-talking Tiki Room birds represent Disney’s first attempt at the Audio-Animatronics that are now such an integral part of theme-park magic. Although not the most exciting show in the Magic Kingdom, it’s an easy place to sit and rest for a few minutes on a hot afternoon. Grab a Dole pineapple whip at the nearby Aloha Isle to help you get in a tropical mood. Scare Factor The Enchanted Tiki Room show is loud. When the Tiki gods are angered, the theater darkens and lightning and thunder begin. The noise level frightens some toddlers.


Kids love the rough-and-tumble Wild West feel of Frontierland, which is home to several of the Magic Kingdom’s most popular attractions.

For Adventureland, Frontierland, and Liberty Square Tips, see Adventureland, above.

Frontierland Attractions

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

A roller coaster designed as a runaway mine train, Big Thunder Mountain is one of the most popular rides in the park with all age groups. The glory of the ride is in the setting. You zoom through a deserted mining town and, although the details are best observed by day, the lighting effects make this ride especially atmospheric after dark. Be warned that the ride is very bouncy and jerky, but the effects are more apt to make you laugh than scream. Scare Factor When it comes to coasters, Big Thunder Mountain is more in the rattle-back-and-forth style than the lose-your-stomach-as-you-plunge style. Most children over seven should be able to handle the dips and twists, and many preschoolers adore the ride as well. The height requirement is 40 inches. If your child has never ridden a coaster, Big Thunder is your best bet.

Country Bear Jamboree

Younger kids usually enjoy the furry, funny, Audio-Animatronics critters featured in this 15-minute show. From the coy Trixie, who enters via a ceiling swing, to the wincingly off-key Big Al, each face is distinctive and lovable.
The Jamboree seats large numbers of guests for each show, and it’s a good choice for the afternoon when you’ll want to sit and rest. Kids 10 and up often think the bears are hokey, so parents can take younger kids to the Jamboree while their older siblings visit Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. A clock outside the Country Bear Jamboree tells you how long you have until the next show. Don’t enter the waiting area until the countdown is 10 minutes or less. Scare Factor It’s not scary.


If you can’t get enough of Captain Jack Sparrow and crew, stop by the Pirate League in Adventureland. Partly a boy-friendly alternative to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and partly an interactive adventure, the Pirate League experience begins with the spin of a chest to reveal your official pirate name. (Kim is Charlotte Crestpaddler.) From there, young buccaneers can choose a pirate makeover (beginning at $30), which includes beards, eye patches, and gnarly looking makeup. Younger kids will like the “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” look, which is a bit less intense than some of the others, while girls may prefer the empress or mermaid packages. If you want to go the full Johnny Depp route, you can also purchase costumes and accessories here.

After their transformations, the freshly minted pirates are taken into a private room for the swearing of an oath, the presentation of their pirate credentials, and a picture-taking session before being released back into Adventureland. The cool thing about the Pirate League is that it isn’t just an imitation of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique; the setting is terrific and the cast members working the attraction enter into the pirate theme with great enthusiasm. Call 407/939-2739 (407/WDW-CREW) for reservations.

Splash Mountain

Based on Song of the South and inhabited by Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, and Br’er Bear, Splash Mountain takes riders on a winding watery journey through swamps and bayous.
Because it’s the first thing you see as you approach, most of the attention is given to that 40-mph drop over a five-story waterfall, but there’s a great story to the ride as well. You get into a log boat and follow Br’er Rabbit’s adventures throughout the attraction, and each time he gets into trouble, you get into trouble, too. In other words, each dangerous moment is followed by an escape through a water drop, and the ultimate danger culminates in the ultimate water drop. The interior scenes are delightful, and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” perhaps the most hummable of all Disney theme songs, fills the air.
Splash Mountain can get very crowded; ride early in the morning or in the last hour before closing. You can get really soaked, especially if you’re in the front-row seats on the right of the log. This can be great fun at noon in June, less of a kick at 9 am in January. Some people bring ponchos or big black garbage bags for protection and discard them after the ride.
Just because your toddler can’t ride Splash Mountain doesn’t mean she can’t get a thrill. There’s a great spot where you can stand to watch the log boats on their final drop. The shrieks combined with the sprays of water will delight any child. A father of three from Florida agreed: “Our 2-year-old’s favorite ride was Splash Mountain. She couldn’t ride it, of course, but she stayed outside with Dad while Mom and her brothers rode and she loved watching the boats splash down. Water shoots up after the boats and she squealed every time.” Scare Factor The intensity of Splash Mountain’s last drop, which gives you the feeling that you’re coming right out of your seat, along with the 40-inch height requirement, eliminates some preschoolers. Watch a few cars make the final drop before you decide. Our mail indicates that most kids over five love the ride.


In the final scene of Splash Mountain, as you pass the Zip-a-Dee Lady paddleboat, look for a pink cloud floating high in the sky. It’s a silhouette of Mickey lying on his back.

Tom Sawyer Island

A getaway playground full of caves, bridges, forts, and windmills, Tom Sawyer Island is the perfect destination for kids full of pent-up energy who just need to run wild for a while. You’ll want to accompany them through the Mystery Cave and Injun Joe’s Cave, however; both can be dark, confusing, and a little scary. Across the bouncy suspension bridge is Fort Sam Clemens, the perfect spot to play cowboy.
The big drawback is that the island is accessible only by raft, so you often have to wait to get there and back. If your kids are under five, don’t bother. The terrain is too wild and widespread for preschoolers without careful supervision. Likewise, there’s little on the island for teenagers and adults. But for kids 5 to 12, a trip to Tom Sawyer Island is the ideal afternoon break. “Tom Sawyer Island was my 6-year-old’s favorite place in the Magic Kingdom,” wrote a mom from Texas. “It’s so detailed, with a lot for a boy his age to do. We definitely thought it was worth the wait to catch the raft.” Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Liberty Square

As you walk between Frontierland and Fantasyland, you find yourself transported back in time to colonial America, strolling the cobblestone streets of Liberty Square.

Liberty Square Attractions

The Hall of Presidents

The residents of the Hall of Presidents are so lifelike that it’s a bit eerie (and Disney cast members report that this attraction is very “interesting” to clean at night). The show opens with a film about the history of the presidency (otherwise known as “nap time” for the preschool set) and moves on to the highlight, the presidential roll call. Each chief executive responds to his name with a nod or similar movement, while in the background the other presidents fidget and whisper.
The hall seats 700, with shows every 20 minutes, and thus is a good choice during the most crowded parts of the afternoon. Ask an attendant at the lobby doors how long it is before the next show and amble in five minutes early. Scare Factor It’s not scary.

Haunted Mansion

More apt to amuse than to frighten, the recently revamped mansion is full of clever special effects—there’s a fascinating ballroom scene where spirits waltz, and, at one point, a ghost hitchhikes along in your “doom buggy.” The cast members have great costumes (including the bat-in-a-hat that ladies wear), and they add to the fun with their morticianlike behavior and such instructions as “Drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room.” The mansion is full of clever inside jokes. For example, the tombstones outside feature the names of Imagineers who designed the ride; keep watching Madame Leota’s face and you may be surprised; and be sure to take a glance at the pet cemetery when you leave.
The mansion draws long lines in the afternoons, especially just before and after the parade. Try to see it mid-morning, or—if you have the courage—after dark. Scare Factor Many kids 7 to 11 list the Haunted Mansion as a favorite attraction. Although some in this age group are frightened by the opening story, the setting, and the darkness, once they get going, they’re usually okay. The attraction is richly atmospheric, but the spooks are mostly for laughs. In contrast, many toddlers are intimidated. One mother said that her daughter, age three, referred to “that ugly house with the bad people” for weeks after their Disney visit.


Look at the arrangement of dishes on the table in the Haunted Mansion banquet scene. Do any of the place settings look like you-know-who?

Liberty Square Riverboat

The second tier of this paddle-wheel riverboat offers nice views of the Rivers of America, but the 15-minute cruise is a bit of a snooze for kids. It would be fine if they could really nap, but there are few seats on the boat, so most riders stand. Board only if you have time to kill and the boat is at the dock. Scare Factor It’s not scary.