Since we don’t know what the status of FastPasses at Walt Disney World will be, and since I actually believe that you don’t *need* them anyway, why not do work out this itinerary without them?! (As an aside, FastPasses are certainly very helpful, but I stand by the belief that they aren’t quite necessary. Maybe during Christmas week, Fourth of July and other busy times of the year, but in general I’ve been able to plan last-minute trips without FastPasses and it’s all worked out!)
Before You Go/How to Start Your Magic Kingdom Itinerary
Disney’s Hollywood Studios probably requires the most planning to visit right now because of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and particularly because of Rise of the Resistance where it’s operating under a sort of complicated boarding pass program. Until recently with the addition of Galaxy’s Edge, the Magic Kingdom has historically required the most planning. Here’s why:
It’s the most visited tourist destination in the world. Yep, that’s true (and kind of crazy, right? Like…more people visit the Magic Kingdom than the Empire State Building or the Louvre!) FastPasses or not, there is physically no way to see and do everything the park has to offer (in normal times….If you luck out with a particularly low crowd day during COVID you just might have a chance, but otherwise…no, not possible.)
Since it isn’t possible to do everything in one day, you need to plan some things in advance, particularly dining reservations, though you may not even want to spend the time sitting down for a full table service meal in the park if you only have one day to visit. As far as Walt Disney World parks go, the Magic Kingdom has the weakest dining scene in general, in my opinion. With the exception of a select few table service restaurants that I think are worthwhile for a one-day visit, I’d recommend eating on the go and saving your time sitting at a table for EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, or even Hollywood Studios.
If you are interested in character dining with Cinderella and other princesses, Cinderella’s Royal Table may top your list. Reservations can be extremely difficult to get for this one, so you’re going to want to make them as early as possible if it’s on your list. The food is delicious, and it’s definitely magical to dine inside Cinderella Castle with Cinderella herself, but prepare your wallet for the price tag and your patience for the task of getting reservations.
Be Our Guest is the other restaurant I would recommend if you are looking for a table service experience in the Magic Kingdom. Housed inside the Beast’s castle, Be Our Guest is certainly one of the most immersive restaurants in Walt Disney World (and the pre-fixe menu has some excellent entrees and appetizers on it, plus a dessert assortment featuring ‘the grey stuff,’ and it can even be a good value (read: value, not cheap necessarily) depending on what you order. Reservations are tricky here, too, but not as bad as Cinderella’s Royal Table.
Beyond those two restaurants, I would simply go with whatever looks interesting to you. All of the food I’ve had in the Magic Kingdom at table service restaurants has been great, but nothing mind blowing to the point where I’d tell you you MUST dine at a certain spot if you’re only there for one day. As far as the rest of the restaurants go, I like the menu at the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen a lot, and the Plaza Restaurant is my go-to if I’m on a budget.
Liberty Tree Tavern is useful for fulfilling a broad range of tastes if you have a group of friends or family, and the fact that it can be served family style gives everyone options of what they want to eat more or less of. I think fans give Tony’s Town Square Restaurant a hard time, and really it’s not bad, it’s just comparable to Olive Garden, so if that’s your jam then give it a try. Crystal Palace is a fan-favorite as it is typically a character buffet with characters from Winnie the Pooh, but it’s gone character-less and family style during COVID, so make of that what you will.
Aside from Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest, you likely will not have a hard time with reservations. And if you do, you should keep checking because people do cancel when their plans change so you may have luck finding something last minute. And you can always try the walkup list!
Now what I would suggest for a table service meal during one day at the Magic Kingdom, is actually to dine at a monorail resort. If you have two days in the park, I’d do it for lunch so you can take a midday break at the resort, but with just one day I’d plan for an early breakfast before the park opens or a late dinner after the park closes, that way you get that table service meal in and get to spend some time at one of Walt Disney World’s most classic resorts, without sacrificing any time in the park.
We had dinner at Chef Mickey’s during my last trip after the Magic Kingdom closed, and it was a really wonderful experience! Being able to stroll over to Disney’s Contemporary Resort was quick and easy, and we got to have a nice sit down meal with characters without missing out on precious park time.
Park Opening to 11:00 am
Arrive before the park opens. COVID times, FastPasses, whatever…It doesn’t matter, that’s my recommendation. In normal times you’d get to have a prime spot for the park’s opening show, and even in COVID times you’ll get to see the characters hanging out above Main Street at the train station, and it really is a nice little bit of extra magic if you arrive early.
Without using FastPasses, getting to the park early is also crucial for getting in rides without waiting a long time. Before we rush off to rides though, spend some time on Main Street. It might seem like a pain to stop while you’re in the park, but you’ll thank yourself later for taking those early morning pictures on Main Street, before the crowds set in, and before you start to look like…well…a person who has been in the Magic Kingdom for 8+ hours.
As far as where to go first once the park does open, it really depends on your interests and when you’re visiting. For most of the year, the longest wait times will be in Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland, or more specifically, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Space Mountain (and likely TRON when it opens). Whichever of these attractions is your biggest priority, I would head to first.
If you’re feeling a little indifferent, head to Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train first. Assuming you arrive at the attraction when it opens, you will most likely be on and off it quick enough to make it over to Space Mountain before the line gets too long. It would be a bit of a back and forth to go that route, but it’s certainly doable and it would save you time later.
Splash Mountain does not have long lines in the winter. That may sound crazy if you’re used to seeing it with 90+ minute waits during summers and school vacation week, but once it’s cold enough it becomes relatively unpopular with Guests. So if you’re from up north, or just somehow don’t mind the cold, you could save that one for later if you’re visiting the parks on a chilly day instead of rushing there early.
After your first attraction, continue to the others in order of their priority to you. Once you reach a point where the line is too long for you to realistically want to wait in (around 11:00 by my estimation) stop and continue reading this post…
11:00 am-ish to 1:00 pm-ish
These times will vary based on the time of year and the park hours, but think early afternoon. Here’s where you want to check the My Disney Experience app. You’ll likely come across some rides that still don’t have long waits. This is the time when I’d typically go for something like Dumbo, “it’s a small world,” Mad Tea Party, or the Peoplemover- Basically attractions I like, but that don’t get long enough waits to justify rushing there after rope drop.
I’d also recommend fitting lunch somewhere in this timeframe. If you arrived when the park opens you’ll probably be hungry by now. If the park is really crowded, you may opt to eat at off times to avoid long lines in quick service restaurants, but even so I think it’s pretty doable with the My Disney Experience app. I always use it for mobile ordering quick service food, and I think you should do. It saves you so much time from waiting in lines and can come in really handy.
If you have more than one day in the park, the later end of this timeframe is also when I’d book your table service reservation or plan to spend some time hopping on the monorail to visit a resort for lunch.
1:00 pm-ish to 4:00 pm-ish
Shows are the name of the game for the middle of the day. Shows typically do not have waits, the only exception would be particularly busy weeks where you’ll actually see people lined up waiting for a later show. Since they don’t usually have waits, plan to fill the middle (busiest) part of the day with shows.
Start with whatever land you’re in (in Fantasyland see Mickey’s PhilharMagic, in Frontierland head to the Country Bear Jamboree, the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square, the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, and the Carousel of Progress in Tomorrowland). Again, this could end up be a bit of back and forth walking, but if you’re there for the day and hoping to save some time on lines, well, that’s how I’d do it!
In normal times, you’d also probably squeeze Festival of Fantasy, the afternoon parade, into this. But in current times everything close to that is run as an unscheduled character cavalcade, which doesn’t have the excitement of a parade, but makes planning easier because you can lose the time you would have spent waiting for the parade to start from your ideal spot. When other entertainment comes back, you may also need to be selective in what attractions put here if you’re hoping to fit any castle stage shows or street entertainment into one day at the park.
4:00 pm-ish to 9:00 pm
During the later part of the day, fill in time with dinner and/or snacks depending on how hungry you are, and fill in the rest of the attractions you want to do but missed. Attractions I usually get to around this time tend to include Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, maybe the Haunted Mansion depending on the crowds, and the Astro Orbiter.
In normal times, this is a good time to fill in some character meet and greets too. Earlier on in this timeframe a lot of people are eating or park hopping so lines can go down a bit, and later they are camping out for their spot for the fireworks. So if you’re still focused on rides and not feeling like you need the perfect spot for the fireworks, this is a good time to meet characters.
When meet and greets come back, I would recommend checking the time for Mickey’s meet and greet on Main Street and Princess Fairytale Hall, and filling in gaps with the characters at Storybook Circus or ones with more limited times you may find on the My Disney Experience app.
If you do want a certain spot for the fireworks, start getting it together by at least an hour before the fireworks are set to start. For Happily Ever After, and likely the show coming next for the park’s 50th anniversary, so much of the show is projected onto the front of the Castle so you’ll want to be in the hub or on Main Street for the best view. (If you’re not too concerned with the projections, behind the Castle in Fantasyland is always a solid last minute spot).
9:00 pm-park close
See the fireworks, get on the last couple of rides, shop, and don’t rush out! As people begin leaving, lines will start to go down. This is usually where I go on the Haunted Mansion. I dread the stretching room when it’s packed and by sundown it’s usually totally reasonable. If there’s favorite ride you want to go back to, or something on your list you missed, this is when you should double back and make sure you’re able to get on again before heading out.
Once the park is closed, don’t rush out. If you leave right after the fireworks or right when the park closes, you’re going to be leaving in a massive herd of thousands of other Guests doing the same thing. It’s not the greatest experience, and I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, get some last minute photos on Main Street or take your time wandering through the Emporium.
Keep in mind that even if the crowd leaving doesn’t look that bad from inside the park, the lines for buses, monorails, and boats outside the Magic Kingdom could be much longer than you’d like!
There you have it– My tips for putting together your one-day Magic Kingdom itinerary! Hope we’re out of this weirdness soon so we can take advantage of this trip guide without the weird COVID mentions. If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated so we can get there sooner!
Thanks for reading this itinerary, I hope you found it helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below!