Holy Dole Whip, Mickey!  My Trip to the Most Magical Place on Earth Part Five: Magic Kingdom

I visited Walt Disney World this past summer, and it was just as magical
as always.  This was my 14th trip to the Disney parks in Orlando,
and the people I went with relied on my expertise to make our way around
the parks in an efficient manner (read: they used me to optimize the
number of rides and attractions we rode/saw in each park).  Since they
considered me a Disney expert, I figured I’d share my knowledge of
Mickey’s realm to help others plan their trips to the most magical place
on Earth.


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Looking for a chance to travel to the future, explore far away places, and experience a fireworks spectacular?  Look no further than Disney’s Magic Kingdom, the most magical place on Earth. 

If someone happens to mention Walt Disney World, the first image that’s liable to pop into your mind is Cinderella’s castle, the shining, shimmering centerpiece at the heart of Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom is the iconic Disney park in Orlando, serving up that famous Disney magic since opening day in 1971.  From the moment you step through the entrance and into the hustle and bustle of Main Street, USA, it’s easy to see and feel the heart and imagination that Walt Disney imbued into his company.  MK is full of all the whimsy and technology and pure joy that so many associate with all things Disney, and whether you’re riding the rides, watching the shows, or simply browsing the variety of shops, it’s impossible not to feel happy.

Yes, people can find plenty of things to complain about–the hot weather, the rain, the long wait times, the prices–but having to deal with all those things at the Magic Kingdom is better than having to deal with them anywhere else. 

Trust me on that one.

And no matter what your interests or your threshold for motion sickness, there are plenty of things spread throughout the six different ‘lands’ to keep you busy until closing time, whether it’s enjoying the sweet, mouth-watering smells of the Confectionery, riding through the tale of the boy who never grows up in Peter Pan’s Flight, or taking a break and learning some history in the Hall of Presidents. 

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Favorite Ride: Space Mountain

Blast into space and explore the stars in this indoor dark coaster!

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One of the things I’ve always found to be unique about Space Mountain is that it’s indoors.  Nowadays, that’s probably not as much of a rarity (Hollywood Studio’s Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster is also an indoor coaster), but when Space Mountain first opened in 1971, indoor coasters weren’t really a thing.  Even now that they are, Space Mountain remains unique in that the entire ride takes place in the dark.

There’s just enough light from the ‘stars’ to be able to make out general shapes and shadows, but not nearly enough to see the track in front of you.  That means that every twist and turn is a surprise!  There aren’t any loops or huge drops, so the air of mystery really provides the thrill you’re looking for in a coaster.  But because it lacks those bigger features, this ride is great for small kids, first time coaster goers, or people who like coasters even if their stomachs don’t.

The queue before the ride and the exit walkway are fun, too, with both parts designed with futuristic décor.  There’s actually a spaceship shooter game partway through the queue—yes, it’s playable—and the exit features a moving walkway that runs past displays of future life on other planets.  These extra touches really tie the ride together from beginning to end and make Space Mountain an out of this world experience that can be enjoyed by the whole family.  


Underrated Ride: Carousel of Progress

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Experience a day in the life of a typical American family throughout the 20th century as they encounter the newest technology of the day.

Okay, most people would say even the name of this ride is boring.  Even more people see this ride as nothing more than a place to get off your feet or a place to escape the rain or the heat.  And yes, this ride is a great a place to relax for a while- there’s never a line, there’s air conditions, and the seats are comfy- so if that’s the only reason you step into the Carousel of Progress, that’s fine.

But the ride is so much better than that.  The Carousel of Progress tells the story of how advances in technology shaped the last century.  The four acts of the show each highlight a different time period along with the different inventions and innovations that changed the everyday lives of the people during that time.  It’s a history lesson, but it does a wonderful job of showing how things we take for granted—electricity, radio, dishwashers—had a dramatic impact on society.  And because it’s Disney, it’s done in a not quite so boring way, with references to other major American events, a holiday theme in each act, and (well-intentiond but corny) jokes.  The animatronics may look a bit outdated, but the song (this one) is catchy and optimistic enough to make you smile anyway…even though you’ll be singing it for the rest of the day week month.

And if you don’t believe me, believe Walt Disney himself.  Disney’s friends and family say that the great man constantly worked on the Carousel of Progress and rode it numerous times.  It’s also said that this was, in fact, Disney’s favorite attraction, and although that claim hasn’t exactly been substantiated, stories overall seem to support the idea.  The Carousel of Progress is also the longest running stage show in all of American theater; although a number of changes have been made to the ride over the years, the spirit of the show remains the same as it did when Walt first thought of it. I, for one, certainly think that says something about the true greatness of this ride. 


Other Recommended Rides:

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Zip through the abandoned mining town of Tumbleweed on a possessed train on this twisty, turny coaster.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: Become a Star Command recruit and shoot your way through space to help take down the evil emperor Zurg!

Haunted Mansion: Join 999 happy haunts as you make your way through the spooks and shrieks of the Gracey Mansion.  Try to not become the 1000th.

Mad Tea Party: Spin as fast as you can in these colorful teacups as you join the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse for their afternoon tea.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic: Follow the mischievous Donald through some of your favorite Disney films in this magical 4D show.

Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor: Join Mike and his monster buddies as they work to collect human laughter in this unscripted, interactive comedy show.  No two shows are exactly the same!

Pirates of the Caribbean: It’s the ride that inspired the film (and was then redesigned to look like the film).  The story of a band of notorious pirates, most notably the Captain Jack Sparrow, is fun for the whole family.

Main Street Electrical Parade: Stick around until dark to catch this spectacular parade featuring your favorite characters and thousands of colorful lights on outstandingly designed parade floats.

Wishes Nighttime Spectacular: The fireworks show!  Featuring some iconic characters and pictures of the guests from the park as everyone celebrates the power of belief.

Celebrate the Magic Show: Watch Cinderella’s Castle transform as scenes and characters from countless Disney films are projected onto the castle.  Parts of the show change with the season, but the ending always features more fireworks.  A truly magical and heartwarming show (I may or may not cry every time at the lanterns from Tangled) that really shows off how advanced Disney’s technology has become. 


If you’re only going to visit one of the Walt Disney World parks, Magic Kingdom should undoubtedly be the one.  It has all the magic and fun that embodies the Disney name, and there are so many rides and shows that everyone can find something to suit them.  Yes, it’s probably the most crowded of the parks on any given day, but by making use of FastPasses, you can easily get through everything you want and still have time to find a good spot for the nightly parade and fireworks show.  Between the attraction, the friendly employees, and the atmosphere of unbridled optimism and imagination, Magic Kingdom truly is the most magical place on Earth.  Be sure to take a picture with Walt and say thank you.

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