Nomad by Trade

A travel blog for the kid at heart.

Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom - Disney World for adults

The Grown-Up’s Guide to the Magic Kingdom

Share the Love
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

As a former Magic Kingdom Cast Member, this park will always have the fondest memories associated with it for me. It was the first Disney World park and is home to the iconic Cinderella Castle. I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t the Magic Kingdom just for kids?” Nope, not at all. Despite its reputation as the “kids’ park,” there is plenty of fun for guests of all ages, as I’ll demonstrate in this very in-depth guide for adults at the Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella Castle lit up at night - adults at the Magic Kingdom

The Lands

Get the lay of the land (only sort of a pun) before you go so you can plan out your day.

  • Main Street USA – Every guest enters the Magic Kingdom through this land, a throwback blend of an American main street idealized by Walt Disney himself. It’s light on attractions, but this is where everyone takes their classic Cinderella Castle shots. Most of the street is lined with shopping – it’s where you’ll find the Emporium, one of the largest souvenir shops in the parks – and dining. This is where you’ll find the new talking Mickey character, and where you can board the iconic Disney railroad.
    Reflection of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom
  • Adventureland – As you enter through Main Street, Adventureland will be located to your left. Cross a bridge and find yourself transported into a lush, jungle atmosphere that’s home to some of Disney’s classic attractions. The tropical atmosphere is intended to be exotic and inspire adventures through some of the world’s great rivers, as well as voyages with beloved pirates.
  • Tomorrowland – A right turn from Main Street takes you to the idealistic version of the future that’s home to the Magic Kingdom’s space-themed rides. The land is dominated by Space Mountain, but it’s also home to other futuristic rides and shows.
  • Liberty Square – This tiny area of the Magic kingdom lies behind and to the left of Cinderella Castle as you face the front of it. It’s supposed to represent colonial America, and even features one of the 50 official replicas of the Liberty Bell (not to be confused with the Liberty Belle, the riverboat that makes circles around Tom Sawyer Island, and is one of the few Disney attractions to cross the sacred boundary between lands – This is a real thing. When I worked in Frontierland, I wasn’t allowed to be seen in say Adventureland while wearing my costume. Look around next time you visit. You won’t see CMs mixing lands.)
    Liberty Belle Riverboat at the Magic Kingdom
  • Frontierland – This tribute to the wild west days lies between Adventureland and Liberty Square. It’s not a big area, but it packs two of the Magic Kingdom’s mountains. The buildings are designed to look like an old cowboy village, and but for the tourists in shorts and flip flops, you could imagine yourself in an old western movie.
  • Fantasyland – The now enormous Fantasyland is all about dreams, wishes, princesses, and all things whimsical. The idea is for you to step into a fairy tale. It’s definitly the most kid-centric part of the park, but that doesn’t mean that adults should skip this part of the Magic Kingdom. Check out the new princess area (my own non-creative name for it), which features additional castles from some of Disney’s classic princess movies – they’re not accessible like Cinderella Castle – a great new ride, and the amazing Be Our Guest restaurant. The Storybook Circus area replaced Mickey’s Toontown Fair, and is now supposed to be a fancy circus. You can probably skip this area unless you want to ride Dumbo or are determined to hit every Disney roller coaster.

The best rides for adults at the Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom is where you’ll find most of the classic Disney rides. It’s also home to the “Mountain Trifecta,” a term borrowed from an awful promo video that used to loop on the WDW channel in all of the hotel rooms on property. Whether you like your rides tame or thrilling, there’s plenty to keep you busy all day and night. And the best part about visiting the Magic Kingdom as an adult is that you don’t have to worry about height requirements and rider swaps.

Splash Mountain - Magic Kingdom for adults

The Mountains

These tend to have some of the longest lines in the Magic Kingdom (though Splash Mountain is slower during the winter), and are great choices to reserve FastPasses for. Read tips for that here.

  • Splash Mountain – This one is near and dear to my heart because I spent a wild seven months in college working at this ride. Splash is a great one to save for the end of the day when you don’t mind getting a little wet, or time it for the hottest part of the afternoon when you want to cool off. There are four true drops in the ride, though the tiny dip of a couple of feet after the big drop technically counts as a fifth. In between the drops, you’ll float through a twisting, turning path lined with animatronics and full of songs that will probably get stuck in your head. Pro tip: sitting in the back doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get less wet. The main drop actually splashes you with less water than the water cannons at the beginning (As soon as the ride starts, you’ll go up a short lift and then float through what we call the lagoon. Every time another log goes down the big drop, water cannons shoot across the lagoon, aimed right at where logs back up. If you get hit with one of those, you won’t even notice the water from the drop.) I’ve gotten off of the ride from the front row with barely a drop on me, and had to wring my clothes out after sitting in the back. It’s mostly luck. So if a CM assigns you to the front row, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to get soaked. If you’re a fan of ride photos, Splash Mountain’s is on the big drop, about 1/3 of the way down.
  • Big Thunder Mountain – Right next door to Splash mountain, this self-proclaimed “wildest ride in the wilderness” is a deceptively fun roller coaster through an old mining village. It doesn’t look very tall, but the curves and sudden dips pack a lot of punch. I always request to sit in the back because the last car really gives you some good air time if you’re into that kind of thing. I’m told that this was the first roller coaster I ever rode, but I was too young to remember it.
    Big Thunder Mountain at the Magic Kingdom
  • Space Mountain – All the way across the park, you’ll find the last member of the Mountain Trifecta. Space Mountain occupies a futuristic white spire in Tomorrowland. Despite having maximum speeds less than 30 mph, this coaster makes you feel like you’re flying. The seating system is unique – the trains hold only six people, with three in each car seated one behind the other. When the ride first opened, the individual seats didn’t exist, and guests rode together like a traditional log ride. Like Thunder, the back row gives the most air time, and I try to request it whenever possible. The inside of the ride building is dark, and the track weaves its way through the structure, twisting, turning and dropping in an impossibly tight pattern. For the longest time, I was afraid to put my hands all the way up because I thought I might hit them on the track above me, but I got to ride it with the lights on once and that no longer concerns me. The ride photo on Space is a bit tricky and catches people off guard. It’s right at the beginning after your train is dispatched. You go through a blue tunnel and make a sharp U-turn, and the camera snaps as you whip around. If you don’t get a FastPass+ for Space Mountain, the standby queue offers an interactive game toward the end.

Dumbo at the Magic Kingdom

The Classics

These are the Disney park originals that even grown-ups just can’t skip.

  • Pirates of the Caribbean – This is one of my favorite dark rides anywhere. There’s a reason it spawned a major film franchise for Disney. There’s something that’s just fun about it, and you can’t help but sing along with the Yo Ho Yo Ho chorus. After adding Jack Sparrow (he was an original character for the movies), it now boasts one of the most realistic audio-animatronic figures I’ve ever seen. Try not to do a double take the first time you see its lifelike movements, especially in light of the fact that the real Johnny Depp did actually make an appearance in the Pirates ride at Disneyland a while back.
  • Haunted Mansion – The least scary haunted house you’ll ever visit is one of Disney’s most enduringly popular rides. The “Happy Haunts” will entertain you as you move through the many rooms of the spooky mansion in your Doombuggy. I always love to try to figure out how effects are done in rides like this, and I have to admit that some of the ones at the Haunted Mansion actually had me stumped. The famous ballroom scene is still incredibly cool, even after I looked up how they make it work (you can do that on your own – I’m not going to spoil it for you).
  • The Jungle Cruise – Few groups of Cast Members have more fun than the Jungle Cruise drivers. They get to guide you on a cruise through some of the world’s great rivers and never miss a chance to fit in a cheesy joke. You’ll be laughing the whole time – if not, your guide might become your swimming instructor. The line tends to dwindle toward the end of the day, and riding after dark is a cool experience, so this is a good one to save for the evening if you can.
  • Dumbo – Relocated to a different area of Fantasyland, this Disney classic no longer offers the fun Castle views that it used to, but I still consider it to be a requirement. It’s definitely geared toward smaller kids – the queue features a playground with a special system to let them step out of line without losing their place – but I never fail to have fun when I ride. Except that one time my elephant was broken and I couldn’t go up or down. This is another one that tends to slow down a bit toward the end of the day.

Everything else

These are a couple of my favorites that don’t really fall into either of the above categories. I think they’re loads of fun for both kids and adults, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – This is a new addition that was built as part of the massive Fantasyland expansion a few years ago. It’s a small roller coaster with a unique ride system that allows the cars to sway independently on the train, which gives you a really cool feeling as you ride. It also has a few dark ride elements, with some great animatronics inside and a bunch of sparkling gems in the mine. This one actually has two ride photo spots, and provides you with a video clip as well.

    Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin scores at the Magic Kingdom

    I won by a bit.

  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – Slightly less sophisticated than its fellow Toy Story shooting ride, this one sees you enlisted as a Space Cadet and immediately enlisted to defend the galaxy from the evil emperor Zurg. You make your way through a very neon track shooting your laser cannon at targets to score points. Pro tip: Targets that are further away or moving tend to be worth more points. This one also has a usually awkward ride photo near the end. After going through the tunnel with a projected space ship, you enter a larger room with targets and a flashing light. That flashing light is the camera flash, so you can decide then whether looking halfway decent in your photo is more or less important than beating your companion(s).

The best shows for adults at the Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic – This thoroughly entertaining 3D show will delight any ’90s kid like me who grew up on the Disney songs of that era. Follow Donald as he causes some problems that lead him through hits from The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin, and more. A light extra sprinkle of water and scents will help immerse you in the musical journey.
  • The Country Bear Jamboree – I go to this Frontierland staple mainly for the “Blood on the Saddle” part that never fails to crack me up. You’ll be treated to some down home country music performed by an assortment of bears. There will also be some bear puns. You’ve been warned.
  • The Carousel of Progress – Though it’s located in Tomorrowland, this show, with a unique rotating theater, takes you back in time to see how technology has shaped American households over the last century. It begins in the age when electricity was still becoming readily available in homes, with fancy water pumps and ice boxes being the height of technology, and ends up in a modern/futuristic scene that needs a bit of updating, but the show as a whole offers a really interesting perspective on how technology has changed over time.
  • The Hall of Presidents – This original attraction is currently undergoing a major overhaul and it’s unclear what it’s going to look like once it reopens. The current president typically records a message to be delivered by an audio animatronic likeness, and though there was some debate, it appears that this will remain the case. Each former president also has his own animatronic, and it’s interesting to watch them all moving and lightly interacting. The old show and theater system are also being updated, so who knows how things will look going forward. It’s probably worth checking out just out of curiosity.

The best dining for adults at the Magic Kingdom

The Magic Kingdom isn’t a foodie park like Epcot, but it still has some great options. The dining experiences here are more about the atmosphere than the food in a lot of cases, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have something delicious on your plate. No matter what you choose, there are plenty of great places to eat for adults at the Magic Kingdom.

Grey stuff at Be Our Guest - adults at the Magic Kingdom

“Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious.”

Table Service

  • Be Our Guest – This was added during the Fantasyland expansion and I absolutely adore it. It’s (duh) themed after Beauty and the Beast, and the main dining room is styled like the ballroom where they have their fancy dance in the movie. There is also a small West Wing room which has some cool decor and a Castle Gallery that I find a bit boring to be honest. The first time I walked into the ballroom, my jaw dropped and I really felt like I was in the movie. It has a fine dining French themed menu for dinner. Dinner service also includes wine and champagne, making it the only place in the Magic Kingdom where alcohol is served. You can even try the famous grey stuff recommended by Lumiere himself (I actually prefer the lunch cupcake version over the dinner one). If you attend dinner there, you’ll get to meet your gracious host, the Beast, on your way out.
  • Cinderella’s Royal Table – Long one of the hardest dining reservations to snag, this character meal is set inside the Castle itself. You’ll get to meet your hostess, Cinderella, downstairs before ascending to the dining area. The restaurant is decorated like a medieval castle, and other Disney princesses will make the rounds to visit with you while you eat. Sound fun? You’ll want to be online/on the phone (but do it online since that opens up earlier) the second reservations are available 180 days before your trip (on-site guests can book dining for their entire stay 180 days from check-in, so your odds are better if you try for later in your stay) because these fill up fast.

    Kungaloosh dessert at the Jungle Skipper Canteen - adults at the Magic Kingdom

    Kungaloosh!

  • Jungle Skipper Canteen – The Magic Kingdom’s newest sit-down restaurant is themed after the nearby Jungle Cruise ride. The skippers who guide you on your river cruise have opened their kitchens and are looking to serve up some grub (Probably not actual grubs though. Probably.) For reasons I don’t understand (I loved it!), this one had a hard time catching on when it opened last year. Speculation was that the food was too different for theme park goers, and the menu went through a couple of revisions. I didn’t find anything on it that seemed extreme though, and I’m a notoriously picky eater most of the time. Adventurer’s Club fans (an old Pleasure Island club) will be delighted to find a Kungaloosh dessert on the menu, which I quite enjoyed despite its slight coffee flavor.
  • Liberty Tree Tavern – This is my pick for a hearty meal at the Magic Kingdom. The Liberty Tree Tavern serves up your basic Thanksgiving fare – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc – in a family-style setting, with some killer toffee cake for dessert. It’s quiet and laid back (except for that time my co-worker and I got trapped in the tunnels and ran out of the kitchen and through the restaurant in full Frontierland costume) and is a great place for kids and adults to fill up.
  • Crystal Palace – This is another character dining option, offering a chance to meet Pooh and Friends. The Crystal Palace serves all day, but breakfast is when it really shines. Eat as many waffles as you can. As a bonus, if you book an early enough breakfast reservation, you can enter the park a bit before opening and have Main Street to yourself as you make your way toward the restaurant.

Counter Service

Stained glass in Be Our Guest - Magic Kingdom without kids

  • Be Our Guest – Wait? Didn’t I just write about this? Sure did, but this particular restaurant serves both table and quick-service meals (reservations still very necessary). If you want to save a few bucks, check out the breakfast or lunch options here. The restaurant converts to a quick-service restaurant where you order food at a kiosk and then seat yourself to await delivery of your food. The dining rooms have the same theming for half the price, and you can still try that grey stuff. Downside: no Beast meet and greets.
  • Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – Though the days of turning your fries into nachos at the generous toppings bar are long gone at this Frontierland staple, it still stands as one of my favorite counter service places on property. It offers mainly TexMex options these days, though the kids meals have a bit more variety.
  • Columbia Harbour House – This is a slightly quieter counter service place that serves New England style food. You’ll find lots of fish and lobster rolls in addition to other offerings. The dark interior looks like an old colonial house and is a bit more subdued than other locations. If you’re having a hard time finding a seat, check to see if the second floor is open, as it is often missed by other guests.
  • Pinocchio Village Haus – Despite its outwardly German theming, this restaurant serves up Disney’s standard quick Italian fare. You can get flatbreads and pasta, but my favorite is the chicken parmesan sandwich. The Village Haus has windows overlooking the loading area of It’s a Small World, and I like to sit along the glass and watch the boats start their journey.

The best snacks at the Magic Kingdom

Dole Whip - Magic Kingdom for grown-ups

  • Dole Whip – The Dole Whip is my great obsession at Disney parks. You can get official Dole Whip all around the US now that the fill your own cup froyo places are in every strip mall, but having recently sampled some of that I can promise you that it just doesn’t taste the same. There’s something different and a million times better about Disney Dole Whip. The lengthy lines at the Magic Kingdom’s Dole Whip spot, Aloha Isle, seem to back that up. I prefer just regular old Dole Whip in a cup, though you can also get floats made with pineapple juice. I once tried to make my own float using a bottle of Sprite instead, but it didn’t end up tasting as good as I envisioned. Aloha Isle is located in Adventureland near the Enchanted Tiki Room (it was moved from its former location relatively recently and has way more serving capacity now). If you can’t make it to the park, you can also get Dole Whip at the Polynesian Village Resort just across the lagoon from the Magic Kingdom.
  • Cinnamon rolls – The cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s Tavern are divine. This counter service place doesn’t have what I’d consider a full menu, but it’s worth checking out just for these sweet treats. The décor is designed to replicate the tavern Gaston hangs out at in Beauty and the Beast (ie. there are a LOT of antlers involved) and you can take a seat in the big man’s chair/throne for a picture. This is also where you’ll find LeFou’s brew, Disney’s attempt to match the success of the wildly popular butterbeer at Universal’s Harry Potter areas. It’s a frozen apple-y beverage you can get with or without a souvenir mug.

The best photo spots at the Magic Kingdom

  • Cinderella Castle – Duh. I think you’re contractually obligated to snap a picture in front of the iconic castle. I think the best spots are toward the end of Main Street where the pathways to the other lands cut in. You’ll find Photopass photographers all along the street though. Another popular spot is in front of the Partners statue so you can see that and the castle together.
    Splash Mountain - things to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom
  • Splash Mountain’s on-ride photo – I’ve already mentioned this one, but it’s one of my favorite ride photos. You have ample time to prepare, so you have a chance to prepare yourself for a silly pose. Just keep it PG or your entire log’s picture will be deleted.
  • With Gaston – For a while, hilarious videos of the Gaston meet and greet were circulating regularly. True to character, he was not shy about boasting of his own beauty and telling women that they shouldn’t be reading. On my most recent visit, he was toned down a little, so I suspect that people who don’t like fun complained, but it’s still one of the best character meet and greets on property. When I went with my boyfriend, Gaston had him flex his muscles, and I posed in between them grabbing each of their biceps. It was a pretty great shot. On another visit, he took a little girl dressed as Belle into his nearby tavern and had the staff pour her a mug of LeFou’s brew.

Places to relax at the Magic Kingdom

Tomorrowland Transit Authority - Magic Kingdom for adults

Shoelessness not endorsed.

  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority – Not only is this a great way to take a break, it’s a Tomorrowland attraction as well. It’s also my mom’s favorite ride ever. The TTA is a breezy open-air tram ride that loops around Tomorrowland giving riders glimpses into Space Mountain and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The movement gives the sensation of a nice breeze even on the hottest days and it’s a great way to get a bird’s eye view of this area of the park. (Plus you can get a pretty cool shot of the Castle as you come around one of the corners.) You’ll also be treated to a few spacy puns along the way, and Disney nerds will especially enjoy seeing an original 3D concept of Epcot. Bonus: it’s almost always a walk-on with the line only being a few minutes long on even the busiest days.
  • Splash Mountain exit area – Near Splash’s exit, you’ll find a quiet area with some benches and lots of shade that’s perfect for a break. If you’re not riding the ride, you just walk past the entrance and under the train bridge toward the bathrooms. It’s a relatively hidden spot that most people don’t stumble across on their own, so it’s perfect for some quiet time.
  • Liberty Belle Riverboat – This previously mentioned boat departs from Liberty Square and makes a loop around Tom Sawyer Island. It’s another spot where you can chill out while still enjoying an attraction, so it’s a great breather for people who don’t like to sit still. Along the way, you’ll get some cool views of Big Thunder Mountain too.
  • Hall of Presidents Lobby – Whether you’re seeing the show or not, the lobby/waiting area for the Hall of Presidents show is a great spot to relax. It also happens to be indoors, so you’ll be treated to Disney World’s notoriously frigid air conditioning while you take your break. On extra hot and humid days, walking into that building feels like being reborn. You can also look at exhibits about former presidents and first ladies that have been loaned from museums inside.

The Parties at the Magic Kingdom

Grave diggers in the Hallowee parade at Disney World

The Haunted Mansion grave diggers are one of my favorite parts of the Halloween parade.

  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – This is my favorite event at the Magic Kingdom by a mile. I love Halloween and costumes, so this party was made for me. This hard ticket event (you need a special party ticket) is the only time adults are allowed to wear costumes at the Disney parks. People come up with all kinds of fun, creative ones to wear. During the event, you also get to see my favorite parade. I play the soundtrack all month during October. The special fireworks show is pretty awesome too. If this isn’t enough, there are also trick or treating stations set up around the park where Cast Members distribute handfuls of candy.
    Character dance at Mickey's Not so Scary Halloween Party

    Just Carmen Sandiego dancing with Woody. Totally normal evening.

    Throughout the night, you’ll find special character meet and greet opportunities that you don’t see on a regular basis like a chance to get a picture with all seven dwarfs or chat with Jack Sparrow himself (it’s possible that I accidentally semi-proposed to him once while chatting about stealing gold). This super popular party has expanded and runs on select nights for approximately two months leading up to Halloween, so if you find yourself making fall Disney World plans you should definitely check it out. It’s awesome.
    Christmas parade float at the Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – This is another hard ticket event that runs in the weeks before Christmas. Almost overnight from October 31st to November 1st, the parks transform from Halloween to Christmas, which kicks off two+ months of holiday events at the parks.
    Donald Duck at the Magic Kingdom Christmas Party

    We totally planned this.

    The Christmas party also includes special character meet and greets (Donald and I showed up wearing the same red and black plaid shirt once…awkward), a Christmas parade, and party fireworks. Instead of candy, there are hot chocolate and cookie stations spread throughout the park to feed your sweet tooth.

So there you have it. Everything you could possibly need to know before you visit the Magic Kingdom as an adult.

If you’re planning on visiting the other parks during your stay, don’t miss the other posts in my Grown-up’s Guide to Disney World series:

Don’t forget to save this for later on Pinterest!

There is plenty to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom. Read about the best rides, food, and shows. Disney World | Orlando | #MagicKingdom

There is plenty to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom. Read about the best rides, food, and shows. Disney World | Orlando | #MagicKingdom There is plenty to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom. Read about the best rides, food, and shows. Disney World | Orlando | #MagicKingdom There is plenty to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom. Read about the best rides, food, and shows. Disney World | Orlando | #MagicKingdom There is plenty to do for adults at the Magic Kingdom. Read about the best rides, food, and shows. Disney World | Orlando | #MagicKingdom

Share the Love
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • 1
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Previous

Walking Among Redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument

Next

What Does the Future of Travel Look Like?

6 Comments

  1. I love Magic Kingdoms much as the kids! I 100% agree that it is wonderful for adults as well, and your tips are spot on. I’m right there with you on the Cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s Tavern. It’s a must for me every time. Really great post!

  2. Definitely not just for kids!! It looks like there are many new rides I need to experience soon. 🙂 The last time I was in Disneyland my favourite ride was the Indiana Jones ride! I think I’ll visit again next summer!

  3. Great post! I love everything on the list. I hope the reopen the Liberty boat! It has been closed for a little while. Bring on Splash Mountain. I could ride that over and over again.

  4. Wow great detailed post! It’s great that you’re posting something for adults. It’s easy to get wrapped up in making sure the kids enjoy themselves. 🙂

  5. Magic Kindom is fun for kids and adults! I used to go every year when I was a kid but I enjoy it differently now as an adult!

  6. Now that’s a post I can sink my teeth into! I spent half a day there once, and boy was it fun!

    I’ve taken the liberty of linking to your post, with three links, a low-res photo, and a paragraph of your text here: http://athousandflights.com/grownups-guide-magic-kingdom/

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén