By Laura Jemetta
Magic Kingdom has so many wonderful rides and attractions to offer, but without some pre-planning, you might miss out on something fantastic. Make sure you check out my Disney planning guide to get you started, and then read on below to start making your list of attractions you simply have to experience.
This guide will help you do just that – it’s a guide to the most popular and most iconic attractions at Magic Kingdom, and at the end, you’ll be ready to start your own list.
The Haunted Mansion
Let’s start with one of my favourite rides – The Haunted Mansion. Located in Liberty Square, this haunted ride is less scary, and more whimsical (for adults that is). The ride starts with a winding queue through the courtyard of an antebellum-era mansion, at the end of which you find yourself being welcomed into the foyer of the mansion itself. The less I say about the ride from here, the better, but it involves taking a ride in carriages aptly named ‘doom buggies’, throughout the mansion. Don’t miss this ride – especially if you’re at Magic Kingdom around Christmas, when the Haunted Mansion is transformed with ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ theming.
One of three ‘mountains’ at Disney, Splash Mountain is what I would consider to be a thrill ride. Located in Frontierland, Splash Mountain takes place in log-style carriages, which take you on a river-boat style ride. Glide lazily past singing animatronic animals until you reach the final, steep climb to the summit of Splash Mountain. The ride ends in a thrilling 15m, 45 degree angle drop, which deposits you into the waiting ‘river’ below, where you will probably get splashed. It’s an iconic Magic Kingdom ride, (and Disneyland ride, for that matter), and you don’t want to miss it.
Second of the three Disney ‘mountains’, Space Mountain is possibly even more thrilling than Splash Mountain. It’s actually the oldest operating rollercoaster in Florida, and is an original Disney World ride – having been replicated at almost all the other Disney parks around the world. Space Mountain is an indoor, space-themed rollercoaster, featuring a series of sharp turns and steep drops in almost total darkness. If you like rollercoasters, you’re going to want to make a bee-line for Tomorrowland. Fair warning though – the lines can be astronomical, sometimes upward of three hours, so snatch up a Fastpass+ for it if you can.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Big Thunder Mountain is the third of the ‘mountains’ of Magic Kingdom, and is also found in Frontierland. It’s a frontier themed outdoor rollercoaster, just as thrilling as Space Mountain. Big Thunder is almost an exact replica of it’s original counterpart in Disneyland. It’s a super fun ride if you like rollercoasters, featuring steep climbs, sharp turns and drops, and it’s especially magical to ride at night, when the climbs will give you the most beautiful view of the illuminated Castle. Just remember: the wait times are generally long, and the queuing area is in very close quarters, so maybe take an iced water with you into the line to keep you cool.
Mad Tea Party
The Mad Tea Party is a simple spinning ride themed around the un-birthday scene in Alice in Wonderland. It’s a colourful and joyful sight in Fantasyland, and one that consistently draws crowds of all ages. All that spinning makes it notorious for causing motion sickness, so if you’re prone to it, maybe steer clear. That being said, kids especially will love this one, and everyone will find it fun to see how fast they can make their teacup spin – each one can be controlled by a central steering wheel independent of the ride itself. That’s double the spin and double the dizziness.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Located in Adventureland, Pirates is a dark themed ride that actually inspired the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise. I know – I thought it was the other way around, but the ride pre-dates the films by about 40 years. In fact, the original Pirates ride was the last ride whose construction was overseen by Walt Disney himself. That being said, Pirates is one of the most iconic Disney rides, and one of my personal favourites. It’s a simple boat ride that positions you as a bystander to a pirate-themed story, and takes you through a beautiful waterfall of mist. It’s a great ride for the whole family, and if you’re struggling in the heat of the day, duck into Pirates – it takes place entirely inside and it’s always gloriously cool in there.
The Jungle Cruise
Another one of my favourites, the Jungle Cruise is located in Adventureland, and is a ‘river-boat’ style cruise down the great rivers of Asia, Africa and South America. Featuring animatronic wildlife and a charismatic guide, you will wind your way through the ‘jungle’ on your very own boat. It’s one for the whole family again, and is a charming break from the hustle and bustle of the park.
It’s a Small World
Another water-based ride, It’s a Small World is simply iconically Disney. It’s an indoor boat ride through scenes of animatronic children representing different countries from around the world. I realise now that that description sounds a little weird, but it’s fun to spot your country represented along the way, and the whole theme of the ride is global peace. Just be prepared to have ‘It’s a Small World’ in your head for the rest of the day. Seriously. The rest of the day.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
This is another iconic Disney ride. I’m not sure about you, but when I was a kid all the ads for Disney World or Disneyland featured the flying Dumbo ride. Dumbo is a tame and kid-friendly carousel style ride through the air in Dumbo-shaped carriages. If you’re at Magic Kingdom with kids, it’s one not to be missed, though you’ll likely need a Fastpass+ if you want to avoid huge wait times.
Trust me on this one – you can’t miss the parade. It’s a spectacle of colour and sound, and there’s something magical about those elaborate floats rolling past you; those characters from your childhood floating past you; the spectacle of it all. It is truly something, and it happens at least twice a day. Make sure to at least catch one of the two parades – the mid-afternoon, or the evening, (the evening one features swathes of fairy lights!), especially if there are kids with you at the parks. For us adults, we are aware of the trickery of it; of the people behind the costumes and characters, but for kids, those characters are so real. Even as an adult, it’s magic to be a part of.
Disney fireworks are fireworks as you have never seen them. These are spectacular fireworks. These are fireworks against the backdrop of the illuminated magic Castle. These are fireworks set to the soundtrack of your childhood. I challenge you not to be moved by these fireworks. I always am. The fireworks take place every night that weather permits at Magic Kingdom, and you can catch a great view by getting a spot somewhere on Main Street, though there are several other great vantage points throughout the park. Make sure you don’t leave Magic Kingdom before Fireworks; they will fill you with nostalgia, happiness and joy.
There you have it – my guide to the best and most iconic Magic Kingdom attractions. Now you can use this list to create your own list of the rides you have to see during your time at Disney. Don’t forget to think about which rides you would like to Fastpass+ too!
Please leave me a comment below if you liked the list, or if there’s any rides you would add to it. Maybe I missed out your favourite ride – let me know!