The Magic Kingdom is the type of park that is modeled after the original Disneyland design and layout. People will often refer to Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, Disneyland itself and the Magic Kingdom in Disney World as “Magic Kingdom” parks. They have a Main Street, a hub, castle, and several themed lands.
The Magic Kingdom in Disney World is the best park of the 4 main theme parks at the resort. I am going to talk about this park and my thoughts on it land by land.
When I saw pictures of Main Street at the Magic Kingdom online, I thought that the scaling was way off and that the street was just too big and ugly compared to the Main Street that I was used to in Disneyland.
However, once we came out of the tunnel under the Walt Disney World Railroad, it was scaled much better and felt quaint like the Disneyland Main Street. I have read up on the design differences and the reasoning for this was Disneyland’s Main Street was supposed to reflect a Midwest Main Street feel and the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street reflected what the Main Streets on the East coast would have looked like at the same time period. Bigger, more cover from the rain, etc. I no longer dislike Magic Kingdom’s visual style for Main Street, but I still prefer Disneyland’s.
One of the functional issues that I have with Main Street at the Magic Kingdom is the lack of store diversity. In Disneyland there are shops on both sides of the street. If you are looking toward the castle, on the left there is the Emporium, which takes up the first 1/2 of that side, then New Century Timepieces, Carnation Cafe, Penny Arcade, Candy Palace and finishes out with Coke Corner.
On the right you have The Magic Shop, Main Street Music, Main Street Cinema, The Market House, Disney Clothiers, Crystal Arts, Silhouette Studio, China Shop and then the Photo Store.
In comparison, Magic Kingdom, again looking toward the castle on the left is the Emporium and Casey’s Corner. On the right side, you have Confectionary, Main Street Cinema (which is an art store), Crystal Arts, Main Street Bakery and Plaza Ice Cream.
When shopping for gifts and souvenirs, I felt that Disneyland had the better selection on Main Street.
Here, I will give you a really neat tid bit on both Main Streets. They are both almost identical in size from the train station to the castles and in width from one building to the other. Disney World may seem bigger here, but it isn’t. I was just as shocked!
Now, here is a real soft spot for many and there are a TON of opinions on this, but I think Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom is ugly. It is the same as the castle in Tokyo Disneyland. I think it is too big, not whimsical enough and the large turrets on the front I just hate. I will say that over the course of the trip, I went from HATING it to seeing its appeal for people. It does provide an amazing centerpiece to the park that you can see from the other side of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
My favorite Disney castle anywhere in the world is still the Disneyland Paris Castle (also known as Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant). It is a masterpiece.
Cinderella’s Castle also did not have a draw bridge and they have a stage in front of it, so it seems a little disconnected from Main Street, but maybe that is the point?
What can I say about Adventureland? It is enormous compared to Disneyland. It houses the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse (which I like better than Tarzan’s Treehouse in Disneyland), The Magic Carpets of Aladdin (Dumbo style attraction that we skipped), The Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
The Enchanted Tiki Room was different at the Magic Kingdom. The outside waiting area was bigger then Disneyland’s, but was not as interesting. You are surrounded at Disneyland by the various tiki gods for all the Earth’s powers, here there is just a wall and some terraced walkway as you wait. There is some animated characters on the wall, but it doesn’t encompass you. One of the tiki gods did come out from behind a waterfall, so that was pretty cool.
Inside, the attraction seemed very much like what I was used to, but the show was an abbreviated version which I was a little saddened by. The rain effects at the end were actually water falling outside the “windows” that had some sky projection. I like the fact that at Disneyland they had to work with the limited technology at the time to make it seem like it was raining with other techniques. Overall, Disneyland is better for this one.
The Jungle Cruise. This one really had no winner in my mind. It was just different. Still the same humor on the attraction and some of the same scenes like the elephant bathing pool, turned over jeep, hippos and rhinos trying to “get their point in the end”. Magic Kingdom’s version had a whole inside section that was pretty neat, even though there was no jokes or anything in here.
Now on to Pirates of the Caribbean! This is one of the best attractions Disney has ever created. This was also just different. The queue area in Disney World is nice and themed and can hold a TON more people, I really like the beginning of the attraction, along with the Blue Bayou Restaurant in Disneyland. Magic Kingdom’s Pirates gets you going right away, sends you down a small waterfall, through a short cave with Davy Jones and Blackbeard and right into the ship battle with the fort. From that point until the scene right after the burning town, the attraction is virtually the same. The ending is a bit of a let down as you never “go back up the waterfall” to the load/unload area, you just get off right after Captain Jack’s treasure room. Disneyland wins this hands down in my opinion.
The first thing you see if you are coming from Adventureland into Frontierland is Splash Mountain. The Splash Mountain in the Magic Kingdom is way different than the Disneyland counterpart. You can see more because all of the interior show scenes are much better lit at the Magic Kingdom. You sit side by side, which I liked a lot more than sitting in single file at Disneyland. The area at Disneyland that is Critter Country and Pooh-themed shops is pretty much all queue for Splash Mountain. Disneyland could not afford to do this. You get less wet at the Magic Kingdom version, which I like, but I prefer the darker show scenes of Disneyland. This one is a toss up for me.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of my favorite attractions at both Disney parks. I was expecting the Magic Kingdom version to be the same as Disneyland, but it wasn’t. Starting with the queue, it is far superior at Magic Kingdom. There is a ton of things to play with and do in this queue and most of it is covered. The loading platform is in what looks like a mine shaft and still has the terrible loud chain noise on the first lift hill. Also, unlike Disneyland, you will get wet at the waterfall at the top of the first lift hill. The track at Magic Kingdom is more wild and winding and has some cool effects like a part that tilts back and fourth like it is completely out of control. The only couple of let downs that I had on this one was lack of the goat and the new ending at Disneyland that makes you feel like the tunnel is blowing up around you. Magic Kingdom wins this one.
Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom is pretty cool. They still have the fort open to everyone and what seems to be more trails to explore. I would say this is a toss up since Disneyland has pirate themed activities.
Country Bear Jamboree. The only thing wrong with this one was the fact that it wasn’t the Country Bear Vacation Hoedown version that I grew up with at Disneyland. Magic Kingdom wins by default.
New Orleans Square – I mean Liberty Square.
The Hall of Presidents was something that I wanted to see for a very long time and was always on the list of things I was looking forward to at Disney World. I was not let down. It was super cool. Think Great Moments with Mr.Lincoln x 43. Awesome show that I hope they keep forever.
The Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom was different. The outdoor queue area is themed well for hundreds of people, but lacked a single file line. There was a lot of cutting on this attraction because of this. Once inside, the foyer was not really utilized like Disneyland, you were just rushed into the “stretching room”. Inside the stretching room, the narration moved around the room and it felt like some of the speakers were out, making it hard to hear some of the dialog. The room doesn’t stretch as far as in Disneyland and is a lot faster. Once out of the stretching room, you had to combine into one line, just like at Disneyland and board your Doom Buggy.
The beginning of the attraction goes down the hall with the changing paintings like you have in the standing hall at Disneyland. Then you go through a library scene which is pretty cool and has the busts staring at you like the queue in Disneyland. From there, you enter a room with staircases going in all directions, candles lighting themselves and footprints “walking” on the steps in all directions. Then you join the hallway with the casket like the first scene in Disneyland’s version and the rest of the attraction is pretty much the same from that point forward. Even with the additional scenes, I give this one to Disneyland because I find the stretching room really important and cool and it just wasn’t at the Magic Kingdom. Also, the wait time always seemed way too long, unlike Disneyland where I could wait no more than 20 minutes almost anytime.
Overall, I feel like this land has an identity crisis. There is great theming and terrible theming. If you enter Fantasyland from Liberty Square, you come across it’s a small world, which looks like a terrible carnival ride from the outside. Once you join the queue, there is a smaller version of the outside of the Disneyland version inside. The whole attraction is flooded with water and not just a flume like at Disneyland. Overall, it was a small world attraction and felt that way. Nothing to write home about. I like the exterior at Disneyland better, but the attraction is basically the same.
Peter Pan had just a long of a wait at the Magic Kingdom as it does at Disneyland. The ships don’t stop and start to load, they run with a conveyer belt that you walk along to get on them like at the Haunted Mansion. I liked this a lot. The rest of the attraction was not as spectacular as the original. I much prefer Disneyland’s version, especially for the wait time.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic was a really neat idea that brought together a lot of the more recent Disney animated movies from my childhood into one show. It reminded me of Muppet Vision 3D with the in theater effects. The storyline was good and I was entertained. Great show!
The Prince Charming Royal Carrousel was as you would expect it. No better or worse.
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh was charming. They had a great little play area for the kids right in the queue so they could burn off their energy and not annoy everyone else in the line. That was a great aspect. The attraction is about the same as the one in Anaheim. Nothing to write home about.
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid was exactly as it was in California Adventure. Great attraction. The queue in Magic Kingdom was WAY better and had a lot of interactive elements to it. I would rather wait for the Magic Kingdom version.
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. This one is tricky. It had the longest wait of any attraction in the Magic Kingdom at ALL TIMES. While James and I enjoyed it, we did not think that waiting over 40 minutes was worth it. We did end up getting on it 3 times out of luck with little to no waiting. Most of the time the wait was over 90 minutes. Not worth it. It was a neat combination of dark ride and roller coaster. The rolling back and fourth aspect to the cars were pretty cool and original. It is easily the best themed attraction in Fantasyland.
Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I wish Disneyland had the room that the Magic Kingdom has to allow for two of these. Basic Dumbo attraction, nothing spectacular, except there are twice as many.
The Barnstormer. This felt very much like a longer version of Gadget’s Go Coaster in Toon Town at Disneyland. Great first coaster for the kids.
The Mad Tea Party. Same as Disneyland except that it is covered, which I didn’t like as much. They also didn’t seem to have it governed, so you can spin as fast as you can without being slowed down. This was great until the end where it seemed like they slammed on the brakes. Disneyland has this one for atmosphere alone.
I have to say that I think that almost every aspect of Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom is better than Disneyland. Better themed, more kinetic energy, more attractions.
Tomorrowland Speedway is the exception to this. First of all, James and I are both not a big fan of the Autopia type attractions at any of the parks. This one was way shorter (which James liked that he didn’t have to stay on it as long), but I felt like the theming was lacking and there really wasn’t anything to look at. There is also no barrier from Fantasyland making this seem out of place. Disney should really think about reclaiming this space at all their parks.
Space Mountain, I hate to say it, is better at Magic Kingdom. There are two tracks, but before you get too excited, they are the same on both sides. You get to go up the lift hill similarly to the Matterhorn where you can wave and yell at the other car. You also sit single file and not next to each other like Disneyland. I really liked that in this case. There is a photo spot at the Magic Kingdom in the strangest spot – right before the lift hill. What? Otherwise, it was a fast trip through space in the dark. Pretty cool. The queue also had games and stuff you could play while waiting, which I thought was neat.
Astro Orbiter. Does anyone remember when Disneyland had this above the PeopleMover and it was so cool to ride because you were so far up? Well, you don’t have to remember at the Magic Kingdom! It is still up there and just as good as I remember. Totally worth the wait for the view. Magic Kingdom wins this one hands down.
Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. My mom and I wish this was still at Disneyland. It was the coolest attraction to hang out on when you just wanted 15 minutes of people watching and relaxing your feet from a busy day in the parks. In the Magic Kingdom, it is a much speedier trip but takes you around all of Tomorrowland. It even goes inside of Space Mountain between the first lifts! So cool. Almost no wait any of the times that we rode it. Not to be missed. Disneyland should get this one back.
Walt Disney’s Carrousel of Progress. Sure, this is a little dated, but what an attraction! Disneyland used to have this in what is now Innoventions. Great music, cool story and history. Certainly a ride once per visit attraction. The auditorium rotates around the stage! How could you beat that?
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. The version of the gun and targeting at the Magic Kingdom made this one hard to enjoy. I knew what I had hit in Disneyland and how to score. I had no idea here.
Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor. If you want to be put on a giant screen in front of the whole audience while listening to some good jokes, then this is a great attraction. James loved this as I was chosen to be the running joke throughout the show and got a “I was that guy at Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor”. It was a good show, but I don’t like attention like that. As long as I wasn’t chosen again, I would like this show.
Stitch’s Great Escape. I have a feeling that I missed the best version of this when it was Alien Encounter. The actual show didn’t seem to utilize the effects as well as they could have and it was a bit slow moving. If you have the time and the wait time is low, go see this, otherwise skip it.
I will end on general feelings and reviews of the nightly spectaculars.
Generally, I felt that Magic Kingdom did not have as smooth of theme transitions between the lands as Disneyland. The food was better, but a lot of their best restaurants you had to get reservations for. When I go to a theme park, I just want to show up and go where I want to go on a moments notice and not have to think ahead about it.
Customer service was just as good as any Disney park that I have been to before and I think that is amazing considering that they employ so many people. They were also utilizing a lot of college work program folks to staff the busier season and were training about 30% of the staff we interacted with. I’ve never seen those levels at Disneyland.
Fastpass+ and MyMagic+ and MagicBands. I LOVED the idea and use of MagicBands at Disney World. We didn’t have to look for our tickets or FastPasses, they were just on our wrists! I wish Disneyland would adopt this. FastPass+ and MyMagic+ was a mixed bag for us. It could be a great experience, but it is over utilized.
Let me explain. We spoke to a Cast Member about the ratio of FastPass+ guests vs standby guests let into the attractions and they explained it was 4 to 1. That is 4 FastPass+ people for every 1 standby guest. This made almost all of the standby lines terrible. If they were to cut this down to 50/50, this would be a much better system in my eyes. Sure, there wouldn’t be as many FastPasses for each attraction, but that wouldn’t matter because standby time would be cut in half. Maybe this is why they added things for people to do in the queues, but it was a terrible experience to watch 31 Fastpass+ people go in line and then only 4 people from standby.
It was nice to be able to reserve a FastPass from 30 days out (as we didn’t stay on property) and be able to look up other FastPasses day of while waiting in line and not have to walk to the physical attraction to get one. People also didn’t seem to understand the system and were showing up whenever they wanted and being turned away and in the process holding up the FastPass+ entrance because they would stand with their whole party in the way of the reader.
The outside “world”. When I read a lot of stuff about Disneyland online, there is always the complaint of seeing the outside world from inside of Disneyland. Sight lines, foliage, attraction heights, etc. There is no forgiveness on this at Disneyland. In the Magic Kingdom, the Walt Disney World Railroad would see outside of the park almost the entire front of the park including the bus shelters, Contemporary resort and Monorail station. On the Tomorrowland portion of the track, you can see the road next to the park and the Contemporary again. There is no attempt to stop this.
James said it could be because you are inside of Disney World and as long as you cannot see outside of Disney Property, that is what they are looking for. I have to disagree since I could see the Contemporary from Frontierland and it felt way out of place and not what I came to expect from a Disney park.
Main Street Electrical Parade. As much as I love this parade, it should be retired. I hope for the Magic Kingdom’s sake that they get a parade as good as Paint the Night at Disneyland for their 50th in a few years.
Wishes. People love this fireworks show. I thought it was good, but not as good as the fireworks that I have seen at Disneyland over the last 11 years. Again, I hope that they get a show like Remember… Dreams Come True for their 50th.
Celebrate the Magic. This was a castle projection show that was between the Main Street Electrical Parade and Wishes. It was ok, but nothing spectacular. I wish they would combine this with the fireworks and make one great show.
I will continue with Epcot next.