A Dad’s Guide to the Magic Kingdom

So you’ve made the decision to visit Walt Disney World. You may say to yourself that deciding which pair of sneakers to pack is going to be your hardest decision. Think of how many times you have spent hours combing the internet for information about purchasing a new television or phone….but, when you spend thousands of dollars on a Walt Disney World vacation, how much time will you spend planning your day?

Begin by taking into account, that for a family of four, the average day at a Walt Disney Park can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000. With that being said, every hour you spend in line just cost you $50 to $100. While lines are a necessary evil, this is a plan to minimize those lines. Below is a fool-proof method on how to make sure you get to enjoy the rides and shows that your family has been breathlessly anticipating.

Visit www. disneyworld.disney.go.com /parks and read brief descriptions of the attractions with your family. Also make sure to visit the multitude of websites dedicated to Disney World the Travel Channel shows, and their DVD Vacation video. Have a family meeting and discuss which rides and shows you want to see/do the most.

First, arrive at the parking lot at least 45 minutes prior to the park opening. Unlike other theme parks at the Magic Kingdom, you can’t just walk up to the entrance. You will be riding a tram from your car and then taking either Monorail or Ferry Boat from the Transportation Ticket Center to the actual entrance to the park. For variety, mix it up and take a different mode for each trip. The time is virtually identical for either method and your family will enjoy this one-of-a-kind experience.

There is a pre-show at the park entrance and once you enter make sure to take in the sights of Main Street U.S.A. from the street. Look at the windows on the second floor of Main Street closely; the names represent the land for Walt Disney World was purchased under to reduce speculation on the price. Then head to the back left side of the park to Frontierland and grab a fast pass for Splash Mountain. Go ride Big Thunder, while lines are at their shortest. When you exit Big Thunder, it will be time to turn in your fast pass at Splash Mountain. Do not be overly concerned with the “splash” element of the Mountain, unless the weather is below 70 degrees. It’s truly one of the signature attractions and has more to it than just a dramatic drop. The ride is themed beautifully, complete with singing animals and many surprises!

Once you’re done with the two signature rides in Frontierland, head towards Adventureland to grab a fast pass for the Jungle Cruise. Then, ride on the Magic Carpet’s of Aladdin and Pirates of the Caribbean. Make sure to avoid the Camel’s “spit” on you Magic Carpet and enjoy the nuances of Pirates of the Caribbean. Your fast pass for Jungle Cruise should be ready, so go on your cruise and take plenty of pictures of the “back side of water.” Pirates of the Caribbean is a high capacity ride, so later in the day you should be able to return and ride it again. So, when you do, grab one of those fast passes again for the Jungle Cruise as this ride is slightly different each time. Ride it enough times and you will be able to hear all of the jokes to decide which “cruise captain” was your favorite.

As you leave Adventureland, head towards Liberty Square, grabbing a Fast Pass for Peter Pan. Then off to Liberty Square you go to enjoy the Haunted Mansion. Make sure to take a leisurely trip through the line to enjoy the new interactive elements. Once you enter Gracey Manor, look towards the fireplace mantle: if your party goes towards the left for the second room, make sure you are to the right of the room and vice versa (look for a small red pin light on the wall stand in this area). You will find yourself at the front of the line, after the “preshow” using this tip. If the voice of the Haunted Mansion sounds familiar, think back for your childhood stop animation Christmas Specials. Paul Frees has an unmistakable voice that will leave you shaking in your boots. Don’t let any ghosts “hitch” a ride back with you to your hotel…muhahaha.

After the Haunted Mansion, head into Fantasyland and make sure to enjoy Philharmagic (one of the best 4-D movies at any theme park.) Try to enter through the middle doors and wait for about twenty people to enter a row, following down the line so you should be “centered.” Afterwards, ride Small World, Snow White and Winnie the Pooh. Overall, Winnie the Pooh has the best queue (line), for children or even the young at heart. If the line for Dumbo is over twenty minutes, reconsider riding the Flying Carpet again, or walk over to the Carrousel if the line is short. The fast pass for Peter Pan should be ready for you to take flight over London to Neverland.

As you leave Peter Pan head towards the Castle and take the left side walkway towards Tomorrowland. Go to Space Mountain to grab your fast passes, before heading off to lunch at Cosmic Rays. Why Cosmic Rays, you may ask? They have the best food for the best value in the entire park. They serve BBQ ribs and chicken plus salads for those looking to eat lighter fare. The cute space themed quick-serve restaurant will keep your kids amused with enough money leftover in your wallet for ice cream treats later.

After lunch, your fast passes for Space Mountain will be ready for boarding. Space Mountain is a fun ride that takes you through the outer limits of space. This very dark ride is illuminated by only the stars and the few space creatures you meet while taking sharps turns and reaching soaring heights. As you leave, stop and get a fast pass for Buzz Lightyear.

Take a moment and relax on the Tomorrow Land Transit Authority and take in a show at the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. Don’t leave your cell phones in the stroller, bring them in with your best “G” rated jokes. Text them in and maybe you can have them read aloud (give your kid the credit.) Afterwards, use your fast pass for Buzz Lightyear and help defeat the Evil Emperor Zurg.

While the aforementioned attractions can be on hour plus wait in line (if you do not use my fast pass method), these following attractions are normally at a manageable 20 minutes or less. So, schedule them in accordingly as the park gets full or on a return visit.

• Swiss Family Treehouse is a cute walking/climbing tour through their tree house and it does have some great photo vistas of the park.

• The Tiki Birds show has reasonable pre-show especially if you like Phil Hartman with a passable 15 minute show inside.

• The Country Bear’s Jamboree is a fun sign along show that the little ones will love.

• Tom Sawyer’s Island can be a pleasant diversion or a waste of time. If you are there early in the morning, ask if they are leaving paint brushes around the island, because you can retrieve them for a Dream Pass that allows you to skip all the ride lines.

• The River Boat & Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square do not have the same cache for the younger guest, so make your decision to enjoy them accordingly.

• If you haven’t eaten recently, take a spin on the Mad Tea Party.

• You can also enjoy story time with one of the Disney Princess’ in between the castle and Tomorrowland, but space is limited. Check for show times.

• The Astro Orbiter is a nice spinner ride, but there is a long wait and slow loading process. At night, it can be an uplifting experience to see all the twinkling lights of the theme park.

• The Tomorrowland Speedway isn’t very special and very similar to what you can find at any other track. It does not have a fast pass and the line can be very long.

• Stich’s Great Escape is accurate in its name… in that you will want to get out as soon as possible after entering this attraction. Disney chose to depict the unlikable Stich from the first 15 minutes of the movie. My son was scared and confused by the ride experience.

• Carrousel of Progress is the oldest attraction in the park, allowing you to see a ride as it was presented by Walt Disney at the World’s Fair.

• On Main Street, you do have the chance to meet and greet with Mickey & Minnie. But, if you are enjoying a few days and also going to Epcot, skip this character spot for another day.

Now its time to look for souvenirs or just head back to the hotel for a rest… you’ve earned it!

If you plan to return to the park in the evening, make sure to give yourself time for the Electrical Light Parade, Memories show on the Castle and of course, Wishes Fireworks. One of the best spots to watch any show at the castle is from the “porch” in front of the drinking fountain to the right of the castle, or if you are in Tomorrowland in front of Space Mountain. Another option is to take the ferry or monorail back to the transportation/ticket center to view the fireworks overlooking the ferry’s dock. This area also works if you just returned from Illuminations from Epcot, but that is another article coming soon.

There will be more installments, in this series, exploring the other parks at Walt Disney World and how to plan your time wisely…because everyone wants to get the best value for their money. Enjoy!