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When visiting Disney World, there are two main mistakes you can make: not planning your day at all, and over planning your day! Not planning the day at all can lead to a lot of disappointment over missed opportunities, as well as a lot of wasted time waiting in long lines. Overplanning can also be just as frustrating! If your focus is solely on hoofing it to the next stop, you’ll fail to enjoy the moment you’re in. Our family has made both mistakes!
Our first trip to Disney was not well planned out. I had made dining reservations but I had no idea the lay of the land and how exhausting it could be to go from ride to ride, waiting in line with a toddler. I took the day on much like we would have Six Flags! Little did I know that there was an actual art to it! I was determined to remedy that on our second visit and make the most out of every second! Unfortunately, that just left us exhausted and grumpy until, finally, my husband told me to shove the itinerary where the sun doesn’t shine! Since then, we’ve worked to find the balance between a well planned out day and simply enjoying the moment and going where the day leads us.
The Magic Kingdom is really the heart of Disney, in my opinion! It’s where all the stories come to life, and where the magic takes over, bringing out the child in all of us! While I prefer to have at least 2 if not 3 days in the Magic Kingdom on our trips, that’s not always possible, so here is our ideal way to spend one day in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!
Like I said before, there is an art to planning your trip to Walt Disney World, and if you only have 1 day per park, your planning becomes even more important! The first thing you want to keep in mind, and hang on to, is that you will not see everything in your one day! Don’t try to wear your family out trying to do so.
If you’re just beginning to plan your trip, enlisting the help of a Travel Agent who specializes in the Disney parks is a great place to start! If you have read any of my other posts about Disney, you’ll know that I am just that, and am more than happy to help you plan your trip! The benefits of having a travel agent help you with your trip are that our services are absolutely free, we can help with your reservations, we are your first line of defense if something happens to go wrong, and you have someone to bounce ideas off of!
If you do have questions about planning your Disney Vacation, be sure to visit my Facebook Page dedicated to travel!
Once you’ve booked your trip, if you’ve booked a package staying on Disney Property, then you get to make use of the My Disney Experience website & app! There you’ll find access to all of the best in Disney planning technology! You can order your magic bands, make your Dining & Fast Pass reservations, and play around with the interactive maps of the parks to see what rides and characters you’ll find and where.
180 Days before your trip, book your dining! If you only have one day in the Magic Kingdom, I’d recommend making at least one reservation at a special restaurant, if not reserving all 3 meals! If you aren’t sure what meals you’ll want at that time (I know, it’s hard to know what you’ll want for breakfast in 6 months), then I’d say book breakfast, lunch and dinner then drop one or two of the reservations when you get closer to the trip! That way, you have a better shot at getting the spot you want for your priority meal!
My recommendations for Magic Kingdom Dining: breakfast at either Cinderella’s Royal Table or Crystal Palace before the park opens (key to making the most out of your one day), lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern, and dinner at Be Our Guest or Tony’s Town Square. If you’re going to drop one meal, which I do recommend for a one day visit, then skip lunch! Fill up on a great breakfast, grab a snack mid-day and have an earlier dinner! Why are these my favorites for a one day experience?
Cinderella’s Royal Table is one I recommend for breakfast if you can grab one of the highly sought after reservations before the park opens! From traditional breakfast plates with bacon & eggs to decadent caramel, apple french toast, it is sure to fill everyone’s tummy for a fun-filled day at the park!
The Crystal Palace is my other favorite breakfast recommendation! It sits at the end of Main Street so is the perfect location to start your day off at in Disney World. It is a buffet meal featuring eggs, assorted meats, and of course, Mickey Waffles! The best part is that this is one of two locations in the Magic Kingdom where you can meet Winnie the Pooh and his friends!
Liberty Tree Tavern sits in Liberty Square and is one of my favorite stops! The theming is spot on with odes to our founding fathers & Colonial America. It features two menu options: a family-style Thanksgiving feast with the Patriot Platter, or typical American a-la-carte options like salads & burgers. I’ll let you in on a little secret; on our last visit, we had reservations but we not hungry enough for the full platter. Matt and I ordered a cheeseburger to split, and ended up ordering a 2nd burger because they were that good!!! Normally you think, theme park burger, nothing exciting, but if you’re craving a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger, Liberty Tree Tavern is where it’s at!
Meeting the Beast at Be Our Guest is one of our nonnegotiable reservations for every trip, we love it that much! It offers reservations for every meal, but we save ours for dinner so that we can also see The Beast! *Note this does change to a signature, 2 credit, meal for dinner. The Beast invites you to “Be Our Guest” and dine in either the Ballroom, the Gallery, or the West Wing! We’ve always been seated in the Ballroom, but I’m hoping for the West Wing next time! You really do feel like you’re inside the castle! The menu is incredible featuring delicious French cuisine, one of my personal favorites. I personally recommend either the French Onion Soup or Escargot for an appetizer (you’re on vacation, get adventurous), the Poulet Rouge Chicken, and then the dessert trio so you can try the “Grey Stuff” (it is delicious by the way)! After dinner, you can go meet The Beast himself and have your photo taken!
If you can’t nab Be Our Guest for dinner, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant is another great option! It is located very close to the entrance to the park on Main Street and is themed after the beloved film, Lady and the Tramp. Dinner is served in a quaint, romantic Italian cafe. It’s bright, cheery, and has every pasta dish you can imagine, ensuring it makes all guests happy! What little one doesn’t love a good bowl of Spaghetti & Meat Balls with lots of cheese on top??? Don’t skip dessert here! The chocolate cake is SOOOOO GOOD! The only thing that could make this restaurant any better would be an opportunity to meet with Lady & the Tramp themselves!
60-Days before your trip, if you’re staying on property, you’ll need to book your fast passes! This is another huge benefit to staying on property! Those popular attractions fill up quickly, so booking them well in advance saves you a ton of time waiting in line! If you are not staying on property, you can book them 30 days in advance. My recommendation is to book 3 fast passes, back to back, in fantasy land for first thing in the morning. Why first thing in the morning? Because once you’ve used them you can use the app in the park to book one more at a time for the rest of the day!
If your children are big enough, your first priority should be booking the 7 Dwarfs Mine Train! This is a fantastically fun ride but is a bit intense for younger riders. If you do get the Mine Train, it’s a great intro for the larger coasters in the park!
Your next priority should be Peter Pan’s Flight if you want to ride it. I don’t know why, but this ride almost always has one of the longest wait times in the park, and, while it’s cute and iconic, it is not worth a 60+ minute wait! We only ride this one with a Fast Pass, but look out for the Pan himself outside the ride! Even if you don’t ride, you can meet him!
The next priority depends on your party! If you have some Princesses in your group, and you did not get a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table, use a Fast Pass on whichever princess makes your sweet one happy! Most sites will recommend using it on Enchanted Tales with Belle but I have always been able to either walk in or get a later Fast Pass for it! This would completely depend on the time of year. If you’re in the busy season and really want to see Belle, don’t risk it!
For older kiddos or thrill seekers, your next priority should lie with one of the mountains! Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, or Big Thunder Mountain, or a combo of the 3, are some of the park’s most popular and well-known attractions, and should not be missed if your party is old enough! If your younger riders are a little scared in the dark, I’d go from 7 Dwarfs to Big Thunder Mountain. If they love Big Thunder, then try to grab another Fast Pass for Space Mountain later.
If none of those options are available, go with the old faithful, Pirates of the Caribbean or Haunted Mansion! While Fast Passes are usually available later in the day for them too, we tend to ride them multiple times if time allows!
If you could not get one of the Fast Pass or Dining Reservations you wanted, keep checking every few days! You never know when someone’s plans will change and you’ll be able to get that perfect reservation you were hoping for!!!
Ideally, you’ve booked your breakfast reservation for well before the park opens so you’re ready to go at rope drop! If you’re staying onsite you may even have an extra magic hour to take advantage of, which I absolutely would do for a one day trip! Rope Drop takes place by the Castle, not at the park entrance like it used to. Guests are allowed to enter Main Street up to an hour before the actual Rope Drop, and slowly make their way towards the hub. Mickey and his pals perform a quick Welcome Show and then Cast Members drop the ropes once it ends!
The mad rush will be towards Fantasy Land! If you’ve planned your Fast Passes correctly, you’ll follow the crowds and catch your first couple of attractions in Fantasy Land. When the park opens at 9:00, it never fails that my first Fast Pass isn’t until 9:20ish. We do not participate in the mad rush! We have found that by taking a slightly slower pace into Fantasy Land, that we’ve actually stumbled into Meet & Greets with Alice & the Mad Hatter and the Fairy Godmother that other guests have rushed past! Take a minute and enjoy the details in Fantasy Land. They’re beautiful!
Spend your morning taking in the sites and sounds of Fantasy Land. If you didn’t have breakfast at Crystal Palace, go meet Pooh Bear and his friends and ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. The que in this ride is interactive, keeping little ones entertained during their wait!
The great thing about Fantasy Land is that there are a lot of rides very close together, so you can quickly knock several out. Don’t miss Ariel in her Grotto, the classic It’s a Small World, and look for Gaston outside of Gaston’s Tavern. ***if you skipped a breakfast reservation, or are just ready for that mid-morning snack, grab an ooey-gooey cinnamon roll & some Le Fou’s Brew at the Tavern. Yummy!
Next, time permitting, wander over to Dumbo’s Flying Elephants & the Barn Stormer (a great mini-coaster to “warm up” riders who may be a little scared of thrill rides).
If you overslept or didn’t get your Fast Passes until later in the day, don’t follow the crowd! Go left! Most people, even without a plan of heading towards Fantasy Land, will follow the crowd, and will naturally veer towards the right. It’s just human nature. Going left will take you into Adventure Land! If you go this way, head towards the Jungle Cruise first. This classic ride always draws a pretty good crowd later in the day, and I have a feeling, with the movie coming out, it will only grow in popularity. If you can get it out of the way early, you have it checked off your list!
By now, you should be mid/late morning and coming up on your 3rd Fast Pass Reservation. You’ll either stay in Fantasy Land to meet a Princess then exit, or head out of Fantasy Land now towards that Fast Pass spot, most likely in Frontier Land or Adventure Land! The second you scan your magic band and get into your Fast Pass que, pull up the My Disney Experience App and find your 4th Fast Pass reservation! You’ll continue to do this the rest of the day as you use Fast Passes! You’re probably somewhere around 11:00, so I’d say either nab one right away that’s close by, or give yourself a break until around 1:00 and grab some lunch after you get off your ride.
If you’re on the Haunted Mansion or Big Thunder Mountain, you’ll be close to one of our favorite quick service stops, Columbia Harbor House. What’s really cool, is that now you can use the mobile order and go ahead and pre-order your lunch before you even get on the ride! I’ve had both the Lobster Roll & the Chicken Pot Pie, but my favorite part is the Peach Cobbler! A quick service lunch on a one day visit is the perfect way to give your legs a little break without spending an hour in a restaurant!
After lunch, spend a little bit of time riding the rides you haven’t yet made it to in the area. On a one day visit, I’d say skip Aladdin’s Magic Carpet although my kids would say otherwise! They love this ride, lol! But, especially if you’ve been on Dumbo, there are multiple opportunities to do essentially the same ride on a different theme throughout all of Disney’s Parks. While you’re in the area, there is an opportunity to meet Aladdin. If your trip is going to include Epcot on a different day, skip Aladdin here and catch him in the World Show Case. If you’ve already been to the Adventure Land/Frontier Land area because you didn’t have morning fast passes, you should be making your way over to Fantasy Land.
There is a great divide among bloggers over what to do next: either keep trucking with rides or catch one of the theater shows. I’ll admit, I’ve always been a “keep trucking” girl. We actually didn’t see any of the shows until 2017 when we finally decided to catch them all in one day! So, here’s my 2 cents, I love Country Bear Jamboree and could do without Hall of Presidents. Just me! However, Landry is a big Presidents buff so he would say go to the Hall of Presidents and skip the bears. Seeing Honest Abe speaking was a really cool thing for him. If you need a break where you can sit in the a/c, go grab one of those two shows. If you don’t need a break, and would rather see/do more, keep on trucking!
After you finish up with the East side of the park, around 1:30ish, start heading towards the Castle to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade. The Magic Kingdom Parades are amazing, and a hot priority for most so it’s hard to nab a good spot. This is where we typically catch our break, instead of at a show. We head over early to get a good spot (around the circle or on the Main Street curb), get the kids settled on the stroller with some bubbles or a sticker book, then one of us heads out to find a good snack! My go-to snack for a parade is candied almonds which are located closer to the Castle. If we’re down Main Street (and I didn’t get them on the way in), one of us will head inside the Confectionary and get my all time favorite, Rice Krispie Treats and some Mickey Ears! I don’t know what they use, but OMG they’re so good!
While you’re settled into your spot, waiting on the parade, use this time to check out the app again and see what kind of Fast Pass you can grab in Tomorrow Land. Ideally, you’ll get Buzz Light Year’s Space Ranger Spin or Space Mountain. Outside of his ride, Buzz poses for pictures with Guests. Again, this is a great spot to prioritize. If you’re going to Hollywood Studios during your stay, skip Buzz here and catch him in Toy Story Land, but if you won’t be visiting there, then for sure let your little Space Rangers get their picture with their pal Buzz!
Another attraction our kids love is the People Mover. Honestly, I don’t get this one, but it gives me another chance to pull up Fast Passes so we go for it! We do always opt to skip the Astro Orbiters since we’ve typically already been on Dumbo and/or Aladdin! However, if you’re a major fan of the up & down motion, then, by all means, go for it!
Tomorrow Land is another great spot for a snack. There are several quick service spots where you can grab a pretzel, churro, or soft serve ice cream!
I wouldn’t spend more than an hour or two in Tomorrow Land for your one day visit! This will change as they start to revitalize the area in the coming years, but for now, it’s a pretty quick stop.
Later in the afternoon, head back towards the Castle for the Dance Party (currently Move It Shake It, but that is ending 12/1 with a replacement coming soon after). This is a great little parade that always gets a smile on the kid’s faces! If you say “Junell, I only have one day and already saw 1 parade” take advantage of the crowds going towards the Castle and head back towards Fantasy Land! This is the perfect time to grab a ride or meet a character that you missed in the morning. This is usually around the time we will catch Enchanted Tales with Belle.
Use the late afternoon to zig-zag a bit around the park, checking wait times and fast passes to grab what you missed. I know what you’re thinking, zig-zag later in the day when we’re tired? I know! I’m sorry! That’s why we absolutely recommend getting a stroller, even if you have older kiddos, and taking an earlier reservation for dinner so you can rest! If you’re seeing that the rides you’re after don’t have any Fast Passes, and have longer waits, don’t despair! This would be a great time to catch one of those shows I mentioned earlier! The key is to remain flexible during the day, especially the afternoon! If you continue to remember “it’s ok to not see everything,” then instead of fretting, you can start making mental notes of what you do want to see on your next trip.
Ahhh early evening in the Magic Kingdom! If you’ve done your day right, someone is melting down right about now, possibly you! Don’t worry, you’ll survive! LOL! I always get the early dinner reservation when I can for this very reason, and we start making our way towards that spot pretty early. If it’s at Be Our Guest, there’s usually some great people watching outside the castle, and if you go to Tony’s there is a fantastic sitting area in the lobby where little ones can watch Lady & the Tramp. Give yourself dinner time to relax and refuel! Enjoy your surroundings, try something new, and take your time! Your feet and sanity need the break.
While you’re at dinner, get back on that app and look to see what Fast Passes may have opened up. Crowd levels start to die off after dinner as little ones get tired. You may luck out with a great one you didn’t think you could get!
After dinner, you have another 2 or 3 hours to power through and get those last rides in! There are some that are really fun to go back to at night! We love going back to Pirates & Haunted Mansion at night for the spooky feel, Dumbo, Big Thunder Mountain, and 7 Dwarfs Mine Train are also really fun to go back to at night!
Finally, start heading towards the castle 30-60 minutes before the nighttime shows. That time span is totally dependent on where your endurance is at this point! Usually, we are about done, so we head back over to where we caught the parade, grab another snack, get out our light up toys, and enjoy the downtime while we wait for the fireworks.
The nighttime shows are not to be missed if you’re spending 1 day at the Magic Kingdom! They really are the perfect way to cap off your magical day!
Your exit strategy is another thing to think about! If you can tell your kids are totally over it, I’d start to sneak out before the grand finale! That’s how we normally roll. On nights like these, they will typically crash on the bus which makes for a good time trying to unload back at the hotel. If you think they can hang, slowly make your way out of the park via the stores and just meander a bit. The mass exodus will be much like the morning rush and you’ll find it will take just as long to get on the bus if you slowly make your way out or if you tried to race and end up standing around through a couple of busloads before you can go. Might as well enjoy the exit!
If you’ve played your cards right, everyone will have had a fun day, with minimal stress, and will be totally ready for bed when you get back to your hotel!
Are you ready to start planning that Disney vacation? Be sure to check out more Disney articles on the blog, and if you’re really ready to start digging in, visit my Facebook page and send me a message! I’m happy to provide you with a quote and help you book that magical getaway for you and your family!
Have you done the Magic Kingdom in one day? What are some of your best tips and tricks? Share them in the comments!Follow The Adventure