Friday, March 23, 2018

1 Day At Magic Kingdom


This was easily one of my favorite days of vacation. People thought we were crazy to only have one day at Disney World's Magic Kingdom, but let me tell you, it can easily be done! Especially if you keep it simple. Matt and I were told years ago by a friend that works at WDW that the perfect age to take kids to Magic Kingdom is 8 or 9 because they can for sure keep up with the hustle and bustle of Disney. We knew our youngest may not be able to fully enjoy the parks, so we figured our best bet was to keep our first Disney experience short and simple.

Well, it was simple and it was short in that it was only one day of theme parking, but we turned it into a 14 hour day because we were all having a great time! We stayed at the Red Lion Hotel not far from the Disney property (it was an extremely easy drive too). At the advice of our hotel concierge, we opted to drive to Disney World instead of taking the hotel shuttle. This was one of the best pieces of advice we listened too. Parking was only $22 for the day, plus they had free shuttles to and from the parking lots into the parks.  We went early to park (before the park opened at 8 a.m.) and while many people were doing the same, the parking lots weren't crazy at all. Parking was a breeze and we had the peace of mind knowing that we could leave whenever we wanted, instead of having to wait for the scheduled hotel shuttle pick up times.

While we had a crazy travel day the previous day (read about our time in Atlanta here), the minis shot up out of bed and exclaimed, "it's our Disney day!!" They ate a quick breakfast at the hotel (filled with protein, yogurt, and fruit) then we drove to Disney. Our goal was to be there when Magic Kingdom opened at 8 a.m. We didn't know how crazy the parking situation would be so we left early. By the time we got parked, hopped onto the shuttle to get on the ferry to take us to the park, and got in line to get our tickets scanned, the park opened its doors. Perfect timing!

Driving into Disney. We saw all of the signs for the resorts, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. I got a little giddy as we got closer to Magic Kingdom. While I have been to Disneyland (many years ago), this was my first time at Disney World.

Sitting in the shuttle that takes you to another shuttle area. From there you can choose three different ways to get to Magic Kingdom: a ferry ride across the lagoon (our choice because it was less crowded), by bus, or monorail. We took the monorail back to the parking area later that night, but I think we all liked the ferry the best.

The first views of Cinderella's castle from the ferry! I think I was the one that let out a squeal!

It was on the ferry that I noticed the middle minis sock choice for the day. They were his brother's socks.

Our first stop inside the park was to see the legendary Mouse. Our oldest wasn't really into it, but the other two were sooo excited. Elizabeth ran right up to him and gave him a hug.

Tip: Be sure to have your MagicBands or cards ready to go. You won't just need them for the ticket scanner, you'll be using them throughout the day as well. This is how the park sends your photos to you and how you check in for your Fastpasses. Also, Fastpasses is one of the coolest things if you use them correctly!

Our very first ride: It's A Small World.

We had booked a Fastpass for this ride, but didn't wind up using it because there was no wait for this ride. Instead, we cancelled that Fastpass, hopped on the ride, and booked another Fastpass for another ride later in the day. Our cards were linked to our My Disney Experience account, which made changing Fastpasses, ordering food, and checking ride wait times simple. These three things alone really helped our day run smoothly and quickly.

Meeting Ariel was at the top of Elizabeth's and Harrison's list. After this character meet and greet, we didn't do many others because the rides were more important to the kids.

The Little Mermaid rides was amazing. I'm still in awe when I look at pictures.

Bathroom breaks right outside of Gaston's Tavern.

The minis loved all of the activities to do while we waited in line. Thankfully, we never waited in lines for very long, so they didn't get to do a lot of the things. They did have fun playing in the Winnie The Pooh garden though.

Elizabeth was distraught that we couldn't go up in Rapunzel's tower or "Belle's castle." Since we only had one day to enjoy Magic Kingdom, we decided to skip the park's restaurants (including Be Our Guest in Belle's castle) and just do quick service food instead. Be Our Guest restaurant is on the list for next time though so we don't disappoint a second time!

After the Haunted Mansion, we took a break. I had packed protein bars, applesauce, nuts, bananas, and water bottles. Using reusable water bottles is the way to go because Disney has refilling stations, so we never once paid for drinks while we were in the park (I also brought small bottles of Coke and Diet Coke for Hubs and myself. I knew we'd need an extra treat for ourselves).
I couldn't pass up Mickey ice cream bars and sandwiches because, c'mon, classic Disney World experience.

This is so silly, but the Swiss Family Treehouse was what I was most looking forward to and loved.

The view from the Treehouse

Our Jungle Cruise captain was hilarious!

Halfway through our day. We rested (obviously) and ate at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. They had wonderful options (including a healthy and fresh rice and black bean bowl), plus we were able to plug our phones into an outlet while we ate to charge.

The entire reason we went into Tomorrowland was so Max and Harrison could build their own Star Wars lightsaber. We also heard some jokes on the Laugh Room Floor courtesy of Monsters Inc. characters. Tomorrowland was my least favorite thing about Magic Kingdom, but it was still a lot of fun.

We wanted to be able to see the parade but we were also in need of another break at this point. We picked up hot dogs and french fries for the kids and sat in an outdoor picnic area and watched the parade while the kids snacked. It was away from the crowds and gave the minis some much needed stretching room.

I'll be honest, my first thought when I saw the prices of the hot dogs was, "nine freaking dollars for one hot dog??!!?" But then Max's chili dog came out and it was huge! While I was happier with the prices at Pecos Bill, none of the food at Disney disappointed. 

Mickey's Dance Party in front of the castle was really fun. 

The kids and Hubs wanted to go on the Tomorrowland Speedway. I had no desire to go on that ride or wait in the 35 minute line (it wound up being less time than that). Instead, I stood in line for Starbucks (otherwise known as our evening pick-me-ups along with cake pops for the minis) and noticed people sitting and saving places along Main Street and the Castle area. I realized people were already holding spots for the fireworks I did it too.

Perfect view for the fireworks show! Actually, the minis owe their awesome seats to the college kids who moved out of the way and propped the kids up on a ledge so they could see over everyone. It really was a magical night. The most magical part of it, for me, was how the minis kept giving me hugs and telling me, "thank you mommy for bringing me here."

Just as the light show and fireworks were beginning, it started to rain. We really didn't notice how hard until I looked through pictures and saw all of the sprinkles on our jackets.

Our last ride for the night was the much anticipated Splash Mountain. The boys and I were up front and got soaked! I didn't realize that I let a naughty word slip as we went down, but it's kinda evident in the picture that the ride snaps.

We took in a couple more shows (Hubs, Max, and I really enjoyed Hall of Presidents) and then called it a day after fourteen hours at Magic Kingdom. We all left extremely happy, tired, but in excellent moods.

Three of my favorite things from the day (although the entire day in general was pretty much my favorite thing): I was AMAZED at how helpful, happy, and knowledgeable every single Disney employee was. There was not one question we asked that they didn't know the answer to. I was also amazed at how helpful, happy, and friendly all of the other visitors were. If someone saw us trying to get a selfie or get that perfect picture, someone would always come up and ask us if we wanted them to take the picture for us. Everyone was wonderful throughout the entire day, from the workers sweeping up Main Street to the group of college kids who gave up their spots for fireworks so my kids could have a better view. Matt and I left Disney in amazement.

We also loved the phenomenal customer service from ride operators. The minis really wanted to go on Aladdin's Magic Carpets, but Matt nor I do great on spinning rides (this is a thing that I've developed only in the past four years or so). When we asked if the kids could ride alone, we were informed that kids under 7 MUST have someone over the age of 14 ride with them. I said ok and told my husband I'd do this one, but to have a ginger ale or something waiting for me. Upon hearing that, one of the ride operators told us to come to the front of the line. "We'll get this over as soon as possible for you," he said as he ushered us right onto the ride. I was floored and thanked him about a dozen times. He also asked how I was as soon as the ride was over (as did another employee). Ironically, it was the smoothest ride I'd ever been on and I had no issues whatsoever. Simple things like that can really make this mom's day!

The other thing we were amazed to learn about was what I'll call "random choosing." Employees will randomly pick people out for Fastpasses to rides, VIP seats for shows (think the parades, fireworks, dance parties), and for other specialties throughout the park. We experienced the Fastpass choosing. We had used up our morning and midday Fastpasses (we still had some to use for nighttime and most of the rides were out of Fastpasses) and as we came to Big Thunder Mountain rollercoaster we saw there was an hour wait time. Now, between our Fastpasses, arriving at the park early, and general luck, we hadn't waited in line for longer than 20 minutes for any ride. I'm told this is pretty amazing for Disney World (especially on a Saturday during spring break), but this was our experience the entire day. We talked it over with the kids and decided that we could do an hour wait time. As we started to get in line, an employee walked up to us, asked if we had a Fastpass for this ride (we said no obviously), and handed us two paper tickets for a Fastpass to go on the ride. We had less than a 4 minute wait in line AND it was Elizabeth's first rollercoaster experience.

There were many, many experiences like these throughout the day which made our first family Disney experience that much better. When we first left for our trip, my husband especially was not looking forward to the day at Magic Kingdom and I couldn't believe how much I had paid for tickets (or if the kids ask, how much Santa paid for tickets). At the end of our Disney Day, we were already talking about "the next time we visit...." and completely understanding why Disney charge what they do for their tickets. I'll be honest, after experiencing that day and thinking about it over and over, I would gladly pay more for the tickets because they're worth it.