The big kahuna. The House of Mouse. The place where the magic never ends. That’s right ... it’s the third entry in our reviews of Disney World’s theme parks .... THE MAGIC KINGDOM.
(Since it has been a while, you might want to catch up on prior reviews-
Hollywood Studios Review
Overview of Disney
There really isn’t a lot to review, here. The Magic Kingdom is ur-Disney. This has it all- the nostalgia (It’s a Small World), the iconic images (Cinderella Castle), the iconic rides (Space Mountain), the iconic theme park food (turkey legs), the iconic Disney ending (fireworks over the castle). For better or worse, this is the Disney theme park experience.
As such, I can’t really review this park. You can’t review the Magic Kingdom, so much as acknowledge the foothold it has in the American psyche. For reasons to be revealed in the next post, I rank it slightly behind the next, and final, theme park, but it is the Magic Kingdom. If you are going to Disney World, you should go here. If you have small children, this is not a “should,” this is a shall. This is a commandment as powerful as Moses bringing down some tablets from the mountain.*
Just remember that everyone else knows this as well, making this the most crowded of all the Disney theme parks, chock full of strollers (you are guaranteed to get rammed at least five times while you are here, and every stroller has a special guidance system guaranteed to nail you in the back of the ankles) and, as the day lengthens and the children tire, the wails of disappointed and bratty kids.**
All of them. I kid, but only kind of. This is the park that has all of your iconic rides. That doesn’t mean that they are all the “best.” Space Mountain isn’t the best roller coaster in the parks. But you kind of, sort of, have to ride it. One recommendation is that you fastpass the Seven Dwarfs roller coaster ride- again, not the best roller coaster by any means, but its kind of cool, and usually has a three hour wait.
But all the rides here, pretty much, are musts. Small World? Sure, you know that at some point, the ride will stop for 10 minutes and your own personal vision of hell will ensue to the strains of “It’s a small world after all ...” but you still have to do it. Haunted House? The ride is much better than the movie. Peter Pan? Just as black-light-y as nostalgia requires. There are no bad choices; just long lines.
My recommendation? Don’t eat at the Magic Kindgom. If you’re staying for a while, leave the Magic Kingdom and park hop to a place with good food (either a resort or another park). The food at Magic Kingdom, for the most part, varies between terrible fair food and good fair food. Seriously, the turkey leg is going to look like an appealing option after eight hours. The Magic Kingdom is traditionally a food desert, and while they are slowly improving it, it is, in my opinion, the worst of the parks to eat at, and it is isn’t close.
That said, if you are going to eat here, I would recommend one of the following places. The first two require reservations:
Be Our Guest Restaurant. Do not plan on just showing up here; this is a “must” reserve. Far, far in advance. To be honest, this isn’t a place you go for the food. The food is ... okay. But the setting is spectacular. Truly impressive.
Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. Brand new, and the only good food in all the Kingdom. Impressively themed, albeit a little uncomfortable (with the whole pan-African and Asian “jungle” if you follow my drift). Still, this is where you want to eat, if you’re eating at the Magic Kingdom.
Columbia Harbor House. Even though this place is at the nexus of Fantasyland and Frontierland, right near Peter Pan and the Haunted House, it remains uncrowded for a Disney Restaurant, and if you are going to Orlando during one of the unseasonable months (approximately 12 months during an average year) this a good place to duck in and get some food.
If you’re going to Disney for the first time, you’re going to the Magic Kingdom. Full Stop. You cannot hope to understand the power of the Mouse; you must simply obey it.
*Here are my 12 Command.... *drop* *crack* .... 10 COMMANDMENTS!
**Which may be a bug, or a feature, depending on your disposition and level of evil.