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Disney World Orlando Florida - Magic Kingdom
Member Name: coco360
Disney World Orlando Florida - Magic Kingdom
Date: 31/01/09, updated on 03/02/09 (779 review reads)
Advantages: Too many to mention.
Disadvantages: Too few to mention.
A brief overview.
Approximately 17 million visitors pass through the Magic Kingdom's turnstiles each year; making it the world's most popular theme park. The park is encircled by the Walt Disney World Railroad and at its heart lies the iconic Cinderella Castle. Radiating out from this central hub are seven themed "lands": Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown Fair and Tomorrowland.
Main Street USA.
The gateway to the most prestigious theme park in the world takes many people by surprise. Instead of being met by lavish water-rides or sky-scraping roller-coasters, visitors to the Magic Kingdom find themselves delivered into the bustling main street of a small American town set in the early nineteen-hundreds. It is Disney's obsessive attention to detail that gives this somewhat prosaic theme park entrance its "wow factor."
The interiors and exteriors of the buildings on Main Street are all true to their period, as are the antique cars and fire-engines that pass them by. Whilst visually impressive, it is only when you begin to listen to the sounds of Main Street, that you begin to appreciate the steps Disney has taken to completely immerse its visitors in the Main Street experience. Take time to listen beyond the melodies of the barbershop quartet and the noise of the horse-drawn trolley as it clip-clops up the street, and you might just hear the work-shy students undertaking their 'Singing Lessons' or the sound of the ballet classes practised in Main Street's 'School of Dance.'
Ironically, the only thing that breaks the spell of this turn-of-the-century street is the fairytale castle incongruously placed at its far end.
If you bear to your left when you reach the hub at the centre of the park, your first port of call will be Adventureland. This section of the Magic Kingdom boasts five major attractions, (including the recently updated Pirates of the Caribbean,) and appeals to the budding explorer in us all. It is a mysterious land of tribal drums, exotic plants, tropical rivers and swashbuckling pirates.
I believe that no attraction embodies the spirit of Adventureland more than the Jungle Cruise; one of the few remaining rides that began operating when the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971. The attraction is a humorous boat ride along a selection of the world's most famous jungle rivers. The jungle steamer is piloted by a safari-suited Cast Member who delivers a very tongue-in-cheek commentary on the events that unfold around you during your journey. Whilst the attraction's audio-animatronics are undoubtedly dated when compared to that of 'Expedition Everest's' Yeti, for me it is the Cast Member spiel that makes the attraction a success. Their expert delivery of wet jokes in the driest possible way keeps me coming back for more.
Continuing around the park in a clockwise direction takes you to a small mining settlement in the Old West that is Frontierland. The land is themed to re-create the early eighteen-hundreds when cowboys rode the plains, propectors dug for their fortune and pioneers pushed ever further westward.
Visitors to Frontierland will hear the rumble of the runaway mine car as it careers around Big Thunder Mountain, and the "whooops" of the dancing girls spilling out of the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon. They should also prepare themselves for the sound of gunfire from the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade echoing off the clapboard buildings, and the crash of water as Splash Mountain lives up to its name.
Frontierland's adventure-seekers can take a raft across the Rivers of America to explore the fort and caves on Tom Sawyer Island. They can alternatively visit the newly refurbished Country Bear Jamboree; a foot-stomping hoe-down with a twist.
Whilst many visitors leave this land by following the dirt tracks that meander between the mesquite trees, those who find their cowboy boots ill-fitting might like to rest their feet for a spell by hopping onboard the steam trains that depart at regular intervals from Frontierland's station.
Liberty Square is built around a 138 year old oak called the Liberty Tree. The land's theming transports you back to Colonial times, when America struggled through its Revolution. This sense of American history is further reinforced by Liberty Square's Hall of Presidents; an attraction that invites you to meet life-like audio-animatronic versions of all 44 of the nation's leaders.
This land is also home to the newly-refurbished Haunted Mansion, where you are encouraged to climb on board a "doom buggy" and come face to face with 999 of the Magic Kingdom's "grim grinning ghosts", and the Liberty Belle paddle-steamer, which sails along the Rivers of America around Tom Sawyer Island.
Behind Cinderella's Castle lies Fantasyland. Whilst the land has a very medieval feel, its buildings seem to resemble those you would expect to find in a stylised Alpine village. Like Mickey's Toontown Fair, Fantasyland is aimed at a younger audience and the nature of its attractions reflects this.
Here you will find classic dark-rides like Snow White's Scary Adventures
and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Fantasyland also gives you the opportunity to find out what it is like to fly with Peter Pan and Dumbo the elephant. Whilst some visitors to this land may opt to ride at a civilised pace around Cinderella's magnificent Golden Carrousel, others may prefer to get in a spin by joining the Mad Hatter at his unruly Tea Party. Fantasyland's newest and most technologically impressive attraction is Mickey's PhilharMagic; a show-stopping, multi-sensory, next-generation, 3-D film like no other.
A word of warning. Fantasyland is home to the "It's a small world" attraction - with its infuriating song. If you choose to ride, please be prepared to carry the tune around in your head for the rest the day. Don't say you haven't been told!
Mickey's Toontown Fair.
Mickey's Toontown Fair is the newest and smallest of the Magic Kingdom's seven areas. It is positioned between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, but unlike the other lands is not directly connected to the park's central hub. Many visitors overcome this problem by taking advantage of Toontown's link with the Walt Disney World Railroad.
In Toontown you can have a look around Mickey and Minnie's homes and meet many of the Disney characters. You can also pay a visit to Wiseacre Farm and climb aboard the Barnstormer; Goofy's less than reliable crop-dusting plane. Like the rest of Toontown, this mini-rollercoaster is designed for a younger audience, but has great theming and is superb fun!
Despite being the "last" of the Magic Kingdom's seven lands, Tomorrowland is by no means its least interesting. Disney describes Tomorrowland as the "future that never was," and ironically cites past visionaries as its inspiration. This science-fiction influence is clearly reflected in the land's architecture, which has a real retro feel.
There is no better way to soak up the atmosphere of Tommorowland, than by riding one of its most under-rated attractions; the Tomorrowland Transit Authority's Blue Circle line. This futuristic high-level train ride provides a great way to briefly escape the hustle and bustle of the park, as it meanders its way through many of Tommorowland's attractions.
Tomorrowland is also home to many of the Magic Kingdom's biggest headline attractions, like Stitch's Great Escape and the iconic Space Mountain. Beneath Tomorrowland's whirling Astro Orbiter you will also be able to hone your shooting skills on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin, interact with the Monstropolis comedians at the Monsters Inc Laugh floor and jump behind the wheel of your very own race car to compete in the Indy Speedway.
The Magic Kingdom's sheer size (107 acres) makes it very easy to get lost in, so if it's your first visit be sure to pick up a free guidemap at the first opportunity. If not handed out at the ticket booths, they can be located in the entrance way under Main Street Station or at City Hall, which is positioned at the entrance end of Main Street (on the left-hand side as you enter the park.) These guides provide all of the basic information you need to make the most of your time in the Magic Kingdom. They detail the park's parades, concerts and attractions, its places to shop and eat, and give useful information about any special events that may be taking place. The guidemaps often come with a small 'Times Guide' pull-out section. This handy leaflet is regularly updated and tells you when you can expect special performances and entertainment to take place. It also provides information about the park's regular opening and closing times, and the alternative 'special' operating hours of specific attractions and restaurants.
Before you begin your "assault" on the park, you may also find it useful to agree on a place to meet up if any of your party becomes separated. Disney always suggests City Hall as an ideal venue to do this, but I personally think that the castle is a far more practical location. Unlike City Hall, the 190 foot tall pink castle can be seen from virtually everywhere in the park, and its central location makes it far easier to get to - no matter where you are.
Making the most of your time.
There are many strategies I have found useful to cut down the wait times at the Magic Kingdom's most popular attractions. Here are a few of them.
One of the easiest ways to save time in the Magic Kingdom is to tackle its super-headline attractions immediately after opening or just before the park closes. Another great time to experience the park's most popular rides is during traditional lunch and evening meals times when many families gravitate towards the Magic Kingdom's food courts and restaurants. At these times many of the park's attraction queues are noticeably reduced, so take advantage of this. Off-set your meals and eat at off-peak periods.
If you are intending to eat a sit-down meal at one of the Magic Kingdom's many restaurants, make sure you book your dinner reservation in advance. This can be done by calling Disney's Advanced Reservations team. This service is now available to all parks guests, irrespective of whether they are staying at the Walt Disney World Resort. You can make many dining reservations 90 days in advance. So if you wish, you can book all of your sit-down meals from home before you go!
Many of the Magic Kingdom's headline attractions offer the free 'Fastpass' facility. (Your guidemap will tell you which they are.) This system offers park guests the opportunity to ride attractions at pre-specified times with little or no waiting in line. To claim a Fastpass time-slot, you need to insert your entrance ticket into one of the Fastpass machines that are situated by your chosen attraction. The machine will then return your park ticket and also give you a Fastpass ticket with a time-slot printed on it. When your time-slot rolls around, you can avoid the regular queue by joining your attraction's dedicated Fastpass line. Then simply surrender your Fastpass to the Cast Member at the boarding area and you are in!
Whilst Disney states that each visitor can only have one Fastpass ticket at once, it should be noted that when your designated Fastpass time-slot begins, you then become able to claim a second Fastpass ticket. Knowing this fact gives added flexibility when planning your day.
Another thing to remember about the Fastpass facility is that every attraction has a specific number of each time-slot it can offer. In other words, if you leave it too late to claim your Fastpass ticket, you may find that they have all been used up and the regular line is the only remaining option. On particularly busy days this is an important consideration I have had to factor in to my plans.
If you are staying in Walt Disney World accommodation, you can take advantage of the 'Extra Magic Hours' program, which gives you the opportunity to spend additional time in the Magic Kingdom before or after its regular operating hours free of charge! This facility operates on specific days and enables you to experience what the park has to offer an hour before non-resort guests arrive and three hours after they leave.
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Summary: Give it a go. You won't be disappointed!
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