1. Rope Drop!
Most Disney insiders will tell you that the single most important strategy for touring the World is: Never Miss Rope Drop. No matter how high the crowd level projections are for any given day, the rule of thumb is that you should be able to ride at least four attractions (with no wait) in the first hour. Sometimes you can ride quite a few more than four! Smiling, you’ll sail through the empty queue corrals, powered by the brisk wind of early morning rising and unparalleled advance planning (having booked your FP+ 60 days before you go).
If you have just one rope drop to devote to the Magic Kingdom, there’s no question that Fantasyland deserves those precious first hours. You’ll be able to visit nearly every attraction with very little wait. Once through the turnstiles, head straight up Main Street USA and straight through the castle. Prince Charming’s Carrousel will usher you into the heart of Fantasyland. But don’t stop at the carousel now – there’ll be a more strategic time for that later!
First thing in the morning, you’ll want to get your ride on – choosing attractions that will have long lines later – and for which you won’t have a FP+. It’s a good idea to schedule your first FP for about 10:30 a.m., since FP is generally unnecessary for the first one to two hours in a park. This “golden hour” (or two) time period can of course be longer or shorter, depending on crowd levels.
Mouseketip: If you want to really own the Magic Kingdom, beat the rope drop surge by booking an 8:00 a.m. breakfast (on a non-extra-magic hour day). Arrive at 7:45 a.m. and enjoy talking photos of Main Street USA and the castle with very few people in the frame. At Be Our Guest, you could grab a quick and self-indulgent breakfast of a cupcake and coffee and be out the door well before the rope droppers. Attractions won’t be available until 9:00 a.m., but you’ll have the chance to wander around a quiet Fantasyland and be first in line to board a Hunny Pot when Winnie the Pooh opens.
2. Strategic First Rides of the Day
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
This is a good ride to go on first – primarily because the wait will be long later in the day! But also because it’s very “Disney.” Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood are great company as you celebrate the start of a new day at the Magic Kingdom.
Mouseketip: Don’t miss Gopher wishing you “Happy Windsday” at the entrance or the painting of Toad handing over the property deed to Owl on the left wall in the second room. (Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride formerly occupied this spot.)
Mad Tea Party
Some strong Disney magic was poured into these eighteen giant-sized teacups and saucers. Grandma and grandpa may have photos of themselves on Disneyland’s version in the 1950s. Now you might be taking photos of your children having a spin of their own. The ride is strung with colorful paper lanterns overhead, just as in the chaotic Unbirthday Scene in ALICE IN WONDERLAND. (The details will be better appreciated if you watch this scene from the film before your trip!) If you’re motion sensitive, don’t let anyone turn the wheel in the middle of the tea cup!
Mouseketip: Have a look outside the ride at the topiary figures of Alice, the Mad Hatter, and the March Hare. You can spot the Dormouse peeking out of the giant teapot in the middle of the ride. He looks as though he’s been drinking something stronger than tea, just like in the film ALICE IN WONDERLAND!
Dumbo the Flying Elephant
The Storybook Circus area is an extension Fantasyland, occupying the real estate formerly held by Toontown, just beyond the Tea Cups. Here are two identical Dumbo rides, side by side, to reduce the long lines that were once the norm. Another great improvement is the indoor big top themed play area (with a climbing net and slides) that is part of the queue. A pager will let you know when it’s your turn to ride Dumbo.
Mouseketip: if one family member is waiting outside to take photos, be aware that your family could emerge from either doorway and might be riding on a Dumbo on the left while you’re watching for them to emerge on the right!
This small coaster does a quick climb, twist, drop, turn, and done! It’s over so soon (less than 60 seconds) that you may not have time to take in the theming. Goofy (known as the Great Goofini in Storybook Circus) has set up a little stunt plane show – but of course, the flight has cartoon-style mishaps — flying right through a wooden observation tower and a billboard (look for the outline of Goofy’s head and arms), then your biplane flies back to the barn. Barnstormer is a sentimental favorite for guests, since it’s the first time on a roller coaster for many young children. (35 inch height requirement.)
Making the most of the morning hours, you want to pop back into Fantasyland proper by way of the Ariel shortcut – making a stop under the sea on your way, if time permits.
Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
Don’t rush through the queue – this is low tide at the entrance to an underground cavern below Prince Eric’s castle. There are lots of surprises for guest to find. Look at this stuff! Treasures untold!
Hop aboard a coral-colored clam shell for a tour of Ariel’s watery domain. You’ll find all your favorites from THE LITTLE MERMAID here: Ariel, Prince Eric, Sebastian, Flounder, Scuttle, King Triton, and Ursula the sea witch (almost eight feet tall) – joined by Conga-line fish, dancing turtles, and peering eels. Watch for the octopus babysitting eight tiny seahorses — one for each tentacle.
3. FastPass+ #1 Time, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m.
You’ll want to arrive later in the one hour window if you’re finding that stand-by lines are remaining short – in which case you may be able to fit in all the attractions listed in step #2. At the latest, arrive at your FP with at least five minutes to spare!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s off to the mine you’ll go with your first FP+ of the day. This little roller coaster is one of the most recent additions to Fantasyland – and definitely its most popular. FP+ selections for the Mine Train are often snapped up 60 days in advance (resort guests are entitled to the 60 day window, while other ticket holders have a 30 days window). Lines get very long before lunch time and stay long throughout the day, so this is an attraction you want to ride with a FP+.
These mine carts are unlike any coaster you’ve tried – they rock back and forth, side to side, as the mine cart banks around tight turns. You’ll see the seven dwarfs working in the mine (“where a million diamonds SHINE”!) before plunging down the drop facing the Beast’s Castle. A video of this moment is automatically captured as part of the Photopass system. (You can view it whether you purchase Memory Maker or not.)
Mouseketip: at the end of the ride, don’t miss Snow White and the dwarfs dancing through the cottage windows on the right side of the track. And as your train pulls forward to the platform, glance back to see the wicked witch with her apple hiding outside the cottage door – she’s easy to miss!
4. The Interval Between FastPass+ #1 and #2
Enchanted Tales with Belle
This short show offers kids the opportunity to take part in the story and enjoy a photo op with Belle. The queue takes the form of Maurice’s cottage and workshop. A magical archway opens to transport you to the Beast’s Library.
Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
This beautiful carousel began life in 1917 at Belle Isle, Michigan, and was the largest in the world. Lovingly refurbished, it now has 90 ornate, uniquely carved wood horses (and a chariot) as well as a series of hand-painted vignettes from Cinderella’s story above the horses.
Mouseketip: one horse has a golden ribbon tied to its tail – this is Cinderella’s personal steed! It’s neck has a garland of roses.
it’s a small world (which Disney spells with all lower case letters!)
This is “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed” featuring “The Most Difficult Song to Get Out of Your Head”! Audioanimatronic children (300 of them in all!) from around the globe, set in bright colored collages, will serenade you (in French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English) during the ten minute boat ride through the “Seven Seaways Waterway.” You’ll see Scandinavian milkmaids, Parisian Can-Can dancers, leprechauns, a winking Cleopatra, Don Quixote, a platypus trio preparing to lob eggs at your boat (where’s Perry?), and a South Seas surfer.
Mouseketip: watch the digital “farewell screens” at the end of the ride – you may see names of people in your family as RFID readers pick up names from the Magic Bands you’re wearing.
5. Time for FastPass+ #2, 12:45 – 1:45 pm
Peter Pan’s Flight
Wait times for this attraction routinely climb to 90 minutes and longer by noon. A FP+ is in order.
The ride vehicles are flying pirate ships, and things only get more epic when you sail out over a miniature scene of London by night. Don’t miss Big Ben and the tiny moving cabs driving across Tower Bridge below you. You’ll see the Darling children silhouetted against a full moon as you enter Never Land with its mermaids, Lost Boys, and pirates.
Mouseketip: try to spot the wood blocks on the bed in the nursery in the first scene – they spell out PETER PAN.
This show is a wonderful place to retreat from the heat, put your feet up, wait for your third FP+ to ripen, and watch a world-class 3D adventure for 12 fun-filled minutes!
Donald Duck is about to hijack Mickey’s orchestra and take the whole Concert Hall along on a wild ride through Simba’s Serengeti, Aladdin’s Agrabah, and Peter Pan’s peregrinations. The classic Disney music, familiar characters, and 3D effects make for a heartwarming show.
You just did virtually all of Fantasyland, and you did it before lunch. Reward yourself with an Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake dessert at the Liberty Tree Tavern – then use your third FP+. Schedule your third FP+ for mid-afternoon. You could visit Anna & Elsa or the nearby Tomorrowland Speedway or Space Mountain. After using the third FP+, be sure to get on the MDE app and book a fourth FP+ on your mobile device — you no longer need to stand in line at a FP+ kiosk. Or you might prefer to go back and enjoy your resort – you just had one heck of a well-strategized morning!