Disclosure: We received two one-day passes to Walt Disney World, and purchased two additional passes ourselves. All opinions are 100% our own.
I’ve been in a kind of a funk, a post family vacation hangover. Don’t you just hate those? A first world problem I know, but still, how can you NOT be bummed after your first family vacation here:
A week and a half ago we returned from our family trip to Florida. I grew up there and the kids who are true Pacific Northwesterners have had a lot of travel to the Sunshine State over the years. We even got to travel back in June for a spontaneous visit to see the grandparents. But we had never taken them to any of the Disney parks.
The kids were SO thrilled to have a full week’s vacation with Daddy, and the chance to visit Disney World for the very time was icing on the cake.
Growing up in Tampa, I have many memories of the Magic Kingdom. Dad used to have a golf tournament over there now and then so we’d head over, stay at a hotel and take the tram into the park. My last memory was high school grad night in 1991, and I actually had not gone back to Walt Disney World since. I can’t believe it had been so long!
After Florida I lived in California so I did have a chance to visit Disneyland in my adulthood, but to me Disney World is the creme de la creme of amusement parks. I think I’m a bit biased or spoiled by my childhood memories because one of the things I adore about the Florida parks is how you truly disappear into a magical land. Over 2,000 acres of Disney and only Disney. So I knew that even though we now live on the West Coast, the first Disney park I’d want to take my kids to was the Magic Kingdom.
It’s funny actually. As I talked to the kids about the park, I didn’t realize how much I was overselling the princesses. Ellie loves the Disney princesses, and there are so many to meet at Disney World that I guess that’s all he heard me talking about. Perhaps he wasn’t fully listening though, you know kids!
Whatever the cause, on the morning we got up early to head over to the park Ronin was adamant he did NOT want to go. He was tired from our cross country flight the day before and in his 7-year-old mind we were just going to some dumb place to meet princesses. haha.
We arrived and headed to Main Street and he was hungry. I wanted him to really enjoy his day, he was still kind of grumbling, so we decided to get him a treat. Yeah, rice crispy treats at 9:30am, this will be a good day, I promise my boy.
Of course the Disney magic began pretty quickly. Dancers showed up right on the street as we came out of the shops, and Ellie was mesmerized. I wonder what Ronin was thinking at this point? He does hip hop himself and enjoys watching dance, so he probably thought it was pretty cool.
Then a giant parade of floats with the Disney characters came our way as we waited to meet our friends. The kids got so excited, and previously grumpy Ronin was sold!
We headed for Cinderella’s Castle (which sadly was closed for construction) but of course we had to take the obligatory family photo in front. We miraculously got a shot without anyone else in the background. A Disney miracle. There are certainly crowds in summer, don’t let this photo fool you.
We met up with one of my dearest friends from college Denise and her kids, who joined us for the day. They live locally and have season passes. It was so fun to spend the day together and have a local “expert” guide us in our adventures.
Fastpass and My Disney Experiences App
But honestly the thing that helped to make the most of our 12 hours at Disney was Fastpass. You can either use the Magic Band bracelet (seen there on Denise’s wrist) or a card given at entry. Using the super handy “My Disney Experiences – Walt Disney World” app on my iPhone, we scheduled 3 free Fastpass “appointments” in advance. (If you’re staying at a Disney Resort you can book them 60 days in advance or with the purchase of park tickets 30 days in advance.) At Denise’s recommendation, we booked two princess visits and one ride for earlier in the day. Once you complete all three of your Fastpass reservations, you can then go to kiosks throughout the park, see what other attractions are available and book one Fastpass at a time from then on.
Another Disney miracle, after our first three were finished, we went back to book another and discovered meeting Elsa and Anna was available. Seeing them had been booked weeks in advance and I couldn’t believe it! It was the one thing Ellie really wanted to do above all else and we had just been considering waiting in the long line. What a huge score!
Check out our Disney character visits here in my Part 2 feature. They were truly was magical….but in the meantime:
First Visit Favorites: Ronin, Age 7 & Ellie, Age 5
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
Ronin’s favorite ride by far was “Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin.” We did it twice, once with Fastpass and we waited in line for another turn. Both kids loved it, and John and I did too. Very fun. My kids are not really into fast or scary rides of any kind so this was just perfect for us.
Buzz Lightyear is a video game within a ride. You’re charged with firing lasers at targets as you ride along to try and defeat Zurg. Each rider/player collects points for hitting the targets. As gamers, this was right up our ally, especially Ronin. My friend Denise is actually super good at this game. She was pretty close to a top score! Ronin collected over 100,000 points because he hit Zurg and was so happy. Oh yes! We captured Zurg.
First Visit Buttons
It was also at this point that Denise mentioned that the kids could get buttons for being first time park visitors. They were super excited to collect their button show above and here’s a close up on Ronin. (Need your “1st Visit” buttons? Just ask at any attraction and a Disney cast member will be able to help you.)
Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
Another favorite ride was “Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid.” This is a cute one for the kids. Ellie loves Ariel so she was super happy on this ride and Ronin enjoyed it too. It’s a gentle ride for all ages.
it’s a small world
I dove back in time when we visited nostalgic “it’s a small world.” It was just as I remembered it from childhood except a lot more bright and sparkly. This was one of my favorites for sure, I think I got a little misty-eyed.
We had a ton of fun at the Tomorrowland Speedway, which of course is a classic. Perfect for my kids, although we had to share the driving responsibilities because it was a little hard for them to steer. Ellie tried being in the drivers seat but I had to lean over and help the whole ride.
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor
In the afternoon it rained so we took in a few shows like “Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor,” which was super funny. Ellie laughed out loud the entire time. Definitely worth a visit.
Other Classic Shows
We also stopped by the “Enhanted Tiki Room” for a really cool animatronic bird show and the classic “Country Bear Jamboree,” which was EXACTLY like childhood.
Disney’s Electrical Parade
We stayed the full day, a full 12 hours on our one-day Disney adventure, ending with Disney’s Electrical Parade. I’m so glad we caught it. What an awesome show. Here are a few highlights.
Cinderella’s Castle at Night
And lastly, a lovely view of the castle at night all lit up and shining. Such a lovely sight. So sad we didn’t get to go inside.
To be perfectly honest, we did not have enough time to see and do all that we wanted to in the one full 12-hour day. We wished we could have had more days, but sadly could not this time around. We absolutely plan to go back and soon. John’s already been joking that we’ll be back in February, which seems like a great month to go (just after the holiday rush but before spring break!) We’ll see if it actually happens that fast, but I can promise you one thing, we will be back. The kids are at perfect ages to travel well and truly enjoy the park and all it has to offer.
What an awesome trip! What’s your favorite attraction at Magic Kingdom?