Seeing Cinderella’s Castle in the distance from the start of Main Street, USA is just as magical a view from a stroller as it is from an infant carrier or your own two (little) feet. But there’s a lot riding on a visit to Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, and if you’ve got a baby or toddler in tow, you’ve got more on your mind than just coping with crowds or wait times for rides. Luckily, Disney is very intuitive when it comes to parents’ needs, so while you still need to plan your day and also be flexible enough to deal with the unexpected, things like stroller accessibility, high chairs in restaurants, and change tables in restrooms are things you can cross off the worry list.
Magic Kingdom Basics:
At approximately 133 acres, Magic Kingdom really expanded in size with the recent addition of the New Fantasyland, which is now open but will have more new attractions opening up in the future. Magic Kingdom is comprised of six areas – Main Street U.S.A., Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.
When you first pass through the gates, restrooms, lockers, and wheelchair rentals are on the right. Stroller rentals are located under the right hand side of the bridge that the Walt Disney World Railroad goes over. Daily rentals for strollers (they are the molded plastic kind – good for toddlers and preschoolers but not suitable for infants or even older babies) are $15.00 USD per day for a single-passenger stroller and $31.00 USD per day for a double-passenger stroller. In case you misplace your stroller, replacements (hang on to your receipt!) can be found at Frontierland at the Frontier Trading Post, Fantasyland at Tinker Bell’s Treasures, and Tomorrowland at Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. If you need to rent a stroller for multiple days, Disney offers a length of stay rental ticket (at a reduced rate) for a one-time payment for as many days of rental you will need. When you enter a Disney park, show your receipt at the stroller rental location and you will be zipped to the front of the line. The multiple day stroller rental fee is $13.00 USD per day for a single stroller, and $27.00 USD per day for a double stroller.
Opening hours for Magic Kingdom vary, but if you stay at a Disney Resort you are entitled to “Extra Magic Hours” – where the park opens early or stays open late specifically for resort guests – great for early risers or night owls. You can pick up the pamphlet with the week’s opening hours as well as showtimes and character greetings pretty much everywhere in the park, or download the “Mobile Magic” or “My Disney Experience” app to your smartphone. And if you’re not from the US, don’t worry about data roaming, the smart folks at Walt Disney World have free WiFi at all their resorts and parks. It can be a bit spotty at times, as all free WiFi can be, but hey, it’s free – as are the Disney apps!
Getting Around Magic Kingdom
Disney Parks are probably the most accessible theme parks I have ever visited, so they are a breeze to navigate with strollers. In the different areas there are stroller parking lots where you’ll need to leave your ride before you check out some of the rides and attractions. Be aware that the Disney Cast Members frequently move the strollers around to keep the area neat and tidy, so don’t panic if your stroller is not where you left it. Some attach a balloon so they can see it from a distance. Nobody seems terribly concerned about theft, as you will see everything from Bugaboos to cheapie umbrella strollers (and you can buy a Kolkraft umbrella stroller at most Disney gift shops on resort for less than $60). While I don’t leave our camera or my wallet in the stroller when we park it, nothing has ever gone missing from our ride. If you’re concerned, a good idea might be to invest in one of those cute locks that you can put through the wheel – I would hesitate to actually lock it to Disney property in case a cast member needed to move it.
Now of course, depending on when you go and what time you arrive, Magic Kingdom might be very busy. Your best bet is to plan out which rides and attractions are must-dos for you, and aim to do those first. Convention dictates that when most enter a theme park they tend to go right. When we visit Magic Kingdom, we head left – to Adventureland. Our first ride of the day is almost always Pirates Of The Caribbean, although sometimes we don’t make it past The Magic Carpets Of Alladin without going on that one first. Find out which of your must-ride rides offer Fast Passes and grab those first as well. You will be given a time to return to the ride where your wait will be minimal to none. Dumbo is a good ride to do Fast Pass – even with the new Double Dumbo there is almost consistently a 60min wait to ride. Keep in mind that you aren’t able to get a new Fast Pass for a different ride until a certain time – usually until your time at the current Fast Pass ride has passed.
Magic Kingdom Rides
I’ve already mentioned Pirates Of The Caribbean and Dumbo – and they are classic Disney rides. And the beauty of Magic Kingdom is that there are SO MANY rides you can all go on as a family – even with a baby in your lap. But just because you can go on a ride with a little one, doesn’t always mean you should. The Disney rides are experiential, and magnificently so. But some are dark inside, the music and sound effects can seem loud, and some of the imagery can be quite scary for toddlers. Of course, you know your child best and what they can handle, but I will warn you that it is no fun sitting through a ride listening to your toddler cry. A quick tip is that a zip through It’s A Small World cures all – and the line for that may seem long but it always moves quickly.
Our favourite rides at Magic Kingdom are the aforementioned Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Magic Carpets Of Alladin, It’s A Small World, Dumbo, Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel, the Tommorrowland Speedway, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and the new Under The Sea – Journey Of The Little Mermaid. Rides with height restrictions are Splash Mountain (40″), Big Thunder Railroad (40″), Goofy’s Barnstormer (35″ – and always a super-long line for this and it’s a really short ride. Best to Fast Pass), Tomorrowland Speedway (32″ to ride, 54″ to ride alone), Space Mountain (44″), and Stitch’s Great Escape (40″). Rides that do not have height restrictions but little ones might find scary due to darkness/loudness/imagery are Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates Of The Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and The Many Adventures Of Winnie The Pooh.
If you’d like to go on a “big person” ride, ask the cast member at the start of the line up (or Fast Pass entrance) for a Child Swap pass. This will allow one of you to ride while the other stays back with your child, and then you can switch off so the other can ride. Combine this with a Fast Pass and you should be sailing through your grown-up rides.
Magic Kingdom Dining
One of the great things about Disney Parks is they don’t blink twice about you bringing in your own food and drinks. Which is great with a baby and younger toddlers, obviously, but also for you and your wallet and waistline. That said, however, eating at Magic Kingdom is as junk-y or as healthy as you want to make it. Lots of people scoff at the giant turkey legs, but if you figure you could probably feed your whole family from it plus some veggie sticks or fruit, and you’ve got decent food at a decent price. There are lots of Quick Service options – from hot dogs and french fries on Main Street, U.S.A., to the Mediterranean Salad at Pinocchio Village Haus (Fantasyland) that I actually really enjoy. Character dining is great fun but usually always must be booked in advance (sometimes MONTHS in advance), so have a look at The Crystal Palace and Cinderella’s Royal Table when you first book – same for dinner at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant. While it and Gaston’s Tavern are the newest additions to the Disney dining experience, the wait times tend to be longer than most since everyone wants to give them a try.
Disney is great with crowd control, so if the restaurants do seem busy, fear not. On very busy days you may not save a table in the restaurant if you haven’t already purchased food, so even though the restaurants were super-busy, we got a table no problem – the cast members will direct you. There are plenty of high chairs (the larger, open wood kind), and strollers are not allowed inside most restaurants.
The kids’ meals automatically come with carrots or grapes and milk, and if you would prefer a different (read: less healthy) side or drink you must specifically request that substitution. The restaurants do not have the means to heat bottles, but that brings us to the Baby Care Center…
Magic Kingdom Baby Care Center:
Each Disney Park has a baby care center, and the one in Magic Kingdom is located on the left as you walk towards Cinderella’s Castle on Main Street U.S.A. – it’s beside the First Aid Station. **Just outside the Baby Care Centre is a great photo op spot with lovely, unobstructed view of the castle – even if you don’t have a baby you should swing by here to snag that great shot!** The Baby Care Centre at Magic Kingdom is probably the largest one of the four theme parks, and inside there’s a nursing room, a large changing room, a washroom with small toilets for potty trainers, a feeding room with a microwave and highchairs, as well as a small selection of baby care items available for purchase. In fact, even the vending machines in the park’s restrooms sell a reasonably priced “diaper emergency kit” for sale. And although all the washrooms in Magic Kingdom are clean with change tables inside, a visit to the Baby Care Centre allows you all a bit of cool and quiet from what can be a bustling and stimulating experience.
Tips for Magic Kingdom With A Baby or Toddler:
•Plan your day ahead of time and plot out a few can’t-miss attractions and do those first. Don’t expect to cram everything into one day – you will feel cranky and rushed and will likely be disappointed. Walt Disney World will always be there, so missed rides or attractions are a good excuse to return
•If you’ll be visiting more than two days,to stay on resort at one of Disney’s properties, and get a Park Hopper option attached to your park tickets. The convenience of Disney’s transportation system, combined with the freedom to pop into a different park for the afternoon, for dinner, or just for the fireworks or a show can certainly make the expenditure worthwhile, and usually ends up saving you money.
•Take a picture of your kids in the morning of your visit, and make it clear to them (if they are old enough to understand) exactly what they are to do should they become separated from you. You can establish a meeting spot with older kids, and for little ones, finding a Cast Member who works at one of the shops or rides is the best course of action. The Cast Member will first contact Lost Children and register any information that they have, including the child’s name, age, location and a parent’s name, and then try to retrace the child’s steps and see if a meeting spot was established. Next the lost child will be taken to the Lost Children Center, which in Magic Kingdom is located next to the baby care center. Attach a tag or sticker your child’s clothing with your name and cel phone number on it, or these wristbands from Mabel’s Labels are a great solution as well.
•Know when it’s time to take a break – either to take off back to your hotel for a nap or even to just go for a ride on the monorail and back. The most resilient and laid-back kids can become overstimulated and/or overwhelmed, and taking a break to recharge and reset the mood will mean a more harmonious day for all of you.
•Character meet & greet times are available on the handouts, via Guest Services, and also on the Mobile Magic app. Before waiting in line for a character meet & greet though, make sure your baby or toddler will actually be excited to meet the character, and not freaked out. Kids react differently and at different times – my son was delighted to meet Chip & Dale and the princesses when he was only 20mos., but at 2-and-a-half was completely freaked out and would not go near any of them. Shortly before his 3rd birthday he loved the characters again, but I’m glad I didn’t wait for an hour in line for him to drop motionless on the floor to find out! You’ll see lots of kids with autograph books for the characters. Mine were too little to care about that, and drew in the books instead. The many parades offer a great chance to see everyone without line-ups or hassles.
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