Magic Kingdom Must-Do’s: Essential Experiences for Preschoolers and Young Children

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Views of the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.

There is one moment that I will always remember from our first family trip to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

With two four-year-olds and a seven-year-old, our family of five arrived early in the morning at the park — and it was pure magic. The air was cool, and we emerged from the tunnel under the Walt Disney World Railroad and found ourselves transported to turn-of-the-century Main Street, USA, with its adorable shops and storefronts.

As we approached the park’s sparkling Cinderella Castle, we saw Mickey and Minnie Mouse waving to us from the castle. My kids were over the moon. As my little ones enthusiastically waved back, I knew that this Disney World vacation was going to be something they’d never forget.

Here’s what we learned on our family trip, and everything you need to know to make your trip to the Magic Kingdom extraordinary.

The Under The Sea - Journey of the Little Mermaid at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: David Roark, courtesy of Disney

Visit Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom

In Fantasyland, we started with “it’s a small world,” a timeless boat ride featuring more than 300 singing audio-animatronic dolls in traditional costumes from cultures around the world. My kiddos were enthralled.

We flew over London aboard a pirate ship to Never Land on Peter Pan’s Flight and climbed aboard giant shells for Under The Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. But the attraction my four-year-old daughter loved most was Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (formerly Cinderella’s Golden Carousel): a spectacular carousel that features 90 wood-carved elegant horses.

Our seven-year-old opted for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (her first roller coaster) with her dad, while her younger siblings and I happily rode the carousel again. While we didn’t make it to Dumbo The Flying Elephant, The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, the Mad Tea Party or the junior rollercoaster The Barnstormer, those are at the top of our list next time we visit the Magic Kingdom.

Adventures await at the Swiss Family Tree House at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
The Swiss Family Treehouse at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Visit Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom

In tropical Adventureland, we swayed to the music of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, a musical revue that transported us to a Polynesian paradise filled with singing birds, flowers and Tiki statues. We embarked on a campy river cruise on a canopied tramp steamer on Jungle Cruise, and set sail on a swashbuckling voyage on Pirates of the Caribbean.

My kids’ favorite adventure of all was the Swiss Family Treehouse, a self-guided climbing tour of a spectacular treehouse in a giant tree inspired by the Disney film Swiss Family Robinson. The views from the six-story-high treehouse summit are incredible, and my children enjoyed scampering up and down the steps and pretending they lived there. We walked through three times.

We soared on a thrilling carpet ride on The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and took an ice cream break at Aloha Isle for DOLE Whip, the pineapple and vanilla soft serve that has a strong fan following at Disney.

Statue of The Beast at Be Our Guest Restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
The Beast at Be Our Guest Restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Dine and Meet Disney Characters at the Magic Kingdom

Back in Fantasyland, we took a much-needed lunch break at Be Our Guest Restaurant, housed inside the Beast’s enchanted castle.

The Beast came through frequently to check on his lunch guests. We dined in the majestic Grand Ballroom, and my children enjoyed exploring the other dining areas in the castle, including the West Wing (complete with the Beast’s enchanted rose) and the chandeliered Rose Gallery. We dined on French-inspired cuisine, and for dessert, the kids were able to “paint” and decorate their own edible Chip-themed dessert cups.

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If quick service dining is more your speed, grab a bite at Casey’s Corner on Main Street, U.S.A, and continue down the street to the Town Square Theater to meet Mickey Mouse. A highlight for us was meeting Princess Tiana at Fantasyland’s Princess Fairytale Hall, where cast members took our photos and made the experience extra special.

SheBuysTravel Tip: For fans of Winnie the Pooh, The Crystal Palace on Main Street, U.S.A., is the spot for character dining with all of the friends from Hundred-Acre Wood. Just make sure to make dining reservations ahead of time, since the restaurants with character dining can get busy.

Preschoolers can take pictures and Conversing with a bear in Frontierland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
Conversing with a Bear in Frontierland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Find Kid-friendly Rides and Experiences at the Magic Kingdom

There are so many rides at the Magic Kingdom that are great for young kids.

In Tomorrowland, the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover offers a breezy tour aboard an elevated tram. The Tomorrowland Speedway brings the chance for kids to drive their own race car, while Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin offers a neon battle with Buzz Lightyear’s arch-nemesis Zurg from Toy Story 2.

In Frontierland, a visit to Tom Sawyer Island is a must. Traveling by log raft to the island, kids can explore the wonders of the island as Mark Twain imagined it, complete with old mills, suspension bridges, secret caves and a frontier fort.

In Liberty Square, the famous Haunted Mansion ride is a little dark and spooky, but the ride itself is slow-moving and the ghosts are friendly. We ultimately decided to save it for our next visit, though I think my seven-year-old would have enjoyed it.

SheBuysTravel Tip: While Disney offers Rider Switch — the chance for adults to go on a ride one at a time while the other waits with young children, without having to wait in line again — we didn’t feel the need to. Most of the attractions at the Magic Kingdom don’t have a height requirement, meaning that we could ride most of the rides together as a family.

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The Magic Carpets of Aladdin ride at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

How to Skip the Lines and Get the Best Photos at the Magic Kingdom

Since the Magic Kingdom has an abundance of kid-friendly rides, I will say it now: Lightning Lanes are worth the money. Lightning Lane entry allows you to bypass an attraction’s line and join a separate (much shorter) line for certain experiences. Some Lightning Lane entrances can be purchased through Disney Genie+ service, while others can be purchased individually.

However you buy them, Lightning Lane access will allow you to skip waiting in long lines — something that made our Disney experience much better when traveling with small children.

Another service that improved our experience at Disney was renting strollers for our kids. While we somehow made it through the Magic Kingdom without strollers, we found that we definitely needed them by the time we got to the other Disney parks (EPCOT, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom) in the days that followed. We ended up renting two double strollers, which allowed us to push around the three kids (and our backpack) without complaint.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you want great photos of your Disney vacation, Disney PhotoPass is a must-do. The service allows you to have professional photos taken by photographers throughout Disney’s theme parks, and the Memory Maker option allows you to pay one price for all of them. Disney’s MagicBand+ made this especially easy, allowing each photographer to simply scan my band to have the photos instantly appear in the My Disney Experience app on my phone.

Views of the Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.
Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Photo credit: Linnea Bailey

Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Details

Disney’s Magic Kingdom is located near Orlando at 1180 Seven Seas Drive in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, 32830.

The park is 30 minutes by car or charter bus from either the Orlando International Airport, the Orlando Brightline station or the Orlando Amtrak station. Parking is free for guests of Disney resort hotels (and select annual passholders); all other vehicles will pay a daily parking fee that starts at $30 per day.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re staying onsite at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, you won’t need a car to get to the Magic Kingdom. It’s a huge perk of booking one of the on-property Disney Resort hotels like Art of Animation, where we stayed. Transportation via bus, water taxi, ferry and Monorail is complimentary, with private Minnie Van transportation available via Lyft in a whimsical red and white polka-dotted “Minnie” van (for a nominal fee).

We didn’t drive at all during our trip; we took a Brightline high-speed passenger train from our home in South Florida to the station at the Orlando International Airport, then took the Mears Connect charter bus service to our Disney resort hotel (and then the reverse on the way home). The experience was seamless.

Linnea Bailey is an award-winning journalist based in South Florida. Her recent freelance work can be found in Southern Living, The Palm Beach Post, Florida Weekly, art&culture magazine, The Palm Beaches Blog and more. A former newspaper reporter, she now owns a communications company in West Palm Beach. Linnea is an active member of The Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), the North American Travel Journalists Association and the International Travel Writers Alliance.
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