I’ve become the go-to person for all of my California friends (most of whom have had at least one visit to Disneyland) planning visits to Walt Disney World so I thought I would compile a list of my tips for how to make the most of a vacation as a Disneyland veteran.
We’ll start with Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is the most similar to Disneyland so Disneyland vets might be tempted to skip it but there are several special things about Magic Kingdom that are worth a full park day. Below I outline which attractions are must-dos, which can be skipped, and which are good to do if you have time or the must-dos have really long wait times.
- Plan your 3 FastPass+ ahead of time (60 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney hotel, 30 days if not)
- Plan your meal reservations ahead of time (180 days in advance if you’re staying at a Disney hotel)
- Magic Kingdom is much bigger than Disneyland so you’ll be walking much farther between attractions
Attractions To Do (Not in any order)
- Splash Mountain
So many WDW veterans claim Splash Mountain is their favorite ride and I never understood why because I never liked Disneyland’s version but WDW’s actually makes sense and has some unexpected additions that make it a much better ride. Look out for the train up above in the last scene!
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
The interactive queue on this is fabulous but the FastPass+ makes you skip a lot of that. The ride itself is family-friendly but is an interesting blend of classic dark ride with animatronics and roller coaster. It is worth experiencing, but try to do it with the least wait – right before the park closes, during Extra Magic Hours, or first thing in the morning.
- Big Thunder Mountain
This also has a pretty awesome queue with lots of interactive elements (use hand sanitizer after playing!) and is just as exciting as Disneyland’s version.
- Space Mountain
This is nowhere near as exhilarating as Disneyland’s Space Mountain but it has charm and it is interesting to experience the original version
- Enchanted Tales with Belle
Because I have yet to write a Science of Disney post on this attraction, this still is probably the most magical attraction to me because of the magic mirror. Seeing little kids participate just embodies Disney magic and if an adult in your party participates, it’s a good memory too. This is the only free way to get a picture of Belle in her yellow dress. Also, it’s unique to WDW.
- Haunted Mansion
With more of a New England flair, WDW’s version has the best queue of all and has some unique show scenes. Soak it all in!
- Carousel of Progress
This used to be at Disneyland and was designed by Walt Disney so it is a must-do in my book. Great place to sit down and relax and potentially take a nap.
Also a Disneyland original, this is much faster-moving than you might expect. Great to ride at any time of day but try to ride it when there’s less than a 30 minute wait (which is most of the time).
- Country Bear Jamboree
This is unlike anything at Disneyland, unless you saw the version at Disneyland way back in the day. Nothing will prepare you for Big Al.
- Jungle Cruise
The jokes are different at night and there’s a temple that is different from Disneyland’s version. I’m biased because this is one of my favorite attractions.
Characters To Do
- Mickey Mouse in Town Square Theater
This is one of the most magical things about WDW. Don’t watch YouTube videos beforehand or you’ll ruin it.
He is much easier to find in WDW than in Disneyland and seeing everyone else interact with him makes the line fly by. Try to show up at least 15 minutes before the times listed in the app because a queue does form ahead of time.
- Anastasia and Drizella (and if you’re lucky, Lady Tremaine!)
These characters are listed in the app and can be found near the arches behind the carousel. They are crazy and very entertaining.
- The Fairy Godmother
She isn’t usually listed in the app but meets just behind the castle near the path to liberty square. All of the videos on YouTube make her seem delightful and it is a really unique character interaction.
Entertainment To Do
- Happily Ever After
This really is spectacular if you have a good view of the castle. Try to find a great spot at least 1.5 hours before or twenty minutes before for a less-good spot.
- Festival of Fantasy Parade at 3:00 pm
I never understood the appeal of parades until I saw this one. Every aspect is beautiful and the dragon is very impressive.
- The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History
This is really unique to Liberty Square and has a plethora of puns. Check the app for showtimes.
Bonus To Do
- Visit the Tangled-themed bathrooms in Fantasyland near Haunted Mansion
- Check out the Big Top Circus behind Fantasyland (roughly where ToonTown is in Disneyland) for some unique character meet-and-greets and some good souvenir shopping
- Try a citrus swirl at Sunshine Tree Terrace – it’s like Dole Whip but orange dreamsicle flavored
Things to Skip (unless you have young kids; not in order)
- Winnie the Pooh
It is pretty much the same as Disneyland’s version. But the Hundred Acre Goods shop at the exit has lots of Winnie the Pooh merchandise if you love the characters. There is an interactive queue that is cool though.
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
It’s a lamer version of Astro Blasters that looks outdated and has the guns attached to the carts.
This is a roller coaster intended for kids like Gadget’s Go Coaster in ToonTown.
- Mad Tea Party
This is the exact same as Disneyland but covered.
- Tomorrowland Speedway
This is a lamer, less-themed, smellier version of Autopia.
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
This is the exact same as the Little Mermaid ride in California Adventure but it does have a much more fabulous queue if you wanted to see it.
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
Your standard carousel but surrounded by strollers.
- Aladdin’s Flying Carpets
Like Dumbo but with a chance that you’ll get squirted with water and with longer lines.
Things to Do Time-Permitting (listed in order of most must-do to most skippable)
- Astro Orbiter
I absolutely love riding this at night because it is so high and has spectacular views, so is much better than Disneyland’s version. Only ride two adults per rocket if you’re intimate with the other person. Skip if you don’t like heights.
This is such a classic and is way more fun as an adult than you might think. The lines are usually much shorter than at Disneyland.
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
I found this 4D theater to be quite charming and nostalgic and Disneyland doesn’t have it.
- Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
If you like corny jokes or improv and need a place to sit and relax, this is perfect. Also unique to WDW.
- Peter Pan’s Flight without a FastPass+
There is an interactive queue that has a lot of magical elements. If you don’t care about this or the line is longer than 60 minutes, get a FastPass+ or skip it because it isn’t worth it otherwise.
- it’s a small world
This is such a classic but is much less impressive than Disneyland’s version because it is inside. If you’ve ever wanted to walk near the facade, check it out. Look for your name on the signs in the last room.
- Pirates of the Caribbean
I am always very underwhelmed by WDW’s version. They redid the “We Wants the Redhead” scene in February 2018 so that’s the only redeeming feature.
- Swiss Family Treehouse
This has a great view at twilight; you can actually get a shot overlooking Main Street and is the version that Disneyland had before it became Tarzan’s Treehouse.
- Walt Disney World Railroad
This does not have the same dioramas as Disneyland’s but it is kind of cool to see behind the scenes.
- Enchanted Tiki Room
This is almost the same as Disneyland’s. It is a good place to cool off with a short wait if you need to.
What are your must-dos? Anything you disagree with? Let me know in the comments below!