Walt Disney World 101: A Guide for the Overwhelmed

Disney Over 50 101, Magic Kingdom

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Cinderella Castle

When most people picture Walt Disney World, they think of the Magic Kingdom. Cinderella Castle (it’s not Cinderella’s Castle) is the main icon for not only the park but also for Walt Disney World. The park opened on October 1, 1971, and it has been thrilling fans ever since. If you only have one day to spend at Walt Disney World, you’ll want to spend it at the Magic Kingdom, which is why this overview goes into a little more detail than the overviews of the other parks. Here are a few things that you should know about the most popular theme park on the planet, and its six lands.

Main Street, U.S.A.

When you first enter the park, you’ll find yourself on Main Street, U.S.A. It is designed to resemble small town America back in the early 1900’s. On Main Street, U.S.A. you will find plenty of shopping, there are stores lining both sides of the street. At the end you’ll see Cinderella Castle in all its glory. There are some fun character greetings in the area. Classic characters can often be found in Town Square (near the flag pole). Mickey Mouse greets inside Town Square Theater. In a separate line Tinker Bell can also be found in the same building. The Dapper Dans are a barbershop quartet who roam through the area, and you might run into the Citizens of Main Street. You will also find Main Street Vehicles in the mornings. You can ride in an old fashioned vehicle, which is a lot of fun if you’re feeling nostalgic. Main Street, U.S.A. is one of three stops for the Walt Disney World Railroad. If you’re hungry, you’ll find character dining, quick meals, full service restaurants, ice cream, and Starbucks. Main Street, U.S.A. is also the home of the Partners Statue (Walt Disney and Mickey) and the Sharing the Magic Statue (Roy Disney and Minnie). There is also a train station for the Walt Disney World Railroad on Main Street, U.S.A.

There are two must-do experiences on Main Street, U.S.A. The first takes place before the park officially opens. Main Street, U.S.A. opens one hour before the rest of the park. Head to the stage in front of Cinderella Castle a few minutes before rope drop for Let the Magic Begin. Mickey and some friends will welcome everyone and start the day in a magical way. The second experience takes place at 5:00 each afternoon. The Flag Retreat lasts about 15 minutes. The ceremony includes a trumpet fanfare, The Pledge of Allegiance, the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and other patriotic songs. A veteran of the day is presented with the flag after it has been lowered. It’s a beautiful tribute to those who have served.

Adventureland

The first left after you have walked down Main Street, U.S.A. will lead you to Adventureland. You’ll feel like you’ve traveled to a far off exotic destination such as the Middle East or the South Pacific. You will find some classic attractions for the whole family here. Rides include Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is a continuous show featuring Audio-Animatronics. If you’re visiting with your grandkids and they need to blow off some steam, take them to the Swiss Family Treehouse. Also in Adventureland is the live show Captain Jack Sparrow Pirate Tutorial. There is a meet and greet featuring Aladdin and Jasmine. You will want to stop by Aloha Isle and order Dole Whip, it’s a Disney Parks classic treat. If you enjoyed the corny jokes from the Jungle Cruise, make a reservation for Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen.

Frontierland

After you’ve walked through Adventureland you will most likely find yourself in Frontierland. This area celebrates the spirit of the American Wild West. Two of the three mountain thrill rides are found here; Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. For a slower pace take some time to explore Tom Sawyer Island. Country Bear Jamboree is a Walt Disney World opening day attraction that features Audio-Animatronics. There is a Walt Disney World Railroad stop in Frontierland. If you’re looking to eat there’s Tex Mex, chicken nuggets and other snacks, and cold drinks.

Liberty Square

Backtrack a little bit from Frontierland and you’ll find Liberty Square. There’s also an entrance to the left from Main Street, U.S.A., past the Partners Statue. In Liberty Square you’ll step back to Colonial America. This is where you’ll find Hall of Presidents, a history lesson that includes Audio-Animatronic figures of all presidents. For a different take on history catch The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History. The classic ride The Haunted Mansion is in the far end of the land. For a quiet adventure, try the Liberty Square Riverboat but be warned, it’s closed for refurbishment fairly often. Dining includes everything from Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings to funnel cake with fruit and chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Fantasyland

After you’ve left Liberty Square and head towards the back of the park you’ll find Fantasyland. This is possibly the most popular land in the Magic Kingdom. This is where you will find many of the classic rides, and it is also where you will spend a good amount of time if you’re on vacation with your grandchildren. Fantasyland is divided into three sections; Original Fantasyland, Storybook Circus, and Enchanted Forest. Arguably the most popular ride at the Magic Kingdom, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, is located in the center. In the original section you’ll find “it’s a small world”, Peter Pan’s Flight, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and much more. The attractions in Storybook Circus include Dumbo the Flying Elephant and the family friendly coaster The Barnstormer. Enchanted Forest is based on the animated Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Not only will you find rides for the whole family in Fantasyland, two of the most popular Walt Disney World Restaurants are there. Be Our Guest Restaurant allows you a chance to dine inside Beast’s Castle, while Cinderella’s Royal Table is a character meal that is located inside Cinderella Castle. There are also plenty of character meet and greets in the land.

Tomorrowland

If you continue to circle right you will next arrive in Tomorrowland. In spite of the name, Tomorrowland has a 1950’s feel to it. It offers a vision of the future from the past. The third mountain thrill ride, Space Mountain, is located in the giant white building towards the back. There are a few fun family rides here as well, including a chance for the little ones to drive, as long as they meet the height requirement. If anyone in your party wants burgers or chicken nuggets, you’ll find them (and indoor seating) at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.