Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses: The Magic Kingdom

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Photo - Disney

Photo – Disney

Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses with a focus on the most magical park of them all: the Magic Kingdom.

The Magic Kingdom Park first opened on October 1st of 1971. While inspired by the original Disneyland Park, the Magic Kingdom was bigger, featured a whole new land known as Liberty Square, had a much larger castle as its centerpiece, and was only the start of the ultimate vacation kingdom which is Walt Disney World.

The Magic Kingdom is home to six themed lands: Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Main Street, U.S.A. In 2012, New Fantasyland opened at the Magic Kingdom and, in addition to the classic Fantasyland offerings, now has areas themed after the Beauty and the Beast film, a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster, Storybook Circus with two Dumbo the Flying Elephants, and the Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction housed in Prince Eric’s Castle!

So let’s start with the Magic Kingdom’s best points, shall we…

Strengths:

USA_MainStreetUsa_KendraIconic Attractions – When you think of Walt Disney World, attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Mad Tea Party, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and “it’s a small world” is usually what comes to mind. They are synonymous with the Walt Disney World experience and an expression of that Disney magic. Therefore, there’s rarely ever a question about whether or not visit the Magic Kingdom because its iconic attractions make it a must-do, a luxury that other Disney Parks have never been quite able to equal.

Timeless Appeal – While Walt Disney never saw the completion of the Magic Kingdom, his fingerprints are all over the park. It was inspired off of the original Disneyland Park in regards to the general layout, the number of similar attractions, a castle at its center, and the Main Street, U.S.A. entry. In short, so much of what makes up the Magic Kingdom came from the mind of Walt and his ideas and projects had that timeless appeal, meaning that they transcend time and generation and fads. It truly is a rare thing in today’s rapidly modernizing world for attractions thirty years old or more to still fill queues, such as Peter Pan’s Flight and the Jungle Cruise and Space Mountain. It’s also rare for characters who are decades old to still have merchandise on the shelves and lengthy lines for autographs, but that is certainly reality at the Magic Kingdom. Basically, this park never gets old! That fact is one of the Magic Kingdom’s greatest strengths and it’s why people will keep passing through the turnstiles, year after year, and bringing their kids and then their grandkids to relive it for themselves and to introduce it to the next generation.

©Disney

©Disney

Seasonal Events – The Magic Kingdom is the best park to visit for a special event or holiday celebration at the Walt Disney World Resort. Each fall and winter, the park sets aside certain nights for ticketed events such as  Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The grandest New Year’s fireworks display, Fantasy in the Sky, also takes place at the Magic Kingdom and is my personal favorite fireworks display of the year. Disney’s Celebrate America – A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky is truly spectacular, and patriotic, and will permanently ruin you when it comes to local Fourth of July fireworks display for life! Finally, the Magic Kingdom is also where the 24- Hour Celebration has been held the past several years, a relatively new event where guests can spend a full twenty-four hours in the most magical park of them all with characters, dance parties, special treats, and exclusive merch. While not widely advertised, the park also knows how to acknowledge other holidays, such as Easter or Valentines Day, through special treats and character outfits and more.

Magical Variety – In order to be a theme park, a park must have a theme. The Magic Kingdom, however, has a variety of themes. I mean, the park is themed after the Old West, fairy tales, the future, the exotic jungle, early America, and even a turn-of-the-century small town! Basically, this park packs it all in so there’s something for pretty much every audience. That’s definitely a park strength, don’t you think? The Magic Kingdom also offers more attractions than any other Disney World Park. In fact, here at Touring Plans, we have Ultimate Touring Plans for those crazy enough to attempt to experience all the attractions at the Magic Kingdom in a single day and a Hall of Fame for those who have been able to actually accomplish it! If that wasn’t all when it comes to variety, the Magic Kingdom also has three parades, an impressive number of quick service and table service dining experiences, dozens upon dozens of shops, and a vast multitude of characters to meet!

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup from Be Our Guest

Counter Service Dining – I’ve complained in past articles about the mediocre menus of certain counter service spots around Walt Disney World, and while the Magic Kingdom has a few that I prefer to skip, the park also has a number of my go-to spots. At the top of my favorites list is always Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square. I love the seating, the location, the atmosphere, and, especially, the menu which ranges from traditional chicken strips to lobster rolls and some of the best Clam Chowder I’ve ever had! Next, there’s Sleepy Hollow Refreshments which also happens to be in Liberty Square and is home to special waffle sandwiches. The Magic Kingdom also has Casey’s Corner on Main Street, U.S.A., which does offer traditional theme park food like hot dogs and French fries; but trust me, it’s soooo good! Of course, my list wouldn’t be complete without the most incredibly themed restaurant on Disney property, the Be Our Guest Restaurant. It’s a counter service restaurant for breakfast and lunch, but then becomes a table service restaurant for dinner. Note: The Be Our Guest is currently the only Magic Kingdom counter service restaurant which takes reservations and they can be difficult to get without advance planning.

AlohaIsleThe last counter service spot on my favorite’s list is Gaston’s Tavern, and it really does look like the inside of the tavern in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast film. Apart from its immersive atmosphere, Gaston’s is where I go for a giant cinnamon roll breakfast after I’ve grabbed a Starbucks coffee at the Main Street Bakery. But wait! I know I said that Gaston’s is the last on my favorites list, but I can’t go without mentioning Aloha Isle over in Adventureland. While Aloha Isle is more of a snack stand than a counter service restaurant, it’s still listed as a counter service online so technically it counts! You see, Aloha Isle is the only place in the Magic Kingdom, and one of the few places on Disney World property, to get a cult-favorite treat: the Dole Whip! Guests who haven’t been to the park recently show know, however, that Aloha Isle has moved from its original location across from the Swiss Family Treehouse to behind the Magic Carpets of Aladdin.

©Disney

©Disney

Live Entertainment – The Magic Kingdom is definitely the Disney World Park for parades, and it doesn’t just offer one but three! Festival of Fantasy is the daily afternoon parade and features a fire breathing Maleficent dragon and some of the most fantastic floats I’ve ever seen. The nightly parade, the Main Street Electrical Parade, is a classic and absolutely charming. Then there’s the Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! Street Party which takes place a couple times per day. Fortunately, parades are just the start of the Magic Kingdom’s live entertainment! The park also offers the iconic Dapper Dans, the Dream Along with Mickey show at Cinderella Castle, the Main Street Trolley Show, the Citizens of Main Street, Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Tutorial, and the Magic Kingdom Welcome Show which greets guests first thing in the morning, and that’s only the start. After all, I haven’t even talked about the characters yet! My personal favorite characters to meet with at the Magic Kingdom are the Tremaine Family from Disney’s Cinderella who can usually be found in Fantasyland, Tiana from The Princess and the Frog over in Liberty Square, and several times I’ve seen Peter Pan running to and from a photo area at Peter Pan’s Flight in Fantasyland.

Weaknesses

skipper canteen

The World Famous Skipper Canteen!

Table Service Restaurants – The Magic Kingdom does offer several fantastic table service restaurants. For starters, there’s Cinderella’s Royal Table located inside of Cinderella Castle, as well as Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square, the Crystal Palace on Main Street, U.S.A., and the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland. Then there are some okay restaurants, such as Tony’s Town Square and the Plaza Restaurant, both of which are on Main Street, U.S.A. But really…that’s about it. Now that may sound like a decent amount of restaurants to choose from, but here’s the problem. Cinderella’s Royal Table, due to its location and the fact that it’s a character meal, is very expensive and difficult to get reservations for if you don’t book well enough in advance. Be Our Guest is also very difficult to get into as well. This means that I really have only two possible options for a memorable restaurant-style meal at the Magic Kingdom if I haven’t booked reservations months in advance, and those two options are Liberty Tree Tavern and the Crystal Palace as Tony’s and the Plaza, again, are just okay and not always worth the splurge. Fortunately, I think Disney noticed this and recently opened the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, themed after the classic Jungle Cruise restaurant in located in Adventureland; but still, I wouldn’t complain if another restaurant was in the works or maybe an expansion of one of the park’s more popular establishments?

Walt Disney World monorail

The monorail can take you more places, but not everywhere.

Removed Location – Of all the parks at Walt Disney World, the Magic Kingdom is located the farthest away from the rest. In fact, if you look at a map of Walt Disney World, you may be surprised at just how removed it is from the rest of the resort. This is why I try to allot extra travel time when hopping on a bus to the Magic Kingdom, or use the Monorail when park hopping over to Epcot. This is why the splurge on a Magic Kingdom Resort can be worth it for some guests; but they too may encounter the transportation hurdle when traveling to the other Disney World Parks. Anyway, the Magic Kingdom Park is also removed in regards to parking. Unlike other theme parks, the parking lot is not near the entrance but rather across a lake! Yes, guests who drive to the Magic Kingdom must park at the Transportation and Ticket Center and either take a Monorail or a boat to the park. That travel time is something you should plan for as well, especially if it’s a busy day. Now some guests may not see the fact that you have to cross the Seven Seas Lagoon as a park weakness, and in some ways, I would agree with them! I kind of like the fact that the Magic Kingdom is sort of removed from the world and you have to come to it and not the other way around. It makes it even more special. Also, that Monorail or boat ride from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the park entrance helps guests to decompress from hustle and bustle and only heightens their anticipation! All in all, the park’s removed location may be a weakness in regards to the ease of reaching it, but possibly a weakness that serves a purpose? Let me know what you think on this one.

Worst_TomorrowlandSpeedway_gloverTomorrowland – Of all the lands at the Magic Kingdom, I feel that Tomorrowland is the weakest and therefore a park weakness. The land has always been a problem, and not just at Walt Disney World but also at Disneyland as well. After all, how do you keep a land fresh and exciting when the future is constantly changing? The Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland has a retro-futuristic style these days, which I think works pretty well and looks great at night; however, some of the attractions and décor are lacking in comparison to the other Magic Kingdom lands. While I know some guests love the Tomorrowland Speedway, I have never felt that it had a great theme, any originality in comparison to similar attractions at other theme parks, or was even that futuristic. Secondly, there’s Stitch’s Great Escape, which is probably one of the most hated attractions at Walt Disney World simply because it’s just not great but stays open year after year. I love competing with my group on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, but the attraction is outdated, especially when compared to Toy Story Midway Mania over at Hollywood Studios, and many of the triggers are currently broken. Finally, I can’t think of a single place in Tomorrowland that I actually go to eat at on purpose. I do love the PeopleMover, Space Mountain (if they would replace the soundtrack and bring back the asteroids), and the Carousel of Progress, but the rest of the land is need of an overhaul in order to stand shoulder to shoulder with the other Magic Kingdom lands.

How Crowded Was Disney World Last Week?

How Crowded Was Disney World Last Week?

Crowds – As this park is synonymous with the Walt Disney World experience, the Magic Kingdom is typically the busiest park. During the most crowded times of the year, such as Christmas and New Year’s, the Magic Kingdom may have to even limit the number of guests coming in when it nears capacity. If you’re looking to avoid such crowded dates during your next trip, be sure to take a look at the Touring Plans Crowd Calendar. Also, the Magic Kingdom is home to some of the worst bottlenecks at Walt Disney World, particularly in Fantasyland between Peter Pan’s Flight and “it’s a small world.” Tomorrowland is another space where the human traffic jams are common, as is Main Street, U.S.A.

IMG_3209

by Erin Foster

Lack of Thrill Rides – Now this weakness is a matter of opinion; and honestly, I’m a little on the fence about it myself, but I’m listing it so that you can hash it out for yourself. Okay, so some guests complain that the Magic Kingdom doesn’t offer many attractions for thrill-seekers and is mostly for kids; and to some degree, that is true. The majority of the attractions in the Magic Kingdom Park are on the tame side so that all members of the family, young and old, are able to enjoy it. But here’s where I disagree. The point of the Magic Kingdom is to be a place where all members of the family can enjoy time together. Secondly, there are several attractions which I consider to be thrill rides, such as Splash Mountain with its 5-story drop, Space Mountain which still makes me scream each time I ride, and even Big Thunder Mountain Railroad which, while mild in comparison to most coasters, is still surprisingly quick and intense at points!But still, I can’t think of a single attraction at the Magic Kingdom that gets my pulse pounding quite like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or Rock n’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios, or even Expedition Everest at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. I also think that it wouldn’t hurt the Magic Kingdom to possible add something for older kids, teens, or fellow thrill junkies like myself, as Splash Mountain was the last semi-intense ride experience that was added to the park. I know some may think that the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train counts as a thrill ride, being a coaster and all, but the ride experience itself is so tame that I must disagree. Again, let me know what you think about this one. Weakness or no?

The good news is that I believe Magic Kingdom has more strengths than weaknesses, and did you really think I would say anything different? Honestly, this park was difficult when it came to categorizing its strengths and weaknesses because it is, after all, the Magic Kingdom and I almost felt like I was committing sacrilege! I also felt a little divided on whether certain expressed weaknesses were actually weaknesses and that’s why I want to hear from you. What is your opinion of my list of Magic Kingdom Park strengths and weaknesses? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a strength or weakness to add to the list?

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Posted on January 10, 2016

25 Responses to “Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses: The Magic Kingdom”

  • The travel from the TTC across Seven Seas Lagoon really isn’t a weakness. It *IS* definitely a reality that needs to be planned into one’s day, but as you hint in the article, there’s a good reason for it. It provides a transition from the mundane world where we have to do laundry and pay bills to a world where magic happens. I prefer the monorail to the ferry, and aside from the time difference, I think that’s part of the reason. The monorail is completely different to anything I experience in my normal life, at least in the US.

    From the moment we pass under the gates on the drive in, we’re surrounded by various things that set the stage and let us know we’re in a different place. I think that ride across or around the lagoon is like the overture. The play hasn’t quite started, but it’s a taste of what’s coming.

    • by Savannah Sanders on January 10, 2016, at 9:57 pm EDT

      RosieC, thanks so much for commenting! I love what you said about the ride across the lagoon to the park being the overture. So well put!

      • You’re welcome, and thank you! I was a little worried that I’d left too much squee everywhere. I feel very strongly about the monorail, since even before I’d ever been to Disney World. Forty years after the fact, I can still feel all of the frustration of my not-yet-nine year old body when my mother compared the lines at the TTC and announced we were going on the boat. During one of my favorite trips as an adult, we were staying at BLT, and my preschooler and I did the circuit every night to unwind before going to bed. It’s my favorite Disney attraction and the last we take on every Disney trip if I can manage it.

        More to the point and if I recall correctly, Seven Seas Lagoon and the trip around/across it were deliberately put there as directed by Walt himself in order to provide that buffer from the rest of the world, and I agree. If I walk over from BLT or take a bus, even from another place on the property, I never quite feel like I’m at Magic Kingdom, at least not the same way.

  • Lack of thrill rides is a major drawback for me and my family. I have been to MK twice: once in 199 with a bunch of teens on a school trip, and once with my wife and two sons aged 10 and 9. The latter trip we saw everything in the Unofficial Guide’s adult touring plan in 1/2 and didn’t feel any need to revisit any attractions. That was not the case at EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, or our favorite park, Hollywood Studios. I know a lot has changed over the past 7 1/2 years [sheds tear over DHS changes], but lack of thrill rides at MK doesn’t appear to be one of them.

  • I agree that the lake at MK does not seem like a weakness to me…. until I go to Epcot or DHS. When I can simply walk quickly to the gate versus riding the ferry over, it makes me wish MK didn’t have the lake. However, when I am at MK, I really don’t care that I have to cross a lake to get there, as long as I get there!! I am on the fence about that one too!!

  • I actually enjoy Stitch’s Great Escape! But that may be because I love Stitch as a character. I must admit that the seats are really uncomfortable.

    Oddly I found most of the rollercoasters quite thrilling. Possibly because I hadn’t been on one in a year and it was my first day in the parks? The bumps in Space Mountain and Big Thunder always make me cling on for dear life!

  • I like the idea of parking across the lagoon in theory. You leave your mundane vehicle behind and board a futuristic-ish monorail or a nostalgic ferry to whisk you away to your adventure. In practice, it’s kinda a pain. Park your car and walk to the (rather uninspiring) TTC. Stand in line. See monorail leave because there are too many people in line in front of you for you to make the first train. Board the second monorail. Arrive at MK! Stand in line to get bag checked. Stand in line to get to the gates. And then you get in. What’s doubly bad is when it is time to leave. Instead of being able to whisk the kiddos away before they have a meltdown because you had Wishes FP+ you weren’t giving up and made them stay up too late, you get to leave the park, just to stand in line. Like Christin said, it’s not bad until you go to DHS or EPCOT. (Or go to Universal and stay onsite!)

    • by Savannah Sanders on January 10, 2016, at 10:06 pm EDT

      Erin, I so agree about the TTC. It is uninspiring, isn’t it? Plus, you’re right about it being worse at the end of the day, particularly with kids in tow. There needs to be a FastPass to the parking lot! Still, even so, I’m willing to bear it just for the Magic Kingdom’s sake.

  • by Trisha Johnson on January 10, 2016, at 3:27 pm EDT

    My biggest complaint about Magic Kingdom is the crowds. You are so right about the bottleneck in Fantasy Land! As far as the commute from the TTC to the park gates, I consider that both a strength and a weakness. The ferry and monorail should be considered attractions themselves, especially when riding during not so busy times of day, but the extra time is a bit of an inconvenience, especially when leaving the park after it closes.

  • I agree with the dining options being limited. We were lucky enough to have dinner at Be Our Guest and it was simply amazing! I agree and disagree regarding Tomorrowland being a weakness. Yes some of the attractions are outdated, however, the overall atmosphere of the land is incredible, especially at night. I do feel like I am going back in time about 40 years and then looking into the future but that gives it some charm and nostalgia. I love the background music of Tomorrowland as well as the Space Mountain soundtrack. It is my favorite ride in WDW and my favorite land in MK. Also, we stopped in Cosmic Rays for lunch much and it was ok…kind of cool but very busy. I prefer Columbia Harbour House for that reason…and the food is better at CHH. I totally agree that MK needs more dining options.

    I know this was probably a difficult article to write because it’s so hard to critique something that is so good to start with. The Magic Kingdom is indeed magical in so many ways. More thrill rides would be cool, but I don’t think they really fit in with what MK is all about. We stayed on property and took buses everywhere so getting to the park was a non-issue for us. Thanks for writing this…it was fun and I look forward to your articles on the other parks.

  • I really think the Magic Kingdom resorts should be considered for dining options. Great choices and fun! Ohana, Kona, Whispering Canyon, and character meals like 1900 Park Fare, Chef Mickey’s. Plus various counter service and signature dining are only a monorail or boat ride away.

    • by Savannah Sanders on January 11, 2016, at 9:39 am EDT

      Tammra, excellent points about Magic Kingdom Resort dining options. Honestly, the resorts are usually where I prefer to go for a nice meal too if I’m at the Magic Kingdom for the day. Thanks for commenting!

    • We usually do Hoop De Doo on a MK day. The boat from MK goes straight to the restaurant practically.

  • Thanks for the interesting article– it really made me think about the Magic Kingdom! I agree with your take on Tomorrowland. The Tomorrowland Speedway needs to go to make room for a more futuristic immersive ride experience. Also, Tomorrowland has never had good food– how about a modernist Signature Dining option offering molecular gastronomy?

    Finally, I guess I’m in the minority but I have always wished that Disney’s other theme parks had lakes separating them from the parking lots. The slow journey to the Magic Kingdom helps me relax and leave the “real” world.

    • by Savannah Sanders on January 11, 2016, at 9:37 am EDT

      Brian, thanks for commenting! So glad you found the article interesting and so glad someone else agrees that the speedway needs to go. The space is valuable and I think Disney could really do something amazing with it. I also agree that the journey across the lake does help guests relax, so it may be more of a strength than a weakness after all.

  • I think the lack of thrill rides is by far the biggest weakness at MK. I’d say they have about 1.5 thrill rides at the park, with Space Mountain (tame but still a thrill ride) and Splash Mountain counting as a half. Would it kill them to have one legit thrill ride. Something like Everest or Rock n roller coaster? It would really make the Magic Kingdom a complete park if they could add that one major thrill ride.

  • Right now I feel like the lack of thrill rides is a positive for our family. DS2 can’t ride thrill rides so we skip DHS all together because it is mostly thrill rides. However, we are able to experience almost everything together as a family in MK, which is exactly what Walt built the park for, families to have fun together.

  • Just came back from a week long trip to WDW where my wife and I and our two kids, DS12 and DD7 visited all four parks. I have some mixed feelings on your take on Tomorrowland. I agree with you on the Speedway and Stitch’s Great Escape. But the overall feel of Tomorrowland at night is amazing. I purposely put off going into Tomorrowland until after dark solely because of the way it lights up. Astro Orbiter spinning over head, the Peoplemover, etc. Some of the other lands at night just feel too dark and like they’re just counting down the time until closing whereas Tomorrowland seems to burst into life.

    In regards to thrill rides, I’m kind of ok with MK not having ones like Everest or Rock n Roller Coaster. MK means more of a family experience to me and the rides reflect that. I did ride 7 Dwarfs for the first time this trip and came away underwhelmed. I’d place it along with Splash Mountain. But whereas Disney took the log flume idea and blew it up to epic proportions they seem to have failed with 7 Dwarfs. Even with all the hype about the free swinging mine cars. while riding it I really didn’t notice it swinging all that much.

  • I don’t think the MK is the place for big ticket thrill rides. It is a place families can enjoy together, families with young children. For teens it is over to the parks with the thrill rides. MK is so crowded already and bringing in another demographic including young adults and teens just for thrill rides would, IMO, push the crowd level over the top. DHS and AK already have roller coasters and thrill rides for the older rider.

  • Table Service Restaurants – I totally agree on this one. Not much to choose from. The ones that are good (which are few) are difficult to get into. This is an easy fix. Disney KNOWS how to do really fantastic Table Service restaurants. The rest of WDW is testament to that. There should be an over-the-top, incredible TS Restaurant in every single land of MK including Main Street USA. Put one in Tomorrowland and that will help with TL’s curb appeal. Plus, having more (and higher quality) TS restaurants will help somewhat with crowds as it will pull many people off the “streets” of MK.

    Removed location: I too both love and hate this. It SHOULD have given the option to have plenty of land for future growth of MK. I really wish they would’ve had the foresight for that and didn’t build the auxiliary non-park buildings so close to MK; leaving room for future expansion. I do love the secludedness of MK. I think it plays into the magic. I absolutely enjoy both the boat and monorail rides across the lake. The sun shimmering on the 7 Seas Lagoon, the illustrious Grand Floridian in the distance, the birds flying near the boat. The monorail whizzing by quietly with its futuristic highway in the sky look as it breezes into the Contemporary Resort. Ahhhhh. So magical. BUT… omg. The blasted and dreaded and arduous task of getting back to my freakin car after a long day at the park and my feet have had it… fighting through the crowds to get onto the monorail or boat. Waiting in lines. And the 30+ minutes just to get to my car. Yeah, that part really stinks. Funny how that same magical journey coming into MK becomes not-so-fun going out LOL.

    Tomorrowland: Oh boy. Don’t get me started. When I was a child and visited Disneyland and a teenager and visited Epcot… WOW!!!! As a self-proclaimed nerd and sci-fi enthusiast, I LOVED living in that fantasy world of the future. The high-tech look and feel of everything. Touch screens, vivid colors, futuristic looking technology, sci-fi music and imagery, interactive attractions, holographic projected people walking around on main-frame computer consoles. Coolest thing ever. But now, aside from the awesome iconography at the front of the land, TL is just kinda blah. I mean, Sonny Eclipse! An alien lounge singer that stinks. This ain’t Chuck E Cheese. Its WDW for crying out loud.

    Theming can go a long way. I understand the issue with fast-paced change in the technology around us and trying to keep ahead of it in a land that is supposed to be about the future. BUT, it wouldn’t take much to add some high tech theming to the TTA (which has much more capacity than it currently serves and would remove crowds from below if done right) and also add some theming to the Speedway. Here’s an idea. Work w/ a Tesla or Chevy Bolt sponsorship to put in solar to generate power and charging stations and electric cars instead of those noisy, non-futuristic, smelly, nasty, old-school cars. Then have futuristic looking touch screens in the electric cars w/ Tesla or Chevy logos. And the lien queue could have a little touch of Test Track 2.0 (not the design lab part but the stuff before it).
    I’ve never even been in the Stitch attraction. Ditch that one and use the space for something amazing… like an awesome TS restaurant. Agreed on the Buzz ride. It has great potential. Refurb it w/ some new tech like the TS Mania ride.
    TL used to be my favorite land. Now its my least favorite.

    Crowds: Agreed. It’s definitely the most crowded. Understandably so. It IS Walt Disney World to most people.. especially 1st time guests. It is the most magical. It has, in my opinion, the most ridable attractions of all the parks…right now.
    I’ve addressed how I think using better and more TS restaurants would help a little w/ crowds. I think keeping the park open longer in the evenings, but extending the extra magic hour to 3 hours in the morning, would do wonders for guests staying on WDW property.
    I do believe that the new projects (Star Wars land, Toy Story land, Pandora) in the 2 current half day parks (AK, HS) will make them both whole day parks AND more attractive to visit more frequently for guests. This should help balance out the crowds a little from MK over to HS & AK. I don’t think the Frozen Norway attraction is going to do much for increasing attendance at Epcot. Epcot is a whole different topic on weaknesses LOL.

    Lack of thrill rides: I’m not sure this is a really big issue. This is WDW. Not six flags or even Universal. So it may not attract as many teens / 20 somethings looking to blow off a day and set their hair on fire. As a father and grandfather, I’m ok with that LOL. That being said, I know there are plenty of thrill seekers in older adults and even the young children. And having an extra E-Ticket thrill ride (with its own longer lines) would certainly contribute to reducing crowds on the “streets” of MK. And adding a thrill ride to Tommorowland could certainly help its low rating among fans. However, adding a couple of new E-ticket attractions to MK would likely attract even MORE guests to an already crowded park. So, be careful what you wish for.

    Personally, Splash, Thunder and 7 Dwarfs mountains are thrill enough for this grandpa. So, I can’t complain. I wish I could Space Mountain. Loved it as a teenager, but riding in the dark really makes the motion sickness kick in now… so no can do :(

    All-in-all though, like you said, its really hard to critique MK. Its by far my favorite park. And it does feel kinda wrong to pick on it.
    Thx for the blog.

    • by Savannah Sanders on January 11, 2016, at 6:41 pm EDT

      Kevin, I so enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Magic Kingdom! You had a good point about the problem of adding more thrill rides to the park, it would make it even more crowded and I especially liked your view on Sonny Eclipse! Thanks for commenting.

  • Overall, a well-thought out list. Truthfully, in comparison to the other Disney parks, and other theme parks in general, Magic Kingdom has few weaknesses. It’s the closest thing there is to a perfect park. (And I’m a cynic who can be very critical of the other parks).

    My very limited weakness list:
    — Lack of mature table service restaurants. You have Brown Derby at DHS. You have lots of regular restaurants at Epcot. At MK, you mostly have over-priced character dining at table service meals. On the flip side, you can get excellent dining with a quick monorail ride to 1 of the monorail resorts.
    — Nitpicking and ride specific — Carousel of Progress desperately needs updating, with the “present/future” being years behind! It’s a classic attraction, slightly educational. It’s actually a great “filler” attraction in the middle of a hot day. But it needs to be regularly updated every 10 years or it becomes stale.
    — The entire FP+ system. Okay, it’s not Magic Kingdom specific. But the effect of FP+ seems most profound at Magic Kingdom. Rides that used to be walk-on most of the day (Small World, Haunted Mansion, as examples), suddenly see 20-50 minute lines much of the day. Plus the need to plan your day 60 days in advance if you hope to ride some of the top attractions… I think FP+ has taken away more from the experience, than it has added.

    Okay, that’s a pretty small list of weaknesses overall.
    I can’t complain about the crowds in general… Or I’d sound like Yogi Berra who said, “nobody goes there anymore.. it’s too crowded”
    Yes, the “thrill rides” aren’t as intense as some other places, but to me, that’s part of the definition of Magic Kingdom. It’s not a place to go for a massive adrenaline rush, go to 6 Flags for that. Magic Kingdom is about being transported to a magical place, where everything is clean, where the staff is friendly, and where the whole family can have fun. You have to be pretty jaded if you don’t find the Splash Mountain drop to be thrilling.
    Tomorrowland… yes, it’s weak in comparison (see Carousel of Progress complaint above), but let’s face it.. especially with Soarin down for 6 months, is it that much worse than all of Epcot futureworld??
    Location… as the article stated, there is something nice about having to cross the lake to get to the magical world. As a kid, that monorail ride to/from the park felt like a ride in itself. It’s actually what I remember most about visiting Disney as a kid. No place else on earth, did I have to ride a monorail to get there!

  • Fascinating series! What I respect most is your research, thoughtfulness and tone. It matters not whether I agree, it matters that you are open-minded and thoughtful. And you are! Yours is a consistency found across this site (with extremely rare exception). Thank you.

  • Wow, lots of comments already 😀
    I’m with the popular consensus- traveling the lagoon isn’t necessarily a weakness, if you factor in the psychological effects of anticipation and leaving the real world. It does make taking an afternoon break futile during most of the year’s park hours, which is a huge drawback.
    As for food, glad the fare continues to improve.