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Back to the Magic at Magic Kingdom

Updated: Apr 21

Day 1: Walt Disney World Resort & Disney Cruise Line | Disney Dream | Magic Kingdom

My day began dark and early at 3am. I took the Frontier Airlines Flight from Cleveland to Orlando for a whopping $24.99 roundtrip and $96 in baggage fees. The airline is no frills so bags, seats, and drinks are extra and you won’t find chargers in the seats or entertainment. The baggage fee is excessive, but overall I appreciate not paying for the other amenities that I don’t need. One thing I love about budget airlines is that they seem to board and de-plane a lot quicker. No waiting for platinum, double platinum, triple platinum, etc. Overall boarding is done based on efficiency and not based on your status which I appreciate. The flight was on-time and soon enough I was landing in Orlando.

Orlando feels like a second home to me after spending a semester of college working at Disney World. I loved working at Disney because I met so many amazing friends. After my Disney College Program, I became a Disney College Program Campus Rep at Penn State. This is how I met Hilary! Hilary’s flight arrived shortly after mine so we met at baggage claim and took an Uber to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is located near Magic Kingdom and is themed after Yellowstone National Park. It’s one of my favorite hotels at Disney, but it’s the first time I’ve stayed here. This is actually the first time I’ve stayed at a Deluxe level resort and now I’m spoiled! Check-in was super easy and was done on the app yesterday. It asked for our arrival time and alerted us that we would receive a text when the room was ready. We arrived at the hotel at 10am and as soon as we stepped out of the Uber, the text came through! Disney Magic! We stopped by the front desk for directions since three cast members were there without other guests and it was the faster option than looking it up on the map. Once we received the directions, we headed to our first-level room. My last trip to Disney, we stayed at a Value resort which was nice and completely worked for our trip, but this was way nicer. The walk to our room was a lot shorter, the staff to guest ratio seems better, the coffee maker is bigger, the room is recently renovated, the pools have slides, there are more options for food, we have a balcony…well porch since we’re on the first floor, pretty much everything is an upgrade compared to the value resort.

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

We both hadn’t eaten much for breakfast so we stopped by the Roaring Fork for a quick bite to eat. I had a chocolate croissant and Hilary opted for a magic cookie bar. Next stop, Magic Kingdom!

Magic Kingdom is accessible by boat from our hotel. It was my first time taking this route at Disney, and I was pleasantly surprised by the ease and quickness of it all. We walked to the dock and a boat was already there so we walked right on and shortly after boarding, we headed to Magic Kingdom. It was a short seven minute ride over and the boat dropped us right in front of the gates. We headed through security which was also quick and then into the gates of Magic Kingdom.

Boat to Magic Kingdom
Boat to Magic Kingdom

Genie Plus was the first order of business, and now as I type this I wonder, why did we wait to get into the park before choosing our ride? You can start selecting Lightning Lanes at 7am, but we didn’t make our first Lightning Lane until around 11am when we entered the park. This was definitely a mistake which I blame on my sleepy brain. Genie Plus is the new system that has replaced FastPass+. It’s a paid service that costs $15 per person and it allows you to book lightning lanes which allow you to skip the line. You can book one regular lightning lane at a time and you have to wait until you’ve used the lightning lane or two hours after booking to make another selection. At 11am quite a few rides lacked availability for lightning lane and GeniePlus was starting to feel like it was a waste. We were able to snag one for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad , but it wasn’t until 5pm. Yikes!

Disney's 50th Anniversary
Disney's 50th Anniversary

We strolled up Main Street and headed to Adventureland since we had a lunch reservation at 1pm we thought it would work best to start over there. We were going to ride Pirates of the Caribbean, but by the time we got there it was nearing noon and the line was 70 minutes long. Not enough time to ride before our 1pm lunch reservations. We decided to check-in to our lunch reservation early since we didn’t have enough time for the ride. Luckily, they sat us shortly after checking in so little time wasted.

Lunch was at Skipper Canteen which is a restaurant that I’ve never tried. It reminds me of the old Adventureland lounge that used to be in Pleasure Island. I loved the vibe. I order an Adventureland Colada which is basically the drinkable version of a dole whip. It was delicious. We ordered the secret menu cheese bread as an appetizer and I had the steak for my entree. I have an allergy to peppers which is pretty much in every dish on the menu. Luckily, Disney is very accommodating and the chef came out to discuss which dishes can be modified to exclude peppers. I originally wanted the short ribs, but they are marinated over.a long time in peppers and wasn’t an option to make pepper-free. Instead, I ordered the steak without the seasoning and had It served with the sweet potato silk and a green bean/carrot mixture. It was a really delicious combo although a lot of food for lunch! I really enjoyed this meal.

Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom
Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom

It was one and we still hadn’t ridden a ride! This time of year the parks are usually empty. Kids are in school and usually it’s an ideal time to visit the parks. It was packed today and felt more crowded than when we visited on the 50th Anniversary on October 1. The ride lines were tough. We headed to Pirates of the Caribbean first and waited a whopping 55 minutes to ride. Disney rides have so many little details to them which I love. Even though I’ve been on this ride numerous times, I still found some new things that I hadn’t noticed before. While in lane, we booked our next lightning lane for Buzz Lightyear.

Shortly after pirates, we met up with our friend Jacki and her two kids. Her kids wanted to ride the PeopleMover so that’s where we went next. I love this ride. It had a long wait of about 30 minutes. After this, we headed to Buzz Lightyear and waited 60 minutes to ride it all together. While we waited in line, we were able to book another lightning lane and this time we chose Haunted Mansion.

It was time to say see you later to the kids and Jacki. Hilary and I could finally start using our Lightning Lanes! Our first lightning lane for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad was a bit of a dud because the ride had broken down so we couldn’t use our Lightning Lane to ride it at 5pm as planned. We were given the option to use it on other rides, but the other options were a downgrade in my opinion. I noticed that there was no end time on this new lightning lane which was nice. We decided to hold off on using it and instead went to our next booked lightning lane for Buzz Lightyear. We literally rode it back to back and our lightning lane was indeed lightning fast. I love this ride and it’s one of my favorites.

Next was Haunted Mansion. There is a documentary series on DisneyPlus about Imagineering and the thoughts and details that go into some of the rides. If you’re going to visit Disney World, I highly recommend watching this series. It makes the rides a lot more enjoyable when you hear the stories of how the ride came to be. Haunted Mansion had always been a meh ride for me, but after watching the documentary, it has grown on me. Amazing what stories can do to elevate the experience!

Our lunch was huge and I wasn’t that hungry, but it was nearing 7pm and some of the quick-service restaurants were nearing closing time. We decided to place a mobile order for Harbor House since it was close. I ordered the chicken fingers with green beans and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality. The restaurant is more known for their fish n chips and in some ways reminded me of Long John Silvers. As we finished our meal, we checked the app to find that Big Thunder Mountain was up and running again!

We used our Lightning Lane to enter the line and it was a bit crowded. We weren’t the only ones redeeming our lightning lanes from earlier in the day! As we waited, numerous people from the standby line were bailing. One said they had already waited 2.5 hours which was well beyond the time posted. I wasn’t sure about GeniePlus earlier in the day, but being able to use it here saved us at least 3 hours of waiting. 3 hours of time is worth more than $15 in my opinion. It was dark and wow is this ride 1000% better at night. Hilary and I laughed uncontrollably the whole time. This is my favorite ride at Magic Kingdom!

It was nearing eight o’clock which meant fireworks were starting soon. The normal place to watch fireworks is in front of the castle because you can see the projections on the castle and down Main Street, the music is dominant there, and the show is really designed to be seen from there. We didn’t want to deal with the crowds so we watched the show from the bridge by Splash Mountain. We could see the castle, see the fireworks, and hear the music from here. It was nice spot for viewing the fireworks, but overall in front of the castle is better for the full experience.

Fireworks at Magic Kingdom
Fireworks at Magic Kingdom

After the fireworks our fourth lightning lane of the day was available! We had booked Mad Tea Party earlier in the day. By round three of lightning lanes it was slim pickings. We did not need the lightning lane and the wait time would have been the same without it at this time of day. This was only my second time riding it after discovering that motion-sickness medicine works! We went full out this time spinning the cups at full speed! The world was a blur as we spun and spun, giggling like school children the entire time. I’m dizzy writing about it, but I was surprisingly fine on the ride!

Our Genie Plus summary of the day. We started booking at 11am and we were able to book and use four lightning lanes. Compared to current wait times when we rode, Genie Plus saved us about 5 hours of waiting. It was worth it, in my opinion. The included rides that booked the fastest were Big Thunder Mountain, Peter Pan’s Flight, and Jungle Cruise. (Splash Mountain was closed today.) On a crowded day like today, you can only get one of these three rides with Genie Plus. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain aren’t included in the options for the $15 Genie Plus system, but you can buy an individual lightning lane pass for them. These also booked quickly.

Select days of the week, Disney allows Deluxe resorts to play longer in the parks. Today was one of those days! We enjoyed 2 extra hours in the park, and it was so worth it! On our way to Mad Tea Party, we passed Mickey’s Philharmonic and I remembered that a new Coco scene was recently added to the show. My son would have loved it. The added scene was Un Poco Loco which is his favorite song!

The plan was to ride Seven Dwarfs and Space Mountain during this amazing time with hardly any lines. We started with Seven Dwarfs. The posted wait time was 50 minutes, but we got on in 15 minutes. Yay! We then thought about heading to Space Mountain, but we remembered how rough that ride seems now and decided to ride Seven Dwarfs a second time! This time it was only 10 minutes. Much better than the 2 hour wait during the day!

We finished off the evening with a little shopping and then headed back to our hotel via boat. We had to wait what seemed like awhile for the boat, but we were really tired by then so it probably wasn’t really that long.

About the Author

Amaris is the owner of the Ohio-based travel agency, Adventures by Amaris. Her love for travel began at a young age when she traveled to her parents' home countries of England and Mexico. She continued traveling in High School by participating in a People to People program to Italy, France and Monaco. In college, she spent six weeks in Europe studying abroad and traveling. She visited Spain, Portugal, England, Wales, Ireland, Vatican City, and Italy in a whirlwind summer. Through her adult life she continues to make traveling a priority with her family. Her young son is autistic so navigating the world of traveling with an autistic child brings on new adventures. Her travel resume includes Mexico, Turks & Caicos, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Panama, Costa Rica, Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, and Cayman Islands. She is an expert in planning family vacations across the world from Disney World to Europe to worldwide cruises.

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