I've been visiting Disney World since I was a kid, and these disappointing photos show what a day at Magic Kingdom can really be like



Expectation vs reality of Disney Magic Kingdom
The fireworks at Disney's Magic Kingdom look spectacular … if you can get close enough to see them.

  • I think Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, is a must-visit vacation spot.
  • But there are still aspects of visiting that can be disappointing to some fans.
  • As seen in photos, crowds can be intense and rainstorms can dampen bright days at the theme park.
Magic Kingdom is the heart of Disney World in Orlando, Florida — but it's not always magical to visit.

ORLANDO, FL - APRIL 03: General views of the Walt Disney 'Partners' statue at Magic Kingdom, celebrating its 50th anniversary on April 03, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.
Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in April 2022.

Read more: I visited every attraction at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Here's how I'd rank them from worst to best.

I've been visiting regularly since I was two years old and have experienced the park at its best and worst.

Insider reporter Amanda Krause poses in front of Disney World's Cinderella Castle.
Author Amanda Krause's recent trip to Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World was in August 2021.

Alongside princesses, rides, and delicious food, a typical day may also include long lines, overpriced merchandise, and giant crowds.

Amanda Krause Dole Whip delicious vs disappointing
Amanda Krause ordered a swirl of Dole Whip, which was hollow on the inside.

Though I've found most parkgoers are lovely, it can feel hectic when crowds gather around Cinderella Castle to wait for the park to open and take photos.

Parkgoers wait around Cinderella Castle before Magic Kingdom opens in August 2021.
Parkgoers wait around Cinderella Castle before Magic Kingdom opens in August 2021.

Once the ropes are dropped, many fans race to popular rides like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Peter Pan's Flight, which can feel a little stressful.

Disney World visitors can be seen rushing to their favorite rides in the morning in August 2021.
Disney World visitors can be seen rushing to their favorite rides in the morning in August 2021.

But even those who get there early have to spend time in line. I rushed to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during my last visit and still spent 20 minutes waiting.

People wait in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train minutes after Magic Kingdom opened.
People in line for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train minutes after Magic Kingdom's opening in 2021.

Most rides, like Peter Pan's Flight, have fun, interactive decor to keep parkgoers entertained while they wait. But the hallways still felt dark and cramped to me.

A waiting room in the queue of Peter Pan's Flight at Disney World.
Peter Pan's Flight had small, cramped queues in August 2021.

And depending on which ride you go on, you might have to sit with other parkgoers. Of course, this can be for the best — sometimes you meet great people.

People ride the Jungle Cruise at Disney World in August 2021.
Parkgoers rode the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

Some parkgoers may be disappointed when they find sections of Magic Kingdom under construction during their visit, like when I tried to visit Fantasyland in 2021.

The Beast's castle under construction at Disney World in August 2021.
Landmarks like the Beast's castle are covered in scaffolding during construction in August 2021.

Others might be bummed when they realize that you can't actually visit each part of the theme park. Most of Ariel's castle in Fantasyland, for example, is just for show.

Ariel's castle in the Fantasyland section of Disney World.
Ariel's castle in Fantasyland isn't open to the public.

When it's time to eat, you might be disappointed again. Restaurants at Magic Kingdom tend to be crowded at all hours of the day.

A crowd gathers at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe at Disney World.
Both seated dining and quick-service restaurants were crowded in August 2021.

And you might not always get what you bargained for. I loved every bite of Dole Whip when I tried it in 2021, but I didn't expect the dessert's giant swirls to be hollow inside.

Dole Whip at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
You don't get as much Dole Whip as you might think, as I experienced in August 2021.

Read more: I tried Disney World's Dole Whip for the first time, and it was one of the best desserts I've ever eaten

You can see many of your favorite characters, like Mickey Mouse and friends, up close in Magic Kingdom at parades, meet-and-greets, and more.

Characters on a parade float at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
Characters on a parade float at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

But you can't always hug your favorite characters. Sometimes, you have to greet them from a distance.

Liver Lips from the Country Bear Jamboree at Disney World in August 2021.
The Country Bear Jamboree's Liver Lips greeted parkgoers from a balcony in August 2021.

As I walked around the park in 2021, I skipped a few rides because the listed wait times were long. I was bummed when I realized the signs weren't always accurate, and I could have ridden more rides.

A wait-time sign at the entrance to the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
A wait-time sign at the entrance to the Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

If you're on a ride that gets stuck, you might be there for a while. When I rode the People Mover, I found myself stuck in a dark, noisy room for almost 30 minutes and left with a headache.

A view from the People Mover at Disney World while it was stuck in August 2021.
A view from the People Mover when it was temporarily stuck in August 2021.

Even classic attractions like Prince Charming's Royal Carrousel can be disappointing.

Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
The whimsical Prince Charming Regal Carrousel is located near Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom.

Its popularity with kids means that there will probably be a ton of strollers in your way as you approach it for a photo.

Strollers in front of Prince Charming Regal Carrousel at Disney World in August 2021.
You couldn't get too close to this carousel thanks to an abundance of strollers in August 2021.

Need to get away from the crowds? You won't find much reprieve in Magic Kingdom's shops.

A view of Magic Kingdom shops and crowds in August 2021.
Shops on Main Street, USA, at Disney World Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

And they can add an extra layer of frustration, as expensive items often don't have prices on them. I had to bring these Minnie Ears to a cash register to learn they cost $30.

A Minnie Mouse headband with no price tag at Disney World in August 2021.
A Minnie Mouse headband with no price tag at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

And if you want to visit another Disney theme park in the middle of the day, you might want to avoid the Monorail. I've found that it gets crowded fast.

People wait for the monorail outside of Magic Kingdom.
The monorail outside Magic Kingdom is frequently crowded, like it was in August 2021.

Read more: I tried all of Disney World's free transportation, and the best option has a history of crashing

In my opinion, the best way to avoid crowds can also be annoying for some. Florida's dark clouds and frequent rain tend to drive people away, and if you don't mind getting soaked, you can get on rides quicker.

A rain cloud over Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
It frequently storms in Florida, bringing rain and dark clouds to the theme park, like it did in August 2021.

After the day comes to a close, you can experience one of Magic Kingdom's most iconic shows: the nightly fireworks.

Fireworks at Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom's fireworks in September 2021.

But if you want to see the show with a close view, you'll have to spend at least an hour of your day holding a good spot.

People hold their spots to watch the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
People held spots to watch the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

Once the fireworks start, expect to have thousands of people in front of you. I think the late-night crowds in 2021 were the worst I've experienced.

Crowds gather to watch Magic Kingdom's fireworks in August 2021.
Crowds gathered to watch Magic Kingdom's fireworks in August 2021.

And thousands more people may be behind you. I found myself worried about how I'd leave the park after my visit in 2021.

Crowds gather to watch fireworks at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
Crowds gathered to watch fireworks at Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

After the firework show, those crowds followed me outside the park to resort shuttles and other transportation.

Crowds leave Magic Kingdom at Disney World in August 2021.
Magic Kingdom crowds left the theme park in August 2021.

I love visiting Magic Kingdom. It encapsulates the heart of Disney World, and there's so much fun to experience, from iconic rides to delicious snacks.

A view of Magic Kingdom in August 2021.
Main Street, USA, at Disney World Magic Kingdom in August 2021.

But, as I tell anyone who visits, I think it's good to keep expectations in check. Disney isn't actually magical, after all.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - 2020/07/11: Heavy traffic is seen at the entrance to Walt Disney World on the day that portions of the theme park, including the Magic Kingdom, reopened to guests after being closed since mid-March due the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 cases are surging in Florida with more than 10,000 new cases and 95 COVID-related deaths being reported today.
Heavy traffic is seen at the entrance to Walt Disney World in July 2020.

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