Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is quickly approaching its 50th Anniversary. For many, it is hard to believe that this icon of American culture has been a part of Central Florida for so long. One of the great things about the Magic Kingdom is that parents can bring their children and experience attractions that they themselves experienced when they were young. There are not many places that stand the test of time in this way, and it is a thrill for parents to both relive these experiences for themselves and to live them for the first time through their child’s eyes.
The Magic Kingdom is an ever-changing experience, but for those of you looking to experience the nostalgia you remember from when you were a child, here is a list of five Magic Kingdom Attractions that are pretty much the same as you remember them.
1. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: The Walt Disney World version of this ride opened toward the end of 1980, and even though it has gone through some extensive refurbishments throughout the years, the ride and the scenery are pretty much the same as they were on opening day. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a relatively mild roller coaster with dips and turns that take Guests on a runaway train ride through an 1880’s gold rush town. For many Guests, this was their first experience on not just a Disney roller coaster but on any roller coaster, and it is a tradition they would like to share with their children. The lines for Big Thunder Mountain are typically shortest within the first and last hours of park opening, although FastPass+ is available for the attraction. Riding it at night is a completely different experience as well, and Guests should try to enjoy this attraction at least once in the evening.
Big Thunder Mountain does have some boarding requirements and warnings to note. Riders must meet the minimum height requirement of 40 inches (102 cm), and Guest traveling in wheelchairs will need to transfer into the ride vehicle. Also, for your safety you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by the experience. Expectant mothers are advised not to ride.
2. The Haunted Mansion: This opening day attraction is probably the most well-known dark ride in the world. The Haunted Mansion is still the same tongue-in-cheek ride through Master Gracey’s Mansion that you remember. The queue leading to the mansion doors takes you through a graveyard with some pun-filled headstones. The pre-show is maybe one of the most memorable pre-shows for any attraction, leading Guests into the infamous stretch room. As the room expands, the more macabre nature of the paintings on the walls becomes apparent. The ride itself will then take you on a journey through the Mansion and the surrounding area as you meet the 999 ghostly residents.
The attraction has seen some special effects updates throughout the years, but in general the ride is very much the same as when it first opened. Guests traveling in wheelchairs will need to transfer into a ride vehicle, but there are no other boarding requirements. Even though the dark scenes and spooky nature of the attraction are presented in a light-hearted way, it may be too intense for some younger children. This is a good attraction to experience in the middle of the day when the park is at its busiest, since it usually has a reasonable wait time. FastPass+ is also offered for the attraction.
3. It’s a Small World: Moving on to something that is the polar opposite of the Haunted Mansion, Fantasyland is still the home of one of the most famous Disney attractions: It’s a Small World. A version of this attraction was created for the 1964 World’s Fair, making it one of the first Disney Attractions, and it has been a part of The Magic Kingdom since opening day.
It’s a Small World is a slow-moving boat ride that takes Guests on what can only be described as a whimsical musical journey. Each area of the ride highlights different regions of the globe represented by 300 traditionally dressed dolls, all singing “It’s a Small World” in their respective languages.
There have been some changes to the attraction throughout the years, but like the others on this list the changes are rather subtle. One change that is particularly interesting, though, is the addition to several Disney Character-themed dolls in 2009. See if you can spot these characters represented in the ride:
• Peter Pan and Tinker Bell
• Jiminy Cricket
• Aladdin and Jasmine
• The Three Caballeros
• Ariel and Flounder
• Lilo and Stitch
• Woody, Bullseye and Jessie
Guests traveling in wheelchairs will need to transfer into a ride vehicle; otherwise, there are no other boarding requirements. This is a fantastic attraction to experience for children of all ages. Much like The Haunted Mansion, the wait time is typically reasonable during the peak of the day. FastPass+ is also offered for this attraction.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: For many children, Pirates of the Caribbean is a movie series, but of course it all began with this Dark Ride that originally opened in Walt Disney World in 1973. This is another example of a slow-moving boat ride, this time taking Guests through a Port Town under siege by a wacky band of pirates. Here you will find another one of Disney’s iconic soundtracks with Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me).
This attraction, like some others on the list, has seen some small changes over the years. The most noticeable change here is the addition of a Captain Jack Sparrow. The addition of Johnny Depp to the ride may feel a tad out of place, but it does build a connection for fans of the movie series who may not be familiar with the attraction source material.
Guests traveling in wheelchairs will need to transfer into a ride vehicle; otherwise, there are no other boarding requirements. The attraction does have dark scenes and loud effects, such as cannonball fire and a very small flume drop at the beginning of the ride. Some of these aspects may be intense for some younger children. This is another attraction that typically has a reasonable wait time and can be visited during peak park hours. FastPass+ is also offered for this attraction.
5. Tomorrowland Speedway: You may remember this one as the Grand Prix Raceway or the Tomorrowland Indy Speedway, but other than the name not too much else has changed about this experience. There have been some track updates over the years, but the general concept of the ride remains intact. In some ways this attraction is more of a rite of passage for many Disney Guests than the others on this list. The attraction does have a height requirement of 32 inches (81 cm) to ride, but to drive a vehicle you must be 54 inches (137 cm) tall. This milestone of being able to actually drive the vehicle is a big draw for many families experiencing the attraction. Driving a speedway car for the first time is another one of those Disney milestones that can be passed on from parent to child.
The attraction itself is unique, since it is the only attraction where Guests are truly in control of the vehicle’s motion. The gas-powered karts are fixed to a track, allowing Guests to control the speed and do some light steering from side to side. This is definitely a thrill for children who meet the height requirement to do so.
In addition to the above-mentioned height requirements, there are some other boarding notifications, due to the fact there can be some strong bumping to vehicles occasionally, even though this is watched closely by Cast Members. The further requirements state that Guests traveling in wheelchairs will need to transfer into a ride vehicle and that you should be in good health and free from high blood pressure, heart, back or neck problems, motion sickness, or other conditions that could be aggravated by this experience. Expectant mothers are advised not to ride. During the peak time of the day, this attraction can get pretty busy. It is best to ride early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid longer waits. FastPass+ is also an option for this attraction.
These are just five of the attractions that are still around from when you were a child. Sharing an experience that you had as a child with your kids is something that is harder and harder to find nowadays, but it is still preserved in some corners of the Magic Kingdom. In addition to these five attractions, there are other classic attractions to discover, and we will look at some of those in a follow up list in the future. Hopefully this list of classic Disney attractions will help you share some amazing Disney memories with your children.