This is “Disney” as most remember it as kids. It’s the theme park with Cinderella’s Castle and MOST of the traditional rides. Gone are the Skyway, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and others. Still around: just about everything else. Some rides have been re-themed – some have been refurbished. Most are “traditional” though and will be exactly as you remember.
MK is divided into “lands” – Adventureland, Fantasyland, etc, and is on a hub-and-spoke system, with the Castle as the hub and paths leading to each land. You can almost walk the entire outer rim without going back through the hub… but using the hub is usually the fastest way to traverse the park. The Walt Disney World Railroad also goes completely around the park – it’s free and it’s sometimes a great way to get from one side to the other. Stations are found near Big Thunder Mountain RR rollercoaster, Storybook Circus (formerly known as Mickey’s ToonTown) and at Main Street. (As of 2020 the Railroad isn’t running as they tore out a section of the track during the construction of Tron: Lightcycle Power Run (which will hopefully open by summer 2022).
Attractions (aka: rides) at MK are usually considered to be for “kids” – but that’s not really true. Some are definitely for them: Dumbo the flying elephant, for example… and all of Storybook Circus for the smallest children. Some seem like they would be, but are a little scary (like the Haunted Mansion) … and some are clearly for bigger “kids” (Space Mountain – which, btw, has relatively recently been refurbished and has got a great new soundtrack – not as good at WDW as at DL – and new cars with an awesome sound system in each). [Note: I don’t know what’s going on with the audio at Space Mountain at WDW, but it’s just not functional and all you really hear is the coaster noise. Very disappointing.]
“New Fantasyland” is an expansion of the Fantasyland area behind Cinderella’s Castle in the space that was once 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. In New Fantasyland, you will find Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Be Our Guest restaurant, and The Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. Close by, you’ll also find the line for your child to meet Anna and Elsa from Frozen. (If this is something you MUST do, burn a FastPass for it. Standby lines, ten minutes after rope drop in the morning, have exceed 300 minutes.)
Virtually every day, there will be at least one daytime and one afternoon parade as well as a fireworks show at the MK. The current (2019) afternoon parade at WDW is “Disney Festival of Fantasy” at 3pm (at DL, they’re currently running Mickey’s Soundsational Parade). There aren’t any “bad” seats, either… just stake out a position where you can see the “road” and you’ll be fine.
In 2012, Disney introduced “Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom”, an “immersive role playing adventure” that you can do free-of-charge, starting at the fire station. There are paid-for add-ons, of course (it IS Disney after all), but you can play (and complete) the game without paying for anything beyond your theme park admission. If you’re familiar with the Disney Cruise Line’s Midship Detective Agency, you’ll understand Sorcerers a little better than most. But it’s easy to get into and a fun thing to do if you think you’ve already seen everything in the MK. I’m also told that they continually update it, so if you play once, you can play again with a different set of experiences. [SoMK is now closed. Leaving this note here for a year for people looking for a reference.]
The Fireworks display is usually after the evening parade… it’s basically the pre-park-closure event, but check that day’s Schedule of Events to be sure. At the MK, it’s called Happily Ever After. (Wishes was retired in early 2017.) The best view of the fireworks is still to stand back on Main Street, near the flag pole. For the best view of the laser-light portion, plus the Castle lights… stand closer to the Castle. Oh… and make sure your kids pay attention to the top of the Castle near the middle of the show – a human Tinkerbell will slide down a guidewire, weather permitting. The result is that the best place to be is usually somewhere between the Castle and the flagpole. Just remember that people are going to be moving towards the flagpole (the exit) right afterwards.
This is usually also the best time to shop – while people are leaving. And, it’s one of the least-known secrets in the entire place… all of the shops on the left side of Main Street (as you’re looking at the Castle) are connected inside from one end to the other. So if you want to get OFF the street to get out… or if it’s raining and you want to get down Main Street without getting wet, step into any of those stores and just move through from store-to-store until you pop out near the firestation.
Depending on the time of year, the MK has several celebration events going on. Specifically in the fall and at holiday time, they host Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Both are after-hours events that require an additional fee to attend – but you don’t have to use a park ticket to get in as well. So if you plan to ever go during one of these two events, go to another park during the day so as to not use a park ticket on that park. In almost all cases, your add-on ticket purchase will get you in around 4pm – plenty of time to do several “normal” attractions before the party kicks into high gear.