Disney Hacks #4: Magic Kingdom Shortcuts

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disney-hacksDid you know that when you first walk into the Magic Kingdom, you’re actually closer to parts of the Jungle Cruise than you are to Casey’s Corner at the end of Main Street U.S.A.? Seems crazy, because from that point in the park, it would take you several minutes to walk to the queue of that attraction. The reality, however, is that if you were to walk through the large doors by the Harmony Barber Shop where the parades enter and exit and walk to the west, you’d find yourself at the backside of the Jungle Cruise (which also houses the backside of water!) within a few steps; as the crow flies, you are very, very close to the Jungle Cruise the moment you walk into the park.  

 

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a shortcut that would zip you backstage and directly where you wanted to go?  Heck yeah, it would!  Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to save the general public the trouble of walking all the way around to the Jungle Cruise, but there ARE several shortcuts or alternative routes within the park that will help those in the know move around much more quickly — sometimes because they are less congested, and sometimes because they are just more direct. Read on to learn more about Magic Kingdom shortcuts!

 

The Hub and Cinderella Castle

 

Full disclosure, I don’t think anything in this article would qualify as a super-secret passageway or anything like that — some of them, in fact, should be smack-you-in-the-face obvious, but sometimes a reminder can be helpful.  There’s no better example of this than one of the biggest time-savers at all, and that is the Hub and the rarely-traveled paths that flank Cinderella Castle. For some reason, once I get through the Hub and make my way into one of the Magic Kingdom’s lands, I tend to think of that area as verboten unless I’m watching a show or parade, or I’m passing through on my way out of the park.  For that reason, if I’m in Tomorrowland, Adventureland seems soooooo very far away, because it’s all the way around on the other side of the park.   

 

The hub area makes a great shortcut when it's not full of people
The hub area makes a great shortcut when it’s not full of people

Unless there’s a parade going on, however, you can actually move very quickly between Tomorrowland and Adventureland just by cutting across the Hub. Particularly with the new, more open Hub design, you can move more or less as the crow flies between the two, which is far faster than making your way through the longer and more congested route around the perimeter of the park. Fun fact: if you’re standing at the entrance to the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover in the heart of Tomorrowland, you’re only about 10 meters closer to Dumbo the Flying Elephant walking, which seems right around the corner, than you are to Adventureland, which seems much further.  The difference is that the walk to Adventureland is more or less a straight shot, whereas getting to Dumbo requires you to loop around the Tomorrowland Speedway.  

 

I do recognize that I’m not exactly blazing new ground by encouraging you to simply walk across a large, wide open plot of terrain to get to the other side of the park. With that said, I often have to remind myself that cutting across that wide open plot of terrain is the fastest way to get from one side of the park to the other, so I thought it was worth mentioning for those that, like me, can have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to in-park geography.

 

Cinderella's Wishing Well
Cinderella’s Wishing Well can be found on the shortcut between Cosmic Ray’s and the back of Cinderella’s Castle

Less obvious, however, are the not particularly well-marked paths behind Cinderella’s Castle. There are no signs pointing this out, but when you’re standing outside of Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, you’re only 200 meters away from a delicious Nutella waffle sandwich at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square — which is closer than several Tomorrowland and Fantasyland attractions that you can see from your vantage point. A pair of scenic paths that connect at the rear of Cinderella’s Castle run from the Fairytale Gardens where Merida meets guests to Sleepy Hollow — and they aren’t just a quick way to link Tomorrowland and Liberty Square, they are also not heavily utilized (particularly the one on the Tomorrowland side), making them a nice respite from the crowds. Make sure to pay Cinderella’s Wishing Well a visit while you’re en route.

 

Frontierland and Adventureland

 

Frontierland and Adventureland run parallel to one another on the west side of the park, and while it isn’t obvious from looking at the park map, there are several ways to get between the two without going back to the Hub or the far western edge where they more obviously connect. You can cut from one land to another near Country Bear Jamboree and The Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and there is another cut-through near The Diamond Horseshoe and the Island Supply Company store (which is slightly east of the Swiss Family Treehouse. Heck, even Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, while thematically in Frontierland, actually has an entrance in Adventureland as well, and could be used to move from one land to the other.

SC - AdvFron

To look at a park map, it’s not obvious that there are ways to cut through, and if that’s what you’re using to guide yourself, you might not realize that there are easier ways to go back and forth. Thankfully, however, these pass-throughs are fairly easy to spot when you’re actually in the Magic Kingdom and on the lookout for them, so keep your eyes peeled when you’re in this area of the park.  

 

In closing on this point, that these two lands connect in so many places provides a great opportunity to appreciate the care that Disney uses in getting the details right. In these areas of transition, the Imagineers blend Adventureland and Frontierland decor, such that there is no jarring switch from one style to another. This actually happens throughout the park where lands connect, but Adventureland and Frontierland provide many opportunities to see this design trick in action.      

 

Tomorrowland and Storybook Circus

 

Tomorrowland SC Path
Tomorrowland Entrance to the path to Storybook Circus. Photo © Eric Laycock

I would consider this more of an alternate route than a shortcut, because unless you happen to be traversing between the rear of Storybook Circus and Space Mountain in particular, it might not save you any time (although if you ARE, it shaves 100 yards off of your walk).  With that said, it is a pathway that is rarely used and can provide a pleasant break from the crush of guests in the other areas that is at least as fast a way to get from the Storybook Circus area around Dumbo to most Tomorrowland locations as any other option. It’s worth considering, even if it’s just as a change of pace, as it is quiet enough that it also made my list of the best places to spirit away to to get substantive work done at Walt Disney World.  

 

Leaving the Park

 

Leaving the park after Wishes doesn't have to be a hassle
Leaving the park after Wishes doesn’t have to be a hassle

One of the most congested, frustrating times to be at the Magic Kingdom is at the end of Wishes, when thousands upon thousands of people collectively decide that it’s time to leave at once. You could plod towards the exit down Main Street U.S.A. like most of the sheeple around you, but there are two relief valves available to you if you need them. First, the shops on the west side of Main Street, including Casey’s Corner are all connected — and they are air conditioned! You can avoid the crush of people AND get a blast of cool, refreshing air by entering any of the shops and using them to walk with much more freedom towards the exit. Pop out of the Emporium, exit the park, and you’re on your way.

 

On busy evenings, you have another option on the east side of Main Street. Between the Plaza Restaurant and the entrance to Tomorrowland Terrace, Disney will sometimes open up the path behind the shops, which spits you out right into Town Square where you can exit the park. If you’re already on that side of the park and you’re looking to leave, it will unquestionably provide the quickest way out because it is so much less congested.  

 

Other Parks?  

 

I’ll be honest — I had originally intended this to cover all 4 parks at Walt Disney World, but as I got to thinking about it, the Magic Kingdom, with its hub and spoke layout, is the only park that really lends itself to these sorts of shortcuts. Sure, you can cut through Mouse Gears at Epcot rather than walking around it, but once you’re in World Showcase, you’re basically committed to walking all the way around. You can always take the Friendship Boats across the lagoon, but that it more about saving effort than time once you factor in the wait and transit time. Animal Kingdom and Studios are similar in that the fastest way to get somewhere is usually the most obvious.

Any of you have any ideas for the other parks, or even shortcuts in the Magic Kingdom that I may have overlooked?  Let me know in the comments!

James Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable daughter, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese -- and loathes kale. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

7 thoughts on “Disney Hacks #4: Magic Kingdom Shortcuts

  • June 10, 2016 at 9:45 am
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    Our last few visits have been at Christmas time, so we especially like the Main Street “bypass” behind The Plaza, which is used frequently during peak times. We went to the night-before-New-Years-Eve midnight fireworks this past year, and the hub was JAMMED, with thousands of guests packing Main Street. We had a prime spot right in the middle of Main Street, in front of The Plaza Ice Cream Parlour. As soon as the INCREDIBLE fireworks show ended, we headed directly for the bypass (which was nearly deserted), and behind the line of Main Street shops, exiting right by Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. We were on a bus to our resort in 10 minutes, and probably in our hotel room before many guests even made it out of MK.

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    • June 10, 2016 at 10:36 am
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      Wow that’s awesome! I’m definitely going to look out for that when I’m in Magic Kingdom on July 3! How early did you have to get to Main Street to get that prime viewing spot?

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  • June 10, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    On the Mexico side of World Showcase, you can cut past the Odyssey restaurant to get to Test Track or the East Side of Future World. It’s not a large path and can be easy to miss so a lot of people take the longer route back to the main entrance of World Showcase and enter Future World near the fountain.

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  • June 10, 2016 at 11:58 am
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    This post has lots of good tips, but it needs more maps. It’s difficult to process this information as text.

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  • June 10, 2016 at 3:27 pm
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    This is a fantastic article! Last week after my parents and I viewed Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial, I took them through Tortuga Tavern (in air conditioning, which was sorely needed) straight into Pecos Bill’s and outside to a shaded prime viewing location for the Festival of Fantasy parade. You would have thought I’d discovered sliced bread!

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  • June 10, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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    The shortcut behind the plaza is also often open BEFORE Wishes; it’s incredibly useful if you’re trying to leave the park before the fireworks once Main St. has become all-but-impassable.

    In the Animal Kingdom I think there are fewer obvious shortcuts, but I also find there’s a lot of value to knowing where the traffic is. The new cut-through from Asia to Harambe Market is often faster than going on the main road simply because you are less likely to encounter a group of people traveling five abreast.

    And as far as the Studios go — I often think of this as the park of the anti-shortcut, where it seems like you ought to be able to go from point A to point B, but somehow it doesn’t work that way on the map. 🙂

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