If you have ever taken a vacation to Walt Disney World, or if you are a local who loathes parking to get to the Magic Kingdom, you are likely familiar with the Transportation & Ticket Center and the process that it takes to arrive at the Resort’s flagship Park.
At 44 square miles, or twice the size of Manhattan, the Walt Disney World Resort is a massive property. As such, you may be thinking that there would be no shortage of space and, therefore, no reason to have the parking lot used for the Magic Kingdom be located on the other side of a lagoon.
If we look back into Disney Park history, however, there are some interesting answers to the question of, “Why doesn’t the Magic Kingdom have its own parking lot?”
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To understand the Magic Kingdom’s peculiar parking situation, we actually need to go back to the opening of Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. In 1955, when Walt Disney opened Disneyland, the area immediately surrounding the Park was relatively empty.
As Disneyland continued to expand and grow in popularity, though, so did the surrounding area. This resulted in all kinds of non-Disney businesses popping up just outside of Disneyland’s gates. And while the Park itself, and later its Resorts, Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney, all keep Disney’s immersive theming in check, the outside world feels a little too close at times.
To avoid this, a main component of the search for land to create Walt’s “Florida Project” was space; not only space for the theme parks, Resorts, and the original vision of EPCOT as an actual planned city, but space to effectively keep the real world out.
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To keep the real world out, and to build the “opening credits” to the experience that Guests would have at the Magic Kingdom, Imagineers created a plan for a man-made body of water. The water that now separates the Magic Kingdom from the Transportation & Ticket Center, Seven Seas Lagoon, was created with the intention of separating the theme park from the parking lot.
The land removed from Seven Seas Lagoon was used to cover the Utilidor, aka the first floor of the Magic Kingdom, which houses everything from entertainment costuming to Cast Member cafeterias, lockers, a hair salon, Subway, and more, all while allowing Cast, merchandise, food, and trash to move through the Park out of Guest view.
With the Transportation & Ticket Center located just over a mile away, the Magic Kingdom would never have any of the sights that Walt saw as issues at Disneyland, including the massive asphalt parking lot and the potential for the real world to build up right outside.
It was not until the 1980s that bus stops were added closer to the Magic Kingdom entrance, meaning that for more than a decade, almost all Guests who visited this Disney Park needed to start their day at the Transportation & Ticket Center. The only exception early in the Park’s history would have been Guests staying at Magic Kingdom area Resorts who could have taken a monorail or boat directly to the Park.
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Getting to the Magic Kingdom today
Today, the ways in which Guests arrive at the Magic Kingdom really depends on where they are coming from. For Guests staying at offsite hotels, locals, or anyone else who prefers to drive, they will still park at the Transportation & Ticket Center, where they would then board a monorail, ferry, or in some cases, a bus, to get to the Park entrance.
Select hotels, including Shades of Green, and certain Good Neighbor properties also include bus service to “Disney Parks,” but for the Magic Kingdom, this really means the Transportation & Ticket Center. The only Resort bus stops right outside of the Park are for Disney Resorts.
Of course, Guests staying on the monorail loop can take easily take the monorail to the Park. These Resorts include Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The latter is also a very short walk from the Park entrance, and each of these Resorts also offers watercraft transportation to the Magic Kingdom.
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Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are considered Magic Kingdom area Resorts; however, they do not have monorail stops. Guests traveling to the Park from either location are able to take a Resort launch (boat) or a bus.
Guests coming from all other Disney Resorts or other theme parks, with the exception of EPCOT, will arrive at the Magic Kingdom via bus. (From EPCOT, Guests would be directed to that Park’s monorail station, where they would then switch to the Magic Kingdom monorail line at the Transportation & Ticket Center.)
Lastly, Minnie Vans, Disney’s rideshare service powered by Lyft, are able to park at the Magic Kingdom’s bus stop. For many Guests, this is the game changer that makes them opt for a Minnie Van rather than a standard Lyft or Uber, as other rideshares and taxis can only go so far as the Transportation & Ticket Center.
While we love the level of immersion and attention to detail that was put into designing Walt Disney World, many Guests are not fans of the process involved in arriving at the Magic Kingdom. But what do you think? Is the trek from the Transportation & Ticket Center worth it to keep the real world out?