When Carol and I visit Walt Disney World there are plenty of little rituals during the trip, quirky things which add to the fantasy and add to our enjoyment!
If we are travelling south in our motor home we are always vigilant, looking to spot our first palm tree - a sign that we are truly in the south. We always stop at the Florida Welcome Centre for a complimentary orange juice, a taste of Florida sunshine. One day we arrived very early and we were so disappointed to discover that they don't open until 8:00 a.m.
We try to arrive at Fort Wilderness before noon. This allows us to register before the 1:00 p.m. check-in time and then head to Downtown Disney for lunch at Earl of Sandwich. Yum! Usually our camp site is ready by the time lunch is over. Little things like this are all part of the magic we experience every trip.
The most meaningful ritual for us, the time the magic truly begins, is when we take that first walk down Main Street USA. Carol normally likes to shop her way along one side of the street as we enter the park, and then shop the other side as we leave. But on our first visit to the Magic Kingdom it's always different. There's no shopping. We take a slow walk right down the middle of the street, just soaking up the sights and sounds. The flags in Town Square, the vendors with all those balloons, the clang clang of the trolley, the turn of the century architecture, the store windows, the aroma from the Bakery, the smell of Casey's hot dogs and so much more. It's sensory overload for us. By the time we get to the Partners statue, with Cinderella Castle in the background, we have left reality behind. We are in our happy place!
Those are just a few of our rituals . . .
A few weeks ago I sent an e-mail, posing several questions, to a number of people who have commented on my previous AllEars blogs and to people who have added comments to the guest book on our personal blog site. One of the questions was, "Do you have a Disney ritual or tradition?"
There were some very interesting responses. Here are a few:
From Penny W. of Vermont: When I first arrive, I always go to the Magic Kingdom first. Just that walk down Main Street gets me in the magical mood. I must do Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Tiki Room (I love the rainstorm) and have a Dole Whip. There . . . now I can enjoy the rest of my trip.
From Pam T. of Lansdale, PA: When we get into Magic Kingdom, on the first day we arrive, we head straight back to It's a Small World as our first ride, every time we go. Of course, Mommy has to stop crying for us to get on the ride! I cry every time we see Cinderella Castle when we first get there, I start bawling like those old videos of when people would see Elvis for the first time!
From Kelley G. of Staunton VA: Our first ritual really begins before we even cross onto WDW property! When we can see the archway that goes over the highway that welcomes us to Disney, we start a countdown. It gets louder and louder . . . 10, 9, 8 . . . until we are under the sign and then the screaming begins!
My husband just closes his ears as we scream and laugh!
We camp at Fort Wilderness with an occasional stay at a hotel on-property. When we camp it is our tradition to get pizza that first night and then head to the beach and watch the water parade. Just a good way to wind down after a travel day and setting up camp.
From Allison J. of Deland FL: I think the closest thing we have that is a tradition is getting a "Mickey Ice Cream" a.k.a. a Mickey Premium Bar. The funny thing is, my happy memory tied to this ice cream really doesn't have anything to do with the theme parks. I grew up in Virginia and I remember one summer when my Mom bought a box of ice cream bars shaped like Mickey. They were vanilla ice cream with chocolate ice cream making up the ears, eyes, and mouth, so they were not even the traditional Mickey Bars that they sell in the parks now. Even so, getting a Mickey Ice Cream in the parks always takes me back to that summer - running around in the backyard with my friends, catching fireflies when the sun went down . . . all those small little childhood memories that, looking back, mean even more than they did in the moment. I guess it makes sense - Disney makes you feel like a kid again, it seems fitting to have a snack that makes me feel the same way.
From Kameo C. of El Mirage AZ: When we go to Walt Disney World, our tradition is ALWAYS to go see fireworks at Magic Kingdom the first night. They always put us in the Disney spirit and we never miss them. There is something so magical about hearing those amazing songs we grew up with and seeing Tinker Bell soar high across the sky. There is nothing in this world like it! We have teenagers so magic can sometimes be limited in their eyes but Walt Disney World helps bring out the joy and spirit they had as children and now mask.
From Jeff B. of Florida NY: We have a little ritual that we've done the past four trips to Walt Disney World in 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2012. It's something that started out just as a nice picture in 2006 when my daughter, Isabel, 7 years old at the time, and I posed for a picture in front of the sign at the Carousel of Progress.
When we returned in 2009, I had my wife take a picture of Isabel and I in the same place.
In 2010, as we neared the end of our vacation it dawned on us we hadn't taken this visit's picture. We made a special trip to the Magic Kingdom just to take the shot so in 2012 we made sure we took the picture the first time we were in Tomorrowland.
Having my wife take this picture of our daughter and me is special to us since I'm usually the one taking the pictures, so . . . it's great to watch her grow up through the trips/years (though seeing less of my hair is no fun!). It's a shame that Disney stopped putting the year on the Carousel sign - it definitely added to the pictures.
Jeff's story reminded me of our good friend Dave C. from Green Island, NY (some of you know him as Tagrel) who has a similar ritual: Here's the story in Dave's words: We started taking a special series of pictures completely by accident with our daughter Brinn. After returning from our first two trips (1998 & 2000) I found I had taken two pictures of Brinn in the same place and pose. Now a SMART Disney fan would have chosen a Disney icon for this, but luckily that little green Rainforest Café frog has been there every year waiting for us! In 2001 our second daughter Maddy became part of the ritual. Every year we would pose in front of that Rainforest Café frog - it's been a great tradition. It just so happens that when Gary asked me about the pictures, the girls were at Disney for a couple weeks and took this year's picture - sadly - without me. But I was definitely there in spirit and very glad the tradition lives on.
Dave and Brinn - 1998
Dave and Maddy - 2001
Dave and Brinn 2005
Dave and Maddy 2006
Dave and Maddy 2010
Dave and Brinn 2011
From Hilary S. of St. Louis, MO: I have a few Walt Disney World traditions, most of which I do every single time I am there. The most near and dear to my heart is to stop for just a moment outside the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, preferably after dark, and take it all in. When I graduated high school in 1991, my parents asked where I wanted to go that summer. I immediately said Walt Disney World, we'd been twice before but had never stayed onsite and had never tried to do it all. Well, this trip we did -- and more! We stayed at the Disney Inn and loved it. I'm so glad we got to experience it before it became Shades of Green. Especially my Dad and I, we were just in awe and loved every minute of our time at Walt Disney World. I specifically remember standing next to him outside the MK one night and just being totally and completely happy. I have never forgotten that moment. Dad passed away unexpectedly in 2005 and every single time I'm there I recreate the moment and think of him. It makes me appreciate the magic that is Walt Disney World, makes me feel connected to Dad and makes me so thankful for our wonderful relationship.
Those are just a few highlights from the e-mails I received. It seems to me that we all have unique little rituals that play out when we arrive at our happy place . . . traditions that have a very special meaning to us and our families. But in spite of the wide diversity in our individual rituals, they all have one thing in common. Each and every one of these rituals makes our vacations memorable and magical. Just as Walt would have wanted it!
What is your Disney ritual?