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Disney Rituals

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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

Brinn 2013

Maddy 2013

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?

The previous post in this blog was Jim’s Attic: Bits of Disneyland.

The next post in this blog is Jim’s Attic: The Only Magic Kingdom Comic Book.

Comments (22)


Thanks Gary for the add! As I'm reading this, I am crying just thinking about our trip and our ritual! 47 days and counting...

Ryan Phillippi:

Oh we have our rituals just like everyone else. It sounds about the same as everyone else haha. We arrive to our hotel around 11 and get right on the bus to Magic Kingdom after checking in. As soon as we enter we just enjoy the sounds and smells. Just hearing that steam whistle from the train makes us happy. We usually are hungry for lunch after our morning of flying. Where do we go? Caseys, of course. After that we cruise right over to Adventureland to get on POTC and then enjoy a Dole Whip. After that we casually walk through Magic Kingdom, making sure we hit Haunted Mansion and Peter Pan. (Our favorite classic rides). Ever since I proposed to my wife on Main Street in 09, I always have to give her a kiss while we are walking it. Oh, and another ritual is watching my favorite show, Illuminations with a Margarita from Mexico.

[Gary adds: The proposal . . . and the kiss on Main Street - now those are great memories and a sweet tradition. Magical! ]


After looking at the photo rituals, I totally forgot the one we have. We go to Mexico in Epcot (of course) and after the Three Caballeros ride, we take 'The Three Amigos' pose picture in the sombreros. I love that pic!

Mike Walter:

Hi Gary, a fellow Canuck here. We don't have traditions as such but everyone has their favourite things to do and places to eat. I have to do Tower of Terror several times and at least once at night and I have to eat at Biergarten every trip. I agree with Kelley G., for me the trip officially starts when we pass under the arch!

Linda F.:

We have a couple of rituals. One is, if we're driving in we look for the first glimpse of Disney from the freeway. Usually we see Spaceship Earth first. Then I start getting all verklempt, and I start counting down the miles until we actually drive through the gates of the World (my husband laughs at me, but he does a silent countdown too).

Our second ritual, which we do whether we fly or drive, is to check into our resort (it always seems to work out that we arrive at Port Orleans French Quarter, where we stay, in the late afternoon), and then go for dinner to POFQ's food court. We walk around the grounds after dinner, go back to our room and unpack, and are ready to dive into the parks first thing the next morning.

Okay, now I want to go back again! Thanks for a wonderful post.



On our last day at Magic Kingdom, we always head over to Cinderella's wishing well. (Located on the path on the right side of the castle). I bring change and each of us take turns making a wish and throwing the coin in the fountain. This always makes it much easier for me to make that last exit out of the park. Usually there are tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat!


Living in the UK the arrival day is always a long day with a 9 hour flight and 5 hour time difference It has been known to be awake 24 hours before we get to bed. In order to stay up as long as possible we always head to Downtown Disney. It gets us in the mood for two weeks of Disney Magic. We are then ready the next morning to hit the first park, Animal Kingdom and start the day off with Tonga Toast at Rainforest Cafe!


My husband and I always have a picture taken in front of the castle and in front of the garden in front of Spaceship Earth on our last day. It might be the tenth one we have taken that trip, but we still do it. We also go to the Boardwalk and take a picture at Seabreeze Pointe. We were married there in 2008.

Kelly M.:

Feel very emotional reading this post.
We have never stayed on site at WDW but one ritual we always have is - 'slow the car down! Slow the car down!!! I have to have a picture of the Hollywood Studios entrance!! I don't care about those people behind us, no!' :-) Apologies if you've ever been stuck behind a crazy English person hanging out of the hire car window.

And without fail, pictures under the Singin' In the Rain umbrella & in front of the Muppets fountain. Feel inspired to find these from all of our trips over the last 24 years now!

Ron Stalsberg Jr:

Thanks for the great blog Gary. My wife and I always start our first day out at the MK just like you and your wife do. When you enter the park and walk under the train station out into the town square something just overcomes you as you look around at this magical place. We have visited over 40 times now and we get the same feeling every time we visit. Our Grandson just turned 6 and we have made 3 trips with him so far. We are DVC members and when they say "welcome home" we truly are home for us. Looking forward to more of you blogs.


Our first ritual is after we arrive at out Disney Resort, we check in and always have dinner the first night at Chef Mickey's - everytime. With our 3 kids, it is a great way to ease us into the Disney mood and meet the Fab Four right off the bat.

Our first full day we always go to the Magic Kingdom, every time. My husband and I always get a picture taken of him kissing me at the Cinderella wishing well on the side path of the castle. Can't wait till we go back!

Dick Smith:

I have been going to Disney every few years since my daughter was less than one year old. She's 22 now. My wife and I would always take her picture in front of the large troll in Norway @ EPCOT. It is fun to look back at how she grew!!!

Caleb Roland:

My fiancé and I have a traditional routine every time we are lucky enough to make a trip to the World. We start by making a countdown as soon as we decide on the next date of our trip. Beginning 10 days, when we do the online check-in, before we make a list of what we are looking forward to the most and add something new each day.

Then on the day of our trip we put on our favorite Disney shirt and leave for our flight. We listen to Disney music for the whole flight and when we finally get there we go around the hotel taking pictures and taking in all the scenery. Next we head off to downtown Disney to do some shopping and eat dinner. We think this is a good transition from the real world to the World.

After we are done at downtown Disney we go back to our hotel and go straight to bed (or at least try to fall asleep, it can be difficult to hold in the excitement) so we can get up early and head to our first park so the magic can really begin.


One of our rituals actually starts long before our vacation begins. When my children were little, we started a Disney vacation countdown calendar. About a year to a year and a half before vacation, I would go to the craft store and pick up materials and tons of Disney stickers. I would then make a calendar counting every day down to the day we leave. Each day one of the kids would get to put the sticker on the calendar. This continued all through high school.

In 14 months we are going on another Disney trip. My daughter is now married and lives with her husband...my son is 20 as is his girlfriend & my niece is now 30. Believe it or not, they all STILL want the calendar. This year we made 3 and one is being shipped to Virginia.

Disney still brings out the kid in them !


Perhaps one ritual we all do; on the last day of our Disney trip as we leave the property, we wonder when we will next be coming back to this Happiest Place on Earth . . .


How lovely to hear that you all have great rituals too.

We've only been to Walt Disney World three times, but have built up our own traditions. First park - always Magic Kingdom -and there are always tears as we pass the arch into the World and when we see the Walt and Mickey statue. Then it's straight onto Dumbo (my kids will never be too old for it) with lunch at the Crystal Palace and make sure we have a cuddle with Mickey and Minnie.

Only a couple of months now until our next visit, one case is already half packed and we can hardly wait!


On my family's first visit to WDW in 2007, our son was 5 yrs old, and VERY into pirates. We had made the trip with my sister, who was there with her co-workers to attend a conference at Disney. We all arrived late that evening from our flight, it was raining cats/dogs, we checked in at the Boardwalk resort, tried to get acclimated to our surroundings (hey, it was our first time in Disney; all this magical stuff was NEW to us!). After the check-in process, we all crashed in our beds, worn out. Next morning, first thing, was to take Christian into MK, and head STRAIGHT to Pirates of the Carribean. The MAGIC had already begun; as we slept, the ugly dark stormy night blew thru, and the following morning we were greeted with beautiful sunshine when we awoke. As long as we both live, my wife and I will NEVER forget walking behind that little 5 yr old boy, who was arm-in-arm with his beloved aunt, bouncing up and down with each step, in uncontainable anticipation of his first glimpse of POC, as he had been seeing and studying on the WDW website for months. We ALL had to disregard the hundreds of wonderful sounds, smells, sights, and MAGIC we were all sensing as we arrived, went thru the gates and quickly marched straight back to POC, in order to get this little guy to his much waited-for adventure; PIRATES. It chokes any loving parent up to see that kind of excitement in their children, and witness it fulfilled in front of their eyes. We have now made several return visits to WDW (6, but who's counting), and a march straight to POC is our official FIRST ritual now (there are many more "requirements" for each trip!). But, of all our trips, THAT first visit to POC will always be cherished in my and my wife's heart as the most MAGICAL moment we ever spent in WDW....(I gotta go now, there's a big lump in my throat)...

[Gary adds: Choked me up too Mike! What a great memory! ]


After checking in at the hotel, the first stop is always Downtown Disney. Eat at Raglan Road and shop World of Disney. I like to think of it as getting my feet wet (with a touch of Disney) before jumping in (at the theme parks).


For the first trip we took with our daughters in the '90s, I bought them and myself inexpensive plastic Mickey Mouse necklaces. We had an absolutely wonderful time. Ever since, I can't go to WDW without wearing that necklace!

Randy Hatch:

Hi Gary

I love reading your stories, please keep them coming.

With my daughter and I it starts before we leave, when she was 2 we would go to Home Depot and pick out the Disney color chips in the paint department, she would get all the colors and then the 4 special colors, red, black, yellow and white, for the last 4 days of our countdown.

The second is always going under the arch and then Magic Kingdom sign, we always slow down to take pictures.

The third is the one that is most special to me, we have been going at least once per year since she was 2, and she is now 15, we go to the Contemporary Hotel at night and have a caricature of both of us on 1 sheet, it is really nice to see the different artists perception on how we look, she looks better over the years and the artist has finally stopped giving me hair.

We also go the the Magic Kingdom first when we go, there is nothing like being there and enjoying the magic.

Thanks and keep up the good work

Lu Carrera:

Thanks for this wonderful post Gary! I love all your stories and I always read your personal blog also! I loved the comments in this one too! So special and moving!

I'm from Brazil and it's not easy for me to visit the World often. I have, so far, 4 visits to Walt Disney World and 1 to Disneyland Paris. But the next one is in, exaclty, 66 days. I'm so excited!

My main ritual (yes, with only 4 visits I have a bunch of them, being a Disney fan) is a weird one, I think. What I remember from my first WDW trip, in 1988, was the Haunted Mansion (I was a brave 4-year-old girl), Peter Pan Flight and Small World. But the main thing was...eating at Pinocchio's.

My next trip was in 1994 and even though it was very special (the whole family together, my sister first WDW trip, X-Mas at Magic Kingdom), I needed to experience those 3 rides and have lunch at the same place. The same thing happens now every time I go. I only feel complete and truly on a magical vacation when I ride those classic attractions. Needless to say...the fact that one of them will be close next October is driving me crazy!
Thanks again for the wonderful post!

Reagan Herman:

My family's arrival day tradition is to have afternoon tea at the Garden View at Grand Floridian and just relax after hustling through airports, DME and resort check in. I know I'm finally on vacation when I have that glass of Port.

Then we take the monorail to MK and walk down Main Street USA. We started this when my daughter was 5 on her first trip to WDW in 2008 and have done it every trip since.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 4, 2013 7:31 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Jim’s Attic: Bits of Disneyland.

The next post in this blog is Jim’s Attic: The Only Magic Kingdom Comic Book.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.