The other day, on my walk to and from Penn Station, I was listening to the Disney Hipsters (and their co-host, Megan) talk about attractions in Walt Disney World that have grown on them over the years.
Instantly, I was inspired.
As someone who started visiting the parks when she was 12, I could relate to this feeling. So much has changed in the 15 years since I’ve been going down to WDW – how I get there (we used to drive, now we fly), my clothes (don’t even get me started), my eyewear (glasses to contacts and sometimes back to cooler looking glasses… thankfully), boys (I’m married now!), and even company (family to boyfriend to friends to husband).
So I’m going to borrow their idea and make a little list of my own – parts of the WDW experience that I have grown to love over the years. And go!
The Carousel of Progress
This is my dad’s favorite attraction, and I used to begrudgingly take part in the experience just for him. I remember one of my co-workers at the Disney Store would sing ‘There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ over and over after store closing, and I would want to throttle her. That’s how much I did not enjoy it. Now, I don’t know if I finally ‘got it’ – the nucleus of the family and how things can change – but it’s a sad trip if I don’t find the time to get on COP. In fact, my dad and I danced to ‘There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow’ at my wedding last March.
Character meet & greets
I may have talked about this before but when my parents first announced we would be taking a trip to Florida…. I kind of poo-pooed the whole thing and thought I was TOO GROWN UP for it. If only my younger self could see me now! My sister was around 6 when we went to WDW for the first time and my mom is picture-hungry so we met a lot of characters. I really despised it. In fact, I was so happy when we stopped standing on those long lines and getting ‘autographs’. Well, now I kind of like it. Once I traveled down there with my best friend and we met the studly Woody & Buzz, I kind of got addicted and I try to get pictures with different characters when we can. This also includes CHARACTER BREAKFASTS which I wake up early for because I want to. (Again, the younger version of myself is not sure of the person I have become.) The whole ‘meet and greet’ is the live fun of the parks and you just never know what’s going to happen…
Don’t hurt me, friends. I thought EPCOT was pretty freaking boring when I was a kid. I don’t know if it’s because I can drink around the world now, but, if you know anything about me, it’s one of my favorite places. To be honest, EPCOT started to move up my list as I got older. I really liked the shopping and the restaurants, had a crush on Figment, and loved Spaceship Earth. While the park is in need of some updating and love of the most generous kind, I still feel the most comfortable there. I like the open space, exploring the countries, and just walking along those light-up sidewalks.
Visiting other resorts
I think I’ve mentioned my dad is a big memorabilia collector. He has a huge basement dedicated to Yankees and Jets yearbooks, hats, mugs, signed pictures, baseballs, footballs, bats, you name it. When he returned to Disney after his initials trips in the 70s, he was big about collecting a pin and a hat from each of the spots we stopped in. In the earlier trips, I remember stopping into the Polynesian but that was it. We used to make a ton of ADRs for the parks and sometimes go to outside resorts but I like to make this more of a habit now. The resorts are like mini-theme parks but quieter. (I also realize our lack of resort hopping had something to do with traveling with a youngster.)
Living with the Land
It’s true that your touring changes when you start vacationing with other people. James’ interest in characters was actually the reason why we started going to character breakfasts again. It actually never crossed my mind that he would want to. The same thing happened with Living with the Land. While it was never one of my favorites, and I barely remember seeing it as a kid, it’s now become a staple because my darling husband loves it. And you know what, so do I. I’m a huge fan of ‘boat rides’ and it’s nice to see how Epcot is using fresh plants throughout the park. Plus, it’s relaxing and smells good down there.
The little details
I went through an awesome stage where I would take a book with me everywhere in WDW. I would read it while waiting in line, sitting on the bus, or just taking a break in the shade. Normally it was summer reading but I’ll admit most of the time it was just because I wanted something to do while we were waiting. Now, I don’t do this anymore because hey, I need to appreciate every morsel of time I get to spend with my husband when my eyes are not fixed on my laptop, or we are both at work or doing laundry or sleeping. So I read in my hotel or near the pool, and instead, we take in as much as we can while waiting in line. True, now I’m sort of inclined to notice the attention to detail in the theme parks because I’m reading about it all week or I’ve read several books since my earlier trips but it really makes for a multi-dimensional trip and there is something new to discover every time.
A few songs I remember hearing from my early trips to WDW are R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” at Animal Kingdom and select songs from the Disney dance music album. I slowly slowly discovered park audio (thanks to those CDs they sold in the shops) but it wasn’t until two years ago that it became a full on obsession. I listen to park audio all the time at home, and when I’m at the parks, I am uber aware of what is playing around me and the mood it is setting. Ask someone (preferably a non-Disney geek) if they have heard the music in the parks and I can pretty much guarantee they never noticed it. Park audio could call under ‘the little details’ I mentioned earlier but it is something specific I look forward to every single trip. It relaxes me and makes me feel at home.
Now it’s your turn… what parts of Disney have grown to be more important to you as time has passed?