Traveling has always been a major part of my life, and my family has been on a vacation nearly every year together. Although we’ve explored other places, we always ended up returning to Walt Disney World in Florida.
It may be cliché to have family vacations at this popular theme park, but the consistency of these trips as I was growing up had a huge impact on the person I’ve become today. From waking up early to get coffee with my dad to staying up late to watch the fireworks with my siblings, the majority of my childhood memories took place at Disney.
While looking back on my past trips in anticipation for the next, I present to you my top 10 things I’d rather be doing at Disney instead of being cold in New Paltz. If you ever find yourself planning your own Disney trip, I’d suggest partaking in some of these.
10) Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom
A must-do for thrill-seekers, Expedition Everest is a high speed roller coaster that takes you up the forbidden mountain next to Mount Everest to greet the ferocious Yeti who’s guarding his territory. The wait time for this popular attraction can be as long as two hours in the dreadful Florida heat. But, if you play your cards right and arrive at the perfect time (usually during major shows, which at Animal Kingdom is Rivers of Light) you’ll have the opportunity to ride this attraction multiple times in a row. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the thrill of the Yeti, a notorious fan favorite.
9) Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror
Hidden in the corner of Hollywood Studios, these two thriller rides are ones you won’t want to miss. Both of these high intensity rides are familiar favorites for me, and I can remember a time when I’d have avoided these attractions due to being nervous of their drops and thrills, but now I find myself reciting the pre-ride video word for word.
8) Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
This isn’t a typical attraction to have on your itinerary but it’s one that has a special place in my heart. Originally showcased at the 1964 World’s Fair, Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress displays the typical American family going through technological and social changes throughout different decades in time. The rotating theater features various different scenes that depict the prime of the decade they’re in, and each scene ends with the song “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow.” If you’re in Tomorrowland and need an escape from the heat, this 21 minute attraction is the perfect choice.
7) The Fireworks (and popcorn)
Disney is notorious for their delectable popcorn and the wafting smell throughout the parks is intoxicating. My family usually caves and gets a bucket of the buttery goodness to share while the park is getting dark and the fireworks are beginning. There’s something ethereal about the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom park, and I always find myself bawling like a baby while watching them. While watching my favorite childhood characters projected on the castle and seeing beautiful visions of color exploding in the sky, there’s nothing better than enjoying the delicious popcorn.
6) Disney Springs at Christmas
Disney Springs isn’t one of my favorite places to be due to the craziness of the general public, but during Christmas it has a special glow. My dad and I frequent the poutine booth located outside of World of Disney, and have decided it tastes better than the poutine offered in the Canada pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase. A special feature of Disney Springs during the winter months is the Christmas Tree Walk, which features dozens of different Christmas trees decorated and themed around Disney movies, attractions and places. Every few minutes, snow flutters from above and festive music plays throughout. This is an experience unlike any other.
5) Epcot’s World Showcase as soon as it opens
I could go on and on about how special certain elements of Disney are in the early hours of the day, and Epcot’s World Showcase is one of them. All of the countries are shining in the early morning glow and there’s minimal occupancy so you can walk around with ease. The anticipation of a full day of exploring each country pavilion inside and out is exciting. I love Epcot and every little detail it has to offer, and I’m looking forward to spending my 21st birthday drinking at each country around the World Showcase Lagoon.
4) Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
One of my family’s favorite hotels is Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. Located across the water from Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, Disney’s Boardwalk features various shops and restaurants in accordance with the theme of an old time boardwalk on the beach. Magicians perform at night, string hair wrapping is available and Surrey bikes built to fit the whole family are for rent. I feel so comfortable at this resort, and know the layout like the back of my hand. I long for the next time my family checks into a new room and my dad is saying “We’ll be here for ten days in a row!”
There are two different boat ride attractions in Magic Kingdom that have my heart: It’s a Small World and Jungle Cruise. The happiest cruise that ever sailed and a choppy safari boat ride are must-do’s in my book. Although some choose to skip the repeated singing of “It’s a Small World” it’s a ride that’s cherished within my family. The Jungle Cruise features dry humored jokes which my family and I joke about often. I’d recommend both of these rides and look forward to embarking on the short-lived cruises again soon.
2) The Lobby of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Upon walking into this tropical paradise, you’re greeted with a traditional Hawaiian Lei around your neck and the sweet aroma of hibiscus all around. The wooden structure of the lobby at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is so intricate and welcoming. The feeling of the beginning of a vacation is one like no other, and if this is the place you’re inhabiting for the following days it’s very exciting.
1) Main Street, USA in the morning
Some mornings in Disney, my mom and I decide to wake up earlier than the rest of my family and get to the Magic Kingdom park as soon as it opens. We stroll down Main Street, U.S.A. and get delicious coffee drinks at the bakery. Sometimes, we’ll indulge in a Nutella and fruit covered waffle, and take a seat within view of the castle. The air is still crisp and cool from the morning dew and everything is shiny and new from its nightly clean-up. Oftentimes, we’ll arrive before the rides are available, and just sit and enjoy the park’s beauty.