Friday, September 8, 2023

Top Five "Moments" At Walt Disney World

How do you measure the success (or lack thereof) on a vacation?  Everyone will likely have different measures, though in the case of a Disney vacation, "saved money and avoided crowds" are not likely to be on that list.  I like to think back on our vacations as a series of moments, frozen in time in my brain (and sometimes even in a photo).

Some moments, you simply can't get back.  For me, a lot of those moments revolve around our first trip with the kids.  You can't ever recreate the magic of them seeing the parks for the first time, and I have plenty of "unrepeatable" moments that come from that trip (first time for them on an airplane, first ride at Epcot, first time seeing Illuminations, among many others).

But there are some moments that you CAN recreate, or at least that you can have again and again, either on one trip or (many) return trips.  I've always said that Disney is about much more than just the attractions themselves, so there aren't a lot of attraction-specific moments on this (my own personal) list.  But these are all things that we have done and will do again, and these moments of magic are what really make a trip, in my opinion.

Here's what I came up with when thinking of things about Disney that make my heart soar:

5. The "You Can Fly" sequence during Happily Ever After

I've made no secret of my love for this nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom, as I think it is the best of this type of show ever made.  And for a while, this moment fell in the "unrepeatable" category, as HEA was replaced by Enchantment. Thankfully, that didn't last forever, and my favorite nighttime show has triumphantly returned.

The whole show is really a series of moments, but if I had to pick one that gets my every single time, it's the closing sequence where the theme song is being sung and the words "you can fly" come right at Tinkerbell makes her nightly journey over the heads of the viewers, always to a big hand.  Have I shed a tear here?  No comment.

4. Seeing Cinderella Castle for the first time on a given trip

It's not like seeing it for the first time EVER, but this is a moment that always lifts my spirits.  You trudge through the tapstyles at Magic Kingdom, anticipation in the air.  You pass under the train tracks and take in Town Square Theater.  Then you turn that corner and there is it - Cinderella castle in all her glory.  It's truly the symbol of Disney World, and the most photographed icon in the world.

All is right with the world once you see it, usually at the start of a long, exciting day at Magic Kingdom.  This moment is still valid even if you have a hotel where you can see the castle from a distance (I'm looking at you, Polynesian).  While that is amazing in its own right, it's not the same as seeing it up close, and as you get closer (and take a photo or ten), you're on your way to discover all the wonders of the park behind it.

3. Dinner on the first night of your trip

I love looking back on trips, and I love looking forward to them as well.  But once you're actually THERE, it can be tough to take a moment to stop and smell the roses.  Our normal routine is a morning flight, checking into our resort and then immediately hitting the parks.  We've been awake for a long time and it's been a journey to get there.  Then we have to get back into the Disney groove, so to speak, and deal with the crowds and hot weather.

So that first night at dinner is often the first time we get to actually relax and get off our feet in air conditioning.  The feeling of "can you believe we're here?" often permeates the air.  And the beginning of a trip is the best part, as you can think about all the fun you're going to have in the coming days.  It's a moment I like to live in for as long as possible (which is usually until the check comes).

2. The opening crescendo of Soarin' Around The World

I said above that this list wouldn't be attraction heavy, but I had to include this one here, as it was really the moment that gave me the inspiration for this list.  Soarin' is one of my favorite rides on property, and while it's not my absolute favorite, it often lives in the sweet spot of being a great ride that doesn't require a lot of hoops to jump through in order to experience it.

With the idea that the anticipation is almost as good as the experience itself, Soarin' works on a lot of levels.  Once you're buckled in (with these little beauties stored under your seat), you gently rise off the ground.  The screen shows you the clouds while the music builds.  And as the clouds part, this music hits and your four minute adventure begins.  No other moment on an attraction gives me the goosebumps like that one.  

1. Leaving a park long after closing time

Crowds are a fact of life at Disney, no matter when you go.  So anything you can do to alleviate that is worth it, in my opinion.  That's why my favorite recent perk has been Extended Evening Hours, which has a limited guest pool and allows you to experience attractions with much lower wait times, often at a time of day where the weather is much better as well.  

But even more than the attractions themselves, staying late at a park gives you the feeling of being the only people there.  There isn't often a chance to soak up the atmosphere when the park is still and silent, but this is one of those times.  After a long, tiring day at the parks, nothing is better than leaving satisfied at, say, midnight or later when the park itself is going to sleep.  I like to linger as long as possible on these nights to really drink it all in.  This is what the Disney experience is all about, in my opinion.

Everyone will have a different version of these moments, but I hope you understand what I was getting at here.  If you have any moments you want to share, please let me know (so I can try them out next time and add them to my own personal list).

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