Anyone that’s been to Walt Disney World has that first time experience and each is so varied and different depending on when your first time was and how old you were. Mine was in 1978, I was around 4 years old so my memory of the trip is a bit hazy and there was only one park. However, my wife’s was in 2009 when she was in her mid 20’s so needless to say her experience was slightly different from mine. I had the most wonderful time just seeing her in awe of how amazing and extensive Walt Disney World truly is. With that in mind, here are my 10 things that first time guest may not know about WDW.
10. The size of the Walt Disney World
When hearing of how vast WDW is, around 47 square miles, it really does seem pretty big. When you are actually there and get a first hand look as to how truly enormous it is, it can be slightly overwhelming. With 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, more than 25 resorts, a shopping and entertainment district, and so much more, it really is as big as some cities and has a larger transportation system than most of them. Where else can you catch a bus, ferry, monorail, tram, and water taxi to get you where you’re going all in one day? You may also notice the signs along the road are not the typical green freeway signs but are purple, red, and yellow. Some of them even have a certain mouse’s ears showing over the top. This adds to the immersive experience that WDW does so well.
9. You can bring your own food into the park.
All Walt Disney World parks allow outside food to be brought into the parks. This can be snacks or any food that does not require heating. There are a number of reasons that a guest would want to bring in their own food into the park. They could have certain food allergies, be on a specific diet, have a baby, or just want to have a little pick me up on a long Disney day. There are a few restrictions like no glass containers (except baby food) and there is a size limitation on a cooler if you bring one. My suggestion is to use either a backpack or a soft side cooler no bigger than 24x15X18 inches. Also be sure to let Disney security know about the food you’re bringing when you’re going through bag check to enter the park.
8. Cast members terminology and guidelines
Walt Disney World is the largest single site employer in the United States, however they don’t have a single employee. Instead they have over 55,000 “cast members”. Disney uses theatrical terminology when describing all things within the parks. Customers are “guests”. While in the park cast members are “on stage” and when they leave the park they are “backstage”. Cast members are also held to some pretty strict guidelines in order to enhance the guest experience. Sunglasses that block your eyes from being seen or do not fit in with a particular costume are not permitted. Visible tattoo’s and body modification’s are not permitted. There are very specific hair guidelines for men and women and when a guest asks where something is they are to use a two finger or open hand point. There are many other guidelines cast members must adhere to that makes each guest’s stay even more magical!
7. Hidden Mickeys!
The Hidden Mickey phenomenon is said to have begun during the construction of Epcot in the late 70’s. Initially Disney management wanted Epcot to be a mostly an adult park with no Disney characters. The imagineers thought otherwise and began placing “hidden Mickeys” in discreet locations. Today the Hidden Mickey craze is widely popular with Mickey’s being found all over Walt Disney World. Some are on purpose and some are accidental but when you find one it is such a thrill. There are numerous books and websites dedicated to the finding of Hidden Mickeys. Keep your eyes peeled and you might find an undiscovered one for yourself!
6. Guests get free buttons for special occasions
If it’s your birthday, anniversary, first visit, just engaged, just married, on a honeymoon, at a family reunion, or your just celebrating in general, any guest can get a free button! It doesn’t have to be the exact day either. My wife and I celebrated both of our birthdays and our anniversary on a trip once and got buttons for each occasion. You can get your button from Guest Services at any resort or at most of the parks shops. The cast member will write your name on it usually with a little touch of fun. Depending on the button you’re wearing, get ready for a plethora of well wishes from cast members and even other guests that notice while waiting in line or passing.
5. No gum is sold in the parks
When Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955 he made a choice to not sale gum anywhere on property. He did not want guests to have to scrape gum off their shoes. To this day, gum is still not sold in Disneyland or Walt Disney World. If you bring gum to the parks be sure and dispose of it in one of the many wonderfully themed trash receptacles throughout the parks!
4. You can dine with the characters
Character dining at Walt Disney World is a great way to get up close and personal with Disney character’s while enjoying a delicious meal. The characters however do not actually sit down and eat with you as my wife assumed. Ha ha! This is an awesome way to get some fun pictures and interact with the characters in a unique setting without having to wait in a line. There are many character dining restaurants throughout Walt Disney World which are listed on the official website.
3. The Magic Kingdom is two story’s tall
The Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World was built with an extensive underground corridor system. Walt Disney was inspired by the idea while he was at Disneyland and saw a cast member in a cowboy costume walking through Tomorrowland. He decided to build Disney World with the underground system to prevent this from happening. This would also be a great way to hide the trash disposal, utility pipes, characters before they come out on stage and many other things that guests didn’t need to see. To this day this system is used to keep the Magic Kingdom running like the well oiled machine that it is.
2. Walt Disney World is very romantic
My wife was somewhat reluctant when we were planning our first Walt Disney World trip together due to the fact that she had never been before and she was under the impression that WDW is mostly a place for families with children. I did my best to convince her otherwise; however I myself had never been to WDW with a significant other so it was a new venture for me as well. What we both discovered was that Walt Disney World is an extremely romantic vacation destination for couples with or without kids. There are many exciting and charming things to do together throughout each park as well as the resorts and Downtown Disney ( soon to be Disney Springs). If you are on vacation with your kids, and you and your partner want to have a grown-up evening together Disney offers some excellent child care services either drop-off or in room babysitting.
1. Almost every attraction has a back story
Walt Disney World is a very special theme park as we all know. First time visitors will notice one thing that makes a Disney park so different from any other theme park is the attention to detail and the deep story telling. This comes through with almost every aspect of Disney and especially with its attractions. The name itself is pure Disney. Walt wanted them referred to as “attractions” and not “rides” because a ride is just that, a ride. An attraction takes you on a journey from the moment you step foot in the cue line. Almost every attraction at WDW has a back story and when you discover what it is it really adds to the experience.
These are just a few things that Disney first timers may not know. No matter how many Disney trips you take, you will still manage to learn or see something new; making it seem like the first time all over again. The good news is that regardless of whether it’s your first or twelfth trip, the experience will be magical! Enjoy!!!