As a Passholder who lives quite close to Mickey’s magical domain, I’ve experienced Disney every possible way. There have been Park days of quiet, leisured flexibility as well as more structured Park days where I’m constantly on the move, hustling and bustling to the star attractions and jamming in as much as I possibly can. Honestly, I’ve never met a Disney day I didn’t like, but my greatest Disney moments come from the simple pleasures that I never really anticipate…those little gems of happiness that I might miss altogether if I wasn’t paying attention. Often times, in life, it’s the smallest of things—the little moments—that are the most satisfying. They say that simple pleasures are life’s treasures, and that certainly rings true…even at the most magical place on earth! Here is a list of 11 simple pleasures at the Disney World theme parks that’ll bring a true smile of rich, warm contentment.
11. Last One in Park
I’ve heard that people deliberately set their dinner reservations at Disney Parks for the last possible seating at night. Why? Because if they are still dining they will not be forced to leave once the Park closes and will be able to experience the Park in its eerily quiet state as they head out. Strangely enough, some Disney Park restaurants will allow you to choose a reservation time for up until TEN minutes before the Park closes, guaranteeing that you’ll be dining as the crowds of guests exit. I’ve never done this but have, however, been inside a Park through closing, experiencing what it’s like when the majority of guests have already left. There is something electrifying about being one of the last to leave, strolling these quiet streets. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t want you running all over the Park, taking pictures and trying to get on rides (won’t happen). But they won’t usher you out the minute the Park closes either. Transportation still runs for an hour or two past closing so instead of finding yourself amidst the throngs of leaving guests, why not grab a late night treat and a coffee, sit down and enjoy the ambiance? You’ll save yourself from being packed like a sardine on the monorail, boat or bus, and it might end up becoming your new favorite simple pleasure at Disney! Keep in mind, the quick service counters close the same time the Parks close, but if you are already in line for food you will still be able to make your purchase, regardless of the time.
10. Popcorn (or Disney snack of choice) and a Parade
For me, it’s Disney popcorn. For others, it may be the Dole Whip, Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar, cinnamon glazed nuts, or soft pretzel. There is something incredibly pleasing about sitting down with your favorite Disney snack and watching the afternoon (or nighttime) parade. Snagging a location that is away from the masses is also recommended if the opportunity arises (The elevated rocking chairs by The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom is a great shady and secluded spot. The Railroad Station platform is also a perfect location with a bird’s eye view of the parade). This is a simple pleasure indeed—taking in all the excitement around you while enjoying a snack that is exclusively “Disney.”
9. Experiencing Disney Parks and Their Attractions at Night
Ah, the magic of nights at a Disney Park. This is my favorite time to experience Disney. Twinkling lights illuminate various attractions; the colored glow of Cinderella Castle captivates you in all its glory. At Epcot, the geometric sphere lights up the night sky, noticeable from practically anywhere on property. As the sun firmly sets into the earth, Disney takes on a whole new setting, and the magic around you is palpable. Have you ever ridden an outdoor attraction at night? If so, you completely know what I’m referring to! On the Tower of Terror, as your 13th floor elevator opens and gives you an aerial-like view of Hollywood Studios, you’ll get to see all the glimmering lights and glow of the entire park. Riding attractions like Dumbo The Flying Elephant, Test Track, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Astro Orbiter are also simply sensational at night as the stars twinkle above you. Time it just right with the nighttime fireworks and you are in for a real treat! This simple pleasure isn’t limited to being on an attraction—simply walking around the Parks at night is immensely enjoyable in and of itself.
8. Smelling the Disney “Scents”
As we talked about in a previous article, Disney smells are unparalleled. You can be walking around one of Disney’s theme parks when a scent moves past your nose and BAM! you just KNOW you are at Disney! I always find great comfort in these scents, from the smell of the attraction water to the popcorn to the Pirates of the Caribbean rolling fog. These scents are always pleasing, bringing instead happiness to my nose and comfort to my soul. It serves as another reminder that I’m at the most magical place on earth!
7. Hearing the Steam Engine Whistle Blow
The instant I hear the unmistakable whistle of the Magic Kingdom’s Steam Engine Train, whether up close or from an echoing distance, I am happier than a dog waggin’ its tail! You don’t have to see it to hear it, which is probably another reason why this is such a simple joy for me—I am reminded with every whistle that the train is circling Magic Kingdom’s perimeter with happy guests on board.
6. Being “Spotlighted” By a Cast Member
Disney encourages their Cast Members to interact with guests as often as possible, singling them out and making them feel special. Whether you are wearing a Celebratory Disney Button that announces your special occasion and get noticed by a Cast Member or are selected to “assist” with an attraction, it’ll leave a lasting impression on your magical vacation. I’ve had a Cast Member at a Disney restaurant have my now-husband and I stand up in the middle of dinner before all the other patrons, announcing our new engagement to everyone (for the entire world to hear, it seemed!) and made us practice our wedding day kiss for all to see. Embarrassing? A tad, but incredibly memorable nonetheless. I also recall a time when my brother was a child and the Jungle Cruise skipper had him come to the front with him to help navigate the wheel of the boat. My brother felt incredibly special, and to this day—decades later— our family still reminisces about it. These are true delights and simple pleasures that really seal in the magic at Disney.
5. Discovering a Hidden Disney Detail for the Very First Time
The other day I was strolling along on the quiet Streets of America in Hollywood Studios, really taking in the fun, make-believe buildings that line the city streets. I was really studying the architecture, appreciating the details that went into each window, each door, each sign scrolled across every pretend business. I happened to glance up into one of the second story windows at the end of San Francisco St. and to my delight and total surprise my eyes caught on a familiar figure partially hidden by the curtains—one that would be very easy to miss had I not been REALLY looking at all the details. It was Baby Sinclair from Disney’s old hit television series, “Dinosaurs.” If you need a refresher, he was the little guy always yelling “Not the mama!” This was a really cool find for me as this show was a staple in my “TGIF” childhood days. Disney does this all over their theme parks—adding Hidden Mickeys amidst the attractions and fun “Easter eggs” for people to find throughout their Parks. When you stumble upon one of these deliberately hidden details, it can easily be considered a simple joy, especially if you weren’t privy to it beforehand!
4. France Pavilion Breakfast
This is one of my personal favorites—sitting down with a Latte and French pastry in the early morning hours at Epcot before the World Showcase officially opens. Yes, France’s Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie is open for breakfast a couple hours before the World Showcase opens. There will be a Cast Member who stands “guard” at the bridge connecting the United Kingdom Pavilion and France, informing guests that the World Showcase is not yet open, but if you let them know you are eating breakfast at Les Halles, they’ll happily point you there. This is a wonderful opportunity to walk the quiet, cobblestone streets of France in Epcot, enjoying the quaint architecture and “feel” of this pavilion. The Patisserie features deliciously yummy breakfast foods including savory quiches and an array of authentic and sweet pastries. You won’t be sharing this space with the crowds of guests that file in as the day goes on, which is what makes this such a simple pleasure. The atmosphere is peaceful, the food is delicious and the ambiance brings comfort to your soul.
3. Cheering for Parade’s Grand Marshalls
Growing up, I never really paid mind to the first motorcar that held a group of people waving to the crowds at the opening of the afternoon parade at Magic Kingdom. Those people were strangers and I was much more concerned with seeing Mickey and his pals to truly care. Now, as an adult, I pay extra attention to these smiling faces, knowing these people have been selected earlier that day and are experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime moment they will cherish forever. You see, the Grand Marshalls of the afternoon parade are typically randomly-selected guests that were chosen as they began their day at the Magic Kingdom. These guests are rarely chosen before that particular day begins, as Disney loves to surprise unsuspecting park goers with this magical honor. I will hoot and holler, wave and applaud as these people pass by, letting them know I am just as happy to cheer for them as I am for Mickey’s own float! It’s helping these guests feel extra special that makes this a true simple pleasure of mine!
2. People Watching
Have you even taken a moment to sit on a bench in the park, regardless of the Disney Park you are in, and watched the strangers around you totally delight in their day? I love seeing other kids beam in excitement when they take their first eyeful of Cinderella Castle, or the expressions on people’s faces when the street actors at Hollywood Studios unexpectedly begin interacting with them. Disney World is a wondrous place, bringing out the kid in adults and fostering the imagination in children and witnessing this phenomenon in guest’s reactions is truly priceless! And while you’re at it, if you see someone with a celebratory button announcing their birthday or anniversary or first-time visit, acknowledging them will bring a smile to their face and yours as well!
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1. Character Watching
Okay, so I suppose this could, technically, be included in “people watching” but if you go for the specific purpose of watching the Cast Member work their “magic” as the Disney character they are portraying, you will be in for a true delight! The best ones to watch, in my opinion, are the “face” characters, like Gaston, Lady Tremaine, or Rapunzel, because they can actually TALK to the guests unlike, for instance, Winnie the Pooh or Goofy. These characters interact with guests, proving their acting and theatrical expertise and phenomenal social skills. Seriously, they never break character and are so quick with their wittiness, it’s awfully entertaining. Grab a scrumptious cinnamon roll at Gaston’s Tavern and then park yourself on one of the nearby benches close to Gaston’s meet and greet. You’ve seen the viral videos—Gaston is hilarious! Order some famous Fish and Chips at Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion and watch Alice talk about the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts with other guests in her meet and greet section. This is almost an attraction in and of itself!
What are some of your simple pleasures at Disney? Let us know in the comments below!
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