Happy 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World! 50 Reflections on Why Disney Has My Heart

Credit: Disney

The anticipation for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World has been somewhat clouded by uncertainty, scaled-back plans, and, oh yeah- a global pandemic. It hasn’t been the easiest time to be a Disney fan. The negativity around getting rid of FastPass, debates over whether staying on site is still worth it, and the feeling that many families are getting priced out of the Disney vacation experience are all very present concerns. But for so many Disney Fanatics like us, there’s still an unwavering loyalty and love. Call us Disney Adults”– we’ll embrace it! Whether on trips to the parks or in enjoying cozy nights at home watching Disney+, we still feel the Disney magic. Every. Single. Time.

In celebration of Walt Disney World‘s 50th Anniversary, I wanted to reflect on what makes Disney truly special to me on an emotional level. Some of these may seem silly, while some are serious- but they all mean something. In no particular order, here are some of the reasons why I love Disney, why I will always be a Disney fan, and why it has a permanent place in my heart. I hope you’ll reflect on what makes it your happy place, too.

1. The Taste of a Mickey Bar

Mickey Bar Castle

You can buy them in the store, but they’re just not the same.  That thick, delicious chocolate coating just can’t be replicated!  And maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with the people and the place around you, and not the ice cream itself.

2. Disney+ Brings All the Magic Home

Disney+ could have half the content and cost twice as much, and people wouldn’t bat an eye. Disney has given us so much value in that platform, and the future looks bright indeed.

3. New Movies that Continue to Inspire

I love each new Disney film that comes out, like Raya and the Last Dragon and Soul. They continue to surprise me, and have rightful places alongside my all time favorite Disney movie: The Little Mermaid.

4. Popcorn

It seems pretty insignificant, but the smell and taste of popcorn at Disney is just magical to me. The fact that the refillable popcorn buckets are not only super cute but affordable to replenish is just a bonus!

5. People Watching

As a frequent Disney Guest, I love seeing happy Guests experience pieces of Disney for the first time. Sometimes that means watching my own people, like when I got to see my mom and son experience Disney together for the first time. Pure magic!

6.  Cast Members

Credit: Disney

The Cast Members (Disney employees) truly bring the magic to the parks. Without them, something would truly be missing. We can’t wait for the return of all of the International Cast Members!

7. Favorite Characters

Even recently, our favorite characters continue to spread magic in the parks, whether walking buy, posing for a picture at a distance, or waving from the train station. I miss their hugs, but they still make a connection.

8. Fireworks & Tinker Bell’s Flight

Each new Disney nighttime show gets better and better, but the piece that will always tug at my heart are the fireworks. There’s nothing like them! I dare you not to cry when you see Tinker Bell take to the skies at night in the Magic Kingdom.

9. The Dapper Dans

Is it possible to hear the Dapper Dans on Main Street U.S.A. and not smile? They capture the essence of a bygone era and do so with such humor. I love them!

10. Disney Music

A favorite Disney song can always bring on the inspiration, but let’s talk about the ambient music , too. Without that ever-present soundtrack, the immersion just wouldn’t be there. Whether you’re in a ride queue or strolling Disney‘s Boardwalk or Disney Springs, there’s always a perfect soundtrack setting the stage.

11.  Seeing Cinderella’s Castle

Credit: Meredith Smisek

Admit it:  Who else cries when they see the Cinderella’s Castle for the first time on a trip?  Whether glowing in the sun, lit up with projections at night, or sparkling for the holidays, the sight of the castle gets me every time!

12. Being in “the Bubble”

Escape from the real world and its stressors is a really critical benefit of a Disney vacation. If you try, you can really shut out reality for a few days and just focus on loving your family and having fun.

13. Quality Family Time

The rides and attractions are amazing, but the real magic is in sharing them with your loved ones. Big Thunder Mountain is a great ride, but the reason it has permanent spot in my heart and memories is because of the sound of my son’s squeals of joy on the ride.

14. How Disney Makes Us Observe the Passage of Time

Every time I go to Walt Disney World, we’re all just a little bit older. The time that’s passed since the last trip becomes apparent in the little things- how we just barely squeeze into a row on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Splash Mountain. The new rides my son can enjoy because he’s tall enough. The fewer rides I can tolerate because I’m getting older. It’s a bittersweet thing, really, but every time I notice these little changes, it reminds me to pause and breathe it all in.

15. The Skyliner

One of the most recent new updates at Walt Disney World, the Disney Skyliner, is an attraction in itself. I really think Walt Disney would have loved it, too, and that makes it a bit more special to me.

16. Mickey Pretzels (with Cheese, Please!)

It was a proud moment for me when my son decided that he was in the “it’s better with cheese” camp with me, and not in the “eat it plain” camp with my husband (sorry, Honey).

17. Unexpected Surprises

There’s always a surprise to find if you keep your eyes open. My favorite in recent memory has been seeing custodial Cast Members create awesome water drawings on the pavement in the Magic Kingdom.

18. The Real Efforts Disney Makes to be More Inclusive

I applaud Disney‘s efforts to be more inclusive of all people, whether in park policies or in media. Every minor tweak brings us closer to a reality that represents everyone. Disney also helps Guests with differing abilities use the Disability Access Service (DAS) so that everyone has a chance to enjoy the magic.
Big changes coming to Disney’s Disability Access Services (DAS) Program

19. The Attractions

The attractions at Disney theme parks are simply incredible, and each Disney Imagineer who works on them is a creative genius. The attention to detail poured into everything at the parks is unparalleled, from the overall immersion and design of a park like Disney‘s Animal Kingdom, to the painstaking details placed in the attraction queues.

20. So Many Interesting Food Choices

Walt Disney World is SO much more than theme park food! love that we can eat unique foods in the World Showcase that we don’t have locally. On the flip side, it’s equally important to me that we can still find chicken tenders or an Uncrustables sandwich if we need to!

21. “Welcome Home”

As a DVC (Disney Vacation Club) member, I will never get tired of hearing cast members greet me with a “Welcome Home!” I do truly consider the Disney parks in Orlando as my second home, and seeing that purple ring light up when I tap my Magic Band makes me feel like a VIP (Very Important Princess) returning home to her kingdom.
Related: Dreaming of DVC: A Comparison of Disney Vacation Club Properties

22. Unique Merchandise

I’ve been to Walt Disney World many, many times, and somehow I still find “must have” souvenirs on each trip. From puzzles and ornaments to housewares and handbags, there’s so much to find beyond theme park sweatshirts and hats.

23. The People Mover

Yes, I’m giving the People Mover it’s own spot on this list. It’s one of the best spots to sit and just take it all in. I always find myself thinking about how grateful I am to be there, in that exact moment, with the people in that car with me.

24. Joffrey’s Coffee

Credit: Joffrey’s

I enjoy fun coffee concoctions, and Joffrey’s is a treat that I just can’t find at home. Sorry, Starbucks! You may be headed for a Grand Marnier slush at Epcot, but I’ll take a Shakin’ Jamaican every time.Related: Signature Coffee Concoctions You Simply Must Try At Disney Parks

25. Nostalgia

I’ve been to Disney with my own family many times as an adult, but no matter how many times I walk through Fantasyland, I always think of the time that my late father took me on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the boat was dripping water on us. “It’s leaking!” He made such a fuss about it, and I’ll never forget the hysterics. The ride isn’t there anymore, but the memory always will be.

Do any of these points speak to you? When someone asks, “Why do you love Disney so much?” what is your answer? I have 25 more reflections to share in “Part Two”, so stay tuned!

About Meredith Smisek

Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart who works as an elementary school counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and corgi. Meredith is a DVC member who loves music, podcasts, crafting, and "talking Disney" with anyone and everyone.

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