8Great: Ways to Make Magical Memories at Disney World
by Kirsten Akens
Disney World’s not labeled the most magical place on earth for no reason. Everywhere you turn there are opportunities for experiences like no other, even if you’re just standing in line waiting to get on a popular ride. We’ve got a roundup of eight ways to find joy at Disney where you might not think to look.
1. Special Events: From the springtime International Flower & Garden Fest in Epcot featuring character topiaries, a butterfly garden and specialty food, to the summertime Star Wars Weekends with actor autograph sessions and Padawan Mind Challenges in Hollywood Studios, Disney offers annual events included in the standard ticket pricing. In addition, make sure to ask for a daily schedule of one-time events: you might catch a lumberjack competition in Epcot’s Canada, or be able to help select the next America’s Funniest Home Videos winner in Hollywood Studios.
2. Food: Meal choices in the parks are quick and easy (and quite good in Epcot’s World Showcase), but to grab some of the best tastes on the property, get out of the parks and head to the Disney resorts. Try the buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Boma – Flavors of Africa, which includes unique items like harira (a Moroccan tomato and lentil soup) and bobotie (a South African spiced minced meat dish) along with carving, salad and dessert stations. Or enjoy a Spicy Rainbow Roll and seared grouper at the award-winning Kimonos sushi restaurant in the Dolphin Hotel.
3. Transportation: You could ride the Disney buses from park to park, but when you have a choice, opt for a boat or the monorail instead. Boats move a little slower, and offer chances to see wildlife like herons and turtles. (And kids sometimes think they’re a ride.) The monorail slides above the property, providing expansive views otherwise not seen (and depending on where you grab it, goes right through the Contemporary Resort).
4. Ears: These days, you can choose mouse ears decorated in sequins and bows and animal print to adorn your head to look like Mickey or Minnie (or just about any other character you desire), and you can find them in almost every store around. But save time for a stop at The Chapeau hat shop near the front end of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street. It’s here where you can still watch as cast members embroider your name on a classic Mouse Ears hats.
5. Rides: Of course you will want to jump on the latest and greatest in the Magic Kingdom, but some of the rides that have been around the longest still draw crowds for a reason. Space Mountain celebrates its 40th birthday this year and there’s just nothing like a roller coaster careening in its entirety through complete dark. Other historical not-to-miss landmarks: the 44-year-old Mad Tea Party and Haunted Mansion rides, and the 39-year-old Pirates of the Caribbean (keep an eye out for the Captain Jack Sparrow additions).
6. The Little Details: Disney is a master of details, and it’s fun to seek them out around the parks — from visual puns and historical references to intricate art and the like. In particular, many rides now include these “extras” during line-waiting. Look for animations hidden among the rocks while you wait to board Journey of the Little Mermaid and musical activities in the graveyard at the Haunted Mansion, both in the Magic Kingdom.
7. Pre-shows: Your inclination might be to arrive just a few minutes before any show so you’re not just standing around, but some of the most interesting activities happen pre-show. In the Animal Kingdom, get within feet of a Great-Horned Owl and feel an African Grey Parrot soar above your head during Q&A with a trainer before the Flights of Wonder Show. And before the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor in the Magic Kingdom, you’ll be asked to text the Monsters your favorite joke, which might be included in the show.
8. Music: Disney hosts musical performers at different times in each of its parks (and sometimes in the resorts), and they’re quite excellent. When you can’t get the ever-catchy “It’s a Small World” out of your mind, catch the Taiko drumming troupe Matsuriza in Epcot’s Japan; “Mulch, Sweat & Shears,” Hollywood Studios’ “rake and roll” band in the Streets of America; or Burudika, an Afro-pop group hosting street parties in Animal Kingdom.