When I was growing up, my family went to Walt Disney World a lot (they took me, too. It wasn’t just them). My grandparents lived not far from the parks, so we would pack up the car a few times a year and head on down. I was an annual pass holder before I hit my teens, I knew the layout of Magic Kingdom better than my own neighborhood, and at some point I was pretty sure that I had seen everything that ‘The Most Magical Place on Earth’ had to offer.
Yeah… not even close. Here’s the thing about Walt Disney World: there happen to be a lot of different things to do on property. In fact, it’s become something of a goal for my wife and me to do something new on every Walt Disney World trip.
I don’t necessarily mean just checking out what’s new in the parks–we know that if there’s a new ride, we’re going to ride it as soon as we get the chance–but I’m talking about experiences beyond just the attractions.
This really started a few years ago, when Gilly and I went to Walt Disney World together for the first time. She hadn’t been there since she was about ten years old (Magic Kingdom was the only park at that time) and we did a blitz of all four parks over the course of four days. It was exhausting and amazing, and when we got back she started really researching Walt Disney World–reading books and websites–and found that there was a lot more to do there that she, and in many cases I, didn’t know about. This sparked an interest in both of us to experience more of Walt Disney World.
A little over a year later we were heading to Walt Disney World again, this time for our honeymoon. We only did two days in the theme parks on that trip: one of them was Hollywood Studios for Star Wars Weekends, which I’ve always wanted to see (I’m a big Star Wars fan, she generally humors my Star Wars fandom, and we both had a lot of fun), and the other was Magic Kingdom. During that trip we also went to Typhoon Lagoon, we took a horseback ride through the nature trails at Fort Wilderness, played a round of miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens, ate at ‘Ohana for a character breakfast with Lilo and Stitch, and did the spectacular Pirates & Pals Fireworks Cruise.
With the exception of the character breakfast–which I had last done when my daughter was small, upwards of a decade ago–these were all new experiences for the both of us. We had a great time at Walt Disney World, even though only a couple days were actually spent in the theme parks.
On our next (rapidly approaching) trip to Walt Disney World we’ve booked a slot in “Behind the Seeds”, a walking tour that takes you behind the scenes of the Living With the Land boat ride at EPCOT. The tour is about an hour long, and takes you on an educational journey that goes well beyond the ride. I really like the Living With the Land attraction, so I’m pretty excited, and it continues this tradition of doing something we haven’t done. We also have a reservation to eat at the Rose & Crown Pub at the England pavilion in EPCOT, which is noteworthy because my wife hasn’t eaten at a table service restaurant within the parks yet. We generally just hit quick service eateries when we’re there, it’s part speed and part financial, but she’s much more of a ‘foodie’ than I (ask me sometime about how excited I get over the toppings bar at Cosmic Ray’s) and she really wants to experience more of the dining options available. We managed to get that reservation for later in the evening, too, with the intent of being able to watch IllumiNations right from the restaurant, so that should be really cool. We also managed to get lunch reservations at Be Our Guest in New Fantasyland–which is pretty tough to do–and we’re excited to eat at this new and popular restaurant.
There are new attractions to see on this trip, too. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train was still under construction the last time we were there, and we haven’t seen the renovated Test Track yet (we already have our Fastpasses booked for both of those). We also missed Enchanted Tales with Belle last time, and last time we were at Animal Kingdom we never got the chance to see the Finding Nemo musical show. There are also a few attractions that I haven’t seen in a really long time and my wife has never seen–like It’s Tough to be a Bug, Ellen’s Energy Adventure, and Hall of Presidents–which we’re going to try and go to on this trip. So even within the parks, even amid all of the rides and shows that we’re going to see, there are some that will be new experiences for one or both of us.
If there’s a point here (and really, it’s like 50/50 around these parts) it’s this: Walt Disney World is huge, and there’s a lot to see and do both inside and outside of the parks and it’s very possible to tailor a trip to include all sorts of different experiences. It’s very easy, too, to just acknowledge the big theme parks–and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that because they’re awesome–and not realize that there are lots of other fun adventures are available on property. Even within the parks things change frequently and there are new/renovated attractions to see, but trying some of the other experiences really (for us) add some extra magic to a trip. Especially if you’ve been to the parks before like we have, finding new things to do on property can lead to some great new adventures.
Of course, part of going to Walt Disney World (for us) is seeing the attractions that we love. Haunted Mansion, Star Tours, and such we’ve done quite a few times and will do them quite a few more. They don’t get old or boring, and that’s simply a part of the Disney magic. No matter how many times we walk through Fantasyland it’s still special, and it’s why we want to keep going back.
We have yet to experience the interactive DisneyQuest, though, or see Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba at Downtown Disney (soon to be Disney Springs). There are definitely more tours we want to go on, including the Keys to the Kingdom and the Wild Africa Trek. Plus, with all of the construction in Hollywood Studios, and the upcoming Avatar addition to Animal Kingdom, there’ll be plenty of new things to do within the parks on future trips as well. So while we’ll always go back to see the old attractions we love, we also plan to keep with our tradition of seeing something new each time as well.