We all know that Walt Disney World is a place full of incredible and unique experiences. If you’re going for the first time, you’re no doubt looking forward to conquering Space Mountain, navigating the Jungle Cruise, exploring World Showcase, or flying high above Pandora.
But while those are the moments that grab all the attention, a Disney vacation is so much more than that. In fact, the best parts of a trip to the Vacation Kingdom are so often much smaller than that — not as grandiose, but no less vivid.
Those are the feelings we’ll work through today: Not the bold sensations you’ll see in Disney’s advertisements, but the simple pleasures you’ll find when you explore the resort yourself.
1. Seeing the Walt Disney World sign for the first time
As you drive down I-4 toward Walt Disney World, the anticipation is overwhelming. Billboards advertise the newest attractions; Universal and Sea World and all the other amusement offerings of the Orlando area appear right beside your car or bus; the green highway signs point out that these exits are for, yes, the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and so on.
But your Disney vacation is not official until you drive past the big one — the official Walt Disney World sign.
There are a few located at each highway entrance to the property, but they are all grandiose and instantly iconic. When you drive underneath them, you know: you’re finally there.
2. The first time opening your resort room door
In the 1990s, Michael Eisner figured out that being the Vacation Kingdom was as much about the resort hotel experience as it was about the parks and recreation. If you can give people truly memorable hotel experiences, they’ll come back again and again.
And so, more and more resort hotels opened at Walt Disney World, and they became more and more important to the guest experience.
When you arrive at, for example, Port Orleans Riverside and open your hotel room door, you see a beautifully designed and appointed accommodation that evokes the vacation spirit. That moment of discovery, coupled with the famed closed-circuit TV station broadcasting the “Must Dos of Disney” on repeat, is a small but important ritual in the Disney vacation experience.
3. The early morning stroll around the resort
But the true magic of the resorts happens not when you arrive for the first time, but when you leave it for the first time to visit one of the parks.
Provided you and your loved ones aren’t late risers, an early morning walk around your resort is as peaceful as Walt Disney World gets. Grabbing a cup of coffee from the counter service location of your choice and walking through the morning dew is a magical revelation. The coffee tastes fresher, and the air smells sweeter. It’s all the beauty of Walt Disney World, but without the hustle and bustle.