Ask any of the 50 million people who visit Disney World each year what their favorite thing is about the most magical place on earth, and you will get a different response from each of them. Some love the parades, while others love the thrill rides. Some come for the food and stay for the fireworks. Because there’s so much to see, do, hear, taste and experience at Disney World, it’s quite possible for you to have a completely new experience every time you visit. And if you’re like many Disney World fanatics, there are some things you love to experience on every visit—those things that truly give you those magical “chill bumps” each time you enjoy them. Here are 10 that give me chill bumps no matter how often I experience them.
10. Driving into the parks and seeing the “Walt Disney World” sign for the first time
We always travel to the parks with family and friends. I have four children of my own, and we always share the magic with someone. Because of this, we often rent a vacation home big enough for everyone just a few miles down I-4, and then we drive to the parks. And the site of the Walt Disney World sign as we drive into the resort on World Drive is absolutely surreal every time. We just can’t believe we’re here again! And we are so excited!
9. Checking into my resort hotel for the first time
There is always something special about staying at a Disney World Resort hotel—any Disney Resort Hotel. The magic begins when you first check into the hotel, and it lasts until you leave to head home. Cast Members working in the hotels know how to make Guests feel right at home when visiting the most magical place on earth, and the level of service Guests receive as visitors to a Disney Resort Hotel is second to none. Definite chill bumps material!
8. Magic Kingdom’s rope drop
You’ve probably heard about “rope drop” at Magic Kingdom. The term refers to the park’s morning opening ceremony led by none other than Mickey himself. From Cinderella Castle, Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto welcome Guests to another day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and they are joined by some very special guests—the likes of Mary Poppins, Cinderella (and of course, her stepsisters), Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida and more! The ceremony is so beautifully exciting, and it sets the tone for Guests’ entire day at Magic Kingdom! And the best thing is—it truly never gets old! I mean, really—fireworks in the morning? Yes, please!
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7. Meeting Mickey
Back in the 1950s when Disneyland first opened, thousands of Guests visited the firstborn of the Disney Parks family with the intention of meeting a very special mouse face-to-face and hand-in-hand. Over 60 years later, many of us still get excited about standing in the queue to meet Mickey. He serves as a starting point for the Disney era (no disrespect to Oswald, of course), and Walt himself asked that “we never lose sight of one thing—that it all began with a mouse.” Whether we are meeting Mickey at Town Square Theater at Magic Kingdom, in his safari best at Adventurers’ Outpost at Animal Kingdom or as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Red Carpet Dreams at Hollywood Studios, there’s just something so exciting and magical about shaking hands and sharing hugs with Mickey, don’t you think?
6. The Festival of Fantasy Parade
Every afternoon at about 3:00 p.m., Magic Kingdom presents the Festival of Fantasy Parade. It’s one of the best parades (in my opinion) that Disney World has ever produced and incorporates close to 100 performers. It’s also a great place to see lots of beloved Disney characters—there are around 40 of them in this one production. The parade boasts several beautifully decorated massive floats—a Princess float with Tiana, Naveen, Anna, Elsa, Cinderella and her prince and Belle and Beast, a Tangled float with Flynn Rider and Rapunzel, a Little Mermaid float with Ariel and friends, a Peter Pan float with Peter, Wendy, Hook, Mr. Smee and the Lost Boys, a Brave float with Merida, a Sleeping Beauty float with Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip, and Mickey and Minnie’s airship float. Many of the characters walk between the floats. And while the floats are amazing, I think the part that gives me chill bumps the most is the music—
Away we go! It’s a Festival of Fantasy
Beauty and majesty shining magically
Dreams that glow
Wondrous, dazzling brilliantly
So away we go! It’s a Festival of Fantasy
If you’ve seen the parade, you can probably hear the music in your mind, and if you haven’t, this parade should be on your Disney World bucket list for sure!
5. Seeing Spaceship Earth for the first time each trip.
I know what you’re thinking—Spaceship Earth? Really? That attraction is 36 years old and super dated! But I have a different thought about this “dated” attraction. First—to me, Spaceship Earth should have a somewhat dated feel to it—it’s one way we keep the early days of “EPCOT Center” alive in our thoughts. Second, when you really look at the unbelievable feats of engineering that took place so that this huge geodesic sphere could stand above the ground and never cave in, collapse or fail in any other way for over 36 years, you really have to stand in awe of the structure. And third, when you look at all that went into the attraction itself—the work of a famous author (Ray Bradbury), the work of famous narrators (currently Dame Judi Dench) and the tireless hours of work by Disney’s Imagineers in designing the attraction, using a number of very realistic audio-animatronic robots and incorporating time-accurate props (how did they get that car up there??), you can’t help but get chill bumps upon seeing the 18-feet-tall, 16 million-pound “golf ball.”
4. Seeing Cinderella Castle from the monorail for the first time each trip
I’m almost tearing up just thinking about it! The moment when we’re headed from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the gates at Magic Kingdom aboard the monorail—just after the train passes through the Contemporary Resort—and we see Cinderella Castle for the first time on our trip—that is a feeling unmatched by most experiences—even at Disney World.
3. Seeing—no, beholding—Cinderella Castle covered in ice at Christmastime
Okay, this experience might just be up there with seeing the castle for the first time. I’ll never forget the first time I saw the castle covered in ice—finally, I wasn’t just looking at a Google image! I was there—at the forecourt of Cinderella’s glorious castle—made more glorious by the “ice” that covered it. And. It. Was. Amazing!
2. Meeting Imagineers in the parks
This one can be tricky—because it can be difficult to know which “Cast Member” walking around the parks is actually a Disney Imagineer. But if you’re lucky enough to meet one, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. My husband and I are Disney fanatics—and especially Imagineering fanatics, and we watch closely in the parks—especially in areas of new attractions or lands (like Toy Story Land and Pandora)—for these amazing people who serve as the creative minds behind all that we love about the parks. Imagineers are responsible for dreaming up, creating, constructing and opening new lands, new attractions, new shows and more. Meeting an Imagineer truly gives you chill bumps when you realize you’re shaking hands with the greatness and genius behind Disney World itself!
1. Walking into the Grand Ballroom at Be Our Guest Restaurant
A dinner reservation at Fantasyland’s Be Our Guest Restaurant can be difficult to score. That’s because it’s such a fabulous experience, and the word has spread! Millions of Guests visiting the parks get online 180 days in advance with the hope of being able to find an available dining reservation for dinner at Beast Castle’s main attraction. And if you have the pleasure of joining Beast for dinner, it is a dinner you’ll never forget. The food is great, and the atmosphere is straight out of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. There are three dining areas—the Castle Gallery, the dimly-lit eerie West Wing and the gorgeous Grand Ballroom. And as your hostess leads you to your table, the grandeur of the Grand Ballroom is beautifully overwhelming. Snow is falling outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, and cherubs adorn the high ceilings. So if you’re able to get that reservation, be sure to walk slowly and take in the moment—and definitely be sure to take pictures! The experience now and the pictures when you get back home will all serve as chill bumps fodder for sure!