Does your family have a tradition?
Most families that have traveled to Disney several times have some sort of tradition regarding the first thing you do. Mine does a well, and I have been doing it as long as I have been able to understand that a Disney Park is more than a bunch of rides.
To me, especially at Disneyland or at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World in Florida, the feeling you get when entering the parks is something special that deserves attention and appreciation. I think that this is what separates the casual Disney park goer, from the hard core Disney nerds. If you “get it” I don’t have to explain it to you. If you don’t “get it” I can’t explain it to you.
This is where the tradition comes in. After going through the bag check, and the turnstiles. We then take the obligatory photo pass photo in front of the Mickey flower bed. Then we start making our way under the tunnel, usually on our right hand side for some reason. I look at the posters for the attractions to remind myself of past visits and start the experience of being in the parks. I start to remember what I have read in various forms about the tunnel “revealing” the scene of Main Street, and the castle that sits just past the hub at the end of Main Street, so I pay special attention to how the park reveals itself as we walk through the end of the tunnel and out into Town Square.
Once we are through the tunnel, we casually make our way around Town Square to the opposite side of the flag pole area. The side facing the castle. Then we stop, facing the castle and stand there. We stand by the curb, so we’re not blocking traffic, but we just stop. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, or what else we have planned. The very first thing that we need to do every time is stand there for several minutes and just absorb the atmosphere and let all the problems, troubles, stress from traveling, and any family bickering go away. We can stand there and say that we made it. In my mind, you don’t officially make it until you are on Main Street, no matter what resort you are staying in.
Not only am I staring at the castle, the stores that line Main Street, and trying to take in as much visually as I can, but I try to use other senses too. I am listening and maybe hearing the vehicles are running on Main Street, or you can hear the hooves of the horse. The train whistle from the train station behind us. The buzz of the crowd, or snippets of conversations from families enjoying their day. Sometimes, it’s a band playing, or the Dapper Dan’s. I try to smell what I can, like the popcorn carts, or maybe if the wind is right, you can catch the fake bakery smell they pump into the street, or the blooming flowers. This is what I am talking about when I am saying that you absorb the atmosphere. It’s a lot more than just seeing that castle at the end of the hub. You really have to stop and force yourself to take it in.
Sure, on the following days of our vacation, we won’t take as much time to absorb the magic when we enter. We’ll move quickly to one attraction or another based on the “plan” for the day, or to make a dining reservation in time. However, on that first day, I know that the very first thing we need to do as a family is to spend time just standing there.
After that, the rest of the day does not really matter. We’re just so happy to be there. There have been days when we arrive later in the day, and don’t even go on any attractions. We’ll just wander around until the park closes. Other days, after our few minutes of quiet time in Town Square, I know we have full day of Disney laid out before us, and we get started on our day.
I also suggest that you take time to do this as well. You may choose a different spot, or not have a designated spot or time in mind, but as I get older, I realize the importance of taking time to stop and absorb at Disney. If it’s sitting at Jolly Holiday bakery, and having a cup cake, or at the Main Street Ice Cream Parlor. If it’s on a bench in Tomorrowland, listening for the pages for “Tom Morrow” or a spot by the Rivers of America watching the water traffic. (Another spot I love is the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland, and they have great bathrooms downstairs that most people don’t know about.) The point is to stop and absorb the environment. There is so much going on at any Disney park at any time, it’s important to appreciate the details.
However, our tradition of spending time when we enter is to help us mentally prepare for what’s going on. I don’t know how many times we have been crabby or tired, or having typical family arguments, but when we stand there and let Disney wash over us and change our mindset, all the cares and worries of the world seem to disappear. Now I know that sounds pretty cheesy, but if you are a “Disney Person” like a lot of you are, you know exactly what I am talking about.
It’s kind of funny, because we have the same tradition when we leave. We stop in about the same spot, and do the same thing. Stop and absorb. I try to remember as much as I can, knowing it will be the last time for quite some time. I want to burn that image into my head so I can keep it as long as possible, or at least until my next visit. Also, I have to admit that no matter if we are arriving or if we are on our last day leaving, both times generally involve a couple tears, only from my wife of course, I would never admit to tearing up over a trip to a theme park. 😉
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