WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT WDW IT’S HOME SWEET HOME
What I love best about Walt Disney World isn’t a thing. Not a specific ride, attraction, restaurant, stage show, resort, or even the monorail.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love all of these things. From the Haunted Mansion to Soarin’ to Test Track to eating the Kitchen Sink with my family at the Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. From preparing for splashdown on Splash Mountain to walking the World Showcase’s torch-lined pathways back to our resort.
But this article isn’t about all the things I love at Disney. It’s about what I love most.
And what I love most is…. the feeling that being there brings.
For me, it starts as soon as the Magical Express drops us off at the Beach Club Resort from the airport. As we walk up to the front doors, several cast members, including a bellhop and valet, and a man charmingly dressed as a Captain, smile and say, “Welcome home!” A phrase that never fails to make me feel warm and waited for, like coming home after a long business trip. And, somehow, even though I know the phrase is used for all guests and is part of the Disney training, it still feels sincere.
As the week goes on, there are more familiar feelings – those that tie one visit to the next. That connect the past to the present. Feelings that make Disney World more than a resort for my family, and more a home away from home.
And just like a home is often in the background of family pictures, so has Disney World been a regular backdrop in our lives. Each year, we have our kids pose in the same spots at the resort, a fun way to show how they’ve grown. Like looking back at pencil marks that parents have made on a garage wall to track their children’s height. Year by year, whether it’s our kids sitting by the fountain in the Morocco pavilion, standing in front of Cinderella’s castle, or sitting on the Speeder Bike near Star Tours, the photos bring both the bittersweet feeling of seeing how quickly time has passed, and the joy of remembering moments together.
There’s the gratitude we feel in those instances where a cast member shows extra kindness to our kids, or goes way beyond what one would expect to help us solve a problem. Of course, this level of service can cause some consternation when I get back home after our trip and expect that same kind of care at the neighborhood grocery store.
There’s also the feeling of wonder, when on every one of our trips, a moment of magic stands out, like when our young daughter left her purse on the monorail. Within minutes of telling a security guard, he notified the Transportation and Ticket Center, which then contacted the monorail driver, who then checked the train at the next stop and brought the purse back to the Epcot entrance on his next pass, where another security guard brought it down to us at the base of Spaceship Earth. Watching my daughter’s eyes as she excitedly took it back within a half hour of thinking it was gone for good, I saw amazement there. Which made me realize once again that the “most magical place on earth” wasn’t just an advertising tagline, but a promise.
At the end of the trip, however, there’s a feeling I don’t look forward to: sadness. My wife and I still haven’t figured out how best to spend that last day to lessen the feeling for ourselves and the kids. We’ve tried everything to make that transition back into the “real world” easier, from spending the last day in one of the parks, to swimming back at the resort, to actually visiting an attraction outside Disney World. Not much helps.
Fortunately, though, the excitement begins to return as soon as we start planning our next visit, even before our plane touches back down in Chicago. Of course, the irony doesn’t escape me – that we’re missing our “second home” on the way back to our first.
Which I’m guessing is exactly how Walt envisioned it as he sat watching his daughters ride the carousel at the park near his Los Angeles home, dreaming of a place where families could have fun together – and feel together. A place that became reality with Disneyland. And, later, Walt Disney World.
And, as we know, there’s no place like home.