Welcome back to another Disney Top 5. As always, I hope you are all well out there.
14 days. Two weeks. That’s where we’re at on the official 2022 Barry Family Walt Disney World Return Trip countdown. At long last, we’re two weeks away from going back to Disney after almost a three-year absence. For my wife, it’ll actually be four years! Shocking, but true. At this point all we have to do is pack and leave the house. Everything is all set. Plans are all pretty solid. Reservations made. New comfortable sneakers are being broken in. I think we’re ready. I, for one, am more than ready to be going back.
This is going to be an epic trip for us because, we’re actually leaving one of us behind this time. Our son Casey is staying for the Disney College Program for 5 months! That’s going to be a weird flight home. You’re supposed to come home with everyone right? We’ve already left him at college but that’s only an hour and half away from home. I’ve literally taken the drive just to bring him something he needs and then turned around and left. That’s not exactly going to be possible this time around. However, and I’m sure many of you Disney fans out there are already thinking this, now I get to go back and visit! And I certainly plan to.
As we lead up to this trip, I’ve been doing my research on everything that’s new. Lightning Lane, Genie+, Rise of the Resistance, Ratatouille, Guardians, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Harmonious, and so much more! It’s all new, isn’t it? Well, of course not. There will be plenty of old friends and comfortable things that are going to make me feel right at home again. As excited as I am for all the new stuff, we all know part of the magic is being able to revisit the older stuff too. So, that got me thinking about just what it’s going to take to make me realize that, yes, I’m actually back. What makes me feel like I’m home at Walt Disney World? Are there a few things that scream out, “I’m not really back until I do this?” Let’s take a look with my Top 5 things that complete the statement, “It’s not really a Disney trip until …”
5 – …There Are New Pins on my Backpack
On my very first family trip to Walt Disney World, I kinda fell really hard for pin collecting. It started off quite simple and slowly actually. On day one, at the Emporium, I picked up a Sorcerer Mickey pin, brought it to the register, pinned him onto my trusty yellow North Face backpack and that was it; a slight obsession was born. On that trip, I filled each of my backpack straps with pins. I went simple. Just classic characters. Joining Sorcerer Mickey were Peter Pan, Baloo, O’Malley, Robin Hood, Tramp, Captain Hook and Dumbo. There were no words. No characters dressed as pirates or firemen, just the classic Disney animated characters in their original animated glory. My daughter got all princesses on her little bucket hat. My wife got all Tinker Bells on her bag straps. I thought that might be the end of it. Little did I know that almost 20 years later, there would be 5 pin boards hanging on my basement walls filled with all sorts of Disney pins. To be fair, two of the boards hanging on the wall aren’t mine. One belongs to our daughter and one is shared by our twin boys. Only three of them are mine!
Some of the first classic character pins that I’ve ever collected. Photo by Chris Barry.
On each trip I start out with the pin that started it all, Sorcerer Mickey. Tradition has dictated that he’s all alone on my backpack at the beginning of each trip and then…he gets company! Of course, once I fill up the roughly 8 slots I have on my backpack, I do keep going until I feel satisfied and that number has certainly varied with each trip. I’ll typically buy a bunch of pins online, from a reputable pin seller, see if there are some that I like and the rest get traded when I’m down there. I’ve always thought that the Disney pins were well-made, for the most part inexpensive, and they tend to really pay tribute to classic Disney characters, attractions and pieces of company history. What can I say? It’s just not a Disney trip until that first pin gets put on the backpack.
4 – …I’m Watching Some Fireworks
I’ve always been a big fireworks fan, so it’s no wonder that I feel like I haven’t really arrived at Walt Disney World until I’m at Magic Kingdom, Epcot or Hollywood Studios at night waiting for one of the awesome firework shows to begin. I have amazing memories of all of the Disney fireworks shows. My wife and I renewed our wedding vows in the Magic Kingdom Rose Garden right before Wishes exploded above us. For my wife’s 40th we booked a dining reservation at California Grill just in time for Wishes. Having that incredible meal with the lights dimmed and the Wishes soundtrack piped in was a moment I don’t think any of us will ever forget. On my 50th birthday I stood on the bridge to Tomorrowland gazing at Tinker Bell soaring over my head surrounded by 27 of my dearest family and friends as we all watched Happily Ever After. My sons and I were there in World Showcase for the very last Illuminations in 2019. And I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed the Star Wars Galactic Spectacular. Talk about feeling like a kid again!
It’s hard to beat watching the fireworks from the beaches at the Polynesian. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
I could go on and on about my special Disney fireworks moments. The bottom line is this; I just don’t feel like I’m really there until I see an incredible Disney style fireworks show going off in the skies above me. How thrilled am I that there are two new fireworks shows, Disney Enchantment and Harmonious, for us to see on this upcoming trip? It’ll be a familiar moment, one that I can’t wait for, just set to an all new show. Sounds great to me.
3 – …I’m in World Showcase at Night
When I think about the fact that I haven’t actually been on Walt Disney World property for three years, I start to consider the spots that I miss the most. One of them, for sure, is Epcot’s World Showcase. The thing that truly stands out about Epcot is the plain fact that there’s simply nothing else like it…anywhere. Think about it. The Magic Kingdom has its counterparts throughout the world like Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. To a certain extent, Hollywood Studios can be compared to Universal Studios right down the road. And one could almost make an argument that places like Busch Gardens Africa or even some of the really wonderful zoos in the world like The Bronx or San Diego can give you a similar feeling to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Yes, that’s a bit of an understatement given the truly extraordinary Pandora, but you get the picture. Epcot, however, is its own thing. We no longer have World’s Fairs anymore, so where else can you experience something like World Showcase? You really can’t. I absolutely adore Epcot. I’m thrilled that it’s getting some attention right now, although I will say that prior to all the current work being done, I was still pretty enamored with the place. I know it needed some updating, but to me, it’s so completely unique and since the first time I walked through the turnstiles into Future World, it’s held a special place in my heart.
Sunset beyond World Showcase. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
That said, I never feel like I’ve really returned to Walt Disney World until I’m walking around the eleven countries of World Showcase, especially at night. I think each of the four Disney parks takes on a whole different vibe at night, but there’s something extra special about World Showcase once the sun goes down. The lights, the background music, the views of the other countries and their lights across the lagoon all make World Showcase at night one of my all time favorite places to be. We plan to spend the evening of our first full day over at Epcot on this upcoming trip. Once I’m strolling through France with a Grand Marnier slush in my hand headed towards Germany where my wife gets that special, peaceful look in her eye, I’ll know that it’s officially a Disney trip.
2 – …I’m in the Queue for Peter Pan’s Flight
Here’s the thing; I’m well aware that Peter Pan’s Flight is far from the most ambitious or high tech attraction at Walt Disney World. As a matter of fact, it’s right simple. But still, nothing makes me feel like I’ve arrived at Disney more than this classic, simple attraction. Peter Pan happens to be my favorite Disney animated film and all I have to do is get near the building and hear the familiar strains of You Can Fly and I’m in a whole other place. I’m right where I’m supposed to be; transported to Neverland where I’ll never grow up, where anything is possible and where the simple things, much like this ride, matter the most.
Soaring over London on Peter Pan’s Flight. ©Disney.
I’m obviously not alone, because after all these years and after all the technical advances in attraction design, Peter Pan’s Flight is still consistently one of the most popular attractions on Disney property. Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s a low capacity ride and that’s why the lines are always so long. But, I’m fairly confident there’s more to it than that. I think the simpleness of it all is what attracts people the most. If you don’t feel the Disney magic while you’re soaring over London than you’re probably in the wrong place. So, once I’m there winding through the Darling house on my way to boarding my pirate ship, I’ll know I’ll have returned.
1 – …I’m Walking into Town Square at the Magic Kingdom
As much as I love all the Disney parks, I’ve long said and long felt that the heart of Walt Disney World is the Magic Kingdom. This is where it all began. This was Walt’s blueprint of a place where families could go, leave the world behind and actually step into the stories he wanted to tell. We have always made the Magic Kingdom our first morning’s stop on every trip we’ve ever taken and with good reason. That’s just how it should be. Once I walk under those train tracks, smell the popcorn and emerge in Town Square, I know I’m officially back. It’s also been pointed out to me that I get a real silly little smile on my face once I do so. On more than one occasion, My wife has looked at me when we’re walking into Town Square and said, “Look at you…you’re so happy right now, aren’t you?” Yes. Yes I am. It’s clearly not a Disney trip until I’m entering the Magic Kingdom with that goofy grin on my face and I get that first glimpse of the square, of Main Street and of the castle off in the distance. That’s the moment I’m waiting for most.
A panoramic view of Town Square, Main Street, and the Castle as seen from the upper level of the Main Street Train Station. Photo by Donald Fink.
On our upcoming arrival day, we won’t be headed right into a park. We’ll probably spend the evening at the French Quarter or take the boat down to Disney Springs. So, we’ll be there, but it won’t be until the following morning when we walk into the Magic Kingdom where I’ll start getting that indescribable feeling that I’ve been waiting for three years. That’s when I’m really, truly back.
There are so many trip defining moments on every Disney vacation that we’ve taken. There’s too many to list. But these five are what make it all official to me. I’m back in my favorite place again, soaking it all in. It’s been a long time coming and I just can’t wait.
That’s all for this time. As always, I’d like to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below to share your thoughts. Stay safe and I’ll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.