My Disney Top 5 - It's Not Really a Disney Trip Until...

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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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 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 downright 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.

 

Comments

  1. By Mickey021

    Great list as always Chris! I have a few of my own (first glimpse of the castle or the Contemporary, riding Figment, seeing the Kangaroos at Animal Kingdom), but my real "I'm Here" moment is when I spot Mickey Mouse for the first time. That moment has choked me up since I was a little kid.

    ..and last thing that caught my eye. You're actually going to Disney Springs?!:-)

  2. By BrandonH

    Here are my two for Disneyland:

    1. Catching that first glimpse of Space Mountain from the road
    2. Seeing the flowers in the shape of Mickey's head at the front of Disneyland

  3. By maxbuffmelvin71

    My 5:

    1. The following attractions: Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Country Bears, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover, and Journey into Imagination.
    2. Visit an MK area resort, especially Poly, Wilderness Lodge, or Ft Wilderness.
    3. Witness Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth
    4. See Mickey Mouse in a character greeting or on stage.
    5. Trying something new, like a new attraction or restaurant.

  4. By jerm

    It doesn't matter what park I'm at, but it's that moment when you glance down Main Street and see the castle in the distance. Then, I know that I'm home. The last two trips to WDW both started at MK, so that was perfect. But the last trip to Disneyland started at DCA (probably because it opened earlier) and it was great, but when we crossed the pavilion near dinner time, and went into the original park, it was a different kind of magic.

  5. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Mickey021 View Post
    Great list as always Chris! I have a few of my own (first glimpse of the castle or the Contemporary, riding Figment, seeing the Kangaroos at Animal Kingdom), but my real "I'm Here" moment is when I spot Mickey Mouse for the first time. That moment has choked me up since I was a little kid.

    ..and last thing that caught my eye. You're actually going to Disney Springs?!:-)

    Good choices Gregg. I know your first one well and it was close to being on the list. I love that moment on the Disney bus to the Magic Kingdom where you get that first glimpse. Big fan of the kangaroos by the way.

    And yes, I'm the only one that has actually seen Disney Springs. My sons and I were at Downtown Disney and so were me and Diane. So, I figured we'd hop the boat from French Quarter on our first night there. I won't love it, but I'll give it a shot.

  6. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by BrandonH View Post
    Here are my two for Disneyland:

    1. Catching that first glimpse of Space Mountain from the road
    2. Seeing the flowers in the shape of Mickey's head at the front of Disneyland

    Cool Brandon. I imagine when I finally get out to Disneyland, those two will be favorites of mine.

  7. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by maxbuffmelvin71 View Post
    My 5:

    1. The following attractions: Splash Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Country Bears, Pirates, Haunted Mansion, Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress, PeopleMover, and Journey into Imagination.
    2. Visit an MK area resort, especially Poly, Wilderness Lodge, or Ft Wilderness.
    3. Witness Cinderella Castle and Spaceship Earth
    4. See Mickey Mouse in a character greeting or on stage.
    5. Trying something new, like a new attraction or restaurant.

    Max is a classic attraction guy, as am I. Truth be told though, I haven't been in the Country Bears in a long long time.

  8. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by jerm View Post
    It doesn't matter what park I'm at, but it's that moment when you glance down Main Street and see the castle in the distance. Then, I know that I'm home. The last two trips to WDW both started at MK, so that was perfect. But the last trip to Disneyland started at DCA (probably because it opened earlier) and it was great, but when we crossed the pavilion near dinner time, and went into the original park, it was a different kind of magic.

    jerm! Haven't seen your name there for a while! I do love that first glance down Main Street as well!

  9. By Dave1313

    If I am to pick ONE, it's taking a train ride for the Grand Circle Tour of the MK. As we are all aware though, it's been quite a while since we could do that at MK in Florida. I probably never skipped the train when it was up. (maybe I skipped it once if I realized late in the trip I hadn't ridden yet and found a really long line for some reason, but in general, I always did it, many times immediately after passing through the gates if I was not on another mission to get to an ADR or FP+ appointment right away).

    It sounds like the modifications and tunnel addition for TRON are progressing along and the tracks have been relaid to a large extent, so hopefully it will be back soon. Also, hopefully when they start the updates to Splash Mountain to change it over to Tiana's Bayou Adventure, they will just be able to block the view into the mountain and leave the train running during construction. It would be a real kick in the pants to close it down again after such a long closure for TRON.

    As to Chris' list:
    5) I am in on the pins to some extent, but not the the level Chris describes (and I don't think I've ever worn pins in the parks - I'd be afraid to lose one I really liked!). I've got maybe half to two thirds of a 2 foot by 3 foot bulletin board filled with pins, almost all bought during trips. I generally would buy one for specific events I'm visiting for (F&W, F&G, MVMCP, old Star Wars Weekends, opening of new attractions, etc), also for any hotel I actually stayed at on a given trip. I'll also occasionally buy one or 2 that I just think are cool. (not to go too deep, but I think the first pin I ever bought at DL fits that bill. It was a three dimensional (sort of layered) pin, with the Castle, Monorail, Golden Gate Bridge, and Grizzly Peak all on one pin. To me, that one pin just defined Disneyland Resort for me as it was at the time.)

    4) Agreed. I participated in the madness that was the Wishes/HEA transition, seeing both the last wishes and first HEA. I dedicated enough time to grab a spot near the end of Main Street, just before the hub. Also was there for the final Illuminations in 2019, and IIRC, the first Epcot Forever that replaced it the next night since Harmonious was still being worked on.

    3) If it matches up with the show, agreed. there is always lots of activity as people try to grab a beverage or snack right before the evening finale. The views across the lagoon are of course changed quite a bit with the permanent Harmonious barges, but it's still a nice stroll, and the pavilions themselves do have a much different look at night.

    2) I do enjoy this ride, and greatly appreciate the novelty of it being the only dark ride where you are suspended below the track with much of the show below you, but I will admit I have not made this a "must do" for every trip, pretty much because of the lines. As much as people joke/curse about it, I'm much more likely to visit IASW to scratch the Fantasyland ride itch.

    1) I'll go a few steps (literally ) before Town Square and say for me, it's the sight of the Main Street Train Station before entering the park (though I admit Town Square is a good feeling of being there also, of course). At first view from the Ferry when you get a nice distant view of both the station and the castle, and then once at the main entrance. Bonus points if there is actually a train arriving or getting ready to depart with a happy bunch of guests right as I pass through the turnstiles and head under the tracks. I have on many trips held back from entering the park to get some nice pics of the train at the station as it prepares to depart.

    Nice article as always, Chris - and enjoy your trip that is so close to being reality now!

  10. By wdwchuck

    This is an easy one for us, when we get our first glimpse of the Welcome to Walt Disney sign as we drive on the road into WDW. That is all it takes; we are in the bubble. Nobody else has the bubble, not Universal, not Sea World, nobody has the bubble and it starts after we drive under the sign. The bubble is real, the bubble is incredible, the bubble is gone the second we are off of WDW property.
    So, we only have one top 5 on this week's top 5 conversation. No need to go into a park or get on a ride or ever walk into a resort lobby. The bubble gets us every time.

  11. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave1313 View Post
    If I am to pick ONE, it's taking a train ride for the Grand Circle Tour of the MK. As we are all aware though, it's been quite a while since we could do that at MK in Florida. I probably never skipped the train when it was up. (maybe I skipped it once if I realized late in the trip I hadn't ridden yet and found a really long line for some reason, but in general, I always did it, many times immediately after passing through the gates if I was not on another mission to get to an ADR or FP+ appointment right away).

    It sounds like the modifications and tunnel addition for TRON are progressing along and the tracks have been relaid to a large extent, so hopefully it will be back soon. Also, hopefully when they start the updates to Splash Mountain to change it over to Tiana's Bayou Adventure, they will just be able to block the view into the mountain and leave the train running during construction. It would be a real kick in the pants to close it down again after such a long closure for TRON.

    As to Chris' list:
    5) I am in on the pins to some extent, but not the the level Chris describes (and I don't think I've ever worn pins in the parks - I'd be afraid to lose one I really liked!). I've got maybe half to two thirds of a 2 foot by 3 foot bulletin board filled with pins, almost all bought during trips. I generally would buy one for specific events I'm visiting for (F&W, F&G, MVMCP, old Star Wars Weekends, opening of new attractions, etc), also for any hotel I actually stayed at on a given trip. I'll also occasionally buy one or 2 that I just think are cool. (not to go too deep, but I think the first pin I ever bought at DL fits that bill. It was a three dimensional (sort of layered) pin, with the Castle, Monorail, Golden Gate Bridge, and Grizzly Peak all on one pin. To me, that one pin just defined Disneyland Resort for me as it was at the time.)

    4) Agreed. I participated in the madness that was the Wishes/HEA transition, seeing both the last wishes and first HEA. I dedicated enough time to grab a spot near the end of Main Street, just before the hub. Also was there for the final Illuminations in 2019, and IIRC, the first Epcot Forever that replaced it the next night since Harmonious was still being worked on.

    3) If it matches up with the show, agreed. there is always lots of activity as people try to grab a beverage or snack right before the evening finale. The views across the lagoon are of course changed quite a bit with the permanent Harmonious barges, but it's still a nice stroll, and the pavilions themselves do have a much different look at night.

    2) I do enjoy this ride, and greatly appreciate the novelty of it being the only dark ride where you are suspended below the track with much of the show below you, but I will admit I have not made this a "must do" for every trip, pretty much because of the lines. As much as people joke/curse about it, I'm much more likely to visit IASW to scratch the Fantasyland ride itch.

    1) I'll go a few steps (literally ) before Town Square and say for me, it's the sight of the Main Street Train Station before entering the park (though I admit Town Square is a good feeling of being there also, of course). At first view from the Ferry when you get a nice distant view of both the station and the castle, and then once at the main entrance. Bonus points if there is actually a train arriving or getting ready to depart with a happy bunch of guests right as I pass through the turnstiles and head under the tracks. I have on many trips held back from entering the park to get some nice pics of the train at the station as it prepares to depart.

    Nice article as always, Chris - and enjoy your trip that is so close to being reality now!

    Thanks Dave. Seems like you're a big railroad fan?
    So, where did you watch the final Illuminations? We were in Germany.

  12. By cbarry

    Quote Originally Posted by wdwchuck View Post
    This is an easy one for us, when we get our first glimpse of the Welcome to Walt Disney sign as we drive on the road into WDW. That is all it takes; we are in the bubble. Nobody else has the bubble, not Universal, not Sea World, nobody has the bubble and it starts after we drive under the sign. The bubble is real, the bubble is incredible, the bubble is gone the second we are off of WDW property.
    So, we only have one top 5 on this week's top 5 conversation. No need to go into a park or get on a ride or ever walk into a resort lobby. The bubble gets us every time.

    You know Chuck, this was almost on the list. It's one of my favorite moments of the trip for exactly the reason you stated. That's it. Road signs change. No overhead wires. Just about nothing commercial except for the Speedway station. Entering the bubble is a big moment.

  13. By wdwchuck

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    You know Chuck, this was almost on the list. It's one of my favorite moments of the trip for exactly the reason you stated. That's it. Road signs change. No overhead wires. Just about nothing commercial except for the Speedway station. Entering the bubble is a big moment.

    And that is the deal, it seems cleaner, more vibrant, with a whiff of excitement in the air. I am very, very grateful for experiencing the bubble.

  14. By wdwchuck

    I thought I would throw you for a loop and comment on your comment. Hope you have a great time on your upcoming trip. No hurricanes so far.....

  15. By jerm

    I haven't missed a column, but I had some issues with my primary PC, and I was unable to log in and comment. As always, I look forward to reading your articles.

  16. By Dave1313

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    Thanks Dave. Seems like you're a big railroad fan?
    So, where did you watch the final Illuminations? We were in Germany.
    Chris,
    Yes, I have always been a big railroad fan. It started with models/toy trains with my dad's influence, but extends to the real thing to some extent, especially for something neat like the Disney Park Trains (Monorails too, and I even enjoy the DAK train to Rafiki's, even though it is not a real steam powered train, it still does a decent job of looking like one).

    I think part of my reason for saying the Grand Circle Tour is also because of the Magic that getting a sampling of the park makes you feel for those that are not as familiar with it. I'll admit now that I am probably considered a Disney frequent visitor by most, it is less of that and more just a tradition I feel good about doing (And I don't think anyone would dispute that it's just a relaxing ride). I know there are far more "productive" uses of time for a knowledgeable visitor, it's not like it saves you any time (especially if you literally do the Grand Circle Tour ) But on my earliest visits, and also on my first return to Disneyland as an adult around 12 years ago, starting with the tour gives just the taste of what you might see in each area of the park, and I sort of like that.

    Re: Illuminations final viewing: I am pretty sure I was standing on the first bridge as you walk from IG towards France for the final Illuminations (so roughly above the area where they run the paid desert party type of events). This put me looking roughly towards Mexico from that angle. It was pretty decent, I thought. As I'm sure you witnessed as well, anything near the center, people were lining up probably even in the morning (or at least by lunch time). I probably staked out my spot two hours or so before the show. The coolest unanticipated thing I saw that day was when they brought out the barges though. I was not intending to seek out that event, but I just happened to get stopped when walking towards China as they raised the drawbridge. When they brought out the barges, all the CMs waved to the cheering crowd, and the CMs driving the one with the globe did a few "donuts" right after clearing the bridge area to put on a mini show for the fans. That was pretty cool! There are (I think) numerous videos of that mini-show on YouTube.

    I seem to recall I did get a spot not too far from center somewhere near one of the 2 shops at the entrance to World Showcase for Epcot Forever the next night. There was seemingly much less interest for that, possibly because people knew it was a temporary filler until Harmonious was ready to debut.

    Quote Originally Posted by cbarry View Post
    You know Chuck, this was almost on the list. It's one of my favorite moments of the trip for exactly the reason you stated. That's it. Road signs change. No overhead wires. Just about nothing commercial except for the Speedway station. Entering the bubble is a big moment.

    I almost put some words to that effect in my original post too (or even the toll both stop for each park - though people using the buses may not think much of that since they only slow down a little! ). Not so much for the bubble aspect for me, but just for the "I'm here" aspect. It's not an accident that they have to put up all the "absolutely no stopping" signs at all of those archway areas so the roadway doesn't turn into a parking lot. So I think a lot of people appreciate those archways at the entrance points to the property.

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