My Top Ten Walt Disney World Experiences

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Every trip to Disney is full of magic. There are always things to enjoy and remember and cherish. But sometimes Disney just outdoes itself. Sometimes the magic is unreal, over the top, extraordinary. We all have our best stories. Here are some of mine:

10. Fireworks at the Polynesian

This Disney Experience is not rare, it’s not exclusive, to some, it’s not anything special. But to me, it’s the first and best moment of my Disney vacation. It has become a tradition in my family that we spend the first night of our trip at the Polynesian Resort. We get a dole whip or Mickey Rice Krispy Bar for a snack and make our way down to the beach. We pick out a good spot and hunker down for the evening. (In the winter months wrapping ourselves in towels.) I love the Electrical Water Pageant that starts everything off. Then, the music starts, pumping through the speakers all the way from Magic Kingdom. The fireworks boom, sparkling over an ever-changing Cinderella Castle. This is my ‘welcome home,’ and I’d never trade it.

9. Wedding at Grand Floridian

I hardly remember details, but I remember the magic. I think I was four or five when my second cousin got married at the Wedding Pavilion in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The whole wedding party stayed at the Floridian (I stayed with my great-grandmother who snored…) and we spent several days soaking up the romance. The ceremony was unbelievable: white and lush, with live doves and real footman. It was something out of a fairytale, complete with a stunning view of Cinderella Castle at the forefront. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as lavish since.

8. Tea at Garden View Tea Room with Grandma

My grandma passed away when I was eight years old. I didn’t have many years with her, but I have plenty of memories. She adored Disney and making every day feel special. So one of our favorite things to do was have tea at the Grand Floridian Tea Room. It was just another thing that made me feel like royalty at Disney. We’d get all dolled up and eat little finger sandwiches and drink fancy teas. There’s something so magical about being in the Grand Floridian: the soft piano melodies, a blended smell of soap and sometimes gingerbread, the total elegance. These memories will stay with me forever.

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7. Playing ‘Red Light/Green Light’ with Cast Member

Long, hot Florida days can really get to kids. When I was about ten, my whole family was spending the day in Magic Kingdom. We were walking from what was then Toon Town to Tomorrowland. My two cousins and I were dragging behind the adults, dreaming of air conditioning or a Mickey Bar, when a Cast Member joined our walk. Sensing our dreariness, this amazing Cast Member struck up a game of Red Light/Green Light. For the entire length of the walkway, he played this game with us, shouting and laughing and having a great time. This was well over ten years ago, but I still remember it clearly as an example of Disney magic turning a hard situation into a great one!

6. Fireworks on the Mickey Slide

Disney Cruise Line always goes above and beyond! When even the slightest of inconveniences happen on a Disney Cruise, the Cast Members go into a frenzy. On a recent cruise, my family and I were disappointed to find out that the matinee of a Showtime Tonight production had been cancelled. No big, really. But the Cruise Director happened to be standing near us when someone inevitably said, “Well that’s too bad,” thinking we’d just go grab an ice cream and pick one of the thousand other activities to do. The Cruise Director immediately came over, took our cabin number, apologized profusely, and said he’d be in touch. We went back to our cabin to find a personal invitation for VIP fireworks viewing of the Pirate Party that night. The Cruise Director brought us to the top of the Mickey Slide on Deck 11 to watch the show. It was amazing!

5. Waking up to Peacocks in Fort Wilderness

When I was really little, my grandparents would drive their RV to Florida and we’d stay at the Campgrounds at Fort Wilderness. This was magical in and of itself. The campgrounds are so fun and full of activities, like campfires and bike paths and the lake! But early in the morning, the Fort Wilderness resident peacocks like to make themselves known. They have this startling cry that is sure to wake everyone up. One of my fondest memories is sneaking out of the camper with my grandpa to say good morning to the peacocks as they sauntered by.

4. Backstage Theatre Tour

Disney Cruises are incredibly magical to begin with. But when Cast Members go out of their way to make a magical moment happen, that’s when people take notice. Years ago, DCL did a Backstage Theatre Tour, showcasing the Broadway-style shows put on every evening. It was adult-only, so my dad went and I met him after. He was the only one left, so asked the stage-manager/tour leader if I could see the stage go down like they did on the tour. The manager apologized and said they were loading it for the show so couldn’t move it. He could, however, take us backstage and down to the props shed. It was amazing. We got to go see all the stored props and take pictures of me on stage and see sound systems. It truly sparked my love of theatre, and I’ll remember that forever.

3. Chatting with Belle About Books

I love when the characters are given free reign to just walk around the Park on their own. A couple years ago, I was waiting in the France Pavilion in Epcot for Impressions de France to start. I was meandering around the lobby when I bumped into Belle. She seemed to be doing exactly what I was. We ending up striking up a conversation and chatting for the duration of the wait. We talked about our favorite books: mine, fiction and hers, adventure. This was incredibly cool. But looking back on it, I’m even more impressed due to the fact that I was not a child. Despite being in my 20’s, Belle took the time to chat with me like old friends.

2. Running into an Old Server

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Disney magic has all to do with the people. When I was twelve years old, my family and I went on a Disney Cruise, which was one of the best vacations ever. One thing that made that trip special was our assistant server, Kendall. He treated us like royalty, called me “Princess,” spent time with us, joked with us, and made our cruise unforgettable. Well, fast-forward ten years and I went on another Disney Cruise, this time with two of my friends on a different ship. As I walked into the buffet, Cabanas, on the first day, I saw a familiar face. “Molly?” “Kendall?” We hugged and laughed and caught up, shocked and excited. Kendall, now Head Server, proceeded to check in on me throughout my cruise, despite not being my server. That’s Disney magic.

1. Friendships with Cast Members

If you go to Disney regularly, you’re bound to create relationships with Cast Members. Since my grandpa lived ten minutes from the Parks, we went all the time. As a Jiko in Animal Kingdom Lodge regular, he began to request one particular server who happened to be excellent: Michelle. Over time, they became friends. He’d bring us to dinner and we became friends with her too. Even now, with my grandpa gone, and me all grown up, we still get together with Michelle and talk of the good old days. Same thing with Heather! Heather is an artist that Disney brings in for their festivals. She’s an amazing artist and a wonderful friend. My family has become great friends with Heather and her family, and we are so grateful to Disney for bringing us together.


About Molly Elias

Molly Elias has been a dedicated Disney fan since she was 18-months old. She has grown up with and learned from Disney her whole life. As her family's main vacation spot, Disney World is a place of love and laughter and magic for her. Her family also prides themselves on their Disney Cruise Line knowledge and would rather be on the high seas with Mickey than anywhere else in the world. Molly plans to keep Disney in her life forever, while also pursuing a writing career. She recently completed a master's program in creative writing in the hopes that someday she will be able to be a writer for the Happiest Company on Earth. Molly keeps Walt's famous quote at the forefront of her life: "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."