When you take a visit to Walt Disney World there are some things you must do, whether it is your first trip or your 31st trip. Some of these things are considered a rite of passage, and you just can’t say you’ve visited until you’ve done it. Check out all of the various Walt Disney World Bingo & Tic Tac Toe boards circulating social media to see how you measure up. Here are 20 of the quintessential Disney experiences that I feel are a rite of passage at Walt Disney World:
1. Eat A Dole Whip
This almost goes without saying because you see Dole Whips mentioned in every snack list about Walt Disney World. They are a refreshing treat to enjoy on a hot day, which is about 358 days in Florida. My preferred variety is the Dole Whip Float, and outside the Magic Kingdom I like them with coconut rum.
2. The Mickey Bar
Long debated by fans, myself included, as to whether they are worth it or just get a box of Klondike bars; there is some truth that things taste better when they are shaped like Mickey. And, have you really visited Walt Disney World if you haven’t bitten into that hard chocolate shell and ended up with vanilla ice cream running down your chin as the whole thing cracks apart? Have a Mickey Bar—my friend Allison says it isn’t a vacation without one.
3. Ride Dumbo
When I visited the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, a Dumbo ride vehicle was on display. That is how iconic the attraction is. No matter how old you are, whether you have kids with you or not, you have to take a spin on Dumbo the Flying Elephant. I guarantee you will have a smile on your face—and I have a feeling you’ll feel like a 5-year-old again.
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4. Wave to Mickey Mouse
Even if you visit during the COVID-19 modified operations, you must say hello to Mickey Mouse when you visit Walt Disney World. During COVID he can be seen in cavalcades in all of the parks, so be sure to take a second to stop and wave to the mouse who started it all.
5. Stay at a Walt Disney World resort
There is no better way to experience a Walt Disney World Vacation than staying at a Disney resort and never leaving the “bubble.” Disney has resort options for every budget and vacation dream, so there is a right fit for every guest. The theme of the resorts, the level of service, and the convenience of location make staying in one an essential part of a Disney Vacation.
6. Take a Spin on the Carrousel
No visit to a theme or amusement park is complete with a riding a Carrousel. Prince Charming’s Regal Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom is no exception, and it is an extra special experience. The Carrousel itself has a long history built in 1917 and being used in both Michigan and New Jersey before making its way to the Magic Kingdom. Knowing that Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland while watching his daughters on a merry-go-round in Griffith Park makes enjoying the Carrousel even more of a rite of passage.
7. Eat in the World Showcase
Epcot’s international pavilions in the World Showcase present guests with an opportunity to dine on new foods that they may not have available to them in their hometowns. It is a great way to try something different, and all the restaurants there are delicious. Even better if you visit during one of the many seasonal festivals at the park and you can sample from the various special kiosks set up throughout the World Showcase.
8. Ride Pirates of the Caribbean
If pressed, I might confess that Pirates of the Caribbean is my favorite Walt Disney World attraction. It is classic Disney Imagineering at its best, filled with story, audio-animatronics, and rich scene design. The fact that it is continuously updated does not detract from its original appeal, it enhances the overall experience. Make sure you visit Pirates of the Caribbean while you are at Magic Kingdom, it is definitely a Disney Must Do.
9. Wear Mickey (or Minnie) Ears
Mickey Ear Hats and Minnie Ear Headbands have been on trend at Walt Disney World for nearly 50 years, but in the past few years they have skyrocketed in popularity. Where else can you wear circles atop your head and be considered high fashion? Don’t miss out on the fun—find a favorite pair of ears early in your trip and wear them proudly during your vacation.
10. Experience the Highway in the Sky
The monorail has always been a symbol of Walt Disney World, featured in nearly all their marketing. You can experience the monorail if you park at the Ticket & Transportation Center—you’ll hop on board to be whisked over to Magic Kingdom. But even if you don’t “need” the monorail you can still ride. Take some time and enjoy the ride through the resort loop from the Magic Kingdom, you could even disembark to explore the Contemporary or Grand Floridian. You must check the monorail off your Disney list.
11. Sing Along with it’s a small world
You really can’t get more classic than it’s a small world. And I really don’t think you can say you’ve visited Walt Disney World without riding it. Designed for the 1964-65 World’s Fair, the Mary Blair inspired scenes, adorable dolls, and catchy Sherman Brothers song are truly a rite of passage. Sure, you’ll have an ear worm for the rest of the day, but you may also feel a sense of hope from the message. And you can always go visit Carousel of Progress to cure the ear worm—another rite of passage.
12. A Grand & Miraculous Spaceship
The geodesic sphere (or ball) at Epcot houses an iconic ride that must be experienced by guests. Spaceship Earth is one of the last throwbacks to the classic, original Epcot. The attraction explores human development and communication. In the afternoons, the wait times are usually shorter, so don’t miss your chance to ride.
13. Find a Hidden Mickey
A traditional pastime of Walt Disney World guest is to hunt for the elusive Hidden Mickey. There are apps and books to help you find these “Easter Eggs” strategically placed through the parks and resorts. Most commonly it is in the shape of three circles designating Mickey Mouse—and it can be made of anything (like dinner plates in the Haunted Mansion).
14. Visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Even if you are not a big Star Wars fan (guilty!) you owe it to yourself to visit Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. A totally cutting-edge theme park idea, Galaxy’s Edge immerses you in the Star Wars stories. With two attractions, including the amazing Rise of the Resistance, dining, shopping, and more you can spend a lot of time here . . . or at least a walk through to take in the atmosphere.
15. Ride a Roller Coaster!
Almost everyone needs to experience a roller coaster at Walt Disney World. There is a nice spread of thrill/intensity levels, so even a ride weenie like me can find a few that are rideable. And, riding a roller coaster is a legit rite of passage for many kids as the first time they are tall enough to ride Space Mountain or Rock ‘n Roller Coaster is a BIG DEAL!!
16. Buy a Souvenir
You really can’t leave a Walt Disney World vacation without buying something to remember your trip. Whether it is a t-shirt, a figurine, a piece of jewelry, or a toy it is a must do to overspend for something that will put a smile on your face when you see/wear/play with it at home, remembering the magic that was your Walt Disney World vacation.
17. Take a Dip!
Florida is hot. Disney resorts have amazingly themed pools. Make sure that you plan in some time to hit the pool during your vacation. Swimming at your resort is a highlight for a lot of kids on a Disney vacation, and it is a definite must do to cool off. Bonus points if you have a resort with a water slide, and you go down it—more than once. I make it a priority to experience every one of the resort pool slides.
18. Trade a Pin
While the process is a little different during COVID-19, pin trading is still a rite of passage at Walt Disney World. You can purchase a lanyard and a few starter pins, and then as you visit the parks and resorts you will see some pin trading boards where you can switch out one of your pins for one you may want more on the board. Some Cast Member exclusive pins are only available by trading. You might even start a particular collection of pins that you want to complete by trading—like all Stitch pins; or monorail pins; etc.
19. Go on Safari
Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite attractions across any of the parks at Walt Disney World. It is always a different experience since the characters are live animals. I try to ride it a couple of times at least when I visit the Animal Kingdom. You really should experience it because it is such a unique way to experience some exotic animals.
20. There is always room for 1 more
Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom is another classic, must-ride attraction. The original attraction opened at Disneyland in 1969 and has continued as a traditional attraction at Disney parks around the world, each one with a slightly different theme. Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion is in Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom, and it is always a fun ride. The special effects are impressive like the dancing ghosts in the ballroom scene, even though they have been around for hundreds of years. It is a must ride . . . and for some kids this is another rite of passage, when they are brave enough to ride for the first time (even though it is more fun than scary).
What do you consider a Walt Disney World Rite of Passage?