Alcohol At Walt Disney World – A Few Thoughts
Out of all the reasoning many guests give for keeping alcohol out of the Magic Kingdom (which became a lost cause a few years ago), this was and always has been the “hot button” topic of discussion. When Walt designed and built these parks (at least the very early concepts for them – besides Disneyland) he had a main goal in mind as the very first inclination of his grand theme park project unveiled itself. As Walt sat on a bench in Griffith Park as his daughters rode the Merry Go Round, he came up with this revolutionary idea of a place where adults and kids could have fun together. The biggest issue behind that logic was cleanliness of the parks. Even Walt’s own wife doubted that it was possible to create a truly clean theme park. To my knowledge the answer was a massive custodial staff and a cast that had pride in their park.
There’s an image of Walt that pops up from time of the man himself bending over and picking up a single piece of trash in Disneyland. That photo should be iconic well beyond the publicity it gets from time to time. That photo shows much more that a humble man who created this incredible place we still enjoy to this day, but transcends that simple concept to show a man that was truly forward thinking. 60 years ago, nobody thought his ideas were possible, they thought Disneyland would fail, but Walt knew he could make it great. He was truly a visionary well before his time. Regarding this issue, a few rare quotes exist about how he didn’t want alcohol in his park. To the best of my knowledge. his reasoning was rather simple in that he personally didn’t need alcohol to relax and enjoy a great day at Disneyland. It was something he might do at home after along day at the office, but wasn’t necessary for the experience.
That simple idea is what I consider a lost concept in today’s world. I’m a college student, and see first hand a portion of society that sees alcohol as the only way to have fun. Now, I completely understand that’s not even close to the whole generalization of the population, but that small group tells a bigger story. Disney is a place that you can go to escape reality for a while and while alcohol may be something guests enjoy, I don’t see it at all necessary for the experience. If anything, it detracts from that original and simple goal of a place where parents and kids can have fun together.
Where does the slippery slope end? When do we start having to have “no alcohol beyond this point” signs going up in the Magic Kingdom? When does this concept get so watered down that we’ve got carts on Main Street selling alcohol to guests before the fireworks?
On that last question, I believe that’s where things will eventually stop or will begin to face some serious backlash from first time, but also an incredibly number of life-long Disney fans. The bright spot to all this in my opinion is that the alcohol prices are astronomically high and for good reason. In all reality, it vastly limits the potential for guests to drink too much and negatively affect the experience of the parks on a large scale. But, that brings me to our next topic of discussion…
“What We’ve Seen So Far”
No matter if you’re a participant or an observer, every guest that has visited Epcot in the last 5 years has noticed on growing trend, namely “drink around the world.” Disney by no means encourages the behavior or the “goal,” but it would be ridiculous to say that it has not affected the Epcot experience, at least for me and my family. Epcot has sold alcohol for years, but with other factors of social media and growing “entertaining” trends that go viral, this has become a rather large issue. On some nights and certain holidays, the situation borders on inappropriate.
For a personal example, one night we picked a spot for Illuminations on the bridge between the United Kingdom and France. After standing there for around 30 minutes and eating a few snacks as we waited, a man and a crew of about 6 other adults rolled in and stood right behind us each with a beer in hand and we’ll just say it was obvious that it wasn’t there first, second, or likely even third… and so on. They were using profane language and were a bit too out of it for a Disney park. Now, I’m one of those people that can typically let a situation like this roll off my shoulders and I can just move on. But, with that being said, I’m a college student. However, two feet away from us was a stroller with two young kids and their parents who had been patiently waiting and enjoying their night setting up for a great final finale to the day with Illuminations. I couldn’t help but think, what if this was there first vacation? What if this was the one experience they had and the one memory they had of a night in Epcot and of the incredible Illuminations performance? I don’t think that’s quite what is portrayed in Disney’s advertising campaigns.
Of course, this group was the minority out of all the guests at Epcot, but it’s a situation worth thinking about. It turned out, after talking with the other family with the two kids, that they were local and could return another day. At the same time not everyone is and personally that’s my take on this whole issue. As a company, you don’t invite things into the environment you create that could negatively effect the guest experience. I’m sure Disney’s done their research on this and I hope that they are successful in their pursuit to keep things enjoyable for guests, but I can’t help but see this as a bad idea in the end. I don’t have problem with alcohol, but at the same time one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
I dont want to paint a gloom and doom picture here, so on a positive note I can say that I’ve never seen any issue whatsoever with the alcohol that is already present at Magic Kingdom or at Animal Kingdom and have only had one issue at Hollywood Studios (which was outside of the park). That particular guest may have even been asked to leave. Epcot is really the only consistent issue I’ve seen.
Also worth noting is that Disney likely has a procedure in place to quickly deal with these types of situations, it’s really just a matter of making it known so that it can be properly taken care of.
At the same time, as it sits and as it stands today, this will not affect the vast majority of guests visiting the parks. The presence of alcohol is so minuscule at this time that it’s not likely that it will create any problems. I only write this article out of a concern for the future and a concern for the legacy these parks have created. I encourage anyone and everyone to head to the parks no matter what your background is or your travel goals. Disney is place that caters to so many diverse audiences and so many different facets of entertainment that it truly is that “one stop shop” iconic destination fit for just about anyone.
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