Our Top 8 Smells in All of Walt Disney World – Did Your Favorite Make the List?
Disney is and always has been an inevitably multi sensory experience that has an inertly transformative element to it. Scents have a unique way of setting the stage for an event or a “feel” to match a story being portrayed in even the most creative of ways. As soon as you enter the Magic Kingdom or step into your resort hotel at Walt Disney World, you are instantly surrounded by a variety of feelings, sights, sounds, and of course smells. It’s like walking into another persons home for the first time. Everything has a distinct but recognizable aroma and Disney uses that sensory impulse to the absolute best of their abilities. Without scents, a trip the parks would be like walking into a movie theatre without a popcorn aroma, or a pool without the smell of chlorine filling the air. Sometimes, those recognizable smells are the one thing that make the greatest difference and locks in a memory in your mind that transcends your wildest expectations.
With that being said, some smells are far more recognizable and enjoyable that others! Here’s a close look at some of our favorites!
1. The Swan Lobby
If you’ve ever stayed at the Swan or Dolphin resort, you likely know this seemingly subtle smell better that just about anything else tied to the resort. It’s a recognizable citrus fragrance reminiscent of some type of slightly fruity yet not overbearing cleaning product coupled with the flowing waters of the lobby fountains. While the fragrance itself is not necessarily Swan exclusive and is supposedly used at other Westin properties across the country, it’s a vastly recognizable and pleasant smell that takes you back to memories of previous stays at the resort and one that you’ll occasionally catch hints of at other hotel chains throughout the country that bring a little bit of “Disney” wherever you are by default. Couple that element with the Heavenly Beds of the resort and it’s not only a memorable fragrance but a resort well worth your time and money! (Don’t forget to look into teacher discounts if that applies to your situation.)
2. Disney’s Boulder Ridge Villas
The Boulder Ridge Lobby is without a doubt one of my personal favorite scents at Disney. It’s a slightly woodsy smell with a rather sharp and noticeable undertone that you notice almost instantly as you walk through the sliding doors and step foot into the multi-floor atrium. The smell itself is a casual mix of a burning fireplace and an almost earthy tone combined to create an unbelievably warm and welcoming atmosphere. It’s a place that is relaxing and one where you can pull up a big comfy chair, sit back, and appreciate a moment of true simplicity in the midst of one of the busiest places in the world. The calming affect of this place and this scent is hard to comprehend or even explain in words but it is a hidden piece of the magic that even made Our Top 5 “Hidden in Plain Sight” Locations of Walt Disney World!
3. The Confectionary on Main Street
When you take those first few steps down Main Street and see the Castle for the very first time there is nothing more memorable that that scene as it unfolds. The Confectionary billows a sweet and pleasant fresh baked treat smell, the views are second to none, and the oh so recognizable music of Main Street surrounds you in a moment that you have to experience to fully appreciate. Somehow and some way that smell of the confectionary is one that so many come back to each and every time this topic is brought up. While many of you likely already know, this smell and many others like it at WDW are artificial, it still sets the stage for an incredibly memorable moment. It’s so noticeable that from time to time you’ll find a candle or an air freshener that features a similar scent and all of a sudden memories are brought back of that view down Main Street. To me, nothing jogs the memory quite like a scent and interestingly researchers are starting to connect the dots on why smells bring back such viid details in memory recollection.
4. Popcorn on Main Street
Similar to the Confectionary, the popcorn of Main Street is one of those things that lets you know you’re finally “home.” Interestingly though, the story doesn’t entirely start there. Popcorn is the starring participant in the elaborate film that is Main Street U.S.A. The red carpet is laid out by the brickwork of the front walkway, the ticket booths are like the ticket collector of a theatre, the train station acts as the “curtain” blocking your view of the film until that grand unveil is ready, and the popcorn expertly replicates the final aspect of the theatre experience and brings the whole concept full circle. As you round that final corner to Main Street the names on the buildings of those who helped create this incredible place act as the opening (and closing credits), and that final castle reveal is the film being debuted before your very eyes. It’s a simple concept but one expertly portrayed on an incredibly grand scale.
5. Tomorrowland Speedway
I may be alone on this one but to me, nothing brings back the joys of driving for the first time quite like the smell of gasoline and oil burned by the little cars of the Tomorrowland Speedway. So many kids have created that same memory over the years and while the smell itself tends to be one you love or you hate, it brings back memories time and time again of slamming into those rails back and forth as you tried with all your might to press the peddle down (which you likely couldn’t reach) and steer your way to victory. For a brief moment that little car made you feel unstoppable and like the coolest person in all the park. To this day, every time I walk through Tomorrowland and catch a whiff of that gas station-esque aroma a whole series of memories come flooding back.
6. The Polynesian Lobby
The Polynesian Lobby has been known for two distinctly different yet similar smells over the years. Before the redesigned lobby, the elaborate fountain brought in an almost tropical flowing water smell that was natural yet distinctly accentuated by citrus flares and floral aromas. To many guests, that particular smell was a more recognizable one that what you can experience today. Today’s scent, while still recognizable, takes away that flowing water accentuation and replaces it with a slightly fruitier aroma. It’s not quite perfect but the smell puts you in that Polynesian and somewhat tropical mood that is expertly paired with the decor and picturesque view out over the water in the distance.
7. The Ghirardelli Store
Moving in a slightly different direction, the distinctly recognizable smell of warm chocolate, waffle cones, and fresh baked items flows out the doors of Ghirardelli into Disney Springs beckoning guests to step inside and grab a snack. The incredible flavors and unique treats served inside are also an obvious draw but that smell is the main thing that sparks your interest and a scent that completes any trip to Disney Springs in one way or another. Don’t forget to stop by the neighboring store for a free chocolate sample!
Similar yet slightly different to the welcoming scent of Ghirardelli, Karmaell-Kuche is one of my personal favorite stops along the World Showcase for a snack. The rather small store, sponsored by the Werther’s Original Caramels company has a distinctly chocolatey smell with a touch of caramel thrown in the mixed. Combine that with the warm popcorn being coated in the aforementioned ingredients and the aroma just sucks you right in! If you have never stopped by to try their caramel corn, be sure to add it to your list for your next stop in the Germany pavilion.
As a somewhat rare item on our list, this attraction holds a unique spot for a couple of reasons. Soarin obviously features on-ride smells that are excellent and completely memorable but the one I’m officially putting on this list is slightly different. As you enter the main show room and prepare to board your hang glider, theres a distinct aroma. I’m not entirely sure if it’s a combination of all the scents of the attraction culminating and permanently adding fragrance to the room, but it’s a very subtle and distinct smell that repeat riders recognize time and time again. It smells slightly artificial but also somewhat nature inspired in a strange way.
As a complete side note, does anybody else remember when this attraction attraction used to unlock all the safety belts at the same time? That was the best noise! Completely unnecessary but it just added that much more to the experience that only a select few ever took note of. It’s a strange sound but one that I still miss a little bit from time to time.
10. The Puffin’s Roost
The Puffins Roost holds a unique spot on this list to me and for many other guests because of a legitimate fragrance sold within the store itself. As a few of you may remember I did a short article a while back about Geir Ness and meeting the man behind this iconic Epcot scent. His story is quite unique but the fragrances he developed are far more recognizable by Disney fans. No matter if you’ve bought one of his three fragrances (for both men and women) you inadvertently likely know this smell. In the early years of the Maelstrom boat ride in the Norway pavilion, the attraction dumped you out right into the heart of the smell in the gift shop. It was recognizable and strikingly pleasant. Today, Maelstrom has unfortunately been replaced by Frozen Ever After (to the dismay of nostalgic Disney fans everywhere) but thatkfully that incredibly familiar smell continues on and repeatedly allows us nostalgic fans of the attraction to relive that seemingly simple moment of exiting the attraction.
What’s a Disney World smells list without mentioning one particularly terrible smell. For years, Mouse Gear at Epcot featured one of the most nasty smells on Disney property in my opinion. I have absolutely no idea what the pumped in smell was supposed to replicate but for some reason it smelled like a combination of dirty socks and dirty diaper. Thankfully, in recent years it seems to have been corrected or at least minimized to an extent but that was an awful smell for years on end!
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A few short years ago, I was sitting in a college apartment trying to figure out what was "next" and came up with this idea to share my accumulated knowledge of the Disney Parks and Resorts with others. The end goal was to help others make the most of their Disney experience and it's been quite the journey!