More often than not, my articles tend to center around one theme and ultimately that’s the quote you’ll see on the homepage of this site! Everything I do and everything I share tries to relate back to helping you make the most of your Disney experience and ultimately a huge part of that is portraying what is “beyond the surface” of the commercialized Disney experience. Instead, to me, a Disney vacation and making the most of your time in the parks is far more about those little unexpected experiences that change your mindset opposed to any big new attraction or even that perfect dining location you find along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the attractions just as much as the next person and they just keep getting bigger and better, but are those things really what I go back to the parks to experience time and time again? No, they really aren’t. Instead, what I go back to Disney for time and time again are those little moments of escape from reality, those unexpected memories you create with family in the most unexpected of ways, and ultimately the things that so many first time, and even retuning, guests tend to overlook time and time again.
In the big picture this is another top 5 list (in no particular order) and there’s certainly no shortage of lists on this site, but there’s something important about these spots and often times the mindset they help guests develop time and time again.
It’s no secret that I tour the parks quite frequently. It’s an incredible blessing in my life and ultimately one of the things I look forward to day in and day out. I’m not local but at the same time I tend to tour WDW like a local to a certain extent. I share that to put things in perspective a bit, because these spots are ones that you really have to slow down your pace to fully enjoy and appreciate for what they really are. So many of us get caught up in jumping from attraction to attraction and show to show that we often fail to take the time to enjoy the resorts and these little and often times simpler experiences that can really change your perspective on what the “Disney Experience” really is.
Perhaps the best way for me to explain this is to jump right into the list.
Crescent Lake After Dark
My Instagram account is loaded with pictures of Crescent Lake and the Epcot resort area after dark, but there’s one main reason for that. If I’m being blatantly honest, there are very few places in the world that I feel more at home. I could spend hours walking the circular path that runs the distance between Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, and Epcot. It is one of the most picturesque places you’ll ever come across and it is one that will change your perspective of Disney.
As day transitions to night, the Boardwalk comes alive. The reflections build into full force on the still waters as friendship boat transportation wraps up for the night. The later it gets, the quieter the experience tends to be. As you walk the path, or even the Boardwalk itself, you hear the music pouring out of Jelly Rolls just enough to break the silence, the lights glisten overhead, and for a moment the world seems to stand still.
If you walk over to the Beach Club side of the lake, the lighthouse lights up the night and as you sit there in a beach chair or on a swing, you can not help but feel relaxed and simply take the time to enjoy the views, sights, and sounds of being there.
If you’ve read articles here on the site for any length of time you’ve likely already heard me rave about Geyser Point. The food is excellent, the atmosphere is top notch, and somehow it remains a rare “hidden gem” of Disney tucked away over at Wilderness Lodge. The crowds are usually quite low and if you choose to eat here mid afternoon or even at sunset, you can lounge around in big comfy chairs, eat wonderful food, enjoy a drink, and relax in a way that is hard to explain. The soft breeze off of Bay Lake surrounds you, the fans keep even the warmest afternoon temps quite bearable, and you can not beat the views!
Without exaggeration I’ve sat here and talked with friends and family for hours simply enjoying being there in the moment, sharing stories, and ultimately creating those simple memories that somehow stick with you years later. You never expect those moments to play an impactful role in your vacation experience, but they always do.
I personally think that might just be the key to this whole list. So often we try to “force” memories when we’re on vacation with the perfect meal or the perfect itinerary but at the end of the day what you really remember and look back on years later are those little unexpected moments that are oh so incredibly simple that you never expected to unfold. That’s the inherent beauty of Geyser Point.
The waterparks fill a unique spot on this list because a vast amount of Disney parks guests and even repeat visitors have never stepped foot in Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach. I understand that it is hard to justify the price when you are in essence upgrading your ticket to step away from the main four parks, but if you’re looking to change your mindset of how you see Disney or even simply need a change of pace, there are very few better options!
I wont tell you that I’ve been to the waterparks hundreds of times because in all reality I’ve only been to each of them one time. And while I do have a hard time rationalizing upgrading my Annual Pass to include the waterparks, I do believe they are more than worth the money. The crowd levels are far more manageable than the 4 main parks, they are the perfect way to deal with the heat, and ultimately the theming will change your perspective on all other waterpark experiences.
It may come as a shock to some of you but I am a bit of a waterpark junkie. I’ve been to some of the very best the US has to offer and I have to say the theming and cleanliness blows them all out of the water. The only one that really comes close is Holiday World’s Splashin’ Safari and that’s almost solely due to the sheer number of unique slides that park offers. It is the best of the best but from a theming perspective it is no where close to Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach and from a family standpoint, these two waterparks can not be beat.
If you really want to experience the waterparks “right” I highly recommend pairing a waterpark day with a night at Disney Springs. By the time you ride slides and explore the park all day, you’ll be tired and ready for a good meal, a relaxing environment, and ultimately a place to enjoy the rest of the night after the park closes at around dinner time.
If you’re not sure about spending a full day at a water park, look out for events like the H2O Glow Nights and VIPassholder (select dates) nights to get a glimpse of the experience without committing a whole day to a waterpark!
Resort Beaches At Sunset
To an extent, this is an oddly specific spot on my list but bear with me for moment and I’ll explain. If you go to any beach on property, be it the edge of the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Polynesian, the lakeside areas of Carribean Beach, or even that picture perfect Beach Club beach tracing the edge of Crescent Lake, you will be surprised at how peaceful the experience is. Without a doubt, a highlight of every single one of my vacations, is sitting in a swing, laying in a hammock, or even pulling up a beach chair and simply setting aside the time to relax.
You don’t have to be staying at any particular resort, you don’t need a dining reservation, and you really don’t even have to plan out this part of your vacation. To a certain degree, I believe that is the beauty of the simple nature of just sitting there on a beach. It doesn’t have to be planned and when the opportunity arises, you can just set aside all the worries of the world and just sit and enjoy the view. Pair that with a picture perfect Florida sunset and there are very few better feelings in the world.
I know this sounds so incredibly simple, but do me a favor and try it. On your Epcot day, head out the back of the World Showcase and make the short walk over to the Beach Club around sunset (if you really want to do it right, book a dinner at Cape May Cafe!), sit yourself down, set aside the distractions of cell phones and devices, let your kids play in the sand, and just enjoy that simple moment where the worries of the world drift away.
To me, the simple beauty and enjoyment of the doing absolutely nothing is so lost in modern society, but I do believe Disney helps encourage that “escape from it all” that so many of us desperately need. A wise person once said that the greatest downfall with modern society is that we can no longer sit by ourselves in a room for an hour doing absolutely nothing. We’re conditioned to always be doing something and to be constantly “entertained” to the point where it almost feels automatic to pull out our phone and scroll through Facebook whenever those potential moments for quiet reflection arise. It’s a mind blowing concept but one that I think Disney “gets us out of” more than any other destination. I say this all because I’m the biggest offender of it myself, but more and more frequently I’ve taken the time to take a step back and relax for a moment whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. It’s certainly hard to do in the entrepreneurial mindset but something I believe is so incredibly important to do time and time again.
Any Resort After Midnight
This one is perhaps the strangest one on the list but to me it’s also one of the most overlooked. If you’ve ever stayed at a Disney resort you’ve likely recognized the fact that during the day and even well into the night, the resorts remain surprisingly busy at nearly all hours of the day. However, there is one exception to that rule and it’s typically about 2 hours after the final park closes for the night. As everyone makes their way back to their resort rooms the common areas of the resort tend to get shockingly quiet.
From the hours of midnight to around 2am you can wander the commons areas of nearly any resort and be virtually the only one out and about. At first, it’s an eerie feeling and one that seems a bit strange, but as you walk around it can be one of the most incredibly peaceful opportunities you’ll ever come across. It’s just you, the resort background music, the calmness of the night, and it is a mesmerizing time to be at the resorts. The feeling of being there in these somewhat absurdly late hours is very difficult to put in words, but it’s as if you’re entirely alone to think through any number of different things but you can do so in a setting that relaxes your mind and simplifies your existence in a shockingly unique way.
I know this isn’t going to be everyones cup of tea, but as someone that is used to staying up very late at night and sleeping very little, this is something that I enjoy more than just about anything else at WDW. The feeing is indescribable but more importantly it forces you to look beyond the hustle and bustle of the parks and to really appreciate the little details developing the experience that surrounds you in so many incredible ways!
I know a lot of this sounds like my attempts to wax poetically (not my strong point) about places to “escape from reality” or spend time “thinking” but to me it’s so much more than that. I know so many folks are going to Disney to tour the parks, but one of my greatest goals with this site is to help people get out of their own way to experience something they never expected to during their Disney vacation. Perhaps the greatest memories I have of my family are in these quiet, seemingly unimportant places, and I can’t fully explain why other than to reiterate that it really is the unexpected moments that tend to stick with you years later. They can’t be planned and I cant tell you how to create your own memories but I will say these experiences and locations are a great place to start and an incredible way to “get the ball rolling.”
In so many ways this turned into an article that feels a little sappy, or perhaps loaded with places where the “universe starts to align” and I don’t mean for it to come off that way. However, I do believe that things happen for a reason and that certain places feel like you’re in the right place at the right time for a reason, and that’s ultimately what I hope this article portrays. Let yourself relax, let yourself enjoy something new beyond the parks, but ultimately find a way to make yourself and those you care the most about as happy as you possibly can. Think positive and enjoy those perspective changing moments in a world that all too often tends to focus on the negative in life. Life too short so find a way to make each day better than the last and somehow find a way to share moments with those you care the most about every single day. It genuinely makes all the difference in the world.
As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s here and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!
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Ready to Plan?
Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way![convertful id=”18643″]