Core Memories Made New: What at WDW Do You Wish You Could Experience Again for the First Time?
If you’ve spent any time on social media, chances are you’ve seen posts posing the question, “What ___ do you wish you could experience again for the first time?” As a lifelong Disney fan, my mind immediately thought of Walt Disney World and all the things I have enjoyed over the years.
I asked myself, what at Disney World do I wish I could experience again for the very first time? Here’s a countdown of the top 5 things I came up with!
Number Five – Tower of Terror
This has been one of my favorite rides since it opened back in the days when Hollywood Studios was still affectionately known as “MGM Studios.” I have dropped into the Hollywood Tower Hotel more times than I could count, but I will never forget the first time I visited this attraction! My mother and I made our way through the creepy, overgrown garden queue, not knowing just what was in store.
I had major goosebumps walking through the lobby towards the library, where we learned the story of the fateful elevator full of tinsel town elite that mysteriously disappeared. As we waited for our elevator to arrive, I remember my heart racing! Images from the attraction commercials I had seen with people standing in a free-falling elevator carriage filled my mind, and I’ll admit I was a little nervous.
The Cast Member bellhops complimented the eerie setting and played into their characters perfectly as we boarded the elevators. We were soon seated and buckled, made our way beyond the fifth dimension and back to the wrong side of Hollywood, and I immediately wanted to ride again! It was an attraction unlike any I had really experienced up to that point, seamlessly mixing epic storytelling and thrills. I was hooked! Now, many years later, I can recite the ride script in my sleep, but seeing other visitors in the parks navigate the Twilight Zone for the first time is one of my favorite things!
Number Four – Haunted Mansion
My first time riding this attraction was a much different story than Tower of Terror! I was 10 when I first visited WDW, and while I love scary movies and ghost stories now, at that time, I was afraid of my own shadow! I was very hesitant to enter the ominous-looking mansion that loomed over Liberty Square, and my mother had to do a lot of convincing to get me past the Stretching Room and into a Doom Buggy!
All that changed by the next time my family visited the Magic Kingdom a few years later, as I had developed a love for all things spooky and quickly declared Haunted Mansion as my favorite ride! Now that I’m in my 40s, this still rings true, just like the “knell of a requiem bell,” and if I could socialize with the silly spooks, Master Gracey, and Madame Leota every day, I definitely would!
Though I couldn’t have imagined it the first time I visited the attraction, I am typing these words in an office full of Haunted Mansion collectibles, artwork, and pins. A throw blanket designed with the iconic purple and black wallpaper print hangs over the back of my chair, and my cell phone in a matching case sits on the desk next to me. Having the chance to board a Doom Buggy again for the first time and feeling the anticipation of what spirited fun might be found within the mansion walls would be really cool!
Number Three – Disney’s Beach Club Villas
Disney’s Beach Club Resort has always been my favorite resort. On my first WDW trip as a kid, my family visited the resort for a little lowkey lunch break respite during a very hot and busy summer day at Epcot, and I fell head-over-heels in love! We passed through the elegant lobby on our way to Beaches & Cream Soda Shop, which was pretty new at the time, and enjoyed a delicious lunch surrounded by the vintage charm of the restaurant. Afterward, we sat out on a bench near the pool to enjoy a frosty dessert, and I swore to my parents that I would stay there when I got older. It was definitely a core memory moment!
Little did I know that it would take me about 25 more years to actually make it happen, but when I pulled up to the resort entrance in my 30s with my suitcase in hand to check in at Disney’s Beach Club Villas, my eyes were full of happy tears. It was truly a dream come true and one of my all-time favorite Disney moments.
I am filled to the brim with excitement, knowing that my next stay at the Beach Club Villas is coming up soon, and while I love all of the DVC resorts, this one will always hold a special place in my heart! I will never forget the moments of my childhood spent daydreaming about my future self, spending a fabulous vacation lounging by Stormalong Bay, and how wonderful it was to finally cross it off my bucket list as an adult!
Number Two – Wishes
I LOVE a Disney nighttime spectacular! I love watching Mickey’s heroics during Fantasmic!, and gathering around World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot to watch the sky light up. Still, I have to say, my favorite fireworks show of all time will always be Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams, which ran at the Magic Kingdom from 2003 to 2017.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Happily Ever After that has recently returned, and Disney Enchantment during its run, too, but Wishes held a special kind of magic for me. I have goosebumps even as I write this, thinking back on the first time I saw the show!
With the inspiring narration from Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy, the swelling songs of the soundtrack, seeing Tinkerbell fly, and, of course, the stunning display of dazzling fireworks, Wishes was the perfect mix of classic Disney nostalgia and a beautiful message to always keep wishing and dreaming. No matter how many times I saw the show, I was always emotional, typically tearing up within the first few notes of the music, and while its time has come to a close, if I ever had the chance to see it again, that would be one of my wishes coming true!
Number One – Seeing Cinderella Castle
It is probably one of the most magical moments many of us think of – seeing Cinderella’s Castle for the very first time! I don’t know about you, but passing through the entryway at Magic Kingdom and seeing the castle come into view as you make your way through the tunnel and onto Main Street, U.S.A., is one of my favorite sights of all time. It doesn’t matter how many times I visit. It is a view that never ceases to delight me and the millions of other guests who visit the parks!
I remember that first moment well. I had seen Cinderella Castle on TV and in videos many times, but standing in the hub and looking up at the shining spires felt like I had somehow managed to actually set foot in a storybook. At that moment, I believed that anything was possible, magic was real, and my dreams and imagination could become real, too.
It was a moment unlike any other I’d had up until then, and I was changed. Seeing that castle and having that rush of inspiration sparked something in me, and from that moment on, I have been seeking that immersive storytelling that Disney has mastered. I knew in my bones I would be a Disney fan for the rest of my days!
The great thing about Walt Disney World is that it is ever-changing! No matter how many times you’ve been, there is almost always something new to see. It may be a new attraction, resort, or even a new menu option at your long-time favorite restaurant, but they keep true to Walt’s words: “Keep moving forward,” and there is always something exciting to experience for the very first time!