Traveling as a First Timer: Reminiscing on the Magic in Walt Disney World
When I was sat down by my leaders, Kevin and Carly, on a snowy December day and told I was being given the opportunity to embark on a research trip to Disney World to visit all the DVC resorts and parks for the first time ever, I was unbelievably excited and definitely teared up. I couldn’t imagine seeing everything in person for the first time, and to be able to do this with some Disney pros and fellow friends/colleagues was going to be an amazing adventure.
Now that our trip is over (sadly), my colleagues and I had a great time learning and exploring, so here’s a recollection of my favorite memories from our trip from the eyes of a first-time Disney World visitor!
DAY 1: ARRIVAL
After counting down the days and prepping for my first trip to Disney, we were off! Coming from a snowy, cold Canadian day to landing in a warm, sunny climate was exhilarating. Heading through those Walt Disney World gates for the first time on the highway was unbelievable to me! I couldn’t believe I was actually going through these gates to see all the places that I’d researched and heard about for the first time.
When we arrived at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and walked into the Carriage House to check in, the first thing I noticed, and one of my favorite memories about this resort, was the intoxicating smell of the lobby! This resort smells like a mix of florals, aloe, and musk, and I am still on the hunt for a candle that smells like this resort so I can enjoy it from afar in Canada. Every time I needed to go to the Artist’s Palette for a quick bite, I always made sure to take in the smell of this lobby. Plus, seeing the newly renovated rooms in person was great, and I loved being able to experience it and gain some first-hand knowledge to discuss accommodations with guests in the future.
On our 2nd day of the research trip, we got to explore Disney’s Beach Club Villas and Disney’s BoardWalk Villas and finished off the evening in Epcot after we saw all the ins and outs of the resorts. Outside of exploring Saratoga Springs, this was my first full day on Disney Property, and I was ready to see and do everything we possibly could!
One of my favorite moments from Day 2 was grabbing lunch at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop with my colleagues at the Beach Club Villas.
Touring this resort was so beautiful and tranquil, while the atmosphere at Beaches & Cream was so much more upbeat and fun. Every announcement they made for the Kitchen Sink was so fun and really engaging for all guests. Despite it being a small part of this resort, it was a great spot for a quick bite for lunch, and their French Dip Sandwich is definitely a must-try.
After the resort touring was done, we headed over to Epcot to spend the rest of the day burning off the first-day excitement with some rides and good food! One of my favorite parts of this evening was riding my first-ever Disney ride, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind! I’m a little biased because I am a huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, but this was one of the coolest and best roller coasters I’ve ever experienced. One of the things that I took away from this trip is how immersive Disney resorts and attractions can be, even when you’re waiting in line to board the actual ride!
One more favorite memory I absolutely had to mention was the Empanadas and street corn we got in the Mexico Pavilion at Choza de Margarita. I am still thinking about these empanadas because they were just that good.
Day three began with a trip to Disney’s Riviera Resort, which was one of the resorts I was the most excited to see. This resort feels so elegant and classy, and the rooms are absolutely gorgeous. We got to explore the stunning murals on our way to the Skyliner station and even spent some time hunting for Pascal around the resort while we drank our specialty coffees from Le Petit Café. I wish I could drink a Raspberry Café Glacé every morning! We also had lunch at Bar Riva, which was such a relaxing environment with more good food. One of the cool things about Bar Riva is that you can also order from Primo Piatto, which gives guests a lot more variety when dining at this resort.
Besides riding The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, one of the best parts of this day was experiencing Galaxy’s Edge with my friend and fellow colleague, who is a HUGE Star Wars fan. Seeing her reaction to meeting the Mandalorian was one of the best parts of the trip as a whole! And as I mentioned before, Disney does not go lightly when it comes to immersion on their rides, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is the prime example. Every part of this ride was part of the overall experience, and I have never been so blown away by an attraction, especially when we stumbled on the Hall of Storm Troopers during the ride.
Day 4 of our research trip was more relaxing, where we toured all the resorts on the Magic Kingdom Monorail loop; Disney’s Polynesian Villas, Disney’s Bay Lake Tower, and the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian. The best part of this day, for sure, was breakfast at ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Villas. It was a huge spread for a family-style breakfast, complete with classic Mickey (and Stitch) waffles, eggs, bacon, sausages, and Pineapple-Coconut Breakfast bread.
To make this meal even better, ‘Ohana is a character breakfast, so we got some visits from some familiar favorites; Lilo and Stitch, Pluto, and the main mouse himself!
On our fifth day, we toured the Animal Kingdom Villas. These resorts are so fascinating and grand, and the Savannas at these resorts are a great opportunity to see some amazing animals up close! Additionally, we stopped for lunch and had the absolute BEST meal at Sanaa at Kidani Village. I now understand why everyone raves about the bread service here and wish I could eat this every single day.
At the end of the day, after our resort tours, is where my all-time favorite part of the trip happened; visiting Magic Kingdom for the first time and seeing the castle in person was a surreal experience. Right when we entered the park, we stumbled upon an Adventure Friend Cavalcade, and I have no shame in admitting I definitely cried seeing Mary Poppins for the first time. We also hit some classic rides, like Peter Pan’s Flight and Space Mountain, and even rode the new Tron Lightcycle ride at night (which is the best time to ride it, in my opinion). To finish off the magical evening, we watched the Happily Ever After fireworks show that really does put the cherry on top of a magical day.
On the final day of our research trip, we saved a classic resort for last; Old Key West. One of the coolest parts of this resort is how massive it is. It’s a great resort to rent some bikes and explore with friends and colleagues, which is exactly what we did! The exteriors of the buildings are painted in pastels, and it felt so bright and fun, and it truly felt like we were in a vacation town in Key West. Biking was a great way to explore this beautiful resort, and I would recommend trying it on your first day if you’re staying there.
To end the trip, one of the most magical experiences we had was sharing a meal with the man who started it all; David himself! We got to meet up with Dave and his wife, Cathy, to have an amazing dinner at Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom. I’ve met Dave and Cathy a few times before at staff functions, but it was great sitting down with them and chatting about all things Disney. Plus, the food at this dining experience was one of the best meals I’ve had, and I’m super grateful to Dave and Cathy for starting it all and giving us this special experience on our last day at Disney.
Overall, my first trip to Disney was a great experience, and it was very valuable to walk and see all the resorts in person to better familiarize myself with the properties and all the offerings Walt Disney World has for their guests. It was so great to travel with a great group of colleagues and friends who were knowledgeable and could share all the fun facts about the resorts and parks. We were able to make so many memories I will cherish and remember whenever I go back to experience all the magic all over again.