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by Fancy Free Diva

Whenever my family and I travel to WDW, there’s a list of things that we absolutely must-do while we’re there.  You may see some of your favorites here, or you may see a few things you’d like to try.  For the purpose of this top ten, I’m skipping all mention of rides and focusing more on the experiences, eats, and souvenirs we must do on every trip. If there’s something that’s a must-do for you and your family that you don’t see here, please add a comment and make a suggestion.

Experiences:

  1. Be there for Rope Drop at Magic Kingdom (at least once, but usually more than once). Disney confession: this is my FAVORITE part of any trip. When I’m having a bad day, I watch a video of Rope Drop on YouTube to make myself feel better. It’s that good. It’s usually led by the Mayor of Main Street or the Fire Chief, and it stars the citizens of Main Street with special appearances by a number of characters riding aboard the train. There’s always a special family chosen to ride the train with the characters, and they get to help Mickey open the Magic Kingdom. We’ve never been chosen, but I think it’s every Disney fan’s dream. The rope drop welcome show usually starts 10 minutes before park opening, but you want to get there well in advance of that to allow for enough time to get through security and snag a good spot.
The Magic Kingdom Rope Drop/Welcome Show

The Magic Kingdom Rope Drop/Welcome Show

Diva Tip: The best vantage point to see the welcome show is from the center, but if you’re in a hurry to get to a special attraction, you’ll want to position yourself a little closer to the actual park entrance, just left of center. Local Diva agrees! Check out her rope drop tips here.

  1. Watch the in-room TV station at our Disney resort with Stacey telling us all about “Must-Do” Disney. We usually just put on the TV while we’re getting ready in the morning, but my husband and I can quote from Stacey’s monologue. It’s so much fun, and it does the trick to get the sleep out of our eyes and help us get ready for a day at the parks.

Diva Tip: Even if you’re not staying in a Disney resort, you can still find video of Stacey and Must-Do Disney on YouTube.

  1. Visit the Norway Pavilion in Epcot and take our children’s picture by the big troll. This is something that I remember doing on my first few trips to Disney with my own parents, and it’s a tradition I’ve kept alive with my kids, too. Even if you don’t have an affinity for the giant troll like I do, I highly recommend picking a spot where you’ll have your photo taken on every trip. You’ll be able to see how much the people in the picture have changed or grown, and if you’re creative, you’ll be able to collage them together or arrange them in frames for a time-lapse effect.

 

Fancy Free Daughter with the giant troll in Epcot's Norway

Fancy Free Daughter with the giant troll in Epcot’s Norway

  1. Fantasmic! Disney Confession: The fanfare from Fantasmic! is my ringtone! I love this show more than just about anything (except maybe Rope Drop), and we always make it a priority. We usually book the Fantasmic! dining package to make sure we have reserved seating (although, honestly, we’ve never had trouble with the theatre being too crowded, even on our trips during peak season in June and July). We always bring along our Glow With the Show/Made With Magic ear hats, too, so that we can be part of the magic. I really love the music from this show, and the idea of imagination triumphing over evil is a theme I can really appreciate. You can purchase a CD of the Fantasmic! music here.
The Fantasmic! finale

The Fantasmic! finale

Diva Tip: Military Diva has some excellent advice about booking the Fantasmic! dining package in order to get the most bang for your buck!

  1. Play Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom (and try to complete our deck without resorting to shopping on eBay!). My husband is a gamer, so he loves SOTMK. My daughter and son both love the animations and the augmented reality of being able to actually activate something in the park and make it work. In fact, it’s hard to get Fancy Free Daughter to contain all of her excitement and stand still long enough to play her spell cards (she’s usually bubbling over with exuberance and jumping up and down yelling at the villain we’re trying to defeat!).
Fancy Free Husband playing SOTMK

Fancy Free Husband playing SOTMK

Diva Tip: Road Trip Diva has some awesome information about this FREE Magic Kingdom experience!

Eats:

  1. Grab a snack at Gaston’s Tavern (cinnamon roll and Lefou’s Brew, anyone?) We always make it a point, at least once in our trip, to grab breakfast at Gaston’s. The cinnamon rolls are big enough to split, and you can get one for a snack credit if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan. At Gaston’s, we always make it a point to take a picture of our small children sitting in Gaston’s giant chair, surrounded by all of the antlers in his decorating. It always ends up looking super cute – ahem, I mean manly…
Fancy Free Daughter in Gaston's chair...or is it a throne?

Fancy Free Daughter in Gaston’s chair…or is it a throne?

Note: Other must-eat snacks include: the Mickey Premium Ice Cream bar, the Fruit and Nutella Waffle sandwich, and Schoolbread. I wrote a whole article about the snacks I look forward to eating on every trip, too!

Gaston's Tavern cinnamon roll and LeFou's Brew

Gaston’s Tavern cinnamon roll and LeFou’s Brew

Diva Tip: The cinnamon rolls at Gaston’s are like the cinnamon rolls that used to be available at the Main Street Bakery (before it switched over to Starbucks). They’re still as big as your head, but the sauce at Gaston’s is more maple and less caramel than the Main Street version.

  1. Dole Whip! Ok, so a lot of my Disney must-do’s relate to food, but if you haven’t had a Dole Whip float on a hot and humid Florida day, you really don’t know what you’re missing.

Diva Tip: To learn more about Dole Whips, read Superhero Diva’s tribute, or just make your own!

  1. Eat a Mickey bar!
Fancy Free Daughter enjoys a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar - yum!

Fancy Free Daughter enjoys a Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar – yum!

Diva Tip: If you attend Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, unlimited Mickey bars are included in the buffet!

Souvenirs:

  1. Get a portrait or caricature of our children. This is one of our favorite souvenirs, and if you really want to know why, you should check out my article about this amazing souvenir. In addition to getting a portrait or caricature drawn, we also commission a piece of art from a Disney artist. You can do this at places like the Art of Disney. We’ve gotten Steamboat Willie, Belle and Beast, Wall-e and Eve, Simba, and others. There are whole books of characters for you to look at, and just about everyone (even the most obscure characters) is represented, so you can probably find something that would look perfect on your walls at home.
Fancy Free Daughter getting her caricature drawn

Fancy Free Daughter getting her caricature drawn

  1. Buy a Christmas ornament for our tree. We always buy at least one ornament on every Disney trip. Usually, we end up buying an ornament that’s a favorite character, but then we also buy another ornament that’s dated for the year of our trip. The Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square, probably my favorite store at the Magic Kingdom, has calligraphers on staff that can personalize and/or date any ornament you select. This is Diva Viva’s favorite shop, too!
Our 2012 Wall-e and Eve ornament

Our 2012 Wall-e and Eve ornament

Diva Tip: If you end up purchasing breakable ornaments, you can have them sent to the front gate of the park or shipped to your resort (if you’re staying on Disney property) so that you don’t have to carry them around with you all day and risk shattering them.

Bonus Diva Tip: If you’re the first guests at Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe, you’ll often be given the chance to decorate the tree in the store. That’s a pretty special treat if there’s someone in your party who just loves Christmas!

 Every time we travel to Walt Disney World, we always try to add new experiences and knock something off our bucket list, but the ten things on this list are those things that we keep coming back to trip after trip.  They’ve become family traditions for us every time we travel to WDW.  Hopefully, as you read my list, you found yourself nodding your head at some of the things you also find yourself doing trip after trip, or you wrote a few things down to try for your next trip.  Either way, trips to WDW are all about making memories, so whatever it is you “must do,” make sure you make some magical memories to carry home with you!

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Hi! I'm Stephanie, aka the Fancy Free Diva. I'm a mom from Maine, and when I'm not in the classroom teaching irony using clips from Frozen and Mulan, I can be found playing with my own kids and planning our next Disney trip. I'm an Annual Passholder at WDW and a DVC member, and on cold winter nights I'm usually dreaming about summer vacation when I can take my family back to Florida and be fancy free!