My first visit to Disneyland was in 1984. It was my first trip to California since moving from the Midwest to the Southwest. Little did I know that even as a middle schooler, I creating Disney vacation traditions for my future family.
Through the years, my family and I have created many different Disney vacation traditions. Some were intentionally set, while others happened without realizing what we were doing. Either way, the memories from each one continues to provide endless laughs and smiles.
Whether you are planning your first Disney Parks vacation or have been visiting for years, the suggestions below can help you create new traditions or highlight a tradition that you didn’t realize you had already created.
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A Tale as Old as Time
Whether you visit annually or every five years, choose a specific time of year. When I first began our every other year visit with my son, our trips were planned around his birthday. This continued to be our time of year to visit for twenty years until my husband and daughter moved to California and became annual passholders. Now we visit on everyone’s birthday.
I know some people who only visit during the Halloween or Christmas seasons.
Having a holiday or reason to celebrate adds extra magic.
Off to Neverland
The very first ride I rode was Peter Pan’s Flight. On my second visit which was ten years later with my son who was three years old at the time, it was also our first ride. I hadn’t planned on it, but seeing how everyone was rushing to it, I wanted to make sure we rode it early without too long of a line.
From then on Peter Pan’s Flight became the first attraction we rode for every vacation prior to becoming annual passholders. I didn’t care who rode what afterward, but the vacation had to begin with all of us on this one attraction.
How to choose an attraction
Make sure it is one that everyone in your party can go on and enjoy. The last thing you want to do is kick off your vacation with tears or an anxiety attack.
If you visit parks around the world, choose a ride that each park has. Lucky for my family, Peter Pan has an attraction at each park!
After choosing an attraction, be sure to check the park’s refurbishment schedule to make sure it will be operating during your vacation.
I was 14 the first time I had a picture taken with a Disney character. It was with Donald Duck and it was a moment that I will remember until my dying day. Since that visit, I have made having a picture taken with a character something that has to be done on every visit. As an annual passholder I don’t always do it when just popping in for a few hours, but continue to do it with every full-day visit.
For me, it doesn’t matter which character, just that I make time to have fun and pose with one. I know other people who have to have their photo taken with Mickey Mouse or Goofy on every vacation.
Choosing a character can be tricky if they aren’t one who isn’t available for meet and greets year-round. If you really want to choose a specific character I suggest choosing Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, or Goofy. They are regulars not just at Disneyland, but all the Disney parks around the world.
Add some fun to your character meet and greet tradition by collecting autographs. We have several Disney autograph books filled with signatures and special messages from cast members. One of our favorite notes is from the fruit stand cast member that our daughter asked to sign her book. He even drew a few pieces of fruit with his message wishing her a magical visit.
Another fun photo tradition my family has is taking my children’s pictures at the same spot to show how much they have grown. It began with my son’s first visit when I took his photo next to the “gas” tank in Toontown. I continued marking his growth by continuing to take his photo there each visit.
Tickle Your Taste Buds
Even if rides and photos aren’t your things, I bet you have a favorite Disney treat or meal!
The Monte Cristo quickly became a favorite meal at first for my son and me, then later my husband and daughter. Having lunch at the Blue Bayou or Café Orleans became a vacation tradition. As annual passholders, we make a point to eat there at least once a year. It’s our must-have meal when family and friends join us for a day in the park.
Maybe your favorite food is not a meal, but a treat, like popcorn in a collectible bucket, a Mickey Mouse ice-cream bar, a Dole Whip, or Mickey Mouse shaped pretzel. Whatever your favorite treat is, take time to savor each bite. You may also want to choose a particular location in the park to enjoy it.
I love Mickey pretzels, but my husband has forbidden me from ever ordering the cream cheese pretzel again. My appendix burst six hours after my first one and I broke a toe when I tempted fate eleven years later. Thankfully, I can still have a regular one with nacho cheese!!!! My favorite place to enjoy one is while people watching on Main Street.
Creating Disney park family traditions doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s a matter of finding something that brings joy. Like Walt Disney envisioned, the parks are always evolving which could result in an attraction or foot item being replaced. If this occurs, find another, perhaps what replaced it or an offshoot of the theme.
What’s your favorite Disney family tradition?