What’s Your Disney “First Day Tradition?”

It’s time to talk Disney trip traditions!!! Over the years, my “first day at Disney” traditions have changed and evolved. But there’s nothing like looking forward to that thing you love to do first when you get to Disney World or Disneyland.

So my question for you today is this: Do you have a favorite “Welcome to Disney” tradition that you always look forward to? Let us know in the comments below — I might just have to change mine once I get inspired by a few of yours!

In the interest of fairness, I’ll share one of mine, too… :-)

Take a Deep Breath and Enjoy the View

One of my favorite “first night traditions” in Disney World is shaking off the stress of travel with a deep breath and a relaxing view. The best place to do this in my opinion? Disney’s Polynesian Resort!

I usually choose one of two options once I get there: Either lounge in a comfy, wicker chair at the Tambu Lounge, or head to ‘Ohana for a sunset dinner! (And sometimes I do both!)

Tambu Sign

“The Poly” offers lots of choices for relaxing! ;-)

Tambu Drink Menu -- Click to Enlarge

I always choose the luxurious Lapu Lapu for my first Disney drink — a mix of rum and tropical juices served in a fresh pineapple! This drink is extravagant to be sure, but it really sets the tone for a relaxing vacation.

And if you’re going non-alcoholic, they’ll make you a virgin one in the pineapple, too! No matter which way you go, a drink in pineapple really does say “I’m finally on vacation!!”

Lapu Lapu from the Tambu Lounge

After I take a breather with my pineapple, I’ll often head next door to ‘Ohana (with a previously booked Advance Dining Reservation, of course) for dinner.

Then, if I haven’t seen the Magic Kingdom Fireworks from ‘Ohana, I’ll head down to the Polynesian Beach for the show!

My favorite secluded spot on the Polynesian Resort Beach!

Whether I’m watching the sun set over Seven Seas Lagoon or catching an awesome view of Wishes, this is the perfect way to unwind after what can be a stressful day of traveling on my first day at Disney. The bonus here? You don’t burn a day on your tickets with a trip into the parks, and you still get to see fireworks! Score!!

So how about you? Do you head immediately from the airport to the Magic Kingdom for a Dole Whip? Stop off in Epcot for a ride on Spaceship Earth and dinner at Biergarten first thing? Go to the hotel for a swim? What is your first day or first night at Disney tradition?

Let’s hear all about your favorite First Disney Day tradition — what it is, how you do it, why it’s special! Share below in the comments!


  1. Gillian says

    My beau and I are new to Disney as adults, so we don’t have a set tradition yet, but I really liked what we did in February, which was to head to Magic Kingdom our first morning. I knew he’d fall madly in love with Haunted Mansion, so we did that first. :) It was our very last ride of the trip too and seemed to tie everything up nicely. On our last day, we also “took it easy” by visiting the Port Orleans resorts and absolutely fell in love with them. I’m so looking forward to staying at French Quarter in October! This time, we’re arriving in the morning, but instead of using up a park ticket, we’re going to tour some of the resorts, like the Boardwalk, GF, and probably our own too. ;) Maybe even some Downtown Disney. Since we’re starting the parks with Universal this time, it sort of lets us know we’ve arrived, it’s brand new to us, and (what else?) gives us lots of options for amazing food!

  2. Hank Reed says

    Just inside the turnstiles, I stop and await the train to see who’s name is on the train. We pass under the train station and walk over to where Roy is sitting on the bench. I look up at the 2nd floor of the train station and wave. I rub then rub Roy’s head and turn up main street keeping my head down. When I get to Walt’s spot on the wall I usually hear someone say, Welcome Home. I raise my head and look at the castle, take a deep breath and let it out slowly as the sounds of the day full of promise fill my ears and I feel the stress drain away. I am now ready to enjoy the day fully.

  3. Corrie says

    On the first night of our honeymoon we went to DTD and had dinner at Raglan Road, then sat outside the cigar lounge in the nice warm weather (it was a treat since it was January and we’re from NJ). We were so happy and excited! Now that’s the only way I can imagine starting a trip

  4. Donna says

    After we check in at the Boardwalk we go visit our favorite & best bartenders Ty, Joe & Mike at the the Leaping Horse Libations bar by the pool. We then have dinner at Kozzinas but since they are closing, we will be going to the Captains Grille. We also wait for our food to be delivered from wegoshop.com (they are great. Been using them for years) & unpack. Get a good nights sleep & get ready for the most magical vacation ever!

  5. Debbie Dawson says

    One of our favorite first day traditions is to head straight to Downtown Disney and have ‘dinner’ at Ghirardelli’s. It’s a fun treat to have ice cream for dinner! The Magic Kingdom would be our favorite ‘first day at the parks’ choice and it’s a must to stop and have family photos in front of the castle! Of course that’s after I take a deep breath and wipe the tear away from my eyes! I always tear up seeing the castle for the first time.

  6. Jenn says

    Oh how i love disney! We always stayed at fort wilderness when i was young but now stay at the all star music resort. Upon arriving, it is the best feeling ever knowing that you are now at the happiest place on earth. It is a hard feeling to describe but it is magical! The first thing we do is head to downtown disney to have dinner at the rainforest cafe and stroll through the shops especially the world of disney shop! It gets you in the spirit of disney. After dinner and shops head back to the resort and take a swim in the pool and have a relaxing night sleep before the first day at magic kingdom!
    The first day at the magic kingdom is amazing! Love the MK! We always headed straight for pirates of the caribbean ride but now that the cafe on mainstreet serves starbucks we stop there to start our day with a delicious starbucks coffee then on to the fun! I have to stop at starbucks bc i am addicted since becoming a store mngr at one!
    So least to say our traditions haven’t changed much because there are many things we love after visiting disney 20+ times now in my life but i love when new things become part of our traditions! Disney is truly yhe most relaxing vacation to me and the most magical place on earth!

  7. Melanie says

    Our First Day Tradition is to go to the Magic Kingdom and head straight to the Rose Garden to take a family picture in front of the castle from the garden. My husband proposed in this garden with the castle as a backdrop. Of course we had a Disney CM take a photo immediately after the proposal. We have two more family photos in that garden since our engagement that include our now 4-year old son. This year/summer we will add to the collection with a family photo that includes our 4-year old and our 15-month old sons. This will be our first complete family photo in our favorite spot!!!!

  8. Melissa says

    Our first day tradition has been to go to the Crystal Palace for lunch….but for our next trip (two weeks away!!), we are breaking tradition as I was able to get a pre rope drop reservation there later in the week. In any event, I always have to go to the Magic Kingdom on our first and last day..in love all the parks, but the Magic Kingdom is the best bookend!

  9. Kay W says

    After checking in and unpacking, we head to the Crews Cup Lounge and enjoy a relaxing lunch. Then we wander around the Yacht Club Lake checking out the stores on the Boardwalk. For dinner, we’ve made an ADR at some Epcot restaurant – a different each time and then stay for the fireworks. A leisure walk back to the Yacht Club and our evening is complete.

  10. Sally says

    We hit Epcot straight away and stop at Rose & Crown for a pint then listen to British Revolution in the courtyard. They have friendly bartenders & great brews and clearly some of the best music in the parks!

  11. Julia says

    We’re from Chicago, a 2+ hour flight plus two hours sitting at the airport prior to that. Our first thought on arrival at our resort (always Port Orleans – French Quarter) is grabbing a bus to the Magic Kingdom and a boat to The Wilderness Lodge so we can walk to the camp ground. I know it seems convoluted but the path is peaceful and if we time everything correctly we have dinner at Trails End. Last night at WDW is always dinner at Le Cellier.

  12. says

    We always try to check in as early as possible in the morning (having either taken a red eye in from California or spending the night at the Hyatt in the Airport after a daytime flight). We have breakfast at the hotel then go to our room and take a good, long nap. We get up refreshed, shower and head for the Magic Kingdom. This year we had fastpass+ and we did our 3 favorite rides before heading over to Epcot for our traditional first night dinner at Teppan Edo. Afterwards we take a slow walk around the lagoon and back to our transportation back to our hotel where we grab some goodies and go to our room to get into our pjs and relax in bed until we fall asleep.

  13. Jessica says

    My disney first day tradition is going to the hotel to check in then head to downtown disney to enjoy some great food and shopping! Last trip it was earl of sandwich! This coming trip its ragland road! I will explore some of the hotels to kill some time while i wait for my moms flight to come in! (She lives in Arizona and i live in wisconsin). We do DTD so we dont waste a park ticket just in case of flight delays and its fun to shop and explore :) I love disney and its all magical to me! Side note: it seems the last meal during our trips is Be Our Guest, and no we dont plan it that way! Thats just how the reservations panned, i was floored when we booked in January of 2015 that the reservation is only a 20minute difference from our last one! Crazy….mind =blown!

  14. Graham says

    First thing – after checking in – is going to the Magic Kingdom then transferring to a boat launch heading for Fort Wilderness Campground – having a drink a Crockets Tavern sitting on the rocking chairs out front – Then going to the incredible Hoop Dee Doo Musical Review! Its old school Disney at its best. It sets off the perfect Disney vacation with a bang! Love those sangrias!

  15. Alyse says

    My hubby and I like to check into our resort and spend some time wandering around it. Then, we like to go to Downtown Disney and do a little shopping around and have a nice meal at one of the restaurants. We call it an early evening because we will be up super early the next morning to hit Magic Kingdom.

  16. Michelle says

    First, I love the idea of spending the first night with a drink in hand at the Polynesian, and that may have to be on my list for my next trip! But my favorite thing to do on my first full day is make an advance dining reservation at Crystal Palace before the park opens to get a practically empty view of Main Street and the castle first thing in the morning. That’s the moment where I stop and close my eyes, take a deep breath in and think “I’m here.” It’s so magical.

  17. Sophie Lachapelle says

    Over the last few years we used to go straight to Downtown Disney for our first Disney night but this year we’re trying something new. We took a reservation to California Grill (Contemporary Resort) at 21:30 to watch Wishes while enjoying a tasty dinner! Can’t wait to be there with my fiance!

  18. Linda says

    Usually visit in January. First thing is DTD and early lunch at Earl of Sandwich takeout to eat a few steps away on one of the benches, soaking in the sun and watching kids playing in the sidewalk fountain. Then Ghirardelli for a hot fudge sundae to enjoy outside while looking at the water or any little Princesses that might be parading out of Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. After quick check-in (different resort each time), head to MK until closing. First stop there is always Mickey’s Philharmagic to fly over London with Peter Pan (first happiness tears usually start about then). Amble around the park taking it all in. Before the fireworks, dinner is usually the awesome Lighthouse Sandwich (hummus, tomato, broccoli slaw on toasted multi-grain bread) at Columbia Harbor House. After the fireworks, back at the resort, drift off to sleep anticipating next morning’s breakfast in MK: hot waffles at Sleepy Hollow, hoping to catch another glimpse of a wild otter who passes that way en route to a swim in the castle moat. Heaven.

  19. Cariad says

    I loved reading everyone’s comments on this! We usually land mid-afternoon, so our tradition is to check in at the hotel (different every time), dump our bags and jump straight on a bus to Magic Kingdom for dinner at Casey’s. Then we try and squeeze in POTC, Haunted Mansion and Thunder Mountain at least, until the jetlag starts to take over!

  20. rhonda says

    I too love to start my Disney vacation with a visit to the Kona Cafe for lunch and a Lapu Lapu…..we have been doing it for years and send pics of my Lapu to my friends at home….when they come they send me pics too lol….then relax on the beach for a bit before we even check in….best way to start and you dont use a park day

  21. Stacey says

    Years ago with my parents, on a whim, our first ride at the Magic Kingdom was Splash Mountain. They both ducked on the final drop, and I got soaked on 1 side. Not so great for taking pictures the rest of the day, but they had a great laugh. Now, it’s tradition, the 1st ride is always Splash Mountain, even if it’s early on a cold morning. But, traditions and sharing them with family are part of what make Disney magical.

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