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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!

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166 Comments

  1. Ann T says:

    For lunch on my first day I always eat at The Plaza. I always have a BLT and Unsweet Tea. It’s my comfort food and even at home when I eat it I remember the smells and sounds of Disney.

  2. Cindi says:

    As soon as we get checked into our resort room we head over to the quick service dining for our refillable cup and some tasty lunch. After that some R&R in the room unpacking and just unwinding is in order. It doesn’t take too long to feel refreshed and excited about all the adventures awaiting and I take a resort photo tour while my husband gets more R. In the late afternoon we ride the bus over to Downtown Disney and do a little shopping, ride the ferry, watch the street performers, sit down for a nice evening meal, sip a margarita waterside while watching the boats, and then share an ice cream sundae from Ghiardelli’s. The best part though is when we take the bus back to our resort and upon pulling up the message always says, “Welcome Home!” I love that. For a week I am really living at Disneyworld.

  3. Sandy - winnieatepooh says:

    What a great idea! I would love to stop at the Poly to watch the fireworks (and grab a self serve dole whip) on my first night. I made the mistake a few years ago going to a park on our arrival day, and I will never do that again – It was just too stressful, we were too tired, and got very cranky. On our last trip we went to Downtown Disney, ate at EoS, did some shopping, saw a movie, and went back to CSR early to relax and enjoy the sunset. It was a MUCH better use of our first day, and we’re planning on doing it again this year – except this time we’ll be squeezing in a Ghirardelli sundae :D

  4. Jason says:

    Because our flight usually doesn’t arrive until the afternoon we will go to Epcot but we will ease into it. Just World Showcase for some shopping & dinner followed by Illuminations.

  5. Prof. Brainard says:

    Our tradition, started in the years immediately after the park opened and followed without deviation in a near-fetishistic manner for the next two decades (though not so much now), had to do with the order in which we visited attractions in the Magic Kingdom. This was back in the day when all Disney World guests were treated equal, with no special entrance times or hours, no fast passes, etc. You absolutely had to do the most popular attractions first thing in the morning or the lines would grow depressingly long. We always arrived at opening and then race-walked down Main Street, through the Hub, across the Liberty Square bridge, and to the Haunted Mansion (invariably our first stop). Then we hit the most popular attractions with the longest lines, always in this order: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (greatly missed now), then Hall of Presidents (wildly crowded and popular in its heyday), then Country Bear Jamboree (also wildly popular and always crowded), then down into Adventureland for the Jungle Cruise. When Pirates came along, and then Big Thunder, they completed the set. Except for 20,000 Leagues, which involved a race-walk across the park and back again, you could make a nice little arc of attractions starting at Haunted Mansion and working your way over to Big Thunder in our never-varying sequence. I wouldn’t say it’s still an exact tradition today (we are older and much more tired), but we wouldn’t dream of visiting the Magic Kingdom and not making the Haunted Mansion our first call. Unfortunately, for a food blog, our tradition has nothing to do with food.

  6. Pigletyyz says:

    We typically stay at the Boardwalk Inn so, after depositing our bags and freshening up, we head down to the boardwalk, grab a beer from the pizza window, and chill out and enjoy the sights and sounds that surround us. We then head to Fort Wilderness and take in the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. It is positively the best way to kick off a fabulous vacation!

  7. floreksa says:

    We tend to get to Disney later in the afternoon and always head straight for Epcot and Test Track.

  8. SharonCW says:

    We usually arrive around noon. After we check in, we head to the bus stop and get on the first bus that comes along so we can get to a park ASAP!

  9. Jenn says:

    Haven’t been to Disney that often to create first day traditions. With the trip I went on with my boyfriend last September we started our first day off by heading to Downtown Disney. We ate an early lunch at WPE (delicious!) and spent a few hours at DisneyQuest. We then rushed over to Epcot for dinner at Le Chefs. In the future I’m thinking well just spend the whole day at DtD although an evening at the Poly sounds lovely :)

    I’m a little sadden that I won’t make it back to Disney until Fall 2014!

  10. Kristina says:

    I always take a mini solo trip after working a convention in November….to mark my weekend of fun (after being stressed for the better part of 2 months prior to the show) my ritual is the following:

    -Check in to my resort immediately after the show (around 5pm-ish)
    -Hop onto a bus to EPCOT
    -Head into the Mexican pavilion
    -Have a Margarita at La Cava
    -Kick back on Gran Fiesta Tour
    -Grab one more Margarita for the road

  11. Michelle says:

    We generally stay at the Wilderness Lodge and with flights, etc. don’t usually arrive until later in the afternoon. We make sure we have our bathing suits in our carry-on luggage, as Disney usually delivers the remainder of our bags from the courtesy bus awhile later. Everyone gets ready and heads straight for the pool. Our suitcases are usually in our room when we get back, we take our time getting ready, and then we hit Artist Pointe for a relaxing dinner after our day of travel. With our first day being a kind of “decompress” day, we all wake up the next morning ready to take on the parks bright and early and refreshed.

  12. Brenda says:

    Our first day tradition is to check in, (usually Port Orleans French Quarter) take the boat to Downtown Disney, take a bus to the Contemporary, take the Monorail to the TTC, and take the boat to the Magic Kingdom, where we smile and walk up Main Street. Our first food stop is always Caseys – my daughter’s favorite hot dogs (even though I still miss the old buns….just putting that out there) – and cotton candy. Now we have a last day tradition too, we have breakfast at Ghiradelli – yes, ice cream for breakfast and that is because we are sad to be leaving.

  13. Natalie says:

    Our first day at Disney sounds identical to yours! Every trip, we head over to the Poly in the early evening to enjoy the atmosphere, watch the Electrical Water Pageant, enjoy a meal at Ohana, and then take in the fireworks from a lounge chair or swing on the beach. If one is showing, we’ll even pull up a chair for the nighttime movie on the beach by the campfire. I also love walking down by the boat launch and Spirit of Aloha. It’s absolutely magical and I would NEVER change this tradition. We never go to the park on arrival day. We’re all-dayer people so to go for half a day is a waste in our opinion.

  14. Carolyn says:

    Well, we usually arrive from the UK during the late afternoon, so our tradition is check in, drop everything in the room, change from (warm) travelling clothes to something cool and comfortable, (as we usually travel in October or November), and then head to Trails End at Fort Wilderness Campground for our first official ‘Disney Dinner’. Wow. I can taste that fried chicken and mashed potato now ……..

  15. Kristen says:

    We stay at Port Orleans French Quarter and we drive to WDW, so we get unpacked and take a relaxing boat ride to DTD. It is so fun to shop at World of Disney and stop at Goofy’s Candy Store for a caramel apple to take back to the room. We also go to the Christmas shop to get an ornament for our tree that we have devoted to all things Disney.

  16. Maria says:

    Once we get to our hotel, we unpack briefly and hop on whatever mode of transportation that will take us to Epcot the quickest. If we get there before the World Showcase opens, we’ll usually ride Test Track, Mission Space, and Soarin. Once the World Showcase opens, we head directly to Mexico (do not pass “Go” do not collect $200) and from there we eat and drink ourselves into obllivion. Ok, so we don’t drink ourselves into obllivion but you understand that it was part of the idiom. There is no need for a formal lunch of dinner that day because we’re too busy snacking. Love me some Epcot food (nom nom nom)!!!

  17. Jenna Jameson says:

    Almost always we end up at Magic Kingdom first and then ride the Teacups. I adore them! We are usually always staying at the Wilderness Lodge or Grand Floridian so we hop right on the boats or monorail and head right over. The teacups were my first Disney ride many many Disney trips ago when I was 2 1/2. I’m 24 now! We always make a visit to see Cosmic Ray too :)

  18. Tinkymurph says:

    My hubby had a couple of the Island Sunsets as we waited for our table at Ohana for our New Year’s Eve dinner last year. But for our first day arrival we usually are at Magic KIngdom to have dinner with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyor, and of course Tigger! He’s always a hoot! Crystal Palace seems to be our first meal for breakfast too, even if we happen to not make it to the MK on arrival night!!

  19. Tracy says:

    Our tradition is to check in as early, usually at POR. The minute we get into the room we drop all our bags and jump on the beds shouting, “Mickey’s House!” over and over again. This year we are at AKL and I hope the beds are just as bouncy! Our favorite food traditon is the DOLE WHIP. Early and as often as possible!

  20. Katie says:

    Since we are pass holders and go to disney often, we don’t do many of the same things, usually we do whatever we feel like doing that day. However, one thing sticks out in my mind that we always do, we check in to our hotel and go to the food court and get some soda in our refillable mug. For us it is sort of that figurative “ahhhh”. Then we take the luggage to our room and we are off to wherever the wind takes us. Lately that has included a “cupcake quest” which involves riding the monorail to all the resorts and getting whatever cupcakes look good. The poly has a really cute(and yummy) Mickey or Minnie ganache cupcake right now.

  21. Frankie says:

    As Brits, we’ve usually just come off a plane and feel like it’s the early hours of the morning when really it’s late afternoon. After check-in and the obligatory swipe of the Disney shampoos we head to Downton Disney and the Earl of Sandwich. Just thinking about those sandwiches is usually enough to keep us awake! And now there’s the dining plan, we get fruit to eat the next morning (when jetlag usually gets us up at about 5am raring to go to the Animal Kingdom!).

  22. Randi says:

    For the past several trips, (and I hope the upcoming on in four days!), I have always gone straight from the airport, to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and immediately get in line for Tower of Terror. There’s something enticing about having the first attraction being one that I’m guaranteed to scream my head off on for me.

  23. Juanita says:

    We’re passholders who live 2 hours north, so we don’t have any traditions either. Last December when we stayed for a long weekend, we started our trip off by going to the campgrounds where we took a wagon ride and saw the lovely Christmas decorations and then we ate at Trail’s End. That was great, and it may become a December tradition. Other than that, every trip is different :)

  24. Jen says:

    Every year my parents, my DH & I usually arrive at our resort (usually POP) around 6AM (we drive from NJ). We check in and more times than not, our rooms our ready. So we head our separate ways for about 30 seconds just to drop off our luggage then grab breakfast and our mugs. After that we unpack everything in our rooms and then head on the bus to see the MK opening. We spend the morning together at the park, then DH & I usually go to DTD for some shopping, my mom lays by the pool to tan and my dad goes to their room for his afternoon nap. We always meet up at night for dinner and pick a park once we finish. Our “no rush” first day sets the tone for the entire vacation!

  25. Christa M. says:

    Our arrival day, we get into town about 3, check in to an offsite hotel, order pizza and crash. Our first park day, we hit a park, check in to resort mid-afternoon, and always eat dinner at Rose & Crown. It’s our tradition!

  26. Meghan W. says:

    We don’t really have a first day tradition, but we usually just take it easy no matter what we do. We’ve definitely tried doing Ghirardeli on our first day, but we always are sure to get our ornament at the Christmas Shop at DTD. My husband and I may just make that our family tradition starting with our trip next year. Ghirardeli and an ornament.

  27. Nicola says:

    We usually arrive in resort around 4pm after a 9hr flight from the UK all we want to do is head to Downtown Disney and grab an Earl of Sandwich. Magic.

    Our first real day always starts with breakfast at Crystal Palace as early as possible to get those all important empty MK shots.

    This year instead of Earl of Sandwich were trying ESPN at the Boardwalk so we can catch some fireworks from the bridge. But first morning were at Crystal Palace. :-)

  28. Megan Buis says:

    The day we check into our hotel we get our refillable mugs, spend time at the resort, and head over to Downtown Disney for dinner at Raglan Road. Our first official park day we get to the MK for rope drop and spend most of the day there before heading back to the resort to freshen up and relax before dinner at Ohana followed up by watching Wishes! Come on December!!

  29. Joy O says:

    Oddly enough – I cannot think for the life of me what we usually do the first day. All I know is no matter what we do or where we go (be it a park, resort hopping or DtD) the night is always capped off with our first view of Wishes. We have done this so far in the park with our Dole Floats, on Contemporary’s observation deck post dinner, from the deck of the Grand Floridian boat in the middle of Seven Seas Lagoon and from the sands of Polynesian. I guess that’s how I know the trip has truly started. I can take a deep breathe, smile and say “We’re finally here”.

  30. Scraps says:

    Since we drive down, it’s always fun to lock the car for the duration, put the keys someplace safe, and hop on a Disney bus (or boat if I’m at POFQ) and head to DtD. This used to also go hand in hand with a first meal at Earl of Sandwich but we’re changing it up this next trip with a late supper at Jiko. Either way, DtD is my way of getting my first taste of Disney without trying to do a park as soon as we arrive.

  31. Alan says:

    To my wife and me, our Disney vacation starts when we drive across the Ga./ Fla. border, specifically Jacksonville. We stop at the Budweiser brewery and visit the hospitality room for some beers (sodas for the driver) and to decompress from the drive. Then it’s a stop at the nearby Krystal’s hamburger stand for a sack full of those strange little burgers (White Castle clones ), that we cannot get here in NC. Then a two hour drive to Orlando, but we don’t go straight to the World. We always stay at a hotel on International Drive, right across the street from the Bahama Breeze restaurant. We cross the street, have some exotic drinks, some great appetizers and enjoy the live reggae and calypso music on the outdoor patio. We walk back to our hotel, take a swim and already have had a great mini-vacation. And, we haven’t even gotten to WDW yet!

  32. Julie says:

    After setting up the campsite at fort wilderness, we always take a golf cart around to see the Christmas lights and eat at trails end. Not the greatest food in the world but the comfort of a stick-to-your-ribs meal has been a family tradition for the last 13 years!

  33. Robb H says:

    LOVE Disney traditions.

    First day for us … arrival, often to much fanfare as we unite with family members who’ve taken various modes of travel to get to Dis.
    Head to the pool bar (typically, Mardi Grogs as we’re often found at POFQ) and grab a cold beer or Hurricane!!
    A little relaxation in the room … just to kick back on the bed and say, “Ahhhhh, we’re here”.
    Board the Sassagoula River Boat to Downtown Disney, grab a late morning sandwich at Earl.
    A bit of shopping and browsing … then a return to the resort to jump in the pool and refresh.
    Evening rezzies at Cape May buffet at the Beach Club Resort … a nightime walk around the Boardwalk resort area … back to POFQ to sleep and get geared up for Day 1.

    Repeat every two years indefinitely.

  34. Michelle P says:

    We don’t really have a first day tradition – but we do have a final night tradition. We always have dinner at La Hacienda and schedule it between 7:45 and 8:15. We request a fireworks view when we check in (and the one time it wasn’t granted, our server moved us to a recently vacated table as soon as the fireworks started so we could see – and continued the rest of our meal from there). It’s the perfect ending to a great trip!!

  35. Louise says:

    On our first day, we usually arrive in the late afternoon. Aside from our most recent January trip which included a stay at the Beach Club, we usually stay at the Polynesian Club Level in Janauary. Most trips, we are whisked back to the Hawaii building in a golf cart. It’s always fun trying to smoosh the five in our family in the cart with the driver. We’ve taken some high-speed turns on several of the golf cart rides, but that just sets the tone for the trip! We check in, check out our room (always third floor garden view), and check out the lounge offerings. We then board the resort monorail over to the TTC, and then catch the Epcot monorail. Spaceship Earth awaits us! Perfect ride and perfect park for a little touring after the first day of travel from Wisconsin. The Magic Kingdom is always our first full-day park, and we never miss the opening ceremony. The “Good Morning” song always gets me! We started somewhat of a tradition on our first Disney trip in ’06 of singing, “Simple Having A Wonderful Disneytime” to the tune of “Simple Having A Wonderful Chrismastime” by Paul McCartney. We ad-lib verses, etc. We’re pretty much cool like that. ;)

  36. Tricia says:

    No traditions.. But thanks to you guys I think I have one forming. Usually we get in late and just crash.

  37. Erica says:

    Most times we arrive around dinner time, so we get the Magical Express to our hotel, grab some dinner in the food court then relax at the hotel for the night so we can get an early start the next day. The first full day is typically Magic Kingdom but this year the kids are bugging us to do Hollywood Studios first so that’s where we’ll go!

  38. Norma says:

    Our first day tradition, after checking into our resort is to head to Epcot. Spaceship Earth is always our first ride! And supper our first night is always at Biergarten!

  39. David says:

    I have been going to disney my entire life. Up until I was 10, it was Disneyland and after moving to FL it became Disney World. We usually arrive at out resort really late at night so our first morning is ALWAYS the Magic Kingdom opening ceremony and straight to Space Mountain. After Space Mountain than anything goes, but we NEVER start our Disney vacation any other way. To the extent of not even visiting Disney when Space Mountain is down for maintenance or refurb. I have been doing this since I was tall enough to ride Space Mountain and now my kids, 16 and 12, won’t start any other way. We will be at Disney World in 2 weeks and I suggested to my daughter that we start at Epcot and do Test Track first. That conversation ended with my tail between my legs. How dare I suggest anything other than Space Mountain first. Disney traditions are always fun to carry through life. I will be doing this until I am too old to get on Space Mountain.

  40. Gwen says:

    We usually arrive in the mid-afternoon, so after checking in and freshening up after a long day of travel, we head over to Downtown Disney! We check out all the shops, and then have dinner. After dinner, a stop at Babycakes for dessert is a must.

    Can’t wait to do it again soon!

  41. Lori says:

    Our first night dinner is always ‘Ohana!

  42. CraigInPA says:

    Trip after trip, we arrive at our hotel (the Poly) late in the afternoon, check-in, unpack, and then head over to ‘Ohana for dinner, followed by watching fireworks and the electric boat parade from the beach. On the way back to our longhouse, we’ll stop at Captain Cook’s and pick up our beverage mugs.

  43. Sommery says:

    Since I have three daughters 6, 12, and 16 on our first full day we do breakfast at Akershus with the princesses. I love that the photo package is included and I get pictures of my girls growing up with Belle. :)

  44. Jodi says:

    We always head over to EPCOT, get a fastpass for Soarin’ (if they are still available!) and then eat at Sunshine Seasons.Then we know vacation has begun!!

  45. Sophie says:

    I HAVE to go meet Mickey first thing, always have and always will!

  46. Max says:

    Since my childhood we would always get reservations at The Crystal Palace and do the character breakfast on the morning of the first full day of our trip. It’s nice being able to see the Magic Kingdom first thing in the morning before the hustle and bustle of the crowds. I am really looking forward to passing this tradition to my son on his first trip in just 2 weeks.

  47. Lewis Schmitt says:

    Our tradition is to have breakfast at Chef Mickey and then to head to the gift shop in the hotel. We then head to our rooms for a rest and then head back to the park in the afternoon. Our first stop is always the Magic Kimgdom. We have been to Disney over fifty times. True Disney fans!!!

  48. Kylie says:

    We always do the same exact thing after checking in at our WDW resort– head to DTD and browse for a bit. We then head to EPCOT for a TS dinner (last two trips it’s been Rose & Crown, our favorite WS restaurant). Can’t imagine doing anything differently!

  49. Catherine says:

    We have so many family traditions but one of my favorite is a departing Photo of the whole gang in front of the hotel we are staying in. I always buy a disney frame with the date and display that picture as a reminder of all the great times we had that trip.

    Plus, we never miss Dinner at 50′s Prime Time cafe. Let the fun begin….

  50. Lee says:

    It’s usually a travel day (flying or driving in) so we usually have limited time like everyone. So we head to Epcot, pick up some French pastries, find a good spot to view Illuminations and celebrate! We are finally home!

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