the disney food blog Rotating Header Image

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!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

166 Comments

  1. burgos says:

    Even being only 2 hours away from WDW, my wife and I never do day trips. We always make a vacation out of it. We usually arrive in the afternoon to late afternoon. We check in to our room, decide if we want to change, use restroom and head to the buses to go to DTD for dinner. First day is never a park day for us unless we buy AP’s(we usually do the FL fun passes every spring).

    We either eat WPExpress or EOSanwich for dinner if we don’t do an ADR. After dinner we stop to get a cocktail and enjoy the sights and sounds before we do the parks the next couple days until we leave. Even though this is our tradition, we are open to trying other things non park like monorail/resort hopping.

    I just convinced my wife to take a half day the day we leave so we potentially can arrive at WDW after lunch time which we have never done before. We always arrive late afternoon.

  2. Megan says:

    My husband and I live in New York and we always are sure to get the earliest flight we can so that we can make as much of the day as possible. We love the parks and just about every restaurant on property. So once we arrive we hurry to the hotel room and right off to the buses to get to Epcot. We take it easy the first day after all the traveling. So we usually wander around the World Showcase and enjoy some Grand Marnier Slushes from France and margaritas from Mexico- followed by dinner in one of the countries. It’s such a fabulous way to start our vacation off on the right foot! I can’t wait to go back!!!!

  3. Janelle says:

    Before we had our daughter we always took red eye flight from Seattle to Orlando and then checked into hotel, then off to the Magic Kingdom. We always had to see the castle to finally get that big sigh…..we then would wander, have lunch, until hotel room ready.

    since having our daughter, we still tend to take red eye flight, although hard to get direct flight from Seattle since 911. We now usually check in at hotel, enjoy the pool, and have a ADR for an early dinner. Then off to bed for early rise the next day.

    This coming October, we are taking red eye again, and still debating about heading to a park or not.

  4. Alivia says:

    My first day tradition is for Disneyland since I live in So. Cal. but when I have gone to Magic Kingdom I also keep it. Every visit, no matter how old I am am or who’s with me I always go on The Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. This tradition started a long long time ago, in a land of Disney with my Uncle who was in his 20′s and loved his niece’s & nephews. :-) My Uncle would take us at least twice a year until I was a teenager. By I still continued to go as much or more and would make all of my friends go on it first. Now I carry on the tradition with my kids as well.

  5. Kayla says:

    My family and I always catch the earliest flight from Syracuse NY. We usually arrive at Disney around lunch. Magic Kingdom is the park we visit the first day, we eat corn dog nuggets at Casey’s corner as soon as we arrive at the park and then ride Pirates of the Caribbean. I am going again this summer for the fourth time and We will be doing the exact same!

  6. Maryam says:

    We love the amenities at the resorts! We always start by exploring the resort and taking a million photos. Later in the day we head to DTD, World of Disney store to buy souvenirs. We don’t like wasting time in the parks doing so. The night always ends with a sit down dinner at DTD. Just being around the Disney atmosphere gets us excited for the parks.

  7. Nancy says:

    When the kids were little, we would always head over to DTD after checking into the hotel. We would have dinner at EOS and then let them chose any one toy. They knew this would be their only major purchase during trip as we like to focus on the rides and entertainment once we get into the parks. It was always a nice way to get into the mood of the vacation as they did a lot of browsing before making the important decision of what to chose. And then we would all go play in the interactive fountains!

  8. Erin says:

    My boyfriend and I always start at Pirates of the Carribean or the Haunted Mansion! We feel those are classics!

  9. Angie says:

    My family all meets up at Disney World every four years – my sisters and their families, my parents, etc. The first night is always a party at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. We stay at Fort Wilderness, so it’s close, a really great time, and the food is delicious! It’s just the jolt of energy we need to get ready for a Disney World vacation. Only 5 more days and we’ll meet there again!! YAA-HOOO!!!

  10. Donna says:

    My family of seven arrives in the Orlando area around 5:30. We love to spend our first evening at DTD…dinner at Earl of Sandwich, shopping at World of Disney, something sweet from Goofy’s confectionary, and strolling amid all those happy vacationers! It’s the perfect way to begin our much anticipated vacation!

  11. Midge says:

    We usually arrive around mid day after driving thru the night. Check in and head to Magic Kingdom for a quick ride or two then staight to Hoop Dee Doo. It is always the first night tradition. Our kids still request this even though they are in thier mid teens to mid twenties. Just would not be Disney without it.

  12. Christina H. says:

    Old-ish post but I felt i should reply!

    I’ve been going to WDW for the past 23 of the 24 years I’ve been alive! After approx. 35+ visits, my routine has always been pretty much the same – if I take an early arriving flight (arriving morning/early afternoon):

    its magical express (or rental car before it existed!) to hotel (originally Old Key West – home resort, Beach Club Villas, or lately, Saratoga) check in, change clothes, pickup DDP mugs and fill them once, then head to Epcot.

    Epcot is ALWAYS first when I plan my trips. Fastpass for Soarin or Test Track (whichever has the longer wait), ride Maelstrom, ride The Land (would also do Food Rocks when it still existed!), Figment (I STILL miss the original!!! – especially the old post ride attractions!), then onto Spaceship Earth, next would be Wonders of Life pavillion but since that’s gone I’ll usually then go on Universe of Energy until my FP for Soarin or TT is up. If I have a FP for Soarin I’m still waiting on, I’ll suck it up and wait on the TT line if its under an hour. Once I get all of those rides out of the way, its time to stop for a frozen banana, and explore the world showcase until its time for Illuminations.

    If I have a late flight, (arriving late afternoon or dinner time) I’ll usually make an ADR for a resort restaurant or in DTD. I usually alternate between Chef Mickey’s or Ohana, enjoy a relaxed dinner, wander around the shops a bit, (grab a dole whip from Capt Cook’s!) and prepare for the next day! I’ve been known to monorail hop back and forth from Poly to Contemporary to do just that!

  13. Anne K says:

    Our tradition is we drive down to WDW, stay at a local hotel and check into our WDW hotel nice and early. We head to one of the parks and later check to see if our room is ready, then we go and take a break and unpack. We spent our last day at the parks and travel a short time and stop at a hotel.

  14. Chris Buisset says:

    We hit Magic Kingdom and ride Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion first every single visit!!!

  15. NJ Mike says:

    First day tradition: get to Magic Kingdom, ride Dumbo first (a lot easier this year with two identical rides!), then Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, then it’s a Small World. Usually lunch at Casey’s. Dinner that night usually at Downtown Disney. The last night tradition is always dinner at Chefs de France in Epcot before watching IllumiNations. We just finished that dinner, now waiting for the show to begin!

  16. Gina P says:

    Check in to hotel/resort, a swim at the pool, then DTD for a quick service dinner, shopping, and a stop at the Margarita Bar.

  17. Maureen says:

    We do DTD after we check in then it’s always O’hana dinner.

  18. Dkbrooks says:

    We always get into the resort, take a deep breath and hit the parks. The first thing we do is eat and then get new hats for all the family!

  19. todd jacquet says:

    we take a early flight. Then magical express to the hotel check in .Then go to downtown Disney to relax.And spend the first day at Magic Kingdom.And the last day going to woody round up.

  20. Suzanne Caris says:

    1st – Casey’s for a hotdog – 2nd – Yo-ho Yo-ho, (Pirates of the Caribbean). Then it’s Dinner @ Cape May!!!!

  21. Erin says:

    My husband and i have always taken our things to the hotel, and the headed downtown and go to raglan road. We always sit outside on the patio enjoy a beer and have some fish and chips and just watch the people and enjoy the fact that we are there. Since we always wind up there in the evening near dinner time ( since we fly across the country) This is the perfect way to relax and calm down from all the travel.

  22. Corrina says:

    We travel from a distance, so the first day is usually filled with getting there. I try to schedule our arrival day when they show an outdoor movie, so we relax having a picnic dinner watching the movie and just soaking it all in.

  23. Erica says:

    We drive all night from Virginia Beach so the first day there we unpack, and do relaxing stuff like hang at a pool, wander Downtown Disney.

  24. Gen says:

    My husband and I always pop right over to Epcot for a pint from the cider stand, grab some fish and chips and park under the trees on the lake behind the pub :)

  25. Jill Sala says:

    My family’s first day tradition is having Mickey waffles for breakfast at the Carnation Cafe on Mainstreet U.S.A.!

  26. Paul S. says:

    When I used to go to WDW on vacation (I live in Orlando now and have an annual pass to WDW), I would take the time to get settled in my resort. I’d unpack my clothes and get a good look at the room I’m in. Then, I would then tour the resort I’m staying at. I want to get familiar with all the aspects of the resort I’m staying that I might take advantage during my stay. I get to relax before hitting the parks, which I did in order of official opening (Magic Kingdom first, followed by EPCOT and finally Studios!). ALWAYS want to be relaxed when I go to the parks.

  27. Laurie says:

    Sounds amazing! We are leaving for our next trip in 39 days. Staying at the Wilderness Lodge but I’m thinking we will make our way to the poly for one of those yummy drinks!

  28. Bev F says:

    Because my son is such an adrenaline junkie we check in then jump on a bus to HS for a ride (or two) on RNRC and TOT. I learned the hard way to get the rides he most anticipates and looks forward to in the first day otherwise he doesn’t enjoy the other parks until then. We have counter service dinner then early to bed to start our next full day.

  29. Heather says:

    When we stay on Disney, we like to stay at Port Orleans Riverside. We don’t like to rush off to a park the first night after a flight, but like to take a carriage ride around the property and enjoy Yee Haw Bob at the River Roost.

  30. Espanolsrs says:

    We have made it a tradition in our family to eat dinner at Chef Mickey’s our first night at WDW. It is a super convenient way to meet Mickey and his pals without having to wait in lines, and it really kicks off our vacation. The kids love it! After dinner, we hit the monorail for a ride around the lagoon. Then it’s back to the hotel so we can rest up to head to the parks bright and early the next day.

  31. Mandi says:

    Since I visit WDW at the kid-free times of year (September, May and January), the parks are usually not open late enough to use a ticket-day on our arrival. So usually it’s DTD for lunch and to get into the Disney mindset, followed by dinner at a resort…..Jiko being the favorite!

  32. Susan says:

    Our first day at Disney tradition is that we have dinner at Chef Mickey’s. It always puts us in such a good mood to have dinner with the Fab 5!!

  33. Lisa Stranges says:

    We always stay at Port Orleans Riverside. Once we arrive and check out our room we grab lunch at the cafeteria. Then change into our swimsuits and head to the pool. We always go in April, so after our LONG winter here in Canada sun and water in much needed :-D . Dinner is in downtown disney, a little shopping or just a walk gets us in the mood for our next day at the Magic Kingdom. So our 1st day is low key.

  34. Traci says:

    We come to Disney 2-4 times a year …we love to stay at the Beach Club…we take the earliest flight from New Jersey, check in and hope our room is ready if not, it doesn’t matter, we cannot wait to take our favorite walk towards the international gateway into Epcot where we enter our favorite area in England. We can taste the Boddington’s before we get to our favorite spot—–The Rose and Crown. This has been our absolute favorite every time we come! It’s a must!

  35. Kelli says:

    We’ve only been to WDW in 2013 expect when we were much younger (1985) We are hoping to make it a tradition and not so long in between. Our 10 yr old loved WDW.
    We arrived mid afternoon decided to have a day to chill before hitting the parks so we went to DTD for a while- went back to our room and chilled and then returned to DTD for our ADR. And then we opened and closed the parks for the next 6 days.
    We knew we were at Disney that first day but it was really nice to have a buffer day between life and vacation. No big thrills and yet it was very rewarding and relaxing.

  36. Chris Bennett (from the UK) says:

    Soon as we have checked in, its off to get a drink of refreshing Root Beer !

  37. DotB says:

    We usually time our trip to arrive at our resort around 11a, we check in, have lunch at the food court, get our refillable mugs and head to Magic Kingdom, after leaving the mugs in our car if the room is not ready. We time our arrival just in time to see the show in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Usually this time of day Tomorrowland is easy to navigate so we spend most of our time there depending on what time our ADR’s are for Tony’s. We have a nice relaxing dinner and depending on how tired we are, either spend time up and down Main Street or head back to our resort, unpack and then head out to get some provisions at the local Walmart. The only break with tradition this year is we no Tony’s for our first night, but got Be Our Guest ADR’s and Tony’s later in our trip.

  38. Connie Haack says:

    Every time we return “home” , as we call it, we always go first to the MK. Once inside, we always walk to the place where the railroad tracks cross at the beginning of Main Street…my husband did this as a child and it reminds us of Walt and the photo of him at Disneyland. We always take a photo there. There may be a time in the future when our daughter will be there with her spouse and child and she will pass on this tradition…and think of her Dadddy and Mommy!:)

  39. Roo says:

    Flying from the UK, we usually get to WDW late afternoon, early evening so with the time difference we are usually shattered but there is something really special about walking into the foyer of Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo, that simply relaxes us and says ” Welcome Home”. If we are not too tired we have a wander around the hotel and grounds just basking in the Magic of Disney!

  40. Roz says:

    Our favorite first day tradition is being at Magic Kingdom for the opening of the park for the day and waiting for the train to round the bend carrying all the Disney characters and hearing the “Good Morning” song……. No matter how many times we have been to WDW that is like being there for the first time!!! What a fabulous beginning to our day!!!
    We’ll be back in September and also for Christmas… We live in Lousiana and we are fortunate to be able to go to Disney two or three times a year!!!

  41. Jay (from the UK) says:

    We spend the first day travelling, usually arriving in resort around 5pm (which feels like 10pm to us). As we have been up since the early hours of that morning, we are pooped.

    We always start off with buying refill mugs (can’t get root beer easily over here) and a swim. We never go into a park that first evening and usually have CS somewhere in resort or – if we’re feeling particularly energetic – DTD, perhaps EoS or WPx

    First morning we wake up ridiculously early, eat some food we bought the night before (fruit cups being a favourite) as the food courts aren’t open yet, then head to MK for a Crystal Palace ADR. This has also become our “home day” tradition, too, before heading to the airport.

  42. Sarah says:

    Living in Florida it’s been tradition to go visit the park’s for 4 – 7 days during the month of April or May to celebrate my and my sister’s birthday’s. The first park we always hit is the Magic Kingdom and the first 2 rides that are a must ride before anything else are the haunted mansion and it’s a small world. The second day is Epcot and spaceship earth is the first thing we do before anything else. That’s been our tradition since I was piratically born :) So 25+ years :D

  43. Sarah says:

    practically *

  44. Michele says:

    As a child, when I went to Disneyland with my mom, we always headed straight to It’s a Small World. That is where I always head first thing even still. My mom left us in 2005, but for that brief time she is still by my side.

  45. Chelsea says:

    Our resort of choice us PO Riverside, so the last time we went, and this time (Nov) we make an ADR for Boatwright’s, one of our favorite places to eat. On our honeymoon in 2011, it rained 8in in one day (the most since 2003 the news mentioned).. We didn’t leave the resort so we booked a last minute ADR at Boatwright’s. So in 2012 we stopped there again, and it proved to be delicious & our new first night tradition. We will only go to the parks if we aren’t exhausted. NY to Disney is not a bad flight, but it’s nice to take it easy.

  46. Coci says:

    I went to WDW a lot as a child because my parents are DVC members. My tradition was always MK the first day, and the carousel as my first ride. My husband and I finally got to take our girls in February and the tradition was upheld!

  47. Dena says:

    We always start off with seeing the Fab Four at Chef Mackey ‘ s the first night of our stay. It’s kind of a “Welcome Back” celebration for us. I’ve loved Mickey so much since I was a child and seeing him is the perfect start of a perfect vacation!

  48. Vikki says:

    It never fails, we land, we take the Magical express to which ever resort we have chosen this trip. We unpack and head down to Downtown Disney. We wonder around, enjoying the stores and end up having dinner at Raglan Road. Sometimes after dinner we walk around enjoying the even air or we head back to the resort, enjoy an evening swim and a glass of wine before bed.
    We never go to the parks on the weekends, never ever, way too busy. We go the water parks, go play mini golf, ladies go to the spa, men off to the movies, tours, horseback riding, anything and everything over then the parks.
    Monday to Friday, look out parks, here we come.
    Something else we love to do on each trip, we try a new restaurant.

  49. Stephanie says:

    We are DVC members and Bay Lake Tower is our home. We drive in from Texas, so we arrive mid-afternoon. One of the first things we do after we arrive, unpack, and get the grocery shopping done is to take a ride on the monorail, so we can enjoy the views and soak in that Disney Vibe. Then we make a quick dinner, head up to the Top of the World Lounge, and enjoy cocktails and the Magic Kingdom fireworks! We love our first night tradition!

  50. Dena says:

    As a Florida passholder I go many times a year but I do have traditions.
    At the MK I always go left toward Adventureland and except
    when it was closed for renovations I never
    miss riding Pirates. At EPCOT I always ride
    Spaceship Earth last. And I always go to France
    for a chocolate croissant and I always
    catch the Voices of Liberty and the American
    Adventure.

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *