In the midst of tragedy, I’ll admit my heart was not in penning Disney tips for this week’s Park Wise. My mind kept wandering to the brevity of our time. I’m reminded to be in the moment and really make the most of the time we have with family, friends and in our favorite places, which for a lot of us are the Disney parks and resorts. Lives can change or vanish in an instant. Take it in while you can, enjoy the moments and stop and smell the roses.  – What follows is a slightly updated article I first ran on this site in 2013, but one which resonates with me today. I hope you’ll join in adding your own thoughts in the comments.

We just flew home from another great trip to Walt Disney World, and, boy, are my arms tired.  Yeah.  I went there.  Although we had newbies with us, we ended up taking a lot of time to slow down and do some things we often breeze past simply because we’ve “been there, done that.”  Here are a few ways we took it down a notch.

1. Pick One Must-Do

Like I mentioned, we did have friends who were experiencing Disney for the first time, so we’d be remiss not to hit a few headliners.  We chose one or two major attractions at each park and FastPass+ed them.  For me, it’s just not a trip to Hollywood Studios without plummeting thirteen stories, so I knew we’d hit Tower of Terror, and Toy Story was a must, as the kids are not fans of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.  After you hit your must-dos, you’re ready to relax.


2. Revisit the Classics

Instead of running from mountain to mountain, we spent our day at Magic Kingdom hitting some oldies but goodies.  At the request of my grampa, we took in a viewing of the Country Bears and The Enchanted Tiki Room.  Are they the same thrill level as Space Mountain?  No, but they were comfy, cute and a nice dose of classic Disney Park for both us and the newbies.



3. Enjoy the “Street Performers”

At all parks, there are short yet entertaining acts that seem to pop up around every corner.  From the Hollywood Studios’ Streetmosphere performers to the various musical acts around the World Showcase to the Dapper Dans and beyond, there’s something for every taste.  Similar to street performers found on big city sidewalks, these acts offer a fun and unique diversion.  Oh, and they don’t have a hand out looking for a tip after the show.

Get Park Wise: Audience participation is often a part of these performances.  If you’re ready to be part of the cast, be attentive, smiley and front and center.  If you’d rather just watch, stay back a little.


4. People Watch

This may be one of my favorite activities at a Disney Park.  This is really fun at Halloween parties as you watch all of the costumes parade past you.  My little mouseketeer and I counted all of the red shirts that passed as we took a rest in Mexico (76 in about five minutes, in case you were wondering) and saw some very interesting outfits.  Whether you’re raising an eyebrow at the girl hitting California Adventure in stilettos or oohing and ahhing at the Dapper Day duds, taking in the sights of fellow Disney travelers is never dull.




5. Look for the Details

We all know Disney is in the details, but how often do we really look at our surroundings?  Intricate animal carvings adorn several buildings in Animal Kingdom, not just the Tree of Life.  Take a look at the impressions in the concrete around the different themed lands. Take time to read the windows on Main Street USA.  Don’t worry about the climbing wait times and just take in the Disney details.

I love the intentionally misspelled sign!


Get Park Wise: A great way to really notice the details is to search for hidden Mickeys.  Several books and web sites are dedicated to the hunt for the famous silhouette, so take a look before your next trip and plan to spot as many as you can.


How often do you stop and smell the Disney roses?  What are your favorite ways to slow down?


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  • We always look for the little details too, especially in Animal Kingdom and Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Another way to stop and smell the roses is to literally stop and smell the roses. The gardening at WDW is outstanding. I love looking at the gardens. Epcot and Magic Kingdom have some amazing formal gardens, while Studios has neat topiaries and Animal Kingdom contains lots of rare and beautiful plants. I could spend a whole trip just looking at the gardens.

  • realsurf

    As a Disneyland veteran (class of 1956) I couldn’t agree more. The most fun I get out of taking newbys to Disney is pointing out the little things. In the old days of “E” tickets you’d have to space your thrills with the lesser, but still terrific, attractions. I’ll never forget taking a friends kids on 3 or 4 rides while they waited for Star Tours when it first opened.
    I guess most people forget it’s a park – that was Walt’s vision.

    • I love showing newbies the details. It’s when they start to realize they’re not at just any theme park. 🙂

  • BradyNBradleysMom

    Ok, I need my coffee because it took me like four tries to find what was misspelled in that last picture. LOLZ. And Jessica, I just love how you write. You jam-pack your columns with so many surprise giggles. I love it. You have such a joy for life that comes through. I look forward to your columns and always smile, laugh, and learn something from you. Thank you for that.

    • Haha! It’s very subtle. 😉 And thanks so much! Love hearing what you all think every week, too!

  • Geezer

    We live right down the street from DL and had APs for an eight year stretch while my Son was growing up. He and I would go most weeks during that time. What kept it fresh was treating DL as a nice place to spend time together. We’d hit the shows or shops, parades, special events, sit down for lunch or dinner and sometimes not hit a single attraction.
    Some of those “different” days were the ones we still remember best.

    • amyuilani

      I love this. I remember some of my favorite days as the ones where we barely did anything other than people watch, parade watch, and browse. Let them be stressed; I could not be any happier!

    • That’s perfect! Just enjoying your surroundings and the good company.

  • Sparky

    Sadly, too many of the roses that I love to stop and smell at Disneyland, such as the Court of Angels, are being snipped away, diminishing the garden of its delights.

    • DobbysCloset

      I share your pain re COA. Knowing it will not be there on my next visit hurts.

      • Skimbob

        I am not happy about Court of Angels either. It was an important part of New Orleans Square and it will be sorely missed.

    • Such a shame. Hopefully you’ll still be able to find some places to unwind and soak it all in.

    • BradyNBradleysMom

      To carry the garden motif…sometimes fall and winter comes and favorite things fade away in places that are not museums locked in time. There’s a choice to be made when comes the spring: be sad in the past about things that are no longer there or be delighted in the sprouts of new and remarkable things that bloom now and will be blooming soon.

      I’m a spring and summer gal. Being sad in the past in perpetual winter is just my kind of thing. To each their own.

      • That’s true, too. We were bummed to see Toontown Fair go, but New Fantasyland is beautiful and seems like a much nicer use of space. Toontown Fair held a lot of memories from the kids’ first trips, but we’re making new ones! And we always have pictures and videos.

  • amyuilani

    Jessica, your articles are becoming my favorites to read on this site. It reminds you of the pleasure that should come of the experiences in the park. Too often we’re trying to live in the now…that we forget to live in the now! Something about seeing forests for trees; that expression never really made sense, but I think it applies here. 🙂

    One of my favorite ways to stop and smell the roses is through photography. The Disney parks are so photogenic that it’s a delight to spend time taking pictures there. There are always opportunities for angles, focus changes, lighting effects, and photography tricks. I specifically bought a camera that allowed me to take better pictures in the park because I loved doing it so much. It’s not only a great way to further a hobby and express your artistic side, but it’s a great way to relax for an hour, reel it in, and enjoy the beauty of the parks.

    • Thanks so much! I appreciate that!
      And I absolutely have to agree with you about capturing Disney through a lens. It really is the perfect place to learn and play!

  • The Lost Boy

    The under-used Court of the Angels at Disneyland is being remodeled into much anticipated improvements to Club 33.

    • DobbysCloset

      That doesn’t mean its loss will hurt less to those of us who sought it out for a quiet moment.

    • Sparky

      People are always commenting on the Court of Angels being “under used”. Does everything in the park have to be constantly crowded all the time or have a constant stream of people every second to be of any value to the park?

      • This is a great point! I love finding those little respites around the parks.

    • The Lost Boy

      99.999% percent of the people wandered into the Court of the Angels because they thought it was a restroom entrance. If the closing had been so over-hyped, I think fewer people would have noticed, let along complained.

      Regarding the original subject, I always try to work in a visit to Billy Hill and the Flag Retreat Ceremony (which is even better when the two Marine Corps sons show up).

      • Being a military (and USMC) family, the retreat is a favorite of ours. We’ve even gotten to participate in Walt Disney World!

    • Dizzey

      “Much anticipated” … by the 0.0001% of the guests that get into club 33.

  • DobbysCloset

    My body is about fifty years older than my Disneyland self. Soon I will be very old and all my body will want to do is stop and smell roses while I PRETEND I am riding Star Tours and its ilk.

    And I am thinking the best way to do that is to find senior housing on the OCTA system and buy an AP…

    • Sparky

      Ha, my friends and I are always joking about moving to senior housing near the park when the time comes!

    • Sounds like a great plan!

  • CCS

    As an AP for many years, and a lifelong D-land goer, I enjoy the visits when there’s not a thing in the world I “have” to do. (My husband and I whittle away time between parks by checking out the Esplanade pavers and trying to re-find our own.) By the same token, it’s great playing tour guide and sharing the experience a wholly different way with newcomers, especially children.

    Never been to WDW, I am flat out jealous of them having Bear Country Jamboree. Why on earth was it replaced by Winnie the Pooh in D-land????

    • danielz6

      I know I forgot how much I miss those bears as I was just in tokyo Disneyland on tuesday and man it was so much fun! The crowd all clapped along during the songs! But I don’t mind WDW having it instead of Disneyland I prefer the parks to be differentiated and unique anyways as long as one of the US parks have it it’s ok I think. I think the simple fact is that Pooh is so much more popular than country bears and you know disneyland simply didn’t have the space to put it in fantasyland. Speaking of Pooh, my God, Tokyo’s pooh ride blows away disneylands. It really exceeded my expectations. Disneyland’s isn’t bad but Tokyo’s is in a whole other league!

    • It is nice to just float around the parks without having anywhere to be. And it looks like a trip East ought to be in your future!

  • Big D

    Also, the best way to stop and smell the roses is to work there! 😀 I was “stuck” on an ODV cart for 8hrs a day 5 – 6 days a week. One of my favorite cart to work is the popcorn wagon in front of the Golden Horseshoe, because that meant that I got to watch the Laughing Stock Co. perform right in front of my wagon 6 times during the day. They are hilarious and do a bit of an improv kind of show with a lot of audience participation. I also loved working in New Orleans Square and watching the live music. And of course, I could always count on the Trashcan Trio in Tomorrowland to keep me entertained on a slow day working the churro cart underneath the Rocket Rods (which were undoubtedly broken down that day).

    • DobbysCloset

      Like being thrown in the briar patch, B’rer Rabbit? Dobby wants to know why his work consists of finding exits and elevators and yours was selling churros at Disneyland!

    • Doesn’t sound like a bad way to pass the work day.

  • Laura P

    It took me way to long to figure out which word was misspelled haha! I agree with all these tips though ^_^ and those Mario kart costumes are some of the most creative group costumes I have ever seen! Adorable!

    • Love that sign!

      We saw them a few times around the park. So fun!!

  • whamo

    I love singing along with the Pirates in New Orleans Square.