The happiest place on Earth as a grown-up

Disney World is full of magic and princesses.

Disney World is full of magic and princesses.

This past weekend, I visited Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where dreams come true and princesses sing.

I haven’t visited Disney since I was little, but my boyfriend wanted to go, so off we went along with my grandma and my cousin. We went on all the classic rides — the Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, Space Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and various others. It was an enjoyable trip down memory lane.

Disney as a child is a lot different than Disney as an adult. Now I realize how strange the entire concept of the park is. It’s the middle of October — no school breaks in sight — but there are still thousands upon thousands of people crammed into the Magic Kingdom, one of four parks at Disney World (not including two water parks).

In 2012, Magic Kingdom was the top theme park in the world with 17.5 million visitors. That’s almost the population of the entire state of Florida.

Where are these families all coming from? It’s October, one of Disney’s slowest months. Do these parents pull their children out of school? You don’t come to Disney World on a whim. One-day tickets for the Magic Kingdom run at $95 a person (though to be fair, the price lowers as you stay at the park more days).

Then there are the shows and parades, which happen hourly. They all seem to revolve around one theme: dreams. A few times a day, Mickey, Minnie, and the princesses put on a show in front of Cinderella’s Castle. Their message is that dreams come true and wishing works. As a kid, that sounds great. As an adult, I know Ariel and Jasmine are singing lies to a happy tune.

No Disney princess ever achieved her dreams by getting a job.

None of this is news. We all know about the crowds, price, and gimmicks of Disney World, but we still return, bringing our kids there to see what the magic is all about. I have a few theories why:

  1. The Disney Empire makes its theme parks into carefully-curated experiences. The rides, the burgers in the restaurants, and even the shows are the same every time. I saw that Cinderella’s Castle show play three separate times over the course of a single day.
  2. Disney looms large in just about everyone’s childhood. The kids can hug their favorite character, and the parents can revel in nostalgia. After all, I went to Disney without any kids and still had fun.
  3. We can trust our vacation and families to a wholesome, established brand. You pay a lot of money to go to Disney World, but everything bears the company’s seal of approval. That means a lot to a lot of people. It’s a guarantee that your family will have fun with minimal planning.

Have you been to Disney World (or any of the other many Disney parks)? What did you think?

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