Many guests will plan a trip to Disney World, Disneyland, or any of the Disney parks outside of the United States. They make these plans sometimes a year or more in advance. They save their money, book their flights, rent their cars and before they even step foot into a park, they have dropped, more than likely, over $1,000.
Why? What's the draw?
I often think about this very thing when I'm walking through the parks and see a family in their matching Disney t-shirts. When I listen to a mother and father quietly griping about price or the heat or trying to figure out which was going to pick up the clearly worn out 4 or 5 year old. Then I check my watch and it is only noon.
Maybe there is some magic to be found because I've heard many complaints and yet always followed with a "But I can't wait to go back".
In Orlando, the only parks I have been to, I can say that aside from a few ride attractions, they are kind of boring. While I will wait in line to get on Cosmic Rewind or Flight of Passage I'm far less inclined to pull myself out of bed to get a boarding pass for TRON and unless the line for a ride is less than 30 minutes, i'm likely not waiting.
How many animatronics can you see in one trip before you stop seeing the magic and see a mechanical make the same moves over and over again? Apparently there is no limit.
Perhaps maybe it is the food. After all, Disney has 100s of options for food to devour or savor. Whether it is exquisitely prepared in an upscale restaurant or on the other side of the spectrum a snack kiosk, the food typically is good and in some places great. That being said, is it worth spending $135.00 a ticket to eat there?
The shows are all pretty good and frankly, no one can build up a show like Disney. Parading princesses and characters all form together in their own little parts of the parks to bring excitement to the little ones and joy to the parents but again, are you going to Disney simply to take in a show?
My guess is probably not.
So what it is it? It's all of it if we are being honest. Every single thing about Disney you may not like, may absolutely hate isn't all that bad when the rest of the recipe sprinkles in.
It's the food you eat and the atmosphere you eat it in. The Fish and Chips kiosk at the U.K. pavilion isn't going to be the same if it were presented at Magic Kingdom next to Cinderella's castle but put it in the U.K. where it belongs and it feels right.
Sure, The Living Land ride is boring but it changes every week and month and you know as well as I do you want to go home and create that atmosphere in your backyard. No, you don't need to ride Spaceship Earth for the 100th time but you will, and so will I.
There is a scent around the park, piped in according to rumors. There is music that you don't notice unless you listen beyond the crowds.
In August, I spent four days in that God-Awful heat wave and I vowed to not go again the summer. In fact, I vowed I wouldn't go back this year but a week later I was begging my wife for another trip. We are going in October.
Disney's biggest draw isn't it's rides. It's not the food or the cast members. It's not the merchandise and it isn't characters, decorations, or the crazy attention to details at every turn. It's little pieces of all of it but it combines into a soup that does something no other park has managed to do in the world.
Disney gives you permission to be a kid again. It gives you the opportunity to smile without regret and laugh without being judged. You can skip through a Disney park holding your daughters hand and no one looks at you like your crazy. You can sing along with the cast of Frozen Ever After at Hollywood Studios and no one cares if you are off-key or Taylor Swift.
All the other stuff is the window dressing not the magic. The magic? Making you feel like a kid again, that's the draw that brings us all back...no matter the cost.