Walt Disney World is exhausting. Even I, as a 22-year-old, need (and want) to sit back, listen to music, and watch other people do the adventuring for a little while. Here are my ten favorite places in Walt Disney World to spend a half hour doing nothing but thinking and looking. I encourage to not even take out your phone or your book, or even to take a nap. These spots are worth taking in just as they are. Let me know if you disagree, or have other suggestions! Here are the first five:
1. The Bench at the Yacht Club
There's a nice and ambiguous title for you! And while there are many good benches on which you can plant your rear at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, there is one in particular which makes all of my troubles melt away. Do this one on a day at EPCOT. After you watch Illuminations, and are once again reminded that the world can be a beautiful and cooperative place, take a stroll past France and out of the International Gateway. Walk along Crescent Lake, past the beautiful closed pool in all of its night-time romance. Stroll past the lighthouse dock at the Yacht Club, and look for white benches on the right hand side of the boarded walkway. The one furthest from the lighthouse is my personal favorite. Have a seat! Look over at the Boardwalk and listen to the night-time entertainment. See the lights. Listen to the soft music coming from the resort behind you. Watch couples and families stroll past you, and give them a smile. You're all in a special and incredibly peaceful place.
*Hint: take your significant other here.
2. Arusha Rock
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite places in Walt Disney World. Just walking into the lobby will make you feel like you're in Africa and at your peaceful home at the same time. But the lobby isn't even the best part! Keep going past the gurgling stream and big couches, walk down the stairs toward the monolithic overgrown window, and walk outside. Whether it's day or night, this rock into the savanna gives you some of the most up-close views of grazing and relaxed animals. My favorite spot is the last outcropping on the right-hand side. This is the furthest spot from the lodge, and is therefore usually the least crowded. Have a seat on the bench, take in a bit of Florida sun, or the beautiful night-time noises and lights, and watch a giraffe eat slowly from a tree.
3. Tomorrowland Terrace
Formerly a Noodle Station, and occasionally a counter-service restaurant of the Magic Kingdom, this stretch between Main Street and Tomorrowland provides lots of shade. On top of that, it is almost always empty! Disney has decided to not decide what to do with the space, but leaves the tables and chairs out for those smart enough to come by and sit. And the true asset of this spot is the view of the Magic Kingdom central hub and Cinderella Castle. You can watch the corny and lovable shows that Disney puts on in front of the castle, or just listen to the music of Main Street and think about life. From this spot, you can also look down to the ...err... moat (?) of the castle and see the boat dock where once-upon-a-time guests could embark on small boats for a little ride.
*Hint: In a Florida thunderstorm, hit this spot. You can sit shielded from the rain and lightning, and watch the castle and hub be pounded with rain. If you have a soft spot for melancholy, or like music by Debussy, check this out.
4. Grand Floridian Beach Sand
Classic, right? If you have a spare hour on your Magic Kingdom day, or are staying at the Grand Floridian (you lucky jerk), head on down toward the sandy beach at Disney's "flagship" resort. From my experience, there is usually not a single other person on this beach, which is a puzzle to me. From here, you can look left and see the castle, see the Contemporary, keep an eye on the Polynesian, and laugh at the ugliness that is the TTC (Transportation and Ticket Center). Are you as pale as me? Cool! You can sit under one of the canopies that Disney has scattered on the beach. My personal favorite thing about this spot is the theming. I cannot help but feel that I need to be wearing knickers and a frilly shirt for the purposes of enjoying my Victorian getaway. I, being a patron of ragtime and all things turn-of-the-century, love forgetting that the year 1920 has come and gone. And if you really have free time, stick around until dark and watch the Seven Seas Lagoon Water Pageant from here!
*Psst: If you look at the Island closest to the Polynesian, and squint through the trees, you can see the remnants of the wave-producing machine that is still left on the island, though it is overgrown. When the Polynesian first opened, it had a wave system that allowed guests to swim and even surf on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
5. Main Street (After Closing)
You may be thinking, "so do I have to break in to the Magic Kingdom at night?". My response would be, "No! And please don't! And if you do, and end up in jail, don't mention my blog!".
Here's the dish: The Magic Kingdom closes most nights at fireworks time. However, the park remains open(ish) for an hour after "closing". Now right after the fireworks, there is a mass exodus of rampaging tourists that will run over you if you're not careful. You, however, will find a seat with a view of the Castle, and stick around for twenty minutes until it is mostly just you and some friendly cast members. The motion of the Park will try to get you to walk through the gift shops on your way out, but you again will outsmart them. You will walk down the LEFT side of Main Street, and find another seat. The music that is played in the Magic Kingdom for the last hour of operation is truly beautiful. The blinking lights of the clocks and shops of Main Street are some of the most beautiful and uplifting sights in the world (in my opinion). Then you can look to the right and see a giant colored piece of architecture, standing so regally, and beckoning you to drop your pretentiousness, and buy into what this place represents and stands for. You'll emotionally and mentally revel and surrender to the whimsy and positivity that this space brings to the hearts of all who are there. Then, an hour after closing, you can mosey along toward the train station, and smile at what good comes from this place.
Part 2 coming soon!