For the last couple of years, we’ve made Walt Disney World New Year’s Resolutions. Given the way last year played out and current trajectory, we had no intention of undertaking that nonsense in 2021. That is, unless “more ice cream, cheese, and barbecue” counts as a valid resolution.
Then the two of us started talking about some of our goals for 2021 at Walt Disney World. From that came this list, which is more like a cross between daydreaming and a low-ambition bucket list (last year taught us not to get our hopes up too much!) than it is New Year’s Resolutions.
One recurring theme of our bucket list goals for this year, which isn’t expressly enumerated below but imbues several entries, is a willingness–even a desire–to be part of crowds for communal experiences. It’s ironic since we’ve gone to great lengths over the years to avoid high attendance and congestion, but now we’re looking forward to a day when we can once again safely be part of carefree crowds at Walt Disney World. Anyway, on with our 2021 Walt Disney World bucket list…
10. Columbia Harbour House Upstairs – Sometimes, places become sentimental favorites without you knowing it. While we’ve long extolled the virtues of Columbia Harbour House’s upstairs seating area, it wasn’t until recently that we realized just how much it means to us.
We’ve made a lot of great memories up there, from a group dinner on the date of Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary to post-marathon running crew feasts to being almost the only ones up there during a veritable monsoon two Decembers ago. For us and so many, Walt Disney World is about the memories and nostalgia…and it turns out we have a lot of both for the upstairs of Columbia Harbour House!
9. Off-Site Hotel Stays — This one was a resolution previously, but last year had other ideas for us and we didn’t end up doing a single off-site hotel stay near Walt Disney World. The good news is that we’re entirely “caught up” with on-site hotel review updates and new rooms, and we also burned through a lot of DVC points last year.
We’re talking about Halloween masks and costumes here, and everything else that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party entails. It’s been a while since we got serious about our own Halloween costumes, but we’re eager to change that.
7. Fireworks – Whether it be the debut of Harmonious, triumphant return of Happily Ever After, or even the less-triumphant reappearance of EPCOT Forever, we’re anxiously awaiting fireworks at Walt Disney World. Not just “nighttime spectaculars,” but fireworks.
For us, a big part of that is what fireworks represent beyond Disney. They are communal celebrations of special occasions; the gathering of large crowds for a shared, visceral experience. More than anything else, a return of fireworks will signify a return to normalcy. For that reason alone, we cannot wait to gather around the fire, as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us, to share the light, and to share a story…
6. Cinderella Castle Dream Lights – There is a version of this list that’s entirely Christmas. Even though the holiday just happened and we really enjoyed the entire season, it’s our favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World and is always on our minds. Plus, there’s a lot we missed that we really love: Candlelight Processional, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and doing holiday meals at some of our favorite restaurants.
None of that compares with the Cinderella Castle Dream Lights, though. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s something truly optimism-inducing and awe-inspiring about Magic Kingdom’s icon being illuminated in thousands of brilliant lights. We cannot wait for those chilly late nights on Main Street as the crowd clears out, the glow of Cinderella Castle is reflected in the pavement, and the cheery background music sets a festive mood.
5. Old Faithful Club at Christmas – Let’s start this one by “answering” an increasingly common reader question: we have zero insight as to when Club Level will return. However, it’s incredibly lucrative for Walt Disney World and attracts a type of clientele to whom the company is increasingly catering. So our best educated guess is as soon as possible in modified form–probably before summer.
After deriding Club Level as “not worth it” for the longest time, occasional one-night Club Level stays became one of our favorite splurges a couple of years ago. It’s still not objectively worth the money, but such is the nature of treating yo self. Of the concierge lounges, Old Faithful Club Level at Wilderness Lodge is our favorite, and I cannot wait to knock myself into a food coma after devouring too much brisket and cobbler, unable to leave an overstuffed chair by the fireplace for hours while gazing down at the lobby Christmas tree. Pure bliss.
4. Steakhouse World Tour – In terms of how much I think about each of these, this should be #1 on the list. There’s a direct relationship between how much cabbage, quinoa, and cauliflower I eat at home and how much I daydream about steak. This is pretty much what it sounds like–dining at Walt Disney World’s best steakhouses in the months after we’re comfortable dining indoors and those locations reopen.
Yachtsman Steakhouse is my most-anticipated, in part because it’s awesome and in part because we cancelled reservations there last March for the day after the closure was announced. I’m also really looking forward to Toledo in Gran Destino Tower–we’re already salivating at splitting the ChuletÃ³n again.
3. Traveling Outside WDW – Last year was a real lifestyle change for pretty much everyone. For us, the biggest component of that was going from living out of suitcases to not using them at all for ~11 months. Our cat, Yossarian, now gets more mileage out of our luggage than we do.
Don’t get me wrong–we like Florida and are very happy to have a home base near Walt Disney World right now. Taking nightly walks around our neighborhood is even fun again with the more pleasant weather. But we are also very much ready for a temporary change of scenery. We dearly miss Southern California and Disneyland, and cannot wait to travel there again (hopefully) this summer.
2. 50th Anniversary – I’m beginning to come to terms with the possibility that Walt Disney World will not have a gala 50th anniversary celebration kicking off this year. There still could be one this year or even next, but is no longer a sure thing. It’s a disappointing but understandable reality.
Nevertheless, we will be in Magic Kingdom on October 1, 2021 and we will have a blast. I know this because there was no celebration a decade ago, and October 1, 2011 still ended up being one of our most memorable days in Magic Kingdom. At the very least, the collective energy and enthusiasm of fellow fans will be something special, especially after the year we’ve all had. Maybe we’ll even be able to ride the PeopleMover that day!
1. Be More Thankful — The vast majority of people will never visit a Disney theme park in their lives. We’re cognizant of that, and realize how immensely fortunate we are to able to visit one weekly, and have others within reach on a fairly regular basis. This is nothing new–we’ve always been aware of this and tried to do things like thanking Cast Members, while also ranting against pervasive attitudes of entitlement.
This is a topic we discussed first when the resorts reopened, and again when the parks returned. We’ve made a concerted effort to be more thankful in that time, enjoying and savoring our time in the parks and hotels. We’ve thought less of our trivial concerns or disappointments and more on how fortunate we are to have regular access to a safe entertainment option.
This is not to say we suddenly view Walt Disney World as above reproach, or view the company with cult-like reverence. To the contrary, we still analyze the parks and company’s decisions with “healthy skepticism,” but that’s not to the fore when actually visiting. Moreover, we’re less fixated on the temporary cuts of things we might’ve grown accustomed to having or seeing; we understand that the world is not normal right now and we’re just thankful to be able to visit theme parks. Enjoyment of any experience is largely dictated by individual attitudes, so our biggest “bucket list” item of 2021 is to be happy with what we have.
Do you have any Walt Disney World-related 2021 bucket list goals or dreams? Do you like our ideas? Think any of these are overly ambitious? Any questions? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!