How Can WDW Give Us a Sense of Nostalgia?

Erica LandreneauBlog

Last week we took a look how our homes away from home can make us feel nostalgic. This week we are going to become a-tuned to our senses. Disney is phenomenal at using things to enhance our senses to make us feel like we aren’t in the middle of Florida (until the heat and rain come in June anyway). Some of these sensory enhancers can trigger nostalgia.


When I think of music at Walt Disney World, the first song that comes to mind is “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da.” It’s a song that has become a timeless classic. Whether you watched Song of the South growing up or if you know it from Splash Mountain or the Dapper Dans, this song will be stuck in your head.

Another type of music in WDW that can make someone reminisce on their childhood years is the music in Storybook Circus. The cheerful circus music playing in the Storybook Circus area of Magic Kingdom can remind us of going to the circus for the first time as a child. Seeing Dumbo also helps with that kick of nostalgia.

Sing “Zip-A-Dee-Do-Da!” while taking in the sight of Splash Mountain. Photo by Cliff Wang

WDW also adds in certain soundtracks from their movies in queue lines. One that personally hits home for me is Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. My sister and I loved watching The Little Mermaid on our VHS tape (we still watch it on our DVD today). If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a sucker for small details that make a big impact.

As we walked outside Prince Eric’s castle and heard the music from Ariel and Eric’s date around his kingdom, I smiled because I knew what scene that music was from. I was brought back to sitting on my living room floor with my sister watching Ariel and Eric dancing clumsily and Ariel driving a carriage for the first time.


Now we are going from the sounds of our favorite movies to the smells of our favorite treats and far off places.

Who doesn’t love the smell of freshly popped popcorn? This particular smell can remind us of going to a movie theater with our family or going to a carnival as a kid. Another smell WDW uses is the smell of waffle cones on Main Street, U.S.A. This smell can entice you to buy an ice cream cone from The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor. The smell of the waffle cones plus the simplistic décor of the ice cream parlor can take you back in time when an ice cream cone can fix all your problems.

You can smell the wonderful aroma of popcorn in any of the parks! Photo by Cliff Wang

From tasty treats to worlds beyond our reach, WDW can use smells to immerse us in different lands and planets. I remember the first time I visited Pandora! – The World of Avatar. Walking from The Oasis to Pandora, the first change I noticed wasn’t the alien looking plant-life but the smell. There was suddenly a strong earthy smell that hit my nose, and suddenly I wasn’t in Animal Kingdom anymore. I was in a land of banshees, the Na’vi, and floating mountains.


From sounds and smells, we move to some of the sights of WDW. Let’s start with the big one: that iconic view of Main Street, U.S.A. with Cinderella Castle in the back. One look at this view and you know that you’ve officially arrived at WDW. Also, if you’re a big Cinderella fan, like me, you’ll get really giddy seeing her castle where she danced with the prince until midnight and lost that beautiful glass slipper.

Let’s not forget, WDW was built to take us into the stories of our favorite films. It could be Belle’s village and the Beast’s castle in Fantasyland if your favorite movie was Beauty and the Beast. For all of us Star Wars fans, seeing the moon of Endor and an At-AT in Disney’s Hollywood Studios can make us remember the first time we saw a Star Wars movie.

See the life sized AT-AT outside Star Tours and feel like you’ve stepped right into a Star Wars movie! Photo by Courtney Reynolds

Whether it is the sounds, smells, or sights, WDW can take your senses for a wild, fun, and nostalgic ride. In the next and final installment of this blog series, we will conclude with how WDW as a whole can make us nostalgic.

By Erica Landreneau

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About the Author

Erica Landreneau

Erica is a contributing writer for WDW Magazine. When she isn’t planning her next trip to WDW or watching the beloved Animated Classics, she can be found working at her local library. Wouldn’t Belle and The Beast be proud?