Category Rank: 6
Park: "Rest of the World"
Park Rank: 12
Our next item is the first resort on our list, as well as the first to be listed as the "rest of the world" park--meaning that it lies outside of the 4 parks and Downtown Disney. Granted, we haven't fully explored the rest of the world very well, though we have visited most of the deluxe and moderate resorts. So, this list is missing some others that families have considered classics, including mini-golf or anything connected with the ESPN Wild World of Sports. Our list also omits the two water parks since we haven't been to them, as well as DisneyQuest, which we just saw for the first time in October (if I ever re-do this list, DisneyQuest might find its way on it). Essentially, the only things in this category are some resorts and restaurants, as well as some nostalgic modes of transportation.
The first item for debate is whether we should include anything outside the parks as well. Again, the idea is not to identify the things that are most memorable, where one's favorite resorts often appear. We tend to like Pop Century for our stays (yeah, we're cheap, and in good company), but while we have built many memories over the years, it is just meh on the nostalgia scale.
However, the first time we visited other resorts, we were blown away. Each one has its own theme that makes it an all-encompassing experience. It is more than a place to stay; it includes natural elements, architectural elements, all the theming that goes into it, music, sounds, activities, you name it. It creates the whole ambience, which is the word I am using to describe a location. While resorts are a much smaller scale than the parks in general, there is still something very special and unique with them that sets WDW aside from other parks. You can't simply take one and levitate it to another park without it losing its nostalgia.
That brings us to the BoardWalk (yes, I am capitalizing it correctly). The BoardWalk is both a resort (with an inn and villas) as well as a shopping area akin to Atlantic City's Boardwalk. It lies in between Epcot--very close to the secret France/UK entrance into the world--and Hollywood Studios.
Kristen and I visited the BoardWalk for the first time on our last trip, and happened to plan our timing perfectly, as it was around sunset into nighttime, where the BoardWalk comes alive with street performers. The smells of the confectionary and the soap stores are very entrancing. We unfortunately were not there very long, as we were heading back to Downtown Disney, but it has become a must-do location for our next trip.
The thing that I was struck with at the resort was that sense of being relaxed. Looking back at our discussion of "themes" that WDW uses, the World tries very hard to relax you with theming from an older time, be it the Old South or the small midwestern town. It is as though they hearken you back to a time and place where life moved more slowly, and you can relax and enjoy life for what it is. You can definitely see this in the Magic Kingdom, but many of the resorts (Port Orleans, Grand Floridian) do this as well.
Some might ask, then, why is it so low on this list? Simply put, other resorts have been there longer for us. Our exposure to this resort is so new that it finds itself pretty low on the list.
Speaking of ambience, we get our first park ambience at #55, taking us back to Epcot. This is one location in the World known for its music and its non-Disney pop-culture references that Hailey and Zach love.