Extraordinary Magic in Everyday Life

by Blake Taylor

The LandYou just never know when a small sampling of Disney is going to hit you right smack in the face. You might be minding your own business, going about your day, and then—BAM! Smack! Shamwow! It finds you.

We already talked about Disney sounds, and now it’s time to delve into a different sense, one that I think we’ll have fun with: smells.

Walt Disney World is full of smells, whether manufactured by Imagineers (like the aroma of chocolate chip cookies being pumped onto Main Street) or simply natural (something smelling like it smells simply because it does, like the Test Track tires). There are times when scents are noticeable enough to stop and enjoy them, but more often than not, we go about our vacation without thinking much of the smells around us. They play a part in the overall experience for sure, but their efficiency rests on seeming so part of the atmosphere that we don’t notice them. It’s not until we get home and come across something ELSE that has the same smell that we really pause, wrack our brains to figure out where we know it from, and then realize—HEY! That’s a Disney smell!

Sometimes it’s easy. Upon entering a local gold mine tour, the smell of the cave instantly transported me to the watery caverns of Pirates of the Caribbean. Other times, it gets a bit tricky. I walked through a nearby courtyard multiple times before being able to place its smell to the rustic ruggedness of Frontierland (it was finally a live banjo player that got me the connection).

And then there are those other smells. The ones that you discover and then return to repeatedly so as to get a temporary Disney fix. I frequently go out of my way to walk through a hallway that has the distinctive scent of the It’s a Small World queue, and I do the same for my school’s solarium, which smells of the inside of The Land pavilion (…yes, be jealous!). And don’t even get me started on the orange Febreeze that channels Soarin’.

What about you? Do you ever come across a Disney smell?? What memory does it evoke for you?

If you want to revisit Lou’s discussion of Disney smells, check out WDW Radio Show #75, when Lou and Tim Foster discuss the Top 10 Smells of Walt Disney World!

Thank you to everyone who shared your stories to celebrate Animal Kingdom’s 15th birthday! The randomly selected winner of a WDW Radio Mystery Ticket is Lindsey Davis. Congrats, Lindsey! Everyone else, stay tuned for future opportunities here on the blog to win an ever-elusive Mystery Ticket.

Blake is a college student focusing on Creative Writing and Media Studies. He enjoys making his family of six watch the parade on Main Street and then sprint to Frontierland in time to see it again. You can follow Blake’s random Disney ramblings on Twitter at @blakeonline, or at BlakeOnline.com.



15 thoughts on “Finding Disney: Hidden Disney Smells”

  1. Orange smell still reminds me of Horizons and now Soarin’!

  2. joey says:

    Because I grew up going to WDW at young age, I associate the smell of diesel buses with Disney. Cast member at Disney Store in the mall looked at me like I was crazy when I stopped as soon as i walked in, closed my eyes and said it smells like WDW! I always think its funny when I am with other people and I stop mid-sentence or stop someone else and say, “It smells like Disney!!!!”

  3. My wife has some citrus kitchen counter cleaner. Every time she uses it, it reminds me of the Beach Club lobby.

  4. Lizzie says:

    Funny that this comes up today.

    While not specifically a Disney smell, we have a printer in our Business Department here at school that, when it turns on, smells EXACTLY like the cabin of an airplane. It’s odd, but every time it warms up we all just go “Airplane!”

    Aside from that…BBQ Sauce instantly channels the burning of Rome on Spaceship Earth. My family discovered it while eating at Old Key West a few trips ago…so now whenever I eat somewhere that has the option of BBQ sauce, I’ll often pick that just to head, if only in imagination and smell, to Spaceship Earth.

  5. Caitlin Corsello says:

    Anytime I smell a bonfire or a wood-burning stove I immediately think of the Rome burning scene in Spaceship Earth. I wish I could find something in my everyday life that reminded me of one of my favorite smells in all of WDW- the Polynesian’s lobby.

  6. Elaine says:

    Some mornings, here in NJ, smell just like Disney mornings while on vacation and we are waiting at the bus stops (especially at the Caribbean Beach Resort) heading out to the parks for the day. We are very early risers and every morning as we left our Disney Hotel room, it smelled so beautiful and fresh. Our daughters are grown now and every once in a while, they will text me or I them and say, “It’s a Disney Morning outside today – go outside and smell the air!”

  7. Matt says:

    Went into a restaurant that smelled just like Pecos Bill last night!

  8. Emilie says:

    Just yesterday I sent a text to my sister saying that it smelled like an Epcot morning. Then after my Fiance’s High School band concert we walked outside after all the students had left and I go…it smells like Pirates of the Caribbean!!!!

  9. JJ says:

    The musty water smell that Lou has mentioned before takes me right to Pirates, Splash, and Small World. ADORE it.

    This one is hard to explain – The Great Movie Ride has a certain smell that honestly I cannot describe, but I love it. And going inside there makes me genuinely happy.

  10. Amy S. says:

    When I was younger we vacationed at Disneyland. My favorite smell was when we disembarked the monorail. The platform is over the submarines and the subs used to run off of diesel fuel. Everytime I smell diesel fumes with water I think of Disneyland. It doesn’t sound appealing but it brings back the excitement of being a kid arriving in the park!

  11. Sarah says:

    There is a stairwell, above a small swimming pool, in the hotel that I work at, that smells just like Splash Mountain!! Every night, when I do my walk-abouts, I make sure to linger in there an extra second to smell it! Every time, SPLASH MOUNTAIN SMELL!! Makes my work night a little better and puts a smile on my face! 🙂

  12. Mike Smith says:

    I LOVE THIS ARTICLE. My friends and I are insanely in love with the Disney parks and their smells. My favourite smell is in Spaceship Earth and I course it’s burning Rome. I pray that the ride stalls right in front of that scene. I tried to recreate the smell using smoke sauce from the market. It was close but no cigar. The smells I definitely do run into are the smells from Trail’s End Restaurant on Fort Wilderness. Every time I go to the BBQ joint I just breathe in the scent and I am transported to that restaurant or to the Hoop Dee Doo review. And there’s a section at the public museum in Albany, NY that smells just like the section of Spaceship Earth when you load into the cars and begin the ascent. I purposely hang out like a creeper in that escalator just to smell that smell LOL! Thanks for the article. Love the fact that there are other Disney fanatics out there that appreciate a good smell! 🙂

  13. Mike says:

    To Caitlin, above, who wanted a smell that would remind her of the Polynesian Lobby – well, I don’t know about the lobby, but the Polynesian is my favorite resort and the only one I ever stay at when at Disney, and the smell of fresh gardenia blooms always takes me immediately back to my first-ever Polynesian stay back in 1976. Not sure about the present (I haven’t been in several years) but back then there were lots of tropical flowers blooming on the grounds and that great gardenia smell was everywhere. Maybe a gardenia plant situated next to a backyard water feature would best duplicate the Polynesian lobby environment.

  14. Isabel Martin says:

    I’m about to go to Disney World for the third time; I’ll be sure to be on the lookout for awesome smells! X3 I never really thought of smells as a Disney reminder, but maybe it’ll help me feel the Disney happiness on a regular basis!

  15. Anne says:

    This may seem a little odd; nevertheless, I’ll share it. I distinctly remember a few months after our first trip to Epcot; I was eating an egg salad sandwich for lunch and inexplicably found myself thinking of Disney World. I remember it well because my husband, eldest daughter and I talked about how odd it was since I had never had that type of sandwich there. I told them that it smelled like Disney World. For me, it had triggered the memory of being at Epcot. We wound up talking about all kinds of other smells from WDW. Thanks to Disney Imagineers, I almost cannot peel a boiled egg without being reminded (at least for a second or two) of the curiously appealing, perfectly odiferous sulfur scent permeating the Rome burning section of Spaceship Earth or all of Big Thunder Mountain or the cannon blasts and burning buildings of Pirates of the Caribbean or segments of the Jungle Cruise or Kali River Rapids. Imagineers are all about creating authenticity through sights, sounds, smells, etc. They are also keenly aware of the fact that memory and smell are very closely linked. Nothing is happenstance on a Disney Attraction. In every case they are working to generate an initial reaction and stamp a memory. Everyone’s response to stimuli is different, I happen to have a deep imprint where this particular aroma is concerned. In other words, “Me smell egg… Me want to go Disney World”. Be honest, who doesn’t love a “fragrant” deviled egg or egg salad sandwich or Disney World? Great, now I’m hungry and I want to go on vacation. Oh, those crafty Imagineers.