The Senses of Walt Disney World – Part Two: Smells

This holds true for the smells of Walt Disney World. The delicious scent of fresh bakery items wafting down Main Street can be quickly forgotten by the awful chili burp we are treated to at Stitch´s Great Escape. Or how the lush vegetation permeating the air at Animal Kingdom disappears from your memory once you get a blast of the stinkbug at It´s Tough to be a Bug. Many studies show that smell is the strongest sense tied to our memories and they play an essential role in our well-being. It´s probably why I can rattle off a list of scents that remind me of WDW and only WDW. Or why I get an immediate response by family and friends when I query them on any memorable smells. And possibly why on a popular Disney message board there´s a seven page thread about smells!

When I asked about their Disney memories, the number one association with smell I received was related to food. Almost every person, me included, could recall some tantalizing scent of culinary delights. More than one response included the sweet scents of croissants, soufflés, and other freshly baked goods emerging from the bakery in the France pavilion at Epcot, Boulangerie Patisserie. Many recall additional aromas lingering around World Showcase at Epcot, from pastas at Alfredo´s in Italy to the exotic spices in Morocco. Another frequent guest to WDW could only conjure up food scents that included the classics of popcorn, peanuts, and hot dogs, which could be found at any of the four parks. My sister´s immediate response was the smell of the sweet barbecued ribs and baked beans at Hoop-Dee-Do Revue, although she refused to eat the beans. One of my new favorites was the spicy, exotic scent that greets you as you enter the lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge, enticing you to eat at Boma and Jiko. But alas, not all scent memories of the food at WDW were pleasant. More than a few people did not enjoy the all-too-familiar smell of the famous turkey legs, but for every one of those people, there was someone who did love that smell (and taste…).

When I probed deeper into my memories of smells at WDW, I was able to find even more scents that were not food related and I asked my research participants to do the same and found an array of responses. The immediate smell that came to my mind was the interior of the Monorails. It´s an odd smell, almost like a wet dog, I hate to say, but nonetheless, it sticks out. Then there´s the skunk smell at the Journey into Imagination attraction. It ranks right up there with Stitch´s chili breath and that stinkbug at Animal Kingdom.

But not all non-food related scents were bad. Most were breath-taking.Take for instance the amazing scents piped into the attraction at Soarin´. Our senses are treated to the citrus-y smells of orange blossoms, the freshness of the pine trees, and the rejuvenating ocean mist. Or the alluring smells piped in at Mickey´s PhilharMagic of fresh baked pies. Then there is the tropical smells of the plants at the Morocco pavilion as pointed out by a friend. She didn´t know what they were, but the smell was unforgettable. Or the fresh, vibrant earthy smells of the greenhouse and its crops in Living with the Land at The Land pavilion at Epcot. There are some smells that are very nostalgic. There is just something about some of the older attractions like Pirates of the Caribbean and The Haunted Mansion that evoke trips past. It´s an almost musty smell, but familiar and welcoming.


Perhaps the most repeated response when asked what one smell brings you back to Walt Disney World was the smell of Florida. The freshness, the cleanliness, the humidity. It´s intoxicating and it indicates you have arrived. I don´t know for sure, but I know I take a deep breath when I leave Orlando´s airport upon arrival for my trip and it brings a smile to my face as I know the magic of Disney awaits.

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