Can Disney & Waldorf Co-Exist?

As a Waldorf family, it can seem a little incongruent to also be a Disney family. Can you really do both? How do you reconcile the warmth and calm of Waldorf with the perceived overconsumption and overstimulation of Disney? How can you take your kids to a Disney park or on a Disney vacation and maintain your rhythm, and values? Can a Waldorf family ever really be a Disney family? I find it to be incredibly easy. If there’s one thing Disney is about, it’s family. I am always blown away by the customer service and the thought that has gone into making sure every person in the family is happy and cared for at Disney parks and resorts. From rocking chairs in air conditioned nursing rooms, to fas passes to help your family spend more time together and less time in line, to allowing knitting needles in park backpacks, to wine and beer offerings at some parks, Disney has something for every member of your family.  If your family values togetherness, quality, friendliness, and fun, you can find these things in Disney. There are no rules that say that a Disney vacation has to include too much of everything - too much food, too much noise, too much consumerism. Just like in the real word as a Waldorf parent in which you’ve drawn your boundaries and committed to doing what works for your family regardless of what the masses are doing, you can make these decisions and draw these boundaries for Disney too. Your child does not have to be able to name all of the princesses (mine can’t) to enjoy a visit to Disneyland or a Disney Cruise.  While our Disney life is mostly our Autumn vacation each year, but we are also annual pass holders and we do go to the parks. It is possible to practice simplicity at Disneyland, and for that, It’s probably easier to tell you what we don't when we visit the parks.

  • We don't do "rope drop" and we almost never stay for fireworks. Of course, we may feel differently about this if we had to board a plane or drive hundreds of miles to visit Disneyland, but we have the luxury of living 15 miles from the park so we don’t need to cram everything into a single visit. We can go on a Thursday in mid February if we want to, have a Dole Whip, visit the Tiki Room, watch a parade, and be home before dinner. We feel no pressure to open and close down the park every time we go.

  • We don't stand in long lines for anything. We like to visit the park on less busy days (see above) and we use Touring Plans app to see where the shorter lines are on busier days. The only exception to this is Peter Pan. If you know E, Peter Pan is non negotiable, and we stand in line to ride that ride every single time. We have figured out a few ways to cut that wait time down, but no one complains in line to see Captain Hook!.

  • We don’t ride anything but baby rides. In fact, we barely leave Fantasyland. For now our daughter is only 5. She wants to ride the mellow Fantasyland rides, the Jungle Cruise, see the Tiki Room, and of course, ride the carousel over and over and over. The Fantasyland rides are pretty subdued and tied to world famous stories and timeless fairytales that we read in books to her - mostly the non Disney versions. Waldorf is built on the idea of fairytales, and Disney brings to life some of the world’s most iconic.

  • We don’t skip Main Street. There's so much to see on Main Street USA! Most people plow right by it in an effort to get to the rides and photo ops in front of the castle. We take our time, look in the shop windows, greet the cast members, and enjoy strolling down this beautiful, quaint, friendly space.

  • We don’t wait to see characters. Since my daughter can count on her fingers how many Disney movies she’s seen, she doesn’t recognize all of the characters yet. Mostly we like to wave at them as they go by. And she doesn’t know about the silly autograph books (honestly what do you do with those once you get home????) so there’s no need to stand in line to see the characters. The exception to this, again, is Peter Pan. We saw Captain Hook one day tucked away near the Dumbo ride, and waited about 5 minutes to see him so that she could tell him that she is a “pirate, not a princess” and basically swear her allegiance.  If we see a character in a quiet alcove like this before the line has gotten too long, we’ll go over and give a high five or take a photo. But a 20 minute (or hour long!) wait to see someone? Not happening.  

  • We don’t buy souvenirs. It goes against our simplistic lifestyle, our desire to have less “stuff” in our lives, and our commitment to trying to shop locally or fair trade. We can’t always avoid Made in China products, but we certainly do try. She has been given a few Disney gifts over the years, we we keep those stored until trip time when we allow the whole family to go a little Disney nuts for a few weeks, but we’re not big Disney product consumers. We buy a lot of our Disney things like lanyards or door magnets for the cruises on Etsy. Does this mean we never buy anything in the parks? No. But it’s not a destination or a priority. We are thoughtful about our purchases, and we strive for simplicity even when shopping. Luckily Disney makes it so easy by sending anything you buy to your room for you if you’re staying on property.

So with all of these “don’t dos” for a Disney trip, what do we actually do at the park? We enjoy it. We take our time, stroll along and look at how beautiful the park is. I practice my tree identification looking at all of their beautifully pruned and cared for trees. We watch the parades and listen to (and sometimes dance) to the music. We eat! Disney does a pretty good job with local and seasonal offerings at some of their restaurants. We have favorite snack stands and candy shops, and restaurants filled with funny family memories. We ride the boats, and go to New Orleans (our favorite city in real life). We ride the carousel over and over and over. We watch the mama ducks lead their babies around the pond. We stare up at the castle and imagine what it would be like to live there. We enjoy the sunset flag ceremony honoring our men and women in uniform. We visit our quiet nooks where magical things happen like the time we were taking a break and listening to the music by the hidden wishing along the side of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, when the fab five walked right by us on their way to a parade. No one else was around and all of a sudden Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, and Goofy were about a foot away from us, and waving at E who was delighted to smile and wave back. Donald gave us the “shhhh” sign as they walked by, and then they were gone. No lines, no extra expense, need for autographs or photos. Just little touches of magic like this one, shared by our family during a quiet moment that we love to remember together. What’s more Waldorf than that?  

I'll write some other time about the joys of Disney travel. We have been to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, taken Disney cruises in the Bahamas and Mexico, and been to Aulani twice, all without losing our minds of sacrificing our love of peace. Happy to share!


Candice Dickens-Russell