The Scents of Walt Disney World Make Powerful Memories

Don’t you just love the smell (and smells) of Walt Disney World? You know what I mean. The scents that make you smile or wrinkle your nose every time you encounter them. They are the smells that you may have encountered in some other form in some other place, but still stir up fond memories of previous visits to a Disney park, or allow you to stop, breathe deeply, and truly BE in the moment.

Beach Club Lobby

I read not too long ago that there are people who actually go on “smellwalks” around their cities, documenting the odors unique to a particular place, and looking at how those smells evolve as the cities do.

We could do that for the Disney Parks, couldn’t we?

Take the smell of the lobby of Walt Disney World’s Beach Club Resort. I’m sure someone spent a lot of time deciding on that particular scent — it’s a little floral, a little like powder. I don’t know why, but it makes me relax. I take a deep breath and realize that I am finally on vacation.

Here are some of the other amazing, interesting, overwhelming and subtle scents that I love and will always associate with Disney World:

The Aromas of the Food


First, you have to admit that smells from all the food around the parks is enough to set your mouth to watering:

  • the slightly maple-y caramel smell wafting out of the open doors of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Confectionery
  • the sticky-sweet smell of the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street
  • the heavenly smell of fresh-popped popcorn from the popcorn stands scattered around the World
  • the smoky, greasy smell of turkey legs (which are harder and harder to find!)
  • the combined aroma of burgers, rotisserie chicken and French fries in Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland
  • the sugary, cinnamony smell of churros, sold in a variety of spots
  • the smell of buttery, warm Werther’s caramel wafting from Karamell-Kuche in the Germany pavilion in Epcot

The Smells of the Attractions

spaceship earth

Then there are the scents woven into various attractions. Some make you smile, some make you grimace, but all make you sit up and take notice:

Accidental Odors

While many of the scents that are evocative of Disney World have (we can guess) been designed to evoke specific responses and emotions, there are also many scents that are created accidentally, either by Mother Nature or practical necessity.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

First, there are the myriad natural scents. The shaded pathways of Animal Kingdom and also the Polynesian Village Resort smell green, lush and slightly acidic with freshly laid mulch and decaying leaves; water rides like Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and the Gran Fiesta tour usually smell of algae and wet tourist; the inside of the monorail is slightly musty; and the horse barn at the Fort Wilderness campground smells of the mixed scents of hay, tanned leather and manure.

Then there are the roses. Let’s not forget to stop and smell the beautiful roses! The rose-lined path in Epcot that leads from Future World to the World Showcase is a riot of varied colors and sublime smells. If you can, spare just a few moments and take a detour to smell the Epcot roses.

Stopping to smell the roses at the Epcot Rose Walk

Other smells that I will forever associate with my Disney visits? The light perfume of “Laila” sold in the Norway pavilion. The aromas of the savory dishes being prepared in Boma and Jiko that waft up to the lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge. The fresh sheets and linens in the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin also have a particular smell — in fact, I think I’ve found the starch they use!

Animal Kingdom Lodge Lobby

There’s no doubt that the sense of smell is powerful. I wonder what you’ll discover on your next “smellwalk” around the Disney Parks?

What are YOUR favorite smells around the Disney Parks? What memories do those smells evoke for you? Let us know in the comments below!

The Scents of Disney World

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Walt and Lillian at Mr. Toad in Disneyland

Debra Martin Koma wrote about food, travel and lifestyle issues for a number of local and national publications before she fell in love with Walt Disney World on her first visit — when she was 34! She's returned to her Laughing Place more times than she can count in the ensuing years, and enthusiastically shares her passion with readers of AllEars.Net and AllEars®. Deb also co-authored (along with Deb Wills) PassPorter's Open Mouse for Walt Disney World and the Disney Cruise Line, a travel guide designed for all travelers to Walt Disney World who may require special attention, from special diets to mobility issues.

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16 Replies to “The Scents of Walt Disney World Make Powerful Memories”

  1. I also miss the smells of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Polynesian lobby. Those were my favorite instant memory smells.

  2. Disney water, while not a good smell, is a wonderful memory. On one of our earliest trips, back when we didn’t go every year, I had a bottle of water that I had filled & brought home (pre-9/11). I would open it to breathe in the smell for months afterwards to bring back memories of that trip. Even when it was emptied it retained that Disney water smell!

  3. The seaside smell of the toiletries at the Beach Club. I bring some moisturiser home with me and put a bit on my hands when I’m feeling tired and sad and need a quick burst of happiness!

  4. The smell of the Trading Posts in Fort Wilderness are unlike any other. We have been going to Disney World for 40+ years and that smell has remained the same and elicits powerful childhood memories!

  5. One of my favorite smells was Pirates of the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the old smell of Pirate’s is no longer there. I had not been since 2012 so this may have happened long ago. However, I was surprised that the old smell was replaced/masked by what appeared to be smellitzers on my last trip in 2018.

  6. One of the first things we do on our arrival to our most favorite spot on earth is to stop, look around and try to soak it in that we are finally in Disney again, and take a deep, deep breath of that Disney air. It’s purely magic! I love it!!! The water smell in Pirates of the Caribbean, the hotel lobby smell (used to be Poly, but sadly not so much anymore), but Floridian has it too. I love the popcorn smells in the parks. And, and, and…oh I am
    craving another Disney vaca!!!!!

    1. Yes, The orange smell in horizons always put me in such a relaxed mood. And the turkey legs in liberty square but me in a ravenous eating mood. There was also a unique smell when we watched them do the glass blowing at the old Disney shopping village.

  7. Great article! You captured most of mine. We also love the smell of the H2O products, these we can smell at home to remind us of WDW. There is a smell when you step outside the Orlando airport that lets me know I have arrived in one of my favorite places.

    Lobby smell at Animal Kingdom Lodge
    The smell of Bay lake as you glide across on the ferry
    Walking by restaurants like Yak n’ Yeti with delicious Asian food smells
    Animal smells as you meander the AK walkways
    The musky smell of the Kilimanjaro Safari vehicles and for some reason the smell of the Savanna

    Can you tell I love Animal Kingdom!

    We often rent a car, so even that smell reminds me of WDW!

    Just too many to say!