When you think of souvenirs, what comes to mind? T-shirts? Hats? Key chains, knickknacks, and tchotchkes? Well. Whether you adore them or abhor them, souvenirs are a must, especially for friends and family back at home. But what to buy? Before you shell out cash for a generic mouse-eared doodad, have a look at our list of the top 5 must-have souvenirs from Walt Disney World.
Pick a Pearl – Epcot
If you’re seeking a royal souvenir for your princess, try Pick a Pearl at the Japan pavilion in Epcot. For around $15, you can choose a live oyster from the tank. The employees cut open the oyster before your eyes and reveal your pearl inside; there may even be two! Colors range from cream or gray, to blue or pink. You can also choose whether to have your pearl in a take-home baggie, or have it placed in one of the shop’s ready-made jewelry settings. This is the perfect souvenir for those looking to take home a unique memory of their time at Disney World.
Once Upon a Toy – Downtown Disney
If someone you know loves Toy Story, a world of fun awaits at Once Upon a Toy in Downtown Disney. For just over $20, children can fill a container with as many Mr. Potato Head accessories – eyes, ears, arms, and more – as they can cram in. Many of the accessories are exclusive to Disney World and can’t be purchased anywhere else. The Potato Head parts are inside of giant plastic kiosks. Kids will have a ball going through the options and stocking up on their favorites. Whether this souvenir is for someone with you or someone waiting back at home, this is a gift that will surely delight the recipient. Our recommendation: save a little cash by buying Mr. Potato Head somewhere else. The Potato Head dolls sold at Disney can be a little more expensive than those at your local store, so hold off until you get home.
Design a Tee – Downtown Disney
Almost all of the souvenirs at Disney World are customizable, but for the best in personalized items, try Design a Tee in Downtown Disney. Step up to one of the t-shirt shaped designing stations and choose from over 400 Disney characters. You can even add words and phrases of your own for that extra special touch. If Design a Tee happens to be busy, simply tell them to deliver the shirt to your hotel. If you’d rather wait for your souvenir, watch as the t-shirt you’ve selected flies up through a pneumatic tube and travels through a maze of transparent tunnels above. When the shirt finally lands backstage, your design is implemented on the fabric. The service is fast and easy, and the work is high-quality. Even better? The shirts come with unique cloth gift bags. That saves you the hassle of getting the shirt wrapped if it’s a gift for someone at home.
Kiosk in the China pavilion – Epcot
Just outside the Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store in Epcot’s China pavilion, you’ll notice souvenir kiosks selling beautiful parasols. With bright colors and lovely paintings of lotus flowers and cherry blossoms, these paper parasols are another example of a unique Disney souvenir. When you buy the parasol, the vendor will write your name in Chinese on the umbrella. This parasol is perfect for that special someone who loves decorating or has eclectic tastes. Don’t forget to buy one for yourself, too: it’s a great way to protect yourself from the hot sun while you’re walking around the park.
Animation Academy – Hollywood Studios
The Animation Academy has a great way for the entire family to have a blast while snagging a one-of-a-kind souvenir. Every 30 minutes, the academy offers classes on drawing Disney characters. Because you don’t know which character you’ll be drawing until class starts, there’s a nice element of surprise. The teacher will show you how to use simple lines and shapes to draw the character, and the techniques are easy enough to make a novice seem like an expert. When your design is finished, your teacher will go over your lines with a colored pencil to perfect the piece. Your drawing will be the perfect heart-felt gift for someone back home.
For more Disney souvenirs that go beyond mouse-eared hats and Magic Kingdom key chains, simply keep your eyes open while you’re at the park. There are souvenirs on every corner, and with a little creativity and a good eye, you’ll find the best in no time.
This article was written by Todd, who blogs about Disney Sweepstakes at his blog SweepstakesFanatics.com Todd's favorite Disney park is Epcot, he loves to eat at the restaurant at the Italian pavilion and the Teppan Edo restaurant at the Japanese pavilion.