This post is dedicated to my friends Jen and Lexi, for bringing me to Disney World for the first time.
I also want to start off with an apology to my kids for never taking them there. I didn’t know….
Okay, so here I am, 53, and I’d never been to Disney World. I’d been inside Disney a couple of years ago, to the Polynesian for a drink and watching the light show. That was magical, seeing the castle lit from the distance. And I’ve been to Cirque de Soleil down there, too. All of these moments organized by my friend, Alexis, who sure knows how to entertain!
But this year my friends surprised me by telling me they were taking me to Disney World for the first time. They had gotten free tickets for the day from a friend who works there. We got to go to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.
Now, before I go into my impressions of Disney World as a 53 year old, first a step back in time.
Those of you similar in age to me grew up the same way I did, I’m sure, watching Disney shows on Sunday evenings. Disney was a part of our childhood. But I never made it to the Disney World theme park, built in 1971 (I had to look that up, and found this fun article while doing so). Andy and I had talked about going there as part of our honeymoon, but didn’t. We were going to take the kids when they were little, but didn’t. And here’s sort of how we came to that decision….
I had heard all my life how hot and crowded Disney World was. “Don’t go on school vacation!,” everybody said. And all the theme parks I had ever gone to were asphalt jungles with rides and long lines and gum and litter on the ground and concession stands with sugary and fatty food – hot dogs, sausage, fried dough, cotton candy, candied apples, buttered popcorn. Whenever I pictured being in Disney that’s how I pictured it – as a Canobie Lake Park or Great Adventure theme park, supersized. And I knew Epcot had international food, but I imagined it all as concession areas under a huge tent with a ton of picnic benches to sit at. Every time I pictured that in my mind plus tons of people milling around and waiting forever in the hot sun for a 2 minute ride, I thought my-oh-my wouldn’t a dude ranch vacation be way more fun! So that’s what we did with the kids instead of Disney. And it was fun and a great memory. But if I had known Disney was so magical, and so beyond anything I had ever imagined, we would have taken the kids there and watched them be charmed by the place. Yes, we would have.
Instead of a wide-open asphalt jungle, Disney has a quaint bunch of themed mini-parks within a park with beautiful, colorful buildings and walkways; meandering lines with interesting things to look at while you wait; good, healthy food; and a message of world peace and happiness.
Instead of gum and trash on the ground, the walkways were clean and some even lit up and sparkled at night.
Instead of a pavilion of international food and outside picnic benches, there were full-fledged restaurants from every country, whose buildings looked like they do in their own country.
Some rides were entertaining. Some were educational. Some were thrilling. Some were a combination.
All were fun.
It is a place for everyone to connect to the kid part of themselves.
And we had a magical day. Between fast passes and iffy weather (it never rained and the weather got better as the day progressed), we were able to go on lots of rides (we stuck to a lot of the classics like Small World, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted House, the Carousel of Progress, and the Epcot dome) and we saw a huge amount of the park and got in lots of walking. We were there for over 12 hours, actually. It was a full day. And I’m not sure if I ever stopped smiling.
I still am, actually.
My favorite moments were being overcome by the beautiful message and absolute charm of A Small World, the surprises on all the rides (the first time is so fun because you never know what to expect), the unbelievable feeling of the ride Soarin’, the educational part of Epcot, the memories that flooded me of the Disney I grew up with, all the little details Disney pays attention to (that is something you wouldn’t appreciate as a kid but do as an adult), and the wonder everywhere you looked.
And sharing it with my friends. You are never to old to indulge your inner child.
And we did!