Last month I had the privilege of going to Disney World with my son, his wife, and their two kids for a whole week! We had so much fun! I was a little concerned going into it that the kids might be too young or too small, but I worried needlessly about that. Given our ‘tall’ genes, even three year old (almost four) Gray was two inches taller than the minimum height requirement for all of the fun rides. Hooray!
The first time I went to Disney World was the first year was open, spring break of my junior year in high school. My family went again the next year, and I went once more in college. Back in those days, you got a ticket book with tickets in several different levels, A, B, C, D, and E. To give you an idea about that, things like the Main Street Cinema and the King Arthur Carousel were A tickets (and you got a bunch of those) and things like Jungle Cruise, Haunted Mansion, and (believe it or not) Small World and Country Bear Jamboree were E tickets. You only got one or two of those! Dumbo and and Mad Hatter Tea Party were C tickets, while Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland were D tickets. Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tom Sawyer, Splash Mountain and things like that were only a gleam in Disney developers’ eyes. And of course, the Magic Kingdom was it – no EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, or Disney Springs were anywhere to be found. The Polynesian Resort and the Contemporary Resort and the monorail rounded out the picture. Compared to today, there weren’t many rides, but we loved them all. I remember loving the Monsanto 360 degree movie in Tomorrowland, the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House in Adventureland, and the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square. We were amazed by the Hall of the Presidents and laughed at the corny jokes on the Jungle Cruise. Note – they still tell the same corny jokes on that ride!
By the time I returned when the kids were young, EPCOT had been built, along with Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railway, Pirates of the Caribbean, and more. I remember that Splash Mountain was just about to open when we were there that time. Our kids were eight and five years old when we went, and we stayed on site at the Polynesian Resort. We had a rule that everyone had to carry his/her own stuff (thank goodness fanny packs were the rage then) and as soon as anyone whined or asked to be carried, we would return to the hotel. We only had a few days there – we arrived at midday and went straight to EPCOT for that day. The next day we spent the morning at EPCOT and the afternoon at the Magic Kingdom, and the last day we spent the entire day at the Magic Kingdom, leaving after the fireworks and starting our long drive back to North Carolina. The kids were sound asleep when we stopped for ‘dinner’, so we ended up driving through a McDonald’s or something. Some of my fondest memories of that trip are David and me SPRINTING to Space Mountain the moment the park’s gates opened (no Fast Passes yet!), Kim looking up at me about every 15 minutes saying “I can’t believe we’re at the MAGIC KINGDOM!!!”, eating the most delicious Tonga Toast (banana-stuffed French Toast) at the character breakfast at the Polynesian, and just enjoying seeing everything through my kids’ eyes.
I’ve been back to Disney (and Disneyland) a few times as an adult, and I’ve loved those experiences, too. I like getting to do whatever I want and not being on a schedule, and I love the people watching. It’s been so cool to see the transformation of Disney World of my youth to Disney World today! So many exciting new rides and amazing new concepts. And the detail of each attraction is over the top! Some of the things you miss as a child really hit home when viewed through adult eyes. I read that Disney is the largest single-site employer in the US, with 74,000 ‘cast members’. We did appreciate the patience and pleasant attitudes of the cast members we met, and the cleanliness of the parks really make you understand why so many people adore Disney resorts!
But I digress – back to my most recent visit. We stayed at the Treehouse Villas at the Saratoga Springs Resort, and while we spent a LOT of time on the bus or waiting for the bus, I loved that we were all in the same place. The villas had three bedrooms and two baths, as well as a kitchen, a living/dining area, and four TVs! We had opted for a Disney dining plan, so we didn’t make a lot of use of the kitchen, but it was nice to have space. You might think that since we had a whole week, we might have had a relaxing vacation, but it was anything but! I think I had two days where my fitbit registered over 25,000 steps, and a couple more over 20,000! Our first day was spent wandering around Disney Springs and getting oriented and taking a dip in the pool. The next day was all about the Magic Kingdom, including Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween Party. The costumes (mostly on adults) were unbelievable!! That morning, Gray and Elliot were transformed into a pirate and a mermaid at the Pirate’s League – so much fun!
The next day was our day at the Animal Kingdom, complete with dinner at the Rainbow Cafe with some of Markee’s relatives. EPCOT was our next stop, and had we understood more about how the dining plan worked and how many ‘snacks’ we had, we would have eaten our way through it, as the International Food and Wine event was happening there. The next day was our day of ‘rest’. We spent several hours at the pool and then explored more of Disney Springs, which was only a short boat ride away. Hollywood Studios was next on our agenda, and I’m not gonna lie that Dave and I were most excited about seeing the new Star Wars attraction, Galaxy’s Edge. We were not disappointed! It was fiercely hot, though, and since it was a Saturday, the crowds were big. Thankfully, we got there early and had about thirty minutes to play around before the general public (not staying at a Disney resort) could get in. I look forward to another opportunity to really take in all of the details! Forever LIVE, anyone? We ended that day with a fantastic light and water show. Our last day found us back at the Magic Kingdom, where we rode all of the fun rides we could before getting home for an early bedtime, since our bags were being picked up at 2:45 AM!!
Probably the funniest and most unexpected thing that happened on this trip was learning that Elliot (our 6 year old girly girl) LOVES roller coasters!! Gray may not have loved them, but he rode them all and came out smiling. When asked about their favorite things, we had to chuckle. They loved It’s a Small World (didn’t hurt that the signs said “Goodbye Elliot” and “So long, Gray” at the end of the ride) and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. We all loved Soaring at EPCOT and we rode the Frozen ride there twice. Gray loved making his own lightsaber, designing his own car and then ‘test driving’ it, and driving the cars on the Grand Prix Raceway. Elliot (and Gray, judging for the look on his face) loved meeting the princesses, being a mermaid, and watching the Lion King spectacular at Animal Kingdom. My faves were all of the roller coasters and the shooting gallery games, and of course, Galaxy’s Edge. Also, at Hollywood Studios, Elliot and Gray got to announce the beginning of the Under the Sea show thanks to the son of a good friend (thanks, Janet and Ryan!). My most favorite things about the week were getting to spend so much time with Dave, Markee, Elliot, and Gray and watching them take in all of the magic of Disney.
I can’t wait to go back!
Content used: #p2PBeachPanoramaBP; Ferly by Art Party; Fonts: KG Architect’s Daughter and Too Much Paper!