This being my first ever “blog” I couldn’t help but think about “firsts”.
Especially Disney Firsts.
My first trip to Walt Disney World was in 1977. I was six years old and flew to Orlando with my Grandmother, Mother and my four year old sister. I do not remember the exact hotel we stayed at but what I do remember is that it had a glass elevator facing the outside. I had never seen one before and ever since that first trip that memory has stayed with me. To a six year old it was as good as any ride at the Magic Kingdom.
Obviously, at that time, there was only one park…the Magic Kingdom. So our plan (did any one have a “touring plan” in those days?) was to spend our 2 days in the Kingdom. The first ride I remember riding was Dumbo. I can vividly see the button that you push to make your Dumbo go up into the air. I loved every second of that ride. Ironically, that was probably the only time I rode that attraction until we took our son to WDW in 2009.
I remember our family being totally enthralled with the Small World ride. At the time we had no idea what exactly it was but we were all hooked instantly. After the ride my mother bought a roll of film that was planned to specifically use on our second time experiencing that ride. She was planning to get lots of pictures inside the “white room” at the end.
Another not so great memory may be sinful to many of you out there. For some reason my sister and I didn’t want to ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Upon asking a cast member we were told it was a “silly ride” but I still didn’t want to go. Ultimately I was dragged onto the ride and sat there crying with my hands covering my face the whole time. I guess every experience at Disney can’t be magical.
Also at this time character encounters were not the organized, time consuming meet and greets that they are today. For a lack of a better word it was a traffic jam of people converging on a said character. Mickey was mobbed! Plenty of pictures were taken of me, Mickey and someone else’s kid!! Can you imagine that happening today?! Another memory of meeting characters was of a character who is rarely out, if at all, to greet these days. It was the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood! Has he been seen in the parks since 1977? (I should try to dig out the pictures of that meeting.)
The Jungle Cruise and the Enchanted Tiki Room both elicited some tears of both my sister and I back in 1977, but ironically are family favorites for us today.
A funny story about an old attraction at the Magic Kingdom, the first time we were there in 1977, the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride was broken. It was broken the first 2 or 3 times we went to the Magic Kingdom, so when it was finally open one time we decided to pass figuring that if it was always broken, we didn’t want to get stuck “under the sea”. (Get it – see what I did there?)
My first trip to EPCOT was a few years later with the same group of 4. The first memory I have is heading right over to and riding the original version of Journey Into Imagination and being enthralled with Figment. The newest Disney character. I am in the majority that feels this little guy has been totally underused by Disney over the years.
At about 10 years old the last thing I wanted to do was walk through the “countries” but I was willing to try. Working clockwise we started in Mexico and rode El Rio del Tiempo. Over the years I have read various contrasting reviews of this ride but I have to say that it worked for me. It’s not the ultimate in Disney entertainment but it’s relaxing and fun enough to make it a must see every time I go. Another good thing about this attraction is that it’s never crowded! There has been much debate about this attraction since Donald and his pals have been added, is it good or bad? I still give it a thumbs up.
After that, everything in World Showcase was a disappointment to me. If I had to stand for another 360 degree movie I was going to jump into the lagoon! Glad to say years later I appreciate World Showcase and everything it has to offer! We spend most of our time in World Showcase eating!
World of Motion, Universe of Energy and Spaceship Earth all left huge impressions on me even though some of those old friends are in different forms today or don’t even exist anymore!
When I first toured Disney’s MGM Studios….huh? What’s that? Oh yea yea sorry……When I first toured Disney’s Hollywood Studios (better?) I toured the park solo. Being 19 years old at the time and going to a theme park that had an Indiana Jones Stunt show and a Star Wars flight simulator ride? Well let’s say I was blown away and still hold a soft spot for this park in my heart, even though some say its far overdue for an overhaul (Carsland East anyone?). Star Tours has always been a favorite and Star Tours 2 takes the ride even further and blows me away. My son still talks about it months after his first ride.
The first time (and last) I rode the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror I was with a group of friends and I guess you could say I was hazed to get on. I was brave but I must say it’s always the “drops” on rides that I don’t like – so I literally saw my life flash before my eyes and my legs shook for 2 hours after disembarking. For those who love it, good for you, enjoy it, I’ll be over at Star Tours. Ironically after hating the TOT I absolutely loved the Rock and Roller Coaster. I admit the first time I rode it I was rather nervous but this ride has no drops, but lots of inversions and is super fast. I can’t explain it but it works for me. Great ride, I can’t wait til my son is tall enough to try it.
As for Animal Kingdom, I honestly can’t say I remember too much about the first time I ventured into this park. I’ve been there many times and it’s fun, but it certainly doesn’t have the charm as the other parks do for my tastes. The Safari is great, The Kali River Rapids (too short!) and It’s Tough to Be a Bug are fantastic and must do everytime I am able, but to me this is a half day park.
Fast forward to March 2009, my son was one and a half years old and my wife and I decided it was time to plunge him into the World of Disney! I had always dreamed of what my first stay at the Polynesian Resort would be like and to my excitement we booked my son’s first Disney vacation there! Upon arrival we checked into our room and headed for the monorail. Technically, that makes my son’s first “ride” at the WDW resort the monorail (which he affectionetly called the “choo-choo”), and to make it all the more magical his first voyage on the monorail was in the cockpit!
His first theme park stop was EPCOT. Upon arrival we made our way through Future World stopping first at The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Special for my son, but more so for my wife and I. He really liked it and he was off on his life long love of all things Disney.
The next day we went to the Magic Kingdom with hopes of seeing some characters but not entirely sure he would embrace them at this age. We were walking along Frontierland and from his stroller my son spied Donald Duck wearing his best coon skin cap. Well he answered our questions right then and there as he all but threw himself out of his stroller. He wanted to see that duck! He has never backed away from a character since. However to this day 3 plus years later he and his sister still hold against me that they have not met Daisy Duck. Hopefully they will meet her on their next trip.
Much like myself, my sons’ favorites include Star Tours, Dumbo, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, Journey Into Imagination and Spaceship Earth (“The Ball!”) As a big fan of character greetings, he loves to come up with questions to ask them before we meet. But once we have our audience with them, he’ll become slightly shy and say “Dad, you ask the question”. Which he knows Dad is more than happy to do.
My daughter made her first trip in March of 2012. We stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kindani Village with a savannah view. This resort as a whole is amazing, with so many educational activities for the kids. Even at ages 4 and 2 at the time, they loved learningfrom the resort staff about the ecosystems of Africa, how to play African drums and using the night vision goggles to see the animals after dark. My family highly recommends staying here!
Her first ride was Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin and it quickly became her favorite (we rode it at least 4 times) and Buzz was also the first character that she met.
I could go on and on about our many adventures at Walt Disney World as they are abundant for all of us. As you all know WDW offers so many things to do, some we all love, some we favor more than others. Here’s to many more “firsts” on our vacations, holidays and lives.
I’m excited to be a part of the Walt Disney Dads group and I hope to share more of my Disney thoughts and knowledge. We all congregate here because of a unique love (or obsession) and it was all started by a mouse. Let’s dive in and have some fun!
Please feel free to email me with questions, comments or to just say hello.
As that famous mouse once said…”See ya real soon!”