In my first post, I mentioned how I became really passionate about Walt Disney World in 2010, when we took our daughter on her very first trip. But, my love affair with the World started long before then...
It was a summer in the early 80s - 1983 or 1984 - and I was probably between 10 or 11 years old. My dad packed up the family - my mom, two younger sisters, and me - into the green Chevy Impala, and off we went on a road trip down to Florida.
A few things stand out in my mind about that never-ending drive down: The incessant billboards featuring Pedro and his quest to get you to visit the South of The Border amusement park (he was successful - we stayed overnight); stopping at Denny's for every meal (it was awesome - my first real foray into restaurant dining!) and living on their meatballs and spaghetti; and wondering where we were going and why it was taking so long to get there.
I don't think I really knew what Walt Disney World was, but I do know that, whatever it was, it sure was taking an incredibly long time to get there! It didn't help that my sisters kept up a constant chorus of "Are we there yet?".
We finally arrived. We didn't stay on property, but, then again, I knew nothing about such things at the time. We stayed for two days, then headed off to other parts of Florida. Two days were enough back in those days, since there were only two parks - The Magic Kingdom and EPCOT.
I don't have a lot of memories about the parks, but what I do remember is very vivid in my mind.
Our first day was spent at The Magic Kingdom. I remember walking onto Main Street and just taking it in. To this day, a trip to Walt Disney World doesn't begin for me until that first step onto Main Street. The shops, the windows above the shops, Town Square, and the view of Cinderella's Castle - I'm always in awe of it.
Cinderella's Castle was amazing! I specifically remember walking through it and really taking in the murals on the walls depicting the story of Cinderella and her Prince Charming.
To this day, I still laugh whenever I come across the picture of my younger sisters with the three little pigs, which are now considered "long lost friends". I won't post it here, since my sisters will kill me if I do!
The Pirates of the Caribbean quickly became my favorite ride (until I finally rode the Haunted Mansion in 2010!), and I explicitly recall getting very dizzy on the Mad Tea Party.
Other favorites were It's a Small World, Mickey's Toontown Fair (which was taken out last year to make room for the new Fantasyland Expansion), and Carousel of Progress.
The second day was spent at EPCOT, and I loved it. My favorite part was the World Showcase.
I remember particularly enjoying the Mexico pavilion with its indoor marketplace and the Rio Del Tiempo ride. It was a family favorite.
All of the countries were beautiful, and I felt like I was touring the world.
And, of course, who could ever forget Spaceship Earth?
I've always looked back fondly on that first introduction to Walt Disney World.
Since then, I had the opportunity to travel back to the World twice in the 90s, and the love affair continued. It captivated me more and more each time I was there. When I visited in 1993, MGM Studios had since opened, but I have to admit I wasn't in love with it, although I like it better today in its present form.
Once our daughter was born, I couldn't wait to take her to Disney, but it turned out to be so much more than I expected.
So much had changed at the World, and everything was continuing to evolve. I was thrilled that I was able to take our daughter to visit Mickey's Toontown Fair before they tore it down a few weeks later.
Getting the opportunity to watch our daughter interact with the characters and excitedly ask for their autographs was an amazing feeling - I was truly living those moments through her eyes.
And that's the magic of Disney.
So, now, the love affair not only continues, it's grown into passion and addiction.
And it all began with a drive down to Florida in a green Chevy Impala.
I hope you get the chance to begin your own love affair with Disney very soon.
Until next time, I hope you remember to keep the Mouse in your house.