“We’re going to Disney!” Yeah – I said that. Via text.
It was an extended weekend, whirlwind-trip, that started with my youngest daughter. She researched for some military discounts we qualified for, and I started making calls and reservations. Hotel – booked. Flights – booked. Four-day park passes – got ‘em. When they arrived, I took a picture and sent them to my daughter, my sister and my niece.
It became real.
“We believed in our idea – a family park where parents and children could have fun- together. Walt Disney
Shorts, t-shirts, sandals and sun-block packed – we were ready to roll.
Posing for a selfie, we eagerly awaited takeoff – as patiently as we could. Leaving on a chilly, damp Michigan winter evening, we were looking forward to some fun in the sun.
One of the most fun aspects of the trip was watching our daughters’ excitement grow as we got closer to the Magic Kingdom. My sister and I first went almost 40 years ago, when our dad won a trip for the whole family.
I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse. – Walt Disney
Much of the park was the same as we remembered – Main Street was still a swarm of people. The delicious aroma of food wafted in the air. Souvenir shops lined the streets. Mouse-ear hats and headbands bobbed up and down in the sea of people. The Cinderella Castle was just as breathtaking as I remembered it to be.My idea of a vacation – especially at midlife – was a cool drink in the hot sun at a pool or beach. #ReturnToDisney Click To Tweet
Oh. My. Gosh. I was shocked to find out that I was really excited. Because before we arrived, I really wasn’t. My idea of a vacation – especially at midlife – was a cool drink in the hot sun at a pool or beach.
Now, I will be honest. After a few days, I was weary of the crowds. And the four of us experienced “stroller rage” because our ankles were clipped countless times by people not paying attention to their surroundings.
But – I don’t regret going. It was so much fun to take my daughter on the rides I remembered – “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “It’s a Small World.” (Warning – the song will be stuck in your head…) And the “Hall of Presidents” was as amazing as I remembered – with a few more presidents than when I was there last…
Every evening, around 8 p.m., The “Happily Ever After” fireworks show begins. This is a must-see, and is nothing short of phenomenal, with choreographed music, cartoon projections and pyrotechnics that are the best I’ve ever seen. (Note: Plan your day around it, as the park is tiring, and you may not feel like staying for this event if you arrive when the park opens in the morning. For me, I spent most of the day at the hotel pool, working on an exam and a few small work projects, so I wasn’t worn out when I hit the park that evening.)
One of the best apps ever is the “My Disney Experience,” which we had downloaded on our phones. My daughter, who was proficient in usage, secured our FastPasses and lunch/dinner reservations. The FastPass is a must-do, allowing you to bypass long lines for up to three attractions per day. And you definitely want to make reservations if you want to eat at the restaurants as opposed to the food stands.
I try to build a full personality for each of our cartoon characters – to make them personalities. – Walt Disney
We met Buzz Lightyear and Woody in Hollywood Studios – among a few others – and saw a wonderful, 30-minute live performance of highlights from “Beauty and the Beast.”
I was also up-close and personal with Stormtroopers and Chewbacca. So, yeah, this midlife mama – who knows that the costumed-characters are just people dressed up – got a bit starry-eyed and wanted to be in photos with them. All.
We took a very quick stroll through Animal Kingdom – an impressive park – but we were a bit worn out from the day’s events and the crowds. After a few photos, we went back to the hotel and chilled out by the pool. Which we did again the following day, with a quick trip Disney Springs in the evening. Disney Springs was a fun place, with plenty of shops, restaurants and street musicians. Definitely make time to go there if you can.
Our last day of vacation found us at Epcot – which was my favorite. Maybe because there were less crowds. Maybe because the food was out of this world. Maybe because it was a geared a bit more for adults (but there were plenty of things for little ones, too.)
Go figure – Italy was my favorite stop. We had Napoli style pizza at Via Napoli, and it tasted as good as the pizza I enjoyed in Italy. Of course, I had my cappuccino, and a gelato.
Delizioso! The restaurants in Epcot import foods from various countries, and you can definitely taste it. Many of the waitstaff and chefs are from the countries of origin. Each country represented had their culture highlighted with foods, shops and buildings that looked like their homelands. I think I could have used my four-day pass just for Epcot, because I’d need at least that length of time to try every food there. Good thing one walks a lot (miles per day!) when at the parks.
“Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s memories.” — Genie, The Return of Jafar
The sights and sounds and tastes of Disney World not only invoked memories of the past, they created memories for the four of us. I became oddly emotional at times, remembering being there with my family. We joked about what our dad would have said – and maybe have done – about “stroller rage.” It was so cool that my sister and I created wonderful memories with our daughters, and that we had the chance to connect on a different level than we would have at home. We talked about future trips – beach houses and other destinations.
And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get to send out another text that says, “We’re going to Disney!”
© Lynne Cobb – 2018
Have you been to Disney? If so, which park? What was your favorite attraction? Do you have any travel tips? Share your memories in the comment section.