The holiday season is always a time of family, friends, and lasting memories. During this time of the year, I often reflect upon my own childhood Christmas memories. One of my best Christmas memories is the year I first experienced Disney magic…the year my family first visited Walt Disney World. I was nine years old. The few preceding years had been tough for my family. Company downsizing, union strikes, frequent layoffs and a tough economy meant my factory employed parents experienced unreliable and unsteady positions within their respective companies. Lack of steady income made it difficult to make ends meet and bills began piling up. It was a rough time for our family. The year we went to Walt Disney World, my parents had both had consistent employment and were able to catch up financially. They decided that we were long overdue for some family fun. So we were off to Walt Disney World. The first time I set foot in Magic Kingdom it was Christmas Day. I remember walking down Main Street that very first time…The shops donned in holiday décor, music playing…it was as if the park itself was giving off this contageous excitement and it was seeping into my little body.
Walking down Main Street toward Cinderella’s castle, my excitement mounted. I could wait to get inside the castle. So, you can imagine my disappointment to learn that Cinderella’s castle wasn’t a REAL castle to be explored nor did Cinderella actually live there. I was able to get over my disenchantment quickly as there was so much more magic to be discovered. While it is difficult to remember all the details of that first trip, there are several moments that are still quite vivid. Our first ride on “It’s a Small World” is one of them. It was one of the very first rides our family went on during that trip. The lights, music, “dancing” kids and animals seemed to emanate this universal and infectious happiness…and that happiness coursed through each member of my family. It was something that we hadn’t felt in a long time. That ride still holds all the magic and excitement of our very first time at Walt Disney World. To me it is the quintessential Disney magic. ..and yes I always ride it at least twice when I visit Magic Kingdom.
The “Enchanted Tiki Room” was another attraction that sticks out from that first trip. I know, it seems bizarre that a bunch of mechanical, singing birds would have made that much of an impression on a nine year old, but it did. So much so that it is still on my “must-do” list every single time I visit Walt Disney World. Also on the “must-do” list since that very first magical trip is a ride on the monorail. I know it sounds silly, but to a nine year old, that monorail was so amazing. I mean, a train that traveled from above…totally awesome (and I’m sure I used those exact words too). So no trip to Walt Disney World is complete, for me, without at least ONE ride on the monorail.
That first trip we only spent one full day at Magic Kingdom and it was a very long day. Despite being incredibly exhausted at the end of that day, I remember how much I loved the Magic Kingdom at night, as I still do. Something about the glow of the lights against the dark night gives the park a sort of peaceful sensation. There really is nothing quite like the Magic Kingdom at night.
Since that very first trip, I have visited Walt Disney World 19 times and each time have experienced the magic in a new way. From being a teenager to young adult, from just married to being pregnant(and pregnant…) and finally experiencing it with all of my own children, the magic has never fizzled but rather morphed with my changing life. While each visit is exciting, there is still no comparison to the excitement and magic of that very first trip, a trip that rekindled the magic within our own family. I still carry that magic from that first trip within my heart and now that I am an adult, appreciate the wonderful gift my parents gave to us that Christmas, the gift of quality family time. I hope that someday when my kids are grown, they too will look back fondly on the times we spent together as a family at Walt Disney World and hold on to those memories for the rest of their lives, just as I have. Happy Holidays!