In May of 1994, my wife and I made our first trip to Walt Disney World. It was my first trip and her 6th or 7th. My memories of planning the trip were simply thinking about going to Disney and reading the Official and Unofficial guides to WDW. The Sehlinger book was a little more daunting to me. I was really not familiar with anything in Orlando and relied on the guidebooks to give me all of the information. Since the Official guide had pictures, I have always had a soft spot for it and still recommend it to newbies.
My wife handled most of the arrangements for the trip. She booked it with the travel agent and kept up with most of the details. Most of that has flipped. We make the decisions together, but I handle all of the bookings and other travel related chores. She just comes along to make sure I don’t leave the kids behind or take them on rides they don’t like.
It had been a lifelong dream to visit WDW since I was about four or five. I remember that a friend came back from a family vacation to WDW and had viewmaster slides of the vacation kingdom. I remember the exact moment I saw the slide for the Haunted Mansion and thought how amazing it would be to see it. It would literally haunt me for the next 20 years. We had friends that moved to Florida (can’t remember where) and my parents always regretted not taking us. Me, I’m not so sure. Without any planning, visiting Walt Disney World between 1982 and 1986 might have caused us not to enjoy the vacation and therefore, not instilled a love for the Disney theme parks.
But back to the 1994 trip. I was a very inexperienced traveler and we weren’t sure what to think about our trip. We stayed at the Port Orleans (when it was just Port Orleans) and we really enjoyed the food court and the Bonfamille’s restaurant (hey Andy, want some strawberries and cream?). To us, the rooms were amazing and the grounds/theming were meticulous. I still think about those wonderful beignets!
Our first thing after checking in was to drive to the Magic Kingdom. We had a rental car and it was about 3:00 in the afternoon. As we were pulling out of the Port Orleans resort, the sign said “All Guest Areas” with an arrow pointing left. Well, being a guy, I knew we hadn’t seen the Magic Kingdom during our drive to the resort, so it must be to the right. We drove past the security at Ft. Wilderness, under the water bridge at the Contemporary and suddenly noticed that we were behind Space Mountain. Teresa exclaimed that she had never parked behind Space Mountain before and that maybe we should turn around. We did. It only took us a few extra minutes to get there.
After parking and riding the ferry (which was recommended for the first time visitor–one of the guidebooks), we entered the Magic Kingdom. It was awe-inspiring. We were both starving and had dinner reservations for the Liberty Tree Tavern at about 5:00. So, we got popcorn and ate it while strolling down Main St. USA and into Liberty Square. I do remember being amazed and excited about finally being there. Teresa did mention how my excitement was contagious. We didn’t ride anything. I wanted my very first ride to be the Haunted Mansion.
We ate at the Liberty Tree Tavern and we both agree that it was a perfect meal that has not been replicated since. We still talk about the fried cheese platter that Teresa got as an appetizer. They have changed the menu since then and each succeeding visit has paled in comparison. Our experiences at the Tavern have gone downhill.
After the meal, we walked across to the Haunted Mansion and got in line. I have to admit, the ride was phenomenal. It is still one of my favorites. Splash Mountain, the Haunted Mansion and MuppetVision 3D are the big three for me to this day. I remember standing in the queue, laughing at the tombstones and then entering the stretching room. Ahhh. My life would never be the same.
The only other things I remember about that first day:
- getting caught in the horrible exodus from the Magic Kingdom. I know that it must have taken us a good hour to get back to the hotel,
- ordering pizza from the Sassagoula Express and confusing the operator by ordering a cheese pizza with cheddar cheese (and getting one with only cheddar–no mozzarella), and
- being overwhelmed and thrilled at the same time.
And if you have to ask why I posed under the Prince bathroom sign…you obviously don’t know me that well.
I know this is a different Daily Figment, but I wanted to share some of the memories from the first time I ever set foot on Disney property. As much as I had been dreaming about visiting Walt Disney World, I was not prepared for it. It truly changed my life, as I am sure many of you can relate. It started me on this journey and over the years I have devoured every single book I can find. It has also led me to this incredible online community and given me the opportunity to meet and share my passion with so many of you.
So, what are your first Disney theme park memories?