With all of the changes going on in Walt Disney World these days, is it possible to re-create the experiences you once enjoyed there as a child? Do you long to escape in your own nostalgic thoughts and memories when you visit the Parks today, only to find yourself wandering around wondering if there is any vestige left of that magical place you once knew and dreamed about? Maybe I’m alone in my feelings for the “Disney That Once Was,” but I don’t really believe that’s the case. Somehow, knowing what Disney means to so many of us- the special imprint it left on the young hearts and minds of those of who had the privilege of spending time there as kids – I’m pretty sure I can safely say that many feel the same way I do.
It’s not that I don’t truly enjoy the new attractions that are being created and introduced to us on what seems to be an almost daily basis. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the amount of creativity, ingenuity, and technological genius that goes into bringing these products of the Disney Imagineers’ imaginations to life. I do, I truly do, and I get SO excited to see and try out everything new, and add many of them to my list of “Must Do’s.” It’s just that, well, sometimes I need to travel back into the imagination of my own childhood, and linger there for a while. Sometimes, I need to escape for a while, remembering what those things were that so inspired me and captured my imagination, and played such a vital, important role in my “forming and shaping” years.
I have memories of the Magic Kingdom being a place where the fairy tales I loved came true – feeling the terror of the old hag in Snow White’s Enchanted Forest, escaping the massive squid that attacked us 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, taking a “wild ride” with Mr. Toad through Toad Hall, flying through the air on a thrilling “Skyway” to Tomorrowland…not to mention actually entering into those “Fantasy Lands” where I could shoot ‘em up with cowboys in Frontierland, travel to the jungles in Adventureland, visit the “future,” and most of all – touch an actual castle! This magical place was the fulfillment of a young child’s imagination. You could actually reach out and touch your dreams, the characters living within your own imagination. How incredible to realize the feeling that your dreams can truly become realities!
Thank you, thank you so much, Mr. Disney.
But, as I get older those memories fade a little more with each year that passes. My grasp on them loosens a little, no matter how hard I try to hold on. My ability to put names to faces and descriptions to images eludes me from time to time. And my desperation to remember what it was that caused a very specific feeling, or a certain emotion at a particular place in time – the sights, the smells, the feelings – well, those are the very things that draw me back to the places of my childhood over and over again, helping me to remember, and continuing to inspire my dreams.
Walt Disney World is one of those places for me – much like the big wooden swing on a rope my dad hung for me in the humongous poplar tree in our yard on Montezuma Road when I was about 5 years old. I spent hours and hours there throughout my childhood, and it was the place I would go to escape into my own imagination. I find myself missing that swing from time to time…and, as much as I love Walt Disney World today, I find myself missing the “old Walt Disney World” that I remember from childhood.
I know that change is inevitable. We moved away from the house on Montezuma when I was in fifth grade, and I haven’t had a tree swing since. And Walt Disney World has changed and grown so much over the years, replacing many of my favorites with more up-to-date attractions and rides that will appeal to the young kids of today. I can’t say that I blame them for changing. It’s their business to keep finding ways to create strong impressions on the young children today – ensuring they’ll have new fans that, like me, will want to visit for a life time, introducing their own children and grandchildren to the “magic of Disney” one day.
The thing that brought all of these feelings to the surface for me recently is the rumor that they are getting ready to renovate the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT. The plan, I hear, is to turn it into an attraction that will depict the latest and greatest Disney animated hit, “Frozen.” I agree that it’s a brilliant marketing decision, and there is no doubt that I’ll fall in love with it because I know it will be done to perfection.
But, I admit that I’m going to miss the Norway Pavilion as it is today. I’ll miss the crazy boat ride with the ugly trolls and fake polar bears. I’ll miss the shop that contains the incredibly expensive sweaters and jackets, and even the perfume guy that was always there of late. And, I’ll even miss the film that you sat to watch in the incredibly uncomfortable chairs after disembarking from the boat ride. I actually loved that film, for some reason, and always forced everyone in my party to sit through it with me. Every time.
I still imagine EPCOT the way Walt Disney himself did – the “Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.” And though that dream changed completely before the Park ever came to be, I quickly fell in love with the World Showcase, and the whole “World’s Fair” feel of it. I love the way each country’s pavilion is a mini-representation of some its most famous icons, cultural exhibits, wares, and even people (they hire many of the Cast Members of the World Showcase from their respective countries). I really don’t want to see that change much at all. After all, many of the attractions that lit the imagination of Walt Disney to create the Disney Theme Parks came from the World’s Fair, and his exhibits there – such as “it’s a small world.”
So, all of this explanation brings us to this: I have a few Walt Disney World visits planned over the next year. And, I’m writing this in my birth month, July, which is always a nostalgic month for me. And this month I turn 45, and I’m feeling it. So, I started thinking, how can I carve out some time on these upcoming Disney vacations to re-create, in a manner of speaking, some of those memories and feelings of my “Disney visits of yesteryear?”
So, I’m making a list, and it might appeal to some of you who are around my age now…and it might even appeal to some of you who are just curious about what might be so appealing to those of us who truly “grew up” going to Walt Disney World.
For some of us, those visits as young children impressed our hearts and minds so much that we’ll always be committed fans, doing whatever it takes to get back there as often as possible. I was two years old the first time I went, in November of 1971. This was one month after the grand opening of the Magic Kingdom, and I had the blessing of getting to go back many, many times after that…first with my family all throughout my childhood and teen years (thanks to a father who loves Disney almost as much as me & a saintly mother who was willing to put up with it), and later on my honeymoon with my husband, then as Disney Vacation Club owners, as parents of young baby boys, as a Disney Parks Moms Panelist, and now continuing to go with our two boys, who are growing up faster than we can blink an eye.
Back to the list – if I get some time to myself to escape through the Parks on my own, and re-capture those memories, here’s what I might just be doing. I came up with 45 “vintage” things to do in the Magic Kingdom, since I turn 45 this month. If you have some things to add, PLEASE let me know what that would be – I’d love to hear those ideas, and possibly add them to my list. This is not an exhaustive list of everything that is still there, but it’s got most of things that I truly enjoyed as a kid.
Forty-Five ‘Vintage Things’ To Do on a Day in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom
1. DRIVE to the PARKING LOT of the Magic Kingdom, park in Chip or Dale, and catch the Tram to the Ticket and Transportation Center.
2. Take the Ferryboat over to the Magic Kingdom entrance, remembering the days when Donald Duck and Goofy used to waterski alongside. Glance over to Discovery Island.
3. Head to Le Chapeau as soon as I enter the Magic Kingdom and have some Mickey Ears officially monogrammed with my name. Wear them all day long.
4. Make a beeline to Cinderella Castle, stopping at the “hub” for a picture with Walt and Mickey Mouse, and walk through the castle, stopping to stare at the luminous glass mural “tapestries” lining the hallway.
5. Step through the rear of Cinderella Castle into the magical world of Fantasyland. Head to the Cinderella Fountain and take a drink, looking up at Cinderella “wearing” her crown.
6. Ride the Prince Charming Regal Carrousel, trying to ride the one rumored to be Cinderella’s favorite horse. Do you know which one it is? The story goes that it’s the one with the gold ribbon on its tail.
7. From here I will make a short departure from “Retro Fantasyland” into “New Fantasyland” to ride Dumbo the Flying Elephant, remembering how it used to feel to stand out in the blazing, hot sun awaiting my turn. I will say a silent prayer of thanks for the redesign of this attraction. Blasphemy, I know.
8. Ride all of the other attractions that still exist from my childhood – Peter Pan’s Flight (still one of my favorites), it’s a small world (I’m one of those who NEVER gets tired of that song), and um, well, that’s almost it.
9. Stop into Pinocchio Village Haus for a snack or drink, enjoying it while sitting in my favorite area – the Blue Fairy Room.
10. Head over to Tomorrowland, to ride the oldies but goodies left there – stopping to ride the Mad Tea Party teacups just before leaving Fantasyland.
11. Feeling a little woozy, go to the Tomorrowland Speedway, inhale all of the glorious fumes (they used to be a LOT worse!), and drive my own little car.
12. Ride Space Mountain, taking my time to make faces in the television monitors on the way out.
13. Ride and relax on Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover, and then head over to my all-time favorite nostalgic attraction…
14. CAROUSEL OF PROGRESS! Settle into the comfy, air-conditioned theatre that hasn’t changed a bit (well, much, yet), stare at the blue velvet curtains until they open and sing the song as loud as I can, “There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day…!” Ignore the annoyed looks of everybody (meaning the other 4 people in there) who think I’ve lost my marbles.
15. Step out into the bright sunshine, and head over straight across the hub of the Park to Adventureland, stopping first thing at Aloha Isle for a Dole Whip.
17. Have someone snap a picture of me standing with the Adventureland Tiki Statues.
18. Walk through the Swiss Family Tree House, marveling and complaining every STEP of the way.
19. Jungle Cruise – say the jokes in tandem with the Cast Member guide, that is, if I can’t beat him/her to the punchline. Snap pictures of the backside of water.
20. Hop, skip, and jump over to The Pirates of the Caribbean. Pretend to not see Jack Sparrow (even though I don’t mind him being there, really), sing along, chant “We wants the red-head!” and point out the drunken pirate sitting atop the tunnel bridge dangling his hairy leg.
21. Ask someone what time the Three O’Clock Parade begins.
22. Head over to Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe for a late lunch, nabbing a seat for the Three o’clock Parade (truthfully, I may have had to do this before catching the Jungle Cruise and Pirates, depending upon the time and how crowded the Park is).
23. Add lots of extra condiments to my hotdog or hamburger, and get an entire cup full of dill pickles; watch the Three O’Clock Parade while eating, or just after eating.
24. Catch the Country Bear Jamboree, tapping, clapping, and singing along. I might be kin to some of those bears!
25. Take a raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island, burn off some calories running around. Look for paint brushes that no longer exist.
26. Catch a showing at the Hall of Presidents, enjoying the air conditioning – possibly napping (hey – that’s what I did there as a kid!).
27. Take some aggression out in the Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade, walk through the shops and look for a sheriff’s badge with my name on it. Don’t find one. Still. Take a picture in the Liberty Square Stockades.
29. Buy a bag of popcorn and exit out of the Park to go jump on the Monorail. Ride it over to the Contemporary Resort Hotel, disembarking to shop, buy a Coke, and walk around for a little while. Stop and stare at the huge mural designed by Mary Blair for a while.
30. Jump on the Monorail again, get off at the Polynesian Resort Hotel. Now, this is going to be quite different, as they are completely renovating this Resort right now, turning it into the Polynesian Village Resort. But, if it’s possible, I will buy something here, because I love the themed souvenEARS here the best, for some reason. And, if possible, have another Dole Whip at Captain Cook’s. Rest as long as I need to, then…
31. Jump on the Monorail again, getting off at the Magic Kingdom Entrance.
32. The rest of the evening will be planned around the times for the Main Street Electrical Parade and Fireworks (now called “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular”). I’ll take the time to get in a few more attractions while waiting for these…
33. Head over to the Haunted Mansion, pick up a hitchhiking ghost.
34. Enjoy dinner at the Columbia Harbour House restaurant.
35. Walk through the Christmas Shoppe in Liberty Square, buy an ornament.
36. Ride the Liberty Square Riverboat after dark – and just enjoy.
37. Watch the Main Street Electrical Parade in Frontierland.
38. Head quickly over to Main Street, U.S.A., straight to Casey’s Corner, buy some corn dog nuggets and a Coke, find a table outside (because they no longer have the stadium seats inside), and watch the Fireworks from here.
39. Spend the rest of my time meandering down through the shops on Main Street, U.S.A., buying my souvenEARS, and just enjoying the remains of the Pixie Dusted Day.
40. Stop to take in the beautiful window dressings of The Emporium on Main Street, U.S.A.
41. Stop to sit on the bench with Roy Disney and Minnie Mouse, until it’s time for them to kick me out.
42. Ride the Monorail back to the Ticket and Transportation Center.
44. Have my dad carry me back to the car…. (Wishful thinking) 😉
45. Give thanks, and start planning my next visit!
So – which of these would be your favorites, and what would you add to this list?