Orlando… a day at the park
Visiting the Magic Kingdom
Bob and Terry celebrate in 2011


The Park: Magic Kingdom

Located at: Disney World

Back in 1997, Terry and I were joined by Jay, Justin, and Chris on a Florida vacation. (Chris being my best friend… later that year the best man at our wedding… and an all-around great guy.) We were already planning our wedding… but I hadn’t asked Terry to marry me yet. I decided that the trip to Florida would provide a great opportunity, picked out a ring, and hid it until a day we spent in the Magic Kingdom.

A little bit into our visit, late in the morning, I handed the video camera to Chris as we boarded separate gondolas on the Skyway from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. And as he narrated and the boys laughed, he taped my proposal and Terry’s acceptance. (The record shows Terry wanting the ring before she said yes.)

Disney has always been a special place for me… and that goes back more than three decades. That trip in 1997, as the first for Terry and the boys, would have included plenty of moments to make it a special place for her. The engagement only added to the story.

In January this year we were helping our friends Ellen and Richard move. Conversations took place… decisions were made… and though Ellen and Richard decided to pass this time, Terry and I decided to visit Disney World for a day. On the morning drive to the Magic Kingdom we began kicking around dates and realized we were right at the anniversary of our engagement. So before we had even reached the parking lot, there was a great feeling to the day… a special atmosphere for it… and we just knew we were in for a fantastic experience.

Rides we went on:

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Country Bear Jamboree
Haunted Mansion
“it’s a small world”
Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Stitch’s Great Escape!
Monster’s, Inc. Laugh Floor
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Space Mountain

As a matter of official record, Terry destroyed me when we rode Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Really… destroyed me. As in, the score was so lopsided in her favor there really should be some question as to whether or not my gun was even operational. I’m not including that line to take away from her victory. I’m just using it to emphasize exactly how insane the difference was. Tigg was awesome.

As much as we enjoyed everything about the Magic Kingdom and the rides, two things should be mentioned: (1) Recapturing another time… a past visit… connections with family and friends over stories and movies and any number of emotional triggers… is an amazingly powerful element of the Disney experience. Call it memories… call it nostalgia… call it whatever you want… I think of my mother and 1979 each and every time I visit “it’s a small world” and I smile when the Jungle Cruise passes the elephants. I’m not alone. Time can be marked by so very many people in ways such as whether or not the kids were kept by your side or old enough to wander off for a time on their own.

This is… no doubt about it… a magical place.

What we ate:
Terry and I ate lunch and dinner in the park… and had no particular agenda in mind when we thought about it. When we were hungry, we stopped and got something to eat. We decided to share out meals… splitting plates instead of winding up with extra fries to throw away.

Our lunch stop came in Frontierland, at the Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café. Food was good… nothing incredible. For dinner we found ourselves in Tomorrowland, eating at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. Again… food was fine and nothing spectacular. But…

Sonny Eclipse.

Sonny is an animatronic figure that plays… well… his own Disney version of spacey-fusion-blues-and-oldies might be the best description. He’s a Disney alien lounge singer, and it works.

Events we saw:

Main Street Electrical Parade
Wishes nighttime spectacular

This is not the time to share the “Legend of the Fireworks at the Magic Kingdom” story from 1999. Suffice to say, Terry, Ellen and Richard no longer even ask me what parts of my day are the most important to try and include… they know the answer is watching fireworks. It is simply known as a written-in-stone given that if there are fireworks at any Disney park that night, the thing I most want to do is be there to see those fireworks.

Terry and I grabbed some popcorn and chocolate chip cookies before the parade and relaxed. We watched the Main Street Electrical… did a bit of shopping in the retail stores… found a terrific spot and saw the fireworks… and then headed out to the ferry. Simply a perfect end to a terrific visit.

The best of the best:
I don’t know what to tell you if you aren’t going to allow me to say everything.

We’re the meals great? No… the food was ok. But Terry and I split a few things and enjoyed what we found for lunch and dinner.

At this point, “it’s a small world” is almost no longer about the ride. It’s about a constant that has been there for every visit I’ve made… it’s about smiling because I remember being on it with my mother, and feeling a weird connection to it when we rode in Disneyland that borders on a combination of joy and comfort… it’s about simple fun at it’s very best.

And maybe that’s what we’re discussing here. It’s the full experience that ranks as the best of the best… the entire combination of elements, from seeing old friends to experiencing some new additions, creating new moments to smiling at memories, and just enjoying everything offered.

There are extensive renovations either in the opening stages or soon to start at the Magic Kingdom. Tomorrowland and Fantasyland will be different in about two years, according to recent stories I’ve read and plans that have been announced. And yet… as always… the Magic Kingdom will be very much the same. 20,000 Leagues leaves… Snow White transitions into a roller-coaster, mine-cart, brand new attraction… and through it all, Walt and Mickey are there to lead the way.

It’s really no wonder that when thinking of Disney World, so many people experience feelings that deep down may simply be inexplicable. I doubt if anyone rides “it’s a small world” these days for the music or to be dazzled by the technology… and I would be stunned to hear that anyone does. That’s really not the point though, is it?

Some of my most vivid memories of travel… pictures I took during the tenth anniversary celebration parade… the twenty-fifth anniversary cake castle… the Sorcerer’s wand around Spaceship Earth… these all took place at Disney World. The Hoop-Dee-Doo review… Polynesian Village… Downtown Disney… geez, the list just goes on and on. My childhood… my marriage… family and friends and all sorts of celebrations.

And here is the Magic Kingdom… with the Jungle Cruise and Country Bears and Haunted Mansion and Space Mountain and… the more it adjusts Pirates of the Caribbean or modifies rides from ExtraTERRORestrial into Stitch or changes in any way, the more it stays the same.

Special praise (or complaints):
As people filed into the park… I admit it… I was scared. Where were they all coming from? This wasn’t the new land of Harry Potter… it was a weekday in late January… and these people were all over the place.

Either we are going to have all sorts of problems getting on rides, or I’m going to be racing around the park to try and collect Fast Passes.


No missing of rides. No running all over.

Terry and I had, by just about any measuring stick, a brilliantly perfect day.

About the only wait we had was at Winnie the Pooh. And while I certainly would have said yes to Peter Pan or Snow White if given the opportunity, I have no complaints about the day we had and how we strolled around the park.

If you want a complaint… surprise… the food. We weren’t looking for anything amazingly special, and… burgers and fries and so on... we didn’t find anything amazingly special.

At the end of the night I bought Terry a popcorn and it was served in a commemorative container. It was only while waiting for me (I was getting chocolate chip cookies in the bakery on Main Street) that Terry noticed the container was holiday-themed. Yeah… perfect for the end of January.

But hold on… we shared our meals and never found ourselves hungry or disappointed. I can’t say that any of the food we purchased stunned me with prices. And those cookies… well… there’s a reason we stop in that bakery on each visit.

So while perhaps not exceptional, saying the food was a complaint isn’t accurate at all. It simply wasn’t on the level of everything else from a fabulous day.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com